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The Art of Retaliation: A Guide to Trading in League of Legends

How to Master Retaliation Trading in League of Legends

When we talk about trading in League of Legends, we usually associate it with initiating a trade and actually starting the skirmish with the enemy.

While most player actions turn out this way, it is not the only viable way of trading. For some champions and players, retaliation trading may be their default plan of action, as they may be unable to effectively start a trade.

In this Mobalytics guide by PicklePants, we will discuss how you can master retaliation trading and come out ahead when throwing hands with the enemy. As a note, we’re going to shy away from discussing initiating trades in this guide, but stay tuned as we will have a follow-up guide soon.

GPI dueling

Ideally, you would always be able to begin the trade as it can often give you the element of surprise- which can swing the skirmish in your favour.

In reality, this is not always the case and many a time it is the enemy who engages on you. When this happens, there are two things players usually do. The first and most prominent action is to run away from the enemy. The second is to trade back with them.

We’re going to be touching on both of these actions in this guide, and we’re going to show you when you should do each of them. Before we begin, we must know exactly what the term “retaliation trading” in League of Legends means.

What is “retaliation trading”?

The term itself is rather loose, and the best way to describe it is where you do not initiate or start the skirmish with the enemy.

Instead, you may wait for the enemy to make the first move, and then retaliate and fight back. Alternatively, it can be where the enemy just randomly trades with you.

Retaliation trading is quite common and you probably do it without realizing. However, not everybody has mastered retaliation trading and knows how powerful it can be.

One of the most popular examples of a retaliation trade is where the enemy tries to all in you, and you turn around and kill them instead. Another example would be when the enemy jungler makes their way into your lane and instead of backing away, you fight them.

Retaliation trading can come in a variety of levels and ways. You may be able to retaliate with your abilities like your Q ,W or E, summoner spells like Ignite, your finishing ultimate, or it may be a basic attack or two.

Whatever it is, the damage you return is important to the outcome of your lane. The difference between retaliation trading and general or normal trading in lane is minimal. Trading in lane may mean that you initiate the trade: where as retaliation is purely fighting back.

Which champs benefit from retaliation trading?

Practically every champion can retaliate and trade like this. But for some, this may be the only viable way of trading- or it may be the best way in certain matchups.

For example, Braum against Leona is a semi-popular matchup in the bottom lane. I would consider this to be a skill-based match up that can go either way.

In this matchup, Braum can’t really do too much (per se) if he goes in. This is because the enemy can just engage on his ADC, and he would not be able to help them.

This is where Braum may favor waiting for the enemy to engage on him and then retaliate and use his abilities. If Leona tries to engage, she would be in great danger because Braum can just lock her down as shown in the example above.

Of course Braum can trade in this lane and poke with his Q. He can also start trades with his ultimate, but when he is unable to engage or trade sufficiently: for example when Leona has her abilities available, he will always come of worse.

Why you should retaliate

It should be pretty obvious to why you should learn to retaliate trade. If you’re unsure, it’s because it allows you to have equal pressure with the enemy and increase your kill threat in lane.

It’s safe to say that a lot of players back away as soon as the enemy walks forward or applies any form of physical or mental pressure to them.

While sometimes, you have to back away and respect the enemy, we see a lot of players especially in the lower ELOs overestimate, or over respect the enemy.

If you over-respect the enemy, you are not going to be able to get anything done in the lane. This is why you (sometimes) need to retaliate, and play aggressively when they initiate.

If you’re playing a champion who doesn’t have much kill potential if the enemy has a certain ability available to them, you can wait for the enemy to use their ability and then turn the table on them.

This is because they will not have that ability to trade back with you, and if they missed the ability in the first place, you should come out ahead.

In this example, the Katarina could just back away after Camille had gone in. Instead, she tried her luck and tried to 1v1 Bjergsen. This was a very close call which could’ve gone either way. Make sure you take calculated risks like this and try your luck.

How to retaliate

Learning how to retaliate is important for the outcome of your lane. It is also quite challenging to master, so don’t be discouraged if it works against you the first few times.

In its simplest form, all you need to do is use some of your abilities and auto-attack the enemy as soon as they engage on you. That’s it. However, how you do this depends on the scenario and the situation you are in.

