Introduction/Elo Hell Is Relative
Anyone's Elo Hell is really just their low point. My current elo is 1300. If you are beyond this, this guide will probably not help you. My low point is about 480. I'm sure there are lots of reasons for how I found myself in such bad shape, and I've started to figure out some of them. So I'd like to share a few of the things I've learned, and hopefully get some information from others about things I have not discovered yet. I also hope that this guide will be enough to get you back to even. It's been a long road, taking over 600 games, but I did manage to begin winning consistently while fighting alongside some of the game's worst. So, here we go...
Intent/My Midge Resumé
My current record is 335/291. This is possible because I flushed my elo down the toilet as soon as I became level thirty. I did it in the surest way to get the job done, dodging a plethora of games. I began ranked games immediately and without runes, spending all of my IP till that point on champions. In many games dodging was discussed in the pregame chat with no mention of the elo penalty, unfortunately I was sufficiently convinced that the time penalty was the only ramification. Therefore, I chunked off a few hundred at least. It's a strong record but I definitely don't deserve to be where most people with that ratio are. My opponents have been predominantly bad, so this ratio has no bearing on where I may have been had I not blown my elo. I probably would have still lost enough to get myself stuck there the old fashioned way, but who knows. As it stands, I'm sure I have rarely played against strong players.
But, everyone will agree that it's not playing against bad players that's the problem, it's playing with them. It's Hell because it feels like there's no control, that your win rate sits entirely in the hands of the random team selection. That no matter how good you may be, you can't beat a feeder on your own team. There are always random factors that will attribute to the outcome, game theory calls it variance. The traditional way to overcome variance is by playing a lot, a whole lot. Over a long enough timeline, the minor peaks and valleys of variance will be minuscule against the backdrop of a much larger, overall trend. I can confidently tell you that so far I have beaten the variance of being teamed with weak players, but only with research or the help of friends who are better and more experienced. So from all of that I feel I have a few nuggets of wisdom that I would like to dispense here, as I am usually too verbose to be useful in the middle of a game.
Fundamentals/No Exceptions/Mostly Obvious
Straightforward stuff for ranked games:
- Play only champs that you are highly experienced with.
- Do not play ranked games without runes.
- Learn to play support.
- Don't neglect farm and roam too much; being too under-leveled will get you killed amazingly fast, but...
- Do not farm when you should be protecting a teammate or an objective.
Don't avoid playing any of the champions in normal games.
- Knowing an opponent's kit, whether in lane or jungle, is as valuable as knowing your own.
- Learn cooldown timings to help you decide when to be aggressive.
- Learn the clear speeds and paths of opposing junglers.
- Learn standard item paths for champions so that you can better predict when they will be weak defensively or offensively.
Learn to build your champ beyond first-level thinking, never build for just yourself.
- Base your item selection off of the types of damage you will be facing: if the enemy team is completely physical damage champions then you will never buy magic resistance.
- Consider your teammates' innate characteristics: if you have a lot of mages and ranged carries you will need to be much more tanky.
- Consider your teammates' item progression: if teammates are building more tanky, it allows you buy a bit more damage.
- Consider the general abilities of each team: don't stack health if the opposing team has a champion that does damage based on your maximum health, or build crowd control reduction if the opponents have none, or buy items with largely irrelevant auras(such as Soul Shroud when only two people on your team use mana.)
Pick a solid team.
- Balance physical and magical damage, or teams will stack armor or magic resistance.
- Balance durability with damage output; too much of one and you will either get nuked instantly or sputter around harmlessly.
- Have a support; you do not need a support at <1200 elo to win, maybe even higher. Having said that, if you have a support and the other team doesn't, you will have a much stronger bottom lane and overall teamfight potential. Supports are only certain champions for a reason, it's because these champions have abilities that require little or no gold to be effective. When two champions that require gold are playing in the same lane, they will both only be half a champion for that game. They could, of course, use their kill potential to begin dominating their lane; but that will be almost entirely attributable to skill disparity, not champ selection. In an even game, the team with the support will have a tremendous advantage.
