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GUIDE

How to improve at mid lane

With Mid Lane Week now upon us, I took the time to sit down with a number of Europe’s finest, along with a few other familiar faces, to look at some of the most important aspects of mid lane.

While each role in League of Legends has a nearly limitless skill ceiling, that’s most apparent in the midlane. Being a mid laner means understanding that you have the ability to impact every lane. Some players may choose to look for stylish 1v1 duels and settle on crushing their lane opponent, while others may look to roam and support their team with smart use of lane pressure, collapsing on the opposition right when they least expect it. No matter how you prefer to play, it’s important to learn how to control the mid lane - and in turn, control the game.

CHECKMATE

League of Legends always reminds me of chess. The overall goal is to make moves as a team that force your opponent into situations where they don’t have any good answers left. Slowly but surely you take everything they own until you can kill the King and win the game. Each individual member on your team shares the same goal, but they all have their own chess battle vs their lane opponent. Midlaners are the Queen in our chess game: they have the ability to impact the entire map and will always be a threat and focal point.

Following the battle between teams is much easier than following the individual battles during a laning phase. The camera can only show one lane at the time which results in us missing a lot of the small details. It’s important to understand that a strong player can force his enemy into a situation where only fighting and attempting to outplay his opponent offers a path to victory. Failing to do so can lead to a CS deficit, reduced pressure on the map and ultimately little impact on the game, compared to your lane opponent.

I sat down with Perkz, Sencux, Pr0lly and Bjergsen to gather some tips and tricks that you guys can use when playing, but also use to get a better understanding of things to look for in the mid lane during professional matches. The tips and tricks we will cover are:

  • Roaming

  • How to play with and against teleport

  • Understand your strong side

  • Trading

  • Climbing in ranked

Perkz

ROAMING

G2 Esports’ Perkz was our Rookie of the Split in the spring split, and his team currently sits atop the EU LCS standings. Perkz is known for his aggressive playstyle, often roaming to impact other lanes. Knowing when to roam is key: “if you get 1 kill in your lane, then it’s better to snowball advantage in the other lanes after. Always push your wave first before roaming,” said Perkz. “If you play an assassin in competitive (kill pressure) then you can and should always try to roam and move around to apply pressure on the map. You always have a gap closer and can duel early and you want to snowball.”

While this applies to assassins and their increased mobility, playing a slower mage like Viktor can change how you want to play the early game. “Champions like Viktor should just focus on pushing his lane until he gets his second hexcore upgrade,” said Perkz. “Once you are farmed and strong enough then you can look to play aggressive.”

PLAYING WITH AND AGAINST TELEPORT

Teleport is an incredibly useful and important summoner spell in competitive play, and can often dictate who wins lane and who most impacts the map. “Whatever champ you play, with teleport you can play aggressive early,” says Perkz. “Push, poke, trade and then use your TP to instantly return to lane and have better timings. After first recall when you TP back, perma push your lane so the other lane can’t get an easy back. When you have TP you always use first one to return to lane. After that, never use it to return lane again unless your turret is in danger. Always look to make TP plays in side lanes to snowball them.” It can be difficult to play against an opponent running Teleport if you opt not to, and it’s important to know how to adapt in this scenario. “It’s always hard to play against TP,” says Perkz. “Think smart: don’t take ‘dumb’ trades as he will get a better recall, don’t play aggressive vs a guy with TP unless you know you can kill him (perhaps with jungle assistance). It’s better to just farm and stay healthy.”

When you run teleport, keep in mind that you’re sacrificing a combat summoner that can impact late game team fights, or put you at a disadvantage in 1 v 1 duels. Champions like Vladimir need the mobility from Ghost to really dominate the late game, so I don’t advise taking teleport on Vladimir in the mid lane.

PLAY TO YOUR STRONG SIDE

Playing to your strong side has different meanings in League. If we’re talking about laning, for example, it could mean which side of the mid lane you hug. Splyce’s mid laner Sencux talks about the importance of sticking to a particular side in the laning phase. “Play to your strong side with vision. It’s much easier to play aggressive and dodge ganks if they have to gank from the opposite side,” he said. Perkz also chimed in, saying “if the enemy midlaner moves to one side of the lane, that means he wants you to hug the other side. This often means that he wants you to play on the opposite side so his jungler can gank from that angle.” This highlights the importance of watching enemy movement in lane.

