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4 Quick Tips for Solo Queue Replay Analysis in League

k0nduit

k0nduit

Tue 28th Nov 2017 - 8:36pm

Greetings! Today we're going to talk replay analysis, something I imagine a lot more people will be engaging in now that League of Legends has an official replay system. If you're interested in learning a few basic guidelines on analyzing your solo queue replays, below you'll find my thoughts and perspective on the subject.

For those who have embarked on the journey to improve their skills, replay analysis is an important tool in one's self-improvement arsenal. There is little that is more effective in illuminating mistakes - replays provide a controlled environment in which to reflect on a particular play and identify what could or should have been done differently. Watching your replays is a great way to get better, but it can be a bit daunting since there's just so much information in your typical 35+ minute League of Legends game to parse through.

In today's article, I'll be providing an introductory approach to replay analysis. Below I've included some of the things I used to do when looking at replays, as well as some new insights that I think would be helpful. In my past writings on League I've often advocating looking at your replays and touched on various points that we'll be discussing today, but in this piece I'll be going into much more detail, breaking down the highlights and core strategy of what you want to focus on when going over a replay of one of your games. A couple quick notes - this advice will primarily be for your solo queue (or semi-squad) analysis; when you're in a team of 5, the dynamic shifts and the way you play the game can be dramatically different.

So, just keep in mind that full team replay analysis, while similar in some ways, will often take a different form, with the emphasis less on your own individual plays and more on the macro approach your team is trying to follow. Finally, there's no one "right" way to view replays - these are just my own thoughts that I've developed after having played and watched the game. Find what is most helpful, take what makes sense to you, and mix and match to build your own approach!

Let's get down to business and talk replay analysis. For your convenience, I've organized these concepts and principles into 4 tips/steps, which are as follows:

Training hard will break down barriers you thought were unable to be surpassed. Put effort into your practice sessions!

1. Analyze each of your deaths in the match.

It is extremely beneficial to understand the circumstance behind your deaths in a given match! Dying in League has a number of consequences: you're giving gold and XP to the enemy team, you're falling behind in the acquisition of your own gold and XP, and the enemy team gains a numbers advantage when it comes to exerting control and pressure around the map. Put another way, the fewer deaths you have, the more time that you're picking up XP and gold and exerting your own influence on the map. Even just your presence can be enough to dissuade the enemy team from making an aggressive play. Figuring out the cause behind each of your deaths is often going to be a level-up opportunity, strengthening your skills for the next time at bat - helping you win more games.

This is just my opinion/observation, but I'd say that being taken down is about 80% of the time due to one's own misplay/miscalculation. Here's a concept I vaguely remember reading from a while ago, I think in the context of an Overwatch discussion (and which I've found to be absolutely true for MOBAs as well): "You dying is only worth it if the opponents expended too many resources to kill you, rendering the benefit gained from killing you outweighed by the disadvantage of the resulting situation." To put this concept into a concrete League example, if your opponents trade two members for just 1, expend 4 important ultimates to take you down (leaving them ill-equipped for the rest of the teamfight), or chase down your splitpush while the rest of your team gets 2 inhibitors, it's likely that your death is worth it.

Everything is situational of course (sometimes there are situations where trading 2 players for 1 key member on the other team is a good play, in which case you should play safer because you're a super high-priority champion!), but in general these are the kinds of situations that justify your death as "worth". In most other situations, dying will be a negative for your team! There will be a line of play you could've taken such that you could've come out of an engagement alive, and even in those cases where you being eliminated is "worth", you often could have played the situation differently such you also avoided dying! Always analyze your deaths to see if there was anything you could've done differently.

In essence, step through the replay and check out what was happening around each death. There's a ton of information to process, of course: positioning, skill usage, map awareness, and the macro game state that may have put one in that situation. Keep things simple. Focus on what is easily confirmable that you could've done differently in each scenario. If you lost a close 1v1, break down the micro-execution of the fight - did you use all of your abilities properly, playing around what your opponent could do? Did you miss free skillshots, or fail to dodge abilities that you could've avoided? After dying to a jungle gank (which, for the most part, is an event that can be played around), consider whether different ward placements could've helped, or whether playing safer in lane to not extend too far was the appropriate play. If you went down suboptimally in a teamfight, really hone in on your positioning and the enemy team's positioning - were there strong CC abilities on the enemy team that you needed to play around more?

