Don't call my "Main!" Generalization vs. Specialization



     Hello, Emeraldw here with a question.  What do you "Main?"  Are you a Jungler like Stonewall who roams around scaring laners and being a jerk to the enemy in his jungle?  Are you a loveable and adorable support player who everyone constantly underestimates your impact on games?  Or are you a greedy AD carry that is always avoiding his fans on the other team?  Have you ever joined a game and people tried to call a role or champion regardless of the selection order?  Well, they do so because they think they have "Mained" that role.  They have spent their time learning a specific role/champion to be as good as they can be at that one specific role.  But is this the best way to improve?  Do you get the most out of the game by specializing or is it the best way?  I want to examine the idea of "mains" and if they make a stronger or actually make us weaker.

     There are many opinions on this.  A large amount of people would likely claim that specializing is the best way to go and improving ELO.  Elementz made the comment once that playing only one champion is probably the fastest way to raise your ELO.  I personally love Morgana and could raise the amount I win by a great amount if I only ever played her.  But does that really make me a better or stronger player?  This article is going to focus overall on why we shouldn't specialize.  I think the desire to specialize is already there when we pick champions we always want to play and roles.  But there isn't enough incentive to play everything.  So I will go over why trying to be good at everything will actually make you better at everything and you will grow as a player. 

Don't hog the spotlight!

      I went into a game where the 5th pick of the game had to go support (like usual).  He made a claim however that struck me as a falacy.  He claimed he "mained" mid and top.  Why would this stand out in my head?  The answer goes back to when you ask kids what role they want to play on a sports team.  They always want to be the guy on the center stage.  A quarterback in football, the pitcher in baseball or forward in basketball.  They score the points, make the plays and are generally regarded as some of the most important members of the team.  So why wouldn't you want to be them? 

     The problem with claiming to main top and mid is simple, they are some of the most sought after roles in the game.  In Solo Que, even at the highest ELO, mid, top and AD are often picked first.  Despite the clear and obvious advantages to picking later in the order.  The solo lanes are areas where they can make a large impact on the game without having to work or rely on others.  Most view the lanes as a form of 1v1 where you can face your opponent alone, despite the fact this is a team game.  So there can only be two people in those roles and everyone wants them.  So if you really want to get better at the game, learning to play every role well is essential.  You cannot always be the guy in mid.  Being able to say "I play support well and if you really cannot do it (like when they claim they bought zero supports....) then I will."  I have done this for moron fifth picks that claim to ruin your game if they have to be support.  So when you consider what you are going to main, remember that you cannot always be the pitcher.  Someone has to be the outfield and everyone on the team wins games.  


Are you really Specializing?

    Have you ever asked yourself what it takes to really "main" a role or champion?  Stonewall is the pretty much the ultimate example of what it takes to know a role.  The man has a rating system for every champion in the game in the jungle.  He has jungled every single champion and makes videos for it.  Let me ask you something, for your main champion, do you know your damage values at various ranks?  Do you know their scaling or cooldowns?  I am willing to bet money that you do not (I don't!) and that is fine.  We generally just play the game, but Stonewall takes the concept further.  He really truly gets jungling and knows what it takes to succeed.  When I look at what he does for jungling I realize how silly it is for many of us to call mains on anything.  If you really want to main something, look to Stonewall and players like Ego Ignaxio.  They have put the time and effort into learning just one thing.  It shows in their play and I respect them for it.  


Diversity is the spice of life, and the source of better play

     Learning to play one thing well is great.  But learning to play everything well and then go back to your specialty will make you better.  LoL is far more about strategy, positioning and teamwork than it is about individual champions.  The real beauty of teams like Moscow 5 is not in what champions they play, but in how they play so well together.  Every time I watch them play, I realize the strength of their team.  As such there is a strong kind of general skill that is there irregardless of champion or role.  Scarra is a fantastic AP mid player, but I would bet $100 he can jungle/support/top/AD better than most people reading this, even on champions he does not know well.  And the reasoning for this is simple, he knows the game.  Not just the AP mid game, but the game of each player on his team.  He might not know the best builds for champions, but can fudge a working one together based on general knowledge of the items and other champions.  Now I do not know if he has always been an AP mid player, but for the rest of us, learning each role helps expand our skills overall to make us better.  All that orb walking you learned to use as an AD?  Can work as well on AP champions and supports.  Keeping track of jungle spawn timers when your jungler doesn't can help everyone keep track of objectives.  When you walk a mile in another man's shoes, you realize just what your missing out on in your own play.  Spend some time learning something your bad at and not just play your middle Mordekaiser all day.

