Without Vision My People Perish: The Fundamentals of Warding
Wed 10th Jul 2019 - 8:05pm
“There’s this passage in the bible, ‘without vision, my people perish,’ and I quote that verse to my son when he won’t put down his trinket in top lane.”
—Pastor Robert Barnes, Famileague
Don’t let your team perish. Learn how to ward.
In this guide, we will be going over the fundamentals of warding: the nitty-gritty details of warding and—crucially—the mechanics of how to properly do it. We will also discuss some implications along the way, but this guide is not intended to be a comprehensive rundown of where and when to ward at all states of the game. Rather, this guide aims to introduce solid fundamentals for the act of warding itself, with some limited (though hopefully informative) use cases. Along the way, we will consider some ideas and examples presented by Aphromoo, Arcsecond, and Phroxzon.
Background Information on Wards
First off, what is warding? Warding is the act of using an item in your inventory to place down a type of game unit, specifically a "ward," that grants sight. Sight grants you vision of some area on the map. Note that sight is not a property unique to wards, but it is their fundamental purpose.
According to Lolwiki, champions, for instance, have a sight radius of 1,200 units (approximately 12 Teemos). Minions have a slightly lower sight bubble at 1,100 units, and towers clock in just a hair lower at 1,095. These three types of units—champions, minions, and towers—make up the core field of vision for your team, and wards are one of the primary ways of extending and diversifying this vision.
As per Lolwiki, there are also two exceptions to the foregoing rules, i.e. two types of structures on the map which can block an area within the vision of a unit's sight radius. These are brush and walls, or terrain (sometimes specified as "unpassable terrain"). As anyone who has ever gotten hooked over a wall by Blitzcrank or decimated by an ulti combo delivered by Fiddlesticks popping out of brush, these areas shroud the vision within and behind them and can facilitate devastating surprise attacks. Enemies can also deny vision through Control Wards, Oracle Lenses, and a variety of spells and abilities (including the Duskblade of Draktharr passive).
So, how much vision does a ward grant? Ward units come in a variety of forms, but for the purposes of this article, we will confine ourselves to the standard variety of wards: Totem Wards (from Warding Totem/yellow trinket), Control Wards (“pinks”), and Stealth Wards (from tier 2 support items with quest completion). These will be referred to interchangeably, for the most part, as “wards.” These wards have a 900 sight radius when placed (roughly 3/4 of the aforementioned units) and a modest cast range of 600.
To recap: multiple objects in the game grant sight. Core sight is given by champions, minions, and towers. Wards are a primary way to diversify and improve your sight options. Most wards have a 600 unit cast range and reveal a 900 range radius around them when placed, unless denied by brush, terrain, or some sort of special ability/effect.
How to Ward: Three Types of Warding
Now that we've covered what wards do in some depth, let’s look at how we place these suckers down. You might be thinking, “wait a minute … don’t I just point and click??” Yes, but it’s a tad more complicated than you might be picturing. To illustrate the variety of ward-placing techniques and concepts, we will break down type of ward placement into three color-coded categories: green, red, and white.
But first, let’s also consider the possible hotkey settings for placing a ward. Just as is the case with champion abilities, wards must be “cast” via your item or trinket slot. As such, there are three basic cast settings you can choose from: normal cast, quick cast, and quick cast with indicator.
Normal casting requires a full button press (press and release) and then a click to place a ward, quick casting requires a mere half button press (simply press down) to place a ward, and quick casting with indicator requires a full button press (press and release, but no click) to place a ward. To perform the following techniques, you will need to have either normal cast or quick cast with indicator enabled for your Totem Ward/Control Ward/Stealth Ward slot.
Once you have the appropriate settings enabled, your mouse cursor will change color when hovering over different areas of the map. With the modern League cursor, your mouse will display a white circle when hovering regular area (such as the lane or river), a circle with a green border when hovering the brush, and a circle with a red border when hovering over terrain. The pattern is similar when using legacy cursor too, but the indicator will instead take on a diamond shape and hovering open space will prompt the cursor to turn blue instead of white. (Note: this does not appear to change depending on the presence of colorblind mode.)
Image courtesy of leagueoflegends.com
Green warding is the most standard type of warding. This is when you hover over a brush and drop a ward in it. I suspect this is the most common and intuitive way of warding, but there are a couple of special details worth noting.
First, there is a way to play with the exact position of your ward and ensure that it lands within brush . This is especially useful because you can aim for the far edges of brush without having to worry about it not actually landing in it, as well as discover unintuitive and extreme looking edge options . I cannot promise that the tradeoffs or improvements gained by manipulating the edges of brushes is significant, but I can say that it gives you more control and consistency over how you choose to ward.
For example, if I am on the blue team, one of the common deep wards I can place is in the brush adjacent to the Blast Cone (near the enemy blue buff). By placing this ward on the extreme lower right edge of that brush, I can maximize my vision of the area below and to the side of this ward, as well as save myself a little extra distance (and reduce my risk a bit) if I'm planning to drop it and immediately turn around.
