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A Guide to Macro Game

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Seraphthrone

Junior Member

04-03-2011

Intro: What is Macro

If you play Starcraft, Warcraft, or any real time strategy, you probably have heard the term macro. But what exactly is macro? In many RTS, macro generally refer to the control of economy as well as management of unit productions. These things don't exist in LoL, so how could one play a macro game?

There are however very similar concepts between RTS and LoL, in this guide, I will be talking about these similarities and how one could apply the concept of macro to LoL.

Chapter One: Calculus and Advantage

Most of us here probably knows that last hitting mobs is very important. How is this related to calculus? To those that are not familiar with calculus, it is a mathematic tool for calculating continuous accumulation. The key word here is accumulation. For every last-hits, ones gets about 25 golds. How does this add up in terms of accumulation?
In Starcraft II, a few early workers lost directly determines the outcome of the late game. This important fact drives many strategies that emphasizes on harassment. If you play Starcraft II, you are probably familiar with the notorious baneling rush. This strategy uses very early banelings to straight out kill the opponent. The strategy was called unbeatable by many and OP by a lot more. However, it dropped out of favor when people starting to find counters to it. The key to counter such strategy is to scout early and play conservative to preserve as much economy as possible. Terran has a very similar strategy but with very different goal in mind. This is the infamous reaper rush. What's different between a baneling rush and a reaper rush is that, baneling rush has a goal to crush the opponent entirely while reaper rush has a goal to scout and to put the opponent behind. Today, reaper rush are still a popular strategy while baneling rush is almost non-existent at high level plays. Now how does this relates to LoL? These two strategies are very similar to a lot of the early game gameplay in LoL in which, some players go all out diving turrets trying to get a kill while some players stop right in front of the turrets.

Before we jump into the discussion Let's take a few scenarios as examples.
Let's assume an item speeds up a champion's efficiency by 33% (at clearing minion waves or at killing, whatever you choose) and also a game lasts for 60 minutes. If this champion buys the item at 10 minute mark, then for 50 minutes he is 33% more efficient, right? Wrong! Here is the catch, assume it takes 10 minutes originally to buy such an item, the next mark for buying the same item would be at 16.6 minute mark instead because this champion can earn 1000 gold with only 66% of the original time. So the champion would be about 33% more efficient for 6.6 minutes at 16.6 minute mark, then about 55% more efficient for 5.5 minutes, at 22 minute mark, then about 70% more efficient for 3 minutes at 25 minute mark, 80% more efficient for 2 minutes at 27 minute mark. You get the idea.

Now let's take another scenario, with almost the same condition as above, but the champion gets ganked and died so he buys the item at 12 minute mark instead.

First let's take a look at how much gold the first scenario generates:
10 minutes - 1000 gold
16.6 minutes - 2000 gold
22 minutes - 3000 gold
25 minutes - 4000 gold
27 minutes - 5000 gold

Then we push back the timer by 2 minutes at each mark for second scenario:
12 minutes - 1000 gold
18.6 minutes - 2000 gold
24 minutes - 3000 gold
27 minutes - 4000 gold (at this point, the second scenario loses about 20%, this gap gets bigger as the game goes on).

As you can see, only one gank at the early stage of the game will result a large gap at mid game, not to mention the late game. This is known as snowball effect to most of us.

The above scenarios are very oversimplified versions of the game, but the story remains the same for any conditions. And this not only applies to gold count, but also to experience and any other growing qualities. The example just shows how advantages scales at different stages of the game.

Now with this concept in mind, let's see what some of the things one can do to maximize early advantages or minimize early game disadvantages.

1. Every bits count: during the early game, lots of inexperienced player will attempt to get first blood by themselves, sometimes they succeed, lots of time they don't and it either ends up giving out the first blood or forced retreat back to base. Smart players will also sometimes attempt to set up an ambush to the opposing team early on. But the goal of such ambush is NOT first blood, but rather gain an advantage in health so they can effectively deny experience, last hits and zone out the opposing players.

