My Siren Disappointment

I have certainly taken my sweet time putting together this response. I debated putting together one that would include the entire story of the adventure that was Team Siren and leave you fully versed in what has gone down. Such an article has already been written, many times, and I recommend you check out the one that I posted previously. What I decided to do, instead, is get myself nice and riled up and talk about whose reaction to Team Siren really disappointed me the most – the professional shout casters.

I expected a lot of blow back from the community over the nature of Team Siren and the fact that they were girls. I mean, this is the same community where one pro player once joked upon hearing that there was a girl player on a Thai team, “well how do you even know she’s a girl, I mean ‘she’s’ from Thailand.” I expected this kind of junk from most of the community, but not from the people that Riot chose to be the faces of the franchise. Yet there they were, on twitter and on stream, mocking Siren and cracking jokes about how quickly they would be gone.

Ok, I know what you’re going to say. They weren’t making fun of Siren for being a girls team. They were making fun of Siren for hyping itself up and not being nearly as good as they tried to make themselves look. Yes, there is no denying that the way Siren introduced themselves was poorly handled, except maybe in the eyes of their sponsors who seemed to care more about views than the situation they were placing their team into. If myself and a bunch of my friends introduced ourselves to the community in the same way I would fully expect the casters to make fun of us – if they even noticed us.

What the Riot Casters seemed to not want to take into account was the fact that Team Siren was getting noticed not simply because of their promotional mishaps but because they were an all girls team that was, at least ostensibly, presenting themselves as a unified effort to advance feminism in the game. I think we can all agree this wasn’t their only motive, but it was the flag they were choosing to fly, and the Riot casters still dumped all over them.

Perhaps the casters were just trying to treat them like any other team, but the problem with this is that Siren was not just another team. If they were just another hyped up male team no one would have cared. At its most basic level this is what the situation looked like to me: Riot sanctioned casters were making fun of and putting down a new all girls team.

I don’t care what the real motives were behind Team Siren. I don’t care if they were a gimmick, and I don’t care if everyone knew it. Riot sanctioned casters had no business joining the community in making fun of that team. I expected this from the community. I even expected that kind of behavior from the pro players. The community and the pros are largely young, immature and I didn’t expect them to really think about what they were doing and saying (sadly).

With the casters, who I mention again are Riot’s representatives, these are all highly respected individuals who I was convinced were capable of taking a look at the situation and seeing beyond the gimmick. Instead, all I saw were people who are supposed to stand for promoting a fair and harassment free game putting down a team of girls.

Would it have been so difficult for even one caster to post or blog about the fact that, regardless of what Siren’s sponsors wanted, Siren was attempting something that had never been done on such a formal level before? Instead of talking about being “baited and outsmarted” could the casters maybe have talked about the fact that there really is nothing wrong with trying to start a new team, and if that team happens to be made of girls than power to them? The way Siren was presented by their sponsors was horrible but even their very existence is clear evidence that the community continues to grow and expand. That isn’t horrible. Even a year ago I doubt anyone would have tried such a venture in a mainstream LoL community like NA or EU (I know there were some Asian all girl teams), and not a single person with any kind of reputation in the caster community bothered to even try to make that point.

There are some positives to be taken from the Team Siren situation, positives that might encourage the future growth of the game. Who’s to say what kind of team we might see introduced next. One thing I will say, after seeing such a negative reaction from the people who are Riot’s representatives, I imagine there are a few teams out there who were thinking about going public who now might be holding off and keeping their inspirational stories to themselves for fear of all the fall out, for fear that they would be unable to find support from any sources.

For all the damage that Siren and the way they were handled did to advancing the cause of women gamers in League of Legends the reaction of the casters was the nail in the coffin. These were the people with the power to bring forth some of the positives from the whole fiasco and instead they joined the rest of the community in hammering away at Team Siren.

Next time someone tries to introduce something new, no matter how gimmicky, odd, or frustrating it may seem, I hope at least some of the casters consider standing apart from the community and not getting involved with any of the inevitable ridiculing. It would be nice if some of them went above and beyond and actually objectively examined the new phenomena, but I would even settle for them simply acting like the representatives of an open, inclusive and harassment free community that they are supposed to be.

