First of all, this is not a guide. This is a resource. This is a repository for knowledge accumulated by the community. That means everyone with something to contribute is not just allowed, but expected to share it, and all constructive discussion is welcome. Think of it is a kind of wikia. However, until such a point where I am unable the continue, Mobafire is unwilling or unable to host this resource, or a greater person deems fit to take over, I will be your filter and moderator of the below content. Contributing is easy! If you spot any spelling/grammatical mistakes, out-of date content, missing content or have information of your own to offer, drop a comment or PM and your name will go down.
IMPORTANT! Anyone who is good at BBCode, aesthetics, design and whatnot, and is willing to spare the time, please copy over my text, add the formatting BBCode, and send it back to me to copy it in. You will improve the reading experiences of many, the gratitude of all, and my personal thanks and favour owed. Similarly, any contributor with the time and energy to make illustrative images should PM me about it. Due credit will be given on the page. Until then, sorry to all about the endless wall of text. True content and substance is my thing, not beautiful formatting. I also apologise for the absolute lack of humour, for I believe a reference text like this to be too serious and important to deface.
Should any distinguished player and guide writer feel that "Of the War on Paper" would be better positioned in their hands, please drop me a message. I am prepared to give up the control and rights that the community might benefit from a better resource. I am a person of limited resources, chiefly time, thus any veteran's help is greatly appreciated.
The Chinese have a derogatory metaphor "纸上谈兵": literally, discuss military matters on paper -- ie being an armchair strategist, idle theorising, theory that is useless in practice, etc. etc. However, I do not mean it in a derogatory manner when I use it for the title. This resource is about practical strategy that has the potential to win the game before the loading screen, turn the tide against a stronger opponent, or change a winning game into a 20 minute steamroll. In particular, I refer to the specifics of champion selection, both for one player, for the whole team and in reaction to opponents (so far).
Note: As of now, this resource is dedicated to Summoner's Rift.
I don't feel any changes in Season 3 that uspset gameplay significantly.
Why I do not include some sections
Here, we focus on general trends. Anything that is too specific will not be included. Also, I will focus on players who already know, more or less, how to play the game, and the simpler or more obvious strategic decisions will be left out. However, should anyone feel that something should be included and writes a chapter for it, I will certainly add it in (after checking it of course). Any content is welcome.
The significance of formalised planning and strategising
An alternative title would be "Why extensive Theorycrafting is beneficial".
Some may argue against excessive Theorycrafting and instead push for better physical skills or team coordination. While they are all important factors in deciding the victor, it would be foolish to disregard the significance of Theory. Indeed, you, the reader, are here for that purpose, because you know the importance of theoretical knowledge.
The game itself is a hugely practical discipline. However, its many strategic facets dictate that a deep knowledge of paper strategy is required for good gameplay. As you will see in the next few sections, there are some generalisations that can hugely simplify theoretical decisions and make a huge impact on gameplay and win rate. It is highly important that these useful generalisations are formally defined, named and explained for their future development, as well as for ease of use and discussion.
The Classification and Selection of Champions
Before the conception of "Of the War on Paper", there were two methods of classifying champions, and thus constructing a team. First is the Lane Rule: A champion must be in at least one of the possible Laning Positions, namely Solo/Double Top/Mid/Bot, Roaming, or Jungling. The current norm is Solo Top, Solo Mid, Double Bot and Jungling.
Second is the Composition Rule: A champion must be fufil at least one of the Team Roles: AD Carry, AP Carry, Offtank, Tank and Support. The current norm is to have one of each, or to give up the Support or Offtank for two of another role.
Many players follow these rules to the letter -- which is good, since it prevents less skilled players at destroying their team's (and their own) chances of winning. The best players know how and when to deviate from them, therefore they do so, and that is all fine and well. However, champions, diverse and unique as they are, cannot be decribed as simply the intersection of their Lane Position and Team Role. Such a vulgar overgeneralisation can only lead to an lacklustre win rate and frustration, especially for the players that are good enough to stop reading and playing off the book.
Thus, it follows that these rules are not the only methods of classifying champions. There are infinitely more ways to classifiy champions, and many of them are inherently useful to the task of selecting champions. For better play, we have to properly define them such that we may conveniently use them without going through the entire thought process in the space of 30 seconds during draft pick. This I will do in the following chapters, just before each section on how to use them.