GPI advice

For example, when playing as a ranged champion, kiting is very beneficial because it allows you to create a gap between you and the enemy while also allowing you to dodge some of their abilities.

However, it isn’t possible in every scenario. In some cases, you don’t even want to escape or back away. Instead, you may just want the enemy to engage on you and then you can turn it around and kill them.

You’re not always going to be in a position where you are able to retaliate. Sometimes it’s better for you to just back away and get out of there. For example, if you don’t have enough mana to effectively trade, or if you know you can’t out trade them. It is all about calculations and safe assumptions.

When (and when not) to retaliate

Since there are a lot of variations and variables to retaliation trading, we will try and break down some of them and suggest what you can do in each scenario.

When not to retaliate advice

Here are 3 potential situations you can look to retaliate and trade with the enemy. Note that these may not always be possible depending on the situation.

1.When you have sustain

If you have sustain and the ability to regenerate missing health through Corrupting Potion, Health Pots or through the Rune “Biscuit Delivery”, then you can definitely look to retaliate if the enemy initiates.

This is because you will be able to regenerate all the missing health lost during the exchange.

2. When an enemy casts an ability

You can look to trade abilities with the enemy whenever they use an ability on you or the minion wave. For example, if the enemy jousts there Q towards you, you can retaliate and use your Q on them.

By default, you should always try to retaliate whenever these small trades occur because it allows you to apply pressure and keep the lane even.

If you do not retaliate or try to trade back at all, you will lose lane priority and have little to no pressure in the lane. This can make it difficult to roam or help your jungler if they need your assistance.

3. When you have more damage potential

If you’re able to out damage the enemy, then definitely look to trade when they initiate. You never know, you might be able to kill the enemy or turn the trade around in your favor.

Darius and Tryndamere both have incredibly strong level 1 damage. In this clip, Darius initiated the trade but didn’t take into consideration the minion wave when he went in. Take a look at the minions stacking their damage against him. Add this with his failed Q at the end- Darius had no chance beating Tryndamere, even with Ignite.

When you should back away

Here are 3 cases I would generally advise you to not retaliate trade. In some cases, you may be able to trade during these times but it is incredibly situational.

power spike advice

1. When your opponent has sustain

You should minimize retaliation trading (if it is going to draw out the exchange) if the enemy has lots of sustain through their champions kit  or through the items they’ve accumulated.

For example, if the enemy has Corrupting Potions available. This is because the enemy would be able to regenerate the health and mana lost in the exchange. If you do not have much sustain in lane, then you cannot retaliate.

In this situation, you should try to poke as much as often until they’ve burned through their sustain. When they have no sustain left, then you can (retaliate) trade more effectively.

2. When you’re behind or playing into a bad matchup

If the enemy is ahead, or if the matchup is quite hard, there’s no real point trying to retaliate because you’re never going to come out ahead of the trade. In some matchups, all you want to do is sustain and survive the laning phase until you can get an item or hit a power spike.

When you’re behind, avoid trading at all costs until you’re in a position to do so. For example, when you get an item to defend yourself or when you have leveled up.

3. When you have less kill potential

If the enemy has higher kill potential than you, try to back away as quickly as possible so they do not deal extra damage and potentially kill you.

For example, staying in range of a champion who has lots of damage when they jump on you is a big no-no. When they do this, use everything you have available to you and get out of there.

While you’re disengaging and backing away from the enemy, feel free to throw out an ability while you get to cover. Minimize the time spent close while they are in range to hit you.

In this example, as soon as I was hooked, the smart idea would be to run away and get out of the enemies auto attack range.

In addition to this, Jinx should’ve not attempted to kite as it may have saved her life. When you’re kiting, you’re giving the enemy an opportunity to attack you for free- especially when the enemy is a melee champion.

When you create a gap between you and the enemy, it reduces the auto-attack potential from any melee champions, which in this case could’ve saved Jinx’s life.

Retaliating against jungler ganks

Retaliation trading when the enemy ganks your lane is very, very situational. You should only retaliate and trade with the enemy when the jungler is there if you can turn the gank around and kill somebody.

