Climbing the Lower Tiers of the Ranked Ladder in League Of Legends - The Value of Engage Champions in Solo Queue
Thu 19th Mar 2020 - 6:26pm
After a decade of playing League of Legends, I feel incredibly fortunate to have witnessed the game blossom into the teamwork-oriented competition it's become. Throughout the last ten years many elements of the game have changed dramatically, with each new season bringing exciting changes and new strategies to explore. The goal of our discussion today however, is to delve deeper into a feature of champion capability that has remained a critical component in winning in League of Legends maps regardless of meta or game state: the ability to start teamfights.
The added value of playing champions with these abilities will be segmented into three key areas: Coordination and Communication, Forcing Resource Expenditure, and Playability.
Coordination and Communication
One of the hallmark requisites for winning teamfights is the ability to both coordinate and communicate with team members. In some cases that might mean pinging your targets, typing the plan into chat, or damaging a neutral objective calling for both teams to get into position for a fight. A teamfight in League of Legends is often won through split-second decision making and reaction time. The slightest misstep of an enemy carry champion can present a window of opportunity that decides the entire game. It is in these moments that the value of engage champions shines brightest.
During the adrenaline-pumping tense moments in which both teams are jockeying for position around a key objective like Baron Nashor or Elder Dragon, communication is not only vital, but significantly harder to manage. Taking the time to type into chat and essentially disarming yourself can be far too risky, even when the message is critically important. When an advantageous opportunity presents itself for only fractions of a second, champions that have the ability to immediately engage teamfights effortlessly carry the burden of both coordination and communication. Champions like Leona have the ability to stun a key target, and keep them in place for multiple seconds, sentencing any squishy carry champion to certain death. Not only does this communicate the target, but with many engage champions, the act of engaging itself will often move the champion into the middle of the enemy formation.
There are multiple advantages gained by inserting your champion into the middle of the enemy team. The main value is locking down a key damage source, allowing guaranteed landing of skillshots, as well as preventing the ability of the stunned champion to produce damage of their own. Another critical advantage is that it often lures an enemy team into dumping key damage abilities into champions that are built to withstand the initial onslaught of enemy carries. Champions such as Leona and Nautilus are inherently tanky, with shields built into their champion kit, and items like Gargoyle Stoneplate being essential to their item builds. This invasion of their formation will often cause the enemy team to panic and begin damaging the nearest enemy in an effort to disengage. Their focus of your tank champion will allow the damage carries and bruisers on your team to position themselves to output their damage without fear of retaliation. Engage champions have the ability to both facilitate coordination and communication with allied members, and disrupt the teamwork of enemy teams.
Forcing Resource Expenditure
Arguably the most valuable ability a champion can have at any point of the game is access to the summoner spell Flash. It is the proverbial "get out of jail free card" in League of Legends. An instantaneous gain of 400 units allows for dodging of key abilities, maneuvering around terrain to open or close distance from enemy champions, and is often a key determining factor in the success of a gank. In some cases forcing an enemy champion to expend their flash will incapacitate their ability to lane effectively. Mid laners will often have to give up creep score or pressure in lane for fear of jungler intervention. Top laners with advantageous match-ups will have to refrain from pushing past certain thresholds in a longer lane because of the added vulnerability of not having escape tools in the event of a gank. Not having access to flash for champions without any other escape abilities will often leave them completely helpless against champions with point-and-click crowd control abilities.
One of the best features of a champion like Nautilus is the ability to force enemy carries to expend their flash with little risk to your team. His ultimate move Depth Charge cannot be dodged and will often guarantee a landed Dredge Line followed by additional crowd control from his passive ability Staggering Blow. This forces the enemy carry to flash for enough distance to allow their support to intervene, or potentially die to additional pressure from your jungler or bot lane carry. Even if the targeted champion flashes for distance and ultimately avoids lethal damage, they have now expended their most valuable escape tool with a base cooldown period of 300 seconds.
Champions like Leona and Gragas have ranged engage ultimates that can stun or reposition multiple champions. These abilities are low-risk as they can be used from a distance, either landing successfully and initiating an advantageous skirmish, or missing the mark with very little commitment in positioning. In teamfights, forcing the expenditure of key escape tools synergizes heavily with allied assassin champions or burst damage carries in killing key targets. If an enemy carry is no longer able to dodge abilities, it greatly increases the chances of allied skillshots landing, and allows for aggressive positioning with less risk of unsuccessful attempts to kill. In some cases, not having any ability to escape lethal damage will constrain enemy carries from being able to position to output their own damage, essentially removing them from the fight.
One of my favorite flavor components of the game is the unique play pattern and identity of each champion. Champions like Yasuo and Lee Sin have incredibly high skill ceilings, and massive carry potential if played well. Other champions like Malphite and Leona have relatively straightforward play patterns, with abilities that are easier to connect with, but with less potential for outplay and carry performances. I have been playing League Of Legends since Season 1, often needing to prioritize other aspects of my life over my passion for gaming. There have been seasons where I simply have not had the time to grind the solo queue ladder for hours every day. In some seasons, I really only had time to play a few games on the weekend and one or two matches sprinkled into my routine during the week. This is where ease of playability has really appealed to me personally when selecting champions to main in solo queue.
With the goal of winning as many games as possible and climbing solo queue, I have found that prioritizing ease of execution is a great way to increase win percentage. In my experience, comfort on my champion has been the strongest determining factor in performance, and some champions are easier to use than others. My recommendation is that if you are seeking an effective champion pool to climb out of the lower tiers in Solo Queue, start simple and learn champions that are easier to master. There are champions with engage abilities in each position, and crowd control abilities provide massive amounts of utility at all stages of the game, even when playing from behind. The value of crowd control allows you to still be able to contribute in teamfights even if laning phase was suboptimal and you are competing at a gold deficit.
Examples of Champions with Engage Abilities
Top Lane: Malphite, Shard Of The Monolith/Maokai, The Twisted Treant
Jungle: Gragas, The Rabble Rouser/Sejuani, The Winter's Wrath
Mid Lane: Galio, The Colossus/Lissandra, The Ice Witch
Bottom Lane: Varus, The Arrow Of Retribution/Ashe, The Frost Archer
Support: Leona, The Radiant Dawn/Nautilus, The Titan Of The Depths
I hope this discussion helps bring some added perspective when selecting your champion pool. The truth is that all champions are viable choices to win with, even more so in the lower tiers of Solo Queue. Engage champions have simply been where I have found the most success, regardless of season or meta. One thing to always remember is that we play League Of Legends to have fun, so there is nothing wrong with picking your favorites and sticking to them! Thank you for reading, and as always, good luck and have fun!