How to Win Your Lane in League of Legends Early Game

How to Win Your Lane in League of Legends Early Game

Update: Since this article was written circa Patch 6.16,  some of the specific item stats may now be out-of-date due to buffs and nerfs. However, the fundamental conceptual lessons in how win your early game will still be hold true. Enjoy!

As we saw in an earlier article, if you get ahead in the first 10 minutes of any game, you’re much more likely to improve your win/loss ratio over time, and that means climbing the ladder. Trading well, creating advantages for yourself and your teammates, and building snowball momentum are key ways to win your early game lane phase in League of Legends.

Let’s look at some things you can apply in to your game today and see immediate results.

Summoner Spells

Summoner’s are potentially tricky because to some extent, they’re down to personal preference. But by experimenting with different spells depending on the matchup, you’re more likely to do well in lane.

Jungle chooses Flash and Smite; that’s pretty much a done deal. But for laners, there are typically two summoner’s that can make a big impact on trades. Flash is pretty much a given for laners too, so the first slot’s occupied. Let’s look at the second slot per roll.

  • Top lane
    Ignite gives you a bigger impact in lane as it’s means applying more consistent pressure on your laning opponent. If you go for Teleport, using it on a ward in the bot lane brush (for example) can be incredibly effective ganking tool. The problem is, it’s higher risk which also means it’s less consistent for trading.
  • Mid lane
    Mids have the most variety in their choices with options ranging between Ghost, Exhaust, Cleanse, Teleport, and Ignite. Low mobility champions may take Ghost to give them more movement options. Players who want more defensive options often take Exhaust against aggressive enemies or Cleanse against crowd-control heavy opponents. For more map presence and split-push potential, take Teleport. If you’re looking to potentially snowball an early lead advantage, Ignite will help with your early aggression.
  • Support
    Supports will take Exhaust or Ignite, with the key consideration being whether the enemy opponent has a squishy support or not. For example if you play against Sona or Janna in the bot lane many high level players will go Ignite to secure kills. If you play against more aggressive engaging matchups such as Thresh or Blitzcrank, take exhaust and save it for the enemy ADC upon successful hooks or stuns. That way you mitigate the damage and can actually counter engages very effectively.
  • ADC
    AD carry is a role where there’s typically less choice in Summoner’s, most will go for Flash and Heal, the latter giving a little more sustainability in lane. It’s the most common combo and many consider it optimal for this role.

Remember that Summoner Spells may be used offensively or defensively. For example, sometimes Exhaust can be used to slow an enemy to help secure a gank in Bot lane. Other times, it may be better saved to protect your teammate from an all-in.

Don’t be lazy with masteries

Since there are too many different builds for us to cover effectively here, we’ll cover a couple of examples that show why it’s good to have multiple mastery pages set up, even if you always play the same role.

  • Example 1: 
    If you’re an engaging melee support such as Leona, it’s reasonable to say that going for Explorer near the top of the Resolve tree is worthwhile since you can roam more effectively and help set up ganks. But as a melee, Tough Skin may be a better choice for trades as you’ll be in the front line during the laning phase where damage reduction from champions and creeps is a big deal.
    choosing mastery example 1
  • Example 2: 
    Another good example is for AP supports to choose Oppressor over Bounty Hunter. While the latter will stack up over the course of the game for more damage output, in the early game the former increases the chances of favorable trading. It makes it less likely that enemies escape kill attempts with that annoying sliver of HP.choosing mastery example 2

The important takeaway here is that early game trading should be an important consideration in your mastery builds because they can help you get an early advantage. It’s tempting to stick with the same masteries for similar roles because it’s easy, but don’t leave those advantages on the table just to save a little time in making a new mastery page.

Effective zones

We spoke about “effective zones” in our article interviewing a Challenger coach on LoL’s ranked tiers. Let’s look at this point again here with the screenshot taken from Map Rift; a great teaching tool often used by coaches show positioning examples.

Understanding-the-“effective-zone”-to-better-climb-the-league-of-legends-ranked-tiers

It’s important to learn the effective zones of your most common matchups. Different champions have different ranges, different toolkits, some have dashes and are more mobile in general. By imagining a circle around your laning opponents, you can be conscious of their effective zones and position yourself accordingly.

Also discussed in the article above is a concept for bot lane called “holding the line”. This means, as a support, always ensure you’re within the same effective zone as your AD carry, rather than falling back too far and leaving the carry susceptible to attack because they’re left in the effective zone of your opponents.

“The Trading Stance”

This is a great video done some time ago but its concepts still hold true – take a few moments to watch it.

Early warding

As we discussed in our article on warding in LoL, the best players in the world make a significant contribution to warding no matter what role they play. One of the easiest ways to significantly improve your game overall in the laning phase to place more wards.

Avg-wards-bought

In Challenger tier, ALL roles make a significant contribution to warding which helps ease the load from supports. So get involved!

If you aren’t maximizing your trinket cooldowns and you’re not buying Control Wards, you’re simply not doing everything in your power to trade effectively. Ward the brush for your lane and you’re significantly more likely to come out unfavorably in trades.

Remember, the yellow trinket has a cooldown of 180 seconds at the start of the game which means that, as an ADC in the bot lane, it’s important you chain trinket placements with your support. Never leave a ward charge in your inventory at a time when you could really benefit from extra vision in the river, such as when the lane is pushed into the enemy tower.

Start learning HP values

A slightly more advanced concept worth thinking about is how to recognize specific HP values. For example, many new players don’t realize that each black line in your HP bar represents 100 HP.

By glancing at these bars lines and keeping in mind how much HP you have vs. how much damage three auto attacks from your laning appointment would take, you know whether you can afford to play a little more forward or whether it’s probably a good idea to recall back to base.

learning_HP_values_in_LoL .1

For example, let’s say you’re an ADC laning against Caitlyn. You’ve just come out of a skirmish unfavorably with about 150 HP. If you stand on a trap, receive a headshot from her passive as a result, a successfully landed Q will probably finish you off.

By thinking ahead about these potential damage output numbers, you might tread a little more carefully in the brush where tasty cupcakes lay hidden – you also might be a little more alert for sidestepping her Q instead of getting complacent and tunnel visioning on your CS. It’ll take a little time but the sooner you learn, the better.

Impacting the game

The laning phase in League of Legends is considered the stage where you, the individual player, have the most control over the outcome of the game. That’s a very good reason for you to spend time practicing the above tactics, especially watching the first 10-15 minutes of each replay and assessing your performance on skill usage, positioning and other factors.

As the mid to late game unfolds, an individual player in solo queue with a bunch of people you don’t know means you have less direct impact on the game. But, by continually working on trades and seeking those early advantages, you’re more likely to improve and climb.