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The True Value of Towers

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Senior Member


Everyone who's played LoL for any length of time has a comeback story.

From the start, they were eating your lane alive. You're pushed back to your turrets, unable to leave. Heimer is eating mid. Ashe is getting potshots on the tower every creep wave. You're confused. You're last hitting fine, and you're getting some ganks off. But despite that, you can't stop the creeping tower destruction.

Pretty soon, you're down to your inhib turrets. You're holding out in your base, making a valiant last stand, and...you ace. Feverishly, you push down the lane. One turret. Two. Three. There goes the inhibitor. You back off because they're coming up. They push back. You ace again. Push the nexus. Win.

There's a lot of celebration in the post-game lobby. Every team member feels obliged to say “whoa, epic comeback” and “very close game!”. We like to think this was due mostly to our team getting it's act together and rallying for a win, with perhaps a bit of opponent cockiness mixed in.

And yet...don't those stories seem a little too common? A little too universal?

The truth is, while I'm certainly not denying the power of getting together and using teamwork, there's a much larger factor at play here. When it seems you come back improbably fast from losing, the reason is, more often than not, because you were winning the whole time. Many people over-value turret destruction in League of Legends, and this imbalance of value leads to some poor judgment calls.

The Golden Rule
To sum up my point in two sentences: Teams do not win because they are pushing towers. They push towers because they are winning.

At first glance, this may seem to be a terribly backwards statement. After all, that enemy nexus is invincible until you break turrets down the line. Obviously, I am not saying that it is not necessary to destroy some towers at some point. What I am saying is that your goal is not to destroy towers: it is to grow as a champion while denying their growth as champions. The towers will come naturally.

Now, in most cases, this is a six of one, half-dozen of the other situation. If you try to push a tower, you'll meet the enemy team there, teamfight, win, and push the tower. And if you try to start a teamfight, you'll meet the enemy team, teamfight, win, and push a tower. But there are fringe cases where overly tower-focused thinking can have serious tactical and morale implications.

Trading For a Tower is Not Worth It
Let's start with an easy one. There's a tower at half health. Your local Pantheon thinks, hey, I'm gonna skyfall that *****. He falls in. Plink, plink, plink. Three enemies are mia, with one clearly going in his direction. You call it out, but he stays. Plink, plink, plink. The tower goes down. The enemies circle him and devour him. As he's dead, he types: “Worth it”. It is true that the benefits gained from destroying a tower are greater than the losses incurred from a single death. But the trade is not worth it, and the reason why is worth exploring.

Think about this in terms of economics. Your opponent comes to you with a deal: "If you give me fifty dollars, I'll give you one hundred dollars." If you're thinking like that Pantheon, you'll take this deal because, after all, fifty dollars is less than one hundred dollars. But there's one critical point you're missing - in ten minutes, he'll give you those one hundred dollars for free.

Yes, getting a tower is valuable: $100 valuable. If you trade your $50 dollar death for that $100 tower break, by the normally accepted scheme of things, you came out ahead. But if you run away any time enemies could possibly be coming for you, the tower will not heal whatever damage you deal. And as the game progresses, your pushers will be getting more damage that breaks towers faster. On top of those, it's far more likely that the pusher or a tank alongside the pusher will have more health to take more tower hits and make fighting under the tower safer. These three factors combine to explain why that $100's price is constantly degrading to free.

So by all means, attack the tower when you're safe. But if enemies are starting to go missing, get out of there. There's no reason to give the enemies $50 for the dead tower because if you back off from the fight the possibility they can get a gank off of you pushing their tower gets lower and lower.

There are two caveats to this. The first is a fairly obvious one of small-scale fluctuations. If your team, say, aces at the 15 minute mark, you'll be less likely to be ganked during that time period than a minute later when every enemy is up and has time to move. The $50 is the potential gank money they get if you trade your life for the tower. It has an inevitable downward trend as the game goes on, but there are also small-scale fluctuations depending on how many enemies are alive and missing, and any time it drops sharply you should consider attacking a tower. The point I'm making here is that you should be aware that it'll hit 0 eventually, and that's there's no rush. You should still capitalize on any opportunities enemies give you by, say, having four team members visible across the map.

