Skillshot Dodging and Time Pressure
Thu 9th Jan 2014 - 4:53pm: League of Legends
This is the second article in a multi-part series on avoiding skillshots. If you haven’t read the first article, you can check it out here.
Picking up where we left off, we’re being chased by Lee Sin down mid lane. We now know that juking isn’t always a good thing – it can hurt us quite a bit if we overuse it (over-juking)! So what’s our response in this situation - how do we dodge the Sonic Wave? This is where the notion of Time Pressure becomes relevant. For the champion trying to land the projectile, there’s always going to be a limit on how much time they can use to prepare; in a gank, the target is dashing back to his/her tower as quickly as possible – the jungler doesn’t have the leisure of 5 seconds to set up! As the target, understand this time window. Realize that Lee Sin knows he has to take the shot soon, otherwise you’ll be too close to safety. If you’re close to your tower, know that Lee must use his Q quickly, so start juking immediately.
To review a bit - juking entails moving before the projectile is released and thus ‘dodging’ the projectile. Done just before your opponent pulls the trigger, the skillshot will miss, aimed at where you were just standing. Twitching left and right rapidly will make you a very difficult target to hit; but once again, you’re in danger of over-juking. This can hurt you much, much more than just moving on a straight line. Against an inexperienced pursuer who uses the skillshot haphazardly, this tactic will work. But more practiced opponents will wait for you to close the gap for them and land the easy skillshot.
Now, let’s return to this notion of Time Pressure. Juking, in essence, is a guessing game within this time window. You don’t know exactly when your pursuer will fire the skillshot during this period of time, only that it is coming. Your juke has to align with the moment just before the opponent uses his ability, and you can’t exactly know when he’s going to do so if the window is large (e.g. being chased down a long lane). Within this time window, you can juke as long as you’re not in a range such that over-juking becomes a problem – in our example with Lee Sin, this means Tempest range (excluding the possibility safeguarding to a ward). For Blitzcrank, it’s his autoattack range.
So it’s very much a guessing game – moving left and right (perpendicular to your travel direction, more generally), hoping that you can fake out the projectile. There are a couple things you can do to increase the probability your pursuer will miss the skillshot:
The first strategy is to juke, return to your straight line path, and then juke again immediately. This tactic attempts to bait out the projectile for a predictive sidestep instantly afterward. This can often be effective against the patient opponents who will wait for you to run straight before throwing that hook!
Another tactic is to simply predict when your opponent will fire the skillshot and move a little in advance. There’s no written science to this – you’ve just got to place yourself in your opponent’s shoes and try to anticipate his/her next move. After playing many games and being in high pressure situations, this will become easier to do. You’ve just got to practice!
The final topic I want to talk about is dodging a skillshot. I now want to clearly delineate dodging from juking – juking entails forcing an error from your opponent while dodging is actually avoiding the projectile through pure reaction time, either during the projectile’s travel time or the cast animation. Dodging a projectile is extremely hard to do. Diff the Ender has a great video on the math behind dodging skillshots; to quickly summarize, it’s not easy. The optimal action from the pursuer is to aim directly at you, and due to human reaction speed, latency, etc., actually avoiding the skill is easier said than done.
The reason why professional players prefer champions with high mobility is due to their outplay potential. Why bother with the risky game of juking a skillshot, or the difficult task of avoiding a projectile with right clicking alone, when you can use a dash or blink to dodge it almost 100% guaranteed? As Kassadin, it’s highly unlikely, assuming Riftwalk is off cooldown, for a ganking Elise to land her cocoon on you. Playing a champion with a mobility skill, you simply have to know the skillshot is coming and focus on using your dash as soon as you see the cast animation/traveling projectile, thus reliably avoiding danger. Of course, there’s something called predictive targeting which is a whole ‘nother can of worms. Predictive targeting is a somewhat risky technique, used against mobility spells (blinks, Flash, etc.). Rather than explain it myself, I’ll link you this fantastic tutorial by Shurelia and a famous Madlife play:
Juking is a strategy you would rather not have to resort to. It’s not guaranteed to get you to safety; even if you put all of your knowledge of juking to work perfectly, in the end it’s still a guessing game – all you can do is increase the likelihood that you might avoid the skillshot; just as you can predict what the opponent might do, the opponent can do the same with your thought process. It's not a reliable escape method! But in some situations juking is absolutely necessary. Perhaps you’re a low-mobility carry with flash on cooldown, or even a champion with a dash which you’ve used already.
No matter who you’re playing as, you’ll have to juke a skillshot at some point. Above all else, when you’re in a situation where you must dodge a game-changing skillshot, stay calm and think. Think about the time pressure window, your escape abilities, and think about what your opponent is thinking. Keeping a clear head is the key to getting out of a high-pressure situation. Don't freeze up, stay calm, and always be planning your next move.
Well, that’s all for now. In part 3, we’ll wrap up by discussing strategies on avoiding other types of skillshots, and cover other miscellaneous topics in skillshot theory.