Here is a list of the things one can achieve such result:
Set up an ambush but do not fully commit unless kill is 100% certain. Use summoner skill such as flash to better facilitate the ambush. Remember summoner skill cooldown is also a resource. If you are not using it, you are wasting resources.
Once an advantage is established, further exploit your opponent's psycho. Read his movement and determines his play-style. Punish any over aggressive players with further harass or zone out any over conservative players. Last hit to widen the gap but DO NOT push minion wave.
If you are in a duo lane, when the opponents recover, retreat to turret and have one of you go back to recover and shop. It's a good idea to have at least one person with teleport at a duo lane. Once you have an item advantage over them, try to exploit that as well.

When you are at a disadvantage, try the these:
If you are low on health, and getting zoned out, call your jungle to cover the lane for you and retreat to recover. Because your jungle is covering you, you should buy wards for him so he does not get counter jungled when he goes back.
If you are in a duo lane, communicate with your partner. Cover your partner when the opponents get aggressive. It's better if both of you are low than one of you is full but the other one is killed.
Estimate your opponent's capabilities and do things accordingly. For instance, in a duo lane situation, try to calculate how much damage they can deal if they combo on someone, if you can take the damage, try to bait them into spending their mana on you. Once done, go back to base to heal or use some potion or healing spells. Try to earn your partner an edge over them so you can turn the tide around.

2. Critical period: There are many critical periods especially in early games. If not controlled well, an event can quickly turn advantage into disadvantage. Each game might have its own critical period depending on situations. I will go over a few.

Jungle gank time: This is usually when first blood happens. The time period varies depending on what your jungle and what your opponent jungle are. For instance, for a shaco jungle, the first jungle gank time would be when the mid laner reaches level two. And then second time will be when side laners reach level four. For most other champions, it would be when the side laners reach level four. At such time, anyone who overextends should pull back and have appropriate escape tools ready. For the first trip to base, jungle should ward mid lane and side lanes should ward their appropriate sides. This time is also critical not just for the side at which the jungler appears, but also for other lanes as well. The lanes that do not have a threat from the jungler should take the information advantage and try to push the gap bigger. If your own jungler is not ganking, he should take this time to ward the other jungle and steal neutral minions or keep farming to widen the gold and experience gap between yourself and your opponent jungler.

Level six time: This usually applies champions with global or long range ultimates, such as twisted fate, karthus, soraka, pantheon, ashe, ezreal, lux, shen, gangplank, norcture, etc. If you are laning against one of these champions, you should announce such events and be ready to interrupt casts if they are interruptable, also announce casting as well. Players who are not laning against such champions should take notice of your own health, estimate incoming damage along with possible aids from these champions. Organizing ganks against these champions would also delay their casts, thus costing them precious cooldown resources. Also remember, every time these champions fail to kill someone or do something drastic, they just wasted what is supposed to be their own champion's innate advantages. These champion are balanced largely based on their ultimates. Without their ultimates, they are at an disadvantage against their opponent laner and your team as a whole.

Buff and dragon respawn time: Jungler should keep track of the time for which buffs and dragon spawns. For the first dragon, the jungler should also take into consideration of when the opponent jungler can kill dragon alone. At this critical period, it is when counter jungling happens, so laners should get ready to gank or antigank the jungles.

3. Map awareness, stealth: Many people get freaked out when someone on your team calls missing. You shouldn't. In fact you should be glad, not because you can live another day, but because when someone is missing, they are wasting experience and gold trying to gank you. And if you have the appropriate map awareness, you can use this opportunity to gain an advantage in terms level and experience. So it is your duty to call missing as soon as someone is out of your sight. It does not hurt to miscall. Also when someone is missing, try to estimate the time it takes for the person to reach you so you can maximize your gold and experience gain before you retreat. If your lane has a stealth opponent, it is your duty to keep track on him. That means you need to know at least if he is still in your lane or not. If you don't do so, your teammates in another lane wouldn't be able to exploit their opponents fully. Also remember, if a stealth champion is roaming instead of staying in your lane, he is leaving his partner vulnerable, or skipping gold and experience if he solos a lane. That is an advantage you can gain.

To conclude this chapter, remember advantage accumulates, especially in early game. So it is your best interest to establish early game advantage bits by bits and not lose it.