Jack of all Trades, don't have weaknesses, and weakness feeds the strong

     To quote one commentator from a stream: "Eventually you come to realize that League of Legends is not about getting kills, it is about not dying."  Deaths in League of Legends hurt.  And people who cannot play a role or champion well will feed those who do.  Imagine picking Darius for the first time against an experienced Vladimir or Kennen.  You might have played Darius once or twice but never against these champions.  You know how bad it could be, but suddenly ten minutes in you've died 4 times and their destroying your team.  If you had taken the time to learn Darius, top lane and his match-ups, you would still have a rough lane.  But you might not DIE and give your opponents 300 extra gold, free farm and deny yourself.  Do you know how often when I practice my AD I lose my lane due to my support being much weaker than the enemy duo?  It is amazing the impact of a good support and bad ones will lose you lanes.  But good ones make me go 6/0/0 on Vayne by twelve minutes with a Tristana so far behind she was scared of my support.  Learn those things you hate, get decent at them.  If only so you can help avoid feeding the more experienced.  


Take Away

     What I really want everyone to take away from this article is really this.  Playing only one thing will make you better at one thing, but doing more will make you better at everything.  Elementz once claimed that playing only one champion will raise your ELO.  But does that really make you better at the game?  I argue no, a variety of experience when playing or learning anything is more powerful than a lot of singular experience.  You cannot learn every champion in the game, but learning a good variety for each role will make you a more well rounded player.  So when you run into a moron 5th pick with no support/jungle/whatever, you might be able to take over and prevent the horrible fate you can see coming at champion selection.    




  • #50 tahquitz

    I think it is worth noting that oRb LemonNation was ranked 1st and is currently ranked 4th on NA for solo queue yet "mains" support.

  • #47 Greenmoloch
    People "main" roles because they simply enjoy that role more than the other ones. It really is that simple. I for one HATE playing mid, although its a pretty prestigious role, and avoid it whenever i can, but enjoy top lane the most, altough its also a solo lane. But if one wants to be successful in competitive play, he has to become atleast solid at every role. This is an undisputed fact, and i dont know why anyone would think otherwise. You say:"A large amount of people would likely claim that specializing is the best way to go and improving ELO." Im pretty sure almost no one thinks so. But everyone, aside from the pros ofc, has his favourite role/s, at which he is likely more better, confident, and has overall more fun. And ofc everyone will try to play this role as much as possible, i dont see a problem with that.
    Last edited by Greenmoloch: 8/16/2012 10:50:05 PM
  • #44 Phenomenautical

    When someone says "I only play X," whether that be a role or a champion or whatever, they are really saying "I don't want to support, so I'm going to be dishonest and say I can only play my favorite role because I'm a massive jerk."

    The idea that there are people who are legitimately incapable of playing more than one role well enough to not throw games(I'll exclude jungle due to it's unique nature, but even then it's not really that difficult. I'll exclude support players as well due to the fact I have never in the entire time I've played LoL had an argument/issue over getting support that didn't involve a duo queue griefing over not laning together.)at anything above 1200 Elo play boggles my mind.

    I'll start with top players.

    Do you play top with standard champions? Congrats, you now have the mechanical understanding to play most of the bruisers and tanks in the game. Guess what bruisers and tanks are also good at? Jungle. Take 20 minutes to learn how to clear a jungle properly, then pick a safe jungler who does well in teamfights like Malphite. You are now an adequate jungler up until you reach Platinum.

    Are you capable of playing Kennen? Most tops are. If you can play him top, it's even easier to play him mid, as you can spellvamp off wraiths indefinitely. Congrats, you are now an adequate mid player, because even if you know nothing about the matchups, Kennen is one of the best passive farmers in the game.

    Mid players:

    Do you play a champion with a reliable escape, safe farming, and decent harass(Haha it's funny because being capable of controlling your lane with safe picks is implicit in being a good mid player in the first place!)? TAKE THAT CHAMPION TOP, YOU ARE NOW AN ADEQUATE TOP PLAYER. CONGRATULATIONS?

    Do you play a champion that is ranged in nature, has natural CC and other utility? Are you intelligent enough to make a massive change and not last hit in lane? Can you start the game with three+ wards in your inventory and continue to buy them instead of rushing a deathcap? Congratulations, you are a decent support player.