- Have a way to protect your carries; have a decent amount of crowd control and favor keeping your squishes alive over chasing kills, unless you are sure to ace. Give high-health teammates a chance to push in for those stragglers.
- Have a way to initiate; not every champ has the ability to do this, but whoever it is needs to realize that it is their job and communicate their intentions to engage with pings and/or chat.
Control the map.
- Don't overextend without enough ward coverage; make sure that you have time to get to safety by the time you see an enemy coming in for a gank. Don't wait till the last second, if you don't have any health or mana left then your jungler cannot come in and respond with a gank of his own.
- Watch your lanes/jungler; choose a jungle path towards the lanes that seem to be getting pushed the most. Conversely, try to have high health and mana if you want a gank and see your jungler is heading towards your area of the map. Also, ping way before going back if you need a turret held. The more time you give junglers to plan their rotation, the stronger they will be.
- Be able to push and pull your lane; be able to last-hit-only so that enemy creeps can advance, or quickly clear so that your creeps die to the enemy tower along with their gold and experience.
- Be able to farm underneath your tower, even at level one. Level one tower farm guide for most champs: Full health melee minions; let them take two tower shots, and they should have just enough life for you to kill them with one attack. Full health caster minions; shoot them once as they approach, let them take one tower shot, then shoot them again for the kill.
- Punish opponents who put themselves out of position; if a ward spots an enemy too far out from safety, consider attempting to catch them in a 2v1 or better situation with a teammate.
- Red and blue jungle buffs respawn every 5 minutes, Dragon 6, and Baron 7. The first buff a jungler takes will usually respawn around 7 minutes or just shortly after; at this time consider pressuring the enemy jungle, or trying to catch them if they attempt to steal yours.
- Buy pink wards/oracles. I recommend pink wards so you don't have to worry about dying, but if you aren't then grab oracles. If your jungler can't make an effective gank due to enemy wards, they must be worked around somehow. The easiest way is to place a pink ward near an enemy ward so that you can eliminate it. This can get expensive, so try to capitalize as much as you can by letting teammates know ahead of time that a certain enemy lane is about to become vulnerable. You may even get a free kill by catching them when they are trying to place another ward.
- Gank when it's obviously safe. If the enemy has clearly just gone back or are weak, do not just farm. Force your creeps onto the enemy tower costing them that farm, then maybe make a quick play around the map. If you force an enemy to burn an ultimate or summoner spell when your team doesn't have to, it's a successful gank.
Creating Opportunities/Making Plays
This is a game of missed opportunities, and small advantages that grow into huge ones. Most opportunities will come from you knowing something your opponents don't, other times it's things that are handed to you by an opponent's mistake. As for the latter, hope for the best but don't be disappointed. If you see the other guys get freebies but not you, don't try too hard to focus the bad player if there are better targets around. Not only are they worth little gold, but teamfights depend on the strongest damage threats being neutralized first.
This is a rock-paper-scissors type game, everything has its counter. Every champion, item, and strategy will have its counter. Here are some common occurrences that have or can be used to develop play-making potential:
Opportunities from enemy behavior:
The enemy jungler is putting a lot of pressure on your team.
- He will be weaker. He may get kills or assists that even out the gold missed, but he will still be behind on experience.
- If you survive getting ganked with enough health and mana, don't just automatically return to farming, consider shoving the lane then heading off to counterjungle. The enemy jungler should either be at base or weak enough to require burning a summoner ability.
- Often they will grab a quick camp before going back to base, just to expend their last bit of health and mana. Consider warding wolves or wraiths in an attempt to catch them when they are virtually defenseless. Try not to go alone, as it is usually easy for the enemy mid lane to respond. Consider beforehand pressuring mid into backing or ganking them.
