Teamwork 101: Or How I Escaped Bronze in the League of Legends

For those that read this blog for game studies, psych research, or because (apparently) there's a page that's a top google hit for "sweet ass pictures," sorry! Today I'm just posting a quick guide that I wrote after getting out of the time-out corner in the League of Legends: Bronze Division.

Since it's at the bottom, you often deal with the worst kind of gamerly element: trolls, misogynists, racists, the employed. You can win, in despite of all that, with a mix of compromise and communication.

(More after the break)


Golden Rule

Don’t be the troll. If you assume that the other team also has trolls, then there is always a chance of winning. If getting out of Bronze is your goal, then that’s always a reason for getting your team to work together.

Before Game/In General

1. Have at least one backup lane, and one lane that you’re pretty confident in. Try not to call a champ or lane in ranked, unless you’ve played at least 10 normal games with that champ.

2. Jump at your first chance to encourage your team and add to group cohesion. If there’s especially good communication, especially during champ select, then something like “awesome” or “love nice teams” is great. In game, if your team gets first blood, “nj” “gj” or “nice” helps to reinforce and raise morale for the whole team.

3. Get voted up as an “honorable” player. While this doesn’t officially increase your matchmaking with other honorable players, it’s often an immediately indication that your team has special resources. If someone can say, “Sweet, a friendly team,” at the outset, then you’re starting the match off on an immediate good note.

4. Know when to announce that it’s your series, and when not to. As a general rule, someone who has decided to troll will enjoy causing distress. So don’t tell trolls that it’s your series. Someone frustrated to the point where they’re considering surrender, a part of them might still want to achieve a win. It’s sometimes worth using your series as a way to keep your team on board.  

Champion Select and Compromise

1. Call a lane (hearts if you call backups, extra hearts if you call them in the order of your skill with them)

i.e. “mid pref” or “mid,” then “can mid>jung>support>top”
If you plan to fill, it doesn’t hurt to say “fill,” so potential conflicts can be averted
If filling, bonus points if you can tell people what you main

2. If you want a specific (often banned) champion, communicate that clearly.

Avoid using the word “ban” in the same sentence, try using “please leave open” or “I want to play ____, if that champ is open.”

3. Likewise, if you prefer specific bans, then communicate that clearly.

4. Ask silent people for their lane preference

In Bronze, I saw at least six silent trolls. With one exception, they all wanted the same thing: their usual lane (usually mid or top). They’d say nothing during champ select, because someone had called that lane, and nobody asked that player if they had a preference. Typically they pick an abnormal champ for the lane they’re supposed to take. Turns out, they picked the champion they were used to, built them as they normally would, and sometimes even fed actively. Sometimes blatantly, as with a Gangplank that spent the game yelling about rum and handjobs, before ragequitting and returning at the 20-minute mark.

5. Pay special attention to whether the ADC and support sound unhappy to be in that position. Not only is the ADC a crucial role, one that requires experience with last-hitting and positioning, there’s an extra teamwork component to the bottom lane. That means an extra potential for rage.

Preemptive Communication In Game

If you’re noticing that a player has excessive trouble with certain basics, like last-hitting, overextending, positioning, and so forth, there is a time to offer specific feedback. Note that the following relies on your feedback being at least professional, if not courteous.

1. The only time for specific feedback.

If you know that one teammate is abrasive another teammate is struggling skill-wise, and the struggling player has just done something extremely bad, then be the one to say something like, “nj/good jukes/etc, but try to watch the minion wave/positioning/etc.” This does two things. Obviously, it lets them know that you think they made a tactical error, and you don’t want them to do it again. More importantly, it keeps your team’s abrasive troll from saying something a lot worse. If the abrasive player gets a chance to say, “idiot” or “what the fuck” – your group cohesion suffers.

2. When to say nothing.

Most of the time. Players being berated, or even offered feedback, worry less about playing the game and more about the people watching/arguing with them.  

3. All specific feedback should be backed up.

If you offer specific feedback on last hitting, then be ready to cite lolpro’s last hitting guide, and talk about how great it is when they get into the actual math of minion health. Or how clever VVinrar’s guide to warding positions is. Or how you loved X idea from Y guide. You get the idea. (I might throw some of my favorite guides in here). Again – the only useful time to do this is when you’re beating a troll to the punch – or otherwise trying to mitigate the crap they’re spewing at a player who is having problems.

Objective Communication in Game

Sometimes, objectives such as dragon, baron, buffs, grouping, pushing, focusing carries, and diving/not diving won’t be as important in Bronze as negotiating positions and preempting trolls. In some games (especially past Bronze) how well you communicate these objectives will make all the difference.

1. Show empathy for mistakes

If a teammate just let a free kill walk by them, let you die, or failed to join a teamfight, check your disbelief, and legitimate anger. Start off your comment with a positive, like, “I know that farming is important, but we need you for the next teamfight.” Or “Good to stay safe, but you can probably kill Heimer next time he’s completely out of mana.

2. Use advanced pings.

Don’t just signal a lane missing, or an enemy en-route, if you think that they’re about to gank a friendly lane. It’s often helpful to drop a red exclamation on top of a friendly champion, so that they have an obvious visual cue. Pings are also far more neutral than written critique. In moderation, and used intelligently, they are far less likely to cause group infighting.

3. Call focus targets, and call out when it’s time to group

Giving your group specific goals keeps them focused on winning the damn game. If your team is talking about goals, then they’re less likely to be engaging in unspecific, unhelpful deflection for (what’s often) mistakes they participated in. Focus targets and grouping are two of the simplest, and so likely to boost morale in Bronze. Baron baiting/warding/positioning was too complex for some Bronze groups that I saw, and actually lost a number of games.

When all else fails

When the trolls are arguing, and it seems there’s nothing to be done, I like to give a variant of, “Less talk, more play.” Nine times out of ten, another teammate will say, “Exactly.”

That, and report every single toxic player you see, while rating up the players who keep the game fun. 

And have fun in Silver, of course. 

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