Winning in Competitive Play

I’ve played semi-competitively in two games in my gaming lifetime – Warhawk and League of Legends. For League of Legends, I played in college with a bunch of my friends in IvyLoL, competing against a number of other college teams on the west coast. For Warhawk, I competed on Gamebattles, a subsection of Major League Gaming, competing with the clan I had joined with a bunch of people I met while playing the game. Anyway, in both cases I always sort of ended up as the guy in charge of leading the team to victory – not so much as the leader (although I kind of was) but through careful preparation and game planning. I’m going to talk a little bit about how I set up two of my favorite victories in both games.

The first one I want to talk about is a game we played against the top ranked west coast team in the open ladder for IvyLoL. Our opponents had two diamond players (back in season 2 when diamond actually meant something) as well as one plat player and two gold players. Our team consisted of two plat players, two gold players and one silver player. Obviously we were outclassed in skill level, so we would have to do something different if we wanted to win the game. This is the point where I started exploring my opponents champion pool. I dug through old team ranked play, commonly played solo queue champions as well as recent match history, using all three to make a guess at who was going to play where on the map as well as listing out likely champion picks. I found that the diamonds would be playing top and jungle, the plat would be playing ad carry, and the two golds would be playing mid and support. On our side we had our plats in top and mid, our two golds in bot and our silver in the jungle. Essentially across the board we were going to be slightly outclassed except in mid.

The first step was figuring out what we had available to us that we could use to our advantage – this mostly fell to myself, the top laner and our other plat player, the mid laner. I knew having played against other diamond tops in normals that I should likely be able to hold my lane, especially if I was able to give myself a match-up advantage. This meant attempting to target a champion I felt comfortable playing, as well as putting my opponent on a champion where I knew I could at least maintain an even lane. I had every intention of leaving myself on an island because if I could hold my own in my lane, it meant the rest of my team could focus on the lower half of the map and hopefully gain a small numbers advantage if I was able to draw the jungler/mid lane to my lane. I knew since we had an advantage in mid I wanted to make sure he would be on a comfortable champion he knew he could use to dominate. For the rest of my team I wanted them to focus on playing high utility champions – champions that wouldn’t require as much farm to be effective. Ashe arrow, for instance, doesn’t really change in effectiveness whether Ashe has 0 kills or 20 kills. It’s still going to be a good initiator with a good long stun attached to it at a high range. This meant that being behind a little in gold hopefully wouldn’t shut us down too hard because our champions would be able to bring a lot to team fight beyond straight damage.

At this point is was time to turn to the champion pools and likely compositions they would run. After looking through recent team play I found they loved to run AoE compositions, although not every time. However, I knew with the right bans I could push them into making certain picks that would likely convince them to go for a specific team. In that vein, I made a general prediction of the champions we were likely to see – Vladimir in top lane, Zyra in mid lane, Amumu in the jungle, Graves and Taric bot lane. Now I didn’t know for sure they would go with this comp, but I thought I could likely get them to default to it. With that in mind I began constructing our picks to fit my requirements. The first was for me, with a pick of Jarvan IV. He was, at the time, one of my top 3 most played top lanes and I felt extremely comfortable playing vs Vladimir – I had hated playing vs Vladimir until I found the J4 match-up and once I did, I loved going against Vladimirs. For mid lane I decided to go with Orianna. I didn’t know the match-up that well, but my mid lane assured me he could absolutely dominate with it and so I went with that. For the jungle, I settled on Maokai. I knew they would be bringing in a lot of AoE damage, which relies a lot of shredding the HP of everyone enough to keep them from retaliating. To prevent it, I wanted to pull in Maokai with his AoE 20% damage reduction ult – that would hopefully keep us all from getting instantly blown up at the start of the fight. For bot lane we settled on Varus and Sona. Both were high utility champions that could really provide a lot of support as the Jarvan and Orianna ripped everything apart. With that set, I was happy to head into game day. Needless to say, everything went down as planned. Every champion pick went exactly as I had assumed it would and laning and team fights played out the way I had predicted as well. I was able to draw in top lane, allowing my mid and jungle to focus on bot lane – giving us a decent advantage before team fights started. Once team fights started, every fight would be weighted in our favor, despite the AoE team fighting nature of their composition. Maokai would drop his ult, everyone would be hit with so much crowd control and we would escape, just barely, every fight. We finally won around 35-40 minutes in or so. It was an incredible victory.

