Ever have a game where your team had more kills, dragons, and minions killed and yet, after the laning phase was over, you struggled to push and had fewer turrets?
There’s a reason that can happen, and it’s because the other team had better map and lane management. I’m going to teach you about a skill that’s important, overlooked, and is assumed knowledge by experienced players that usually win their games.
There are three stages to the game: early-game / lane phase, mid-game, and late game. I'll start with early game and when and why not to yell at your jungler for killing all the minions in your lane.
The first thing you need to realize is that at any given time, a lane is going one direction or the other. The only exception to this is when the lanes have reset. A lane reset occurs when all minions in lane from both teams have died, and the next wave to meet each other will be equal. Lane resets are most relevant at the early stage of the game.
This term is also used to denote the clearing of just one side to make the lane favorable to you. "OH NO! A JUNGLER HAS JUST CLEARED ALL THE MINIONS IN MY LANE! WHAT A JERK!" Not so fast. This is the other definition of resetting a lane--it is rearranging the lane to your own circumstances.
So, let’s say you are at top and your jungler kills your lane opponent. You only have 250 health so you leave. There are four minions from the other team and eight in yours. The jungler kills these four minions and perhaps the six after that. You might be mad that you lost 10 cs, but you’re not understanding the situation correctly. The reason for this is to deny your lane opponent the experience and cs, and to make it be on your side. The turret will kill all fourteen of your own minions, and when he gets back to lane you will have ten minions (we’ll say two died to your fourteen at the turret) to kill and he will have six, and the minions will be closer to your turret.
If he had not done so, you’d get back to lane and your opponent would get about a dozen minions to kill and you’d have six, and the lane would be at his turret. You want to keep the minions at your turret unless you know you want to push.
In the mid game, there will be a mix of activity going that will vary depending on which turrets are up. If a lane has more turrets than the other, that lane will be pushing more often, because the opposing lane will have its minions get to a turret more often.
Some lanes, especially mid, might not have lost its first turret even though bottom or top might have lost theirs. At any point, you will either have more turrets than the other lanes, less, or, if you’re doing particularly well (or awful), even.
If you have more, you have two responsibilities. First, roam and help out the other lanes and other parts of the map. Tops that get turrets then stay at top farming while the rest of the map is getting owned are the worst. The jungler used all his effort up there, the other jungler goes mid and bott, gets dragons, and the other team is winning, and you put your chips on the top and he’s...not moving.
Don’t be that guy.
The other responsibility you have is to keep on your turret. Only this time, instead of trying to keep the minions at your turret, you want to keep them off. So you go, you clear all the minions, then you leave. You generally do this so that you can buy yourself the most time to leave.
It is okay to lose the turret, but you need a very good reason. You either need to have made another lane lose a turret in exchange or gotten a dragon (and dragon is less important the further the game goes on).
If you're the jungler (or anyone really) and you can take a turret for free, you should usually do it.
If you roam and lose the turret for nothing, it’s your fault. Go back to your lane. Back and forth. It’s almost like a board game--you have a base of operations, a starting point, and you expand gradually until you get that nexus.
I recently played a game where I picked Ezreal with a Leona, and the other team chose Graves / Lulu. Our Amumu died early, and their Lee Sin camped us, causing us to lose our turret by 10 minutes without me even having died. Graves and Lulu then bounced back and forth between mid and bott, and they always arrived in time for us to not get the turret at bottom. We never got it, and lost for that and other reasons. They were doing it right.
Towards the end of mid game and through late game, you will generally be together as five people and worrying about baron or anyone getting caught. Sometimes teammates might yell at you for killing minions in a lane, but it’s important to go to the lane just to clear the minions and leave. If you look at high-level games, you’ll see this happen all the time. A seemingly random player on the team will go to a lane and then kill all the minions. If a champion has poor wave clear he is generally considered a low-tier champion.
Minions are worth more money and easier to kill than jungle monsters, but inexperienced players stick to the jungle to farm to try to catch up, not realizing they don’t matter much. A ward lasts for 6 waves, and a single wave alone will cover a ward’s cost. If the map is correctly warded, you can cover lanes much more safely.
Late game becomes a matter of both teamfights and of responding to lanes correctly. If you ignore a lane for too long, a huge wave will end up doing 500 or even more damage to a turret, damage that is easily prevented. If your team can’t or doesn’t cover turrets to prevent extensive minion damage, your team isn’t well-coordinated and has members that don’t understand important map principles.
In the late game, dragon, baron, pushing, and defending are all important. Blasting minion waves and returning to your teammates is actually defending. A lot of people think that defending is showing up only when minions get to the turret. It’s much easier and even safer to not let a wave get there in the first place.
Defensive champions are strong for this reason. If you’ve played against a good Anivia or Lux you know how big of a pain it is to win, even if you might have more good teammates--those mids defending turrets effectively become the equivalent of offensive rebounders, giving your team more chances to make mistakes and more time to get their crap together. When you’ve lost four turrets and you only have one to three of the enemy’s, and you don’t have the first mid turret, you have a long and rocky road ahead of you.
Using the Minimap, Owning the Map
These skills are not optional when it comes to being a skilled player in Summoner's Rift, regardless of whether you're playing normals, solo queue, or ranked 5's.
For a refresher and point of convenience, here's a glossary.
Lane-clearing / clearing a lane: this is when someone goes to kill all the enemy minions in a lane, effectively setting the lane to be pushing in your team’s favor.
Split pushing: this is when a champion constantly sticks to another lane to either force the other team to split their group up or when the other team is not capable of punishing by capitalizing on a 5v4. Example: fed Lux prevents your weak team from pushing, meanwhile, a teammate is pushing another lane. Someone leaves, then the stronger 4v4 with the Lux pushes back and forces an objective fight. It’s easier to do this the stronger wave clear and the stronger mobility a champ has (Singed, Shen, Master Yi).
Pushing/pusher champs: these are champions that clear minions easily. Even better, some might do more damage to turrets than other champions (Ziggs passive, Twisted Fate’s W).
Lane Reset / Resetting the Lane: in the early game, this means pushing to the turret so the turret kills your own minions, denying experience and gold to the enemy and leading the minion location to be closer to your own turret. In the later game, simply doing a wave clear is also sometimes referred to as resetting the lane, though it's more often used in the former context.
Old Man Eyebrows
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