Inside the Player’s Mind

The Player’s Mind – 7 Things You Need to Mentally do While Playing Ranked

League of Legends is a game of confidence and competence. I’m not saying that a Bronze Marksman can transform into Doublelift overnight by calling everyone trash, of course, you need to develop mechanics as well. This is also true in the reverse sense – if you believe that you have Doublelift mechanics, but you don’t realize that you don’t and you trust those mechanics, you’re not going to ever improve.

That said, realize that the mind is very underrated in League of Legends – and this is true because we’ve seen the streamers completely steamroll Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum level games with a champion they’re really comfortable with, BoxBox on Riven comes to mind. These people are just so mechanically good that they can go into a game confident that they can carry it single-handedly. And that’s the keyword: confidence. They go into the game with a strong mental state, and what are your muscles controlled by? Your mind. If your mind isn’t on the ball, neither will the rest of you. If your mind is filled with bad thoughts (this mid sucks, my jungler sucks), chances are you’re going to be executing bad plays.

Taking control of your emotions and mind is one of the ways you can distance yourself from the good Irelia players to being a great Irelia player. I believe that you have potential of being in a higher league that you are right now, and using the mind is as important as landing Ezreal mystic shots. You will never know if you can be better if you don’t commit yourself to developing both mental and physical strength.

Here are 7 things you need to do to get there.

1. Play to play great, not poorly.

Most of us can play good. What does that entail? Well, hitting the CS benchmarks, not feeding the opponent, getting a few objectives here and there. That’s good, but the players that play great understand that good can be an enemy of great. They know that if they are concerned about not being “bad,” they won’t be able to free themselves and relax enough to play great. That tower dive opportunity you had but didn’t take because you were too scared of getting outplayed? You have to realize that you are in control, and in the driver’s seat. You have the choice to determine if you’re going to simply play good, or to play great. If you can consistently make the right choices, you’ll be playing great.

There’s also a very fine line between playing great and playing recklessly. Reckless players fight the opponent when they’re behind in gold and levels. Reckless players invade the jungle not considering if they can win a duel or if the entrance was warded, because they’re convinced they have to “make plays.” League of Legends isn’t all about “making plays,” but smart decisions that eventually lead to awesome plays. And you can only make awesome plays when the moment is right, and the chance is staring at you right in the face. But when that moment comes, you better know that you need to take it or else it’s gone.

2. Love the challenge of every single game.

League of Legends, like many other sports, is a game of mistakes and unpredictability. In a perfect world, you would have a 5v5 team where everyone was on an even skill level, and whoever performed better would win the game. This is not so in League of Legends. People perform poorer than usual, or exhibit an almost superhuman adeptness that one game. Or maybe there was a smurf that just so happened to queued up at the same time as you.  In a perfect world, the score would always be nail bitingly close, instead of most of the snowball matches in ranked queues that you probably experienced.

If you truly love League of Legends and playing the ranked ladder, then you must also love the fact that it’s not a perfect world, that League of Legends is an imperfect game, and that your teammates are not of all the same skill level. It doesn’t matter what their rating is, everyone’s skill level based on the role they picked is different. If you spend your time fighting the fact that people will make mistakes and cause you to go “Why did [x] do [y]?” you’re not truly loving the game. People that understand League of Legends and love the game accept this. They know that people will make mistakes, and although it might irk them, frustrate them, they know that everyone is human and susceptible to making mistakes. No one has perfected the playing of the game, not even Faker or Madlife. But the people that are great at the game recognize that mistakes happen, even the mistakes they make. It’s not about the mistakes themselves, but rather how you react to them. You can never control exactly what happens in a game of League of Legends, but you can control your attitude.

3. Stop thinking about results, and start thinking about the process.

There’s people that set long term goals, for example a common one I see is, “Oh, I’ll just hit Diamond next season.” Or “I’ll hit Gold next month, it’ll be easy.” But then they just leave it at that and keep extending the deadline, or just settling for a lower tier, satisfied.

Don’t settle. And more importantly, don’t bother setting these long, far into the future goals. Having something in mind is good, but that shouldn’t be your main focus. Instead, get into the mindset of just setting process goals, things that you can do every single game that you can improve on.

