Wednesday, 18 January 2012

How to play mid lane on League of Legends.

This is not a champion guide per say but it is a guide to playing mid written by myself. May be due to edits with new champions and stuff so if I think it warrants it I will edit it and watch this space. Otherwise enjoy.

A guide to playing mid lane. By AlphaS1x
1. What is mid lane?
2. What is your objective in mid?
2 i. For assassins/ mages.
2 ii Phys damage carries.
2 iii Last hitting.
3. The concept of Zoning.
3 i. What zoning means for harrasment.
3ii. What sort of harrassment should be considered in mid.
3 iii. How creeps affect affect zones and how this then effects harassment.
3 iv. Zoning mentality.
4 Responsiblities of mid lane.
5 What champs counter what in mid and solid picks for mid.
6 Map awareness
6i. When you should buy wards in mid
7 Ganking in mid.
7i. When you should set ganks up and how you should do so.
8. Items
9. Comebacks.
10. Glossary.

1. What is mid lane?
It provides some of the biggest amount of farm and champion kills out of the lanes and as a result is quite important to play mid solidly enough to capitalize on and take advantage of as the game progress to mid late. In this guide I aim to give some general ideas and outline some concepts that maybe familiar or not so either way, I aim to provide a greater understanding of the mechanics of mid specifically.
Please note before I progress with this article/guide. This will not make you better at your champion or suddenly become a God at mid lane. What this guide aims to do is to teach you the fundamentals of playing mid well, if you can understand these concepts and put what I write here into practice you should be well on your way to improving your mid ability. If I mention things later on in the guide that you dont know the meaning of I will leave a glossary in the bottom. Then if I have not mentioned it in the glossary ask me about it and I will clarify. Now onto the more interesting things.

2. What is your Objective in mid lane?
Generally speaking your objective in mid varies dependent upon the type of champion you play whilst all the champions generally speaking want a good level of farm and some early game kills. Essentially the cusp of this is that you want to out gear your opponent and be able to turn the game for your team mates as you must remember in LoL your team is only as strong as its weakest link.

2i. For mages and assassins what is your role?
Generally speaking assassins do not farm well but make up for this in killing power. The one exception to this rule is vayne who farms astronomically well. But she falls under both umbrellas she needs the farm of a Phys damage carry but can face stomp like an assassin once she gets a bit of gold under her belt. For mages in the early game in mid they struggle to farm because their abilities are simply costing too much mana to be farming with. So as a result you must last hit well or try and gain an xp or LVL advantage upon your opponent whether that be via a kill on them or forcing them off the lane.
The comment about last hitting is true for carries and mages and assassins, however assassins are a little more forgiving at a lower level because they can sacrifice some farm for kills. A prime example for this would be Le Blanc, her farming is notoriously terrible, however her burst is nearly unrivalled early game. This allows you to possibly kill your opponent in the mid and you can sacrifice some farm for this. However if your familiar with LB you will know that actually her attack animation flies very quickly making last hitting fairly simple. Essentially speaking what I am saying is that as casters you are a bit more flexible in what you can do in the mid lane.
2ii. Phys damage carries what is your role?
Generally speaking phys damage carries like Ashe caitlyn tristana, corki etc need a fair amount of farm to become effective and they become able to "Carry" through the farm that they get. So playing mid lane with one of these champs is more difficult naturally than a mage because your damage is not early game you scale better as the game goes on and it’s important to remember this. Think of building a carry like building a house, if you dont have any foundations (farm) your house will just crumble like a stack of cards. For this reason I cannot stress enough how important last hits are as a phys carry. Whilst the Metagame at lower skill levels in EU servers are more geared towards killing than free farm you can’t ignore farming as a carry if you do thats what lands you 0 5 0 or 1/3/12 as a carry. Whilst you can harrass in mid as caitlyn or ashe quite well you can do so but do not neglect your farm as previously mentioned it will make or break your game most of the time.

