The Exhaustive Checklist for Ranked Part 2

This is part two of two for the exhaustive checklist for ranked ladder gameplay.

Part one you can find: here (will open in a new window/tab).

In this part we’ll cover game sense, mindset, and some housekeeping stuff to do before a ranked game.

Game sense

Game sense is everything else in the game that’s not mechanical in nature, but is still important for your success in ranked. This doesn’t include mentality, which is another section, but it includes things like item building, map awareness, etc.

    Do I know how to build efficiently? Do I know how to counterbuild?

    • Too many players see an optimized build/build order, which they see in a guide and automatically use that build for every single situation. Whilst there are builds that synergize extremely well (build efficiency, covered below), it won’t work for certain lane matchups or compositions.
    • There have even been examples of this in competitive play – even pro players may stop considering the matchup and stick to their preferred builds. Consider Zac top for example – a champion that was very strong a patches back, and Sunfire Cape was very popular as a first item. However, against a Singed, if the Zac sticks with Sunfire, they will most likely suffer in lane. If a Spirit Visage was rushed first, it would have boosted Zac’s passive healing, lowered cooldowns on all of his skills, as well as increased resistances against Singed’s skills – an overall better first item to rush, all things considered.
    • Similarly, if the enemy team has four sources of physical damage, it’s important to build extra armor, or extra magic resist if the team is mostly magic damage.
    • The way to realize what to build is to not just follow a guide, but also consider all items that has synergy with your champion. Stop and think about what an item does, and how you can benefit from it. For example, Liandry’s Torment – any spell that impairs movement will do extra damage over time. Does your champion have AP scaling that slows and deals damage over time? Is your champion called Teemo? Asking questions will help you determine what to build in a given situation. Is their AP mid on Fizz doing massive damage? Maybe it’s time to pick up a Hex Drinker on Jax instead of rushing a Randuin’s Omen.
    • Another brief note on build efficiency – for example, heavy AD scaling champions like Graves benefit the most from the upfront AD burst damage from skills. Also, champions like Tristana that have innate attack speed steroids with skills will do better with more damage. Rushing attack speed isn’t going to do you wonders.

Figure 1 – There’s a reason why some items are so good on Teemo. Can you figure out why?
Credits to Tvonn9 for the art.

    Do I have map awareness? Do I look at the mini-map often enough? Do I ping MIAs and Careful pings so my teammates know?

    • A common tip is to look at the mini-map after every last hit, and if you’re the Jungler, constantly observe the mini-map.
    • Ping if your lane is missing; especially ping careful pings if you think that they might be in the general vicinity. Whether your teammates respect your pings is out of your control, but at least you tried to help. For Mid laners, try to also follow your lane or to push, but sometimes that isn’t always possible, maybe you were backing or you were taking a buff.
    • Be aware of enemy laners that are also missing. If you only see your teammate in middle lane and your Mid laner is spamming question marks all over the place – the gig might be up. Play safe, especially if you have no vision available.
    • This also means that you can safely assume if a brush isn’t warded, that there could be a Garen in that brush. How many Garens in that brush can be calculated with the Garen-Brush likelihood index: if there are 4 missing Garens on the map, the chances of there being 4 Garens in that brush is 100%. On a more serious note, always be vigilant, and facecheck with extreme caution.
Saving private Teemo

Figure 2 – Looking at the mini-map saves dozens of lives and Teemos every day. Garenteed. Credits to manapool.co.uk for the original map image. I will see myself out.

    Do I know where to ward as each role?

    • There are tons of guides on warding out there. Look at this series of images for example (click!). It will increase your game sense because you can also anticipate where the opponent will ward and use pink wards accordingly. This is especially important for support players, as half of the game will be dedicated to warding the map. If you know where the most popular spots wards are, you can counter-ward (use a pink, vision ward)
    • Do note that there are several bush reductions in Season 4, which means warding spots will change a tiny bit in the brushes around buffs, but for the most part they are the same. In fact, wards will now see more in Season 4 if the proposed changes remain.
    • Also note that there are dramatic changes under way in terms of map vision – supports won’t be the only role where the ward emphasis is the strongest, so now’s the best time to learn where to ward more than ever if you haven’t already!
    Do I know what weaknesses their champions may have? Do I know how to play accordingly?

