Gaming Like a Gentleman: Understanding Character Classes
Hello everybody and welcome back! I'm Gentleman Gustaf and this is not the post you expected today! Instead, I'm going to ramble for a bit about how the game works, and hopefully help clarify some things about character classes.
Carry. Tank. Support. Bruiser. Assassin. Off-tank. People throw these words around pretty much constantly. Some of them have been more clearly defined than others. But what do they mean and why they are important?
Well, to talk about champions, let's look at how you win the game.
Winning the Game
The first answer is simple: you win by playing better than the other team. Simple, right?
But Gentleman Gustaf, I go 15-0 every game, but because of [feeders/afkers/trolls], I lose half of my games.
Everybody knows somebody who thinks that. They point at their KDA as though if enough people notice their insanely good 2.3 KDA, Morello will descend from on high to hand them a gold badge. Why are they wrong? Because when it comes to winning the game, only one thing matters: killing the nexus. To do that, you have to push down towers, not get kills. Going 15-0 isn’t what matters (although it does help). I’m going to say that again because a lot of people don’t seem to realize that. You don’t win the game by getting kills. You don’t win the game by having all the jungle creeps cleared at once, by getting Baron, or by killing Tryndamere because he’s ‘so OP’ or by bitching about your team’s feeders. You win the game by destroying your enemies’ Nexus. It doesn’t matter if neutral creeps kill the nexus while your whole team is dead. It doesn’t matter if that fracking Twisted Fate drops into your base while you’re all pushing, and it doesn’t matter if Nidalee pushes through 3 towers while you are sieging their inhibitor. Whichever team kills the other team’s Nexus first wins.
Now of course, some of those things above help, but they are means to an end, and nothing else. You should laugh maniacally every time you get a quadrakill or an ace, but every time you don’t take advantage of the fact that the ENTIRE FUCKING ENEMY TEAM is dead by taking down at LEAST one tower, Riot Games takes a kitten out back and shoots it (and I love kittens). If you aren’t killing towers and they are, you are probably losing.
Please don't let Riot shoot me :(
How to Push Towers with Impunity
Gentleman Gustaf, how do I push down towers? The other team keeps defending them.
Well, let's consider the easiest solution: remove the enemy team. You get in a team fight and you ace the other team. If you can't take a tower at this point, you probably have all 3 inhibitors down and super minions pounding at your towers like zombies at a Nobel Prize convention, and you've probably already lost.
Aside: I know you can run poke compositions, or split push compositions, but the most common, standard team playstyle is the team-fight style. You team-fight. You win the teamfight. You take objectives. You win the game
Gentleman Gustaf, are towers really that important? Obviously, you have to push some down to win the game, but what about gold from kills or dragons?
As I've said elsewhere: Towers are the most important objective. They give you more map vision. They give your team global gold. If you lose a tower, consider your natural vision. Instead of half the map, you’ve got a misshapen lump from where the enemy team beat you senseless. Now when do you see the gank-team form up? When do you see the 5 person push start? How often do you have to call mias? When does the jungler need to start worrying about the gank squad while he’s at the buffs? Every damn time your creep wave dies and the fog of war comes back. The more towers that are down, the worse your vision is, and the more money you have to sink into wards just to compete on an even level with the other team.
Winning Team Fights
So how do you win a team fight? First, you need carries. Being a carry is different than ‘carrying’ your team. I main Cho’gath, and sometimes, I open up with a flash+feast so scary the support character I just ate ragequits and the squishy nearby disconnects out of shock. But just because in the midgame, I’m 7-0 doesn’t mean I am ‘a carry’. I happen to be carrying my team at the moment, but if the game gets going past the 40 minute mark, Tristana is going to have more dps than 5 of me regardless of how huge a gold pool I’m sitting on by then. Plenty of heroes can carry a team with the right equipment and circumstances, but only some characters are ‘carries’. Carries scale well with items because they have ludicrous amounts of damage scaling.
Meet the Carries
To 'carry', a champion needs to be able to rack up multiple kills in one short period of time. There are two ways to do this: AoE, or continuous DPS.
Champions with good AoE damage (Kennen, Morgana) win team fights by doing damage to as many possible enemies at once. Typically, their damage is pretty bursty and front-loaded, and then you have to wait for cooldowns. Why do you want burst damage? If you don't, and they have burst, they can instantly make every team-fight into a 4v5. On the other hand, if they have poke and you don't have burst to punish them, they can just hit and run on you again and again, until you’re weak, then fight.
Spear me once, shame on you. Spear me twice-STOP FUCKING SPEARING ME
On the other hand, your AD carry has endless dps, and can auto attack into a team fight and take out 3 champions while the rest of you micro for your kill-gold like you’re playing Warcraft fucking 3 DotA and you're worried it will get denied. That dps is crucial for team fights because when everybody else is on the long train from Cooldown City, he’s busy auto attacking like he’s just farming minions.
Occasionally, these classes intersect (Karthus pretty much kills everything all the time late game), but even if you have a Karthus, you still want an AD Carry. Why? Because Karthus may have the team-fight damage, but when he's the sole survivor after you ace the other team, he's not exactly going to steamroll through towers in the same way that an AD Carry would.
