What Is Pressure?
Lane pressure and map pressure are possibly the most overlooked tools for high-level play in League of Legends. Without establishing lane pressure or map pressure, the majority of impressive plays made or objectives taken in professional play or high elo games would not be possible. As an example, imagine a regular game of soccer, except the players aren’t allowed to kick the ball. They could still score with enough effort, but it becomes a tall task. However, that example given is a large simplification; here’s a more concrete definition of pressure.
The concept of lane or map pressure can be applied for almost any advantage, whether created or existing. These pressure advantages can come from either a team as a whole or singular player, examples of this include getting a favorable trade in lane, being on the favorable side of a champion matchup, having your side lanes pushed when setting up for an objective, or having a strong split push presence. Having some sort of pressure is essential for gaining larger advantages like a favorable fight or epic monster kill.
Example of Pressure Being Perfectly Used
Take this example of a moment in game 1 of the series between SKT and the ROX Tigers in the Season Six World Championship semifinals: Faker is able to land a very well-executed combo onto Kuro, completely chunking his health. Even though Faker doesn’t get the kill, this achieves multiple significant things for SKT. First, Wolf on Zyra immediately takes action with completely covering ROX’s bot side jungle with vision, allowing SKT to easily track Peanut and thus creating an easy setup for the upcoming Infernal Dragon.
The next thing it does is allow Bengi to move freely through ROX’s top side jungle, forcing Peanut out of any farm whatsoever and forcing him to recall as Olaf will almost always beat Elise in a one versus one, and since Kuro got chunked, he’s not able to help Peanut. Peanut is forced to recall, leaving Smeb with teammates on the top side of the map, creating a three versus one scenario. That same presence of Olaf in ROX’s top side jungle allows Trundle to push up top lane, forcing Smeb to make the decision between obtaining the gold and XP from the pushed wave and in doing so being pinned to his tower, or to stop Bengi from stealing Peanut’s farm. Due to all of this pressure on the topside, Faker is able to get a free first tower with no one to stop him, as well as a later kill for Duke when ROX attempt to clear out the bot side vision that was established earlier by Wolf.
That is three large advantages gained for SKT: Bengi stealing two major camps from Peanut, SKT getting vision in ROX’s entire bot side jungle, and the first tower for Faker. AND a kill for SKT for the cherry on top. All of this is resulting from one positive trade for Faker in the mid lane. Moments like this truly demonstrate how the pressure of one small-seeming play can be taken miles by world-class teams such as old SKT.
How This Applies to You
You may ask, “How does something as complex as that play into my solo queue games?” I’m glad you asked. While a series of plays and responses such as the ones made by SKT in their game against ROX will almost definitely not happen in the unorganized fiesta that solo queue is, there are smaller things that solo queue players can do to utilize pressure to help you gain that sweet, sweet LP. Here are a few examples of things that you as a solo queue player can do to gain advantages through creating pressure in your games:
- Pick winning lane matchups
If you’re comfortable on a variety of champions, and if your opposing laner or jungler has already picked, then a great way to create inherent pressure is by picking a champion that is known to do well into the opposing one. There are multiple ways that a winning matchup creates pressure; things such as absorbing jungle pressure or being able to consistently push in your lane, allowing you to be the first to respond to a fight near your lane. Some instances of good matchups would be an early game assassin like Zed or Leblanc into an immobile scaling mage like Twisted Fate or Cassiopeia.
If you’re not too sure which champions are counterpicks to one another, try one of the many counter pick websites dedicated exactly to that. But always remember the golden rule of solo queue: play the champions that you know how to play. So don’t go first timing Talon because the enemy mid picked Kassadin, you’re going to lose if you do that. Pick what you’re good at. Pick counters when you can, but don’t stunt yourself in the process of doing so. Counterpicking is a quick and easy way to give you an advantage and create map and lane pressure; just pick your counters wisely.
- Maintain strong vision control on a certain area of the map
This is something any player can do on any champion or any role; to different extents. Pay extra attention to this point if you are jungler, support, or mid laner, since these roles have the most access to the entire map. Let’s set up a scenario for an example: You’re playing support, the game is still in the middle of the laning phase, and an Infernal Dragon is coming up in one minute. You and your ADC have a small lead and are consistently pushing the enemy bot lane up to their tower. You as the support take this opportunity to put vision in the enemy bot side jungle with your own jungler. With this vision established, your team now has complete control over the bot side of the map.
Due to the pressure established from the vision being set up and as well as the dragon spawning, the enemy jungler is forced to either walk into a bad fight or trade the dragon for a gank top or Rift Herald. In either scenario, your team is set up to succeed due to the heavy vision you established. Learning when and how to establish vision control is one of the trickier tools used to create map pressure and control, but it’s also one of the most effective when mastered.
- Utilize Rift Herald
A well placed and well-timed Rift Herald can make or break a team’s early/mid game. Using the Rift Herald on a certain lane or tower can either net your team a lot of gold or serve as a tool to create pressure to allow your team to take a bigger objective. The latter of those two is a significant way to gain advantages if used correctly. An example of a well-utilized Rift Herald is spawning it mid lane when a dragon is up, forcing the enemy team to respond to the push the Herald makes mid. This would give your team a numbers advantage, either giving your team a free dragon or free mid tower. Another good way to use Rift Herald is spawning it bot lane to take down the enemy’s bot lane tower; which would then allow your bot lane to swap top lane and give your ADC or APC even more gold and hopefully another tower.
Using Rift Herald as a way to give your bot lane a lead is an excellent way to create pressure in the long term, because if your ADC or APC is ahead, they should always be able to keep side waves pushed, allowing for quick map or objective control. Another effective option for Rift Herald use is if your team has a powerful split pusher like Nasus or Yorick. Plopping the Rift Herald with your split pusher when they have a big wave built is an excellent way to create pressure in a side lane. A powerful split pusher that has Rift Herald and a big minion wave will force at least 2 members of the enemy team to answer such a potent push, allowing your team to get a Dragon, or even Elder Dragon or Baron. Rift Herald is often traded for objectives like dragon or towers, but for it to be a worthwhile trade, it’s critical that you know how to use it properly.
Moral of the Story
Knowledge of pressure and how to use and apply it is oftentimes one of the most important skills that separate silver and gold players from platinum or diamond players. So if you as a player have been wondering what’s been holding you back from climbing the ranked ladder faster and you learned a lot in this article, this may just have been the piece of game knowledge you needed to push yourself farther than ever. Go try out these techniques to create pressure and win yourself some solo queue games, I promise you, you will rarely see a bigger jump in your win rate than when you are able to proficiently use map and lane pressure to your advantage.