League of Legends Defense
(Screenshot by Esports Edition.)

League of Legends Guide: Defense 101

Dec 8, 2017
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(Screenshot by Esports Edition.)

In League of Legends, sometimes the early game just doesn’t go your way. Perhaps your jungler is having a rough start, or maybe the laners are getting solo killed. Either way, you’re losing the early game hard. Let’s call this type of game a slow-burner. This guide outlines a handful of scenarios in a slow-burner where you are forced to play on the back foot, and defend your territory against an advancing opponent.

What To Do When Your Jungle Is Being Invaded

The first sign of a lost early game is when your jungler keeps getting invaded and/or solo killed by the enemy jungler. While you may be inclined to flame him for being a useless teammate, it is your duty to help him get back into the game. Get down some defensive vision: trinket ward the jungle entrances and control ward your camps. If you can spot an invade, your jungler can use that information to farm on the opposite end of the map, or even in your opponent’s jungle, thus nullifying the effect of the invade and notifying your laners of impending ganks.

If you can set up a high-probability gank for your jungler, let him know about it. A kill could bring him back into the game. Just beware of the heightened risk of a counter-gank, since we are assuming your jungler is weaker than theirs in this scenario. And avoid taking your jungler’s own camps – he needs them more than ever.

Laners will also feel the pressure of a losing jungle. Enemy lanes will play more aggressively (less threat of getting ganked), and their jungler is likely executing on ganks in addition to bullying your jungler. One successful gank may be all it takes to bring down a volatile lane like bottom. Let’s pretend bot lane gets killed and gives up the first tower.

Defense After You’ve Lost First Tower

In addition to a large chunk of gold, your opponents gain map control when they destroy the first tower. Now, your weakest place on the map is wherever you have lost your tower. The players who killed your tower get to roam around the map and group for dragon or pressure other lanes. Meanwhile, your laner plays catch-up in his empty lane, or matches his opponents’ roam–despite having a gold deficit. Neither play is ideal.

The vision lost along with a toppled tower is also not to be scoffed at, especially around mid lane. Keep up vision in the area where you lost your tower, or avoid fighting in that area.

Losing mid tower hurts your vision in that area, and this guide covers different strategies for defending in League of Legends.
When you lose mid tower, you lose a lot of vision around mid lane. You won’t see whether the enemy mid roams ↖ or ↘ after shoving the wave. (Screenshot by Esports Edition.)

The reality of losing first tower is that your ability to contest dragon will be diminished. If fighting over dragon feels like a dangerous play, don’t fight around dragon. The objective may already be lost. Consider a cross-map play like grouping top, around Rift Herald, or just keep farming to keep your gold coming in. When you are losing by a little, the best thing to do is to keep farming and avoid a huge loss like getting aced over a dragon. Anyone that plays solo queue, however, knows that backing your team off a forlorn objective is nearly impossible. Just stick to your guns and ping “danger” or “caution” while you pressure other parts of the map.

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Life After Losing All Your Outer Towers

It is common to lose all three outer towers when you are having a rough early game. While you might be playing with a sizable gold deficit, this stage of the game is your best chance to catch up. It’s tougher to break through inner towers. You see this all the time in pro games: team A jumps to a big lead by getting the outer towers and some early kills, but they need Baron to break through the inner towers. As long as team B keeps farming and avoids the big fight team A is looking for, their gold deficit will matter less and less as the game progresses. If a 3k@15min gold deficit stays at 3k by 20 or 25 minutes, the percentage gold share will inch closer to 50% for the losing team.

If a game goes long, gold deficits slowly mean less and less.
Sample data: notice blue team maintains a gold deficit of 3k at every stage of the game, but their percentage trends towards 50% as the total amount of gold in the game increases. At 15 min, blue’s percentage is = 21k/(21k+24k) = 46.7%

Don’t let the opponent sneak Baron. Keep up a modicum of Baron vision (we aren’t devoting everything to Baron yet), and keep up vision in your jungle to spot out enemy rotations. Enemies will catch you using your jungle as a shortcut between lanes as you attempt to collect minion waves, so be careful around your buffs in particular.

As you lose your fourth and fifth tower, each remaining inner tower becomes harder to defend. Our scaling comp is getting choked out, and we have completely lost Baron vision. As our opponents take Baron, we buckle down for the impending inhibitor push.

Base Defense vs. Baron Buff

When facing a Baron-empowered team, it’s often best to take your last stand at your inhibitor tower than at your inner tower. Inner towers are harder to defend because you can get flanked from inside your jungle, so usually it’s best to give them up rather than fight over them. Don’t get picked off as the only player defending your inner tower. Your team of four will be no match against an empowered team.

Getting caught in no man's land against a team with Baron is a death sentence.
Stay out of no man’s land against a Baron-buffed team. (Screenshot by Esports Edition.)

As five players, however, you can put up a pretty good fight at your inhibitor turret by using your base gates to your advantage.

This is what League of Legends defense looks like. Against a Baron push, take advantage of your base gates and flank the other team.
This is where you want to make your last stand against a Baron push. Use the base gates to your advantage and flank the other team. (Screenshot by Esports Edition.)

Defending Nexus Turrets

It probably goes without saying that you want to protect your Nexus turrets. Still, it’s worth pointing out the vast difference between having two nexus turrets vs. one nexus turret, and one nexus turret vs. zero nexus turrets.

It is very hard to tower dive against two nexus turrets, and keeping both nexus turrets is important because both towers can attack the same champion. Comparatively, one turret won’t be enough of a deterrent against tower dives in the late game, but it’s enough to stop a split-pusher like Jax or Tryndamere from backdooring you (backdooring is when you end the game without minions). Having zero turrets is the worst-case scenario, since the aforementioned split-pushers can backdoor you. Still, any game is winnable, and you should always be looking to punish big mistakes.

When you find yourself staying at the Shit-Pushed Inn, your best bet is keep your jungle corridors warded and play for the late game by farming and avoiding teamfights. At some point, your gold deficit won’t even matter, and that’s when you should be looking to fight.

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Joseph Schmidt
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Joseph is a devoted League of Legends player who loves discussing strategy and helping players get better at the game. When he's not gaming, Joseph can be found playing electric guitar, enjoying nature, and taking photographs.
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