I've found that the keys to death analysis are to not let any death slide (i.e. don't brush it off as unlucky!), and to not be afraid to really get into the details, considering many possible angles as to what you could've done differently. There are very few times when I die where I can honestly say "there was nothing I could've done differently." Those occasions really are few and far between. Many times I should've been somewhere else, or I was playing a little too aggressive, or I should've stayed nearer to my teammates to more easily receive protection, etc. And even when my death is 'worth', there's often some actions I could've taken to get more value before I went down. Be vigilant in your analysis, don't let things slip by you!

Finally, there's a small caveat I have to give to conclude this (very lengthy) first tip. Though I've emphasized that dying is often a bad thing, you don't want to go to the other end of the spectrum and play so conservatively/passively that you avoid all possibility of dying. If you never put yourself in a situation where you have to take a risk to win a fight, you are most likely making suboptimal plays! Sometimes making the right call involves engaging in a fight that you're 70% to win - that means you're 30% to lose (due to any number of factors, like another enemy appears when you thought you were in a 1v1), and will likely die in the aftermath.

If that happens, that's fine, learn what you can from the teamfight and move on - but you must remember that the play call was sound - post game replay review can help determine this as well. If you don't take calculated risks, you will not gain anything! Strive to avoid being taken out, but make calculated plays understanding and shouldering the risk that there is a possibility of losing.

2. Look at each event in the game as a part of the whole picture - understand what should happen differently at each juncture, and put those together for your next game. Break things down into manageable pieces!

It's very difficult to say conclusively/point to one item and say "this is why we lost." A match is composed of many, many different decisions that, when put together, create the game's progression and ending. Changing any one decision along the way can change what happens later in the match - it's like the Butterfly Effect. Of course, there are some decisions which may turn out to be insignificant, and others which have a very obvious, ostentatious impact on the game's outcome, but when trying to improve and analyze your replay, I'm of the belief that all of these are important and should be noted down - don't disregard an event just because it's less important than another.

There may have been some late game play that lost your team the game right then and there, but there may have also been a couple Dragons given up in the early game that could've been prevented, giving the enemy team an edge, allowing them to balance out your team's other advantages and keep things at parity until the late game.

Trying to look at the entire game from a macro perspective isn't easy, particularly in solo queue where games are not as focused on team dynamics and coordinated plays from the outset. What I would suggest, particularly when focusing on self-improvement, is to break things down and focus on each play rather than taking a larger macro perspective. You can certainly focus on the latter, but I think focusing on individual plays may help you better understand the whole, at least at first. For example, when you determine the reason you lost a dragon fight is because you didn't rotate from the top lane quickly enough - and thus arriving at the fight late - you can make the macro-oriented conclusion that you should mind the Dragon timer and actively look to shove your lane out in advance of the Dragon, so you can arrive with time to set up and get a better position for the ensuing fight.

What I want to emphasize in this tip is for you to avoid the trap of only focusing on the 'flashy', or 'obvious' misplays. Look to understand every mistake you make in-game, as those very same errors may come back to bite you in the next game - maybe with a greater and more noticeable impact. For example, one thing that's always been a sticking point for me is placing pink wards/control wards - I very rarely use them as much as I should. The vision/protection they provide is often subtle, but significant - control ward discipline can win you the game by forcing the opponent to walk in blind to dangerous areas...or lose you an advantage by not setting up proper vision control and walking into a trap.

Most small mistakes, at least from my own experience, and in my observation of others, often manifest with regards to macro/game strategy errors. If you're in the wrong place at the wrong time and unable to group up and help your team, while you yourself may not have died, your team has fallen behind. It may not be apparent in the moment, but during replay analysis you should look over each skirmish/teamfight/objective/event in the game and analyze if there was something that you could've done differently to minimize the negative/secure a victory.

In essence, the mentality I'm advocating is to consider each match as an amalgamation of plays, and focus on each of those events individually. Each duel in lane, jungle invade, gank/roam attempt, skirmish, dragon fight, tower siege, full-blown teamfight, etc. should be identified and analyzed. By building your understanding of how to react (and be proactive!) in each of these scenarios, you build up your experience such that you're more effective in them the next time around and are more aware of the game flow/macro principles behind each play. Even if a particular teamfight loss wouldn't had occurred if you had made a better play at a prior decision point, it's still valuable to look at that second play and understand the principles behind what happened, such that you are prepared for a similar situation in the future.


Shotcalling involves directing your raven to fire lasers at the right target - Swain knows what's up.