Unfortunately, so imbued is the current meta that many assume the first two rules to be connected; the AP Carry must go Solo Mid, the AD carry must go Double Bot, etc -- but that means people are running not on a multitude of guidelines, not even the big two rules, but just slightly more than one, which is a messy amalgamation of the first two. If you are one of these people, wake up and listen! Your chance to improve effortlessly is here.
As I go through the many different methods of classification, I ask you to be patient and read through all of it slowly, carefully making sure to understand it. However, I recognise that this is not a possibility for most of you, and I will endeavor to highlight the most important points to make skimming and referencing easier. Also, if you have any suggestions for the champion classifications and tier lists, please send in your opinion. I am no expert in playing all the champions.
A Foreword on Counterpicking
There is a decent countering guide by Slappiz called Counter picks against each individual champion but I don't agree with some of his choices and am going to do a completely different approach. Consult him if you really need info on one particular champion, this section is for more general countering. I do not recommend it, but I am not defaming it either. In the below chapters, I focus on countering opponents with their general strengths and weaknesses in mind and not using the uniqueness of each particular champion.
Classifying champions by Lane Rule (Laning Position)
The first common rule. Always a good place to start, since the geography of Summoners' Rift will not change drastically, and thus Laning Position will always be a worthwhile and stable consideration. but before we can decide which champions to delegate to which Laning Position, we must first study in-depth the features of each Lane (The ability to roam and jungle is fairly straightforward, so I will not cover it.)
Before we start classifying
Just let me mention that there are many borderline cases. Do weigh in on any unclear positions in the comments. Also, I try to be inclusive for the champion pages so that lesser-played champions aren't left out. Please let me know if I missed anyone out or if I put someone in the wrong category.
Classifying Top Laners
Currently, many Solo Top laners are mobile melee champions that have strength in direct combat, sustain and trading of harass, but not kiting or map mobility. As explained earlier, this phenomenon is a result of the terrain of the Top Lane. There are also some ranged champions that can go top, which are generally good at kiting and harass but less strong in direct combat. Good classification of these champions yields immense benefits to deciding the outcome of the lane. To that end, this section will classify them by their sources of laning ability. Note: the classification is pre-6 as post-6 everyone's playstyle can change and it would take 20 times as much text to analyse that.
Some may have concerns over AP carries being unsuitable top laners. Actually, AP carry top is a situational pick, usually when you team wants offtank or Talon mid, or wants to play a double-AP matchup (which is pretty good), or sees a fragile top on the opponent team that can't close the distance. They also work very well with ganks.
How does all the classification come into play? Top Lane works very much like a game of Scissors-Paper-Stone. While the general strength of each champion and individual counterpicks are significant factors in deciding the lane, the category of champion chosen is a very decisive factor. Just as Scissors > Paper > Stone > Scissors, so do Kiting > Maladroit > Mobile > Kiting on the Top Lane. A well-played Kiting Solo Top can easily dance circles around an Maladroit Solo Top, rendering him impotent and grinding him down from the safety of range. Similarly, an Maladroit Solo Top can pulverise and rip apart a Mobile Solo Top with his superior damage and tankiness, and a Mobile Solo Top can take the fight to a Kiting Solo Top and shred him on the spot.
Therefore, counterpicking in the Top Lane is simple: take the type of champion your opponent is weak against and proceed to win the lane. Do note, however, that this rule is not all-encompassing; besides specific counters, player skill and general laning strength also play a part. For example, a poorly played Nasus will be easily defeated by a skilled Wukong despite having the categorial advantage. Conversely, two evenly skilled players taking Swain and Darius will confer a distinct advantage to the Swain.
Please note that all this is neither exhaustive nor guaranteed to work. If I have missed out any viable champions, do let me know. Also, to anyone with the time and expertise to do so, I suggest coming up with a tier list, especially one based around how well the champion counters the weaker category. This will help greatly with the effectiveness of quick counterpicking.
Classifying Mid Laners
Currently, many Solo Mid laners are immobile (with some exceptions) ranged champions that have strength in burst damage and dueling, trying to win trades either through kiting or superior damage. However they lack strength in sustained direct combat or tankiness. Alternatively, there are Solo Mid champions that are generally melee, have good initiation and sticking, and are stronger than the previous category at direct combat. This is a result of the terrain of the Mid Lane, which favours burst damage and range or burst mobility. Good classification of these champions yields noticable benefits to deciding the outcome of the lane, but less than the Top Lane as individual counters and general strength are more significant. Similar to the previous chapter, this section will classify champions by their sources of laning ability. As with the Top Laners section, I will restrict it to pre-6 only.