2iii. Last hitting.
In the two previous parts to the guide I emphasize the importance of last hitting creeps. some of you may be thinking well what are you talking about. In short last hitting is just getting the last hit on a creep to get the gold. Some champs are better than it than others but that comes with the game. The art of good last hitting is getting a decent idea of how much damage your creeps will do the opposing creeps and how much damage your auto attacks are doing, and knowing how fast your auto attack will fly to the target. Knowing these 3 things allows last hitting to become a lot easier, you must take heed of these regardless of the champ you play mid with. Also do not be discouraged if you miss some minions when ironing out this technique. It will come with the territory although I would recommend you stick with one champion until you master the last hitting with it and then maybe move on if you don’t like how it harrasses or plays in mid lane which is what I leave up to you. Last hitting is just as important in the side lanes aswell as the mid lanes so do not think last hitting is just confined to mid.

3. The concept of zoning.
When playing LoL there is a generally accepted concept as to how harassment works. It works on the basis of zones. Each champion controls a certain zone depending upon spells/auto attacks. Basically the range at which a champion can harass you. Generally speaking treat it as a radius coming out from the centre of the champion. Some champions zones are naturally bigger than others. Tristana and Annie being two of the biggest auto attack ranges in the game allow for a fair bit of zone control. To see a visual representation of zoning I will refer to Shurelia's zoning guide > . If you can get past her voice then you can appreciate alot of the zone concept by watching it. Saves me writing reams of things and you can see a physical representation then of how this works.

3 i. What does zoning mean for harassment.

Whilst the aforementioned zoning guide kind of gives a visual representation of this. I will explain in words. Zoning which I’m certain shurelia doesn't mention is based in part on speculation or fear of the damage output of the other champion and whether or not either of the champions wants to keep the action in a certain part of the lane. When two zones clash one of the two champs contracts and gives up the zone they were controlling and falls back generally speaking because they don’t want to take damage (Losing a trade. Trading is when you harass each other and both take damage the winner is determined by whoever deals the most damage and receives least.) from a certain ability as they are outranged, this is why ranged champs are able to zone better than melee champs but this is obvious. Kassadin particularly is a good example of this, his Q null sphere has something like 650 range roughly and along with a 2.5 silence has some good damage behind it and people naturally retreat from this can lead to some nasty burst. Kassadin is also interesting as after 6 his mobility becomes insane and his ability to control zones becomes exponential, this is often why people have so much trouble dealing with kassadin.

3 ii. What sort of harassment should be considered in mid.

This is a tough thing to remember and keep in your mind as you play in mid on top everything else you have to think of and consider. You have to bear in mind your champion, the champion you face and the damage that you do to each other. What needs to be thought about is do you harass consistently and commit do you passive throw a shot or two every so often and wear the opponent slowly down and hope someone comes and ganks. Do you wear em slowly and then full on commit when they are low hp. It is also heavily based upon sustain. Is it worth drilling your mana if you know your dps<their sustain.

All this is left to you and through time and practice you will work out what is best for you. There is absolutely no substitute for time and practice I can't give a list of what works in what situation that is something you must work out.

3 iii. How do creeps effect zones.

Creeps effect zones quite massively early game. The reason for this is because of the fact that creeps hurt like a bitch early and you don’t want to push too far past them as you can end up over extended and die because of how minion aggro works. The best way to use creeps to your advantage is to push your creeps by aggressively trying to farm instead of passive last hitting and push your enemy back to the tower. This has its good and bad points. This depends upon the competence of your opponent and your farm ability. If you can tell your opponent is bad at last hits you can push them back to the tower and make the problem significantly worse and make the tower steal the gold and place a bigger gold deficit upon your advisary. However doing this leaves you with some issues. You become far more prone to ganks as you are so far away from your tower, sometimes it becomes harder to last hit as your minions kill the enemy creeps far too quickly.

The enemy still gets xp even under the tower, so pressuring them under the tower should be better used on carries that need the gold. Your other tactic is to be passively aggressive and push the minions to a point where they are not on the tower but the enemy champion is forced to come off the tower for xp and gold then once you have that position you can switch to being passive and not harassing as much and just last hitting to maintain that point in the lane. The problem with this is you can end up in the pressure under the tower situation very easily if you are not careful. But if you can manage ward control and things and have a bit of good fortune you should be alright and you can have a slight room for error.

3 iii. Zoning mentality.

This is very important and it varies from player to player and this is something you have to work out for yourself. If you watch for patterns in someone’s behaviour in the middle it can tell you alot about what’s coming next especially when you don’t have ward control this instinct can save you from alot of sticky situations. Like some players will set up a rhythm of harass, others will sit back and last hit under their tower. People are creatures of habit, if people are exhibiting patterns different to what you’ve been watching for the previous parts of the game likely chances are they are trying to bait you into an open season gank for a side lane or jungle gank.

