I’m Christopher “Pwyff” Tom, author of ZAM Networks’ ongoing LoL series, A Buyer’s Guide to League of Legends, former competitive gamer, proliferate internet troll, and itinerant video game journalist extraordinaire. I’ve been a long time League of Legends player, dating all the way back to the friends and family beta that took place in the early summer days of 2009.
Up until a few days ago, I was quite excited to get cracking on the Season Two ranked ladder. I ended last season at Gold, and I figured if I could just pay attention in my games (and maybe get a duo partner), I could make my way somewhere to the 1800s. Unfortunately, Riot Games had other plans for me, and owing to a hilarious series of unfortunate glitches, I lost 350ish ELO in a single game. This obviously had the great effect of plummeting me to the very depths (1100) of what everyone likes to call ELO hell.
After playing my first game with a Clarity / Ignite Ashe, I suspect I’ve gone one further.
My next three games gave me a +40 ELO, however, so I did manage to get to the 1200s, but I have since dropped to regular gains, so I suspect that I’m going to have to earn my 1800s the hard way. Thus far, this has been a hilarious and enraging learning experience that I think I need to share or I risk falling into an endless pit of sadness and desolation. So here I am with a weekly column, which I have dubbed (in the theme of the blog) PROMOTE. Here, I’ll try to guide all of you unfortunate souls who are stuck at the bottom of the ELO ladder, or those of you who are just emerging from the pits, bleary eyed and terrified of ever being sent back to those dark days.
Let me protect you.
For this week, let’s talk about the most important aspect of getting out of ELO hell: Champion Selection.
In the a uber-low ELO games I played getting from 1100 to 1200, the common theme I heard from losing teams is that their teammates just suck too hard to do anything. Given that my most recent teammate was a wonderful Clarity / Fortify Sivir who died six times pushing solo past the river (he says he needs creeps), I’d certainly agree that there are times it feels someone is out to murder your faith in humanity.
Facing the facts, League of Legends is about as team-oriented as you can get in the MOBA genre. Never before has it been more frustrating to realize that the fate of your game – and your happiness – ultimately rests on whether or not your… ‘gifted’ teammates on bottom lane can stop dying long enough to buy a ward. That being said, because LoL is such a team-based game, it’s also very easy for players to blame all of their losses on a dumb team, all the while assuming each win was the result of their own superior skill. If you think the aforementioned problem does apply to you, let’s talk champion selection.
When it comes to climbing the low ELO ladder, the criteria by which we judge champion selection here rarely matches the same criteria by which we look at upper ELO champion tiers. To me, champion independence is probably the most important merit that I look for when choosing my mains. Some champions are designed to be strong with strong team support, while others are designed to be strong on their own. In the lower ELO brackets, where every team fight resembles some kind of chaotic mess of bad choices, the more team team-dependent your champion is, the more those bad choices will affect you and, ultimately, destroy you.
A good example here would be Kog’maw. Sometimes this little guy can be amazing if left alone, but if the enemy team wants to kill you, your cute worm thing is going to die a horrible, horrible death. Good team support can prevent this from happening, but is that a gamble you’re willing to take? Ultimately, you want champions that can be playmakers. I myself am partial to playing Irelia and Singed because they possess the rare ability to accommodate to most of your team’s needs. They initiate well, they can tank and deal damage (Singed performs better in the former, Irelia in the latter, obviously), and they are very strong independent champions. To reiterate: they aren’t as team reliant as most. Countering a good ranged AD can often be as easy as beelining him or her in a fight, whereas countering a hardy Irelia or Singed often requires more team coordination.
If you’re lucky enough to have a partner to duo queue up with, selecting champions that can depend on each other to make up for their shortcomings is a great thing, and can quickly rocket you to the mid-level ELOs with ease. I’ll talk about duo-queue champion partnerships later, but for now, the lesson I’ll leave you with is this: if you think you’re losing games because of your team, try learning to play the more independent champions, and carry your team by sheer force of will.
I think I’ll end off here for now, but I’ll give a few of the champions in each category that I feel can have the greatest impact on a game, given strong individual play. Usually this is achieved by dominating early game and snowballing that into mid and late game. Slow starters are prone to more difficulties.
Mages: Brand, Rumble, Swain, Vladimir, Kassadin, Kennen
Tanky DPS: Irelia, Singed, Garen, Mordekaiser, Nasus, Poppy / Akali
Ranged AD:Caitlyn, Ashe, Tristana, Vayne, sometimes Kog’maw
Junglers: Lee Sin, Nocturne, Udyr, Warwick, Cho’gath, Tryndamere
Support*: Taric, Blitzcrank, Karma, Lux, Soraka
*Given that lower level games have almost 2x the deaths as upper level games, gold is less of an issue, so champions that can contribute more offensively can actually flourish well in low ELO games. Playing aggressively during the laning phase can also lead to a lot of opportunities against lesser skilled players, giving you a significant (sometimes game-winning) advantage later on. Just be careful against the more odd matchups, as duo queuing players like to go bottom lane with aggressive champions. Proper coordination is an incredible advantage in low ELO games.