Since these champions put out obscene amounts of damage, it's no surprise that they define the tempo of team-fights. The rest of the team is built around them. Why? Wait for it -
Gentleman Gustaf, how do you deal with carries? Their damage is so ridiculous.
You kill them before they have the chance to do damage. Let's call the champions who do that anti-carries because...well, yeah (they inhibit the role of the carry). Their job is to make carries' lives a living hell. On one end, you have champions with lots of single target burst, and the ability to get close to carries, typically via stealth (Eve) or gap closers (Akali). These champions are typically called assassins. On the other hand, you have beefy champions who just run at enemy carries without dying like they're a villain in a horror movie (Mundo) and your team is the cocky jock (COME AT ME BRO). In the middle, you have a champion like Irelia, who's beefy, isn't loaded up on burst (but has more than Mundo), and only has one gap closer. But all of their jobs are the same: make the enemy carries scared to stray more than one step away from their team.
So now that your enemies are running an anti-carry, what do you do? Well, you want an anti-anti-carry, or a pro-carry.
Anti-anti-carries, also commonly known as tanks, peel anti-carries off of your carries (that is, they inhibit the role of anti-carries, typically by CCing them so they can't kill or even reach your carries). What is a tank? Your tank is your scout, your initiator, your crowd control, your team fight leader, and your god. He’s the guy who scouts into the bushes, because he can stumble upon a 3-man gank squad by the dragon and (while slowed, stunned, snared, taunted and under constant attack) lead them all to your team in mid for the slaughter. Then he should turn right around and initiate, because he is a badass, and nothing can ruin his day. The tank should be the first into the fight, the last out, and the one who babysits Fiddlesticks as he runs his slow wooden ass away.
Just like with carries, there is a difference between tanking and being a tank. While Mordekaiser can be practically unkillable with the right equipment, the other team will just treat you just like the caster minion with 9000 health you are, and ignore you. “Tank” Mordekaiser (and many other champions which are, thankfully, no longer listed as ‘tank’) is simply not a tank. If the other team is attacking is you, it is not because you are being a pro tank, it is because they suck.. And when he reaches critical fatness, there is no reason for anybody to attack him, as he can pose no threat to anybody. A tank needs at least some of the following:
A tank needs crowd control. A tank needs a knock up or a snare or (preferably) a taunt/stun. A tank should be stopping the other team from doing what they do best to his squishies.
A tank needs to be able to initiate. A tank needs some way to start a team fight in your favor: (often the same as a crowd control). When Amumu starts a fight, the other team spends the first 2 seconds immobile and without attacks, while your team makes like Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane and smashes their faces in. If you combine Amumu with a good AoE silence, the team fight should be over.
A tank needs survivability: Annie may have a stun, but if she runs into the fight first, she is going to have so much burst on her, Child Services will show up to bust your ass. And while Fiddlesticks might be technically able to initiate with his ult, he’ll be dead in half a second if he does, wasting most of his burst
It helps if you're so huge they can't even click on your carries.
The line between these guys and Anti-Anti-Carries is a bit blurry, but their job is to buff carries. Nunu's Blood Boil is a good example, although a lot of these buffs come along with health (Soraka's single-target heal) or shields (Janna's shield). Typically, this is what you call a support. Essentially, while Anti-Anti-Carries protect AD Carries, Pro-Carries typically simply buff them (sometimes in a way that makes them harder to kill). Obviously, few champions are pure Pro-Carries or pure Anti-Anti-Carries, but those who have more Pro-Carry abilities, we tend to call supports, and those who have more Anti-Anti-Carry abilities, we tend to call tanks.
But Gentleman Gustaf, what about supports like Blitzcrank? They're tanks and supports!
Firstly, support (as in 0 cs) is different from support (as in buff-master). Blitzcrank is a tank who fills the support role in lane, just the same as Soraka is a support who sometimes fills (or has in the past) the AP Carry role in lane.
Secondly, as mentioned above, there are champions who have aspects of both (like Shen).
I don't mean to imply that these are entirely distinct classes, but rather, that they lie on a continuum. After all, I have discussed four main qualities: Dive, Peel, Initiation, and Buffs. From these main qualities, we can get our typical non-carry classes. A tank is a champion with peel and initiation. On top of that, the abilities he uses to peel or initiate are typically CC abilities, meaning they can also be used to dive. A bruiser is a champion with dive potential. In between the two, we have an off-tank, who typically has dive, but also weaker peel or initiation. A support typically just has peel and buffs; they aren't necessarily tanky enough to be a hard initiator, and certainly aren't tanky enough to dive. Again, all of these abilities are similar in nature, but not in optimal use. As such, there is some overlap. Cho's rupture can be used to protect or to set up a dive. Alistar can peel with his CC, but if he catches somebody out of position, they're probably dead. Lee Sin may have a very dive oriented kit, but his shield and his ultimate and his slow can all protect a carry.
So there you have it: you have carries, people who murder carries (assassins and bruisers), people who protect carries (tanks), and people who buff carries (supports). Is that overly simplistic? Not really. If you think carries (especially the AD variety) aren't the focus of the game, you're probably at an Elo where people farm poorly enough that they never really reach their terrifying states.
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