Why play League of Legends Dominion?
Lately, there’s been a bit of doomsaying about League of Legends’ point capture gametype. Red posts on the subject have mentioned that while the dedicated Dominion playerbase is slowly growing, the lower-level playerbase is shrinking. This is unfortunate because a lot of LoL players just don’t seem to get Dominion. I don’t actually understand this because Dominion is a less complex game than Summoner’s Rift even though it maintains similar levels of strategic depth. Top players have been pushing for ranked since Season 2 started, but the devs have pushed aside their requests, saying “Dominion needs more time.”
RiotNome mentioned that one of the biggest problems Dominion currently faces is that there’s not enough propagation of information. That means that if we want new Dominion players, we have to show them why Dominion is great and what the basics of the game mode are. It’ll be no surprise to regular readers that it’s my favorite gametype, so I’m ready to do my part.
Why play Dominion? Because it’s fast and fun.
Fast games with high intensity
Dominion has many things I love, but at the top of that list is the flow of the match. In Summoner’s Rift (and Twisted Treeline), there’s a slow, boring early part of the game that escalates bit by bit into the midgame. If you’re lucky, the game won’t be lost before it even starts and the midgame will basically determine the game’s victor. In rare situations, the game moves into the lategame with all of its turret stalemating and damage control plays. This isn’t a criticism of just Summoner’s Rift; all conventional MOBAs are like this. Good SR matches don’t really get exciting until the midgame, and the lategame is usually just cleaning up a match that’s already won.
Dominion is never like this. Dominion matches are won at most a minute or two before the end of the game (instead of five or more minutes), and the game-winning moment (usually a final swing capture or decisive teamfight) usually happens less than 30 seconds before the game ends. Furthermore, there’s no laning phase; the game thrusts you into teamfights right at the start and expects you to keep fighting on a more or less continuous basis.
The flow of the match is smooth, too. There is an early game where champions have fewer tools, and the amount of time prior to level 6 is significant enough that a team with a strong pre-6 game can take a good chunk of nexus health from a team that is weak prior to level 6. Additionally, the passive gold and experience ensures that every champion will enter a midgame state; there’s no way to completely deny enemy champions farm to shut them out of the game. Characters that need farm but are bad at farming (like Poppy or Leblanc) are viable choices in Dominion; they will get to a midgame power state if they’re picked.
Some Dominion games end before the lategame, but that’s also a strength, in my opinion. A strong early game team can win decisively before the lategame starts, but it actually ends the game. There’s no situation where level 12 Ashe/Soraka is fighting against level 15 Ezreal/Blitzcrank for 10 grueling minutes before the game ends. If an early game team wins, it wins and the game ends. If the lategame team holds on, it will slowly gain steam and eventually come back. Those kinds of games are extremely tense; I’ve played against teams with champions like Jarvan/Pantheon with Ezreal or Vayne on my team, and I just think to myself, “If we can last to 15 minutes, we will probably win.” Many of those games led us to being down over 250 nexus health before coming back to win. It’s especially intense when your comeback occurs very late, below 50 nexus health; if the enemy team manages to win even one fight, you lose, so you need to play absolutely perfectly and keep the advantage. Sometimes that doesn’t happen and your comeback fails. That’s awesome too because the team at a disadvantage still has a chance to turn it around again.
Dynamic strategy where information rules
In Dominion, there are many answers to each situation. This is true in SR too, but many people seem to think that Dominion is “too simple.” These people are the ones who blindly rush top and camp it when they control it. Once you’ve gained some experience, you understand that there are no simple answers.
Let’s consider a situation in which your team has top. The enemy team is licking its wounds after a lost teamfight, and most of your team has based to recover, too. What are your options? Camping the top point might just result in a pointless death to respawning foes. It’s better to regroup your entire team and try to cut off reinforcements. Instead of wasting time top, you could also leverage your advantage and try to gank bottom, forcing the opponent to respond in one of two places. Going to gank bottom might also be a good idea, since the enemy might be thinking to put extra pressure there. Perhaps going for the storm relic and trading some momentum for extra power in the next fight is the best option. There are lots of choices to make, and the interplay between your choices and the enemy’s is what makes the game exciting. The difference is that these choices happen all the time. In SR, there’s a lot of defensive posturing while people wait for ultimate cooldowns or for objectives to spawn. In Dominion, someone is always trying to make a play.
Information is king in any game that offers incomplete information, but in Dominion there are fewer “easy” ways to deal with it. There are no wards, so there’s no replacement for having eyes in the jungle. Knowing what the enemy wants to do and controlling it is the key to winning, and controlling what information your enemy has plays a big part. The scouting and control game in Dominion is a lot of what makes the gametype so compelling, since you can’t see everywhere important without spreading your team thin.
All of the decisions in Dominion need to be made in the moment; sometimes you’ll make the decision to gank bottom, and the enemy botlane will turtle at his turret while his four buddies backdoor your mid or force top. Sometimes the gank will pan out and your team will hold out long enough for you to return, too. It’s a game mode for which there’s no one strategy and no one dominating metagame. While the current metagame is kind of skewed by the S3 item imbalances (which will be smoothed out thanks to lots of dev feedback), the underlying framework for the mode remains solid. It’s fast, it’s fun, and it’s the main reason I play League. Go play Dominion!