JG 101: Analyzing the Pregame
Thu 10th May 2018 - 4:00pm
Victory on the Rift is decided by game-changing teamfights, Baron takedowns, and even the occasional, underhanded backdoor. Truthfully though, a match can be decided way earlier than the Nexus gets taken down. Unfavorable trades, minute misplays, clunky rotations; all the seemingly inconsequential mistakes can make or break your chances of coming out on top.
As a ‘cerebral’ player yourself, optimizing the way you think about playing can significantly improve how you perform in-game. And that’s why today, we’re going to discuss a core aspect of League of Legends to give you an edge the moment you step onto the Rift: the pregame. The pregame is the interval of time between joining Champ Select and the Loading Screen before you head in-game which includes the bans, the picks, and the respective waiting time for the pick and ban phase.
Players tend to simply breeze their way through champ select as they rush straight to the action on the Rift. However, taking your time to think about the matchups and win conditions of the game at hand can help give you a direction to play towards once you’re in-game.
Drafting Team Compositions
In lower elo (Bronze to Gold), team compositions rarely matter. Whether you pick an early-game oriented skirmisher or a late-game hypercarry, low-elo players typically aren’t able to punish and capitalize the mistakes of their opponents in-game. However, it is worthy to note that tanks and late-game carries have a tendency to win games more often due to how teams aren’t able to close out games with significant advantages.
Meanwhile in higher elo (Plat to Challenger), team compositions have an increased value when it comes to winning games outright. For example, an assassin-filled composition will likely fail against a peel-heavy line-up of Maokai and Janna. Going deeper, a split-pushing strategy will likely fall to a composition that has the ability to initiate fights instantaneously (Sivir, Skarner).
Therefore, as a jungler, you would want to adjust your pick to one that would fit your team’s playstyle. If your team is in dire need of a frontliner, go for the likes of Gragas and Sejuani; alternatively, you could run carries such as Rek’sai and Nidalee to boost your team’s offensive capabilities. Ultimately though, a win will come down to how players perform during the game itself.
Note: Never pick a champion you’re not confident to pull out in Ranked. Familiarity is always of higher importance than how “overpowered” you believe the pick to be.
Value of Counterpicks
Again, in lower-elo, counterpicks have little to no value since players are unable to punish and push the advantages they have in the ‘counterpick’ matchup. However, the higher up you go, the value of counterpicks naturally increase in scale.
Naturally, if a snowball-esque Lee Sin doesn’t push his advantage in the early game against a scaling Sejuani, the Boar Rider will eventually overpower the Blind Monk when it comes to the late-game. Another example is how a proficient Caitlyn can take over a lane against a Vayne. With her extended range, Caitlyn can repeatedly shove Vayne into her tower and gain a farm lead over the Night Hunter. Although these factors would be less noticeable in lower elo, in a higher-skill setting, players can punish you for the smallest of mistakes you commit and snowball those small advantages to a win.
All Locked In
Now that we’ve established the value of the pick and ban phase, we can dive deeper into detailed scenarios of standard matchups you’re going to face on the Rift.
During the pregame, the state of the lane matchups will define how you want to go about your play throughout the game. As a jungler, the primary influencer across the Rift, you have to determine whether your lanes are going to be losing or winning their respective matchups and gauge the gankability of every lane.
The Island up Top
In the top lane, you typically have your bruisers, tanks, mages, and the occasional ranged carries. Generally, you will see ranged carries being able to outfarm and outlane a large majority of their counterparts due to their added range and ability to poke down fellow top laners. Then we have the early-game snowballers in Renekton and Pantheon who will tear you down in lane if you let them. Lastly, we have the later-game scalers in tanks and splitpushers that tend to have slower starts since they need their levels and gold to scale up to their peak form.
Due to the nature of how far up laners can be extending, the top lane is primarily an optimal lane to gank and camp; particularly, when your top laner has crowd control that can lockdown their lane counterpart to guarantee their summoners blow at the least.
If you know which top laner will be dominating the laning phase earlier on, you can adjust your pathing to countergank the opposing jungler’s attempt to shutdown your top laner (if your laner is shoving past the midpoint of the lane) or to backup your laner in case he’s the one getting shoved in.
Rumble in the Jungle
In the Jungle, your matchup versus the opposing jungler will dictate what you can and cannot do in the earlier stages of the game.
If you’re playing an early-game, duelist jungler, you can effectively play more aggressive and contest for the opposing jungler’s camps and maybe even take him down in his own jungle. However, if you’re playing someone like Amumu or Shyvana, you are likely going to be playing safe in the early-game to reach your mid-to-late spikes.
Let your laners know in advance if you think you are going to be ‘powerless’ to face the opposing jungler in the earlier stages of the game. If you think you’re going to be invaded, ask for a well-timed ward to track the jungler’s movements. If your laners have lane priority (basically if they are winning their lane and are shoving in their lane counterparts), you can even ask them to assist you to back you up in the jungle.
