A common mistake that I see even as a Platinum player is the inability to create genuine pressure (pressure being defined as the ability to control your opponent; the more control you have over your opponent, the more you can dictate their actions and take things from them, such as minion farm and towers). To win in League you need to kill the enemy team’s nexus, not the necessarily the enemy team, and that means being able to take their turrets and inhibitors, jungle camps and minion waves, while causing them to get as few of these as possible. If you kill the enemy, but aren’t able to take anything from them, you aren’t really controlling them, so you aren’t improving your chances of winning. This doesn’t mean kills are worthless, but it does mean that they shouldn’t be your focus. Your focus should be on securing objectives starting with small things (like getting a cs advantage), and taking bigger objectives as you have the opportunity by pressuring your way into taking them.
In short, if the enemy team can’t stop you, for any number of reasons, from taking objectives, you have pressure (and if they can, then you don’t), and will be able to work your way to a win. Now, let’s take a look at what some of those reasons are.
Power Overwhelming (Raw Power)
Draven-Leona is the most powerful starting bot lane I can think of, and they create pressure just by existing. Why? Because from the start, any all-out fight that starts they are almost guaranteed to win due to their damage/CC combo. In a straight up fight with no turrets and equal minion damage, Draven-Leona will beat everything. Their early power allows them to position themselves wherever they want easily. They don’t necessarily need to get kills to be effective, the threat of being able to kill allows them to deny farm, push towers, secure dragon, etc.
Beating a Draven-Leona combo (or any other opponent with a stronger all-in) requires poking/kiting, lowering the amount of power they have to the point where they CAN be beaten in a fight to the death- if they have 100% HP and you have 100% HP, you will be going down first, but if you can get them to 50% HP while staying at 85% HP, depending on the match up you might be able to take them down in a duel to the death. Always remember (particularly at earlier stages of the game) that minion damage is a huge part of a fight to the death, both in the jungle and the lane. A team with more raw power (the ability to win an all-in fight to the death) that maneuvers effectively can safely take towers, Dragons, and Barons.
Understanding match ups (who counters who and why they are a counter), as well as scaling, combined with the state of the game (what items, level, %HP/Mana, and buffs both you and they have) allow you to calculate everyone’s raw power. Items are always more accurate in determining raw power than gold. A Kha’Zix with 5 kills isn’t as scary as you think if he’s bought 5 Fortitude Elixers along the way or hasn’t gone back to shop yet.
Where there is no vision, the people perish (Wards)
Wards create pressure if you use them correctly. Leona has bush control? Put a ward in (not next to her or she’ll kill it) and the fact that it’s a bush does nothing to help her zone you. But then maybe she pinks it, giving her control of the bush again, allowing her to zone you from the bush, controlling where you go, AKA creating pressure.
With wards protecting your lane, you know that the jungler isn’t there and you can win a fight to the death, should you want to engage in one. When a jungler walks through a ward and the other team backs off, the jungler knows he can’t gank from that way, the opposing team is limiting where he can go to gank. Vision gives knowledge, and knowledge is power. Wards allow you to maneuver properly by seeing what your enemy is doing, informing you of what you need to do in response.
Usually, wards serve as “anti-pressure,” denying the enemy’s ability to control you, and denying enemy pressure is just as important as exerting your own.
Yes they make shurikens that small (Minion waves)
Simply put, minions do damage, therefore they must be factored into each side’s “raw power.” While a Draven-Leona might be able to win a duel to the death without factoring in minion/tower damage, if they fight without minions on top of a stacked wave of enemy minions, coming out even in the engage is the best scenario they can hope for.
Minions waves are a big part of why several split pushers are viable in League. Take Singed for example, if League were about getting kills Singed would be a terrible champion. Because of his ability to destroy enemy minion waves, making his own bigger, he is able to split push, creating pressure with his minion waves. Because of this pressure the enemy goes to react, and will usually try to fight him, resulting in a chase, which is the only reason he can pick up kills. If Singed is able to draw more than one person to him, the rest of his team has a clear advantage, and can take objectives elsewhere (the recent popularity of “proxy Singed” demonstrates what happens when one team has a clear minion advantage over the other). The power of minions are why inhibitors are the most coveted objective in the game (barring the nexus), even more than Baron.
Setting up a massive minion wave on one side of the map, then moving to the opposite side of the map and pushing there has a similar effect. The enemy team must either send someone to deal with this wave and lose pressure on that side of the map, or miss high amounts of farm, and lose a tower if the minion wave is large enough. This creates a lose-lose scenario for the enemy team, which means that you are successfully creating pressure.