    • Many champions have phases in a game when they’re the strongest. Try to adjust your play accordingly. This is hard to recognize at first, but if you play enough normal games you’ll start to see trends. A famous example is Kassadin pre-6. He’s extremely vulnerable, because he’s melee, and has no escapes, making him very prone to ganks. A good Kassadin will CS under tower, but in those first few placement games, chances are they will play aggressive, so you can react accordingly if you’re the Mid laner or Jungler.
    Am I able to recognize a person that is out of position? Similarly, am I able to recognize a person that is trying to bait?

    • This is more nuanced and might require a lot of games to develop. But that’s what normal games are for right? Knowing when to initiate, or when a person has made a mistake in positioning is crucial in winning lane and teamfights. On the flip side, knowing when a person is trying to bait is also important. If someone decides to suddenly play aggressive after 4 minutes of passive farming, either they just evolved or you’re about to get ganked, and this isn’t Pokémon.
    Am I able to recognize when an objective is essentially “free”? Am I able to make that call?

    • This is also hard to put in concrete terms and even harder to execute in-game. But if you know for a fact that there’s 5 bot chasing a Garen that was split-pushing the entire game, and 3 of you were top and your mid laner was farming, and that Baron was cleared with oracles 45 seconds before, that objective is what I like to call: “free.” Take it and snowball the game. You have to be able to make the call. You can’t expect your Jungler to be on point. This is the same with dragons and rotating for towers.
    • You also have to be able to recognize what’s a horrendous call. If your team wasn’t really ahead, all 5 of the enemy are alive, 4 of which you don’t see on the map and Baron is warded when your team doesn’t have oracles or a pink ward, and your Jungler is pinging to go ham on Baron, tell your team to fall back and explain why it may not be such a good idea. If the Jungler dies alone at Baron because they were so stubborn, at least it’s only one person and not the entire team. If all four of your team members go and you can’t persuade them otherwise, then follow them and tell them to fight instead of continuing to do Baron.
    • In some cases calls become very hard to make, there’s no doubt about that. Maybe Baron was low enough to be bursted down before the enemy could react… but honestly in your placements all you need to really consider are the extreme cases. Don’t be a sheep; it’s not going to help you. You have to shepherd the other 4.

Baron Nashor – King of throws, both in Solo Queue and International games alike

Game Mindset

Your frame of mind when approaching the game is a separate process than actually playing the game. It doesn’t require any game sense or mechanics, and in fact, there are many people that have reached high ranks with mediocre mechanics, but have solid game sense and a great mindset.

    Am I able to be calm and relaxed entering a ranked game, but still slightly alert?

    • It’s good to be relaxed. Don’t be nervous! Ranked anxiety may be a huge factor, and a great article (click here!) written by Jeff Bigg on Day9.tv explains why you may feel ranked anxiety and proposes some solutions.
    • At the end of the day, it’s just a game. If you lose, you lose. You don’t lose any money, your girlfriend won’t leave you – it’s just a game. You play because you like competition/you want the rewards/you want to have fun! If you can’t reach whatever your goal is, there’s always next season, when you have improved. Don’t stress yourself out.
    • The alertness part is for jungle invasions. You should always try to go sit in a random bush in your jungle as a lookout. I’ve noticed there’s been a decrease in jungle invasions in most of my games, primarily due to strong invaders like Blitzcrank often being permanently banned. That doesn’t mean that it won’t happen, so be prepared to run if they come, or fight if your team has already decided to make a stand.
    Can I filter out the abuse? Can I press the mute button when necessary?

    • This is preaching to the choir, and may be one of the hardest things to do, but it’s an exhaustive checklist… so… try to be the bigger person every time. If you’re getting blamed and yelled at, the best option is to either filter it out completely, or if it’s affecting you, mute them. The button exists for a reason. Don’t hesitate.
    • If this person is in your game after you muted them and is on a keyboard rampage again, you have to type /ignore [player] in the chatbox. (Don’t quote me on this one, I just saw this somewhere, don’t quite remember where)
    Can I avoid the urge to blame my teammates?

