How do you win a game of League of Legends? Destroy the nexus, of course.
Okay, but how are you going to destroy the nexus?
Having an answer to this is the first step in playing the game effectively. League is a strategy game after all, so it’s important to actually be thinking in game instead of just playing it. The good part of this is that identifying your win condition is largely done before the game even starts. Once you’ve done that, the in-game part is simply working toward that. This depends largely on the champions you and your team have selected. And even though planning for a specific win condition is mostly done by professional or full 5-man teams that know each other, every team inherently has some sort of general condition built-in, whether the players realize it and work toward it or not. Being able to recognize these characteristics will help you know what to do in-game.
Types of Win Conditions
There are many kinds of win conditions, but they can be broadly divided by their overarching goals. Here are some examples:
Spread the map out by splitpushing objectives
These team compositions like to break the map up with powerful objective-takers who force the enemy team to make tough decisions about where on the map they should be. Effective splitpushing teams will possess one or two of these objective-takers, like Jax, Fiora, or Tryndamere to make valuable trades when their team is focused, or draw attention away from their team, often creating a lose-lose situation for the enemy. However, the splitpusher needs to be a threat for this to work.
Reach joint powerspikes and force teamfights
Certain teams have a lot of teamfighting ability, which means their champions have high, specific strengths, and weaknesses that are covered by their teammates. These strengths include reliable crowd control, burst AoE damage, or high damage per second (found in champions like Maokai, Orianna, and Twitch). For this to be effective, the team needs to hit powerspikes at nearly the same point in the game, usually at later points. This requires effective farming usually, as well as superior positioning in teamfights.
Manipulate objectives via zoning and sieging
Some teams are great when grouped together, but aren’t necessarily good at spitting out damage. So they use zoning or sieging abilities and good timing to control objectives and neutral resources as a means to the nexus, rather than excessive fighting. Great champions for this often outrange their opponents, like Caitlyn or Tristana, force enemies away from themselves and their objective, like Anivia, or protect many teammates at once, like Taric. This style probably requires the most coordination, but can be effective in solo queue, as finding fights tends to be instinctive at lower levels.
Securing widespread vision and creating picks or skirmishes
Some teams don’t excel in fighting 5v5, but have tools to hunt down enemies who are out of position, creating a temporary number advantage for an ensuing objective or teamfight. These champions tend to have abilities that create vision or long range engage, like Ashe, separate one champion from the rest of their team, like Blitzcrank or Taliyah, and ways to damage a separated champion quickly, like Nocturne. These can be used to pick off one champion at a time, or divide into smaller 2v2 or 3v3 skirmishes that are winnable. This style is highly dependent on consistent, widespread vision, and burst damage.
Using the recent Misfits vs TSM game in the Worlds group stage as an example, you can see how these comps are formed. Misfits crafted a style that was heavily favored in teamfight, with lots of crowd control and AoE damage, while TSM built a team focused more on the first goal of separating pressure across the map with the Jayce pick.
Steps to Reach Your Win Condition
Based on composition, you can figure out your primary goal by the end of champion select. But this doesn’t mean anything unless actions are taken in-game to reach these goals. The decisions you make while playing — whether you take a fight or not, where you put yourself on the map, what items you buy, etc. — all should work toward your win condition, or toward stopping the enemy’s.
If you are trying to split the map, you might:
Get the primary splitpusher to their powerspike as quickly as possible
Proactively take Rift Herald and Mountain Drake
Only push as far as the rest of the team (vice versa if you are not the splitpusher)
Ward between the splitpusher and the rest of the team
If you are trying to teamfight late, you might:
Itemize to start and win teamfights (items like Righteous Glory, Locket, & Redemption)
Prioritize Fire Drake
Avoid fighting without the team — farm if you can’t group yet
If you are trying to siege/zone off objectives, you might:
Seek out Ocean Drakes
Itemize to maximize uptime on zoning abilities
Invest in sustain to wear out enemy abilities and resources
Make use of Baron
If you are trying to get picks/small skirmishes, you might:
Invest in extra vision
Keep tabs on enemy damage threats, even when not seen
Time and play around enemy help (globals, semi-globals)
Contest Cloud Drakes
Going back to our example game, it can be easy to look at TSM and talk about steps they didn’t take. It’s easy to say that there weren’t enough ganks top lane to get the Jayce ahead, or that the Kog’Maw/Karma lane didn’t abuse its range advantage before level 3 enough. Perhaps you even can say they didn’t seek out enough chances to use Ryze’s Realm Warp to draw pressure away from the Jayce.
But it’s also important to note what Misfits did do. While clearing red buff for the first time, Misfits see Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen stealing their blue buff. In this moment, Nubar “Maxlore” Safarian has a decision to make about where to go. Many junglers would simply invade the enemy blue buff right back, trading quadrants. But Maxlore knows that his team needs to be able to group up later, and this goal is compromised if Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell can get ahead on the Jayce and split his team up. So he chooses to fall behind on his own farm to path top lane and get an early gank off, blowing Hauntzer’s flash and teleport. He continues to play always keeping Barney “Alphari” Morris in mind.
Turrets go down and lane’s switch up a bit. An average top laner might ease up on Jayce and look elsewhere for plays since he’s already behind. But Misfits isn’t making any huge moves just yet. Until his team is strong enough to group up and fight, Alphari seeks to put Jayce on an island and makes sure he can’t split them up when he needs to. By following Hauntzer throughout the mid game, Alphari’s able to pick up two kills and build an Adaptive Helm and most of a Gargoyle’s Stoneplate, while Hauntzer only finishes his Blade of the Ruined King.
Finally, once Xayah has her second core item, everyone has hit a crucial power spike. The very next play Misfits seeks to make is to bait out a fight near Baron. After picking up a kill and the Baron, the pushing power is more than enough for them to group up and eventually take the game.
What You Can Do
This match shows just how important it is to consider how to achieve your win condition, how to stop the enemy’s condition, and which is more important at a given time. Pings and chat are important for coordinating your team to do either of these. But even on an individual level, you can make decisions about positioning, itemization, and aggression to help your team out, as illustrated by the examples from this game.
And finally, head here to catch the Quarterfinals as action resumes this Thursday at 1 am PST, or in the rebroadcast at noon PST!
Photos and videos provided by Riot Games.
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