When I first started playing this game, I was often caught by skillshots such as the annoying Blitzcrank hook (which got buffed to have an additional 100 range), the point and click Fiddlesticks fear, and (not to forget) the obnoxiously massive Nautilus hook swinging towards my face.
This often frustrated me to no end, causing me to lose many games and being flamed by many other players. I never understood why I played so poorly until I came across this very concept: Overextending and Cooldowns.
So what does overextending and cooldowns mean?
To put it in layman terms, overextending is the act of walking way too forward such that you are in very dangerous proximity to death. Cooldowns simply refer to how long it takes before your ability comes up right after using it. It is extremely important to at least have a fundamental understanding of these two concepts, so you can take advantage of windows of opportunity in lane to punish your opponent and well, win lane.
Let me show you what I mean by this
As you can see, the enemy Caitlyn is standing in a very precarious position as she is standing within the range of the Blitzcrank hook. This results in her getting caught out and being hooked very easily.
Why do people put themselves in such dangerous positions unknowingly?
Most people overextend due to one reason: Their overzealousness to deal damage. Every player is driven by the dopamine rush from landing that sweet Caitlyn Q or empowered headshot auto-attack, but they often neglect the possibilities of their enemies retaliating onto them. So how would you want to play such that you can still play as aggressively as you like, and lower your own risk of dying? Here are two ways to do so:
1) When auto-attacking or using targeted abilities, don't "walk up to them" to use your abilities. Every ability and your auto-attack have a limited ranges, and new players would often not be aware of that. As such, they would right-click or use their ability and allow their character model to move forward. This poses an opportunity for the enemy to counter-engage and turn onto you. Instead, what you want to do is to use your abilities and auto attacks to harass only if they overstep and end up in your premise/range to auto-attack or targeted abilities.
2) Imagine that every champion has a radius around them, and the length of this radius is the length of their skillshot. This circle/area created by the skillshot is where you would not want to walk into. Overextending is simply the act of walking into this dangerous proximity where their skillshot would be able to hit you. Simply avoiding this area around them would enable you to deal damage from a safe distance.
Now, what if Blitzcrank actually missed the hook?
In this case, most players would just walk away and give themselves an imaginary pat on the back for not getting hit. This is wrong because you are missing out on valuable poke damage you can return onto the Blitzcrank, which would increase the possibility of him not being able to walk up to you and hook you again because of his low HP status. As such, a more ideal play is to walk up and auto-attack the enemy back. Essentially, you would want to always punish your enemy for not landing their CC abilities, and the cooldown of those CC abilities gives you a window of opportunity to strike back and hit harder.
However, do note that there are some exceptions to this rule and you cannot always punish your opponent when this happens. In order of descending priority, this is when you should never deal the returning blow in lane:
1) When they have more minions in lane than you. Minion damage is lethal in the early game, and attacking the enemy in a minion wave draws their attention to attack you (this is called "minion aggro"). This results in a less than desirable trade most of the time.
2) When the enemy jungler is around. This sounds pretty obvious, but most players neglect the game state they are in and try to go aggressive on the opponent even when there is knowledge presented (i.e. seeing the enemy jungler on a ward near your side of the map). This is even worse in this scenario because you are giving the enemy an easier chance to setup a gank by walking forward.
3) When your jungler is not on your side of the map. This is a more advanced concept of macroplay in League of Legends, but basically there are 2 sides of the map in this game: The weak side and the strong side. The strong side is when your jungler is on your side of the map and weak side is when your jungler isn't. This concept basically tells you that if your enemy is trying to go all out on you and your jungler is not on your side of the map, it is most probable that the enemy jungler is on their side of the map.
Do take note though, that this tip does not apply to all scenarios as different junglers take different paths, which requires more experience in the game to take note. As such, if you are a new player, you do not have to think too much about this point. Just go for the trade when conditions 1) and 2) are not fulfilled and explore what happens. Remember: we always learn the game faster if we play more aggressively and make more mistakes.
Before we end off, here are a few more examples of champions who you definitely will not want to be within range of, until they use their punishing CC tools (this list is not exhaustive of these champions):
Leona: What makes Leona so punishing is her ability to CC-chain you (use stun after stun to disable you) and it all starts from her E, her Zenith Blade. Her Zenith Blade is a 875 range ability (Imagine 8 Teemos standing side by side. That is how long it is!) which roots you in place for 0.5 seconds, which she can then follow up with her Q, Shield Of Daybreak, which stuns you for another 1 second. As a player, you must be wary of her E range and make sure you steer clear of it.
Nautilus: Nautilus is notorious for his obnoxious range on his Q, which is called Dredge Line. Not only does it have a massive hitbox, it also has a range of 1100 and has its cooldown halved if it hits terrain. As unavoidable as his Q might seem, the best way to prevent this is to simply stand behind minions. The projectile of his Q is also relatively slow, so more experienced players can look to try to dodge it if the situation arises.
Alistar: Alistar is known for his signature Headbutt-Pulverise combination, which you can think of as a discounted Malphite ultimate. Be wary not to walk up too close to his Headbutt range, just like Leona, as he can use it to follow up with his Pulverise move. Then again, Alistar also has the ability to Pulverise and then Flash instantaneously, which is nearly impossible to react to, so be mindful of that as well.
Thresh: Thresh is known for his Death Sentence, which is yet another hook, and his Flay, which can interrupt channeling abilities. This is something you should be wary of if you are playing champions such as Jarvan IV or Tristana, where an experienced player is able to interrupt your Flag and Drag or Rocket Jump easily with his Flay. The only way to counter this is to wait out for his Flay to be used before jumping away to safety.
In conclusion, as a player, you would always want to go into every ranked game being a conscious and self-aware player. Most people lose games because they choose to autopilot and this leads them to making mistakes such as in this case, overextending. In lane, always remember to keep track of enemy cooldowns, like whether they have just used a Thresh hook or a Leona Zenith Blade, before deciding on the decision to go all in. Harass should not compromise your positioning, as we have covered as well, and only auto-attack/harass if they are within range of your auto-attacks/harass.
With that, I wish you all the best in your games and improve as a player!
Come watch Dignitas live on Caffeine.tv!