Another warding spot where I commonly employ this technique is in the pixel brush within the river. Depending on which side or path you are most interested in viewing, you can use this technique to improve your vision of that area pretty noticeably. At the expense of seeing some of the nearby river entrance, for instance, this ward can grant early visibility of scuttle crab movements and dragon attempts that wouldn't be picked up if it were placed somewhere in the middle of this brush.
One tactical point worth noting is that you should generally only green ward areas that you already have control of. By control, I mean that you either already have vision in the brush, or that you would win any trade that might ensue by warding or entering the brush (typically either because you and your allies are strong in that area, or because you know the enemy is somewhere else).
The main reason warding an area you don’t control is dangerous is because the cast range is too low to acquire the vision without getting in combat range. 600 range is lower than a Caitlyn auto attack and many spells, meaning an enemy lying in wait has ample opportunity to ambush and punish you for walking too close. Essentially, ward-checking is tantamount to face-checking in most cases.
As a bit of an aside, it's also worth noting that it's generally not worth placing a ward just to extend vision from your current spot. Although champions have a 1,200 sight radius, and wards have a 900 sight radius, the small cast range of 600 means that you gain a measly 300 units of extra sight when you drop your ward at max range. In most cases, it is probably better to just walk the extra 300 units.
Before and after placing a ward at max range
In Leaguecraft 101, Phroxzon, now a member of the balance team at Riot Games, goes so far as to claim that walking up to ward a bush to acquire vision is the biggest mistake players make (at least pertaining to the topics covered in the video). He notes that even pro players do it sometimes, and shows how devastating the results can be (I don’t know whether Zven thought his team had map control in the foregoing clip or not, but you can see how quickly he is punished for dropping the ward down without control of the area).
Warding an area that you do control, on the other hand, can have tremendous benefits. I like to think of performing this action as akin to dropping a flag or some other marker in a turn-based strategy game in a situation where you have acquired control of a new area. The flag will often be contested, but for some portion of time, you have essentially claimed the territory as your own and will retain some control of it for as long as the flag remains.
Phroxzon mentions this concept in his explanation of his so-dubbed octopus theory for vision control. Octopus theory also includes other elements—such as sweeping, pushing, and warding outside of just the brush—but the part to emphasize for now is that you can benefit by warding the brush in areas you already control, i.e. behind you and to your sides.
One example that is perhaps not intuitive, but nonetheless very helpful, includes warding the brush in a side lane when shoving it out. Phroxzon shows how this ward lets you spot out map movements and rotations early on, as well as providing a nice anchor point for a teleport play that is hard to avoid. In essence, by placing the ward (flag) down there after shoving, the team retained some lingering control over the area that proved to be extremely effective.
Finally, it is also often preferable to place wards where they can be defended, especially if they are Control Wards or are in areas that are commonly swept and warded defensively. In this example, Phroxzon shows why it’s greedy to place the pink far up near the raptors; it provides nice vision, but will likely be removed swiftly since it can’t be defended and is frequently checked.
To recap: use green warding in areas you already control, and don’t ward any brush you wouldn’t be willing to face-check. If it’s important to hold onto a ward, or you believe it is highly likely that it will be swept out, only put your vision down in defendable areas. Use the green indicator to make sure you are placing your ward inside of the brush, and experiment with dragging the cursor around to abuse the far-reaching edges and corners of brush.
This is the most technical warding technique. If you hover your warding cursor on terrain, it will turn red. Then, when you attempt to place the ward, the game will determine where the nearest available space is and place it there for you . In theory, this means that you can nearly double your effective warding range from 600 to almost 1200, provided there is a suitable patch of terrain.
Generally what you want to do is place your cursor such that it is over halfway between your champion and your intended ward location, in a straight line. This doesn’t always appear to work, however, because sometimes that can be true while there is another open space even closer to your cursor. So, pinpointing the perfect spot to get a wall-extended ward where you want it can be tricky, and that’s where the legion of ‘tips and tricks’ guides come in to help you out.
In this video by the support legend Aphromoo, for instance, he demonstrates several precise ward extensions that can be achieved consistently (or learned initially) by leveraging various visual indicators. Probably the most famous example of this, shown at the beginning of the video, is using the snail near the dragon pit to get a ward into the tribrush from inside the pit.
Before and after. Simple!
Aphromoo also demonstrates another fantastic ward that helps out immensely when you are playing on the red team as a support. Using this wall greatly extends your cast range, and means you can safely ward (no ‘face-checking’) from the lane without sacrificing gold, experience, or pressure. I rely on these spots heavily when playing squishy supports that have trouble contesting vision, so that I can stay in the safety of a lane while still keeping my flanks warded.