Thankfully a few of the pro players are actually true professionals and took the time to offer insight that those mentioned above would not. While the casters were making fun of Siren, Yellowpete had this to say about gender in League of Legends:

“Well, I strongly think whether or not being female will affect others perception of you as a player is mostly about how you present yourself. As long as you focus your image around being a player instead of being a woman, and if you are as good and as dedicated as other players, I honestly don’t think serious teams would discriminate against you.”

Thank you, yellowpete. I am glad someone took the time to actually bring forth something constructive, from this situation, that aspiring LoL players can actually build on.

Opening the Doors to Hook City: A Guide to Playing Blitz, Thresh and Landing Grabs

There is nothing more daunting in League of Legends than taking a potential trip to hook city. Opponents fear where the pulls will take them, supports fear missing their hooks, and it can get a bit intense for everyone involved. I wanted to write this guide in the hopes that I can help people better land their grabs and, specifically, play two of the champions I have come to really love – Blitzcrank and Thresh

Support is not always the most glamorous or exciting position. What has kept me happy and focused when playing numerous support games is trying to land long range skill shots. As the support you are not tasked with trying to last hit, and I have found that this really frees up your brain to better allow you to focus on your skill shots. It was only natural that I would eventually come to love Blitzcrank and Thresh. Both have some of the trickiest long range skill shots in the game, and both have the potential to be game changers if you can land said skill shots. A good Blitz or Thresh is always useful, and having the ability to play them well will never hurt you.

I have divided this guide into four sections. The first section discusses the general techniques and tactics common to all champions who rely on these types of hooks. The second section talks about tactics specific to Blitzcrank and the third section talks about tactics specific to Thresh. The final section talks about why I believe it is still worthwhile to be able to play these champions despite them frequently being banned. The guide gets lengthy at points, and I apologize for that. It is tricky to try and describe the process of landing hooks and I hope that, while long, the descriptions make it easier for you to picture the complex decision making process that goes on in the head of someone trying to land a grab. In case you need more incentive to learn to hook, this classic trollcrank video always gets me in the mood.

The Art of the Grab

While Blitz and Thresh do differ on the surface they both fundamentally rely on the same technique to succeed – landing your grab. Landing the grab is one of the most daunting propositions that a support can face. If you miss your grab you open yourself up to a period where you can be helpless to enemy counter attack (especially true for Blitz) and if you frequently miss grabs you can also earn the ridicule of your teammates. That second thing isn’t really that important, tactically, but it can be pretty annoying and I find that the more harass I take the harder it becomes to land hooks. Basically, you want to try and be able to consistently land your hooks.

In order to even have a chance at landing your grab you will need to have enough experience with the game to understand a) how your champ’s hook works and b) how people move and behave in certain situations. Each hook has a specific range, cast delay, hit box etc. Not understanding any of these mechanics will make it a lot more difficult to land your hook. Playing against Bots does not really simulate playing against humans, but if you cannot hit a bot who is moving in a straight line right to left in front of you then your odds of hitting a human aren’t great. If you really do not want to play against Bots you can always get a friend to walk back and forth in front of you while you try to hook them.

The next step is getting used to understanding how people move in League of Legends and getting used to making the kind of snap decisions you need to put a hook in their path. I cannot really describe how to do this except to suggest that you keep playing the game and keep practicing at it. Eventually, you will begin to notice patterns in the way people move and you can figure out where to aim to intercept them. This can take a while to happen, but eventually it will come naturally. I actually find that the more I try and think about landing my hooks the less likely I am to actually succeed. With some experience you will be able to recognize the right situation and simply fire your hook without over thinking it. I know this sounds tricky, but you can also help yourself by taking advantage of certain situations where it will be easier for you to land your hook.

If your opponents have even the most basic experience playing this game they will not let you hook them easily. When you see a Blitz or Thresh on the field you know that their main mission is to hook you.  Most people will constantly be working to make grabbing them as difficult as possible. The long range grab is certainly the most glamorous but it is also the most likely to miss. This is because your opponents have the maximum amount of time to react to the hook and the long range means that your calculations have to be at their most precise. Sometimes these are the only grabs you will be able to attempt, but there are better situations out there.

