What is Skill?

whatisskill

Introduction

Hello and welcome ! It’s been a long time since I have last written anything. I have been trying for a few weeks now to make a series of guides which would explain League of Legends from A to Z. I haven’t yet been able to finish my project since there is too much to talk about, and I have trouble staying on the right track. On my journey to create the ultimate guide, I have made a very precise analysis (among others) about what exactly represents Skill in League of Legends.

After this analysis I have realised that many people « stuck in ELO hell » only are because they don’t have the right idea of what skill represents, and then cannot progress. If you don’t know what to improve, or even what makes you a good player, how can you get better ? This is why I have written this guide. I hope it will help you understand what you can improve to become a better player.

Note 1 : There is a lot of text in this guide. But taking the time to read it entirely is worth it if you really want to improve at League of Legends. Note 2 : This guide is directed to players who already know the common terms used in League of Legends. In case you don’t know some of the terms, I have included a glossary at the end of the guide.

Part One : Skill

So what exactly is skill ? It’s a players talent in a video game. So « Skill » are all the factors that make YOU a good player. In League of Legends, all these factors can be put in two categories : Micro skill and Macro skill. Micro skill is execution and Macro skill is decision making. So Macro skill enables you to decide to do something, and Micro skill allows you to realise it correctly. Here’s a few examples in LoL :

Micro skill = orb walking, kiting, last hitting, skill shots, combo (such as an Insec)

Macro skill = Knowing when to run away, when to trade, when to recall and where to go afterwards, which runes to choose, which champion to pick, which teamfights to engage.

A mistake many players make is to think the most important skill for LoL is Micro skill. This is wrong and quite the opposite, skill in LoL is 80% Macro skill and 20% Micro skill. League is not a fighting game, it is a strategy game. Why ? For various reasons :

  • No matter how good your Micro skill is, you will only rarely beat someone who has more gold (and items) than you, unlike Counter Strike or Starcraft 2. You could think that « having better micro skill than your enemy will give more gold because you kill him more often in the early game », but you are wrong since LoL is not a 1v1.
  • The level of reflexes and coordination demanded by LoL is really low. Consequently, most players have good micro skill, even among Bronze players. The APM (action per minute) required in LoL is far from what is demanded in Starcraft 2 or DotA. If you do not know these games, take a look at this video.
  • Before champions get most of their items, fights are relatively slow in LoL (compared to Counter Strike where fights only last about 1 second). The difference of micro skill between two players is a less important factor than the decisions taken during the fight since the bad player will have time to run away during the fight in case of bad micro skill.
  • In League of Legends, Macro is the most important skill. And that is a good thing, because we are going to talk about how to make it better in part 2.

Part Two : Improving your Macro

Your Macro skill gets better in every game you play. Every information you memorise are used subconsciously by your brain to evaluate future situations when this information becomes relevant. The simplest example I could give you would be memorisation of cooldowns of enemy spells. Once your brain has registered the information, it will provide it to you when you ask yourself « has this champion used his spell yet ?’ » This is the passive way to improve one’s Macro skill. It is a process you are unaware of because you learn about the game by playing the game. To work on one’s Macro skill is much more difficult and I hope I will be able to give you a few tips.

Question your decisions

This implies asking yourself « what could I have done better » at every action you make (even those you think you have done well) You failed a play for whatever reason ? Maybe you could have not tried a play and gone for a less risky option. You’re getting camped and die regularly while having your lane warded (to four man ganks for example.)<f

Maybe you could have played under tower or even left the tower, even though they take it. It is annoying but that’s how it is. Whatever the reason of your death, ask yourself what you could have done to avoid it.

Estimate the risk/reward of an action

When you decide to do something, think about the risk you’re taking, compared to the reward you will reap if your play is successful. This will allow you to answer to most of the questions I have been asked in my AMA : « when to move to another lane », « when to drake » or even « when to push». The real answer is when the risk of the action is smaller than the profit earned. Estimating the risk/reward is actually simple, you have to consider:

  • Gold won or lost (kills, turrets, objectives, minion waves)
  • Strength of the champions involved (items, HP, ultimate, mana, summoners spells, etc.)
  • Ability to disengage in case of failure / something unexpected
  • Time taken to move to your target (will you get there in time?)

