Hello, my summoner name is Tholdrinn and I am a gold rated support player. I started working on this guide because there simply was none about this topic that I know of. Yes, almost every good guide has a warding part and something about zoning. There are even dedicated guides. But they talk about it in small scale that I call "microzoning".
So here I am, prepared to write something about it. I am no "Pro", so I will gladly accept any kind of advice and I'm going to correct any mistakes that I will be pointed to.
Since I started this guide there were published some others talking about the topic. Good. You can't have too much info about the most important aspect of the game. I know it's a daring claim but as you look at the world championship - vision is what wins the game. There were team fights over wards!
Yes, I do realise this is a guide around team tactics. But... You as a support or a jungler should be aware of this and be able to make it happen on your own.
Basics: what zoning and ward control are and why they are important
In simplified form it is about controlling the space around you. Being aware of this is essential for you to survive outside a teamfight. Every tower, player, creep, even a bush or a rock on the map are shaping the zone of control for each team. Basically there are two kinds of zones:
- Safe (you can do your stuff there freely)
- Dangerous (if you walk there, you might die)
Is actually zoning, but applied only on a small scale - in a lane to be precise. A perfect tutorial on this has already been made by Shurelia on Youtoube. Even players who know nothing about microzoning consciously are usually affected by it. Those who don't respect zones mostly end up feeding.
The difference between zoning and microzoning is that almost everyone's behaviour is driven by microzoning - actual zoning is a lot more subtle and conscious thing. It requires map awareness and dividing attention between the minimap and your immediate surroundings. It is about controlling the map as a whole.
sight ward is a little invisible stick that "sees" space around itself. Sounds ridiculous but these are winning the game. Enemy feeded Kassadin is not GG if you can hunt him as he is on his way to steal your blue - alone. You not dying or an enemy doing otherwise always pays off for that 75 gold invested. You should buy a ward every time you get to the fountain and have at least 75 spare gold no matter what role you play. No, support will not ward your top river at 5 minutes into the game. Do it yourself.
Wards control the space around them and have power to transform a dangerous zone to a safe one. Wards can entirely erase the gank opportunities of any team. Whoever has better placed wards has more vision and therefore controls the game. (note: Better not more.)
Wards are invisible, but they can be destroyed - three hits and it's gone. Ward control is as much about placing wards as about hunting them down.
In zoning, or "zone control" more precisely, there are two types of elements - natural and player made. Let's go throught the natural ones and their properties first.
Natural zone control elements
These are visible by everyone and it's easy to determine their status. Both teams know precisely their situation and strength.
- Towers grant you vision and shelter. They're tough and have serious firepower. Their presence grants very solid hold over the zone.
- Minions or Creeps grant you limited vision over their immediate surroundings but not much else. Players can Teleport onto them but most of the time it's not exactly going to be a surprise for the enemy.
Player made elements
These are usually hidden, invisible or hard to predict. Their power is as much psychological as practical.
- sight ward is a cheap tool to make your opponents go crazy. They're invisible, you can place them anywhere you want and they grant you a lot of predictable vision. (Meaning wards will not walk away and die as minions do.)
- Vision Ward is everything a sight ward is (except for cheap) and shows invisible objects. It's needed in two cases - one, enemy has champion with stealth ability or two, to clear out enemy wards.
- Jungler - an enemy player that roams the forests and dark areas between the turrets killing golems, wraiths and other unlucky creatures. Not only he is invisible most of the time, but also his purpose is hunting vulnerable players.
- MIA/SS - a player missing in lane, he could be buying items, healing his wounds or hiding in THAT bush to rape you.
Below you can find basic starting zones. If a tower is destroyed you've pretty much lost the entire zone around it. It doesn't mean it is your enemy's safe zone now but it's definitely not yours. How to deal with it will be discussed later on. Blue lines are safe for blue team and dangerous for purple and vice versa.
A few notes on the picture:
- Bottom river belongs to the blue. Many blue teams will be around preparing to kill any careless unprotected purple jungler in the first few minutes. Afterwards, the zone is usually warded by blue support since he has a lot safer way to the area than purple support.
- Purple area around baron nashor is pretty much the same situation. Purple has much better ways to escape or enter that place than the blue team. It's probably not warded in the beginning but as the game goes it is almost certainly going to be.
What exactly the danger status means
Zone control is as much psychological war as your practical protection. If you control an area i.e. it's safe - you can go there as you please with confidence that you will return back alive. It means that you see what is going on inside the zone and can react accordingly.
If your zone control is strong - it means that enemies does not dare to set a foot there. Once you get to that point, enemy is already loosing the game starting to die from within. In many cases, sucessfull zone control bring up some whiner on the opposing team destroying their morale further away = GG.
How to improve zone danger status
If you lost a tower or enemy did and you want to push further on, you need to raise the zone status. Pushing in zone that is dangerous means you will be probably target n.1 and with a too few ways to escape. Do not think stealth can save you. It can't. Enemy with Oracle's Elixir or a Vision Ward will kill you anyway.
