Improve your game by playing outside your comfort zone



Mon 20th Feb 2012 - 5:19pm

I think most people tend to ask the same question about their play in League of Legends: "How can I get better?" Lots of people will give you lots of different answers, but the most helpful one for me was always “Play what roles/champions you’re comfortable with.”

Most people have experience with other players who agree strongly, perhaphs too strongly, with this strategy. Everyone has encountered instalock LeBlancs who declare “MID OR FEED” or those players who declare they can only play one champion and they dodge if it gets banned or picked. I’m here to encourage players to play roles they’re unfamiliar with. Not for the purpose of giving them another champion (although that can’t be bad) but as a means of strengthening their primary role.

You’ve never understood the pressure jungle ganks put on a lane until you’ve played an AP Mid. Playing support will teach you when to harass and when to focus on farming as an AD carry. A top lane can’t possibly understand how far back his Shyvana is when the red buff gets stolen, unless he’s gone through that heartbreak personally. After jungling for a while, you’ll understand why after getting that double kill bottom you should run to dragon pit rather than returning to the shop to get your new BF sword. Playing top lane will make you realize your simple “jungler tax” has destroyed a carefully crafted frozen lane.

Playing tanks and bruisers has always been my comfort role when playing with friends or playing ranked. Early in my career my preferred top lanes were Singed and Nasus. Characters that tend to have weak early games but have a strong impact later. My hope was to survive the lane phase and my communications to the junglers were often simply calls for relief or desperate pleas for assistance. When I started jungling, I viewed top lane through my experience and when asked for a gank, I would check their health. When it was high I would scoff and ignore them.

Recently, I started trying Wukong, Gangplank and Rumble, characters that have the power to kill their lane opponent if given a slight advantage, which would hopefully lead to a snowball effect. Within a few games, I found myself assuring my jungler that if he came we could easily kill the full health opponent. The message was driven home to me later when duo queing with an Akali who told me “I’m not going to ask you for a gank unless we can get a kill.”

Reflecting on this, I started trying different roles, not because I wanted to play them, but because I wanted to understand how they worked so I could better interact with them.

Despite having lots of experience playing bruisers and tanks, I never truly understood the importance of peeling until I played AD carry. Playing as Graves and Kog’Maw made me dependent on my team to keep me safe. I had the raw damage to kill all of them, I merely needed the time and cover from my teammates. In future games as tanks I was able to not tunnel vision enemy carries and focused on protecting ours.

Playing support made me keep track of global objectives, timers and team items. In the lull of the laning phase, I was able to see the opposing team's builds and keep track of what team items we were building. Checking the CS of the solo lanes I could see who was stronger and decide whether or not we really could contest their blue buff or if we needed to keep farming. If I saw our Rammus building an Aegis of the Legion, I would rush to finish Shurelya's Reverie. If our team was ahead in strength or team items I would encourage the team to group and get a pink ward or early oracles to force objectives. Playing support gave me the ability to keep track of timers. Timing buffs, dragons, even wards and enemy teleports were habits I picked up. And I took these skills with me when I went back to jungling. And you better believe I buy wards as every single role after ten straight games as Soraka.

I ward one entrance and my mid agrees to ward the other.

The jungle can ward above the river entrance, while the mid wards below.

So next time your mid laner declares you to be a horrible jungle, don’t get mad, get more mid practice.