If you gain more or less the same amount of gold, you have evaluated your opponents strength is equal or lower to yours , you know you can disengage easily and will reach your target in time, the move is worth it.

Choosing when to trade

Too many players trade when they don’t need to, or worst, when they cannot win the trade. If you chose to trade, ask yourself first if there isn’t a better option (pushing the lane completely, making your opponent lose CS by zoning, making them believe you left the lane, going to ward, destroy a turret). Know how to estimate a trade, which spells are available for the two (or four) champions, their items, their respective positioning or even which summoners are available.

Using the information in the game

The « tab » board provides you information on items, summoner spells, levels and farm of every champion . Use these informations to your advantage :

  • Timers to secure buffs and potentially steal theirs
  • Items to know which opponent is fed and help build your champion accordingly
  • Farm/Score to evaluate the players in both teams, and thus help allies who need help/focus the stronger opponents

Using this information seems basic but the general idea is to always evaluate situations as well as possible thanks to the information provided by the game.

Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses

Everytime you decide to fight your opponents, you consider that the fight can be won by your side (or you have no other choice but to fight because you are going to die in any case) Evaluating strength can be done in lane, when ganking, and in teamfights later in the game. Your estimations change according the the health, ultimates, or even summoner spells of the different players. You have to be able to evaluate as precisely as possible and be able to say « here we can beat them easily », « we could win but it will be tough », « we cannot fight them at all ». You need to have this kind of analysis at all times.

It will become instinct as you acquire experience.

Know when to recall

Recalling provides 3 things : to gain back hp/mana, to buy items and to relocate yourself on the map. You need to know when is the right time to use it, so you can optimize your position on the map and the gold you have accumulated. During laning phase, you have to recall when you know you cannot stay in lane any longer (you will die in the next 8 secondes or you cannot enter the enemy champion’s control zone) Whenever something happens (a kill, gank, the ennemy goes back to base) you would usually : push the minions to the enemy turret then recall (or recall immediately if you think you might die). No matter the amount of gold you carry, you have to recall (if you’re lacking 100-150g for an item, you can afford to stay if you think you can take 1 more wave or neutral monsters.) Why is this ? Because if the enemy laner( /s) come back and you haven’t based yet, you won’t be full HP/mana, you will not have bought any items (your opponent will be stronger), you probably are out of wards and the lane is probably pushed. Simply put, against an opponent who knows how to evaluate a situation correctly, he will know that he has the advantage over you and will act upon it. In Mid/Late game, you need to go back to base if you need to buy an item or if your team is regrouping to take an objective in the next 30 seconds and you aren’t full HP/Mana.  You need to be available   at your best (full HP/Mana) and with as little gold as possible (more items) for your team’s next objective.

Analyse teamfights

A lot of players undergo the « downshifting » effect when they enter a teamfight. It’s the « I only see my champion and my target » effect. You need to avoid this « Downshifting »(or « Berzerker ») state to be able to concentrate on the teamfight’s progress (without losing efficiency in controlling your champion.) Always know which ultimates have been used, which champions/threats are alive, If you manage to correctly analyse a teamfight in the middle of it happening you will be able to take the best decisions possible to win it (helping your teammates instead of chasing or killing a target that has no spells left for example.)

Handling minion waves

On your lane, but also globally. When your team decide to regroup, you need to make sure all your lanes are pushing. Otherwise you risk leaving 20 ennemy creeps kill a turret. Before going for an objective, your lanes have to be pushed (if the ennemi isn’t currently contesting it of course.)

Dynamic warding

Adapt your warding :

  • To the enemy jungler (his ganking positions)
  • To your team’s situation,  defensive wards in the jungle if you’re losing, offensive wards in the enemy jungle if you’re winning.
  • To the fallen turrets, ward further if you break ennemy turrets and closer if your turrets are down
  • To the game time (buff respawns, objectives)
  • To your own feeling of the enemy team (« I think they’re coming bot »)

Your warding has to be consistently adapted to the current situation of the game.