How does one counterpick using this classification? As some might have guessed, it is another Scissors-Paper-Stone match. However, be warned: the strength of the counterpicking is much lower than the above chapter, and individual champion strength as well as player skill will be major deciding factors. But even so, the advantage to be gained is still existent. Here, a Harassing Solo Mid will have an edge over an Attacking Solo Mid due to the ability to kite and anti-initiate, while the Attacking Solo Mid will be able to reliably out-damage a Trading Solo Mid and DPS him down. Lastly a Trading Solo Mid has the required range to avoid being kited easily and punishes a Harassing Solo Mid by taking a small step into closer range for the return salvo. (Harassing > Attacking > Trading > Harassing)
I repeat again, this advantage in counterpicking is not enough to win the lane. Much depends on player skill, champion strength and specific countering. Like the above chapter, all this is neither exhaustive nor guaranteed to work, and on top of that the categories here are more blurred; a middle-ranged mage would play Harassing to a shorter-ranged one and Trading to a longer-ranged one. I make the same requests; if I have missed out any viable champions, please imform me, and anyone who is willing and able, come up with a tier list based around how well the champion counters the weaker category. Thanks in advance.
Classifying Bot Laners
Making deeper sense out of the Bot Lane is much harder than the other areas due to having two champions. There are far too many combinations to consider; thus I will not consider the team roles that go into the Bot Lane, and instead assume whichever champion is wanted in the team but not on a solo lane comes here. The most commonly seen bot lanes are:
- AD Carry + Support/Tank/Offtank
- AP Carry + Support/Tank/Offtank
- 2x Support/Tank/Offtank
In this chapter, I will not classify them as such. Instead, as with the above chapters, I will classify them by their general strategy on lane. Synergy and cooperation between lane partners is by far the most important factor in deciding which team the lane goes to. Therefore, a planned team should make sure that the Bot Laners work towards the same objective on lane. They must know of and agree on the general game plan (or rather "lane plan") that will help in decision making. Most importantly, their champions must be efficient at the strategy in mind and work together well. The general strategies I list here are mostly self-explanatory, so the descriptions will be shorter. Do note that a champion listed in more categories isn't stronger, just more flexible with strategy.
Many champions can play some combination of the above strategies, and they are not fixed in place: depending on the time, circumstance, opponents etc., most compositions can switch their strategies without much of a problem. Just make sure both players know the change of plan.
Some might ask, what of counterpicking? How do these strategies counter one another? Which do I choose if the opponent has a XXX lineup? The answer is that you don't. There are no hard counters here, not any that work in general. For example, Darius and Vayne (Defensive Lane) might win Taric and Graves (Poke/Sustain Lane), they might lose to Nidalee and Ezreal (also Poke/Sustain Lane). For every counter-strategy one might think of, there are a huge number of exceptions, so much so that the correlation between countering and winning lane might be unnoticable.
Instead of countering with the general strategies, synergise using them. Make yourself function better on the lane by focusing on one method of laning, i.e. have both players focus on the same strength. This is important! Having both champions good at a particular goal, and both players agreeing to focus on that goal, is highly beneficial to coordination and your overall effectiveness, and of course you will do much better at accomplishing the goal you set. Both players must agree on which lane strategy to use, pick accordingly, and also communicate any change in strategy.
Also, you can counterpick their individual champions (say, counter Soraka with Nautilus and Kennen) or their particular weaknesses (like Blitzcrank or Garen against Kayle and Teemo who cannot shoot at brush).
Note: Need some help to check which champions are unable to jungle in S3.
Junglers are the random factor on the team. Not being stuck to a lane, in vision of the opponents, gives a Jungler the freedom to get last hits without eating harass and also be where his team needs him. There are many ways to rate a jungler, but similarly to the above chapters, I will classify Junglers by what they spend the laning phase doing. However, first we must consider the basic few characteristics of Junglers to better appreciate how they fit in to their roles.
You should consider a Jungler's...
- Clear Speed: The speed at which a Jungler can clear the Jungle Camps. Often, the Buff Camps and the Small Camps have a different Clear Speed for the same Jungler. For example, Sejuani is absurdly fast at taking the Small Camps but pretty slow at taking the Buff Camps.
