Pro Tips: Focus on your farm

Harrowing minions.

Most of my recent writing has been editorial, looking at sweeping changes to the different games I play and what it means for the development of the title. I love writing that stuff, but I also miss writing stuff like this, so here we are. Today’s pro tip is something simple, but often overlooked, even at higher ELOs.

The other day I was laning with my brother. We always have a good time playing together but something felt different. I was having trouble last-hitting creeps, something I never struggle with, to the point that my friends usually ask me to stop last-hitting so well. The problem wasn’t me. It was him. He was last-hitting like a fiend, building up his creep count and working toward a really nice early game farm.

If you want to immediately improve your game, learn to last hit. Farming is the most important part of your early game, even more so than ganking. If you’ve ever left lane to attempt a gank and returned to find your opponents out-leveling you and crushing your creep count, you know what I’m talking about. If you’ve ever seen a Miss Fortune with Infinity Edge at 14 minutes, you also know what I’m talking about. A successful early farm allows you to leap past your opponents’ gear levels and sets you up for a strong end game.

A strong farm is more than just last hitting creeps, though. You should always be looking for ways to maximize your gold. Jump out of lane to briefly grab jungle creeps while the lane pushes back up. Learn when you need to help your team defend a turret and when you can avoid the stalemate and go farm a side lane. Learn when you need to abandon a tower because the defense is crippling your farm.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask your teammates to let you farm. The other day I was playing Zilean, laning with a Mundo player. That’s a great lane team, right? Well, it was, but Mundo didn’t want to zone our opponent. Instead, he was chucking his cleavers at creeps, often killing them from 30 percent health or more. Not only was it pushing our lane, it was ruining my farm. I asked him to let me farm. He wasn’t interested, so I just started bombing every creep I saw. I know, that’s not a great example, but it illustrates the point that farming is a team effort. If you aren’t cooperating with your lanemate, you better hope you have better farming skills or get out of lane. If you’re lucky, though, you’ll get a teammate who knows how to zone with abilities and last hit with attacks and who will compliment your own skillset.

The last thing I’ll say is don’t sweat it. Creeps take very predictable damage, so you’ll get better. If your opponents are beating you by 5-10 creeps, no big deal. When they go up 30-40, that’s when you need to worry. With a little focus, though, you should be able to push your creep count up, buy high-tier items early in the game, and help carry your team to victory.

  

Pro Tips: Adjust your build to suit your opponent

Fiddle vs. Karthus.Last night I had my first chance to play in nearly a week and let me tell you, it was rough. Despite the fact that I was able to play Shaco in nearly every game, I just couldn’t seem to get any momentum. There was one bright spot, even if it was shining on an ugly black spot of mold.

I started a game as Xin, enjoying a little time in the jungle. The enemy team had tried to gank me at golem, but since they didn’t have a jungler I just left and took their golem instead. Nasus found me just as I hit smite, but he was low for some reason and with the help of mid and top lanes we got first blood. It was a solid start. It wouldn’t be a solid game.

I got back into the jungle, but our Zilean was having trouble 2v1 against an Annie/Garen combo. I went to gank and promptly got myself murdered. No big deal, but I was a little behind. Back to the jungle for farming. Zilean’s having trouble again, I go gank, get smashed. I’m 0-2-1 at this point and just barely on top of the leveling curve thanks to Zilean’s passive. I died two more times though, and I was sorely behind. A lot of the problem was that every lane was tanky with high damage. If it wasn’t Garen/Annie bot, it was Nasus and some other thick mofo top. A lot of pain without much potential for ganks.

Looking at their team, there was only one solution – build tanky and farm up. I spent the next 20 minutes killing creeps, controlling dragon, and sneaking the other team’s buffs whenever I could. It took a while, but eventually I had enough damage reduction to not only survive teamfights, but make use of my Bloodrazor as well. I went from an 0-4 start to legendary by focusing on a build to counter the enemy team.

This isn’t revolutionary. In fact, most “pro tips” aren’t. They’re simple things, but that’s what makes the difference between quality players and players who hit the skill wall. In a tough situation, the pro player finds a way to make his comp and his character work. People still, to this day, completely neglect the opponent in favor of a build they found on Leaguecraft or the forums or saw in a live stream, and they lose.

There are a lot of games, most games by my count, that get decided by how well a team builds. If you’re playing the same build over and over, consider switching things up according to who you’re facing. Build on your strengths, but patch the holes in your defenses as well.

  

Pro Tip: Stop picking Teemo

Don't pick Teemo.This post is fueled in part by my own rage surrounding some recent losses, but it’s something that also really needs to be addressed. If you expect to win ranked games, stop picking Teemo.

Some of you are going to say “lolwut?” and lucky you. If you aren’t seeing Teemo in your ranked matches, you’re in much better shape than I am. I see him regularly, and most of them are players without any concept of how the game works. A recent Teemo actually said, after I took mid as Ez because I was the carry, “lol since when does Ezreal carry?” At any rate, if you’re picking Teemo, I’ll give you a few good reasons to stop.

First, his passive is nearly worthless. The attack speed bonus made it better, but better from the most situational uses in the game. If you’re looking for an attack damage champion to play, consider Tristana, whose passive keeps her out of harm’s way, or Ashe, whose passive grants critical strikes when you’ve been out of battle for a period of time.