Learn to read the opponent’s behavior

Firstly, during laning phase. Most of the players act according to a routine (their spell rotation, position of the creep wave, ennemy harassement). Learn their routine and isolate the moments when the player abandons his routine. This gives you information on the next move : sudden aggresion = possibly a gank, different positioning than usual = a bait. But also learn to read their behavior in teamfights (and before teamfights.) Players all have different goals according to their roles. If you know their roles and their goals, you can anticipate the actions of your opponents (Leona is ready to engage, Yasuo repositioning before launching a Tornado at the right angle, Nidalee getting closer to heal you etc…)

Optimize your income

Do not stand around doing nothing when you don’t have enough gold to buy an item. There is always something you can do : minions, jungle creeps, objectives (which means gathering and shifting.)

Optimize your travel

Everytime you move go to somewhere, you must have a valid reason. Why do you go back to the botlane as ADC after having based ? Because there are minions on the lane and that it’s your job to farm them. This is the first step in optimizing your travels. The second step is to anticipate where your team is going to need you and to be there at the right time. The simplest example would be : the botlane gets engaged, they are low HP. The toplaner teleports in and the jungler arrives, resulting in the ennemy botlane dying. The jungler and the toplaner are full HP, the botlaners low HP. The botlane now has to back but where does it go? If the jungler and the toplaner are still pushing botlane, the better thing to do would be to go defend toplane! The idea behind optimizing every move is to have a flexible team which is able to protect all the turrets at the right time, take the farm when needed and cleans the jungle/buffs efficiently. To be able to do that, you shouldn’t be « my lane only » kind of person, and consistenly going back on your lane everytime. You have to be where you are needed. This is « map rotation ».

Using your zone of control

Your zone of control is used passively when you want to use your spells. You move closer to your target and your zone of control follows your champion. But you can also use it actively when you do not want to or cannot use any spells (so even while being out of range or OOM). When you are full HP :

  • Threaten an enemy : try to get close to him so he enters your zone of control, this can influence the way he is going to act (stop chasing, backing off) and potentially save an ally even if you don’t have any spells to use.
  • Make an enemy move forward : let the opponent exit your zone of control by moving away from him, and he might move towards you.

These are example of « baiting ». The idea is not to commit (put yourself in a dangerous situation), but simply to obtain a reaction from your enemy.  In some situations it is impossible to do it without giving a kill, and it is up to the player to evaluate the situation correctly so that it doesn’t happen.

Know which parts of the map are dangerous

How many times have you seen an ally walk into the unwarded enemy jungle and die a few seconds later? You have to be able to evaluate the danger of a specific zone according to the enemy/allied champions which are visible or not (and their strengths and weaknesses). For example : invading the enemy blue (while being on blue side) when the botlane has recalled is a very risky move, the zone is dangerous ; your botlane isn’t present, the enemy botlane is on their way back and the two midlaners are zoning each other out on the midlane. It would definitely become a 1v2 against the botlane or even a 1v3 because the enemy jungler will come as well.

Anticipation before Reaction

When you play League of legends, you act according to a process which can be shortened to : Reflexion → Decision → Action The time you have to think about your decision can be prolonged until the opponent takes his decision and acts upon it (he takes the initiative). In LoL you should always be the one taking the initiative because you have to enforce your own thinking to your opponent. He will have little time to find the best action possible to counter yours (unless he’s anticipating you, thus he baits you : he knows you want to kill him and lets you come at him) This is why that when the gold shared by both teams is equal, the team that engages is the team that will win the teamfight. Taking the initiative enables you to be more prepared than your oponent.

Part three : Adapting your Macro

There are three reasons causing a player to be unable to move up in his division in League of Legends :

  • His Micro skill is lower than his league
  • His Macro skill isn’t enough to lead his team
  • He cannot adapt his Macro skill to the « ELO Hell »

The two reasons involving « Macro skill » correspond to the players who consider themselves « stuck in ELO Hell ». After having analysed themselves, they consider themselves strong (and are often right), but they have strong MICRO skill but no MACRO skill (or they cannot adapt their MACRO skill). If you think you are stuck because of the first reason, then please refer to the videos concerning Micro skill on Youtube. For the second reason, go read the second part of my guide. For the third reason, here is where we are going to talk about it. A fact that every guide writer knows for sure, is that you have to carry your team in the ELO Hell if you wish to move upwards. To carry a team, nothing is better than a leader who takes the right decisions thanks to good Macro skill.

