The Masters of Mechanics
There are prodigies – people born with an innate ability that allows them to surpass the average human being at certain aspects, be it physical or mental, and were lucky enough to have discovered that they had this gift in the first place. This is particularly prevalent in sports, athletes like Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods, athletes that were simply a notch above the rest. With the rise of e-sports, League of Legends has gathered a big enough audience such that its own prodigies have emerged. The star mid laner of SKT T1, Faker, and Royal Club’s Marksman, Uzi (pictured below), both come to mind as the world championships have just concluded.
Figure 1 – SKT T1’s Faker on the left and Uzi of Royal Club on the right
What makes these two so special? It’s their reaction time and decision making. These two are relatively young players, Uzi’s actually still 16, and because reaction time invariably varies with age, these two prodigies are in their prime time. Every millisecond matters in a game of League of Legends, and by reacting mechanically a millisecond faster means the difference between an ace and a devastating loss.
The Rest of Us
Then there are people like you and me. Statistically speaking, you’re probably not a prodigy (or maybe you are, but I’m willing to bet against it.) Maybe you play the game for fun or stress relief (ha, yeah right), but you are also human; you like competition. Maybe you want to join the ranks of those who are in Diamond or Challenger, but how do you do it? How can you beat at least 80-90% of all of the other players that enjoy the game as much as you, at a game when so much of it is team-based? A single random factor, a disconnected player, an AFK, or even worse, an intentional feeder, can mess up your game entirely. How are you supposed to wade through this barrage of rage and pessimism that the League gods, old and new, are chucking at you? Every time you’re up for promotion– boom, 2 DCs and a player that steals red buff from the Jungler because they can. What now? And then you think about all those that have effectively “lucked” their way into the upper echelons of the League system, and that just gets your blood boiling. Either they met a wonderful duo partner who just happened to be extremely good at the game, or they simply drew a better team each time. What about those people? Why can’t you be one of those people? Whew, that was a lot of pent up frustration there. Let’s take a step back.
A Different Look at the League System and Skill
If we look at League of Legends and its player base objectively, we can safely state that everyone has a certain level of skill. Now skill is a complex variable – it’s not something that can be evaluated on a scale, and it certainly isn’t only physical ability. Going back to the prodigy example – it involves both the capacity to make decisions, as well as reaction time, precision clicking, performing under pressure, and even math. The League system, although it does manage to somewhat indicate a player’s relative skill level, it actually does a poor job of sorting players purely by their skill.
Figure 2 – A snapshot of the League System
I know what you’re thinking. A Diamond level player will very easily destroy a Bronze player in lane, because of the massive difference in skill. However, in between the Bronze player and the Diamond player, there are at least a million people. You wouldn’t expect Usain Bolt to lose to the average Joe at the 100m dash would you? Rather, consider something that’s slightly closer on the scale. A Gold Marksman could very easily beat a Diamond Jungler that only plays Jungle at the Marksman role. Why is that? Because the skills involved are very, very different.
Figure 3 – Guess which bot lane won? Hint: not the Lulu one…
A Marksman considers the following: trades in bot lane, effectively getting CS, noticing when to play aggressive or passive depending on the ward situation, positioning in a team fight, and so on. This is completely different from a Jungler. A Jungler has to consider buff timers, when to counter jungle, when to gank, which lanes are the easiest to gank taking in account the opponent’s vision, and in the current meta, when to initiate on the other team. The Jungler pays more attention to mind games, while a Marksman just needs to CS, depending on the matchup, out trade their opponent, and not make positional errors such that they deal the most damage possible: two very different skillsets that each requires a lot of independent practice.