As is the case with blind picks you cannot rely on MIA calls all the time so as a result you have to develop some awareness of these sorts of things. Certain patterns of behaviour can often come from the match ups in the mid. This is more the case in blind pick than draft but it can be quite often the case when one champ has no counter for the other or doesn’t know how to so plays passively and you can be baited into a gank a lot easier this way, it is often to better to be safe and lose a few minions than to give 2 members of the enemy team 200+ G .

4. Responsibilities of the mid laner.

In general because you will be out leveling the side lane and on par with the other solo lane jungle dependent ofc, if your team mates need a hand and the jungler isn’t on gank patrol for whatever reason it is often quite reasonable for them to ask you for a gank because you are the next best capable for the job. However whilst ganking can give your buddies an advantage and can gain you some gold in the process careless exit from your lane can leave your mid turret exposed and often people lose towers and grant approx 750 ish gold for the team. Never underestimate how important tower xp and gold is as one tower is not far behind dragon in this regard.
Dragon is worth (in total to the team) 1k gold and 2 champ kills worth of xp. In the mid as i mentioned earlier you want to suppress your opponent and finish your lane off quite quickly if your an assassin and not so much if your a carry. If you are an assassin the pressure is off you to an extent as you can gank as you please to a greater degree as your minions can push further so you have more time to gank. Whilst giving up the tower advantage you just made is silly at the same time helping your team get their lanes done can often save the game esp when they have a tough lane it stops them getting facewrecked as much and brings them up and you have a stronger team then as a result and not just 1 or 2 individuals trying to hold a team from drowning.

5. Generally solid picks for mid lane.

These are entirely my opinion mixed with some experience and facts.
Solid assassin picks are Le Blanc and Kassadin and Talon. They have some sick burst potential and can dominate the early mid when played well. Akali is a weaker pick because of the fact she has to jump into melee range and her viability is significantly increased after six and she lacks any sort of decent cc. However despite this akali can cover some stupid ground at stupid speed and is not to be underestimated. Talon also with him coming out mages dont like his large physical burst and interrupt with cut throat.

Solid Mage picks in the mid I would say are Anivia Annie Brand, Malzahar and Kennen. All of these have some solid CC in their arsenals and quite nasty burst potential but lack some the escape mechanism that kass or LB have, so when pressurizing being extra vigilant is always necessary as it is more difficult to escape ganks with mages than it is with assassins as a rule of thumb. On top of their cc they have decent last hit ability with some good farm which makes them relatively solid mids.

Solid Carries for mid in my estimation are Caitlyn, Tristana, Vayne and Graves. Caitlyn is at the top of the proceedings because she has hard cc an escape and a decent harass game to boot. Tristana comes in a close second as whilst she has some of the same traits as caitlyn I feel caitylns harass outshines hers. Vayne comes in third because she has an ability to dodge attacks but its not as useful for escaping in the same way rocket jump and 90 calibre net are. Graves is on par with vayne because of his dash and decent damage harass with Q. Ashe comes in last out of the four because whilst she provides a decent utility in her slows from frost shot, volley and crystal arrow a Banshees veil is often quite a good counter to her and makes her team fight utility exponentially less than what it is when people have no banshees veil or cleanse. On top of this she has no real escape and relies on extreme map awareness in order to function safely.

Now you may be thinking well I see irelia mid and Jarvan mid why have you not mentioned these champs. This is because I found them difficult to catergorize and so I bunged them in at the end here they are good if there is no one else to fill the void and do benefit greatly from the solo farm but often if there is someone who could better use the mid than these sorts of anti range meta game champs then by all means let the mage assassin or carry go mid. You also see Irelia, jarvan, Udyr and co at top more often.

5 i. Who counters who in the mid.

In this I will cover some of the picks you will see most commonly I will not go through all 70 plus champs as some cant mid well enough to be considered and simply you won’t see half of them play mid.

Anivia: Deals fine with most champs in the mid bar kass and LB because of their mobility makes flash frost hard to land and can disrupt her combo with silences and roots. She can provide a vital escape for some champs with crystallize and can set up kills and isolate very well with this also.