You may also wish to do this if you’re jungler is nearby which will make this skirmish 2 vs 2 or 3v3 in the bottom lane.

You should only trade if you can kill the enemy or burst them down and force the Jungler or the laner to back away.

But, this makes retaliation trading when a Jungler is ganking a non-viable option for a huge portion of champions like tanks, squishy champions or champions with low kill potential.

The reason for this is because the likelihood of you turning the skirmish around is less likely. Instead, I recommend that you back away when the Jungler is there and try to avoid fighting.

Champions with a lot of kill potential such as mage supports like Zyra and Vel’koz can turn around ganks really quickly if they can land their crowd control.

Many mages in other lanes can also turn around ganks like Syndra with a well-timed Scatter the Weak which can distract a gank and turn it around if she has balls placed and her ultimate up.

Basically, if your champion is mobile with lots of burst damage, then outplaying and retaliation trading is so much easier.

Depending on the matchup, Camille can have high kill potential early. In this example, I acknowledged where the enemy Jungler was most likely going to be but I ignored my advice and went in.

As per usual, the enemy jungler arrived just as I went in. Instead of trying to back out, I went all in and tried to make the exchange 1 for 1.

I find that you can usually turn around a gank during the earlier stages of the game when champions are much weaker. Also, if the enemy jungler is somebody who is rather squishy, retaliation trading it is so much easier.

Preparing for retaliation trading

Retaliation trading takes a lot of time to master and perfect. It is arguably one of the top techniques to learn and perform in game because it can really turn the tides of any exchange or skirmish.

I find that retaliation trading is insanely strong when mastered, but hard to do so- so don’t be discouraged if you end up coming worse off at first.

Before deciding that you want to retaliate and trade back with the enemy, you need to take into account all of these things and be self-aware.

Check the minimap

Checking the map and improving your map awareness is incredibly important- especially when you are trying to initiate and retaliate.

If you go in and try to kill the enemy after they initiate the skirmish, you might be falling into a trap and the enemy might be baiting you. Always keep an eye on the minimap before, and during a skirmish.

Look at the minion wave

When trading auto attacks with the enemy, keep an eye on the positioning of the minion wave. If there are more enemy minions or a Cannon Minion in lane, it is probable that you will come off worse from trading.

As soon as you auto-attack the enemy, the minions with switch focus and start attacking you. If there are multiple minions, you are going to take a lot of free damage.

This damage will only be increased if there is a Cannon Minion in lane and I want to make it clear that you should never retaliate trade (during the early game) if there is a Cannon Minion because you will always come off worse.

Check your mana pool

Mana is a sought after resource during the laning phase. If you do not have a good reserve of mana left in your tank, you can’t necessarily retaliate and use your abilities to trade back with the enemy.

When this is the case, you should use your main damaging ability, and save the rest of your mana for the next skirmish. For example, only using your Q followed by auto attacks.

If you do not have any mana when the enemy tries to trade with you, then obviously you cannot use your abilities. In this situation, you will need to trade autos (if possible).

As always, you should save enough mana to use a dash or escape ability just in case you need to get away.

This is a really good video that talks about retaliation trading in the bottom lane in the Leaguecraft 101 series.

How to master retaliation trading

Lastly, here are a few things you can do to help you improve and master retaliation trading and get better at trading in general.

1. Understand your champion’s damage output

Practice makes perfect and if you have a good understanding of how much damage you have and can dish out, then trading will be so much easier. Also, if you have mastered your champions combos then that will also help you.

2. Know your matchups and the enemy’s damage output

It’s one thing knowing how much damage you deal, but it’s another knowing how much the enemy does. Try to acknowledge and understand what abilities the enemy has available to them and calculate how much damage they can do in return.

3. Trial and error

Make sure you try to retaliate as much as you can to understand what to expect from your champion in these life and death situations. In many cases, it will backfire. But eventually, you will learn when you can and can’t retaliate.

We hope you have learned a bit more about retaliation trading and we’ve encouraged you to start doing it! Remember that when the enemy engages and initiates the trade, don’t just back away scared. Retaliate and trade back with them if you are able to.

If you have any questions or want to learn more, check out PicklePants stream.

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