Two incredible spots that let you ward flanks without leaving lane
This is also a core mechanic of the game that you can practice whenever playing support, since the wall-extension technique applies to many ground-targeted spells. Flashes or Rek’Sai tunnels, for instance, are common examples of ground-targeted movement spells that can be extended by hovering a wall to extend maximum range. Master this warding technique, and your game mechanics as a whole will benefit too.
To recap: walls can be used to extend wards by a considerable amount, allowing for vastly safer and more efficient warding patterns. Details on the map can be used as visual indicators to nail down tricky extension spots. The technique benefits you as a whole, since you can get more value out of other spells and abilities with this method too.
There’s no technique or "mechanics" I can recommend to make this type of warding more efficient, but it’s useful to discuss some of the theory behind these wards as they are arguably less intuitive. Green warding lets you reveal brush, and red warding lets you extend your ward range (and sometimes reveal brush too), but what’s the point of just placing a ward out in the open?
Sometimes it is simply a matter of necessity. All other things being equal, you might prefer to have a ward in a nearby brush, but sometimes you simply do not control the area (or other activity in the game is more demanding, such as a fight beginning to break out).
However, even if it is safe to do so, warding inside a brush instead of another close by area may still be incorrect. Although getting brush vision is an attractive option, a ward placed outside it (but still quite nearby) may actually reveal more total area, or prevent a death by spotting enemy movement earlier.
The intersection near blue buff, for instance, is probably one of the most famous and commonly-used ward spots in League of Legends. This is also a great example of why walls matter a lot. Remember how both brush and walls deny vision? In this case, if you choose to place your ward inside the brush, you lose access to vision of all the paths on the other side of the wall, which turns out to be quite considerable and important. It is, of course, a tradeoff, as you do get vision of the brush and blue buff in exchange when you opt to place inside. Thus it is not strictly better, even if it is generally more useful.
The commonly preferred ward spot. Note how 5 pathways are visible
The alternative. Look at how much vision is lost by prioritizing brush coverage
As you can see, by placing the ward at the intersection, instead of the brush, you circumvent the vision blocked by the wall. In this case, you get more total raw vision, have more pathing information, and also get earlier warning for nearby ganks.
Arcsecond, the former rank 1 player in North American solo queue and Team Liquid Academy midlaner, shows a variety of these white warding spots in his guide for warding from the mid lane. As you can see, a lot of white warding spots are designed to track the enemy jungler and get advanced notice on potential ganks, as is the case with the "intersection" ward.
One particular ward I like is this ward by the tier 1 tower (after it falls, of course). This ward gives you all the advantages of the side lane ward referenced in Phroxzon’s video, while also giving you some vision of the horizontal paths into the midlane .
White warding can also be used as a type of “mixup.” Since the brush is so often prime real estate (and non-brush places such as the aforementioned intersection), you may wish to ward outside of the brush simply to avoid getting swept out as much (ward rubble makes it even easier for the enemy to pick up on your habits in-game, too).
One example that I am reasonably sure I have heard the content creator Phylol use (although unfortunately, the source evades me) is warding Baron by placing a ward on the wall near the Baron Pit, instead of directly in the mouth of the pit. You can place this ward close enough to spot an enemy team attempting to take Baron, but far enough that it will evade the typical Control Wards or sweeping routes focused on clearing the pixel brush and the Pit.
Finally, you can of course use white wards to gain direct vision of jungle camps, including Baron and Dragon.
To recap: white wards are used for a variety of purposes, and are sometimes really the ideal way to gain vision of an area. Understanding why these wards are useful is often a key component in capitalizing on these placements. You can use them to track enemy movements on key paths, get vision of a camp, or use them to avoid getting swept out at popular brush locations.
Conclusion: A Ward of Advice
By now, you should be familiar with all the possible ways to place wards, as well as what wards themselves do. Of course, you still need to practice. It’s easier than ever to get the hang of these wards now—especially red warding—with the practice tool. Lock in any old character, turn on the "Auto-Refresh Cooldowns" toggle, and practice trinket warding to your heart’s content.
Now get out there, light up the Rift, and snag yourself that coveted Nunu penta.
1. I have not extensively tested this, nor do I have knowledge of the code. It is possible that there are still spots that appear green for the indicator but nonetheless fail to place inside the brush. However, I cannot personally recall running into this issue since switching to this method, and it is advocated for by a number of content creators.
2. I am reasonably sure that I learned this technique from Phroxzon and possibly Professor Akali, but the source links evade me.
3. As is the case with green warding, this comes with the disclaimer that I don't have full knowledge of the code, and have not committed much time to trying to prove that the method works as claimed. Exceptions may exist, or the function may be off slightly. The main upshot remains, however, which is that ward range can be vastly extended by targeting a wall and letting the game extend it to a nearby point of exit.
4. Phylol surely introduces and expounds on this point in one of his videos, though once again the source evades me.