Skillshot Dodging - General Theory, and Specific Tips
Wed 5th Feb 2014 - 8:40pm
In this third and final part, I want to document some more general skillshot avoidance tips, as well as some background theory which you might find interesting. I also promised to cover strategies on dodging different types of skillshots, so I'll include those as well. This article will probably be a long read, so buckle up for the ride! As I cover each topic, you might find it helpful to imagine the situation being described (which you probably have experienced once or twice) in your mind, and think about how you would react in that particular circumstance. Read each scenario posed slowly and picture yourself in that position. Visualizing the scenario and walking yourself through it is an extremely powerful learning tool which provides a ton of 'virtual' experience. Even the greatest atheletes (eSports or otherwise) regularly employ image training (somtimes unconsciously) to improve their game.
In the first couple articles, we talked about straightforward linear skillshots - probably the most common type of projectile in the game. However, there are other types of skillshots, such as directed AoE projectiles (Galio's Q, Resolute Smite, or Zigg's Q, Bouncing Bomb).
How do we dodge these kinds of abilities? For the most part, the general strategy is quite similar to dodging linear projectiles, as we discussed in the previous article. As a quick refresher, you want to first predict when your opponent will fire off the projectile as best you can (keeping in mind the notion of Time Pressure - put yourself in your opponent's shoes), and quickly make a sharp movement perpendicular to the direction of the projectile. If done correctly, and with a little luck, you'll move out of the way just before your opponent actually uses his or her ability, thus 'juking' it. For directed AoE projectiles (referred to as DAPs from here on), you actually have an additional option available to you - move backwards, towards your opponent. DAPs are often aimed just in front of where you are, i.e., your opponents will lead you with their skillshot, because of its travel time and the fact that it will only damage in its AoE, not on its travel path.
Moving backwards (or even standing still) is an extremely powerful juke against DAPs, and will more often than not avoid the damage. The downside, as you've probably guessed, is that you're closer to your opponent. Whether this is in fact disadvantageous is completely situational; take for example a Ziggs. He's used all of his abilities on you (minefield, satchel charge, and a few bombs). You know that Bouncing Bomb has a low cooldown, so you're preparing to dodge it. Ziggs throws his Q out, but since you know its CD, and because (for the sake of example, we're assuming) you're in range such that he can land the bomb on your with his first bounce, you immediately move backwards, towards Ziggs. The bomb flies over your head, and you're able to get away before another bomb or his other abilities come up. You've successfully juked his Q - nice. In general, the backwards juke will help you avoid most DAPs easily. However, you have to keep in mind the downsides of this technique.
By getting closer to an opponent, you may be putting yourself in some danger. Moving closer to Ziggs opens you up to his autoattacks (empowered by his passive). He can still get some respectable damage off in this way. This can still be well-worth it, as by dodging the ability you can stall for your own cooldowns, get some safer travel time to your destination etc., but it doesn't always work out.
Probably the best example of the unique DAPs juking option and how your opponents can capitalize on it is when you're running away from Kog'Maw. Running from Living Artillery (as you may have experienced) is no easy task, and not simply because they're hard to avoid - for each R shot you juke (moving left or right, and especially backwards, though you'll for sure dodge the R), even though you avoid the damage, you're getting closer to Kog'Maw, who has excellent autoattack DPS and can do immense damage from 700+ range. By forcing you to make backwards or sideways jukes (which will save you from the Living Artillery damage), Kog'Maw can manipulate you in such a way that you eat some ult shots or get within his autoattack range. In these situations, my best advice is to selectively soak up the shots you can take, and juke the ones that don't throw you too far off your escape path. As an aside, this is beautiful game design by Riot - Kog'Maw really feels like an artillery cannon when in these situations, controlling you (his target) and forcing you to make tough decisions on how to move to avoid his DPS from short or long range. One counterplay option here is to keep an eye on and stall out his mana pool - he can't keep R'ing for too long.
So that's it for DAPs. Let's briefly talk about two types of niche skillshots, curving skillshots (Diana's Q, Crescent Strike) and Vector skillshots (Victor's E, Death Ray). Against Diana, to dodge Crescent Strike, move in the direction of the curve. That is, move to the left - it's a lot easier said than done, but moving perpendicularly to the shot's arc (to the left) will net you the best results. I actually picked up this strategy from a post on the General Forums, so I take no credit; Khourey has an excellent explanation, which I've linked here (it also has a diagram!). I recommend you check it out. Victor's Death Ray (a vector skillshot) is interesting. If you're in close range, it's extremely difficult to dodge, because he can make the laser's point of origin right on top of you with no cast time. But even in this case, DAPs' juking strategies apply - throw a sharp movement and you might be able to draw out an error. If you're far away, Victor will likely have to make the shot rather predictable, 'drawing' the laser up to you - you can juke it as a normal linear skillshot (watch out for tricky sideways lasers though, where moving backwards/fowards will be more effective). As for Rumble's vector skillshot (Equalizer), well... that's a bit too big to reliably dodge. Mobility skills will help, though.
