Mastering Wave Control in League of Legends
Thu 16th Jan 2020 - 7:05pm
Individual minions have little to no effect on a game of League of Legends. However, minion waves can create/deny opportunities and leads through gold, experience, and pressure. Mastering wave control means understanding how every action affects a minion wave and what optimizations you can make for any different situation. You must be able to pivot and make decisions quickly or you will find yourself feeling powerless as you allow your opponent to take control away from you.
Minion waves are always either pushing towards your opponent, pushing towards you, or held even. In between these states are resets, crashes, and bounces. The speed and size of pushes are defined by minion advantage. Slow pushes and freezes are two very important wave positionings that are created from specific types of minion advantage.
Resets are simply when minion waves meet with no advantage to either wave. This is a clean slate that creates an even state between waves that can be easily molded into any state. Crashes happen when a minion wave meets a tower. This creates a situation where a player must defend their tower and catch the minions before the tower kills them, which denies them gold. Bounces generally happen after crashes but don’t always have to happen. Bounces happen after a wave crashes into a tower and the minion wave of the defending tower begins to push back with a minion advantage created by the tower.
Minion waves are generally only briefly in an even state, but this state is still important to understand. With even minion strength, the waves will battle it out for a random outcome that eventually results in a push. Pushes are what occurs when one minion wave has a minion advantage and is stronger as a result. Even just one minion of advantage can grow into a massive advantage over time if left isolated.
Slow pushes happen when you allow a minion wave to push with as little influence as possible so that it can steadily grow in size. Freezes are situations where a minion wave has pushed but is held in place by having a minion advantage that cannot entirely push a wave before the next defending wave arrives meaning no progress is made towards either direction.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of each of these situations? An understanding of this is what makes these separate pieces of information into a tool to create and grow leads.
Resets and even states don’t have an advantage to either laner in particular. The advantage that can come from a reset or even state depends on the power level, matchup, and aggression of the two laners in question. Most commonly, you will see an even state as the first waves meet in a lane. In these situations, even with everything completely even, players can define how the first few minutes of laning will go with simple actions. A reset can also be created by a wave crashing significantly before the new wave comes to the lane. As opposed to advantages resets are opportunities that you must use to recognize and use to their fullest for control over multiple minutes into the rest of laning.
When a wave is pushing, it affects the map. Wave positioning determines how safe you are versus how much pressure you are applying. Pushing the wave away from means that you apply pressure in exchange for safety and vice versa for when the wave is pushing to you. While you must keep these effects on the map in mind, you also must play for what is necessary for your matchup and do your best to make it work with the state of the map. If you need to roam or be accessible to your team for objectives, then you will want to push whenever possible. If you want to set up a gank or stall out laning for farm, then you will want to let your opponent push into you.
Once you pay attention to your matchup, there are more variables to take into account. If you and your opponent are even, then your advantages are generally decided by minion advantage or presence of other players near your lane. However, a purely equal matchup is rare. Generally, you look to gain advantages through level spikes, item advantage, and champion kits that are direct counters to other champion kits. All of these can result from many different factors, but you can create level spikes and item advantages through good minion control. For example, if you create a slow push, then there are more of your minions still alive creating an experience advantage at that moment. This can result in the ability to get a quick kill if your opponent doesn’t keep their guard up. Also, if you can cause a large wave to crash and get a good back timing, then you will potentially force your opposing laner to miss more CS and have a worse back timing giving you the advantage to fight in lane.
Once you have an advantage, wave control is crucial to consistently grow your lead. Slow pushes can build up large waves. Once you can force your opponent off the wave, it will allow for chip damage to towers and set up for dives that can deny your opponent multiple waves if killing them is successful. Freezes allow you to deny your opponent massive amounts of CS and experience for as long as you can force them off the wave. This could potentially cause the opposing jungler to come, allowing your team to have the ability to make plays elsewhere. Finally, if you do have kill threat, then freezes allow you plenty of opportunities to force your opponent to make errors. Although, this is all at the expense of being readily available to roam and fight for objectives.
These wave control techniques are also extremely useful outside of laning. Waves of minions give free vision on the map and pressure lines that allow you to control vision around objectives. Pushing waves fast as a side laner can allow you to pressure objectives on the opposite side of the map as your team. While your team is pressuring an objective, this means you can force the opponent to make a decision that is to your advantage. You could also create a slow push that steadily builds a large wave. Your opponent will have to respond to the wave that builds before it crashes or they risk losing a lot of gold, experience, and potentially towers. Once your opponents respond to one of the two decisions, you can adjust accordingly and use your optimal pressure to make it a winning situation. This idea is very crucial to late game objective control as minions are super necessary for your ability to take objectives, especially towers.
While it is important to understand the reason behind all the decisions available, execution is necessary to fully utilize all this information. The core concept behind the execution is all based on minion advantage with health, units, and strength.
Even states are created when you can crash waves early enough that the next waves meet completely unaffected.
There are multiple methods for creating minion advantage or even forcing the opponent’s wave to push towards you. To create a push from an even state, you must attack the opposing minion wave more than your opponent attacks yours. This can be just a few auto-attacks or entire combos used on the wave. It is most effective to hold your abilities and step forward into the wave while using auto-attacks to slowly push it towards your opponent. If you can’t force your opponent off the wave, then you must be aware of how many abilities the opponent is using on the wave and attempt to consistently use more on the wave to keep pushing. You can also create a push out of your opponent’s wave. You can do this by bouncing their wave off of your tower once they are forced to crash the wave. You must keep your health and resources up to do this safely, or you risk them consistently keeping the wave near your tower without you having control.
You have a few ways to force the opponent’s wave to push towards you, but these are more out of your control sometimes. The most straightforward way is to crash a wave into their tower in a way that causes their next wave to have an advantage by being near a tower. This will cause the next few waves to push back towards you. Other ways generally involve allowing the opponent to hit the wave without stopping them until their wave has a distinct advantage. By doing this you can then pull the wave out of their control by zoning them off their pushing wave while it kills your minions. This denies them positional advantage and the gold and experience from last hits. This also requires either kill threat or attacking when their cooldowns are up.
Special cases involve slow pushes and freezes; both of these generally involve keeping your opponent off the wave. This means that they take a certain matchup advantage. To create a slow push, you simply create a slight advantage and only last hit to push. You also must avoid letting your opponent thin the wave when you do this. Do this by punishing them for stepping forward and using your minion wave as backup to ensure that you will win the trades. This will steadily create a larger and larger wave. If you create an advantage of caster minions, then the wave will steadily build up over time. If you create an advantage of melee minions, then the wave will push extremely fast. A sustained fast or slow push that doesn’t need maintenance will require an advantage of 3 minions of the type previously stated.
To create a freeze, you must keep the opponent’s minion wave near your tower with a slight advantage so that it can kill your minion wave. You may also need to tank the minion wave a few times in order to keep this situation viable for a long period of time. The magic number is three caster minions generally. If you can cause the minion waves to meet on your side of the river in the lane when the opposing minion wave has this advantage, it will create a situation that you must upkeep by only last hitting enemy minions.
This is an example of prime positioning and numbers to create a freeze for the blue team
This is an example of a slow bush building momentum, notice a significantly larger advantage than the freeze had
Finally, since we are on the topic of minions, it’s important to know how to improve your last hitting. This is done by practice. You must put games in and focus on last hitting. It also helps to go into customs or practice tool and just practice what it’s like to last hit with only auto-attacks.