Last week, we talked about things to consider during the initial laning placement. Today, we are moving forward with our series. Early game is certainly a very broad concept and it will vary from game to game. For the purposes of this article, we are going to discuss the timing between the first time the creeps meet and the end of the laning stage.
This is the first thing you have to do in every single game: make a habit out of it. Knowing how much regeneration the enemy brought to lane and what starting items they got can be the difference between a won and a lost lane.
Things to also look out for are relative movement speeds, amount of armor, and potential early aggressive items, such as Orb of Venom. If you see that the enemy committed hard to early aggression, sacrificing the regeneration items, depending on the matchup you might have to play extra carefully.
Usually, the best thing to do in this scenario, and one that is relatively easy to pull off, is to play conservatively, without pushing the lane too much. Careful pokes will most likely force the enemy to get some extra regen from base. Be mindful of when it happens: killing the enemy courier with regen will make even the worst of lane matchups winnable.
If you are the one pressuring in lane, know your targets: it is almost always better to go on an easier target, regardless of their position. If you get a clean kill on a support, the enemy core in your lane will have a much harder time getting last hits and denies, simply because he is going to be outnumbered for a decent period of time. Prioritizing core kills becomes important only after they start getting an actual level and gold superiority over their teammates.
Sometimes things go wrong and the lane is lost, regardless of how much you’ve tried. Whether it is your fault or your teammate misplayed absolutely doesn’t matter: you have to look forward and look at your options.
The most common mistake players make is that once the lane is lost, they start requesting ganks or a rotation from the second support. It is not always the worst idea, and it might work if your support on the other lane got a good start, but there is another, more reliable option. Do not passively react to what your opponent is doing: be proactive.
Sometimes rotating a support from a lost lane to a winning lane is a better option: it mostly depends on the hero compositions, but if you suddenly start applying pressure on the other side of the map yourself, the enemy will be the one having to react.
They might rotate a support from the lane they won, alleviating the pressure from your core in that lane or they might ignore you, but then their core will also struggle. In many cases, it is a better solution than trying to salvage an already lost lane.
One of the most important pieces of information to keep in mind during the early game is when the enemy has an ability to teleport across the map. In fact, many professional teams seemingly have a forced teleport as one of their early game objectives.
The moment the enemy teleports, you know you have created an opening on the other side of the map. For example, in our previous section we talked about playing proactively and rotating a hero from the lost lane. If executed correctly and with appropriate heroes, it will most likely result in a kill on an enemy.
Then, if they teleport back to their lane and even possibly rotate an extra hero, you can TP out to the other side of the map, knowing full well that the enemy can’t respond there, at least not at full force. This is when you can and should try to salvage a lost lane through numbers advantage.
This isn’t the only reason to keep enemy TP cooldowns in mind when analyzing the state of the early game, but it is the most impactful. If you can continuously catch the enemy off-guard by being more mobile and attacking where the opponent is weaker at the time, you will unlikely enter the mid game at a disadvantage.
There are games, where the laning stage doesn’t end until 15 minutes into the game and there are games when it ends as early as minute five. It mostly depends on hero timings and early game power spikes.
If you are playing a carry, know when it is essential to play off-map, to minimize the chances of a successful gank. If you are playing a playmaking hero, know when you can reasonably threaten the enemy cores.
As a support, you should keep in mind both your and enemy cores, to have the best chance of providing assistance where it is necessary: more active and threatening supports generally play around their playmakers. Passive ones usually outpush lanes, defending their towers and providing a barrier between the enemy, and their farming core.
Don’t overstay your welcome in a good lane: sooner or later someone will try to come and punish you and, once again, don’t simply react, play proactively, if you hero can do that. Identify the enemy threats, consider which of the enemy targets is a priority and the likelihood of a successful kill, analyze where they might be in 30 seconds, and go for a smoke.
Early game is very important in general, but doubly so for pubs: non-professional players are generally more likely to play worse, if they start to perceive the game as unwinnable or if their lane got crushed. Many of the things discussed today are not only effective in terms of actual gameplay but can also provide a very necessary morale boost.
Keeping so many things in mind at the same time might look overwhelming at first, but with enough experience, it will start becoming second nature. Not only will it provide you with good general habits, but it will also help immensely with freeing up some of your headspace, to concentrate on other, more specific things.