The Dos and Don'ts of Lane Trading in League of Legends



Wed 10th Jan 2018 - 7:04pm

Trading and harassing in lane is one of the hardest things to master and perfect. Making the most out of your ability to deal damage to the enemy and staying relatively healthy in return is the main goal of trading. In Diamond, players know when to trade and when not too. Knowing when you can and when you can't trade in lane will allow you to win lane more consistently. Before we start talking about the rules of trading we first must know - what is trading?  

The Basics of Trading

Trading in League of Legends is when a player deals damage to an enemy champion. There are two main types of trading which include dealing damage from auto attacks and the other by abilities. Trading by auto attacks is the simplest to understand. When possible, you should auto attack the enemy and deal damage to them. Trading abilities are slightly more complicated to understand, but the same method applies. When possible, use a damaging ability on the enemy. All the current champions have at least one “damaging” ability and you should use them on the enemy.

The concept of Trading is simple to understand, however, knowing when to trade, harass and poke enemies is another story. This guide’s intention is to help you improve and notice the signs of when you should be trading and when you shouldn’t be. Knowing when to trade will allow you to assert lane dominance over the enemy laner and allow you, in most cases- to come out ahead.

When You Should Trade

  • When the enemy is missing core Summoner Spells or when you have the Summoner advantage.

While tracking Summoner Spells is a chore in itself, knowing when the enemy is missing one of their Spells is incredibly important. Not only does it allow your Jungler to gank your lane, but it also allows you to go for more deadly trades. If you notice that an enemy has used one of their Summoner Spells - ping it and prepare to go for a kill. If you have an offensive Summoner like Ignite - you can use this to your advantage and play more aggressively.

If you know the enemy doesn’t have any sort of defensive capability, you should play aggressively and hope that they either attempt to trade with you, overextend, or stay in lane for too long.

In this example, the enemy has no way to escape my trade. From a previous engagement by my Jungler, the enemy laner has no Flash. Because of this, I know that I can go for a trade whenever I want - if he pushes, I'll take my chance and I go for a trade. Trading like this is fine because Renekton can easily heal back any health lost during this exchange. Before going for any trade, you want to check the minimap.

  • When the enemy has used their main damage ability or an escape ability.

When an enemy is missing one of their main damaging abilities, you should go for a trade. During the laning phase, it’s very common for players to waste abilities and throw them around in an almost meaningless fashion. Once the enemy has wasted one of their main damaging abilities, such as Ahri’s Q - Orb of Deception, I recommend going for a trade during this brief cooldown period. This is because they will not be able to return and deal as much damage.

If an enemy has used an escape ability such as a Dash or any type of transit abilities, then you should go for a trade during this time as well - especially if you have skill shots. During this time the enemy will not be able to instantly dash, instead, they will have to reposition and dodge your abilities. For example, when a Lucian has used his E, a good Thresh will know that it’s going to be an ideal time to go in on them.

In this video, you can see that I'm about to gank our Bot lane. I notice that the enemy has wasted one of their main abilities and after I see that, I go in. We get a double kill because I waited for the right time to go in and trade. We also got the first tower and another kill, the same method applied to the next part of the clip. The same context applies for Junglers as it does for laners. Once an enemy has wasted an ability, it gives you a small time frame to go in for a gank.

  • When you have the bigger minion wave.

Wave management is key in every lane. Knowing when to push and when to freeze is hard to get your head around and learning how to control waves takes some time to master. Minion aggression is weak on its own, but having a lot of them stacked is very strong and many players underestimate the true damage that these little rascals can cause!

Minion aggro is very special; they like to target champions, other minions and basically anything that’s in their way. Drawing minion aggression can be deadly like I said, so knowing what causes it will help you avoid it.

Minions draw aggro when you auto attack an enemy champion. They do not target you if you hit them with your abilities unless they are auto attack based (like Dr Mundo’s E).

Now you know how they work - how can this help you? If the enemy has more minions than you, then you will be drawing aggro from the minions and subsequently, damage from them when you go for a trade. Trading with auto attacks followed by abilities is what you should be doing, but you will be wasting all your mana and health if you go in at the wrong time. The general rule of thumb is to not go for a trade with auto attacks if the enemy has a bigger minion wave. However, you can trade with abilities during the whole laning process.

  • If you have a level advantage or power spike.