Chapter Two: Opportunity Cost and Decision Making

I think I will start this chapter with a game I played yesterday. I was playing a nidalee carry solo mid. The opposing team had a katarina soloing mid against me. I started off with a doran's ring as usual. On the other hand, katarina started off with a red elixir and 5 red potions. Before katarina reached level six, I managed to stay alive under her constant spams, net a lot more last hits and grinded down all but 2 of her red potions. However, I made a mistake of underestimating her health and fought her at level 7 or 8. She chunked down her red elixir during the fight and killed me but she was also too low to even stay at the lane. I bought sheen and boots and was expecting her to have something ridiculous like a scepter, but when I see her, she only had a giant's belt and boots. The next encounter I had with her I killed her and she never gained back momentum until quite late into the game.

There are a few things we can analyse from the game above. I will mainly talk about the item opportunity cost. Let's first take a look at red potions. It gives 200 health at cost of 35 golds for early game at least. A ruby crystal only gives 180 health and cost 475 golds. It's quite easy to see why red potion is effective at early stage of the game. In fact it was her red potions that kept her in lane against my nidalee, an extremely powerful early laner. However, she over bought red potions and the elixir was not quite necessary. You might say but that elixir killed me. If you take a closer look at the cost-effectiveness of that elixir, it costed her 250 golds, and killing me gained her 300 golds and some experience. So the question is on whether that 50 golds and experience could have snowballed enough to beat an item of equal cost. What if she bought a pair of boots instead of that elixir and two extra red potions? Could she have done better? With boots she could probably run in and out and last hit a bit more effectively, gaining more than 50 golds just from the last hits. What if she bought a cloth armor? With a cloth armor she could probably eat a few more hits from me and still do fine last hitting. But the fact that she chooses to constantly harass me in order to grind my mana down did not prove to be cost-effective even she managed to kill me in the end, as seen by her item comparing to that of mine. What if I did not make that mistake? Then she would be 250 golds short and a lot behind.

The story demonstrates how one's start item choice affects the outcome of the macro game. But item choices are not the only thing in LoL that can be evaluated in terms cost-effectiveness. In fact any action can be evaluated so. The early game is relatively simple in terms of choices since the deviation is not as great and many players have found out the nearly optimal build or choice to be taken. However, as the game goes on, deviation becomes bigger and it takes a lot more to evaluate if a decision is a wise one or not.

Let's look at another scenario.
I've see lots of players, myself included, sometimes do unbelievably stupid things that are quite obvious when looked at afterwards. One of these things is turret diving at the wrong time. Let's assume right after a fight at level four at mid lane. Both sides were low so your mid retreated back to your base. You play a jungle shaco and you see the opponent teemo low at his mid turret trying to go back home. You have the choice of waiting him teleport and you can possibly steal his turret, or you can jump on him to kill him with no problem (Assume first blood is taken already). However, you have no idea a rammus is in the nearby jungle. You choose the later, which you successfully pull off. However, as you retreat, rammus appears. Because you have used deceive to jump on teemo, you cannot run away. Rammus taunts you and kills you at the turret. Most people will think, that's OK, it's a one to one fair trade, nothing lost. Wrong! If you have waited for teemo to go back. You could have made a dent on the turret and wasted Rammus' first critical jungle time gank, which means your other lanes can relax and push instead of worrying a jungle gank. What's even worse is that, once rammus kills you he might be able to do significant damage on your side of the turret if your mid laner does not go back in time.

But one might ask, if I spend all my time thinking about all these decisions, how am I supposed to concentrate on controlling my champion. Having a macro game sense helps with decision making. With the possible trade off in mind, one should be able to make good decisions if not the optimal decisions. It helps to remember the common rewards for doing things such as getting a turret down or getting a dragon down. For your reference I have listed the gold and buff reward for special kills:

First Blood - 400 golds for the slayer. Experience varies.
Normal Kills and Bounties - 300 golds for first kill, 50 more golds per additional kills. Experience varies. Gold also varies based on the victim's dying streak.
Dragon Kill - 975 golds for the whole team, 190 golds per person plus 25 golds for the kill. 265 experience for the slayer(s).
Baron Kill - 1500 golds and 900 experience for the whole team, 300 golds per person. Baron buff gives 40 AD and 40 AP and significant amount of regens. For comparison, a blue elixir gives 40 AP and 10 CDR at level 18. So Baron is about 600 to 700 golds in effectiveness for each person.
Turret Kill - 750 golds and 500 experience for the whole team, 150 golds and 100 experience per person.
Golem - 80 golds, some experience and blue buff for the slayer(s), blue buff gives 25% CDR and significant mana regen at level 18. It should be about 400 to 500 golds in effectiveness.
Wraiths - 71 golds, some experience for the slayer