There are a lot of cool things you can do with minion waves, and as long you treat them with the respect they deserve, you will find multiple creative uses for them (for some ideas to help, see this).
“What’s a ‘cooldown’?” –Katarina, 2013 (Cooldowns)
Cooldowns are essential to determining real Raw Power, not just potential Raw Power. In lane when Blitzcrank misses a hook you have at least 10 seconds to harass, or even all-in, him, and he can do nothing about it (closer to 15 at L1), because his Raw Power has dropped dramatically. If he does try to fight you, he will lose because his primary skill is unavailable to him (assuming you have even health going in).
This is why knowing/timing cooldowns (especially major ones, such as Shen and Karthus ults) is so important, and blowing summoner spells is huge waste- it drops raw power for a significant amount of time, creating huge vulnerability for long periods of time. If you are able to force/bait out an ultimate, your engage will be stronger than theirs (assuming other factors are even, as always), and you should use this to your advantage.
In lane missing skills with cooldowns greater than 7 seconds are significant towards an engage (because they probably won’t be up by the time it is over), but in team fights it’s usually the lack of an ultimate or summoner spell that will be significant, so engaging on a team based solely on the fact Blitz missed a hook will not win you a fight.
The Phantom in the Forest (Jungle Pressure)
Jungle pressure is talked about a lot, largely because it is the most significant pressure that a team can exert early on, due to the fact that it is the biggest hunk of raw power they can move around the map to make plays. A gank ultimately means a 3v2 or 2v1, and will usually result in more raw power for the ganker’s team, which can result in kills or forcing someone out of lane. This type of pressure is usually designed to “snowball” a lane.
That means that if the gank is successful, there is still work left to be done, or else it mostly goes to waste. After being given an advantage, the laner should (once they heal and shop) have more raw power (due to more gold, experience, etc.), and be able to create pressure for the team in their lane by (1) drawing enemy jungle pressure (and not falling to it) so that the enemy jungler isn’t making plays on other lanes while theirs is, (2) taking the tower to give global gold/exp and increased roaming opportunities so that they can pressure other lanes, or (3) denying farm in order to reduce the amount of raw power that their laning opponent will have in team fights.
Today is NOT a good day to die (Kills)
Kills are a great way to set yourself ahead and your opponent back, but depending on how you react afterwards may be near-useless, or even detrimental. During the laning phase if you recall at the wrong point in the creep wave progression, you can make the kills meaningless and even a setback (if you miss out on a giant wave of cs, you miss almost as much gold as a kill would grant, and you lose the experience). Level stats are extremely important early on, and missing the experience from a couple waves may give the opportunity for the enemy to have more raw power than the longsword/amp tome that you just bought with you kill money gave you.
It’s very important to distinguish between lategame kills, and early game kills. Early game kills can lead to snowballing, but if they don’t, are relatively insignificant. Late game kills can lead to losing objectives, but if they don’t, are similarly insignificant. As such, your mindset should be such that if you get kills in lane, you are looking to get yourself ahead and/or set the enemy back because this is how you create pressure (see the final paragraph on jungle pressure for details). If you get kills after the early laning phase, you want to take an objective because this will help you control your opponent, AKA pressure them.
If you think a game will run long, dragon > t1 tower; if you think a game will be short, t1 tower > dragon. The order of importance for objectives otherwise goes Nexus>Inhibitor>Nexus Turret>Inhibitor Turret>Baron>Inner Turret> Dragon>Outer Turret>Red/Blue buff>Minion wave>Jungle camp.
If you can force someone to return to base, you can snowball a match up or take an objective just as easily, and will be ahead from doing so, which will make you more likely to get the kill next time. Play intelligently, and take small leads that will pay off, in favor of taking risks that might pay off.
So, the next time you have an enemy low and have the creep wave pushing up to their tower, don’t flash in for the dramatic tower dive to get a kill, only to take tower damage that takes you equally low and prevents you from denying cs/pushing… or worse. Pressure is a two-sided coin, and you have to negate enemy pressure as well as create and enhance your own. The further into enemy territory you get, the more raw power their turrets have, and the more damage they can potentially inflict on you in a chase should things go wrong.
League is an objective-oriented game, and if you want to win you need to have an objective-oriented mindset rather than a blind thirst for blood. Taking into consideration both your composition, and the enemy team’s, and applying pressure to objectives as best you can given those compositions (i.e. grouping as an AOE comp, splitpushing as a splitpush comp, etc.) is an essential (yet underrated) component to winning games.
As always, I encourage you to add, argue, etc. in the comments. Thanks for reading!