One thing I want to address (Khourey also briefly mentioned this in his GD post) is the importance of movespeed (MS). I can't overstate how much easier juking gets as you have higher MS. Think of it like this - with low movespeed, you have to predict very much in advance when your opponent will use a skillshot, and start moving a little ahead of time; as you get faster and faster MS, the amount of prediction time required (just due to human reaction speed) decreases - you can move/react a little later, and you'll still avoid the projectile because you simply move quicker. Great, right?
Well, it's also imporant to know the incredible danger of having too low movspeed. Your opponents, playing to optimize their chance of landing their ability, now have the option of simply running up to you until you're in a very dangerous range. They can then land an easy skillshot on you, with very little counterplay opportunity on your part. E.g. you're running down a lane, trying to escape from Thresh - he's got higher movespeed, so why risk a Death Setence that can be dodged, when he can simply continue walking, get in range for a guaranteed Flay, and hook you when you're slowed by 40%? With low movespeed, it's like you're overjuking yourself without even overjuking. For this reason, boots are often highly prioritized in certain lane matchups and against certain comps. I often buy boots very soon when against skillshot dependent champs like Thresh, Lux, Ezreal, or Syndra.
Trick2G videos are probably the best examples of excellent juking capabilities with above-average movespeed - Udyr's Bear stance active allows him immense mobility, and coupled with Trick's pretty impressive reaction/prediction skills, facilitates the dodging of a ton of stuff as you can see in this clip:
On the topic of mobility, I want to address blinks/dashes a little more. I know I discussed them a bit in the last article, but their importance can't be understated - they can really save your butt!
Blinks, dashes, and other mobility skills allow for a very simple 'response' mechanic to incoming projectiles. To review a bit: if your mobility skill is available, you can almost 100% reliably avoid an incoming skillshot; a ganking olaf will NOT be able to land an Undertow on you as Ezreal as long as you have Arcane Shift Available - it just simply won't happen. The play pattern here is, you wait for olaf to throw the axe, and then reactively shift. Shifting preemptively will allow Olaf to force you to juke, which, as discussed in the last article, is not a foolproof method of escape! You've got to be focused and attentive - wait for the axe (or the cast animation, at least) and then blink away. You could always get Madlife'd, but it's unlikely. As the ganker, it's in your best interest to somehow force the mobility skill to be used, then try to land your skillshot - or simply gank when you know it's unavailable (most have decently long cooldowns). An engagement with multiple blinks (Ezreal w/E + flash) and threats (Jarvan IV, w/ 2 gapclosers + flash) available causes action/mobility-response sequences to stack, making for some really interesting interactions and plays! What's the ideal action sequence from Ezreal's escaping perspective in this scenario? From Jarvan's chasing viewpoint?
Whew, it's been quite a long article, we're almost done! I've got a few miscellaneous tips and strategies left though:
One place to avoid when trying to run away - the space between towers and the map's walls! Passing through this narrow gap - though it may be the straight-line path to safety - sets up your opponents' skillshots magnificently. There's no room to juke when you're in that space! Take the longer way around, even if it puts you closer to your opponents and slows down your escape. You'll have more options to juke. You can even juke around the circle of the tower, but only if your opponent is not close enough to pressure you for staying in the same area for too long.
In general, try not to hug walls. Enemies can simply aim their skillshot along the wall (and a little to the side of it to cover your only potential juke route - away from the wall). In the below video, (from Dig vs XDG), take note of the initial play. Mancloud on Gragas escapes with low health. During his escape, he hugs the baron wall because that's the fastest path to safety; imaqtpie aims Super Mega Death Rocket a little to the left of the wall, leaving Mancloud with no options:
The correct response by Mancloud would have been to escape directly upwards/to the left (towards top lane), opening up juking paths to his left or right while he was going down the river. It's also possible he might've been able to save his Body Slam as a response to any projectiles, but I'm not sure if Vi would've been able to catch up if he didn't use Body Slam to create distance.
When evading a pursuer, brush juking can really come in handy. I'm going to defer to Shurelia here (again), and link one of her tutorials. Definitely check it out - on more than one occasion, knowing the tricks outlined in that video has saved me from pretty bleak situations.
I also want to talk about avoiding skillshots you can't see, but know are coming. For example, a Blitzcrank is on the other side of a wall, looking to hook you in, while you're running parallel to the wall. He doesn't have vision of you, so he'll make an estimation based on your movespeed and throw out Rocket Grab predicting where you'll be if you kept moving forward. The key in these kinds of situations is to NOT keep moving forward - be unpredictable. Take a different route, stop and wait for a second or two, move away from the wall - do anything that will make your opponent's intuitive prediction incorrect.
Wow, that's quite a lot to read over. Take some time to think about and process everything. I hope this article series was of some help to you. Remember, put yourself in the shoes of your opponent - how would he optimize his chances of landing the ability? If you can keep a calm mind in the heat of the moment and think like your opponent will, you'll have a great chance at juking any type of skillshot.
If you have any questions or feedback on this article or the others in this series, you can send me a tweet @k0nduit (with a zero instead of an 'o') and I'd be more than happy to read them and respond.
That's all for now.