League of Legends is an extremely complex game, with many of its important aspects often being overlooked. In this four part article series, I, BonkCushy, will be breaking down the “core” of competitive League of Legends, specifically looking at Composition, Objectives, Rotations, and Execution, in hopes to give new players a different way to look at the game. Each part of this article series will be dedicated to their alignment within the acronym, so today’s article will be about Objectives. Although I am honing in on one of these topics at a time, remember these are all interconnected, so as you read the articles, try and make connections between them. For example, trying to understand rotations can be difficult if you don’t have clear priorities for objectives, nor the knowledge of how to optimize your composition for efficiently taking objectives.
Before getting into objectives, there are some big picture subjects I will briefly brush over, which are vital to understanding objectives.
Macro versus Micro
One of the first things to understand when playing any strategy game, such as League of Legends, is the concept of macro and micro. Macro is the term affiliated with larger strategy, how teams can out-think the opposing team. This series of articles that I’m writing primarily focus on the understanding of macro strategy and why teams should hold it up to a higher pedestal than they do now.
At around 42:28 in the newest episode of ‘Summoning Insight’, we hear Montecristo say that the top European teams understanding of macro strategy are behind both the top North American and Korean teams, which I couldn’t agree with more. As I’m writing this, I’m watching the second game of Roccat and Alliance in the European playoffs, and I can name a couple of questionable decisions in the macro-game by Alliance (attempting to take the bot inhibitor turret, picking an assassin in patch 4.5, just to name a few).
Good macro strategy is what holds many teams back. Look at CLG this split; they’ve finally differentiated themselves as part of the Top 3 in NA after many splits of being on par with the middle teams, such as Curse and Dignitas, who still haven’t convinced me about their understanding of the macro game.
Micro is the term affiliated with mechanics, which will be covered more in the Execution article. Micro as a general rule covers the smaller scale things a single player can do, like gathering gold and managing minion waves.
Conditions to Obtain Objectives
For every objective on the map, there are conditions which need to be satisfied in order to obtain them. Some objectives, such as early towers in patch 4.5, are safer as compared to larger, more dangerous objectives, such as baron. Even the first rotation of buffs need to meet certain criteria in order to be obtained safely.
Forcing objectives is often said when a team ignores the normal criteria to take an objective safely, in hopes that the enemy team doesn’t react. It’s often not optimal to force objectives, but it can be used to bluff the opponent into not wanting to contest, effectively giving you a free objective in some cases. This often won’t work with higher-level teams.
To further emphasize the critical thinking a team needs to do before attempting an objective, let’s look at this scenario. When a team is trying to take an early game dragon, there are a plethora of things to take into account before starting it. Do they know we are doing dragon? Can our team fight theirs if they try to contest? Can we out-smite the enemy jungler, or do they have an execute? Do we want to trade objectives? Is this dragon a free objective?
League of Legends has general questions to ask in every game, but every game is different. It requires the shot caller to have a deep understanding of what questions arise in game-specific scenarios, and a good understanding of sunk costs.
‘Sunk costs’ is an economics term used to describe what the ‘next best alternative’ would be. It’s very important to know what to do if things aren’t quite going as planned. Here’s a scenario: you’re playing LeBlanc mid, and your lane opponent roams bottom. What would have been optimal is you following them bot, but now it’s too late to do that. Instead, your next best opportunity now is to shove mid lane, deal some damage on the turret, and deny gold and experience from your opposing mid laner.
You can plan a lot prior to a game, but the ability to adapt in the game is just as important. KT Bullets demonstrated their brilliance at IEM Katowice, finding their window of opportunity to backdoor Gambit. This is a terrific example of sunk costs, because after effectively losing a 4v5 teamfight prior to the backdoor, KT Bullets realized that they had almost no other way to win the game, so they followed through with the all-in strategy and it paid off.
Now that I’ve laid the groundwork, we can talk about what objectives need prioritizing. Obviously, the Nexus is the number one goal within the game, while everything other objective should be seen as a means to make destroying the nexus easier. Outside the nexus, here is the list of objectives, in no particular order:
Tier Two Turrets
Tier One Turrets
Red and Blue Buff
Effectively Killing Champions
I want to take a moment and talk about the pseudo-objective of effectively killing champions. Effective killing is a term used to describe when a champion is unable to defend an objective because they are too low on health. The goal of effectively killing champions is to create a window of opportunity to take ‘actual’ objectives without contention. The important thing to take from this is that killing champions, although nice and beneficial, in and of itself is not an objective, because it does not fit any team’s win conditions. In fact, effectively killing a champion, not getting the gold for the kill and taking the tower is often times more beneficial than actually killing the champion without getting the tower. The short end of it is killing a champion is often more a means to an end for higher skilled teams, as something like a kill is often a means to taking a tower or dragon.
Every team has win conditions – things a team needs to do in order to win the game. Knowing sunk costs is the method to find your current win conditions. For example, in champion select, you know the ‘ideal game’ would be something similar to CLG vs Curse in NA LCS Week 1 this split, where the game is basically PvE. This game was already decided before CLG even got first blood, which demonstrates the power of effectively killing champions. Unlike this example game, though, your win conditions are constantly changing because of plays the enemy team makes, or mistakes your team makes. Being able to identify what objectives you need to prioritize to satisfy your win conditions is vital.
CLG Getting a very late first blood at the 23 minute mark as they’re already getting baron. Of note is the fact that without getting kills, CLG leads CRS by 7k gold with many towers under their belt.
I cannot tell you explicitly what objectives to prioritize, because there are so many different factors to consider for different compositions in order to meet their win conditions. However, I can tell you that, as a general rule of thumb, most teams, when ahead, take very little risk, and try to close the game out systematically by taking incontestable objectives that add up over time. Teams that are behind, though, either need to make risky plays in order to get back in the game, or wait for their opponents to make a mistake and be ready to capitalize on it.
I hope this article was helpful in understanding the thought process behind objectives! My next article will cover Rotations, or movement around the map.