Tuesday, February 11, 2014

League of Legends: Lane Freezing Revisited

A couple years ago I posted about the concept of freezing a lane in League of Legends. Adding that tool to my repertoire went a long way, I think, to my getting better at the game. Not just the ability to do it with Yorick but working out the how and the why and then practicing enough to be able to implement it as almost second nature with a variety of champions. But lately I've been watching the pro streams and often if someone gets into a frozen lane situation the commentators will talk about how bad it is. What's up with that?

Well, you need to look at what happens when a lane is properly frozen the way I described in the old post. Your opponent is completely locked out of an ability to participate in the lane and you're completely locked out of the the ability to do anything else. You also need to consider that freezing a lane up beside your turret requires killing fewer minions in the very short term. This means that unless the enemy has already been run off they will by necessity have earned more experience and could well have gained an extra level compared to you.

Two years ago, when I was playing in bronze and silver, none of those things mattered. Keeping my opponent from coming to my lane pretty much meant they didn't get to play at all. The jungle back then was much stronger so they probably couldn't have made a good return on time in there and even if they could it would probably just make their jungler angry. Being locked into this location was actually fantastic because it was guaranteed experience and gold and wandering around would probably just be a waste of my time just like it would be for my lane opponent. And no one was really good enough to plan out when they'd be leveling in order to actually take advantage of getting a level seconds before the other person.

In the pro scene? All of those things matter a lot. Scaring your opponent out of lane is just going to have him go somewhere else and do something relevant. Invade the enemy jungle with their jungler, or gank another lane, or push a turret, or kill dragon. Confusing people and making them waste time works against worse players but a pro isn't going to get thrown for a loop. Especially a pro on a premade team! Sticking yourself in one known spot is just going to let the other team make movements to punish it. By taking dragon or pushing a lane. By invading your nearby jungle. Or quite possibly just by tower diving you and killing you. And that minor level advantage? They'll just happen to have their jungler nearby to immediately punish you.

It's funny... Really bad players blindly push their lane by autoattacking. The first evolution to getting better is to stop pushing and focus on last hitting and farming. But then getting better again from there involves shifting back into a heavy pushing style. Of course you need to be able to push while still personally killing all the minions and while tracking likely jungler locations to make sure it's safe to do... Intelligent aggression is the name of the game, I guess!

I am not at the point where I can deal with these things myself. It's become pretty apparently recently as I've been playing a bunch of 3v3 matches with Robb and Lino. Some games I push my lane forward and then am stuck with the same problems I was forcing on other people. If I run up near the minions frozen at their turret I am vulnerable to getting ganked and killed. If I don't then I have nothing to do and get yelled at if I try to jungle. Other games I let the lane push up to me and then can get presented with the choice of giving up on experience by leaving the lane or letting my lane opponent wreck havoc on the other lane or our jungler or on the enemy altar.

It feels weird to get punished both ways, but the games where either happens tend to be the games against significantly better players. There's a website where you can look up the ranked tier of the people in your live game and the bad situations come up when we're playing people way better than we are. It's more than a little stupid that the matchmaker puts us against a team of 3 people who were diamond last season when we were gold, gold, platinum.

That said, there's got to be something I could be doing better. Maybe I need to play a really slippery champion so I can fight up near their turret when pushed up and expect to just run away if they react? Or someone who can wave clear really fast at low levels so I can reasonably expect to clear a big wave at my turret and still help contest an altar? Or just someone really good at low levels so I can push the lane and invade their jungler safely? Maybe I should just throw Robb under the bus and try to freeze the lane and let the enemy invade our jungle entirely? I don't know, but maybe thinking about it will lead to a solution!

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