Erik’s Tips: Cross Training

It is really easy to get stuck in a rut. You log in, queue up, play a game, and the moment you finish you queue up again. You probably play two or three champions over and over. Somedays, especially when you’ve been on a losing streak, you might not even feel like playing much.

I find that playing the different formats helps keep my interest and helps me play better with my favorite champions.

ARAM

ARAM is a crazy format where you are given a random champion with 2 re-rolls. This is the most casual, low stress format in my opinion. Most everybody playing will be bad with their champion and it gives you time to practice with champions you might not otherwise play, in rolls that you that you might not prefer. This is a learning opportunity and should be taken as such. Don’t just play champions or rolls you are good at. This is a fun, safe format to suck. Everybody else is bad with their champion, take this opportunity to improve at a roll, or get familiar with a champion.

ARAM does something else, it lets you hone your ability to coral a team into action. I win over 60% of my ARAM games (according to elobuff.com), and I think it is probably because I’m able to help coordinate my team. The first step to getting people to listen to you — in any format — is to get ahead and demonstrate that you are competent with your champion. If you are 0-10-0, there’s no way that anybody is going to listen to you. If you can get off to a good start, like say 5-2-5 or so, that’s probably enough to get people to pay attention to your pings. When you ping for assistance and start a fight, they’ll probably follow up. Maybe. If you get to 15-5-25, you can be pretty certain that everybody with half of a brain will follow you. Unfortunately, there’s never any guarantees and sometimes, even people who want to follow-up can’t or screw up in the process.

Don’t get angry. This format is casual and you need to be patient with people — really, that’s probably good advice for every format. One of my own personal weaknesses, is that I’m very competitive and sometimes can’t help getting frustrated, even when playing non-ranked games. It’s is one of the things that I have been working hard to improve on. I don’t think I ever get angry in ARAMs though. I have a different state of mind.

Practice staying alive, even if it means giving up towers. Go for sure kills and combo off crowd control. If I’m Leona and see a Malphite go in, I’ll follow up with my ultimate the second after he does to keep a team locked down. You’ll find that your allies will more likely follow this up after they’ve seen it once or twice.

Build trust with your allies by always following up on their engagements — but try to err on the side of not dying.  Teams that never engage will lose. Teams that throw themselves repeatedly at an enemy team and die will lose. Teams that pick their fights carefully will win. Learning to build trust with a team in an ARAM is good practice for normal and ranked games — but it is harder on Summoner’s Rift, where most of your team won’t interact with you throughout laning phase unless you are the jungler. This may be one of the many reasons that the jungler is the best role to play when trying to gain elo — you have a real chance of gaining the team’s trust and getting them to follow you. Of course, you have to earn that trust and then not screw up once you have it.

Melee champions are the hardest to play in ARAM, because they are also the hardest to play in any team fight situation — you have to bodily commit to a fight and there is a high probability that you’ll die if your allies don’t follow up. You need to be selectively aggressive. Follow up after an ally lands ranged CC — not at random times — and especially don’t put yourself too far out there, even if you see what looks like an easy kill. Your primary goal is to stay alive and get gold in an ARAM. Getting kills are good, but if you are trading even 1-for-1, that’s not good enough. I usually want to get 5 kills for each of my deaths and I’ll work super hard to stay alive. My primary goal with getting such a high kill to death ratio is to gain credibility so people will follow up my engagements later so we can win the game.

Once I’ve established credibility, I’ll push the team to engage in favorable fights and work toward taking down towers and the enemy inhibitor. Don’t worry too much about losing your own inhibitor. With only one lane and ample damage, it really isn’t terribly important. What is important is that you pick good engagements and win fights.

If you have no ranged champions, remember that you can’t win without jumping on the enemy team. The worst thing that can happen is to let the enemy team poke your whole team down to low life so that everybody is afraid of dying and they just push all they way to your nexus, your team then starts dying and nobody is alive to save the game.  You are better off dying and respawning earlier so you can revive and fight at your nexus or remaining tower with full health. Again, don’t over-value your inhibitor. On this map, it simply isn’t that valuable.

In champion select, the ideal team has a support, a tank, and ample ranged harass. Champions that almost guarantee victory if you are even remotely competent with them are: Nidalee, Ezreal, Jayce, Blitzcrank, Thresh, Janna, Sona, Soraka, Xereth, Malphite, Leona, Annie, and Lux. There are probably a few more, but these are all champions that I giggle like a school girl when I get in the champion select screen.

You might say that the high level of randomness in champion select makes victory completely uncertain, however I think my high win percentage — despite owning every champion, which means that most of the time I haven’t played the champion I rolled in weeks — speaks for itself in this format. Save your rerolls for when your team lacks a core champ. Don’t be afraid to play champions that you aren’t good with, worry more about whether a role (tank, poke, or support) is filled. If you aren’t good at that role, this is your chance to learn it. There will be times that you’ll be outplayed or beat in champion select, but don’t lose hope. Most people in this format are horrible with their champions because they rarely play them. There will be lots of opportunity for outplaying them.

I play roughly 30 to 40 ARAM games every week, mostly while watching LCS games or Twitch. It is a way for me to keep in touch with champions I’d otherwise not prefer to play, and it isn’t as mentally demanding as other game formats. I think that this helps me maintain my knowledge of those different champions and understand their fundamental goals, which can be useful in any matchup against them.

Dominion

This is a great format for practicing dueling. There are non-Riot leagues just for this format. I personally don’t play in those leagues, but highly recommend this format as a low-stress training ground for your duelist champions.

I can’t give as much advice on this format as ARAM, because it isn’t something that I practice as often. I probably only average one or two per week, and I can go a few weeks without playing on this map at all. I’m usually inspired to play Dominion when I want to practice dueling with a specific champion for a few games before trying in normal.

I have friends who are better duelists than I am, that I know spend considerably more time mastering champions on this map. I think that they have a good training regiment when it comes to perfecting new champs by utilizing this casual format to hone their skills, and I suggest that you might try it as well.

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