The second caveat is far more interesting, and one experienced players may have already noticed. One of the assumptions in my simulation is that the worth of the tower is always $100. But what if that's not true? Actually, there is one temporal element to towers, a benefit that is better the earlier you get it. This is map control: the vision and miniature havens provided by towers. Map control is a very important thing. But I find that, quite frankly, the benefit holding a tower gives you for map control is minuscule.

Pentasiv and the Comeback that Wasn't
To illustrate, let's imagine the enemy team is five Sivir's. There are a couple of champions that can outpush a dedicated Sivir, but your solo mid is not one of them. The most likely result is that every lane is going to get pushed all the way to your base before you get a single turret. So...that means the enemy team is winning, right? And that means they have map control...right?

No and no, on both counts.

Both your team and team Pentasiv can run around the jungle until you ram headfirst in to one another. A well balanced team will be able to devour Pentasiv. So, you have – and always had – jungle control. (This does come with the caveat that if you have five people running around the jungle, you either have some teleports to stop a backdoor or else a strong enough vision presence to know that no one is coming for your tower.)

Besides being the better teamfighters, the best way to get jungle control is wards. Either team can buy a ward. Sure, towers are 'wards' in that they give you vision, but they give you vision of places where **** all is happening. If you lose your giant stone ward bottom but put up a shiny normal ward at the dragon, you're happier with the exchange.

And as for winning. As your towers go down, you will begin to group up naturally inside your base. This will not take any additional coordination, but will happen naturally as a result of you having less map vision. When you start to group up, you'll start to force teamfights. And, as said before, any half-way decent team will be able to eat Pentasiv alive.

So, you're making a valiant last stand, and...you ace. Feverishly, you push down the lane. One turret. Two. Three. There goes the inhibitor. You back off because they're coming up. They push back. You ace again. Push the nexus. Win.

Sound familiar?

Pentasiv took every one of your towers before you took a single one of theirs. When did the turn-around happen? When did you start winning? The loading screen. You were never losing.

This Is All a Waste of Time
I know after reading all of that you don't want to hear this, but this isn't going to be relevant all that often. Why? Because, more often than not, the team pushing towers IS the one winning teamfights – that's why they're pushing towers. Generally, you want to do your best to hold towers. Generally, you're losing if you lose them. Generally, you lose your towers BECAUSE you were killed or harassed so hard you had to frequently leave the lane.

But there are three lessons to draw from all of this:

Don't make a Pentasiv team. Taking towers as fast as you can should never be at the trade-off of a useful teamfighting stat. The benefits for being the FIRST one to kill a tower is slight, and eventually everyone will be able to do it. Yes, heimer mid can take the turret against just about anyone, but take a close look, afro man. Is their carry farming just fine under the tower? Because if so, it's better to try to stop the carry from getting farmed than it is to crush the tower while they happily get gold.

Think before you push. I see a lot of Nasus players getting lots of mana regen and hyper-pushing with Spirit Fire. Why? You have a kickass arrangement as long as you can sit and farm your Q. Some characters like long laning phases, some characters like short laning phases. Crushing a tower does a lot to shorten the laning phase. So, if you are a Fiddlesticks who wants to be free to gank around the countryside, sure, break that tower. But if you want as much uninterrupted farm time as possible, it's not to your benefit to have the enemy creeps be further across the map where you're more vulnerable if you want to farm.

Don't fear the Pentasiv team. Yes, nine times out of ten the team that's knocking down towers is the better team. But always be on the lookout for why your towers are going down. If they are getting farmed kills while you're dying, that sucks. But if the tower goes down with no deaths on either side – if the enemy just pushes the creeps while ignoring your heroes – and minion kills are roughly equal, don't give me the “wow, they already have X towers and we have none” despair drivel. It may be possible to take the outer turrets past your champions, but when it comes to an inhibitor turret (barring any backdoors) they WILL have to kill your team to take it, and if your team is better at teamfighting the loss of your outer and inner turrets can be taken in stride.

Remember: teams do not win because they are pushing towers. They push towers because they are winning.

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Senior Member


It's also important not to sacrifice yourself in a desperate effort to save your own tower, imo.

