League of Legends is like any other skill from a scientific perspective. Each time we learn a new skill, we create new neural pathways through our brain to our central nervous system then muscles. And like a muscle, this pathway can be strengthened. If worked on enough, this pathway becomes so strong that the skill happens instantaneously without conscious thought.

Have you ever become so good at something that you don’t think about it? You have.

Walking is a prime example of a skill the majority of people can do without thought. Sure you think “I’m going to get a drink”, stand up and walk to the fridge. What you don’t think is “I’m going to straighten my legs, bend my right knee slightly… etc etc”.

So how does this apply to League of Legends?

Every little thing you do in-game strengthens various pathways. Whether it be movement, last hitting, using an ability, etc.

These pathways are dedicated to your mechanics and like your fingers on the keys of a piano, should flow easily through your unconscious mind as you play. To consistently weave character movement with ability combos, summoner abilities, and camera control without thought is something all players should strive towards before looking into the meta-game or playing for a serious team.

If you find yourself panicking, losing track of your character, or stutter stepping then you need more practise. You need consistent mechanics through all situations if you want to play at a high level.

Concepts like positioning and decision-making are no different. Like all skills, you have to think about them as you initially do them. This is process is slow. You will feel noob at first. To determine what the right decision is and where exactly “out -of-position” is, you need to make mistakes. Furthermore, once you determine the correct way something is done, you think hard about doing it the first 50 or so times. This process of skill competence is elegantly illustrated by Noel Burch and can be found in UberGiantsBro’s guide found here.

Every game is about you.

Get the correct mentality during a game to focus strengthening your skills. Due to the social nature of LoL there are many distractions that cause you to deviate from personal growth. Every game is about you. View everyone else in the game as champions with four abilities and two summoners.

If you’re in low rating then you can instantly assume your allied champions cannot be depended upon and that your enemies are of equal or greater skill than your own. If someone berates you, ignore them immediately – time spent arguing in chat is time wasted. This is not to say don’t communicate with your team, but rather only communicate through a professional manner using pings and stating objective timers, enemy summoners etc.

I see many people focus on their team as players labelling them as trolls or complaining that they are the cause of their loss. While their observations may be true, they’re not bettering themselves in the process and often spend more time typing than analysing their own play. If you truly had a perfect game and played to a high level but still lost, you should be content. If you died to a fed enemy player who is at fault? Your ally for feeding them? Or you for not factoring a fed enemy into your play-style?

Create a notepad document. Open it up every game you play then read it over before the game starts. Every time you make a mistake, write down what you can do to avoid repeating this mistake.

One problem you may encounter is that you cannot identify your mistakes. This is natural; if you haven’t been exposed to high level play then how can you know? One way is to look at your deaths. It is extremely hard to get less than 3 deaths on average per game. This is really the benchmark that you should set as an individual. Anything over 5 deaths in a game and you should seriously be revising what you do wrong.

Below I’ve listed a few key things many players do not do. Run through them. If they’re all ticks then you’re in a good place:

• Always orb walk – yes even when CSing.
• Weave movement and abilities.
• Get 95% of last hits in lane and under tower.
• Control the lane dynamics by pushing/resetting/freezing the minion wave.
• Trade with enemy opponents properly and punish them if they over-extend.
• Juke skill-shots.
• Know when to disengage and escape on 1 bar of health.
• Bait opponents with a fake disengage.
• Track enemy wards, jungler, objective timers, and summoner abilities.
• Combo abilities using 1 second queue timer to effectively cast 2 spells at the same time.
• Reset auto-attack swing timer with abilities for extra damage.
• Know how to get an early advantage in lane against any lane opponent.
• Use your ally’s mistakes to get kills/objectives.
• Know the most damage efficient builds of every situation.

Identifying the correct way to execute these skills is each a topic in itself. You learn all these skills in Summoner School.

Ultimately, at the top level of play, everything is automatic. From the start of the game, you buy all items you need for level 1 based on your opponents revealed during champion select then walk straight to the area best suited for invasion or protection. From there, everything you do is a product of past experiences. You know what the 6 abilities your lane opponent has, what order they will do them in, and how much damage they do. If you’re saying things like “omg they do so much damage”, “if they didn’t do that, I would of got the kill”, “I’m only losing because of jungler camping me” then you’re still at an early stage.

The only surprises you should encounter are the ones developed by top players to get the better of those on equal footing. This process is one of the ways the game evolves. Eg. The Koreans invented teleport support fiddle with distortion boots. Having tried it in solo queue myself, I managed to surprise many people with plays they hadn’t seen when I climbed through Platinum rating this season. Video can be found here (press HD).

The great thing about playing League of Legends with this mindset is that you don’t have to care if you win or lose. The only thing you have to focus on is whether you successfully executed specific skills correctly or not. When you come across new surprises, it feels good to write them down so you’re prepared the next time around.

I used to have a problem with predicting Sona’s ultimate and often died to it during laning phase. I have fond memories of trying to overcome this by focusing on baiting then flash dodging her ulti in subsequent games.

In a game with such a high skill cap as League of Legends, expect to never stop learning. Every new skill you master bumps you above the rest who do not display that skill. The most valuable skill I have come across is the one that makes all others possible: a self-focused in-game mind.

Good Luck,