How to Improve Last Hitting
Thu 13th Nov 2014 - 6:18pm
Last hitting and farming well is one of the most easily identifiable differences between most players, and the players that really stand out. When people look at the statistics for some of the most proven, top level players in the game, you often hear names like Froggen, xPeke, Doublelift, and XiaoWeiXiao, among others. One common thing you see between all of these players is a very large and stand out number, their creep score. It's not uncommon for these players to have 400 or more CS by the end of a longer game, and during a more passively played game, you can see them with 300 CS before 25 minutes have passed.
Even in standard Solo Queue play, you see the Challenger and Diamond players gathering far more gold in a much shorter time compared to the Platinum players, and then the Platinum players over those in Gold. In every rank and division, you see a significant difference in the amount of CS of the average player over the players of the Division below them. That means more gold in their pocket, more items, and a larger advantage over the other players.
Why do we see such a focus on CS? Minions are one of the only things in League of Legends that you can truly anticipate, and never changes. It is a constant that you can rely on between each game. If you can perfect your control over farming, you can seal massive advantages, begin snowballing easily, and you can stay almost risk free by doing it. With so much about the game about to change during this coming Pre-Season, and into Season 5, we need to make sure we are ready to devote ourselves to what's new. So let's get ourselves up to scratch on what we know won't change.
WARNING - MATH BELOW - SKIP DOWN TO AVOID MATH
Let's do some quick math, and theorize a perfect game. Minions will spaw at 1:30, and meet the enemy minion wave at 2:00. Minion waves will spawn every 30 Seconds, and each wave consist of 6 minions, 3 Melee, and 3 Caster. Every 3rd wave will have a Cannon Minion as well. This gives us a total nuber of 19 Minions every 1:30. Lets assume a 30:00 farming period.
30:00 minutes/(1:30*3waves) = 60 Waves. Now, we subtract 4 waves from that number to account for the first 2:00 minutes of the game where minions are not constantly spawning, to give us a total of 56 Waves. 56 Waves of minions*(19CS/3Waves)= ~355 Minions. In a realistic scenario, this is impossible to actually achieve. You will need to recall to buy items, you will have engaged on a enemy or been ganked by a jungler, your tower will have killed some of the minions, etc. Let's aim for 10 CS every minute of the game, giving us a total of 300 CS by 30:00. We are now farming at a much more realistic rate of 84% total efficiency. If every minion on average is giving us 20 Gold, 300 CS is worth 6000 Gold. 6000 Gold is a massive amount; this could easily be 2 fully built core items for any champion, and almost half of the total gold gathered in a game.
An average number you see in most ranked matches is about 100-200 CS by 30:00, depending on Division. There is anywhere between a 5,000-2,000 Gold difference compared to a 300 score. To put that in perspective, that is the same amount of gold difference as 20-10 kills, before we factor in that you get less gold for repeated kills across the same targets. To make it even easier to understand, a 6/0/0 Katarina with 100 CS at 20:00 minutes, is equally as fed as a 0/0/0 Caitlyn with 175 CS. This math makes it pretty abundantly clear why such a large focus is put on CS and farming the further up you go in the rankings of this game.
MATH IS OVER - PROCEED FREE OF EQUATIONS
So how do we get better at this key mechanic? Like with anything the answer is practice. Before we go straight back into Solo Queue or Normal Blind to get to work, that is not the best way to make it happen. Too many things can go wrong in a real game of League, you might not get your preferred role, you might have a lane partner disconnect, etc. We want to isolate the core skills and focus on them directly. Let's get ourselves started in some custom games where we can really drill these mechanics in and set some easy goals for ourselves.
1) Set up a lane with just you, no bots. Keep all your Runes and Masteries on, and purchase items normally. Here we just want to get ourselves in the habit of hitting a minion ONLY when it will score the last hit. So last hit a minion, stop with "S", and wait for the next last hit. Do this for a few minutes, and try to let the minions get as low as possible before hitting them. Try for 100% farm efficiency, but once you get yourself consistently above 90% feel free to try the next excercise.
2) Repeat all of that exercise, but this time don't stop moving. Last hit only when the minion is very very low, but now keep moving in and out of range. Step backward, and only come back into range to hit the minion just before it dies. This will natually increase your over-all mechanical skill, but most importantly it keeps you safe while you farm. When you are far enough back out of range, you can't be harassed. Again, aim for 100% efficiency, but once you keep yourself consistently above 90%, feel free to move on.
3) Now we want to try again, but hit the minions as much as you can, so the lane pushes away from you. This will teach you how to farm as you push a lane, a valuable skill in a game where split-pushing is such a highly used strategy. Keep moving, and aim for 100% farm, but move on when you are comfortable above 90%.
4) Start from the top, but this time, drop your Runes and Masteries, and don't buy items. This will teach you how to correctly freeze a lane, because you will only be able to kill a minion from extremely low health. This also teaches you how to farm while playing from behind. Your percentage goals are the same, move on when you're consistent.
5) Repeat from step 4, but this time, add a Bot opponent to your lane. Learn to CS perfectly while taking harass, and how to push against an opponent, and how to freeze against someone pushing against you. Once you're comfortable at 90% or more, try to start auto-attacking your opponent in between last hits, and learn to harass without missing any farm.
6) Repeat from step 5, but make it 2 lane opponents.
7) Add a full team of Bots to both sides, except for the lane you are in, you want to be solo against 2 Bots. Now make sure that for every 2 minions you kill, you are checking your mini-map, and at the end of every minion wave, you are pressing Tab to keep track of items from both teams. You need to see where your opponents are, and how strong they will be. This applies to your allies as well.
In a game if anyone is roaming, you need to be aware of it, and if someone is coming to you, you need to able to tell ahead of time who is stronger coming in to that fight and position accordingly. Trying to adapt your knowledge and strategy on the fly to a surprise attack will never work. Be aware of all 9 other players, and you can exert more control of everything around you. This step is to make sure that you do not have tunnel-vision for what is directly around you. Perfect CS and a ton of Gold in your pocket won't save you from a 2 man gank that you never saw coming.
8) A full team of Bots, and now you can add your Runes and Masteries back in. You should try to keep the habit of last hitting as close to the minion death as possible, constantly moving, keeping yourself moving at all times, keeping an eye on the map, keeping an eye on item changes, and weaving harrass into your farming. Aim for 100% farm, but don't move on until you get to 95% or better.
Just practice won't make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect. If you practice being ok, you will only be perfectly ok, this is why we want to isolate our core skills around Last Hitting so extensively. Jumping directly to playing more Solo Queue or Normals will get you practice, and you will improve, but you need to isolate the skill until it becomes completely mindless. When you can farm perfectly, outplays and map control come much easier, because your mind is not focused elsewhere.
Minions and CS is one of the only things you can rely on between every game you play on the Rift. If you can improve the way you farm, you will be way ahead of your competition. The Gold you can gather from CS alone will put you ahead of your opponent by a large margin, and start your snowball with ease. You might not be farming like Froggen just yet, but you'll be closer and closer the more you practice. Good luck out there on the Rift!