Controlling the Tempo in the Bottom Lane - Part Two: High-Tempo Early Game
Sat 1st Feb 2014 - 7:32pm
Before the new year, we were talking about tempo in the bottom lane and we investigated how champion select can determine the style of game you play. The two key things to take from it were that you need to communicate with your lanemate when making a decision on what champion to play and to attempt to manage some sort of synergy between the both of your picks. Whether you are a high-tempo or low-tempo lane, its important to identify the style of play you're going to both adhere to in lane and make sure that your lane-mate is aware of this fact. If you don't, you might find that your Leona is planning on going in for the kill at level 2, and you as Corki dreadfully unprepared for such a move by picking up Valkyrie. Today, we're going to look at something a bit more exciting than champion select: the early game from a high-tempo direction.
The early game is incredibly important in determining how the rest of the game goes, for obvious reasons. If someone is able to take an advantage early and hold onto it, it's very possible they'll be able to use that as a springboard to take the rest of the game. The early game is also when the pace of the lanes is usually established, so taking charge in the early game is the surest way to force the enemy duo to play to your drummer. For high-tempo lanes, this pressure increases since you're relying on the early game to create most of your advantage, whether it be due to the kill bounties or by taking and holding early objectives.
When playing a game at high-tempo, early game bullies such as Cait allow you to bully your way into advantages much quicker than comparable utility choices or hypercarries.
High-Tempo Lanes in The Early Game
Kill Lane AD Carries: Lucian, Graves, Ashe, Sivir, Draven
Kill Lane Supports: Alistar, Leona, Taric, Blitzcrank, Thresh, Annie
Harassment Lane AD Carries: Lucian, Corki, Caitlyn, Ezrael, Jinx, Sivir
Harassment Lane Supports: Karma, Taric, Lulu, Annie, Sona, Nunu, Zyra
In a high-tempo lane, the early game is the safest time for you to pressure your lane opponents. With the mid laner being stuck farming in their lane and the Jungler attempting to get his early clear done so they can influence the top lane, it's just you and your lane opponents who get to fight. This means a high-tempo duo is able to bully and attack their opponents and only have to fear them. As a high-tempo lane you have to achieve these goals in the early game: make the opponents pay for every minion they last hit and take advantage of any mistakes they might make. You've picked characters that thrive in committing to early damage, so you need to take advantage of that. Not every high-tempo lanes are meant to be a 'kill lane', although that is the more popular style in solo queue games.
Kill lanes are hyperfocused on building an advantage over their opponents through the gold bounties of their kills and the free farming they'll get during either the death timers or due to the ultra-conservative play they've forced their opponents to engage in. Supports in kill lanes will have strong Crowd Control abilities, and will often have more than one or have damage to compliment it, and their AD Carries have massive amounts of burst to follow up an engage made by their partner. Kill lanes live and die by the early game and rely on either taking advantage of the poor positioning of their opponents or a "timing" attack based upon hitting a key level before their lane opponents. This "timing" is normally either Level 3, when the Support has all three abilities (and therefore multiple CCs at their disposal), or Level 6, when they have ultimates and their opponents don't.
The fact that these kill lanes live and die by their first committed attack means that they need to coordinate what their timing is before they go into lane, or else they'll experience the aforementioned Corki/Leona situation. It also means that they need to hit their benchmark levels before their opponents above all else. You cannot afford to miss even a minion dying if you want to ensure that you'll hit Level 2 first, meaning you need to communicate this with the Mid Laner and Jungler, especially if he's starting in the side of the Jungle closest with you. I'm not saying that you should abandon your Jungler. Junglers are your friend and should be treated as such or they'll just ignore your lane for the rest of the game. But this does mean you need to be quick on getting back to lane after helping them on their buff.
After getting into lane before your lane opponents, your goal should be to either whittle or zone your lane opponents down so that they are reluctant to stay within experience range (or even better, are forced to head back). This means aggressive, constant pressure, in which you'll blow cooldowns, force summoners, and put yourself in harrowing positions. It also means that as a lane you'll be up farther, on average, than the rest of the team, meaning that map control is necessary. Ward tri-bush (either side) and river to stay safe, and don't be surprised if your early pressure means that you are the first lane that the enemy Jungler should happen across.