- Setting up a ward farther back into the jungler's path can not only give you earlier knowledge, but also possibly conceal the location of your ward. If the enemy jungler does not know you see him, you can attempt a countergank with your mid and jungler to make a situation where your team has the extra man.
- Many junglers are poor at clearing camps and depend almost entirely on ganks, if this is your enemy you should expect heavy aggression. You can put these champs very far behind if you play conservative and force them to either farm or make super-aggressive plays. Either one usually spells disaster for them.
One of your lanes is getting pinned down and abused.
Hope is lost for most Elo Hell residents when this happens. Beating a fed player often requires teamwork, something not entirely abundant down here. But really you don't have to organize a strategy of any kind if you start working at it early. Here are some things that have been effective:
- Start ganking with an extra guy(other than the jungler) as soon as possible. Get someone from another lane to come help. This will mean your gankers' resources are far less expended than the gankee's, which gives residual lane dominance to your teammate even if you can't quite get the kill.
- Don't stop. You cannot let up because if the opposing lane was crushing beforehand, they will begin to farm again and/or make plays on other parts of the map.
- Throw the kitchen sink. If it will secure the kill fast enough to get you home safely, burn as many ultimates and summoners as you need to. Once your team begins killing an opponent regularly, it naturally becomes easier each time.
- Switch lanes. No shame in it, especially if your weak lane moves to face an enemy that they have a high advantage over.
The enemy team is taking the Dragon or Baron.
- The Dragon will earn your team 1k, and Baron earns 1.5k. If your team steals Dragon or Baron at the cost of only one death, it is typically "worth it." It is not worth it when the enemy team is far enough ahead such that the 4v5 situation will jeopardize a vital asset like a Tier 3 Turret or an inhibitor.
- If the game is close, you should attempt to fight if you feel you can burst down an enemy fast enough to create a strong 4v5. As opposed to a weak 4v5, where your team will be too injured to be at an advantage in the ensuing fight.
- Fights at Dragon generally favor the team that does not have the player being attacked by it, because of its extra damage(this can become irrelevant later.) This is unlike Baron who will attack anyone close, but generally the team that was working on it will be more worn down(just remember not to get near it while the fight is happening.)
- Baron and Dragon can often be "baited" by clearing wards around an objective then hiding in a bush along the path leading to it. If someone can get there and place a ward over a wall or something and see it's not being taken then the jig is up, so the ambush needs to take place along the enemies' path leading to it. If the baited gank is successful, the team will often transition directly into taking the objective. Be wary of this tactic if you see the opposing team clearing wards around an objective before starting it, make sure you group up before heading through the bushes to investigate.
Opportunities from teammate behavior:
One of your lanes is dominating.
- This lane will begin to demand the presence of the enemy jungler, and perhaps even other lanes. But since they are so strong, you're just looking for a even fight. Drop a ward where the enemy will gank from, and go straight onto them as soon as the numbers are equal. Your strong lane should be far more effective than its crushed opponent.
- Put pressure on the jungle anywhere on the map that you can safely, especially if the enemy jungler has just been spotted far away. If you are on the opposite side of the map relevant to the dominating lane, you will tend to be safer as the enemy jungler will typically be preoccupied with helping his weaker teammates. To be even safer, drop a ward or two for advanced warning or to secure your escape. Or if you are near the dominating lane, help them shove or counterjungle close enough to where you can get some help from them if you need it.
- Gank any other lane. The enemy jungle being a bit safer, it's easier to take "the back way" through it and avoid river wards. Typically some of this good-old-fashioned chaos creates more small fights, and small fights tend to favor the players that are ahead. This is because the enemy doesn't have the ability to stack multiple effects upon the largest threat. Also, more rotations of cooldowns are gone through in these small skirmishes, instead of the unload-and-depart tendency of full teamfights.
Your team just won a teamfight or took Baron with little-to-no deaths.
