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Swinging the Lane: Minion Dynamics


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Minion damage is a huge factor in early trades and skirmishes in the laning phase, often more than players realize, but the damage quickly adds up. Many champions can simply clear the wave early and thus swing any early trade into their favor simply by having more minion allies available. Other champions have unique kit interactions with minions that make the presence of minions heavily swing any fight they’re involved with. I’m Eph289 and I want to quantify some of the impact that minions have early game, as well as discuss all the champions who have important fight dynamics based on the number of minions.

Part 1: Minion Damage

Caster minions do 23 physical damage, gaining 2 attack damage per 3 minutes.

Melee minions do 12 damage, gaining 1 attack damage every 3 minutes.

Siege minions do 40 damage per shot, gaining 3 attack damage per 3 minutes.

What does that mean? I’m going to put up some charts that show the effects of minion damage at varying levels with a variety of armor levels.

Siegeattacks

CasterMinions

3Meleeattacks

In particular, the caster minions are the crucial contributors to the damage. For one, they do more damage. Secondly, they’re ranged, so they acquire their target and attack faster than melee minions, which have to move to melee range to engage, giving you more of a chance and time to de-aggro the minions.

At early levels, three caster minion attacks will do almost as much damage as an enemy auto-attack. As a result, if you want to gain an edge in an early fight, take out the opposing caster minions early and then bait your opponent into taking minion aggression while you still have caster minions.

Also, taking out the caster minions quickly and then last-hitting the melee minions will allow the lane to shove in your favor due to your minions lasting longer, forcing your opponent to either shove back or eventually farm under the tower.

These mechanics are particularly important in top and mid, where the 1v1 early can be decided by minion damage. A number of champions would otherwise lose a 1v1 duel but have better wave clear can gain an edge in an otherwise disadvantageous duel.

Part 2: Specific Champion Interactions

There are a number of champions who gain specific power based on the number of enemies—most commonly minions—involved in the fight. Learning all of them can be something of a chore, so I’m going to spell out those with specific counterplay opportunities based on the minions. Note that I’m not going to include all the champions who have skillshots that are blocked/reduced by minions, who can jump to their own minions, or who can sustain off of minions—that’s a long and tedious list. This is a more focused collection on champions that gain appreciable direct combat strength based on the number of minions present, in particular post-6 when the interactions tend to be more important than the added minion damage. For those of you who are more experienced, you probably know this, but this is aimed more for newer or less knowledgeable players.

Akali

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Akali can gain a moderate amount of healing from using Crescent Slash if you fight her while she’s standing in minions thanks to her bonus spellvamp. She can hit you and the minion wave at the same time, so once minion damage is no longer a major consideration in your battles, you’ll want to avoid fighting her around lots of allied minions for her to heal off of or possibly jump to. Admittedly, Crescent Slash is not exactly a priority skill for Akali’s rotation, so this is a minor concern.

TL;DR: Akali can take advantage of minions for spellvamp once their damage no longer is a major concern.

Brand

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Brand’s kit has two important interactions with minions.

If Conflagration (E) strikes enemies that are Ablaze, it spreads to nearby enemies. A very common Brand pattern is to hit a bunch of minions with Pillar of Flame when an enemy gets too close and then spread the damage to them with Conflagration. Not only does this clear the wave, it hits the enemy with Conflagration’s damage as well as the Blaze passive.

Pyroclasm (R) bounces for a total of five hits and can strike the same target up to three times, prioritizing champions if they are ablaze. Note that a surefire (pun intended!) way to get hit by all of the bounces is to stand next to a siege minion or large monster like Dragon when Brand ults. Getting hit by 3 bounces is 450/750/1050+1.5 AP ratio damage and that’s before considering the rest of Brand’s spells.

When fighting Brand, you want to use minions to avoid getting hit by Conflagration or Pillar of Flame into Sear, but immediately move away from them if they are set ablaze. Post-6, avoid getting hit by multiple Pyroclasm bounces by not fighting Brand near small numbers of minions or monsters. In particular, Shaco players…you might not want to Hallucinate and have your clone run in right next to you. On the other hand, having large numbers of minions present in a teamfight can help absorb some of the Pyroclasm bounces.

TL;DR Don’t stand close to minions that are ablaze. Counterplaying Pyroclasm requires either large numbers of minions and not being ablaze, or else staying spread out enough that the ultimate cannot bounce effectively.

Fiddlesticks

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Fiddlesticks’ Dark Wind (E) bounces up to 4 times, meaning that you can be struck by at least two of the bounces. You’ll want to avoid standing near small numbers of minions that can easily bounce the spell back to you.

TL;DR Don’t stand close to 1-2 allies or minions to avoid multiple Dark Wind hits

Galio

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Galio’s Bulwark (W) heals him based on the number of strikes he takes while shielded, not the actual damage. This means that midgame Galio will actually heal for substantial amounts off of minion attacks and thus you don’t want to fight him with your minions once he starts leveling it (post-level 9 for solo lane Galio)

The other interaction Galio has with minions is that his ultimate, Idol of Durand, gains bonus damage based off of the same mechanic as Bulwark—the more times he is struck while channeling, the more bonus damage he inflicts and increases up to 40% extra damage if he is struck up to 8 times. If Galio ults you inside a wave of your own minions, he’s likely to get that full damage amount, and that hurts.