When your chosen "timing" happens, don't mindlessly commit to the attack. If they've hit the level first, if the Mid Laner is missing, if the Jungler was last seen near bottom, you are potentially not only going to lose the fight but also lose any momentum or advantage your high-tempo game had built up. Before heading in, wait to see if you can get an ability cooldown or two from your enemies by putting yourself in a safe but exposed position.
Blitzcrank finds himself at home in lanes relying on his early killing potential through Rocket Grab.
Fighting Against the Kill Lane: They live and die by the first kill so don't offer it to them. Do not expend your important cooldowns (Crowd Control and escapes) on harass or you've given them the opening you need. Do not risk losing control of the lane for a single minion, that 30 gold is not worth your life. And for the love of all that is good in the world, don't irritate your Jungler. Tell him you're being pressured, give him the timings on any wards you know of, and let him work his magic. If you keep spamming "HELP... HELP... HELP" (which I too have been guilty of, as I know how aggravating being abused by a Thresh/Lucian lane can be), all that's going to happen is that Jungler is going to mute you, or worse, think your lane is already dead and work on snowballing the others. Finally, clear out wards in tri-bush and in the lane brush, so your Jungler can come to counter-gank during the aggression, turn the fight, and give you guys an advantage in lane.
Transitioning the Kill Lane into Mid/Late Game: The entire purpose of the kill lane was to forcibly create a difference in your AD Carry's and your opposing AD Carry's power level by inflating your AD Carry's power through gold bounties. So, your AD Carry should, if the lane was successful, be an item or two ahead of the opposing carry. If that's the case, ignore their AD Carry and work as a five man team to take objectives. Their AD Carry will be forced to go off to the side to catch up or will remain much weaker than you in teamfights, so abuse that. If they go to an empty lane to farm, force towers or teamfights. If they group, bait them into teamfights that you should win. Don't be too hasty when pressuring the advantage though, because a 5v5 under turret is still in their favor despite their Carry's relative weak state.
Annie's recent ascension to the top tier of supports has made her the standard pick for kill-focused lanes.
Harassment Lanes and Push Lanes
While the kill lane looked to create its advantage out of gold bounties, the high-tempo harassment lane just hopes to pressure their lane opponent so much that they're forced to surrender farm to your carry. Although similar to a much lower tempo zoning lane, the harassment lane is different in the activity level of the lane. While a low-tempo Zoning lane might harass with a few Double Ups or Piercing Arrows a minute, Ezreal and Corki are sending abilities toward their opponents every few seconds.
Harassment lanes rely on AD Carries with low cooldown poking abilities and a reliable escape, and supports that can poke themselves while creating distance or deter the enemy team from attempting to engage on them at all. Your advantage in a harassment lane isn't built off the gold bounties, but rather from the farm advantage you're gaining naturally in lane and the opportunities for objectives that you create when you force an enemy laner back to base. While the kill lane also has the potential to create these openings, they'll often find themselves at low health due to their commitment to the kill.
This isn't to say you aren't going to take advantage of the opportunity to kill your lane opponent, and in fact you'll often find those that you've whittled down to low health tempting targets to commit onto. Be careful however, the advantage that a harassment lane creates is much smaller than that of a kill lane, and a one ill-fated dive might lead to you losing the advantage that you had worked so hard to create. However, you aren't as pressured to make big plays. In fact, your biggest threat is that by harassing so much, you are going to end up pushing the lane.
Now, you can make attempts to limit this, mainly not wildly shooting shots into the enemy minion wave in an attempt to land shots onto your target. (This is obviously easier said than done, especially when attempting to clip waves with Lucian's Piercing Light or Cait's Piltover Peacemaker.) However, since your end goal is to take out their turret this means your number one priority should be warding against any nasty surprises, and you can afford to send the Support deep to ward when you've pinned your enemies to bottom turret.
