Playing in the Early Game: a League of Legends Guide



Sat 8th Feb 2020 - 12:42pm

Early game, mid game, and late game are the three obvious stages in a standard game of League of Legends, each with their own complex series of variables and considerations that will affect your gameplay over time. Today, we’re going to dive into the beginning phases of a match and talk about how you can dominate the early game so decisively that the late game might never come around!

Invading is a great way to start a game off on the front foot. Finding First Blood can be decisive depending on who it goes to, and if it’s given to a carry champion before laning phase even begins, that lane is going to have a much harder time than normal. 

For the most part, an invade should be decided in champ select. Finding the right composition for the invade is crucial, or you risk having the whole situation turning bad for you and your team. You need to ensure you have at least one champion with hard CC, such as Blitzcrank or Morgana, to find the early pick, and then you should also make sure the invade is discussed so that everyone takes the best ability for the play. The communication shouldn’t stop there, as you need to make use of pings to indicate which enemy you’ll be aiming for once the pick has been found; the ideal target is usually the enemy jungler, so that their jungle presence is reduced as much as possible.

For the most part, an invade should take place at the enemy’s lower buff, being the red-side Blue Sentinel or the blue-side Red Brambleback. This is where most junglers will start, thanks to the extra help their bot lane can provide in leashing, and is where you’re most likely to find a pick. For some other junglers, however, the optimal buff for their early jungle pathing lies on the upper side of Summoner’s Rift, such as a red-side Kayn or a blue-side Fiddlesticks. Pay close attention to who it is you’re invading for the best chance of success.

On the other side of the coin, we have counter-invading. After all, possessing strong defensive knowledge is just as important as knowing all the aggressive strats. The best counter-invading strategy is arguably the simplest to execute, and that is warding around the river to spot the move before it can catch any of your team unawares. If you notice the enemy composition has strong invade potential while you’re loading into the game, it’s usually best to sprint straight out of the fountain to get a key defensive ward in the river brush. Better safe than sorry, right?

If your buff ends up getting dominated by the enemy team’s invade, fear not! There is always a way to stay on level terms, and counter-invading is exactly how to do that. As the jungler, move into the enemy’s top-side jungle to steal away their buff in response before moving back into your own to continue your standard jungle rotation. You can move with the safety of your top-laner if you have slower clear, and it’s always best to leave a ward on the buff after you secure it to catch vision of the enemy when they realise you’ve sneaked it out from under them.

Ganks and skirmishes in the early game are more important now than ever, thanks to the changes brought about in preseason 10. Notably, the introduction of the Elemental Rifts and the ability for the Rift Herald to respawn. Games can be won earlier than ever now, meaning a greater emphasis should be placed on early team play to give yourself the best chance of securing early objectives and leaving the enemy team in your dust.

The way that jungle XP and lane XP are in the current meta has almost made it easier for junglers to decide their movements. Following a typical jungle rotation, most junglers will reach level 3 around the same time as their solo laners but while their bot lane is still only level 2. This makes them impactful while ganking solo lanes and powerful when linking up with the dynamic duo in bot, so you should always look to get aggressive as soon as you hit that crucial point in the early game as a jungler.

This doesn’t only apply to your jungler. Top laners that take Teleport and mobile mid laners are also perfect candidates for those flexible ganks around the map that can guarantee your team one of those major objectives. Placing wards deeper in your lane so as to open up the option for a Teleport gank is a perfect way to move your team around and give you priority over one side of the map.

The Elemental Drakes are a pivotal part of the early game, as they contribute towards eventually securing the Dragon Soul and permanently giving your team an advantage. The first two Drakes that spawn are now weaker than all those that follow, making them perfect for a strong early jungler to take down by themselves (if you’re sneaky enough!) If the enemy jungler threatens to steal your hard-earned buff, then it’s time to mobilise the team and commit to a fight that leads to you walking away with the Drake on your side. With these Drakes and the Rift Herald being so important, so too becomes the Scuttle Crab in providing untouched vision of these key parts of the map. 

Turret Plating is another early objective that your team can focus on while the major objectives are respawning or unavailable. Each plate is worth 120 “local” gold (distributed between all allies within 1200 units of the turret), which is only slightly less than the average worth of a full wave of minions. With Rift Herald being able to spawn twice now, securing an early Shelly to blast off a few plates is more valuable than ever- just the one charge gives tremendous value to your team, even if the turret doesn’t fall. 

Wave management is another key aspect of the early game that you should focus on to both maximise the efficiency of ganks and give yourself the biggest advantage in lane. This can be fairly complicated at times, but for now we’ll just focus on freezing and pushing in their simplest forms.

- If you need a gank and you’re looking to make a play with your jungler, it’s often best to freeze the lane just outside your turret’s range by last hitting minions conservatively and making sure the position of the minions keeps the enemy coming forward.

- If you or your enemy needs to recall, you should push out the wave to deny minions to the enemy’s turret. This is much easier to accomplish, as your aim is to simply attack the wave as much as possible and let the turret blast them away in your enemy’s stead.

Optimal build order is a topic of constant debate in the League community, since the meta changes so frequently. While an item such as Essence Reaver is powerful when completed and an early part of many builds at the moment, not all of its components are equally powerful. For that reason, we’re going to have a look at some of the strongest early items for this stage of Season 10. 

 Seeker’s Armguard: The perfect balance of offense and defense, this item is a great response for mages that have to deal with an AD mid-laner or a heavily AD enemy team. 

 Caulfield’s Warhammer: This item is ideal for ADCs that are also caster-focused, such as Lucian and Miss Fortune, thanks to the 10% CDR it grants. 

 Tiamat: Tiamat has always been strong for bruisers that need a little extra help with farming, and the health regen makes it a powerful pick for junglers as well. 

Of course there are many niches that individual champions can and should take advantage of that are unique to them, such as triple (or even quadruple) Doran’s Blades on Miss Fortune, but the above items are generally some of the most powerful items across the board. 

When you return to lane after you’ve made a hefty purchase, you should look to engage on the enemy if your new gear gives you a clear advantage before they have the chance to Recall. In the same way, if your enemy has just returned with items that can pack a greater punch than yours, it’s best to stay out of engage range until you can compete whether it’s via a gank or your own itemisation when you have more gold. 

Focusing on these key areas of the early game is guaranteed to increase your success throughout your matches on Summoner's Rift. If you can combine these elements into a smooth-flowing playstyle with you and your teammates, you might not even have to worry about the mid and late phases of the game since you'll be staring at the victory screen in no time. GLHF!