Now the victory in Warhawk that I want to talk about was based on careful team movement and clever use of game mechanics. Now the general set up for this map was four bases – one main team base each at opposite corners of a rectangle, and one directly east (or west) of the team base centered on two bridges sitting across a giant river splitting the map in half (the river ran north-south). In this instance our team was playing zones, a mode where teams will capture bases and try to get them to slowly level up from 1 to 3 – however, opponent zones can’t overlap each other which meant if one team were to have a level 3 bridge base, the opponent would have to have a level 1. Both could sit at level 2 as well. If you were to capture an opponent’s bridge, the maximum level it could reach was 1, as long as the opponent’s main base was at 3. A fully controlled map would be a level 3 team base, a level 3 near side bridge, a level 3 far side bridge, and a level 1 opponent main base (which was the most it could be reduced to). Anyway, this map usually resulted in an enormous stalemate because neither side could crack the opponent’s bridge because of the enormous open area and ease of control through Warhawks and TOW missiles (basically just giant nukes that killed everything within a fairly large radius). It was for this reason teams could never mount an early effective assault on an opponent’s bridge – the TOW’s would start flying and everything would die, causing everyone to re-spawn. If everyone re-spawned, however, the opponents would always be much closer to their bridge than we would be, allowing them easy access to the bridge before we could get there and capture it. This was the problem and so I sent out to figure out how to figure it out.

So the first decision I had to make was making sure to successfully capture our base and avoid any counterattacks. This would involve putting one of our 6 man squad in a jeep, racing across to the base on our bridge and capturing it as fast as possible. In addition, one of our members would grab a Warhawk and go after one of the two TOW missiles on the map, allowing them to help protect the two members capturing our bridge. After having a plan to get and protect our bridge, I set about making a plan to assault their bridge. I settled on using our second Warhawk (and last one in the base) to provide aerial cover as a two man tank assaulted their bridge. However, I had to figure out a plan to successfully get my team over there, take out the opposition’s tank and deal with the incoming TOW missile. Dealing with the opponent’s tank was an easy enough plan – send the remaining member of our team on a quest to grab the binoculars, a ground weapon that would call in an air strike (pretty similar to the TOW missile, just less versatile). This would allow them to easily wipe out the tank and any potential ground resistance before our tank rolled in, leading to the ultimate problem – the TOW missile. Now there are a few different ways to deal with a TOW missile. The first, and easiest, was simply blowing up the opponent’s Warhawk that had the missile. If we could do that we’d be set, but eliminating a good pilot from a Hawk takes times and we didn’t have room to spend 60+ seconds chasing down an evasive pilot. The second option is to have the opponent be terrible and completely miss the area, or be too distracted to get the missile off effectively. While a plausible scenario, it would result in little to no air support for our ground troops and would likely result in us failing to capture the opponent’s bridge, even with the assistance of the binocular air strike. The final decision, and by far the most difficult to pull off (at least in theory) was destroying the missile as it flew towards its target. Now this was not a well known game mechanic, but the general concept was that a tow missile was an actual living breathing missile with a health bar – and that health bar was minuscule. Occasionally (or more like extremely rarely) a player would be firing a rifle or sniper at a plane and would hit the nose of the plane at the exact same time the pilot would fire a tow missile. This would mean the bullet fired from the ground player would hit the minimal health TOW and make it explode. However, it was essentially an impossible shot that no one could pull off with any sort of consistency. With a little digging, though, I found a way to exploit it. In the game there was a weapon called the lightning gun. The lightning gun was the equivalent of a shotgun – high level of damage and high accuracy but only in close range. Beyond the shots it could take in close range, it could also potentially charge up before firing, which would then release a giant ball of lightning which would stick to whatever it hit for about 15-20 seconds. It would deal damage to any mechanical vehicle in its vicinity – jeeps, tanks, Warhawks and, with a little exploration, TOW missiles. Since the missiles had such little health, any damage from the lightning ball would cause it to explode instantly, likely (hopefully) out of range of the target. Now that I had a plan to negate the TOW missile (and hopefully blow up an opponent Warhawk in the process), we could put our plan into action by dropping a ball of lightning on the base above the tank. Although our tank would take some damage from the lightning ball, it would completely negate the TOW missile attack from the opponent. After the player who captured our bridge had it raised up to level 3 (because our assault on their bridge was effective), their job became to grab a new Warhawk that would spawn, pick up the player with the binoculars and fly both to the opponent base. They would then begin reducing the level of the opponent base as the two players in the tank held off the ground assault (which is easy enough without an opposing tank or a Warhawk assault), before locking the entire map down with ease.

Of course the plan went off without any major hitch – it wasn’t perfect, but the general concept came to fruition fairly well and we ended up pulling off a blowout victory against one of the best teams on the ladder than season.

Anyway, that’s just a little bit of what I go through when figuring out the best way to attack a problem – figure out what the problem is, determine what resources I can use to my advantage, determine the weaknesses in my opponent’s defenses and then figure out the best way to attack it. That’s just how I make things work.