3. Seek to understand what the best play is, focusing solely on your own improvement.

I hear all the time, across many different PVP game titles, "My teammates didn't play well, so I lost." And yes, absolutely, this is sometimes the case. But sometimes, the case is your teammates stepped up and covered for your slack when you were making mistakes here and there! For the most part, when conducting solo queue replay analysis, don't focus too much on your teammates' performance - regardless of whether they performed well OR poorly.

What you should be seeking to understand at each juncture is what the right play is - from the team's perspective - as well as trying to understand your role within the execution of that play. This is essentially what it means to become a shotcaller, leveling up your game sense and game understanding. If you can determine what the appropriate course of action is during each decision-point, I can all but guarantee you that your win percentage will skyrocket. If you're making the right play calls, deciding when to rotate to a sidelane, when to engage a teamfight, or when to invade a steal the enemy team's buffs, it doesn't matter if your teammates individually are stronger or weaker than the enemy team, over the long run you will be winning more games than you lose.

Remember, the focus is on developing your skills and your game sense - I'm never a fan of blaming one's teammates for a loss. And the reality of the situation is, focusing on other's mistakes isn't productive. If there's even one thing you could've done better in the match, then that's a solid takeaway for you to focus on. Mistakes happen - everyone makes mistakes; to put down your teammates for a slip up shows a lack of compassion and understanding of the very nature of the game. Identify why a play didn't work out and where things could've gone better (and sometimes this may be due to a slip up out of your control), but your focus should be on making the right calls and executing as best you can.

And speaking forthrightly, developing a strong game sense and becoming a strong shotcaller is very difficult. I have thousands of hours on League, but I still am not able to always make the correct judgement! Developing your macro judgement and decision-making skills is a complex topic, one I won't get into deeply here, but there are resources out there that can help guide you. It's a process which requires a lot of time, practice, experience, and self-reflection. Watching pro games, listening to commentary, and reading in-game situation breakdowns are all great ways to bolster your understanding and boost your shotcalling capacity. The sky's the limit, always endeavor to get better! This next tip will help out as well...

Don't be a lone wolf! Talk and share ideas with others.

4. There is a limit to how much progress you can make on your own - talk with other people about your experiences and plays.

Conducting self-analysis is a great step, but it is limited in some ways. For one, everything will be colored by your own perspective, which can affect how you view each in-game decision. Oftentimes you'll be able to objectively tell when you made a mistake and how to rectify it, but other times you may not be able to recognize an error as a misplay, and other times you may identify an error when none was actually made! It's important to reach out to others for different viewpoints and obtain fresh pairs of eyes and ears.

Sometimes all it takes is reading an article, watching a stream, or listening to a podcast to shift your perspective and open your mind to new ideas, but there are few things that can be as illuminating (and fun) as discussing a play - or replay - with someone you know and trust. I've played a lot of Magic: The Gathering, a card game whose very foundation is based on making tough strategic decisions, and it's my experiences with MtG that really taught me how incredibly valuable it is to consult with others and ask them for insight (this is a commonly advocated practice in the MtG community, as often the right play can be very difficult to see).

If you're unsure what you should be doing at a particular point in the game (do I keep pushing top or rotate down to help my team siege mid?, etc.), wondering how you could've prevented a particular death, or trying to figure how you could've executed things differently in a hectic teamfight, I would highly suggest asking for some advice. Post a clip of a teamfight you weren't sure how to play on reddit, you'll get tons of fresh eyes on the situation and you'll quickly learn and improve.

Self-improvement is great, but it is not as effective if undertaken solely by yourself. Work with others when possible! You'll often find that all the parties involved can improve themselves and improve each other!

Go Forth, and Watch Replays

Watching replays is a great time for self-reflection, and it's also a ton of fun. Laugh at your mistakes, and enjoy your big plays - don't forget the joy of looking back at a game and reveling in your successful wombo combos. Make a montage, if you feel like it. I want to emphasize that although you're going back and looking a video in order to figure out what you did wrong, always keep a postiive mindest: "Every mistake is a lesson," says Wukong. Don't beat yourself up; instead, take the positive from where you may have stumbled.

Every win is the amalgamation of the entire team's efforts - increasing your own skill and output will increase your team's chance of winning. By looking over your replays, even just to pick out simple mistakes, you're taking great strides forwards in becoming a stronger player. As you get more experienced, learn about different ways of playing the game, etc. you'll develop the wisdom to more accurately tell what you could've done differently. And ask others for help in acquiring that wisdom - there's no need to do everything on your own!

That's all for today, I hope you enjoyed the article. If you'd like to discuss anything gaming, have comments/feedback on this article, or just want to say hi, feel free to tweet me @k0nduit and I'll get back to you.

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