Fortunately, your opponents will not always be focused on dodging your grabs. ADC’s get distracted with last hitting minions, trading damage with your ADC, etc. Supports will be trying to ward, poke you with abilities and keep their ADC alive. The three best times to try and grab your opponent is when they are fighting or fleeing or when you have the element of surprise.

When people are fighting they are mostly focused on trying to lay down damage and secure kills. This leaves them less likely to alter their position to dodge your grabs. Most of my best long range hooks have been landed on opponents who are focusing on chasing me or one of my teammates. Fleeing is another point when people are at their most distracted. When fleeing most people will look for the most direct route of escape. This makes it much easier to predict where they will be going and that, in turn, makes it much easier to line up your grab.

Not to be entirely discounted is the the element of surprise. A hook fired at an opponent who cannot see it coming will almost always result in a grab or the opponent having to use their Flash. This is why bush control is so important when playing as or against Blitz or Thresh. If the other team can’t see you then you have a huge advantage over your opponents even if you can’t always land your grabs. The fear of being grabbed by an unseen Thresh or Blitz is often enough to force opponents to play super passively.

This all sounds well and good but how can you, as support or any character with a hook, create a situation where you can take advantage of the element of surprise or force your opponent to fight or flee? Many Blitz and Thresh guides emphasize taking pink wards and trying to make sure your opponents never see you coming. Doing this can definitely work, but it can also be difficult to do. Continuously buying pink wards is expensive. Your opponents will also buy pink wards and work religiously to remove the ones that you put down. Others will play champions that can generate vision in the bush without using wards. Even if you do have the element of surprise, and your opponents cannot see exactly where you are or when you first launch your grab, many people will still be able to dodge your grabs because of the range and delay involved.

Instead of relying on surprise, the easiest way you can generate good grabs is by forcing your opponents to fight or flee. Most people tend to react two ways to an opponent running right for them: they fight or they run. These are both scenarios that you are looking for and both can be created by you moving your champion forward to pressure either the enemy support or ADC. If your opponent moves to flee you can fire a grab along their path that will either grab them or force them to juke back towards you to dodge it. Even if you do not land the grab your ADC can hopefully get some damage down on the juking opponent.

Just to clarify, moving towards your opponent should not always be done using the most direct route. The direct route can often be blocked by creeps who block your hooks. Charging down the direct route can also lead to you taking damage from your opponent that you do not need to be taking. If you know that your jungler is coming in or that you have a large advantage in a fight (maybe the enemy support went up to ward) then it can definitely be worth it to charge straight through the creeps at the enemy.

Most of the time advancing towards your opponent will start with you moving up on one of their flanks (usually through the bottom brush). This will allow you to move behind the enemy creep line and give you access for a potential hook, all hopefully without taking too much free damage. At this point you can decide whether to come in from the flank or content yourself with forcing your opponent back. Later in this guide I will give you some conditions to consider in making your decision on whether to go in or not. For now, let’s look at what can happen when you advance on your opponent.

If your opponents do stand and fight you can continue to move towards them to make your hook even easier to land. If they switch focus to your ADC then you can continue to close or go ahead and disrupt their attacks. If they keep shooting you then you can chose between hooking them immediately or attacking them back. I often opt to attack in the hopes that my damage, coupled with the damage from my ADC, will either kill them or make them flee in an even more direct path. Once they are running I will then try and land my hook because when you are that close to your enemy they are less likely to try any time wasting jukes. When you are charging your opponent YOU WILL TAKE DAMAGE, but hopefully your ADC is following you and can poke the enemy without taking any serious damage of their own.

While charging someone is the easiest way for you to set up your grabs you must remember to be smart about doing so. As I mentioned above, you will take damage. You do not want to be taking damage for free without some damage being put on the other team. Do not charge the other team when your ADC is not in a position to follow you in. This can be tricky to figure out in solo que, but a good rule of thumb is to wait for your creep wave to be larger than the enemy creep wave. A large creep wave blocks your and your ADC’s charge, does damage to you if you fight in it and it distracts your ADC from helping you out. Smart opponents will intentionally kill your creeps to keep their creep wave larger. You can counter this by constantly attacking, but not killing, the enemy creeps.