Beyond his passive, two of Teemo’s other skills are next to worthless. Poison is only good at very early levels – it’s laughable damage later in the game – and Move Quick (or as I call it, Scamper) is only good for getting up to a fight. His one real skill outside his ultimate is his Blinding Dart, which only affects one target and has a fairly long cooldown. His mushrooms can be nice, but they require you to go out of your way to bait people into them, and most smart players won’t follow you. They are also directly countered by an Oracle’s Elixir.

If you’re playing against a smart team, Teemo turns into a one-skill champion. He can blind, and that’s about it. There are plenty of ranged carries offering more utility and a much more devastating lineup of skills to help bring your team a victory.

Please remember, this is a guide for ranked games. Teemo can be a lot of fun if people aren’t paying attention to your shrooms, so by all means, enjoy him in your normal and practice games. If you want to improve your ranking, though, leave Teemo at the champion selection screen.

As an aside, Teemo generates more fan art than any other character as far as I can tell.

  

Pro Tips: Control the Dragon

Dragon control.

At the outset, this seems like a very simple and sort of “no shit” post, but based on my experience I think this post is necessary, particularly with as young as ranked play is. If there’s one thing I find myself furiously pinging in almost every game, it’s little skull over the dragon. As Phreak reminds us in almost every Champion Spotlight, the dragon is not only worth more than a tower in gold, it’s also a couple heroes worth of XP for your entire team. If you find yourself having problems in ranked, start playing toons that can keep control of dragon.

It should go without saying that this won’t guarantee wins, but it can definitely improve your chances and hopefully give your team the edge for early ganks that may have otherwise gone the opposite direction. Most jungling toons are also good at taking down dragon, though some may require a little itemization to deal with the dragon’s health pool. Examples of good junglers/dragon-killers would be toons like Udyr, Shaco, Xin Zhao, Warwick, Amumu, and Fiddlesticks. While Shaco and Xin Zhao are regularly banned (occasionally Amumu as well), I almost never see an Udyr or Fiddlesticks ban, and despite some nerfs, both remain strong characters. There are some less played options as well. Gragas makes a surprisingly good jungler, and Poppy is plenty capable of killing dragon with a little help.

When you’re running one of these characters, dragon should be your number one priority. I cannot stress that enough. Remember the gold and experience benefit to your team. Getting dragon early and often means your team has both a level and gold advantage which only grows as the game continues. Once you’ve taken a few dragon kills, dragon also creates a great choke point to encourage the team fight that will hopefully be working in your favor. If the other team isn’t trying to stop you, it just makes dragon that much easier.

Even when your team is in control of dragon, make sure you’re warding. It’s easy to be out of position when the dragon spawns, and though you should be focusing on dragon, it can be advantageous to knock down a tower if your opponent is out of position. Even if you have the opportunity to push while the other team takes dragon, abandon the tower. Always keep in mind how much the dragon provides. It’s not a little game inside in the push/gank game. The dragon is the game, it’s just something people tend to ignore.

I like to think about things this way – the towers, the heroes, the creeps, all of those things will be there regardless of whether or not you go for dragon. If the other team is serious about dragon, though, you will be woefully behind.

  

Pro Tips: Playing against Soraka

soraka-splashI’m starting this column as a way to help newer players, and those who want to boost their ELO, learn to play against some of the more popular team comps and champions.

Today’s Pro Tip covers some strategy for playing against and beating Soraka. As it stands, Soraka is the best healer in game and often one of the first bans. She’s also the character many players turn to as the key to victory when she’s in a game. Soraka is beatable, though, and while she does bring nice heals to her team, she also doesn’t bring very much damage, which can give your team the upper hand in a team fight.

The most important part of beating Soraka is picking against her. You need to have characters with a good mix of CC and preferably an anti-healer like Katarina and Tristana or a silencer, like Cho’Gath, Malzahar, and Garen. Soraka is also a weak AOE healer – once she blows Wish, all of her teammates but one are left to their own devices. Combinations of Malphite, Amumu, Fiddlesticks, Annie, and Anivia bring a lot of pain to a team. You should also consider taking characters with dashes and jumps that can help you get past the front lines and on to the DPS or Soraka herself. If you don’t have a dash, consider taking Flash against Soraka so you can surprise her with a stun or heavy nukes. Durability is also an option since a Soraka team is short a damage dealer. They will have trouble bringing down more durable teams, but make sure you still have enough DPS to get through her heals.

While most people think Soraka is hard to lane against, she can’t do much more than heal. Soraka relies on her lanemate and creep waves to provide the damage to keep you at bay while she farms. If you can separate her from the creep wave by zoning, you have a very favorable situation. Pick toons with strong lane harass/durability and preferably some range to force her to constantly heal herself. Kat and Tristana are obviously strong against Soraka in lane, but toons like Corki, Ashe, Garen, and Mundo can also do well. Spend your lane time ducking in and out of brush to harass and last hit minions. DO NOT PUSH. Pushing Soraka to her tower means she gets to free farm and level those heals you hate so much. Focus on sending her to base at least once before she hits level five.

In teamfights you either have to burn her down or drop big AOE damage on the opposing team. If you can’t do either of those, wait for an opportunity in which you can. Soraka doesn’t bring much DPS to the table, so you should be able to head off into the woods and round up the buffs, hopefully baiting your enemies into the tighter confines of the forest. Jungle fights are best against Soraka because it forces her to be close to you. In case you need to focus her, make sure your dashing/blinking champions are with you. They can get to her and get the CC started while your team gets set to take down the rest of the enemy team.

Above all, stay focused. Soraka capitalizes on teams that overextend by dropping heals at the last instant to alter the course of a battle. Focus your targets, use anti-healing wisely, and you should be able to bring her down without much trouble.

  

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