The quicker you press down the turret the better when you're in a harassment lane. It'll let you apply the same pressure across the map as you are right now, and will build up a nice 200 gold cushion between you and your contemporary. Take shots freely at the turret when you push your lane opponents back to it. If they attempt to stop you, take another shot at them and disengage back. Once you get that turret down, early game is over for you, and then you can transition into the mid game.
The key to fighting against harassment based lanes is dodging. Ezrael's rapid-fire skillshots make this a bit less possible.
Fighting Against the Harassment Lane: Other than just telling you to just dodge. This is going to be a miserable experience, but there are a number of things you can do to mitigate that. Don't let them freely harass you, since if you do, their ultimate goal of taking down your turret comes into play. If they're pushing hard, call for backup and burst down their minions as quickly as possible, and take advantage of the fact that they are constrained by their mana pools for much of the early game. Whenever they fall back to get items, push as hard as you can and race them back into lane. And after they take your turret and move lanes to take another turret, do not hesitate to make a decision on whether to match the turret bottom lane or join that lane in fighting them off. These lanes feed off of other team's not responding quickly enough to adversity to rapidly snowball a map-wide advantage.
Transitioning the Harassment Lane into Mid/Late Game: After the bottom primary turret has fallen, keep that pressure up on another turret on the map. Shift Mid Lane, take it, take the Dragon, and keep pressuring objectives map wide. You fit well into siege/poke compositions, and should never hesitate retreating if you feel that you are in danger. When you've knocked down that first tower, you've made the game into one big race: taking a huge advantage in the early game and betting that they can't catch up in time to make you regret it in the late game. Your first turret fell at around nine minutes or earlier, and your Jungler is making sure to clear the waves bottom so that your lane opponents attempts to take it are in vain while you run around the map. Farm the jungle, enemy and ally, when you get a chance, push as hard as you can, and try to steamroll the enemy team under this global gold advantage.
Jinx's attack speed steroid through Switcharoo! makes her one of the most dangerous tower pushers in the early game.
Changing from High-Tempo to Low-Tempo
The high-tempo lane's goal is to create a gold difference between themselves and the opposing team as quickly as possible in the hopes of not really reaching the end game state when they fall off. If the high-tempo lane is successful, hypercarries won't be able to inflict their full damage potential, teamfights will be quick and messy skirmishes around objectives, and games will end by the 30 minute mark. However, high-tempo lanes fail as often as they succeed. Being outplayed during an early initiation, the enemy jungler decides to pitch a tent in the bottom lane, or just poor coordination between lanemates are often the causes of such a failure, and knowing what to do after your high octane offensive strategy fails is key.
You cannot panic. So yes, you just gave Vayne two kills in the early game. And yes, that is very, very bad. However, your response cannot just be "We'll get her this time!" and more of the same. While the enthusiasm is appreciated, if you go in with the same tactics, she'll get two more kills and the hole you dug will be even deeper. Often times, you're going to have to switch to a slower style of play. Yes, you've given up on building that early advantage, but your goal has changed into not making their early advantage worse, which is something the lower-tempo strategies in the bottom lane are much more suited to accomplish. If you're running a kill lane, it's probably time to ignore the bloodlust that was your directive and just start attempting to farm. If you're a harassment lane, you'll probably be able to keep whittling down your lane opponent, but your goal should be to be as safe as possible, and pushing hard goes against that new goal. If you're still completely sold on continuing a high-tempo laning style, you are going to need a large amount of help from your Jungler or your Mid Lane.
Also, these two flavors of high-tempo strategies are not comprehensive or solid strategies, they're more of a spectrum. Some kill lanes rely more on whittling down their targets before engaging and some push lanes rely on hard CC to zone their opponents while taking down the turret. However, I hope that the descriptions on these two styles of lanes will help you think about tempo and timing during your next game in the bottom lane. Next time, we'll take a look at the lower-tempo strategies and how to transition them into the mid and late game.