Annie: Quite versatile very powerful early game esp for a mage, her CC can often provide her enough time to escape ganks and and absolutely destroy single targets. Has a decent team fight initiator in Paedo bear stun. However prone to being focused and lacks a reliable escape mechanism. Struggles against champs who can sustain harrasment like vayne and caitlyn.

Brand: Phenomenal early game with some sick AOE damage makes farming and harassing a breeze as he can do both with one spell provided he doesn’t spam it too much. Whilst he scales not so well later on his mid game AOE/ early late AOE DPS is comparable to Annie if not as good his passive DOT is not to be underestimated either. The flipside to brand is totally skill shot dependent to land kills so suffers in a similar vein to anivia and has similar counters to his play.

Kennen: (Disclaimer:Kennen is not seen so much higher elo but I felt his mention necessary as he can bring a lot of utility lower down) Kennen has strong early game and scales decently into late. His AOE Stun when combined with amumu, galio etc can prove game turning making him not only powerful 1v1 but a useful contributor to team fights also. Kennens weakness is in his cool downs, it’s important to punish Kennen for recklessness with Lightening rush and spamming too many shurikens because if you let him build any sort of AP or keep levels with you he will punish you and once kennen starts a fight it can be very difficult to escape him. Kennen is prone to silence and can be out ranged if the right champ is present. Kassadin and cho' gath are prime examples of this.

Swain: He has stupid sustainability after Level 6. Isolates single targets very well and can be difficult to escape from. Mobility is Swains weak point as he needs to trap you with never move to reel his combos off and as it has a noticeable delay before being effectual if you can keep on the move and harass swain it makes his job a lot harder. Swain is not as strong as he used to be and whilst he may be rewarding to play if fed he is not the most optimal of picks.

Malzahar: His E Farm is second to virtually none in the game not only that but his E farm can be sustained really easily and can compensate for some spell spam because of the E mana return. Suffers in a similar vein to swain however, Malzahar really suffers when someone has a Quick silver sash because without his ultimate to lock someone down Malz really struggles to down champs effectively as his spells require his targets to have relatively crap mobility. Malzahars other weakness is early harass, if you keep him from farming with his E early because its range is quite small compared to his Q for instance he loses levels and gold quite drastically. Kassadin will shut him down due to range and anyone really with a solid early will shut him down if you kill him pre 6, like cho, urgot etc. If you have a decent gap closer with some cc he really struggles with this too as mages don’t have the resistances nor health pool to sustain that sort of harrass, see akali see irelia.

Karthus : The death singer is seen more as a solo top champ but in low elo and normal games he seems to be a prominent mid so I could not really ignore him. I have not put vlad in for a similar reason but vlad isn't seen as much in Lower elo mid so I have for this reason neglected to mention him in this part of the guide. Back to Karthus, he farms like a beast his Q harrass is really strong his mana is easily sustainable in the lane, easily one of the best mage pushers. His ult has monster utility in team fights and bringing the team gold from escape artists who thin k they are safe. However Karthus's main failing is the fact that for him to be most effective he must be in the middle of the fray often leading to his early demise in a team fight and is quite heavily shut down by mobile champs in the mid and is awfully CC prone due to his low move speed and lack of hard CC. In short if you play a champion that can dodge lay waste early and can punish his mobility then you win.

Vladimir: Seeing as the new mastery changes have given this champ a fair bit of life now I can't ignore him especially when 2k eloers are raping face as him. Vladimir in his early isn't very strong but you can inflict some heavy damage if done correctly. If you do not kill vlad before lvl 9 its GG for you because his sustain goes through the roof esp if he gets any sort of spell vamp. The best way to counter him is to consistently use grevious wounds to reduced his sustain and keep on him untill he capitulates. Punish vladimirs that spam Tides of blood because it does hurt them significantly early game. You see a vlad take ignite helps loads with dealing with him.

Ryze: Counter Veigar like a slag if you get a BV. He can’t get any scaling off his ultimate because you dont use ap you can also wear him down quite effectively. Also hard counters jungle singed and those with melee cc.