    AD Carries:

    So apparently you are good at the most mechanically intense role in the game. HOW are you not capable of playing a hypercarry champion in mid lane based solely on the fact that you are going to be better at farming than almost any opposition you end up against in mid lane.


    And if all else fails, ANY player can play support. Yea there are some people who inevitably perform poorly whenever they support. It comes from two things.

    A: Refusal to be passive, and trying and get farm/kills and items instead of supporting. This is called willfully playing like you are an idiot. It's not a skill thing, it's not something that isn't incredibly easy for 80% of the community, it's just personal obsession with carrying in the traditional sense preventing them from playing with common sense.

    B: Not wanting to play support so badly that they convince themselves they are bad at it and play poorly because they have convinced themselves they should play poorly.

    Even if you are legitimately unintelligent, and learn things very slowly, I do not think anyone capable of playing this game at a decent skill level is incapable of supporting somewhat effectively using Soraka.

    How to play Soraka:

    1. Stand in bush. If bush warded, stand behind minions. Ward bush across from bush you are standing in.

    2. Ward tribrush and Dragon.

    3. If carry or self injured, heal them. If carry low on mana, infuse them.

    4. Don't take farm.

    5. Don't take farm.

    6. Play passively instead of running up and trying to harass with infuse or auto attacks and getting dunked by the enemy Leona.

    7. Don't take farm.

    8. Ward everything.

    9. If your carry whines about you playing passively, rightfully call him out on being an idiot for expecting a fifth pick Soraka to do anything except enable his farming.

    10. Congratulations, you now have a fifty fifty chance of winning.

  • #46 VectorIsVector


  • #48 jook2oh

    Yes to everything you just said.  And might I add;

      I've played plenty of games where everyone insta-locked and we had no tank, sometimes we win, but very very rarely.  Then there are those times when I say "I wanted to be Kassadin, but screw this!!  We need a flippin' tank!"  Then I play Shen, or Mundo, and you know what?  Sometimes we still lose, but I know that if it hadn't been for that tank, the teamfights would have been more one-sided, with the team with 2 tanks and a bruiser over the team with 5 squishies.

    tl;dr    This game is more of chess, and you may WANT to be a carry, but then who would tank or cc in the teamfight?


  • #43 Ueber

    I think Elementz and Emeraldw are both right, but that the effect of generalization versus specialization is elo dependent.

    If you are a new, out of the box player, you are by far better off learning one champion well, assuming you find someone you can really enjoy playing.  You need to learn the fundamentals of the game before anything else, and you are not helped if you say stick with the free champions of the week and play something different almost every game--you will be thrashed by people who have started specializing.

    Now, this isn't a mindset you should take with you to ranked.  However, when leveling you get so much more from having successful games (wins are nice) and learn a lot about what heroes can do when you play against them on near equal footing rather than being thrashed.  Additionally, if you're smart and pick a champion or two to focus on that can fit multiple roles, you aren't going to completely kneecap your team by insisting on playing one position.

    Sometime after hitting 20-30 and having a hundred or two games behind you, then you start generalizing more and once you have a couple of champions in each role you are seriously able to start ranked play in the solo queue.  Yes, you can theoretically carry your way to high elo, but I'm convinced it's almost as important to ensure your team doesn't have a crippling deficit in one of the roles, so you should be able and willing to jungle or support or whatnot with some low level of confidence just in case.

    Once you've managed to haul yourself through the mid elo doldrums, then it's an option to seriously start specializing again, finding an arranged team, etc.

  • #42 Brontobeuf

    That was my thought Season 1. No role, no main, and let's see how good I really am. Eventually, I got the result I deserved.

    Now, in Season 2, I decided the opposite. I main one char per role, and favors bot lane roles. And I find I'm doing better.

    The thing is "getting better" and "gaining ELO" are not the same thing. The first is achieved by being this jack of all trades you talk about. The second is achieved through specialisation.

    You can say that getting better will ultimatelly lead to gaining ELO, but the time it takes may be too long depending on who you are (it's long for me ^^). And so, it may be a better choice to specialise.

    <script type="text/javascript" src=";pid=1032&amp;zoneid=62862"></script>
  • #41 Folfire

    I started playing AD because that's what fits my personality more. Then I realized, being last picks I had to start practicing support, and it benefit the way I played AD. I had more control over OUR cooldowns, having at least a subconcious idea when I could get healed/shielded or to know when Alistar/Taric (Those first aggro supp) would engage. Then I got to try the other role that interacts with bot lane most: the jungler.