    • It’s very easy to blame a loss on a team member. Maybe that team member has effectively ruined your chance of winning the game, disconnecting, and feeding by walking into their fountain 40 times, whatever. However, it’s more likely to happen on the opposing team than yours. Don’t get too fixated on this loss, because in the grand scheme of things, you’re also going to win games because of it as well. It’s anti-fun and sucks, but know that it happens to everyone playing the game.
    • Also try to resist the urge to ask the “why …?” questions. If it was something that might in the short term benefit you, try saying something like “Can you try to do […] next time?” You also won’t be able to teach anyone during a ranked game, so don’t. Focus on your game, chances are you’re not in Challenger, so you’re not going to ever see them in a ranked game ever again, so don’t waste your time typing and play at your best instead.

Can I accept a loss?

    • League of Legends is a game that’s impossible to win every single time. And when you do lose, be able to accept the fact that you lost, that the other team played better than your team, and move on!
Some chart

Figure 3 – Even the best lose about a bit less than half of all their Solo queue games.

Tech Specs + Stuff to do before the game

Too often I’ve lost a game because I forgot to check my ping before a game, and bam, someone starts downloading HD pornography on the shared network and I’m sitting in fountain, crying silently. Since these first few placements are extra important…

    Is my ping stable? Do I know if it will remain stable for the length of the entire game?

    • Check your ping before you start a game. You can use 3rd party programs to simplify the process, just look for League of Legends ping checker (LoLPing works well, click here!).
    Do I have any automatic updates on? Do I have any programs that might unexpectedly shut down my computer?

    • This happens. Make sure you have no automated updates waiting to restart your computer, and make sure you don’t have a shutdown timer up.
    Am I playing in a good mood and not under the influence of any drugs or alcohol?

    • You’re not doing your MMR any favors by playing while under the influence. If you’re that rare exception where your senses are heightened while high, make sure you can put that into practice first before trying it out in ranked queue.
    • Similarly, don’t play the game when something traumatic or frustrating has happened to you. It will spill over into the game and will make you more toxic as a player.
    • Granted this is also really hard to follow because you want to escape/already too under to care, so I’m just going to put this here because list.


After every game, try to take a little time and think about that game. Did you win? How? Did you lose? Why? Did you make any mistakes?

    Am I able to recognize the mistakes I made that game? Am I able to remedy said mistakes?

    • It won’t do you any good to make the same mistake 4 games in a row. Maybe you were playing Varus, and improperly used your skills such that you didn’t take advantage of your passive and the opposing Twitch was able to live multiple times. Try to always be aware of what happened such that the expected outcome, a dead Twitch, did not happen.
    • In the same vein, if you died to a Jarvan IV gank from the brush 4 times, something tells me you should probably pick up a ward and make sure that darn side brush is warded (you, yes you, not necessarily your support). If they deny you the vision, then maybe it’s time to play passive or call your own Jungler for some help.
    • The one thing to take away from after a game is to ask questions to yourself and see if you can come up with the answers, but again – don’t attribute all of the blame to your team members. Think about what impact you had on the game, and come up with a list of things that you proactively did that your team managed to benefit from, and then come up with a counter to that list – that is, all the things you did that affected the game negatively for your team. Don’t cut yourself extra slack if you want to improve. Once you manage to have a much longer list of positives than negatives, you definitely know that you have improved.
Capture the best/worst moments and think about it

Figure 4 – Think about the best and worst moments of the game involving you, it takes a few minutes (can do it in Queue/Champ Select) and will help you keep track of your progress.

That about wraps it up from me! Know that I’m not a professional player so of course take all advice with a grain of salt, but I tried to be as generic as possible. Feel free to discuss any general prerequisite or “things you wish people on your team knew but didn’t” before entering ranked! I know we’ve all been there.

And of course, best of luck to you, fellow Solo Queue player, and may the odds ever be in your favor.

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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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