Ashe : She has some decent team fight utility but is far too auto attack dependent and needs a rework in my opinion before I can put her in the same bracket as cait and vayne. But her stun can be pivotal in team fights provided the whole team doesn’t have banshees and cleanse of some description. As a result of the auto attack dependence any mage or assassin with a greater range on their spells will dominate ashe provided they commit to harassment again like caitlyn and vayne, Ashe will punish those who poke at her because she can ramp up the DPS with the slows making it often difficult to escape a situation you never intended to be in for starters.

Caitlyn: Strong harass early good farm decent escape artist and can pick off stragglers. Caitlyn in my eyes is the strongest carry to place in the mid for the aforementioned. Caitlyns weakness is being silenced as it stops peacekeeper. People fear caitlyns DPS and whilst this is partly justified Cait is so squishy that if you commit to a kill attempt on caitlyn most of the time you can be rewarded in some way or another, if you let cait poke and prod you will regret it deeply.

Vayne : She does appear alot more now that people have realised her destructive power if allowed to farm up. Her true damage is a biatch either way it is cut, you cannot afford to get into poking engagements with vayne as you will lose because a poke from Vayne generally will do more than a poke from most other champs. On the flip side to Vayne is how squish she is. A good CC based mage or assassin will shut her down in her tracks provided you do it quickly enough.

Twisted Fate: This is a rarer pick in mid than some of the listed above. However you do see him mid enough to justify me writing about him. If twisted goes AP you must dodge his wild cards as they will hurt alot and pick a card is more potent ap and stacked deck also stacks with AP however if TF doesn't build some attack speed then this is all you have to worry about. A Silence or stun will shut AP TF down hard, AP tf seriously does not appreciate gap closers like Fizz or akali either. If Tf goes attack damage spec then his auto attacks and red card are the things you want to be avoiding essentially treat TF like carry with a 5 second CD stun if he goes AD spec.

Chogath: Cho is a rarer pick but a very deadly one at that. If played AP he is one of the strongest mages in the game he has a decent range and both Q and W are decent CC and aoe to a large area, he is like a prenerf alistar in terms of ratios and few people realise this, so don’t play him too much as you will get him nerfed :(. To counter him is relatively difficult but you have to present yourself as a more rewarding target than creepfarm, this is how cho sustains by farming with his rupture and feral scream so his mana loss isnt as much, and if he does start to lose mana vorpal spikes saves the day. He is squishier than tank cho however so if your burst is good enough and you can avoid his cc then yes he is beatable, but it must be done pre rank six before he gets feast because his lane power does increase alot once he does this, its what makes him him its like kassadin and riftwalk and malzahar with nether grasp.

You may see an absence of champions here and think Y U NO TALK ABOUT THIS CHARA OMG OMG OMG. The reason for this is because you will not see them enough for me to justify wasting time talking about it this guide teaches you a lot but what it will not teach you is how to adapt to certain situations. For instance morde mid this is a tough one but you will essentially need a champ that can silence for a long duration to beat him to get his shield from not building, for the champs ive not mentioned use your common sense as that separates the good from the great.

6. Map awareness.

Map awareness is crucial in mid as you don't have a team mate that can help you escape you are very much left to your own devices in the mid. The problem lower down the rungs you are is the lack of reliable MIA Calls as I mentioned earlier on in the guide. Map awareness and having decent map awareness at that is the difference between getting crushed in mid and saving your bacon. Wards can be a safety net in this regard but do not expect to wards to be a get out of jail card as naturally as a human being sometimes we mess shit up and miss things and we end up ganked and thats not cool. I will talk about wards and ward placement in the next chapter.

6 i. When and where to buy wards in mid.

As a rule of thumb I would go back and buy wards when you have about 300 gold left over from a purchase of some description and then when you get back to lane I would ward both bushes and the gank path from Dagon and Baron. Not only does this give you information about ganks and possible ambushes this also lets your team know when the enemy could be setting up for dragon and provides you with enough knowledge to make some ambushes and traps yourself.