If none of your team dies, but you can succeed in getting more kills than them, despite your towers getting pushed down more, you will turn the game around.

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Senior Member


Ah yes, saving doomed towers is an even worse deal, but I suppose I neglected to mention that. You're absolutely right.

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Junior Member


Nice thread. Very informative.

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Senior Member


I was entertaining this idea on vent the other day... I wasn't planning on sharing it, simply capitalizing....

It's a little deeper than that, but the post was long enough as it is.

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Interesting read, although I would argue that there are times when taking the tower is worth it...which is when you're going to die anyway. As a tank, that tends to happen to me a lot. But ultimately, that's not really trading for a tower.
Apart from that, I think one of the point of backdooring is to take the load off of your team. I can see why someone would go BD. But usually once I see people coming at me, I'd try to get out of there as soon as possible. Only the inner tower heal itself anyway, so it's not like I'm losing anything. I'll just come back in and take it out in 5 minutes anyway.

I do get really miff about when I said to bum rush the tower (as a tank), then everyone just hover around and watch me die. When I know I have enough HP and CD to keep the tower and all the champs occupied, I really wish people would jump the tower with me. And the best thing would be that they stick to the tower until it's down (takes about 4 seconds). But usually people just rush off to the nearest enemy champ that runs out to counter us, then we end up dead anyway because the tower keeps blasting away at us until we die.

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Senior Member


Kind of too long- and I didn't really read the whole thing hence,

but I definitely feel you. I also feel like what you say definitely will be true in higher level games and organized play.

Though, there is something to be said for determinedly pushing down towers for the economic advantage- as long as the loss is not too great. As long as your team is there and a fight goes down and even trade occurs or something.

What I have a problem with is the inherent disadvantage of pushing down the first tower in a lane and then having your creeps push out the lane too far and create a lane that is just unfarmable- since you'll almost always be too deep onto their side and get ganked.

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I think something that a lot of people fail to exploit is how much the enemy values their towers.
I don't know how many times I've stopped an enemy push simply by drawing 2 or 3 of their champions by pushing a tower on my own, and B'ing back to base when i guess-timate they are getting close.
In very good occassions, not only does this stop their push, but it gets the teammates the enemy left behind ganked by the rest of my team.

This works retroactively though. This happens mostly in pugs of course, but I don't know how many times we could have had a winning push, except my whole team runs back to save a tower from a bd'ing enemy champ.

1 champ pushing our towers to base

5 champs pushing enemy base. gee. who's gonna get it first? *rolls eyes*

It really gets to me when people in a losing situation start saying "we need to push or we are screwed"
We need to get our s**t together and start winning fights! No point in a push that will get stalled AND turned around the moment there is a team fight.

People just place too much value on towers =.=. Both in the protection of their own, and the destruction of the enemy's. I'm not saying there aren't tactical advantages.... a mid lane without it's outer tower is a BIG place to run through to get to Tower safety in case of a gank or a team fight gone awry but still...

A successful team is not the one who concentrates only on pushing. Neither are the ones who concentrate only on killing though.
You do one to enable the other, that's where success lies. Maybe Riot should do a video about the mechanics and tactics of pushing and stuff for the newbies who are just getting started with the game, it'd be a really nice addition to the Champion Spotlights and stuff, and make the game more approachable to new players, overall.

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Dead Myth

Senior Member


Great read! It definitely makes me rethink the importance of early tower losses, as I was in a game today where we aced them twice in front of our inhibitors to finally turn the tables. And to think that I was racking in another loss!

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Senior Member


Good post, but I think you leave out an important concept which is always present, giving a little more incentive to take towers: There is inflation happening every second in LoL. 100 gold at 10 minutes is worth significantly more than 100 gold at 20 minutes.

If you were allowed to borrow cash against future expected earnings, I think players would be willing to suffer high interest rates for the chance at more cash earlier. In other words, if someone asked you "what is the max you'd be willing to pay me at 20 minutes for me to give you 100 gold at 10 minutes?" any rational answer would be more than 100 and sometimes by a pretty large margin.

I don't think it's fair to present the 100 now and the 100 later as equal in your example. And I think this is one reason a significant risk of death is often justified in taking towers earlier than would otherwise be possible (although not a large risk of death).