My final piece of advice is to be patient. This can be difficult, especially when your ADC is itching for a fight. Remember, when your hook goes on cooldown your opponent will have a period where they control the lane and most of them will use it to attack you. If you feel that the time is not right to try and go for a hook, it probably isn’t. At low elo’s your lane mate might get frustrated with you, but honestly, the threat of the hook has a more consistent effect than even landing the hook. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try the occasional hook, to keep your opponent honest, but don’t be too unhappy with holding on to your hook if the situation isn’t right for a grab. Pro players will often go the whole laning phase without firing more than three or four hooks. The difference being that when the situation is right pro players do not miss their grabs, like we often will.

Before I discuss individual tactics for Blitz and Thresh I wanted to mention a few situations where I have had particular success in landing hooks.

One of my favorite times to look for a hook is at the end of a chase – especially when your opponents have been chasing you! Most people tend to chase hard and in a relatively straight line in order to close the gap as quickly as possible. They often rarely expect you to try and hook them because you were just fleeing from them and a lot of times they are busy contemplating whether or not they should keep chasing (or dive) and are not paying full attention to where you are. What they also forget is that you might have friends on the way or their own friends might have pealed off.

My favorite tactic is to run just until I am out of my pursuer’s vision, wait a second, and then fire a hook at where they would appear if they continue their chase. Often, my hook hits them just as they regain vision of me, and by then, it’s too late to dodge it. This can also work against champions who have recently backed up and are now looking to come forward again to farm or poke. People do not like to run away and will often walk in a straight line to reengage as quickly. Make them pay for doing this.

You do not even need to be that tricky with your hooks when you are fleeing from a bad situation. If an opposing jungler comes to gank bot lane and chases you hard into your turret do not hesitate to fire a grab straight at them while you are still a little ways out from your turret. You would be surprised at how many times you can land an easy pull because most people expect you to wait until you are right under your turret before you try to grab them.

There are also some pretty convenient times to target your opposing support player. Many supports often focus quite hard on getting their wards down properly or killing wards that others have put down. Always be looking for a support who is busy looking to ward or ward kill and see if you can hook them. It is useful to remember that many people will immediately juke out of the bush after placing a ward in the bot bushes. So if you cannot catch the support walking up or mid ward drop then I definitely recommend aiming up a little bit in the hopes of anticipating their juke.

This next situation is probably the easiest time to land a hook but is often forgotten by a lot of people. When playing Blitz or Thresh you might feel like you are the only one with any kind of CC, but it pays off to remember that you probably have at least one or two teammates with a slow, stun or knock-up. If that is the case then try and wait for one of your allies to land their CC before you try for a hook. I believe you will find that it is extremely difficult for a stunned, snared or knocked up opponent to dodge your hook.

As i discuss some of the specific nuances for Blitzcrank and Thresh please keep in mind that the ultimate goal remains to create the situations discussed above where it becomes easier to land your hook. Both of these champions have tools that can be used to aid this process and do other things as well. The ultimate goal remains to create and take advantage of fleeing or fighting opponents. Like in this situation below.

Blitzing as Blitz

Blitz is the original king of hook city and still remains the most feared, if not always the most versatile, of hookers. The biggest incentive to using Blitz is that his grab is the only one capable of pulling opponents through terrain. Nothing creates a 4 v 5 faster than having a Blitzcrank pull someone through a wall to a place where it is difficult for their team to help them. Blitz’s grab fires fairly instantaneously but does launch from one side of his body – something that can throw your aim off. Blitz also needs to be facing in the direction he will be hooking, which can delay the cast and give your opponents some notice that the hook is coming.

Even more than his grab itself, Blitz is a beast because of what he can do while running at an opponent. First, his W gives him additional movement speed. This allows him to quickly close the gap between you and your opponent even if you do not have boots. If he gets within melee range, whether via charging or grabbing someone in, Blitz is able to use his E to knock up his opponent. This can prevent them for escaping once grabbed or make them easy prey for a future grab. Finally, his ultimate is a decently high damaging area of effect silence. Once they are silenced, opponents are left unable to use abilities or their flash. I’m sure you can see how this can make it easier to land a grab.