Inhibitor > Baron > Tier 3 Turret > Dragon > Everything Else
- Get the highest thing you can on this list first, then do your best to grab the rest. Also baron taking precedence over a tier 3 turret is debatable, as getting one does not guarantee the other. This is unlike getting an inhibitor which typically earns you all available objectives and total map control for a decent amount of time. When choosing between Baron or the Tier 3, I'd probably have to say in general you should go with whatever is closest.
- Taking nexus turrets versus tier 3 turrets and inhibitors will be entirely dependent upon the situation, but the safe play is to eliminate all inhibitors before moving in. Super minions pushing down all three lanes is great for a team, it allows them to farm basically the entire map and get more ahead or catch up if they were behind. It's much easier to teamfight or make a super-aggressive play for the nexus when you know that even if you get aced the enemy will still be stuck in their base killing creeps. Having said that, sitting in the base farming creeps can bring in a ton of gold for a team, so you should not be content to loiter around the map and let them have free money. Optimally you want your team to be healed up and push into their base as soon as waves of super minions are starting to do the same.
Weakest-Link Group Dynamic/Divide And Conquer
Hell is a pretty fitting term down here, because most people seem to be angry. Even if not already upset, typically one bad teammate or comment send far too many people over the edge. Also, people that spend a lot of time angrily typing undermine their progression by missing farm, experience, and play opportunities. Teams that spend a lot of time being angry at you, teammates, or themselves are the easiest to beat. Having said that, I don't prefer to trash talk. Michael Jordan did it and he really got inside peoples' heads and messed their game up, but it's just not for me. I don't like to disrespect people, because I feel like no one is going to learn anything that way. They may get it, but the information is not as accessible when you're berating someone with it. It just seems easier to me to show people things that work, the things that don't work are usually pretty obvious and they don't really need to be told too often.
Pick the low-hanging fruit, use the nourishment to chop down the tree.
This eastern-sounding line should be easy to remember, and hopefully so because it's a classic concept. This is basically a system for getting things done. Lions go after the slow zebras, you should too.
- Pile on the weakest enemy lane, eliminate their tower as quickly as you can without overextending for long periods with no ward protection.
- If a lane dies because they failed to ward, they will have to place a ward when they return. They can be killed again at this time, creating the ability to chain kills. If they choose to still not ward then it gives your jungler a moment to make a quick round while they push, then return for another kill.
- If in a duo lane, have a tendency to focus the enemy that does the most damage, but also sometimes consider instead focusing the weaker player if you suspect they may give up kills easily.
- Once a champion has died enough their gold value decreases too much to warrant much attention from your team members. At this point you should ignore killing these players for the most part. You should harass them back and make their farm problematic, but mostly try to use the money that was made by killing them on pressuring the other lanes or jungler.
Why it works.
The strong and fast zebras don't have to carry the slow ones in real life. The strongest players on the other team may be doing well this game, but they are in the same Hell as everyone else. They are used to having terrible teammates, games being thrown for no reason, and generally having all their hard work being dust in the wind. In general there is a defeatist sensibility in all of them just waiting to be coaxed out. The same goes with the players who are doing poorly, they may be strong in other games but have already mentally given up in this one. Unfortunately the most common occurrence at this level is this mental forfeit, you see it almost every game from at least one player, but it's often more.
This may sound cold, but team infighting(whether direct abuse or passive-aggressively not helping) is probably the biggest cause of losses at this level, and the probably the most efficient way to win. You can achieve creating this in the other team if you can push the boundaries of their willingness to help each other. Basically you want to keep hitting the weakest player or lane until they are mad at their own team for not helping enough, or their team is mad at them for feeding. Sure the team may come help a few times, but you can keep at it. Also reverse-snowballing one player in this way can let you instakill them at the outset of teamfights, essentially creating a 4v5 game.
