Know your champions
This seems like an obvious place to start, but knowing every single champion and what their abilities do can help you figure out synergies with your own favorite champions and help you counter your enemies’ picks.
“If you can’t name all champions’ five abilities, that’s an issue,” said Anthony “5mi” Hong, a top-500 player in the North America server with the rank of Grandmaster. He’s also a content contributor at ProGuides. “If you can’t do that, you shouldn’t play ranked yet.”
For example, if you didn’t realize that the champion Yasuo can use his ultimate ability with a knock-up and played a champion like Alistar, who also has a knock-up ability, your team fights would not synergize as well. And if you didn’t know the champion you were playing against had a stun you would be behind from the beginning.
Riot comes out with a new champion every few months. Taking the time to learn all five abilities for 145 total champions adds up, but it will help you find victory on Summoner’s Rift when you encounter a character that isn’t well-known or popular.
Focus on a favorite champion
You can quickly climb in ranked if you specialize at playing a champion in a particular role. Once you learn the mechanics of the champion, you can focus on being in the right place at the right time for your team and set them up for victory.
Going from unlocking a new champion to consistently “maining” them won’t happen overnight. It will take hundreds of games to learn the best items to buy, which other champions you synergize best and worst with and the right mechanics to employ.
On top of that, like most conventional sports, you should watch film. Re--watching your games will uncover mistakes and let you rethink your decision-making tree.
You won’t get better by just watching your own gameplay. Find the highest-ranked person who plays the champion with whom you are trying to improve and watch how they play. You’ll learn a lot from what they do and how they explain it to their audience.
The devil is in the details. Even if you are outmatched by a more powerful champion, you can make tiny decisions that put you ahead in kills and objectives, which can help you become strong in the late game. If you know at level two, for example, you are going to do more damage compared to your opponent, then you can be aggressive and look for a kill or push the wave enough to do tower damage.
Don’t get frustrated, but be self-critical
Doing the same thing and expecting a different result can drive you insane, especially League of Legends. As you keep losing, you become tilted and get frustrated. No matter how mechanically gifted you are, it can’t help ameliorate tilt.
That’s where it pays to take a breath and scrutinize your play to find why things keep going wrong, said Hong, who has been playing the game since the open beta in 2009.
One thing that any League player can relate to is getting blamed by teammates for something over which they have no control. Similarly, blaming your teammates for losing doesn’t do anything for you as you try to improve your skill.
“It might make you feel better, but that’s not how you improve,” Hong said. “Ignore that stuff and look at your own play.”
Wave management is king
Minions play a huge role in League of Legends, especially at higher Elo. You can positively lord your increased knowledge of minion wave mechanics against people who don’t understand the intricacies.
“People don’t realize how much minion wave management can change everything,” Hong said.
There are three main things you can do when managing your minion wave. You can either slow push, fast push or freeze the wave. Slow pushing means you leave two to three enemy minions alive and allow time for your ally minions to slowly but surely gain numbers.
Fast pushing throws caution to the wind — you try to progress the wave as fast as possible by killing as many enemy minions as you can.
Freezing the wave forces you to take a tit-for-tat approach so the wave neither advances nor retreats. If an enemy player takes a siege minion out, you do the same thing. One caveat is that if the wave is closer to your base, it will eventually push forward because your minions arrive first.
“As it [the wave] gets closer to one side’s turret, you need more and more [enemy] minions to maintain that freeze,” Hong said.
Whichever type of pushing mechanic you use depends on the situation and whether you are in the early, mid or late game. You can use slow pushing to set up roams throughout the map, while enemies protect their towers. Freezing a wave can make it easier to farm and allow your friendly jungler to help gang up on another champion. Hard pushing can force an uneven fight and take one opposing champion out of commission.
It’s easy to get into the weeds here. If you are really interested in improving your wave mechanics, look for more detailed guides online that provide advice for each and every situation.
Think before you do
We have all heard this advice, but the idea of thinking about your actions independent of the result is especially important in League of Legends.
“You don’t want to look at a result and immediately think that was a good play just because it went well,” Hong said.
What is seemingly a good play on the surface could have happened because the enemy made a mistake. Especially at higher Elo, that thinking won’t fly. Bad decisions can turn into bad habits, and against good opponents, those mistakes can cost you the game.
Learn to make quality decisions over high-risk ones. Even if you do the right thing you can still lose, but it’s important to have your thinking in the right place. Put yourself in control rather than someone else.