The Center of the Universe
Historically, mid laners have had the greatest ‘agency’ to carry thanks to the shorter time it takes for them to scale in levels (minions take shorter time to reach mid lane) and its proximity to the side lanes. Therefore, having mid priority is definitely a surefire way to unlock the map and can allow your team to flourish.
Practically, we can see assassins (Zed, Talon), battlemages (Cassiopeia, Ryze), artillery mages (Vel’koz, Xerath), and control mages (Orianna, Syndra) in the mid lane. For the mid matchup, take note of the resources of the laners (health, mana), their levels, their cooldowns, which side the wave is pushing towards, and the win condition of the champion they are playing.
For Assassins, they want to takedown their lane counterparts and roam to push their advantage. Battlemages take time to ramp up before they are able to solo-carry teams off their backs while the rest of the mages generally are able to survive in the laning phase and thrive in skirmishes and blown-out teamfights.
The trick to opening up the mid lane is to take note of the laner’s playstyle. Take note of their tendencies and abuse them. If they are pushing up without a reliable escape tool, punish their overextension. If they are greeding for another minion wave despite being low in hit points, dive them. Remember their key cooldowns and summoner spells, as when they use their mobility or self-peel cooldowns, your chances of taking them down becomes almost a guarantee.
The Coinflip Lane
Due to bot side’s superior ability to take down First Tower alongside its proximity to Dragon, advantages in the bottom lane can decide a game’s flow right off the get go. As a result, you have to do everything in your power to take over bottom in order to win in a exceedingly bot-centric meta.
For the marksmen, you can see the late-game hypercarries (Tristana, Kog’Maw), utility carries (Ashe, Sivir), lane-dominant carries (Caitlyn, Varus), and everything in between (Quinn and even Yasuo). For supports, you have your enchanters (Janna, Nami), catchers (Morgana, Blitzcrank), wardens (defensive tanks such as Tahm Kench, Braum), vanguards (offensive tanks such as Alistar, Leona), and control mages (Zyra and Brand). Enchanters and wardens are suited for playing with hypercarries who want to farm safely and scale up. Catchers, vanguards, and control mages are suited for lane-dominant carries who can play to one another’s strengths and shut down the opposing bot lane.
Although the marksmen is the ‘supposed’ primary carry, the Support is in fact the one that does the heavy-lifting. Although a few marksmen can open up bottom with their oppressive early-game (notably Caitlyn and Varus), a remarkable Support can allow the marksman to scale successfully or push their early advantage through landing crucial hooks and initiating favorable trades.
Thresh and Caitlyn’s aggressive, punishing playstyle, Lucian and Braum’s double-hit synergy, Ashe and Miss Fortune’s long-ranged poke -- all these possibilities decide whoever’s likely to win bottom earlier on. Furthermore, a duo’s kit synergy (e.g. Lulu & Kog’Maw, Xayah & Rakan) makes for even more potent matchups down bot lane.
To decide how you want to play around bot side, look into the duo’s inherent mobility, crowd control setup, lane priority, and damage output earlier on. If your bottom’s playing a ‘farm-till-late’ duo such as Tristana and Janna, you would want to just let them be, cover for them and protect them from ganks whenever necessary, and provide pressure to allow them to do whatever they please. If your Support’s playing Blitzcrank however, you want to apply as much pressure bot side earlier on and try to gain significant leads through the Steam Golem’s pick potential. Furthermore, if you’re facing an immobile bot lane (such as Jhin and Brand), it would be ideal to blow their summoners and camp their lane repeatedly to knock them out of relevancy for the duration of the game.
Being able to identify and play around one’s win conditions is the essence of winning the pregame. Inefficient pathing, playing around the wrong lanes, and ignoring your composition’s strengths will inevitably lead to your defeat.
As a jungler, you have a finite set of time and attention to expend on the Rift. Determine lanes with priority, lanes where you can guarantee to blow summs or score a takedown. Predetermine the strategy you want to put into play when you step onto the Rift by identifying your win conditions given your composition.
Are you playing a siege, hard-engage, cross-map, early-focused, scaling, pick-heavy, or split-push composition? If you’re playing a siege composition, you want to make sure your lanes get ahead in order to be able to siege in the first place. If you’re playing a hard-engage composition, you want to guarantee your lanes make it through to reach the mid-game where your comp truly shines. If you’re playing an early-focused strategy, make sure to gain leads in the early-game in order to fulfill your win conditions while you still can.
Contrarily, if you can determine your win conditions, you can figure out what the opposing team wants to do given their own win conditions. Once you’ve figured out their intended playstyle, deny their win conditions and counter their initiative. If you know you have a divable bot lane, cover for them. If you’re playing Amumu, ward up your camps. Evolve your playstyle and adapt to whatever the match at hand calls for.
League of Legends has evolved to become a warfare of information. A Blitzcrank lock-in to punish an immobile Jhin, a frontlining Sejuani to complete a well-rounded composition, or correctly deciding to snowball your Camille instead of the losing mid-lane matchup. What you can make out of slivers of advantages can end up netting you crucial victories in the long run. Always remember to take advantage of whatever opportunities given -- and that includes the pregame.
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