Ever lose a match wondering “what did I do wrong?” Oftentimes what you did wrong is failing to do something right- not making a play when you could have. Relying on your opponents to make mistakes is often prudent, but risks must be taken to assure victory in most matches; play-making is a crucial element in turning an even matchup into a snowballed one, or making a comeback from behind. Level 1 “strats” are a great way to get the ball rolling in the right direction, being easy to organize, relatively low risk in Solo Queue (once you are experienced with them), and highly effective.
Before we get into the actual plays, I just want to remind you that at level one, everyone does about the same damage, with a few exceptions (e.g. Sona’s powerchord if she levels q). Because of this ranged supports can kite you just as easily as an ADC, and the person you should be focusing (assuming all other factors are equal) is the squishiest person that is close. CC is trump at Level 1 when it comes to physical advantages, because it allows for more auto-attacks, which are quite painful without items/levels to use as protection. However, Organization is the most important variable, because if one or two people get CCed, but their team reacts quickly to defend them, that CC is heavily negated and the situation can be turned around.
The Silent Invade
The Silent Invade is when you go to the buff that the enemy jungler isn’t starting at, and take it from them. There are two reasons why you might do this, (1) you want to get ahead of their jungler on buffs and experience so that you can decrease their effectiveness, or (2) you want to stay on a specific side of the map in order to easily gank a lane at a specific level. Getting an extra buff for yourself and setting the enemy jungler back has obvious benefits, the only thing I would say in this area is to “kick ’em while they’re down.” If you can get a couple of levels on the enemy jungler, you can duel them quite easily, so follow up with more counter jungling. The idea of planning out an early gank is a little more subtle. It’s situational to be sure, but if I’m a jungler that needs level 3 to effectively gank, and I want to gank a specific lane early (most likely due to the nature of the match up), I want to be on that side of the map when I get level 3, so that I don’t have to waste time trekking back and forth. This will probably mean you won’t get an extra buff, but it is extremely low-risk.
The Solo Queue Invade
My favorite L1 “strat” that I’ve perfected over 1500+ games, is The Solo Queue Invade. It is my favorite because there is virtually no risk in using it in Solo Queue (even after posting it on reddit and having it hit the front page virtually zero teams actually prepared for it). Essentially all you do is run to the bush that you expect them to put a scout in, ambush the scout when it arrives, and leave after the ambush (leave at 1:30 if no one comes). For a detailed explanation of how to make this invade work see this. This requires communication during champion select, and usually a few pings to remind people, but that’s it. Here is an example of how it is done. I recorded several instances of this invade and settled on this one because it shows how even in extremely unfavorable circumstances we were able to net a summoner spell and kill.
The Common Invade
Another very popular invade is to leave from the river bush near blue buff at 1:37 or so, and ambush the jungler and their leashers as they come to blue buff. With the recent changes to jungle, this needs to be adapted to leaving at 1:57, but can still be useful. If you bring the jungler with you there is potential to steal the buff, otherwise you can (1) try to go for kills or (2) make the leash realllly difficult. Going for kills involves more risk/reward, while simply harassing them as they try to leash can usually be done quite safely, and essentially for free (what else are you going to do during that time?). Again, all this really requires is some communication during select, or even once the game starts.
The Tardy Invade
A very rare invade (that a friend of mine showed me) I have run a couple of times (and never seen anyone else do) requires 2 people: the jungler and usually the mid-laner. Let’s say both junglers start at blue buff. After leashing for your jungler, don’t go to your lane, instead go to the bush by wraiths. When the enemy jungler comes through, jump him, and if you get a kill you will set him back into the stone age. As long as someone has ignite, and there is 1-2 forms of CC (the jungler will be L2) it’s usually not that difficult. The danger of doing this invade with total strangers is that the kill might flash away to their nearby tower, and they might flash after, giving up a kill themselves. If you tell them not to do so ahead of time, the odds of this happening are much lower. Even if you don’t get a kill, you can make it incredibly difficult for them to clear their jungle, and reduce their early game presence across the map, which your team will surely benefit from.
The ARAM ambush
One strategy that was used every game in pre-30 matches, and is now signifcantly more viable with the recent jungle changes, is the ARAM Ambush. If you don’t need to leash for your jungler, and you don’t want to invade, just run to your lane bush to jump the enemy when they come. As always with L1 strats (and LoL in general) the way to make this work is to be satisfied with a small edge. Maybe you don’t even force a flash, but if you burst someone down to half that will make laning considerably easier, and will give your team instant pressure. Again, talk in champions select; it is free time that Riot gives you.
The last L1 “strat” is lane swapping. I’m not sure why I don’t see this more often in Solo Queue, since it’s so simple, and most people have some conception of how to work it after watching LCS teams do it so much. Make sure you have a better 1v2 than they do, usually someone with range will do better than a melee, and ranged supports are much better than melee ones because they can harass under tower. As long as the 2v1ers know they should be harass heavy, as well as pushing their lane (probably focusing more on pushing than harassing, as long as they can deny farm) and the 1v2er knows they mostly just needs to stay alive and grab what farm they can.
The glory of L1 strats is that the are incredibly simple (since everyone only has 1 skill plus summoners) and you can plan them out during select, time that you don’t get anywhere else in the match. If you aren’t using this to your advantage, you are shooting yourself in the foot. You will notice most of the things I listed here are fairly common knowledge. The difference is that some people do them, while others just know about them. If you put these into practice regularly you will learn to work out the kinks, and can begin to get most of your games off on the right foot, because not only will this give you a physical edge (debilitated jungler, weakened lane, early kills, etc.) but it will get your team to have more confidence in each other, build morale, etc.
The place where most invades go wrong is when people try to get fancy/greedy and go for more than the passive members of their team. Have a clearly communicated goal (e.g. first blood) and once you reach it pull out with lots of retreat pings. This will keep everyone on the same page as to when to keep going/fall back, and prevent people from getting drastically out of position. Staying for buffs is usually not worth the risk, so evaluate your goals critically in terms of how they apply in that particular matchup (e.g. it may be very easy to take the buff in some matchups) and work off of that information.
If this seemed overly simple, it’s because L1 “strats” are all pretty simple (due to their being significantly less variables to work with), and as long as you talk in select (as I’m mentioning intentionally for the 50th time), you can pull them off very successfully. The next article should be a bit more complex, discussing the early laning phase.
As always, I encourage you to add, argue, etc. in the comments. Thanks for reading!