Snapshot Challenge 11:30

The challenge: look at a screenshot of a specific point in a game of League of Legends and use the available information to recommend their next move.

Today we’re looking at the 11:30 mark of a game that pits Nautilus, Lee Sin, Syndra, Varus, and Karma against Renekton, Rengar, Ahri, Ashe, Lulu.

Things aren’t looking so great for our red team. They’re down in gold and Renekton is about to get hit with a 3v1 tower dive, with his Flash already used before making it back to the safety of his tower. Mid lane outer tower is down; Syndra is fed.

But giving up is for giver-uppers: there’s always something worth trying.

Virtually every answer I received on Twitter pointed to pressing the bottom side of the map, typically with the goal of using the ultimates from Rengar, Ashe, and Lulu to lane gank and/or tower dive and thereby trade towers.

Here’s my more detailed, benefit-of-hindsight-fueled take.

Generally speaking, this is a reasonable line of thinking: cut your losses on the weak side and attack your strong side so you don’t give up something for nothing. But there are two potential analytical errors to be careful of here:

  1. Misjudging time and tempo, and
  2. Failing to see through the enemy’s eyes.

To the first point, in my opinion most people aren’t accounting for the amount of time that will be needed for Ahri to push the mid lane far enough to roam, and for Rengar to get in range to provide follow up on an Ashe ultimate. There’s no immediate opportunity for a play because of this (though there is the opportunity to apply pressure).

To the second point, by the time the red team champions have gotten into position to make the play, Varus and Karma will have had plenty of time to back off, knowing full well that they are going to be in danger from the Ashe/Rengar combo. Varus and Karma then have the following options:

  • Stay under tower and rely on Exhaust and Heal to survive the dive.
  • Be even more conservative and back off beyond the tower while using their long-range wave clear to delay the red team’s push, cementing their team’s tempo advantage in the tower trade.
  • Recall and return to the lane with an item advantage to defend against any extended objective trading.

Given these options, the red team can’t really force an aggressive gank or dive. But they can look for more conservative bot side control, with deep vision around the blue team’s red buff. They can use their bot side pressure to crash a wave or two into the tower, holding on to their ultimates so that they still have kill pressure as the scenario plays out. If the red team can then maintain that vision control, they may get access to a mid lane play later, too.

To me, the most interesting part of this scenario is actually Renekton’s decision for what to do after respawning. (I’m partly able to say this because I’ve watched the VOD play out.) To be clear, Renekton doesn’t really have good options after dying to the initial dive. His choices are:

  1. Teleport back into top lane (risk of being re-dove)
  2. Walk back into top lane (going to lose at least one full wave and blue team can either freeze the lane to set up a repeat gank/dive, or take the tower and still freeze)
  3. Teleport into bot lane to join an extra-aggressive dive (doesn’t really add any extra threat, and if a tower trade does happen then blue team can probably bounce the wave top, still denying Renekton)
  4. Walk into mid lane to cover while Ahri is diving bot (nothing to gain there if Ahri has pushed mid to roam in the first place)

Options 2, 3, and 4 are all great ways for Renekton to get passively bled out of the game, assuming the blue team manages the minion waves well. In other words, Renekton’s only option, if he wants to have any role in this game over the next few minutes, is to Teleport back into lane and hope to outplay the re-dive.

So here’s the VOD, Afreeca vs MVP from the Spring 2017 tiebreaker, timestamped to the given scenario:

ADD’s Renekton TPs back into the top lane and gets an outplay for a solo kill. This turns around the entire scenario: suddenly MVP have the tempo advantage with the bot side control they’d established, as Varus and Karma have to recall due to the kill threat from Rengar. Now MVP have a window back into the game, though a failed play at 15:00 costs them pretty much all of the momentum they’d gained.

In summary, I would say the responses I received were correct in spirit (“Make a play to the bottom side”) but many were incomplete in execution (should be looking for control and pressure, not direct, immediate aggression). And I don’t think anybody anticipated the correct play from Renekton (including his opponents!), but that ended up being the crucial factor.

P.S. I’ve violated the spirit of the exercise somewhat by allowing myself the benefit of hindsight analysis, but I think the principles explored here are worth that little indulgence.

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