Instead of waiting around to land a hook from the shadows, or get lucky with a max range grab, you can help yourself by using your W and zoning back your opponents by moving at them very quickly. If the position isn’t right to land a hook then don’t even bother trying. Most people will back away from you as long as your hook is up and able to be cast. If you do want to engage your opponent try to get as close as possible or even land your knock up before using the grab. Even a pointblank grab stuns an opponent for a few seconds, so it remains useful.

Blitzcrank can hook as early as level one but is not as effective at securing kills until he has his knock up at level two. Once you hit 6, and if the situation is right, you will want to get close enough to use your ult to silence your opponent before knocking them up and grabbing them. Silence them first if the only way they can escape from you is with abilities. If they are faster than you then you should not use your silence unless you will have a clear shot at a grab or have your Flash available. Once you have silenced your opponent you can use your own Flash to go in for the knock up without worrying about your opponent being able to Flash away. Hopefully when they finally do Flash away you can then use your grab to bring them back in.

Blitz has a lot of tools to help keep his ADC safe in team fights. Try and stay close to your ADC and use your knock up to buy your ADC some time to kite. If you’re up against a burst assassin try and use your silence to disrupt the assassin’s combo and keep your ADC alive. It is pretty funny to watch a Zed cast his ult and then be unable to add any additional damage because he has been silenced and then knocked up.

If you did not use your hook to start the fight you can use it to do one of two things. If your ADC is getting chased down you can move away from them (possibly using Flash to create space) and pull the attacker away from your ADC. If your back line is in pretty good shape then you can look to use your hook to pull fleeing opponents back to your team or the enemy’s ADC or mid out of position. Just make sure that you do not end up pulling anyone closer to your ADC, or team, who has the power to destroy them.

There are also some champions you should never try to pull into your team. This should be pretty obvious, but basically, do not pull in anyone whose main purpose is to be in the middle of your team anyway. Grabbing these champions just gives them a free way to initiate without having to flash or use any of their abilities. Pulling a Karthus or Alistar into your team is a great way to make your teammates hate you. To sum it up, never look to land a hook that will make YOU look like a big fat crook. Let’s see you try and forget that catchy little ditty.

Blitz’s biggest weakness is that he has no way to engage opponents at a distance other than his hook. Once his hook goes down opponents know that they have a 10-16 second window where they can poke Blitz or his ADC without having to worry about Blitz retaliating. Most Blitz players will max his hook first to lower the cooldown and thus decrease this period of vulnerability. The problem with this is that his hook also costs a lot of mana to use and will run you out of mana fairly quickly if you do not have any regen or are constantly spamming it.

The biggest counter to Blitz in lane is any support who can hard engage on Blitz’s ADC. The most common counter pick to Blitz, that you will see, is Leona. Leona is perfect because if Blitz is able to suddenly pull in her ADC Leona can respond by dashing to and disabling Blitz’s ADC just as hard as Blitz has disabled hers. Leona is probably the best at this because her dash can go through minions and is fairly quick and easy to land. Because Leona’s dash is more reliable than Blitz’s grab it is even fairly easy for Leona’s to engage on Blitz’s ADC without Blitz first engaging her ADC. If Leona and her ADC reach level six before you do it is very wise to back up because her engage potential is much stronger than yours, even after Blitz has hit level 6.

If you are playing against a Leona then you should try and get to her ADC when she goes on yours. If the fight seems like it is winnable you can even flash through to the enemy ADC. If your ADC is already disengaging then it is often better to try and knock up Leona, pull her away or wait for her to overextend and pull her in while her abilities are on cool down. Try not to pull in Leona to start a fight unless you are under turret or her ADC is too far back to save her. Many times I have gone for an easy grab on a Leona thinking my ADC and I could blow her up before her ADC kills us. Unfortunately, Leona is generally durable enough to survive just long enough to make your life miserable.

The principals described above can be applied to any other aggressive support who is looking to stun or dash to your ADC. Blitz works best against supports like Lulu and Sona who cannot poke as effectively when his grab is up, but even they can  hurt him solidly when his grab is down.

When building Blitz I find that I like to build him slightly tankier because most of his laning phase will involve charging at the enemy. A Sightstone or even the earlier components of an Aegis are great for decreasing the damage you take while rushing at the enemy ADC. Blitz’s W can be used instead of early boots, but boots can be paired with your W to provide an even more consistent way to engage the enemy. Consider buying them early if you get ahead and want to heavily zone your opponents.