To do that you will need wards of course and to use advantage given by them every time possible. If you don't see every enemy on the map at the moment, ask your support for Clairvoyance in the area. And place the ward on the corresponding place. Best places are in the crossroads on the way to your position and your back. But not too close or you will not have a chance to react anyway.
tip: if enemy has oracle.. tell your teammates to hunt him down. If he buys another he will start to fall in gold, if not... good for you. But care - most of the time, oracle is carried by a tank.
If enemy see in the area, it safer for him to enter and thus - more dangerous to you. So, if enemy is warding (frequently look at the tab rooster to find out if they buy wards and who does) you should definitely consider buying Oracle's Elixir or, if you know where he places the wards, a Vision Ward. But don't overdo it! If you burn all your gold on hunting his every sight ward with Vision Ward ... you will fall in gold and be considerably less helpful in a team fight.
tip: if you put Vision Ward outside the bush, you will not see invisible items and players inside it, even if you have vision there.
If you are a jungler or have global ability and want to prepare zone for a danger improvement than be near and punish anyone who will enter. By that you will start to crush enemy psyche. They will not want to go there even if they know you are somewhere else at the moment. Trust me, it's like cooking range - if you have ever burned yourself, you don't feel comfortable touching it even if you know it is cold. But be aware, doing this intensively will very likely end in a team fight.
Best place for the top and bottom lane wards are near the blue buff golem and the red buff lizard. These are must have. Something about how to ward and why, you may find in the Warding helper.
Even warded area isn't completely safe. If you want to be thorought you will need and oracle and sweep the bushes near your target area for enemy wards. After that it will be "almost safe" because there could always be somone with global ultimate, teleport and stuff.
If you are increasing danger status by agression in some zone on enemy's side of a river, you are allso making other zones on their side more dangerous for you to enter as enemy have less options where to go.
Teemo's mushroomy ultimate, Schaco's boxes and all sorts of traps can increase your control too. But since their vision is limited or non-existent and in some cases they are even visible to enemy - they don't offer that much protection as wards. Even if it looks that it is a shroom in every bush - do not forget to ward key locations! I've seen solo-top Teemo shrooming river bush just to be ganked a minute later by jungler who didn't went through the bush at all.
This is a typical situation when someone failed to understand a concept of zoning on the large scale. At the top lane you see Mordekaiser that got ganked by two enemies because he had no vision what so ever. He was attacking their second turret with a wave of minions, while only two enemies were visible on the map and all allies were far away = guaranteed gank.
On the picture top lane was perfect example of dangerous zone:
- Missing enemies
- No vision
- No way to retreat
On the other hand, the bottom line is exactly the opposite:
- I warded Ancient golem and a river bush
- Akali allready ganked enemy jungler two times, creating fear and as a result increasing danger status of that zone for the enemy.
To create opportunity for a turret dive and exploit the zone status we increased aggression - Enemies were wounded, pushed beneath the tower. We knew there is no other enemy nearby - akali jumped in from their jungle and with our help got back alive with two more kills and allowed us to burn the tower down getting total control of the zone and a dragon. Win-Win scenario.
...our Mordekaiser unfortunattely didn't get the concept of warding, even if I told him, and he died again blindpushing while enemies did not dare to set a foot in the area around Dragon and Ancient golem. Since enemies were pushed out of bottom jungle zone he was as good as dead.
To prevent that from happening again i asked Akali to come with me and with Clairvoyance we entered the top jungle. I put a ward above their red buff and in the bush between their Red buff and Wraights - covering most routes to his position (he just didn't gave up on pushing his lane). After that he did succesfully evaded two other ganks - he saw them coming.
Clairvoyance the tool of the master!
You already know it's a summoner spell. It is global, so it has no range limit. And on cast, it reveals target area for 4 seconds. But.. what "reveal" really means?
- You can see that place just like the ward was placed there
- Walls and stuff don't block the view - you will see the full area of spell every time
- You can see in every bush that was at least partially hit by the ability
- No, I know you are all fired up, but you will not see invisible targets even if you have Oracle's Elixir, I'm sorry.
You already knew all that, of course. What is so "mysterious" about it?
It has 70 seconds cooldown and 60 seconds with 21 utility mastery. That mean that to use it effectively, you need to think hard and don't just waste it on random blinks in the jungle. (I am presuming that you are the only one who has CV on your team because that is usually the case.)
To do that you need to know some very important things:
1.) Jungle routes
Yes, memorize as much jungle routes as you can. Play a jungler sometimes and every time you can, try free week jungler you didn't play before. Remember spawn and respawn times of important creatures in the jungle (dragon, blue and red buffs, baron nashor). If you're not sure about routes of that particular champion, ask team-mates where does he start. At least one of you usually know.
