Previous LoLU Lessons:
Lesson 1: Attitude
Lesson 2: Minions and the 1v0 Custom
Oof, promising to talk about roles & item builds in the same Lesson... open mouth, insert foot. I expected the item builds to be complicated, but even just going over the team roles, which lanes they usually take, and how to apply this to the 2-1-2 low-level setup instead of the standard 1-1-2+jungler high-level setup took a lot of writing. As a result, the item builds will have to wait for the next lesson, and may even be spread out over multiple lessons (depending how much time each build takes to cover).
For now, though, I want to cover the different champion roles, where they fit on the team and in lanes, and why they're arranged the way they are. Further on, I discuss the low-level 2-1-2 setup and what I think a good team composition & setup for it would be. I wouldn't be surprised if a debate flares up over this (preferably from players with more first-hand knowledge of pre-Level 20 matches).
First, the champions. Despite the numerous quirks and details and outright exceptions of some champions, many of them fulfill similar purposes on a team. I personally separate them into 6 categories:
AP Ranged Carry: A glass cannon that hits hard but dies fast. They specialize in burst damage (use all abilities at once to cause massive damage, but have to wait for cooldowns afterwards) and usually peak in the midgame before the AD carries complete most of their builds. They usually go mid lane due to the short distance back to their tower, which makes it easier for them to escape a gank. You should have at least 1 AP ranged carry on your team.
Important Stats: Ability Power, Magic Penetration
AD Ranged Carry: Another glass cannon that hits hard but dies fast. The main difference from AP carries (aside from the damage type) is they specialize in steady sustained damage, rather than bursting someone dead in a second. This comes in handy in the lategame: when most champs have enough health or magic resist to survive the AP carries' bursts, the AD carries can just keep smacking them dead while the AP carries wait on their cooldowns. Usually dual-lanes with a support or tank that protects him. You should have at least 1 AD ranged carry on your team.
Important Stats: Attack Damage, Critical Chance, Attack Speed
Bruiser: A melee fighter expected to give and receive a lot of damage. Usually have some ways to reduce damage or ignore crowd control (effects that hamper you so you can't fight or escape). Is extremely tough to kill once fed. Builds a mix of offensive and defensive items. Usually AD, but sometimes AP. Usually runs the top lane solo or jungles at high levels, but in low-level games either dual-lanes top or bottom. You should have at least 1 bruiser on your team.
Important Stats: Attack Damage or Ability Power, Health/Armor/Magic Resist, Tenacity
Assassin: A (usually) melee champion that relies on mobility (teleports, dashes, etc) and burst damage to quickly dart in, kill a champion, and get back out alive. Can be either AD or AP. Most useful in early/midgame, when they can quickly burst down a champion in-lane. Once teamfights begin, they should be well-fed & careful or else they'll be focused to death before they can kill an enemy. More of a subcategory of Carries/Bruisers than a separate category, thus they can go in similar lanes or even jungle at higher levels. Assassins are not essential to a team, but can fill up an extra slot or even substitute for a Carry/Bruiser. (For example, Akali does well top lane, while LeBlanc is a powerful mid laner.)
Important Stats: Similar to AD or AP Ranged Carries
Support: A healer and/or crowd-controller that hampers enemies and keeps teammates alive. Damage is ignored in favor of heals, shields, buffs, and crowd control. Invests in gold/second items, CDR (Cooldown Reduction), aura items (items that provide benefits to nearby teammates), and wards (reveals part of map for 3 minutes, so important). Usually dual-lanes bottom with a ranged AD to protect him during the laning phase. Not essential for low-level games, but useful with a good team.
Important Stats: Gold/Second, Cooldown Reduction, Aura Effects
Tank: A defensive crowd-controller that keeps the squishier allies alive by stunning, taunting, and knocking enemies around. Similar role to support (the two often overlap), except with more emphasis on screwing up the enemy and soaking up hits without dying. Usually dual-lanes bottom with a ranged AD to protect him during the laning phase (or jungles at the high levels). Not essential for low-level games, but useful with a good team.
Important Stats: Gold/Second, Cooldown Reduction, Aura Effects, Health/Armor/Magic Resist
How many different roles can a champion fill? Usually 1-2. Some AP carries can also act as supports, some bruisers can also act as tanks, and several roles kind of blend into each other until you're not quite sure which is which. It mainly depends on what items you get & what abilities you level first. (It also depends on which masteries & runes you use, but that's a topic for a future lesson.)
What's a standard team composition? At high levels, it's 1 AP ranged carry, 1 AD ranged carry, 1-2 bruisers, 1-2 tanks/supports. At low levels without a jungler, I would go with 2 melee (tank/bruiser), 3 ranged (support/carry), and put a ranged + melee in the top & bottom lanes. I'll go over the details of how to play this later.
Why bother with Supports & Tanks? Why not just grab another Carry or Bruiser?
Because offensive items cost money. Lots of money. Defensive and support items cost less, and several of them are built from gold/second items. What this means is that tanks & supports can buy 2 gold/second items and thus earn enough gold to do their job without killing any minions. None, nada, zilch. They let their AD carry partner grab all the CS, and rather than 2 half-starved carries, you get one fed carry and a still-effective tank/support. (A typical CS for an AD carry with a good support/tank partner: AD carry has 200+ CS, support/tank has 20 CS.)
Okay, so the high-level meta right now is a bruiser solo top lane, AP carry mid lane, AD carry + tank/support bot lane, and a bruiser/tank jungler. That's fine & dandy, but how do these roles fit into low-level games where there's no jungler and top & bot lanes both have 2 champions?
Good question, and given how long it's been since I've played a 2-1-2 lane game, it's one that takes a bit of thought. The biggest issue is the dual-lanes with 2 carries/bruisers fighting over minion kills. It's too easy for one champion to get most of them, starving the other champion of gold. Here's what I would suggest:
1. Take a melee/ranged pair in both dual lanes. Two melee champions in the same lane can be easily damaged or driven away from the minions when they go in for last hits. A ranged champion can still nab some last hits even if your lane rivals are attacking anyone that gets too close to their minions.
2. Buy a gold/second item or two. It'll eventually pay for itself and keep you from getting gold-starved. If it's a ranged/melee pair, I would suggest the melee champion get an Avarice Blade (Attack > Critical Strike) for gold/second, which he can eventually build into a useful Youmuu's Ghostblade. Philosopher's Stone (Defense > Health Regen) and Heart of Gold (Defense > Health) are good overall choices, too.
3. Sneak off to kill jungle creeps when you have an opening. When one of your lane rivals dies or recalls, one of you can leave the lane for a bit and kill some of the jungle creeps. It'll give you extra gold & XP while letting your lane partner solo farm the lane. Most champions can kill the jungle creep around levels 4+ without too much trouble. Remember, just because you don't have a dedicated jungler doesn't mean you can't jungle.
What about weird setups, like ranged AD mid or AD/AP bot or-
Hundreds of pages have been written about the different permutations & quirky setups that are viable. I've played for a year and I'm still learning them. Novice brains may explode from the overload. I don't want to be responsible for mental calamities, do you?
These are broad generalizations that will apply to 80% of the games/champions you see. There will be exceptions, there will be matchups that toss these rules out the window, and the easiest way to learn about them is to experience them yourself. In the meantime, this knowledge should help you for 80% of the games you play.
Next lesson, I start diving into initial item builds and some decent, generic item builds (and the reasoning behind them). Since the easiest way to start an argument between 2 LoL players is to ask them for item builds for a certain champ, I'm getting the asbestos underwear ready now...
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