It takes skill to right-click stuff in League of Legends
I’ve mentioned in passing that my favorite role on Summoner’s Rift is ADC, otherwise known as “AD Carry” or “ranged DPS.” This might be a bit of a surprise for some of you. Typically in League of Legends, the jungler is the playmaker, and if not, the support is. The playmaker roles seem like more suited to me, especially because I write guides on how to make plays. The ADC is the opposite of a playmaker. She’s incredibly reactionary, relying on others to start things so she can finish them. Bruisers, tanks, junglers, mages, and supports all have tools to make things happen, but not the ADC.
I didn’t learn to love carrying right away. It was sort of an evolutionary process, moving from support to mid to never-playing-SR-again to top to jungle to ADC. One of the things I love about ADC is that you can’t be good at it starting out. You can be better than the people you’re playing against, but you can’t be good at it at all. The huge technical curve, more than anything else, is what attracts me to the role.
Carrying rewards being laid-back and patient
If there’s one thing I’ve emphasized about my lane presence, it’s that I’d like to have virtually none. I am a relaxed guy. I like it when my opponent makes mistakes and I get to pounce, but I’m in no rush to strip off those life bars. For an ADC, this is an incredibly valuable skill.
ADC is one of the squishiest players on any team and contributes huge volume damage numbers to an engagement, even if she’s stuck shooting a tank. Unless she is underfarmed, the ADC will completely melt the enemy team if she’s allowed to keep shooting. She is not like a mage who will unload a powerful combo and be mostly finished, possibly to come back 10 seconds later for a return attempt. All she does is shoot, and doing so for extended periods is her only goal.
Because of these things, the ADC absolutely must not be impatient. She has to wait for others to start the fight before she can finish it, and she also has to sometimes chip away at a bruiser’s or tank’s HP rather than the yummy squishy targets because she gets zoned out. It takes a fair bit of discipline to do this if you’re conditioned to jump on mages, carries, or people with low health bars. Sometimes you get zoned and you have to back up in order to keep shooting, and other times you just need to keep shooting even if someone juicy is backing off.
In lane, the ADC is usually paired with a support, and the support does all the “work.” The support zones the lane for the most part, she sets up the kills and the ADC just follows up. The support is the scary one in the lane. The support has literally nothing to do except look for ways to kill her opponents, while the ADC has a huge amount of concentration overhead and can’t be bothered with things like trying to nab kills in lane.
Of course, there’s a difference between “laid-back” and “timid.” My opponents frequently make this mistake against me; they’ll take my lack of aggressive harassment as an excuse to “punish” my “weakness.” Frequently, I will respond to this simply by walking backwards, which reinforces the view that I’m weak or timid. However, if my support is in position, I’m watching her like a hawk. If she ever lands anything that gives me an opening, I am on her target in a heartbeat.
Graves is probably my favorite carry, and sometimes I can just punish mistakes on my own. If the enemy ADC or support get caught out of position or burn a useful spell, I will just Quickdraw in and unload. I know that in that circumstance, I’ll win a damage race, so I just go for it. If I’ve been laid-back all game, it can come as a complete shock to my enemy.
Carrying rewards superior mechanics
Superior mechanics is a thing I harp on a lot in the Guidebook. I’ve mentioned things about concentration or focus as a resource, and I want to emphasize it here. ADC is the League of Legends role that is the most like playing StarCraft. In StarCraft, you have roughly 30,000,000 things to do, and the person who wins is the one who does more of them competently than his opponent. ADC is much like this. There are maybe a hundred thousand things you need to do though, so if you’re good enough you might be able to do most of them.
I’ve talked about last-hitting a lot, of course, but ADC is as much about denying farm to her enemy by harassing as it is about getting farm yourself. If you have enough focus to pay attention to your opponents’ last-hitting while you last-hit, you can get a lot of free damage. At my level of play, you can make your opponent second-guess getting farm at all.
Being aware of your support and her position as well as the enemy support is a big deal. When I’m in a duo lane, I need to draw mental range bubbles around everyone and juggle my own farming with defense against attacks from the enemy support, following up on attacks from my support, and baiting attacks from the enemy team. It sounds much easier in text than it is in practice.
It’s easy to say “bait Blitzcrank grabs while last-hitting, keeping the enemy from last-hitting and also watching Leona to see if she’s in Zenith Blade range.” It’s another thing to actually do all of those things, and at my level of skill I do them pretty well. I’m certainly not a pro, but I have a very high reserve of concentration and I love leveraging it against my lane opponent. I can somehow count cooldowns on the enemy support, position myself for defense or aggression, watch for jungle ganks from either side, and get farm all at the same time.
The real reason I love ADC is that it rewards dilligent practice. You can’t just pick Draven and mash Q to victory or just rely on a lucky aggressive play that paid off. Most of the time, you can’t rely on your opponent overextending slightly, landing a stun or snare, and comboing for 80% HP. Though variations on that theme sometimes happen to your support, you are not support. As the ADC, it is your job to be clean, consistent, and alert so that when things like this happen you can take advantage of them. It’s not your job to make them happen; it’s your job to be ready in case they do.
When I play ADC, I feel like my hard work practicing has paid off. In other lanes, matchup is a big thing, but with a duo lane, the characters basically don’t matter and it’s all about mechanics. And when I utterly dominate because I’m better, I feel pretty good. No other role makes me feel like that.