Using wards is also an art of opportunity cost analysis. The most obvious one is the wards for the side lanes at early game during the jungle gank critical period. For the laners, buying wards can either become a liability or a benefit, depending on the situation. For instance, if you are doing exceptionally well and have managed to zone out the opposing player, buying wards at this point is more effective. If you can keep an eye on the opposing laners' inventory and see when they have placed a ward, tell your jungler immediately so he can choose to counter jungle or go to another lane instead. This way, placing wards becomes your opponent's liability because they spend money that they should not have spent on. The best ward placement for early game would be inside the other team's jungle assuming you can safely do so. This is best done by your team's jungler, due to the vacuum period of jungle respawn.

Speaking of Junglers, they are probably the most deciding factor of a single game. Their decisions on when to gank, when to farm and when to counter farm is the most varying factor of the game. It's quite hard for competent laners to show obvious differences over each others due to the space they are confined in. The variation comes from the vast jungle where uncertainty is greater. This can be related to most RTS macro games. For instance when to open that expansion or when to do that critical push. In an RTS game, if some one expands too early, the expansion is vulnerable to attacks and also the battlefield is stretched, making it harder to reinforce. If the enemy hits at this critical point, the expansion might be lost and resources wasted, this puts the player who expands into trouble. However, early expansion strategy still exists and are actually quite often used. This is achieve by effective scouting, anti-scouting and also feint attacks. Similarly, for a jungler, he will need to utilize scout tools to ensure control of the situation. If he scouts the opponent jungler anti-jungles, he should tell his teammates to either "hit the expansion" or "hit the main base."
For most RTS macro games, how to scouting is critical. A bad scout operation gives little to no information while being very costly. A good scout operation on the other hand, wins the game. It is also the same for LoL. When a jungler scouts, he needs to be selective, and knows where to look while not putting himself in danger. For example, at level four it's better too look for red buff, and at level six, it's time to ward the dragon. Knowing the other jungler's route, speed as well as the overall game condition helps improve the odds of a successful scouting.

Last but not least, the decision of when to engage a team fight is what troubles most people. However, when looking ahead of a step, it becomes quite clear if an engage can yield any significant gains. For instance, your team has pushed to the other team's turret or the opponent has pushed to your turret. You are both equal in power. You are now trying to decide if you should engage or not. This engagement could have a few outcomes. The most likely outcome is that both teams have heavy casualties and nobody gains anything. In this situation, the engagement is not a smart choice. The alternative should be splitting the group to either clear jungles, kill dragon or push another lane while the main group carefully tight up the opponents. At this time your opponent might split too to take care of your loner. But they are one step behind so the dragon might be dead or the turret might be pushed down. However, your opponent might also try to engage since you are slightly out numbered. Keep distance and pull back if needed. If you compare this situation to a ful lengagement. The worst this can get is you don't gain anything over the other team, but the worst a full engagement can get is your lose. On the other hand, you are always at a worse position if you decides to all stay and hesitate on what to do because at this point, the opponent is one step ahead of you.

Chapter Three: Time is Money
I finally get the time to write this chapter. So I guess it's a good time to refresh your and my own memory, in the last two chapters, we talked about how little advantages can grow and how a decision has its associated cost and effect. In this chapter we will connect the things I mentioned previously.

And to relate them, we use time as a measurement. For every second someone spends doing something useful, it is advantage gained, whether it is optimal way to spend the time or not. However, for every second someone spends doing something not useful at all. It is advantage you did not take. And if it is not taken by you, it is taken by your opponents.

Let's again start with a story. The first minute side lane ganks are pretty common now days. And often the victim can be spared a life if he pops flash and some defensive spells. At this point, however, lots of players choose to use a red potion. Wrong decision. At this moment, the game's clock is NOT ticking but your clock is. You should use this vacuum period to go back home to heal instead of wasting a potion. Someone might say, but the minion will spawn in a bit and I won't be able to catch them. You don't need to. Remember it also takes a few seconds for minions to hit the opponent's wave. As long as you are there for the last hit, you are fine.