As for the skill order, I always max the grab first on Blitzcrank. Even if we are behind I max it first because having it available to be cast more often can give you just enough breathing room to be able to exist in lane. Maxing W second will give you more mobility but maxing E second allows you to cast your knock up more often in team fights. I either split points in these two or max W if I need to chase a lot and E if we are brawling a lot.

If you are looking to incorporate Flash into your combos you should be aware that you are no longer able to grab someone and then flash over a wall while pulling them in, (though some say this still happens) but Flash can be used to gain some distance between you and your opponent before pulling them in. This has the risk of wasting your Flash but can also bring opponents over walls or under your turret. A good thing to try is to to knock your opponent up before Flashing so they are easier to grab when you have finished your Flash. The Blitz in the video below doesn’t always use Flash, but you don’t need to when you are considered to be the best Blitz in the world

Thresh: The New Prince of Hooks

Just when you thought that bot lane would never see another grab master, Riot introduced Thresh to challenge Blitzcrank for king of the hookers. While Thresh may not be able to pull opponents through terrain with his hooks (though he can still hit them) he actually offers a lot more utility to his team than Blitzcrank does. Thresh takes a second to wind up before launching his grab but can fire it without originally facing in the direction he launches it in. Thresh’s hook is unique in that it partially pulls people towards Thresh but can also pull Thresh all the way to them. With his lantern Thresh can quickly bring reinforcements to the position of a hooked enemy champion.

The biggest difference between Thresh and Blitz is that Thresh is a ranged attacker. More so than that, he actually does a decent amount of damage with his ranged auto attacks. Thresh’s E has the ability to either pull opponents a short distance towards Thresh or push them the same distance away from him. This ability also gives him a passive ability whereby his auto attacks do additional magic damage – which builds up in between Thresh’s auto attacks.

Thresh’s W is his insanely useful lantern. Teammates who right click on this ability are pulled to Thresh’s position. You can use this to get teammates out of trouble or bring reinforcements in to help you fight. Finally, his ultimate drops down a box around Thresh that does significant magic damage and is a 99% slow. It can take some practice to drop the box directly on an enemy, but it is fairly easy to use Thresh’s abilities to knock someone into the walls of the box after you throw it down.

Because he is a ranged attacker, Thresh does not need to rely on his hooks nearly as much as Blitzcrank does. Thresh is very of capable of poking away at opponents before engaging them. Engaging opponents at short range is still the best way to land a hook. As Thresh moves to engage he can auto attack his opponent or try and use Flay (his E) to pull them closer and slow them. Once Thresh hits six you can also use his ult to slow opponents as you advance on them. Again, the box stays fairly close to Thresh so it can be somewhat tricky to use offensively like this. I personally prefer to use the box once I have hooked an opponent or when my opponents are looking to engage on me.

Thresh can also toss back his lantern and use it to bring his ADC quickly along for the chase. The neat thing about Thresh is that he can cast all of his abilities while he has hooked an opponent (and or is mid flight) so you can land the hook, toss a lantern back to your ADC and then activate your hook again to pull you (and your ADC if they are quick) right on top of your opponent. This can be risky, especially if you end up pulling your ADC right into a jungle gank, but it can be a great way to lock up kills and not have to hope your ADC keeps up with you when you advance.

Even if you do not use it to start a fight you should always remember to throw your lantern down to shield you and your ADC in a brawl. It can also be used to pull your ADC suddenly into the brush, causing your opponent to lose sight of them briefly. The lantern is also great when the jungler comes to gank. Make sure that you and your ADC split up and then throw them the lantern when you are in the clear. If the situation is going to require a Flash anyways it can be worth it to use yours early to get into a better position to throw your ADC a lantern.  This way your ADC gets to keep their Flash for another time.

Thresh is great at starting and finishing team fights. If you are able to land a hook on a squishy opponent it can be worth it to dash in and drop your ultimate. It can also be handy to throw a lantern back before you dash in and bring one of your tanky or high CC teammates with you. If the other team is looking to hard engage on your team you can drop your box on the front line to slow your opponents advance. You can also lag slightly behind your team, if you are facing someone like Malphite or Amumu, and throw your lantern to your mid or ADC to allow them to reposition away from the front line after the enemy team has engaged. If your hook is still up after a fight has started then use it with your Flay (E) to help pull opponents away from your ADC. It is very easy to land hooks on opponents who are busy trying to kill your teammates.