    As you state in the article, that got me used to timers (which I'm still not that good at) and even have a little idea of when and from where I would be ganked, which champions could dive me and know at what HP they would leave me, being ADC so squishy. It enhanced my reaction time and responses.

    Finally I realized I then had some good sets of runes to top. I started playing top and realized I had a better time with it than jungling. And jungling gave me enough experience to realize when it was a good time to invade or be aware of inminent ganking. Last but not least, I ocassionaly pick mid, when I get the first pick or just feel like it, but I would have to say this is where I don't play as well as 50% of people.

    In the end, this article makes lots of sense, in fact, it would prove it's part of a player's evolution, as lanes are intertwined and role by role it makes your "main" stronger, leaving you with something like:
    "AD>supp>top>jungler>mid", which is something I sometimes pop in selection for people to start talking about how we should organize :D

  • #40 FishFilet1337

    Playing one role or champion is probably the worst thing that anyone can do at a non-pro level. There's been hundreds of times where I entered que and people are insta locking into one champion or claiming one role regardless of what their teammates have already selected. Until you've played every role many, many times and are at a very high ELO level, it really makes no sense to specialize.

  • #39 Sreimund

    I completely agree with the article, personally I play all roles and there's very few champions I don't know a thing or two about, this got me to 1800 and i can comfortably play any role at the 1600s, everyone has their preferences but whenever someone claims to be a main at something all I can do is shake my head. There is no such thing as maining a lane until you are in a team or as stated; Extremely good at what you do.

    I have some friends who dwell at the 800 to 1200 elo regions who constantly ask me what they should do to go up, should they main a champion or a lane, is this champion better then that one but the real answer lies in working on your mechanics. With those you can play any champion. 

    I can respect people who desire to play a single role or champion alone, some might be extremely good at it even at the lower elo regions but this is not useful in solo queue, where sometimes you have to fill in a different spot because other people are not as good, as you in said lane but worse in others.

    I've had my own moments where I called out to jungle, or go for ad carry but whenever someone else calls out for a role I want I suit their preferences because that means I am giving my team the highest chance to succeed.

  • #37 Misticaltom

    Not that I dislike the article, it's great, but I do disagree with you, I started the article thinking about how great it is, and actually find myself feeling against it, which is both crazy and sorta defines people.

    Life in general disagreess with you, I grow up and want to be a rock star, or a foot baller, but not everybody can be those, it's true.  Sitting down and learning how to be a Secretary, Cook, Truck drivah, or professional dancing monkey are all important to success, but that shouldn't stop me from focusing my talents or focus, incase I lack the talent.

    The best Singers, Rocket Scientists, and Pitchers didn't become good by stopping to learn how to make clothing, audit someone, or even how to write an amazing article themselves.  They focused on what they wanted to, and became good at it through practice and hard work.

    Not that you don't elude to that, or that you don't make a great point.   But remember, the full phrase is "Jack of all Trades, Master of none, but sometimes better than a Master of one"

  • #38 Emeraldw

    Actually, I don't think life would disagree.  Spending a month to learn something new could be useful to anyone.  It helps prevent burn out in jobs to do something new, and with many, many jobs requiring a lot of different skills.  Learning something else could help you in that.  Being a great Pitcher in the MLB is more than just throwing a baseball, at least for the truly great.  Knowing how to manage your money can help you avoid the situations many players find themselves in when the money dries up.  

    So I would say that life doesn't disagree.  Being good at one thing is very useful and beneficial when possible, but being good at many things doesn't hurt.  It didn't hurt Musashi Miyamoto with his duels to learn art and write.  It won't hurt a rocker to learn to paint either, he might even figure out a hit song from it!  Inspiration comes from anywhere.  

  • #45 myusernameisnttaken

    actually, one can learn new things from about anything.

    I read "the art of learning" awhile back, and the author talks about how he'd be practicing Tai Chi and would suddenly figure out the solution to a chess puzzle he'd been working on, and things like that (I kinda forget specifics...).

    Sometimes it's shared principles, in this case thinking ahead of your opponent and anticipating their moves applies in nearly everything competitive, whether it be sports, martial arts, chess, video games.

    For me, I hit my head in my basement, and realised that I should "keep my head low in low places", which related to how I hang out with some people whom I am obviously smarter than, and some of them sort of resent me. I realised that standing out in this case is silly, and I should blend in a bit more (or not hang out with them, obviously, but I rarely do and one is an old friend).

    LoL and DotA and HoN all taught me that people get mad for no good reason, and helped teach me how never to be affected by such things. Now I'm basically impossible to goad. Etc etc.