So now going back to the League system – if a Diamond player excels at a role, that doesn’t mean that they are good at all the other roles. You can’t put Uzi in the Jungle and Lucky on AD and still consider Royal Club to still be a powerhouse, that’s a given. It simply means that they managed to climb the ladder to that position using a set of skills they acquired. They might make better decisions overall, knowing damage outputs of champions, but the tiny nuances in a lane that can give an edge to either player is not something that anyone can know without practicing it beforehand. This is why, rather than thinking of the League system as an indicator of pure skill, think of it as a measure of progression. In any game, you don’t start out with all your skills maxed and all the weapons of the arsenal available – you acquire them as you play, your character grows stronger. In League of Legends, there’s a set of characters (champions, to be precise) that, although configurable with runes, masteries, and item builds, are fundamentally very similar from match to match. That’s why instead of the game character growing, the only measure of progression is you, the player.
What’s your excuse? Pro tip: Don’t have one.
Instead of focusing so hard on losses by attributing the loss on factors out of your control – common examples like: “our jungler didn’t gank,” or “our support didn’t ward,” or “our mid laner didn’t roam,” think about what you could do to improve your skills and decision making. Maybe you just severely out traded their bot lane (mechanical skill) and they had to head back to base. Your jungler was helping mid lane with blue buff and you’re definitely strong enough to take dragon. Ping it. Make the call (decision making skill). You can be passive and just farm the lane up, go back, and repeat the same cycle but the fact that a clear advantage has presented itself and you let it go is, all things considered, a mistake. It’s not up to the other people to carry you to a higher league; it’s up to you to carry them, to further increase your skill, to progress. And as you manage to do this, you’ll see your rating go up.
Figure 4 – Use websites like lolking.net to see your ranked match history and performance rating
Stop thinking too hard about what went wrong that game in other lanes. Think actively on what you can do better. Play not for the sake of climbing the ladder, but to learn the nuances of each and every role, so that eventually you will be able to carry yourself out of the lower tiers and into the higher ones – a byproduct of improving your skill. The League system is simply a measure of progress. As you hit Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond League, reflect on how you were able to get here. What champions did you play the most? What roles are you the most familiar with? And just hone those skills by practicing over, and over. The number of games may rack up, but guess what? People in high Diamond and Challenger, unless they’re smurfs (secondary accounts belonging to a player of already high rank) or prodigies, the average player like you and me will need that many games to progress.
Relax. Have fun!
When people in lower Leagues talk to me about how they really want to get out but can’t because they’re scared of losing or it’s just not worth the time and effort – relax! Don’t put too much emphasis on competing and enjoy the game for what it was designed for: entertainment. You’re investing time into something that was meant for you to have fun with, and if you aren’t having fun, then what’s the point? Now if you’re truly serious about getting into a high rank, or you desperately want that shiny border, then you have to devote the time. Nothing in life is free, especially not your time. If you play ranked games for the sake of playing ranked, and even after hundreds of games, you’re not climbing at all, then you’re not seeing your mistakes, or worse, not recognizing or acknowledging them. If you absolutely refuse to realize that you did something wrong, then I’m afraid the only way to improve is to first change your mentality. If you can’t recognize mistakes, then that’s a whole other blog that you might need to read, but a good place to start is to track your deaths. How did you die? Why did you die? Recording your games via LoLReplay is an excellent place to start recognizing mistakes in your own gameplay. If you realize that you made mistakes in a game that you lost, or even better, in a game that you won, then good – you’re already on the right track on improving as a player. Keep a mental or physical note of the mistakes that you made, and think of one or two things for each mistake that you can do in the future to remedy them. If you’re losing badly, maybe 2-3 losses in a row – always take a break and get some fresh air and watch replays of yourself playing. Think what could have happened differently only considering you – not anyone else.
Figure 5. Just kidding.
As you improve yourself, you’ll slowly find that you will perform better, and mesh better with your team. There will always be losses, even pros lose about half of their games at their rating, so don’t consider a loss as a barrier. Instead, think of a loss as a way to improve, as a way to progress, and slowly, but surely, you’ll find yourself joining the ranks of those that have honed their skills enough to call themselves the best at the game. And last but not least, good luck.