You can accentuate your advantage on a particular side by controlling vision with pink wards. Pink wards ensure you have full vision of the area, while also reducing how much vision your enemy has. If you play to the side with your pink ward, you’re covering yourself while also creating risk for the enemy mid laner. If they don’t have vision of that area, they can’t attack you on that side for fear of being ganked by your jungler. It’s a classic mistake I see so often.

Playing to your strong side also extends to which side of the map you play to. You’ll often have situations where one lane is winning and one is losing, and choosing which one of those to impact is really important, according to TSM’s Bjergsen. “Something I feel like is important is understanding the state of the game. Every time you back press TAB and see who's doing well and who's doing badly on your team,” he said.

“Generally you want to play to your strong side/teammate to snowball them, playing too much to help your weak teammates can end up putting you behind, because any fight you take on that side of the map you'll be weaker overall. You should also identify which lanes you can roam to and make plays on. If you have an Irelia top but your bot lane is a support Janna who doesn't have hard CC setup, it's probably going to be easier to roam and get kills top.”

Deficio

Deficio is casting the EU LCS since 2014

TRADING IN LANE

The crux of laning is how you trade with your lane opponent. I can’t improve your personal mechanics, but I can tell you the best times to trade blows with the enemy to ensure you gain an advantage in lane. One of the most important things new pro players learn is the concept of punishing their opponent.

“When I started playing competitively I quickly learned that other pros would punish me every time I went for a CS,” said Sencux. “Time your skillshots or trades with their last hits. Make sure to look for punish when the enemy goes for CS: force them into choosing between last hitting or trading with you.”

It’s very obvious when an opponent is attempting to go for CS, so aim your attacks at the area they’re going to stop in to last hit. H2K’s coach (and former professional mid laner) Pr0lly has a lot of advice on how to play your lane in many different scenarios, whether you’re playing a pokey mage or an all-in assassin.

“If you’re poke champion like Xerath, look to push out your wave and poke them under tower,” he said. “If you play something like an assassin, then it’s better not to push but force them out in the lane so you have room to chase them and have kill pressure.”

Understanding factors that influence the early game are key to strong laning, including champion power spikes (LeBlanc’s QW combo at level 2 beats everything) and when you level up (level 2 is 7 minions. Walk up as soon as the 7th minion is about to die, as your level 2 spike vs level 1 is huge and can win you the lane early). “Make sure you don’t use too much mana early if you play a champion that levels up his main ability at level 3,” says Prolly. “It’s much stronger to trade there but if you are out of mana then you have no pressure.”

Pr0lly’s ultimate tip for winning mid lane, however, is much more simple: “play Ziggs or BUST!”

CLIMBING THE LADDER

Ranked Tier

So now that we’ve given you plenty of advice on how to play the lane and the map as a mid laner, you’ll need to use that advice to climb the ladder. To aid your climb, pro players like Bjergsen and Sencux recommend focusing on a few specific champions to better increase your chance of climbing. “For climbing I always recommend mastering 2-3 champions,” said Bjergsen. “You'll learn a lot about matchups by playing against different champions, but sticking to your comfort picks, learning how they interact with other champions, and the strengths and weaknesses of each champion you're playing against is incredibly important.” You could even take it a step further, and become a one-trick pony like Sencux used to be. “I focused on one specific champion when I was climbing,” said Sencux. “Once I reached higher elo I faced better players that I could learn from. I also understood everything about my champion. Damage, durability and cooldowns which made it easier to win lane.” Sencux recommends three picks to help you dominate the mid lane: LeBlanc, Twisted Fate, and Viktor. These champions all have different strengths and weakness

I hope you found some useful tips in this article to help you become a better mid laner. These are only some of the most important things a top-tier player has to think about when they play mid lane professionally, which only highlights just how difficult it is. If you can play to this level, however, your impact on the game can be massive. And if you can’t play to this level, just become a coach. Like Pr0lly. (I kid, but seriously don’t play Ziggs)