7. When to set up ganks and how to go about setting ganks.

Playing a passive mid lane and passively last hitting allows ganks to be set because you arent changing your zoning mentality or harassment patterns, see (3 iii) if you have forgotten what I talked about earlier. This allows the action to stay in dead centre of the lane and so the enemy champ won’t be close enough to their tower to avoid a gank if executed correctly. Ganks should realistically be set up by the jungler as with the metagame change for the jungle from the minion buff some time back that is their priority but if this for some reason is not possible bot lane can often let one champ free to go and gank if its a necessity because you are suffering in mid. But do not bug bot lane for help it is most often better to let the jungler gank as it most of the time doing so gives them their ultimate and good gold boost and denying this only makes their job obsolete but makes the difficulty of them keeping in the game exponentially more difficult as they often have to jungle the enemy jungle to make up for the levels and gold lost by failed ganking which can lead to a total shut out of your jungler which in turn can lose you the game. Also only set up ganks when you have ward control and you know this to be the case. If you don't then dont bother because you’re wasting the junglers gold gain and xp gain from a fruitless venture because youve not paid enough attention to your opponent.

8. Mentionable items.
When playing mid, there are a few items that can give you a huge advantage over your opponent. Although having an advantage early game through items will put your build back a bit, if you can get more farm or kills with the advantage it will pay off in the long run. This is when the online builds go a little bit wrong sometimes, as they will sometimes ask you to build stack items even if you’re doing terribly, for example if you’re getting shut down by a Kassadin in mid, you want to skip the Mejai’s and scream down chat “GET BANSHEES U GUYS”, to stop Kassadin stomping your face as much mid game. So take this in mind when reading a guide, and if you’re not sure, use common sense.

Doran’s Ring/Blade: Usually a starting item on casters/carries, it gives a helpful bit of HP, Damage, and sustainability to your champion. Using one of these can make it look like you have way more health than you actually do, for example Brand who (when I play him), has 4 bars of health, but when you buy a Ring, it goes up to five, and gives me a total of around 50AP. Stacking the Doran’s items is a great way to be able to have a strong start, but they don’t build into anything, so you’re counting on the advantage the Doran’s items will give you to increase your farm and killing ability. To counter this, keep your farm up and play more defensively – he’s banking on kills to get the money back so don’t let him.

A note on Dorans Stacking: This is a viable way to build early if you’re struggling. or you want to capitalize on an early game advantage.

Hextech Revolver: Most people will use this on carries that are quite hard to mid with (I’ve seen it on Akalis and Mordekaisers), and that would make sense, as both are vulnerable to harassment, so some spell vamp offers some much needed sustainability. To counter this, focus more on burst than harrasment. If you are playing another caster vs one of these champs it can be quite beneficial to grab one yourself if your opponent has one because it then nulls any advantage they may have in terms of sustain, you can always sell it later on if you dont plan on a gunblade/will of the ancients.

Early Resistances: Against strong burst champs, like LeBlanc, all you might need is a Null-Magic-Mantle/Negatron Cloak to shut the damage down a little. What people don’t realise is if you don’t have alot of magic resistance, a little magic resistance will go a long way. To counter, get penetration.

Super dooper early-boots: If you see a Cassiopeia or a Karthus going mid, you might want to invest in early boots instead of a Dorans or otherwise. Why? Because if you go for a Doran’s item, you’ll probably lose alot of health through Lay Waste, whereas with boots, it’s so much easier to dodge. Generally speaking Mobility > damage skillshots.

Mejai’s: Build it if your Karthus, because Requiem will give you LOADS of kill(steal)s, and build it with any AP champ if you feel like you’ll comfortably go positive. To counter, gank, focus, make his life hell.
Remember that how well you’re doing affects what items to get, and don’t be afraid if things aren’t going well – if you play smart and get defensive items, you’ll easily pull it back.
A Word on Mejais.: while you can snowball like a boss if you get this the problem it creates is that people will focus you down more because they see you have a stack item, mejais is high risk/reward.

9. Comebacks.
There comes times at mid where you will inevitably fall behind due to just having a bad game getting counterpicked, your jungle sucks cock their jungle is camping your lane etc etc. You can pull it back if you dont go any more than 2 deaths behind if you do its generally over as a mage as mages scale better off levels than items. always when behind play conservative but look for an opportunity to gain an advantage with jungle ganks and careless mistakes from the other mid all those can snowball in your favour if you are patient and are constantly looking for openings instead of raging like a tool.

10. Glossary.
Metagame = How the game actually plays, this varies from depending upon what your ELO is. It also depends on whether you play on EU or US because both generally have different styles of play. See when 2 bruisers used to bot lane and AD carry mid ap solo top etc etc.

This lengthly guide on how to play mid lane was created by Alpha Six

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