But even in ELO Hell, you have to adapt your Macro skill to take in account how noob your mates are. Technically, a move which would seem decent in a normal game becomes risky in ELO Hell. The best way to start adapting your Macro is to stop telling yourself « the reason my move failed is because of my teammates » (even if that is the case).

It’s normal and easy to put the blame on your teammates, because it is often their mistakes which makes the team lose. But thinking like that means that you will never progress. Because you cannot improve your teammates skills. So how can you move up in League if you cannot control what makes you move upwards ? You have to lead  and nudge your team in the right direction (instead of waiting for them to get better). So now, instead of blaming a failed move, try and think of how you could have prevented it. A move can be good or bad depending on a lot of reasons : fails on a micro level, fail on a macro level in the estimation of the strenght of the two teams when engaging, or a player outplaying with his microskills.

Transforming a failed play into a good play is often just waiting for a better time to make the play. Trying to engage 5v5 when you have the gold advantage seems like a good idea. But in ELO Hell it is dangerous : there’s a chance that one of your teammates fails and makes you lose a teamfight which should have been won. And in this case there is no sense in blaming the person who failed, it will not help you win the next similar situation you find yourself in. You already know your teammates aren’t good players. So instead of blaming them in the chat « OMG YOU’RE SO NOOB ! », tell yourself that it is your fault ! You should have anticipated your teammates mistake and pinged back (for example) to stop the engage.

This is the only way to get better since you cannot make your teammates improve (as opposed to a premade team where you can debrief all the micro/macro skill mistakes, and improve together). To get out of « ELO Hell », you have to account for the lack of skill of your allies when you make a call as a leader, this is how you « adapt your macro ». Here’s a concrete example. I have pretty bad micro skill in general, but my macro skill has enabled me to reach Diamond V two seasons in a row relatively easily. I keep moving upwards because I’m a good mediator and shot caller, two skills which have enabled me to move up in league without many issues. If you look at my stats now, they are horrible. Why ? Because I have played a lot in Diamond this season, and my macro skill is average compared to the other players, but my micro skills are below. I have reached a level where my macro skill isn’t enough to carry me.

Another example, you have probably already seen streamers attempt smurfing and rise through « ELO Hell ». They don’t seem to have trouble, but don’t make that many plays. When you watch them play, there is nothing extraordinary, apart from fed champions killing unfed champions. The one skill that allows them to move up so easily is their Macro skill management. They optimize every ressource present on the map, become fed and run over their opponents. Their positive score then makes them a potential leader in their team because their teammates consider them as a « good player ». Then all they have to do is call out the objectives they think are not risky and worth  taking, and the team snowballs from there.

Fun fact : I talked about adapting your macro skill to take in account the lack of skill of your teammates, imagine SKT T1’s opponents. They have to adapt their macro skill to take in account the fact that Faker might outplay them all (and turn around a situation that might have seen won in the first place).

Glossary

Strength balance

The relative strength of the champions potentially present (number of champions, their items, how fed they are, etc…)

Macro

Decision making before and during the game. It is the ablility of deciding the most gold efficient action for the team or yourself.

Map Rotation

To travel on the map efficiently in order to push the enemy creeps and protect your turrets.

Micro

How you carry into effect your decisions during the game, which means your ability to control your champion, your reflexes and your ability to use your mouse and keyboard.

Trade

When you exchange hits with your opponent in lane. The idea behind a trade is to be able to inflict more damage to your enemy and/or to regenerate more health than them.

Zone of control

The zone around you which represents the range of your dangerous spells.

When you move, your zone of control moves with you.

 

Written by La Yunade

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1 Response

  1. Jamie says:

    really great red man, you clearly know your league :-)

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