Some examples:

  • I will always check my opponent’s items every time they walk back in lane and see if they have a ward or not.
  • I will remember the opponent’s flash timer and inform my Jungler.
  • I won’t critique any of my teammates, and if I’m getting flamed I’ll either ignore or mute them.

When you set these goals, you’re essentially giving yourself an honest assessment. Did I accomplish these goals? Does that mean that I need to work on them more so that I can achieve them every game? Maybe it’s a mechanical goal that you couldn’t hit, like getting 100 creeps by the 12 minute mark, or maybe it’s a mental goal, like you couldn’t resist the urge to lash out at your Jungler for feeding your lane double buffs or not ganking your lane which caused you to lose it.

Grade yourself. Think about how well you managed to achieve that goal on a scale of your choosing. If you’re completely satisfied, give yourself full points. Maybe you weren’t very satisfied with some processes – now you know what you need to allocate your time towards.

4. Know that nothing will bother or upset you, and you will be in a better state of mind.

I see anger and frustration, ultimately, as necessary emotions. You would be a psychopath if you didn’t feel either of those emotions. However, they’re ultimately impediments to playing the game as well as you possibly can. Tension damages focus. Stress clouds judgment. It hinders the already massive amount of effort it takes to play at your best.

Throw it all away. Understand that when you or a teammate make a mistake, be it failing a flash or missing a stun, accept it and go from there. Of course, this means the acceptance should only happen while you’re in a game. After the game, make a quick assessment on what happened that caused you to make mistakes. Again, don’t settle. Don’t blame it on mediocrity or poor results on teammates. Acceptance doesn’t mean it is okay to not practice to improve your skills.

5. Playing with a feeling that the outcome doesn’t matter is always better than caring too much.

The biggest mistake most people make is to let how they play dictate their attitude. If the game is going in their favor, their attitude is good. If it isn’t, their attitude is bad. They start thinking badly. When your team is winning, it’s fine to go with the flow. But when your team is losing, you need the discipline to control your thoughts and think only about the way you (yes only you) want to play.

Ultimately, you shouldn’t be so concerned with the result of the match that you end up being in a state of mind that’s tight and scared. You’re afraid to make the wrong moves, any wrong step that might swing the game in the opposite direction. You also get extra discouraged by any wrong moves your teammates make.

Stay in the present. It’s the easiest thing to say but the hardest to put into practice. You’re concerned about your promotion? Don’t sweat it, if you’re truly better than you will always win more games than you lose, ultimately catapulting you into the next tier with higher than average MMR if you keep losing your series but winning more games to get back into promotion, making it easier to get into your next promotion, and the next, and the next…

6. Have confidence, and believe in yourself.

If you have no idea what confidence means, consider this. Confident players think about what they want to happen in that game. They take a glance at champ select and know the general direction teamfights will go, or the item build they’re going to take. They know the limits of their champion as well as the weaknesses of their opponent’s. Players that lack confidence think about the things that they don’t want to happen. That’s confidence in a nutshell. It’s not arrogance, it’s simply knowing what you want to happen around you in the game.

If you put two players of equal skill together, but one was more confident than the other, 9/10 times the more confident player would win the match up, because they will seize more opportunities.

7. Be decisive, committed, and clear.

You have to trust people. It’s unfortunate, but you can’t only trust yourself.

League of Legends is a team game, and although I’m sure we all wish that we can trust our teammates to perform, sometimes it doesn’t happen, and that’s a hurdle we have to get through. But once we do, you have to learn to accept that these are your teammates for this game, and you’re going to have to play the game with them.

When you communicate with your team, be it for an objective or for a potential play – be clear about it, and then once it’s planned, commit. If you’re ganking, decide if it’s worthy of your time, and if it is, commit. Commit, commit, commit. If you want that mid tower, commit. Don’t hesitate and rotate between defending bot and mid wasting precious time and achieving neither. Indicate what you want accomplished, and then commit.

Now go out there and put it into practice!

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IAmA Diamond ranked player from Canada, and love the mental aspect of League of Legends. If I'm not playing NA SoloQ, I'll be either at work, writing blogs, or watching anime. If you have any questions, please shoot me a pm on reddit under the same name.

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