Lane swaps are being subject to a lot of attention these days. Some fans think games are more boring than before. Yet analysts say that they are essential to this game and blame the new game mechanics introduced in seasons 5 and 6. The community’s ignorance to lane swaps is comprehensible, because whether one is bronze or diamond, he doesn’t do it in solo queue.
The weird gentlemen’s agreement in LoL to almost never lane swap in solo queue amazes me to this day. There’s zero rules forbidding players to do it and in many cases using even basic swaps could give “free elo” to players. You see scripting, boosting, tryhard 5men invade lvl 1, stream sniping, and so much more lame ways of climbing elo.. but where are the lane swaps? It’s clear that the community’s understanding of lane swaps is still really low.
I’ll continue by explaining lane-swaps, but if you guys wanna hear more about the basics; MonteCristo had recently made a great video.
ROX Tigers and CJ Entus, 2 teams that are good at lane swaps. As seen in the LCK.
I will first briefly explain the current lane swap meta. It’s characterized by using your toplaner, your support and your ADC to push the enemy’s weak side of the map with high speed. Teams don’t freeze lanes against toplaners anymore mainly because towers are weak and pushing them early is rewarding. Another reason is that teams learned to “double jungle” or to create plays elsewhere on the map. The team that takes down the tower first will allow their toplaner to gain an advantage as long as they bounced the wave. That’s pretty much it, but obviously it all comes down to team-comps and the level one set-up.
There’s already a must-read article on lane swaps, so instead I’ll explain the s6 lane swap. Here’s a summary about the different things to know about the lane swap:
- If your lvl 1 is powerful: you should highly consider invading (or setting a trap in your own jungle)/ If it’s rather weak: you might wanna have each player block an entrance to your side of the map by standing in the river.
- You will need to place deep-wards to spot where the enemy team is sending its players. You can hence try to match their lane assignments if needed or simply start setting-up your next steps in advance.
- It’s important to understand your weak and your strong side during the lane swap. The strong side is located next to your bot lane. If a jungler is clearing camps on his weak side: he’s taking a risk.
- Choosing whether the jungler starts on his weak or his strong side will have consequences on what he will be able to do. A lot of plays can be made as a result of this important decision. A good team will mix these possibilities with their team comp and their win conditions to maximize the outcome. Unfortunately, in the current meta doing the tower trade is the optimal way to go so it limits other plays.
- If a team can successfully guess or spot where the enemy jungler started his path, they can sometimes invade, zone him out or even kill him while he’s tanking the red or the blue buff. They can also time it to steal his buff or kill him when it spawns again.
- Lane assignments are really important. A team needs to have the right people at the right lanes at the right time. Per example, a team should never decide to let their Kog’Maw solo hard push a side-wave past the center of the map. Instead, they should send someone safer like their Lulu to do this task.
- Controlling the waves by pushing or freezing them at the right time is an important concept to master during lane swaps. Freezing is good to deny the enemy from accessing the wave at the threat of being ganked or killed by the freezers themselves. Pushing is good when it can lead you to damage or to break turrets and sometimes deny xp or cs because your minions will die to the enemy tower. If you plan on pushing to make a 4v2 tower dive, on top of making sure nobody else is coming, you need to attack from both sides of the tower. This seems obvious but a lot of teams make this basic mistake.
- Lane swaps can decide who gets the dragon and the Rift Herald, Herald is particularly interesting because it can furtively down extra turrets.
- Lane swaps can help weaker laners escape the laning phase. They can also help avoid undesired 2v2 (jungler-top) or 3v3 (botlane-jungler) matchups. Per example, a top laner playing Fiora and a jungler playing Elise can have the nastiest ganks. Even if there’s a counter-gank; odds are that their match-up will prevail.
- During lane swaps, ganking is more predictable. It has to be either a tower dive with your strong side or a mid-lane gank. Teams can therefore force lane swaps to limit the early game power of enemy junglers. This is really effective if the goal is to shut-down a superstar jungler’s early game.
- Surviving dives is really important. Individual mechanics, pre-emptive warding and the teammates’ awareness will contribute to survive a tower-dive.
- At a certain point (in this meta it’s when the tier 1 side-towers are down) people will try to break away from the lane swap. Re-swapping at the right moment can make you gain an advantage (per example, if you didn’t want the lane swap in the first place, you will finally get your standard lane) However, re-swapping at the wrong moment will make you lose experience and cs.
Team Vitality, a team good at lane swaps. Photo from Shaunz’s Facebook page.
This was a summary about lane swaps, but once you can understand each of these previous points, you will know what’s going on while watching the esport. The only way to understand lane-swaps really well is by watching many games while paying attention to both teams’ positioning. It’s good to get used at looking a lot on the minimap as it contains the most information. Only looking at players last hitting minions won’t make you notice what’s going on in the game. Multiple things can happen in the early game because there are hundreds of unique champions and dozens of team decisions to take. As if it wasn’t enough, lane swap metas frequently change.
Lastly, are lane swaps to blame for less fighting in LoL? First of all, there are ways to try to avoid the lane swaps so they will not always happen. When there’s a lane swap and teams are just killing each other’s tower, sure it looks boring, but you have to think about how it happened. Separating the strong sides on different poles of the map indeed makes it kind of safer for both teams. Nonetheless, it was their decision in the first place. Most of the time, it’s the fault of the team with stronger lanes to allow it to happen. They are forced in an equal early game while they could’ve had a better one.
It’s time to acknowledge that League of Legends is not a valorous arena where fair 2v2 match-ups are played. There are bushes for a reason after all. Just like in an all-out war, cunning and abuse are part of the battle. It’s a team strategy game when played with seriousness and with communication. Freely allocating his players to strategic points of the map is nothing but the logical outcome.
OG vs SKT, S5 Worlds semi-final
The reason why there’s less fighting is actually due to other factors. Here’s why:
The dragon gives a weak buff and no gold. The only reason to kill it; is to progressively secure a win condition. The scuttle crab can add a big advantage to the team going for dragon. There’s also a Rift Herald these days so the team that lost dragon control, can have a free consolation prize that’s actually super strong if used smartly. A lot of Rift Heralds have factually translated themselves into tier two towers. All these changes make it less incentive to fight over the dragon.
Another reason is that teams learned to ward better than during the days of constant fighting. Also players have learned to play safer when they need to. Sure they still get caught but less often. Teams understand their win conditions better. They don’t yolo fight on every opportunity they get like before unless they should. Just as the last point, it’s still far from perfect. But in general, if we compare the top 20 teams now to the top 20 teams in 2013; we will see a big difference.
Most teams are adapting to strategic gameplay–even the Unicorns of Love. However lane swapping doesn’t break the game, it adds extra levels of freedom and tactics. Imagine being forced to play Syndra and Caitlyn every game because 60% of your match is decided by your laning phase. League of Legends is already a fairly simple eSport if we compare it to the likes of Starcraft. Why dumb it down even further? We must be grateful that the Koreans raised the level of play to higher standards.