2.) Time of the game
First ten to fifteen minutes you will be "hunting" an enemy jungler if your friends didn't fed him cause you wasted your CV to look if enemy support is really still in the river bush. After game has reached this mark you will not catch him sweeping his jungle. You're awesome but no, you will probably not. I usually use my CV like this:
- 00:05 cast on the enemy fountain to see what builds they are using
- 01:25 cast on the enemy red/blue buff (depends on the jungling champion)
- 02:45 cast on the second buff, if enemy is not there and buff is not taken, ping your jungler or extended lane (some junglers gank at lvl 2).
- 03:50 top liners usually forget to ward their river, if he is not hugging his tower or mid is not pushing like crazy, CV top river bush. Otherwise look at the mid.
- 05:00 - 06:00 If enemy gank was even partially sucessfull (some of your teammates had to recall) at bottom or midlane and enemy left the lanes, you know they go for dragon. Ping it, wait for about a 4-5 seconds from the moment they left the lanes and then CV the dragon. Careful, if you don't see them, they are baiting and hoped you will come for it. They will be in a bot tri-bush or mid-river small-bush waiting for those who will come to challenge the dragon.
- 07:00 Right now, enemy blue should be up or will be in a few seconds. Many good junglers will try to pass it up for their AP mid. Ping that position for your team to pay more attention to the area and cast your CV. It's also good if you tell your team-mates to try steal it - preferably in advance.
3.) What you really need to see
CV on the big monsters:
People often use CV too directly. IF they fear enemy is at the dragon or baron, they just cast it right on it's head. That is a waste of vision. Hit the CV in the way that it just barely hit the dragon or baron. At the dragon, team usually pulls him from the nest, since it's not exactly a safe place to be.
At the baron, baiting a team-fight is much more likely strategy then real attempt - if your entire team is alive. If you are using CV on the baron, try aim it more on the bottom edge of his pit than just straight outside - to see more from the river closer to the mid where baiting teams are usually hiding.
Blue buff (or Ancient golem) - use CV on the rock wall behind golems to see the bushes on the other side of wall.
Red buff - cast it closer to the base (yours or enemy's depending on which side of the river buff is.
- None of these positions is perfect. You must always take situation to account and, of course, your ward coverage.
4) When to use clairvoyance at all
Enemy see that CV has been used if it is on the area where they can see it and... it's use produce very unique sound, just to be sure that they will notice it. It has it's pros and cons. If you use it too early in the gank and such, enemy will feel vulnerable, and propably try to back off. However - they are even really cool uses of this to your advantage. It's really more mindplay than anything else.
Examples of CV mindplay (Does not work against low Elo!):
- In prepared gank, you can CV the bush you are hiding in if enemy seams cautious to walk by. Why would you waste CV on a bush where you are standing - right?
- Scare the recalling enemy. (I saw somone use it on the bush where was hiding almost dead akali right beside teemo's mushroom... she cancelled recall and try to run away... teemo got the kill) Creeps allso attack player in the bush if passing by.
- Enemy CV just popped on you hiding in the bush, wait a second than start recalling. When CV ends, cancel the recall. Enemy now think that there is one (or more) less player in the area. Seen that in counterjungle. I catched the enemy trying to invade our blue and whole team started recalling after a while... our jungler runned into whole enemy team just moments after that. :(
- In a teamfight (and gank) - it makes juking impossible for the enemy.
- If you see enemy's gank opportunity ( player overextended, enemy Mia etc.) (CV the routes to his position)
- If you need to ward dark area with enemy missing etc. (i.e. improving zone danger status)
- To control the status of the buffs and big monsters
TIP: If you catch something important with the CV (incoming jungler etc.) Ping it. Allies don't watch the map all the time... specially in duelling lanes (Top/mid in old meta, top/bot in new-alternative) they have their eyes pinned to the enemy.
Zone control is based on champion presence, towers and vision. In agressive use it is mostly the way of terror and destroying enemy morale. It is about denial of movement and fear of shadows. In the defensive use it is about freedom and safety.
The strongest tools of the Zone control are Vision Ward, sight ward, Oracle's Elixir and a Clairvoyance.
Zone control can turn the game around and even shut down entirely.
News and Changes
31.1.2012 Since no one responded, I thought about it, and figured my guide is much more concept then a guide, which is expected to be more step by step. So I added some changes and entire new chapter - "Practical example".
18.2.2012 - On the suggestion of a reader I started to work on a new chapter about specifics of Clairvoyance.
27.3.2012 - updated parts talking about warding. I added some info and tips about counter-warding. It will propably get its own section in future.
4.4.2012 - small changes and tips
8.5.2012 - minor changes, added tips
6.10.2012 - broad update, commentaries and some spell check ;-)
Special Thanks to:
jhoijhoi for her work on guides, which is excellent so far!
I would point out her Making a guide which is kind of "must read" for any becoming guide maker.
Panglot for his Warding helper.
Shurelia for her youtube zoning tutorial.
Chrismead for QQ'ing and Game Etiquette which everyone should read.