Last week I talked about how solo queue has been affected by the season 4 changes to date and what is important in winning a game.
Next I’d like to talk about a principle of the game that could use a bit more examination, one that is highly relevant to the season 4 issues I mentioned earlier.
The principle of making sacrifices in a game is not new. This can be seen everywhere in regular sports. Basketball teams purposely commit fouls, using them as a resource. Baseball even has the term “sacrifice”, when the batter gets out but another runner scores or gets to another base.
Plus, the principle has to be brought to mind when someone says “worth it.” That is often said humorously, popularized especially from a spotlight video where a Rioter said (“worth it because I said so in chat”). But, from a serious analytical angle, it is or it isn’t.
Sometimes your death is good, if what your team got for it is better than what their team got for it. A single death is gold, nothing more. Sometimes, in the case of an early First Blood, that is a bad thing for your team. Other times, it can mean you won the game, and the gold they get doesn’t matter.
Every League of Legends death is a snowflake: almost innumerous and infinitesimally unique. Every single death can merit a discussion. Some are obvious to the point of universal consent. Most, though, are not. Here’s an example: in one of my placement games, after a skirmish we had 3 people on our team and 1 left on theirs. One member (myself, Ziggs) had revived and wasn’t in the fight, and was full. The other two were our highly-fed Jinx who was worth more gold than any of the other 9 players and a support. They were both low. Their last member was a support who had 200-300 life. When I was at mid lane where the wraith and wolves path was, my teammates did not join me to take the turret and inhib (which we’d have gotten, as one of our dead teammates pointed out, as Jinx had a PD and at least 300 damage), but went for the ace at the inner outside turret at bottom. They got him, but they both died to do so. I didn’t even get the turret before they revived. Fortunately, no one argued and we all agreed on that analysis. This contributed to us winning, but it was a long time before we organized ourselves sufficiently, and it was definitely a game we could have lost.
Here are some principles.
- The later in the game it gets, the more valuable an objective is.
- The later in a game it gets, the more potential your death has to end the game. That goes for wins too.
- Turrets are forever, especially the inhibitor and nexus turrets, which have regen, but not when they die.
- Dragon is worth less the more the game goes on.
- Baron isn’t worth it if you die and also lose a lot of your base afterward.
- Dying for an objective is often good, as long as the other team doesn’t counter by taking a better objective.
- Your death is worth more if you are a person who pushes/defends turrets well. That is even stronger if you are a ranged champion and/or have strong waveclear.
- Pay attention to gold totals. If someone is far ahead, the trade is bad and increases the likelihood of snowballing. If you’re ahead or if it’s about even, it’s not nearly as big a deal--you will be capable of beating them in a teamfight.
- Saving someone else by dying yourself is only worth it if that person can distinctly do something your team needs that you cannot do. Correllary: this is also risky because often the person dies anyway.
- Dying that both ends up to a lead in map control (i.e., ahead in inhibitors) with no other negative consequences is always worth it. Before you rage comment, a rephrase: if you backdoor or splitpush an inhibitor down and your death does not lead to the loss of Baron or anything inside your base, it is worth it. The only exception is possibly if you lose two or three external turrets, which probably isn’t a possibility at that point of the game anyway.
Putting it into practice
Before embarking on your mission, you need to know what your teammates are like. Do they push? Do they get kited? Are they stupid? This sounds condescending and pessimistic but hear me out. Often a discouraged player that lost lane quietly gives up and focuses on not dying and farming the jungle. Or, your team is slow to mobilize. In that instance, it’s less important for you to do this.
The one exception to this is if you are the one who pushes well in the first place. Against a lazy team, if you are a good ad carry you can get two to four turrets for free. Giving up a death or two for this usually isn’t a bad idea. Your team might grumble or complain, but if you go from even in lane at 2-2-2 with 10 more cs to 2-4-2, with a kill going to their mid that got owned by your team’s LeBlanc or Orianna that don’t push well and another kill going to their jungle or support, was it a really a bad trade? Your team is much more likely to get baron or dragon, get strong and offensive vision, and mobilize to siege an inhibitor turret when you get a turret lead.
Teams that have few turrets down that get most of the outside turrets down are much more likely to wake up and get themselves pushing. The ideal state of the game for a winning team is one where it’s clear to your team what to do and discouraging or unclear to the other team. Pinging and chat do not work as well as the actual evidence, though the two often reinforce each other.
Why does this matter?
Last week I shared some frustrations I have with solo queue. It can be less obvious as to who is winning, and the importance of pushing and waveclearing have increased dramatically with the S4 changes. This is even more true with the current but hopefully and likely not permanent changes to mid and top turrets, which now take less damage from champions, but not minions. With the need to not give free turrets and the value of taking turrets being increased in casual play, if not professional, knowing when go for the sacrifice is a more valuable skill than ever.
Plus, if you know how to do it correctly it’s a sign that you understand map objectives. Perhaps learning whether something is truly “worth it” is a good litmus test of whether you’re ready to move to a certain level of ranking.
Old Man Eyebrows
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