A year of summoning Guidebooks
It feels sort of strange to be writing the one year anniversary of the Summoner’s Guidebook. On the one hand, it feels like yesterday since Shawn asked me to do more MOBA coverage and I pitched the idea of a League of Legends column to him. On the other hand, it feels like I’ve been writing about League for ages. I’ve grown tremendously as a player; from a guy who stomps pubbies in low-Elo games to a guy who gets stomped by experts in high-Elo games. I have no illusions about going pro, but I’ve made a lot of progress up the skill ladder.
I don’t chalk up this advancement to chance or aptitude. I know I didn’t get here on my own. I have you guys to thank — faithful readers who have read my column, either silently or vocally in the comments, who force performance upon me. I can’t just be a hypocrite and tell you to practice a skill. I have to practice what I preach! When my authority in this column falls on my ability to execute on the battlefield, I need to step up my game. This week’s Guidebook is my love letter to all of you.
The maiden voyage
My first real Guidebook was on last-hitting. When I planned out that guide, I was pretty awful at it. I’m a Dominion player after all, and while last-hitting is useful there, it isn’t mandatory. I didn’t have to learn it, so I hadn’t practiced much. My first real test was leaving the familiar grounds of the Crystal Scar and venturing over to the Rift, mashing out the practice I would need. I read tons of other guides and watched videos of pros last-hitting. I think I learned more from watching Doublelift last-hit than I did pretty much any other source.
By the time I sat down to actually write, I felt more like an authority. I could realistically get perfect waves in practice mode. I was recognizing dropped last-hits in matches, and would internally rage at myself for missing them. I would regularly go 115 CS to 80 in bottom lane in the early game. It felt great.
But the truth is that I never would have even bothered if not for TSG. I hated Summoner’s Rift a lot back then; the community is worse than Dominion’s and there’s a ton of lame-duck time that is boring to play out. When I came back to Dominion’s bottom lane, I was getting way ahead. A single minion kill is a lot more there, so getting 3/3 CS in a wave while your opponent gets zero or one is a big deal. Without you guys, I would have never put in the time or effort to learn.
Professional gaming seeps in
Summoner’s Rift is the most popular League game mode, and I knew that if I was going to be informative, I would have to play more of it. However, I invested a lot of time learning about the pro scene, too. I could figure things out entirely on my own, but with top players’ information on sites like LolPro I could use that as a stepping stone to find skills to develop.
I learned about tempo in Summoner’s Rift mostly from watching top players. Even though the experts do things much better than us amateurs, the same basic things that they do are the same things we should want to do. Get an advantage and go for dragon early game, towers or Baron in mid to late game. It seemed pretty simple on its own, but there is a lot of complexity to it.
Around the same time I learned about tempo, I also learned about counter-jungling. I haven’t talked about it much yet (I feel I’m still weak and clueless), but it is a good skill to know. I branched into jungling pretty quickly, and learned about good lane situations for ganks and also how to execute ganks. I learned a lot of this from guides and a little from playing, but most of it was from watching pro matches. Pro players are really hard to gank. They are extremely cautious and seem to have superhuman reflexes, so when a successful gank happens you know it wasn’t just luck.
Watching top-level matches helped me also realize how big the community really is. You can hear figures in the millions of active players, but when you see a huge live audience cheering, it really sends the message home. When the Riot webservers crash because everyone watching the World Championship stream wants to go check the forums when the stream crashes, it tells a lot more than simple figures. It’s a bit intimidating to write to a crowd that huge, and I’m always wondering if I’m doing enough.
My favorite game mode
My real love is Dominion when it’s all said and done. I spend a few games a week on Summoner’s Rift, or more when I’m writing a Rift-specific strategy article for the week. Most of my other games, barring ARAMs, are on the Crystal Scar.
I was really frustrated with my performance back before Riot disabled the ability to check Dominion Elo. I knew exactly where I stood; in the 1400-ish Elo bracket, barely above the legions of mediocre players and SR vets who came to Dominion to troll. It sucked and I wanted to change it.
I started mostly as a bottom lane player, partly because of Nekrogen’s pro advice and partly because of my own experiences — bottom lane wins games, especially lower level ones. It’s hard to come back from a lost bottom lane, and the enemy team has to constantly send gankers down to deal with you. If you’re good, you can even stay alive and set up winning teamfights or trade your bottom for top and their mid.
I stopped playing bottom, mostly because my duo queue partner does it better. He practices a lot in that role, and he got really good at Cassiopeia. I transitioned into roamer assassins, and after a startling revelation with Kassadin, my gameplay improved significantly. I started creating advantage situations naturally and predicting enemy movements. I ganked at opportune times and waited for good opportunities. Slowly, I began being queued with other players using Revive and Garrison. I had made it; I was in the bracket with the “real players.”
I fell in love with Poppy shortly after. I stuck mostly with assassins before that; I was focused on supporting a strong initiation. When I realized how important a strong initiation was, I decided to start playing Poppy and make those big plays for myself.
It was fantastic! I felt so powerful rushing to someone, wall-slamming him and ripping out his lifebar while his entire team was powerless to do anything to me. I learned other initiations too. I played Rammus and Blitzcrank as needed, but Poppy was always my go-to front-runner and she probably always will be.
Again, I would have never gotten there without you guys. It’s nice to win matches due to good last-hitting. It’s fun to learn to mid lane, and take those skills out to win matches. It’s another thing to take your skills to the next level, to go to the top 10%. I may not be an 1800 Elo master or a 2k Elo beast. I probably never will be.
However, if I wasn’t constantly focused on things to learn, I would never have improved so much. The Guidebook is my focus; I need to find things to teach you guys, and thus I have to teach myself. Putting it all together and coming up with lessons has been tremendously valuable to me. I hope I’ve done the same for you over the past year. Thanks for a great year, and here’s to many more!