    The brain finds the craziest connections between things, and the subconscious mind sometimes works far better than the conscious mind, so taking one's mind off of a puzzling thing can often lead to its solution randomly.

  • #36 Yuizele

    Nice read. Great Article.

    Overall, i think the idea of being able to pick at least 1 or 2 champions in each role and play them decent enough where you can fill the role and not play terribly should be brought to everyone. I often enough see people just call out mid/top(which seriously, everyone wants to play those) as their 4th or 5th pick and not caring about any team order and pick order, thus just picking mid whatever happens. I am not the biggest fan of this enforced metagame(ap mid, bruiser/ap top, ad support bot and jungle), but right now, it is hard to find a better way. Me and my friends have been experimenting with roaming(e.g. Poppy, Taric), but it just hasnt worked out too well. Though i just want to make sure i understand the concept of specialization correctly:

    So for a good game experience, being able to understand most roles in the game and being able to at least solidly play all roles seems to be the way to go. But having a preferred role is still advantageous? Our group of friends seems to have this issue where we just cant decide on which roles we want to end up having on our team(meaning who is going to specialize on which role). For example me as a preferred Support player(mostly Lulu/Leona/Janna), which i would read as specialized on support, being able to mix it up and adapt to the other roles too.

    Sorry for possible grammar or spelling errors, English is not my native language. 

    Last edited by Yuizele: 8/16/2012 5:22:14 AM
  • #35 chubbo55

    This article. This freaking article.

    I've waited so long to see someone publicly recognise the significance of junglers and supports. They're my favourite roles (I love me some naut support) and I get blamed by my carry and team in 3 - 4 out of 5 games for any mistake. It's horrible.

    What I hate even more is when laners say '(inster jungler name here) you need to gank more' because the enemy jungler is netting loads of successful ganks in. Why not buy wards and not get ganked? Countless times I've seen top and/or mid overextend EVEN WITH WARDS and not see an incoming gank and then rage at me.

  • #32 ClavikusAP
    I completely disagree with the people who claim that support is a stagnant role. I main support and AP (I play a decent top, meh jungler and absolutely horrible ADC) and it's so much fun. Then again, I almost always pick Leona/Alistar, so it's not a "sit and babysit your ADC" sort of thing. It feels great when you set up a kill or tower dive your enemies to net your carry a Double Kill.
  • #34 Waaargh

    Indeed. Playing passive for the sake of it hands over initiative to the opponent. Most supports play very aggressive compared to the other lanes, rather than just act as babysitters.

  • #31 EsperMagic

    I enjoy playing support and Jungle, hate top and mid so im normally a good last pick player haha, but I guess I should put more of an effort into the other roles.

  • #29 Gilaeth

    I suppose I am one of the rare ones whose main roles are jungler and support. In the context of this article, though, I main jungling. And yes, to the extent of stonewall, sans the videos. I even jungle teemo which stonewall insists cannot be done (and it shouldn't, but the same can be said for over half his tier list.) I spend a lot of time testing rune/mastery/routes for optomization purposes. 

    That said, the other three roles are pretty obvious. Your success is very, very measurable in top, mid, and ad carry. It is easy to point at a number and say "I did well." The same is not true for junglers and support. Junglers are catalysts, and the team leaders in the early to mid game. They control the map, and need their allies to be responsive. More than any other role, junglers watch the minimap more than the rest of the screen. Measuring their success is difficult because it is in context of their allies. The jungler, then, is typically blamed for any failures of the lanes, while any advantages from what they do that is not a gankk resulting in death is ignored.

    Supports have it worse. AD carries take any credit for lane success, and ward coverage, while a responsibility of the support, is the job of everyone on the team but the ad carry. Not to mention how you get blamed for no wards on the map when an oracles is killing them. 

    The other roles are more appealing to most largely due to having the support or jungler to blame for your failures and being able to take credit for success, yours or otherwise. Simply put, you feel better in those roles. 

    If the average player was less of a jackass, support and jungler would be more coveted roles because they have such a huge impact on the team. They are communication roles, however, so if you don't communicate and take leadership, or they don't listen, you will fail. 

    A side note: Jungling and supporting are the hardest to 'main' because they need the best understanding of other roles to do well. A support or jungler initiating for a kill because they don't understand the timing for the other role can lose games.


  • #30 Selesnija

    But Stonewall even has a Teambattle Teemo IIRC

  • To post a comment, please or register a new account.
Posts Quoted:
Clear All Quotes