Many players have heard about the level 2 power spikes on Lucian and well, it’s actually pretty useful! When you have the level advantage (especially in the early game) you will be able to dictate the momentum of the wave and how the enemy plays.

Knowing that you have the advantage will allow you to play more aggressive and position more offensively up in the lane. You should trade when you have level advantages (such as the level 2 all-in) because the enemy will not be able to trade back with you as efficiently. This is because they do not have a second ability, nor do they have the majority of minions and in return, they will either have to blow Summoners or use Potions.

There are many different types of power spikes and every champion is different. You should look individually for your favourite champion’s power spike. There are not only level spikes, but also item spikes and even object advantages.

This is a very basic example. I hit level 2 first and proceed to go in for a trade. This is basic League of Legends core gameplay, the enemy doesn't have a second ability to attack me with, while I have my Q and my W abilities. I will win any level 2 trade if the enemy doesn't hit level 2 first. 

  • If the enemy has mispositioned

Mispositioning is one of the worse things a player can do and during the laning phase, this is especially deadly because it can cost you the lane. You should always be in a position in the lane where you cannot be hit from skill shots and not get hit for free. If the enemy has mispositioned and is standing in no man’s land or is too far up in the lane. You should attack them with your autos and abilities. Make sure to drop minion aggression when you do attack them.

In team fights, positioning correctly is incredibly important. Depending on your champion and role-your positioning will differ, however, if you’re a hard engage champion such Alistar, seeing the enemy misposition can be incredibly juicy. Beware of the minimap and know where everybody is before going to trade.

In this example, the enemy has walked far to forward and does not respect me. He seems to mindlessly walk up in lane and try to kill me. I am rather strong at this part of the game so I go in with the trade. I first check the minimap to see if the enemy Jungler is near me and she wasn't. So I went in with the trade. I start poking with my Q and land a good one. He then continues to walk up, so I go in. This is just one way of winning lane, playing off the enemy's stupid mistakes.

When You Shouldn't Trade

I’ve listed when you should be trading, but when should you not be trading? If you switch around the examples that I’ve listed above, as if the enemy had those advantages- then you probably shouldn’t fight. As suggested, if the enemy has an advantage, they will usually abuse it if you try to fight them

  • Do not fight if you do not have any Summoner Spells

When going for trades, especially clutch ones, making sure you have available Summoner Spells is one of the best ways to either win a fight or escape. But having no Spells will leave you at a disadvantage from the offset. You should not go for full trades if you have no escape Summoner Spells or defensive ones.

In small trades, like poking, this is fine, however, when going for kills it can be extremely risky. You can still go for lethal trades with no Summoner Spells however, it is not always recommended.

  • Do not trade when the Jungler is missing or headed your way

If the enemy Jungler is missing and hasn’t been spotted on any wards, then I do not recommend going for lethal trades unless your Jungler is nearby and can counter gank. Going for trades when the Jungler is missing can be deadly and quickly turn your fight from 1v1 into 1v2 in which you, you will come out worse off.

Instead, you can go for trades when the enemy Jungler is shown on another side of the map. This will allow you to confidently make the trade 1 versus 1 or even 2 versus 1 if your Jungler is around. Never go for full trades when the enemy Jungler is missing or spotted nearby. Always check the map before going in for a trade.

  • Do not fight if the enemy is going to back

We’ve all been in a situation where you’ve just backed and the enemy has overstayed for more gold. While the enemy may be low on mana or health, it’s not worth going to trade with them. In almost all situations they will be backing either way. If you decide to go for a trade during this time, then you would have wasted resources on them for little to no reward.

I see a lot of players return to base, heal up and buy items only to go in for a trade when they return to lane and get chunked. Instead of fighting, push the wave and make the enemies recall time even longer. If they decide to stay longer, try to get your Jungler to gank your lane and kill them. If you succeed, then you’ve put the enemy behind and are going to gain free tower damage.


League of Legends is an ever-growing game and experience and knowledge matters. While a lot of information was presented in this guide: remembering when you can poke, trade and harass the enemy will allow you to come out ahead in almost all matchups. When you play, try to find new ways to trade and when.

The information presented isn’t the only time you can trade or harass and with that said, there is a lot of other information that you need to work with before going for a trade. Some of the examples listed may or may not be good to go for depending on your champion.

Like our content? Support us by getting our merchandise in our shop