The great thing about Thresh hooks is that landing them does not always have to lead to an engagement. Do not be afraid to not dash in, and simply allow your teammates to land some poke and CC while you remain with your ADC. I will only go in, myself, if I hook an important (and squishy) target whose death is worth more than mine, my team has a lead, or I am attempting to catch the other team when my team has a numbers advantage. Otherwise, I stay in either my team’s front line or with my ADC so that I am in the best position possible to use my ultimate to keep the other team off my back line. Always keep looking to see if there is anyone you can assist with your lantern, either by pulling them to safety or bringing a straggler in to join the fight.

Thresh is actually a lot harder to counter than Blitz in lane because of his ranged attack. Even if he isn’t landing his hooks Thresh can still poke away at the enemy ADC and support. His Flay can actually cancel Leona’s dash if timed right, and he can use it to keep people off of his ADC even when his hook is down. This makes it a lot harder to engage on Thresh’s ADC because there is no real great time to do it. The easiest way to counter Thresh is to actually wait for him to hook and dash to you or your ADC before going on his ADC. The problem is that the Thresh will be able to continue to poke you in the meantime, and champs like Leona and Taric have no way to poke him back without going all in.

When building Thresh I like to build him similar to Blitzcrank. The tankier you are than the easier it is to trade damage with the enemy support or even the enemy ADC. An early Locket of the Iron Solari can be useful for the CDR, but I usually like to rush an Aegis on him if no one else on my team is building one. This tankiness allows you to hook and engage with opponents under their turret while taking very little damage. This can end up happening a lot when you are ahead in lane.

For Thresh’s skill order I find that what I take and max first are highly reflective of how the lane is going and who I am fighting. If I am fighting against a squishy support that I want to constantly try to hook I take my first point in Q (his hook) and max this first. This gives you lane control but does cut down on some of your poke damage. It also gives you the ability to try and hook the other support when they are trying to ward at level one.

If I am against a tankier support I like to take my first point in E and either max this first or split it with Q. I take and max this ability first when I will be doing a lot of poking because it gives Thresh’s auto attacks the additional damage. If I find that we are ahead in the lane after some early engagements I sometimes decide to start putting a few more points in Q so I can try to hard engage on my opponents a little bit more frequently. I would only consider maxing W first if you were behind in lane, and I would never consider taking it with my first point unless I need to save someone from a level one jungle invasion.

Thresh can benefit greatly from using his Flash offensively. You used to be able to pull off a move where you could start the windup on Thresh’s hook and then Flash forward before the hook actually went off. This maneuver would use up your Flash but could also allow you to quickly get in range of your opponent or hop over anything blocking the hook. I remember the Riot casters explaining how this works and describing it as a very exciting play and one that all good Thresh players should learn. Within a month of this, right after I started doing it, Riot decided that this was a bug and removed it from the game. Because there is a delay in the casting of Thresh’s hook, and Thresh possesses no stuns or knock ups, it can be a lot more difficult to Flash back and then attempt to pull an opponent to you.

One excellent engagement maneuver does remain, and it is linked to Thresh’s lantern. As your jungler approaches your lane you throw your lantern to him. Right after he clicks it, and begins to be pulled to Thresh, Thresh flashes forward into the enemy team. This will then bring the jungler along for the ride to Thresh’s new position. This can be tricky to execute in solo que, where many people continue to not actually click the lantern or do not expect for you to take them as far in to the enemy as you do. If it fails, you will end up losing your Flash – and probably your life. Watch the video below for an example of this working perfectly.

The State of Hook City

There is no denying that Blitz and Thresh are currently two of the strongest supports, and champions, in League of Legends. Any champion that is able to frequently alter the position of an enemy champion will always be considered very strong. This is especially true at lower elo’s where most player’s positioning is already questionable at best. Fights can be won or lost based solely on Blitz or Thresh’s ability to take one of the other team’s carries and move them somewhere they do not want to be. You will find that Blitz and Thresh will be popular bans, but I promise you that you will still be able to play them frequently.