There is a veritable cornucopia of individual team identities, each with its own nuances of skill combination and strategic avenues to victory. Teams can be heavily weighted towards one or two specific traits, balanced completely, or anything in between. It's all about knowing what you've got and thus working your general game strategy to make your advantages as useful as possible, while limiting the advantageous situations of the enemy.
Common team traits:
Poke - How much long range damage your team has. A typical team oriented towards this trait would be Cassiopeia, Nidalee, Sivir, Taric, and Dr. Mundo. These types of teams work at harassing opponents in lane and around objectives. Look for them to be typically more squishy and inclined to be the team moving away and kiting when the fight starts 5v5. Being on this team means you have a higher chance of stealing objectives, and you should ward aggressively if you are able. Sometimes opportunities will arise where you can steal buffs from a safe distance, but typically only smite will have any kind of bankable chance at stealing Dragon or Baron(there are some clear exceptions like the Q+R of Gragas.) Their long range also makes staying in lane problematic if you have any reasonable chunk of health missing, because a few errant skill shots from the opposing laner or a roamer can kill you. Your chances of success in killing any of them will probably be based as much around crowd control as actual damage, so consider grabbing some as early as you can without getting far behind in your primary build needs such as tankiness or damage output. By the end of the game, most teams will typically have at least one of each of the following items: Phage/ Frozen Mallet, Randuin's Omen, Shurelya's Reverie, and Rylai's Crystal Scepter. These offer some of the best stats in combination with their movement manipulation so are great regardless of how much CC your team has, but should be considered much earlier when in this situation.
Tanky - Tanky or bruiser teams typically have a durable melee champion in both the top lane and jungle, and often in the middle and support roles. Some of the most common tanky middle lanes are Ryze, Gragas, and Galio. Also Vladimir, Swain, and Orianna are honorable mentions. These teams can have a tanky AD Carry as well such as Graves or Urgot, but also can be "meat wall" teams that focus around protecting a single hyper-carry like Kog'Maw, Tristana, or Ashe. Being on this team means it's easier to be more mobile as a group. With this kind of team it's really easy to walk around as five and blindly face check bushes, because you know you have the durability up front. Not that you should make a habit of a blind face-check, but this team is built to handle it. With some teams, you should never do it unless you have to. When facing one of these teams a few things that work well are back-line penetration such as with Nocturne, Jax, and Olaf; some single-target isolation such as with Nautilus, Blitzcrank and Skarner; or some AOE lock-down so carries can fight from a safe distance such as with Morgana, Leona, and Amumu. Tanky teams also tend to be short on damage for a long time, and you probably have to get well ahead during this period. If the game drags out against a bruiser team and they are allowed to get into their full builds, they will most likely roll straight over any less durable team with an equally full build. This is because bruisers tend to have a high level of inherent defenses and sustains.
Isolation - Not all teams possess this ability, and typically is not a necessary component to a successful teamfight. This is not to be confused with the strategic concept of isolating opponents as in cutting them off when they are out-of-position, which is a key part of map awareness, but instead referring to the actual abilities of the champions. The initiation will start with someone like Skarner, Darius, or Blitzcrank getting a pull. Teams that center around this ability will typically have a chain of disabling abilities to be able to follow up. Champions such as Ashe, Trundle, Kassadin, Alistar, and Jarvan IV have enough CC on their own that they should be able to lock up the kill on a pulled enemy. Optimally your team won't need to use any ultimates to follow up the pull, as you would like to have them all ready so that you can look to start a fight 4v5. These teams make good teams for baiting Baron and Dragon because the enemy does not need to fully face-check the bush, only come within pull distance. When playing against these teams try beating them in champion select by picking champions that won't mind getting pulled such as Alistar, Shen, or Dr. Mundo; and carries that can get out such as Ezreal, Ahri, or Tristana. Always remember that this team's bread and butter is placing wards in spots that allow them to snatch you over a wall where they are lying in wait. Clearing wards will be a high priority; but it will also be very difficult to kill them safely, because the whole purpose of the ward is to grab those who come near it. Make sure all the pullers are accounted for and then watch them very carefully on the minimap as you approach the ward. If you see them react, know that they are most likely going to move to cut you off from your lane and you should head back towards your base a decent amount before attempting to cross back over.