TL;DR Fighting Galio with the help of minions is not advisable beyond the early game.

Hecarim

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Hecarim can gain a significant amount of healing from casting Spirit of Dread (up to 180 from minions and monsters), so fighting the Death Pony with lots of minions around, particularly in a teamfight, will only boost his survivability.

TL;DR Hecarim is a lot stronger when ambient AOE damage hurts minions and heals him via Spirit of Dread.

Kha’Zix

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Kha’Zix gains 45% bonus damage against isolated targets when using Taste Their Fear. As such you will want to stand near your minions or allies to avoid giving the Void Bug a huge amount of extra damage.

TL;DR Kha’Zix is generally not to be fought alone.

Miss Fortune

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Miss Fortune’s Double Up (Q) can easily bounce off a minion and deals extra damage on the second target hit. This spell tends to bounce in a cone behind it, so you’ll want to avoid standing behind minions.

TL;DR Don’t stand behind your minions. Off to the side away from the opposing support will work better.

Mordekaiser

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Mordekaiser’s Iron Man shield is built by the damage he inflicts. Shield generation is primarily from Siphon of Destruction and Children of the Grave. Since Mordekaiser can easily AOE down minions with Siphon of Destruction and Creeping Death to rebuild his shield, dueling him amongst minions is difficult without large amounts of crowd control and burst. He is deceptively tanky when fighting you and your minion waves.

TL;DR Don’t fight Mordekaiser in your own minions.

Poppy

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Poppy’s passive on Paragon of Demacia (W) allows her to gain stacking armor and attack damage every time she takes damage or attacks an enemy—including from minion attacks. She can also activate the ability to gain full stacks.

TL;DR Poppy gains armor and AD from minion attacks, though she can also activate this ability to trigger full stacks. Minions don’t make a huge difference when fighting Poppy, but she can charge up the stacks via their attacks.

Renekton

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Renekton gains Fury by hitting more targets with Cull the Meek (Q) and heals himself based on the damage he does. Thus, standing among your minions while fighting him will just let him build more Fury and heals. Obviously, you want the minions to help you fight Renekton, but you don’t want his Q’s small AOE to hit both you and minions if you can help it.

TL;DR Stand away from your minions to fight Renekton.

Ryze

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Ryze’s bouncing Spell Flux operates similar to Dark Wind in that you do not want to be hit by multiple bounces. Unlike the other bouncing spells mentioned, Ryze can bounce Spell Flux off of himself. Note that Ryze also gains appreciable spellvamp and AOE damage while using Desperate Power (R), so fighting Ryze in minions lategame will give him an advantage.

TL;DR Ryze gains an advantage when fighting in a minion wave.

Sivir

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Sivir’s Ricochet functions similar to other bouncing spells and will allow Sivir to hit you even through a minion wave.

TL;DR Sivir gains additional effective range thanks to the use of Ricochet.

Tristana

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Every time Tristana kills something with basic attacks, her Explosive Shot’s passive (E) causes them to explode and deal magic damage in the surrounding area. You’ll want to avoid standing near low-health minions, particularly early game or against AP Tristana.

TL;DR Don’t stand next to a minion that Tristana is auto-attacking

Trundle

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Trundle’s passive grants him a percentage of the maximum health of any enemy or neutral monster that dies nearby. A fight near a dying large neutral monster (like Dragon) or a large crowd of minions (particularly siege minions) will greatly amplify Trundle’s ability to survive.

TL;DR Trundle gains a lot of health from things that die near him, such as minions

Tryndamere

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The more enemies that Spinning Slash (E) hits, the more Fury he generates. If he kills an enemy with it, he generates even more Fury. If Tryndamere slashes through a wave of 6 minions, he’ll gain 12 Fury, and thus 4% extra critical chance.

TL;DR Tryndamere gains crit chance for every enemy he hits with Spinning Slash.

Volibear

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Volibear’s ultimate Thunder Claws blasts targets with lightning that bounces to up to 3 nearby targets. As such, a Volibear who is using his ultimate on minions to shove a wave will do a lot of AOE damage that can be avoided by staying farther back.

TL;DR Avoid minions when Volibear is ulting and attacking them.

Yasuo

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Yasuo’s Sweeping Blade (E) lets him dash to any target he has not dashed to recently and each cast of Sweeping Blade increases his damage by 25%, up to 100% bonus damage. The end result is that Yasuo can dash through an entire wave of minions relatively quickly, especially once he starts ranking Sweeping Blade, and do double damage with Sweeping Blade. This added mobility and damage means that you should stay away from your minions when fighting Yasuo, as Sweeping Blade has relatively low range.

TL;DR Position yourself away from minions against Yasuo, or at least far enough away that he can’t stack up Sweeping Blade and then hit you with bonus damage.


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Eph289

Eph289 is a Platinum-ranked mid and support on NA and has been playing and writing about League of Legends since 2010. Formerly a Reign of Gaming guest contributor, he went by 'Sudunem' for his first few Cloth5 pieces until he fully transitioned over to Cloth5. He uses his mastery of the wizard arts of math, statistics, and theorycrafting to illuminate and explain the mysteries of League of Legends.

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