- Survivability: The amount of health that a Jungler loses to the Jungle Camps. Lower Survivability means less security in the Jungle, higher chance to die in a gank and more base trips.
- Ganking Strength: This is measured by how much damage and CC a Jungler brings to a gank, as well as the strength of his initiation. It means how likely a gank is to succeed.
- Escaping Ability: Having the ability to leave a bad situation is vital to surviving being caught in the opponents' Jungle (or killed in your own).
- Blue buff dependence: It is generally better to have either a mana-dependent Jungler or Laner, rather than competing for it with both or wasting it with neither.
Note: Nearly all Junglers should try to gank on cooldown of their ultimate. The ones labelled (6) are those who have their playstyles change drastically with their ultimates up. Junglers that are in more than one category can be played either way, or (usually) a mix of the two.
What use is the classification of Junglers? Junglers are meant to be there for the team, be it by ganking the lanes hard, ruining the opponent Jungler's game, or farming undetected for late game. As a result of the team-oriented playstyle, picking a Jungler is more about your own team than theirs, unlike some people's opinion that they should counterpick the opponents' Jungler, similarly to the lanes. (This is only true to some extent if you want to play an Invading Jungler.)
There are certain criteria to choosing the type of Jungler you want. I will try to describe them here. Remember, picking the Jungler is always a team effort. Always pick the Jungler according to your plans for the team, or choose a team centered around the Jungler you want.
You should pick a Ganking Jungler when:
- your Laners are not those that push the lane (eg Malzahar, Nunu, Heimerdinger)
- your Laners are not strong on lane (since the opponent will be more aggressive)
- your Laners are good in a kill/chase scenario
- your Laners are gold-efficient, whether early or late game
- the opponents are not difficult to gank
You should pick an Invading Jungler when:
- your Laners can push the lane quickly on demand (to pressure, stop opponents' farming and gank their Jungler in either Jungle or gank other lanes as needed)
- your Laners are strong on lane (so they don't miss your help)
- your Laners are difficult to gank
- the opponent Jungler cannot kill you
You should pick a Farming Jungler when:
- your Laners may need to recall often (since you would love the farm)
- your Laners are good in a kill/chase scenario (to avoid wasting time when ganking)
- your Laners are difficult to gank (so they won't feed while you are farming)
- your team needs late game strength
- the opponent Jungler cannot invade well
Similarly, you should try to achieve the above criteria with you team members of you have already decided on a Jungler. Also very important: Make sure your Laners have damage wheen picking a CC Jungler and CC when picking a Damage Jungler so that your ganks can succeed. This keeps you away from the awkward moments when you have 3 CCs on the Laner and Jungler but the opponent loses only 100 health, or when you have a huge amount of damage and are thwarted by the opponent's extra 5 movespeed. Choosing between Exhaust and Ignite on the Laner and Jungler can somewhat make up for any remaining lack of CC or damage.
Classifying champions by contribution to team (Advanced Team Planning)
Each champion contributes many quantifiable assets to the team. Some of the possible seach filters are:
- Area/Single-target CC
- Hard CC
- Blinds, Silences
- Area/Single-target damage
- Physical Damage
- Magical Damage
- Percentage-health damage
- Burst damage
- Sustained damage
- Ally-defending ability
- Ally Healing
- Ally stat boosts
- Gold efficiency/requirement
- Early/Mid/Late game strength
The Composition Rule (mentioned above) is a overgeneralised attempt to classify champions this way. In creating a clumsy short-cut, it locked out many possible match-ups and locked in a "metagame" that is overly stiff and sometimes inefficient. Classify champions by whan the offer to the team instead and try to forget the Composition Rule if you can handle this multifaceted thought process. In other words, avoid the generalisations "AP Carry", "AD Carry", "Offtank", "Tank", "Support" and instead evenly consider each champion on their unique contributions.
It is generally a good idea to have a balanced amount of each asset. For example, if you have a Karthus, who deals high sustained magical damage, it might be good to have a Graves or a Pantheon who deals high burst physical damage and fills in the early game strength for the team. Another example is if you decide to field a Solo Mid Talon, you might want a Vladimir Solo Top to fill in Magical Damage (that most teams rely on their Solo Mid AP Carry for) and then a Leona Bottom to make up for the tankiness that neither Vlad nor Talon has. By no means must you make up for every weakness with antoher pick, but it is always better to plan it out so you don't realise you needed some other champion in-game. Therefore, in every team, plan out your composition according to all the above criteria so as to avoid being caught off guard.