AOE - Area-of-effect damage is not always reliable, it's heavily dependent on skill shots and whether or not you can catch the enemy clumped. Teams centered around AOE excel at fighting in the tight spaces offered by the jungle, or the Baron and Dragon pits. They will have abilities that contain multi-target disables of some kind in order to keep the enemy team grouped while they pile on the damage. A typical AOE composition would be Kennen, Malphite, Rumble, Corki, and Nunu. These teams can control buffs very well and can be difficult to rout when they move in to take yours. They can also wreak havoc when it comes time to fight for Baron. If they catch your team in the pit and are able to unload their full combo, they will almost definitely win the fight and pretty likely the game. Counter this team by having advanced wards if you try to take Dragon or Baron, and by keeping a wide formation during teamfights as best you can without getting cut off. Consider grabbing some champions with CC reduction or removal abilities such as Irelia, Alistar, and Gangplank. Also useful is being able to disrupt their group with displacement abilities, such as with Gragas, Singed, Lee Sin, or Jayce. Lastly, almost all of these teams will be dealing primarily magic damage; in which case there's nothing wrong with grabbing a Negatron Cloak, Wit's End, Chalice of Harmony, Hexdrinker, or Mercury's Treads with a bit of urgency.
Mobility - Sometimes you can make a team that is just a big tank ball that rolls into the enemy, other times you can choose to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. Teams with high mobility can be extremely hard to deal with or an easy win. These teams are generally softer and quite easy to kill, if you can get hold of them. If they can deftly avoid getting picked off or immobilized, they will dish out tons of damage then sprint away with little concern. An example of a team with high mobility would be Kayle, Ahri, Udyr, Ezreal, and Janna. These teams are strong roamers and will be strong at making plays around the map, expect lots of cross-lane ganks. These teams almost always prefer to be the ones kiting, so if they roam consider following them and creating a pincer. If the skill and gold disparity is not too great, consider forcing a direct engagement around objectives if the numbers are even. While these teams can make devastating attacks, they are often too soft to dig in and defend an area. CC is your best bet for this team as well, so grab some early, even if it's just a Phage on your bruiser and/or jungler. If it's not viable, because maybe you have Vladimir top and Cho'Gath jungling, it's fine to have your AD Carry grab a Phage if your team is really hurting for CC. AD carries like Ezreal and Corki will often complete their Trinity Force as one of their first major items, while it lacks in raw damage compared to Infinity Edge it arguably makes up for it with permanent CC and high mobility. Trinity Force also adds some very solid poke to a champion who has an ability that triggers on-hit effects such as Miss Fortune, Gangplank, and Ezreal.
Counterpicking Rant + Resources
All counterpick lists are going to have a fundamental level of inaccuracy. Nerfs and buffs to a champion will not start to become apparent in the up and down votes on these sites until after some time has passed, so the sites will always be behind the curve to some extent. People will also vote falsely on purpose in order to trick people into thinking a match-up is favorable when it isn't. Also people looking for counterpicks to choose tend to be the ones going to these sites, so these people who are admittedly looking for answers are the ones casting most of the votes. Despite all of this, I have found the information to be generally correct. However, I've also found that the skill of the player using the champion matters far more. Counterpicking matters the most when players are close together in skill, and can be totally irrelevant if the disparity is too great.
General stats all listed on one page for quick reference, and a nice champion-specific reference page including countering mechanics and cooldown timers.
I've found the discussions on this site to be some of the most in-depth looks at particular matchups that I'm considering.
These charts will show you who's winning which matchups. A win rate of more than about 55% in a particular matchup over thousands of games is something significant, and is probably a sign of a decent counter.