Now this is not what time is all about. However, it demonstrates the concept of idle time. What is idle time? It is the time one is not doing anything useful. There are ones that are quite obvious, like the one stated above, but there are also ones that are a bit more tricky to realize. To show the tricky one, I will tell another story.

Yesterday, I was testing renekton's solo viability against ranged dragger. I again used nidalee and my friend used renekton against me solo mid lane. My common sense told me that as nidalee, I should harass him and send him home if not killing him. So I started off the game harassing. But as the game went on, I started realizing that he could heal just as much as I can damage him. As a result of my constant harassment, my minion wave pushed up and my minion kill count fell. When he finally sees a chance, he combo'ed me and killed me. I came back with a sheen but still could only send him home, when he came back, he and I were again even and I just simply couldn't kill him anymore.

Upon first look, it just seemed that renekton was such an unbeatable champion. But when I looked closer, I realized his minion count were fairly close to that of mine. As nidalee, I usually end up having a lot more than anyone I lane against. What went wrong? This is the tricky part of the idle time, meaning whatever action I've taken, it had no effect. All the time I spent harassing him could be spent on last hitting and jungling. A lot of these idle time are hard to detect. I will list a few of them here.

I've seen lots of junglers clearing their own jungle, then wait in the bush for a good minute or two just for the opponent team to over extends, which usually doesn't happen. This jungle vacuum time is better used to counter jungle or warding the river for your team if your target does not over extend.

Another example is when someone is low on mana and is guarding a turret against two or three opponents. Assuming you have the ability to defend yourself, however, you don't have the ability to kill someone even with turret's help (unless the opponent decides to dive you instead of damaging your turret). Lots of players just stay anyway. This is another subtle idle time. Essentially you are spending your time standing near a turret, not doing anything useful. In this situation, you should either go back home (and if the opponents decides to interrupt your teleport right under your turret, kill them), or better yet, get help from someone who can kill them if they decides to push the turret.

The ability to cause idle time on your opponent is also an art of war. Zoning someone is an obvious example. But there are a lot more one can do to achieve this. Some of them involve good use of game mechanism, for instance, as nidalee, I often use spear to prevent someone from teleporting home, thus delaying their shop time. A trap or two at choke points will usually scare someone away. Ezreal and Lux can use ultimates to steal buffs, dragon or sometimes even baron. Ashe scout can usually make the opponent jungler to give up dragon at half health. These are all good use of the game mechanism. Others involve the so-called mind games. For example, when a team is at disadvantage, a ward purposely shown to opponents at baron is usually enough to buy a few minutes, allowing your vital spells to finish cooldown, while you are free to do whatever for these few minutes.

To conclude this chapter, I want to point out a word probably most of you are familiar with, Action Per Minute (APM). This term is used extensively in RTS games. It is a measurement of how many actions a player can perform given a minute. The higher the APM, the less idle time one has, and the better one can play. It is quite interesting that the most advanced Starcraft players have similar peak APM to an average player. But they have a lot higher overall APM. Where do these APM come from? It is mostly during the time in which the battle slows down. The key here is to multi-task. Use your idle time to observe not just your own lane but other lanes as well can greatly improve the overall macro game. This is something that requires purely practice to achieve. Some keep that in mind.


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Seraphthrone

Junior Member

04-03-2011

Reserve


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PeasOfCrab

Senior Member

04-03-2011

A fantastically well-written post! I can't wait to read the rest of it when you post again.


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No U Turn

Junior Member

04-03-2011

GOOD, you look like a solid SC2 player lol


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Yellow Jester

Senior Member

04-03-2011

hump.


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Seraphthrone

Junior Member

04-03-2011

updated chapter 2


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Sniklfrites

Member

04-03-2011

Good job. Is the experience of towers, baron and dragon over looked? Other then that good read.


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okaycampers

Junior Member

04-05-2011

Ugh.... Horrible grammar. Please rewrite.


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Rekka

Member

04-05-2011

Quote:
okaycampers:
Ugh.... Horrible grammar. Please rewrite.


If you can only focus on the grammatical inconsistencies instead of the common sense advice, maybe YOU should refocus your priorities.

OP: good write-up, the analysis leaves very few gaps and adequately says out loud what some have come to learn.


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Seraphthrone

Junior Member

04-10-2011

Quote:
Sniklfrites:
Good job. Is the experience of towers, baron and dragon over looked? Other then that good read.


experience added.


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