Also, do remember that some amount of specialisation is more efficient than haveing all the different stats everywhere, which allows each player to focus on their job. On the other hand, complete specialisation is inefficient too, as it lets opponents easily pick targets. That is the reason why the AD Carry buys Guardian Angel and such while the Tank sometimes buys Atma's Impaler or Wit's End.
Another point to note is that certain stats synergise well with others. For example, Area CC and Area damage work well together, and so do Single-target CC and Burst damage. It is often effective to build a team around a particular theme, like Area damage + Ally stat boosts, but beware over-investment in one approach as it makes you too predictable (and counterable).
There are so many ways to innovate with this method (far more than blindly following the metagame) that I will not list any specifics here. It is too much for any one mind to come up with, and there will always be new strategies popping up. Just be creative instead of inflexible. As a general guideline, get just enough of all the stats and focus on a few as the backbone of your general strategy.
As mentioned above, you might want your team to be specialsed in one aspect of the game and build your approach around it. I call that a Team Focus. Generally, a Team Focus is a significant advantages to a coordinated team. However, when using a Team Focus, remember that everything is a trade-off and you might leave some gaping holes in your gameplay options that your opponents can exploit. Therefore, do not over-invest in a Team Focus so that you leave your options open.
Here is a list of possible Team Focuses. It is not exhaustive, and you should certainly submit any ideas you have to this list. Just PM me and it's in.
- AoE teamwipe: Not much to say here. It's a combination of heavy AoE CC and damage to win teamfights. Example: Amumu Graves Jarvan IV Kennen Sona
- Priority focusing: Mixing sniping, assasins, anti-carries or other single-target damage to quickly remove high-value or overextended targets in a fight. Example: Akali Blitzcrank Kog'Maw Malphite Talon
- 3 Damage, 2 Peel: Have three high-damage champions dish the hurt and kite anti-carries with the help of two high-CC tanks or a one and a high-CC support. Example: Alistar Ashe Jayce Nunu Xerath
- Poke comp: Poke the opponent team out of lane, poke them until they can't teamfight, poke them until they ragequit. Example: Caitlyn Galio Gangplank Nidalee Xerath
- Catch comp: Take advantage of bad positioning by quickly eliminating one target after another as they arrive. Example: Akali Darius Nautilus Jayce Vayne
- CC heavy: Infinite CC, all the time in the world to mop up. Example: Amumu Janna Morgana Nasus Twisted Fate
- Global assistance: Secure the early game by being there for each other, even if on opposite ends of the map. Example: Ashe Gangplank Karthus Shen Soraka
- Team buff: Be stronger than the sum of your parts with aura items and ally-helping skills. Remember to stick. Example: Ezreal Gangplank Jarvan IV Lux Sona
- Tanky rush-in: Never fear, even if all five of them are there. That's why your entire team is indestructible and rushing at the enemy damage dealers. Example: Alistar Gragas Irelia Malphite Varus
- Defense turnaround: Make it difficult to initiate on you, so that when they get irritated enough to, they get caught in your counterattack. Example: Anivia Cassiopeia Graves Singed Shen
All the below information is subject to change and is by no means a guarantee of future content. If a topic is listed here, it means that at the time of writing I have the intent of writing that topic sometime in the future.
Tentative schedule for next chapter: Life's getting harder, so I need at least until March as this will have to go on hold for a while.
- Explanation of all classifications (by champion)
- Countering your opponents' team focus
- Plays, counterplays and gambits
- Stat comparisons
- Expansion on specialising in items
- Brief guide to masteries
- Aura/active items
- Inverting top and bottom lanes
- gp10 items
Completed: Hiding some stuff in spoilers
To all the below players and community members, the users of this resource thank you deeply. You have all contributed to the quality of the resource in some way or another, and have been of no small help to the community. You could look at their content in their profile pages (linked). In chronological order:
You can contribute too! Any useful pictures, videos, tier lists, or corections to the guide will earn you a place here (as will any other kind of contribution that I didn't list). You can also PM me for the page coding so you can add formatting. I hope to see a very long list of people improving how we play the game at this guide!