Over the past few years, lane swapping has become an integral part of competitive League of Legends. Teams that pull it off, often end up destroying in the early game, making it easier to secure a win. Lane swapping is an interesting mechanic, mainly due to it almost never being used in solo queue. In order to truly pull off the lane swap, one must have team coordination, communication, and map awareness. In solo queue, you are lucky if your teammates know how to last hit.
What exactly is a lane swap? It’s exactly as it sounds, the ADC and support switch places with the top laner. Their top laner can either fight the jungle camps for experience with the jungler, or go bot and try not to lose too hard in a 2v1. But why would you willingly put one of your teammates at a disadvantage?.
The overall main purpose of a lane swap is to destroy the first tier tower before your opponents can get theirs. In an ideal world, you would push down your enemy’s tower, go back to base, then return bottom before your tower falls. You now have a gold and item advantage on their bot lane duo. Now this rarely happens nowadays, with double jungling becoming a staple in the meta. Usually both towers go down at the same time, creating a farm off until mid game.
There are many other factors into determining if you need to lane swap though. Does your bot or top lane have an unfavorable match up? Will they take out their tower faster than yours? Did my team put down deep wards to spot the enemy if they try to counter? Factors like this determine if the lane swap is right for you.
When lane swapping became popular in Season 4, everyone thought they could do it. I would get teammates in my silver games (I was a pleb once) who would try to lane swap. All that would happen is our top laner would get crushed, either flaming or rage quitting, and we would lose our bottom tower. There is almost no communication in solo que, aside from the passive aggressive ping or toxic complaint. LCS teams have coordination, so this is the one game strategy it really is best to leave to the pros.
Performing a lane swap requires some actual knowledge and skill, unlike playing Riven. When an ADC and support first get to the top lane they need to make sure not push the wave. This allows your support to zone off the enemy top laner and gain more gold/experience. Slowly but surely you stack up a large enough wave to crash into their tower, two or three waves is sufficient. A fast push strategy is the popular choice, using the jungler and top laner as support, especially in today’s meta. At this point your opponent has either done the same, or your team has a sizable lead -which can either rotate to mid lane or take another objective.
Minions are the unsung heroes of the lane swap. An odd thing you may have noticed the pros do is wait around a tower while it is low, but not auto attack it. They let the tower kill off every minion with a tower blast, then hit it one last time. This “resets” the wave, meaning that both waves will meet in the middle of the lane, so the wave won’t push back to the opponent. Letting a wave stack up and push back to your opponent can give them free experience and gold which they wouldn’t have otherwise. Starving your opponent of resources is how you win games.
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An important thing to note is who is going to get the tower’s local gold, meaning the people around the tower when it falls get a bit of gold. If your top laner is going to have a hard time farming afterwards, like a Malphite, then it might be best to give him solo experience. If you have an ADC like Jinx or Tristana that need to snowball, it might be better to give it to them.
Say you have a Twitch/ Alistar lane and the enemy has a Miss Fortune/ Janna. Now their team has an impressive early game and kite potential, while you won’t do any damage until items are bought and scaling is acquired. You can both go into lane and try your best, or you can take on their top laner instead. MF/Janna will automatically have the better match up, so pairing them against one person will allow you to get more farm and experience. A favorable lane match up can win you the game.
Some top laners do better than others in lane swaps. Putting a Renekton into a 2v1 might not be the smartest idea. He scales poorly and takes away his early game aggression and lane bully status. Now a Jax might not get stomped too hard. He can farm under tower very well and gets his power spike after a few items. Delaying a Rage blade for a few minutes while the rest of your team gets ahead, is a fair trade. Champions with strong wave clear or ranged spells like Rumble and Ryze, are also very good in lane swaps.
With the start of the preseason, lane swaps are becoming even more common. The games are shorter than last season, so early game leads have become more important. Riot’s new purple monster, the Rift Herald, gives a mini baron buff to one player and global gold. The dragon’s buffs are nice, but they only really make an impact once you get five. This makes having control over the top lane more important than the bottom. Lane swaps, for better or worse, aren’t going anywhere.