I would actually contend that Thresh was the best thing to ever happen to Blitzcrank. It used to be that Blitzcrank was really the only support who was a permanent ban. Sure there would be a few flavor of the month or new supports worthy of the occasional ban, but Blitz was the main focus. Now that people have started to realize that Thresh is even more devastating than Blitz, Thresh has started to take bans that used to be reserved to Blitz.

So am I saying that only one of them will get banned in an average LoL game? Yes, and this will happen a lot more than you would think. Support champions tend to get very little respect from most non-pro level players. No one likes to get hooked by Blitz or Thresh, but most people cannot seem to justify spending two of their team’s bans on support champions – unless they are support players who want to play Sona unchallenged. It is surprisingly rare to see one team ban both Thresh and Blitz.  What you will see happen is that one team will ban Blitz or Thresh and the other team will ban whichever one the first team didn’t ban.

If you want to play Blitz or Thresh you just need to make sure that your team doesn’t ban either of them. The easiest way to accomplish this is to ask for them right at the beginning of champ select. This will force the other team to ban them both or leave one for you to play (I usually assume they will ban at least one of them). Just make sure that you know how to play against them in case your team doesn’t have first pick. The good thing is that a lot of people like to lock down their own champ with first pick and will let the support you want slip back to your team.

With Thresh being so popular at the pro level I have found that, increasingly, Thresh is often banned and Blitz is left open. In many ways this makes sense, as Thresh has a lot more utility / is just stronger than Blitz. I would still argue that a good Blitz is more devastating than Thresh, but it is a lot easier to be effective with Thresh than it is with Blitz.

Of course there will still be quite a few times when they will still end up both being banned. Once or twice I have even requested either champ and had my team ban them both. I would not recommend building your entire supporting skill set around being able to play these champions simply because they are still banned fairly frequently. I just want to point out that they are not banned nearly as often as people think (even Blitz), and even though it isn’t a certainity, there is a good chance that you will get to play one or the other in a majority of your games.

As for the champs themselves, I do not really envision much changing with Blitzcrank. I think his tankiness is still a little bit strong, considering the strong CC that he is able to bring to a fight. He is still reliant enough on his hook and good execution that not a lot of people play him. Just because Blitz is very feared in the lower elo’s doesn’t mean that most Blitz players are actually able to play him well enough to justify the bans, and I do not think there is a glaring need for any nerfs.

Thresh, on the other hand, will probably get tinkered with a bit. No longer does he have quite enough damage to kill everyone in lane at level one, like he used to, but he still does a lot of damage considering how tanky he is. A Thresh with even a little bit of additional armor, besides the armor he gets from his passive, can actually trade auto attacks with a lot of ADC’s and pretty much any other support. I would not be surprised if we see some more nerfs to or even the removal of Thresh’s E’s passive. This would make him hit less hard, which would be appropriate for a champion whose biggest strength should be his immense utility.

This utility is also why Thresh is a more popular ban at higher elo’s than Blitz. Thresh, unlike Blitz, does not need to land his hooks to be very useful and his damage and ranged attacks limit the number of ways that you can fight against him in lane, something that Riot hates. As a huge Thresh fan I really hope that the next change to him is a cool new skin, but I am sure another round of nerfs, and eventually a rework of some kind, is inevitable.

As for which of these two hook kings actually wins in a bot lane battle between the two of them, I am going to cop out and say that it is a skill match up. Blitz hooks are more damaging but Thresh can negate the hooks (if he’s quick) with his superior utility (lantern). Blitz should be able to keep Thresh from hard engaging on his ADC (picture Thresh hooking in only to be pulled away under turret) but can’t do much against Thresh’s poke without trying to land hooks. In my experience, good Blitz hooks will win the match up if the Thresh is slow to react, but a passive Thresh can take advantage of Blitz missing his hook to inflict a lot of damage. Both offer their teams fairly decent utility. The only reason I might choose Thresh is because I know I am a bit better on him.

And that…Is Everything

There you have it; my first ever guide. I know it is a bit long, and not nearly as sexy as anything you would find on Mobafire, but I hope I have managed to explain how to preform one of the trickiest and most satisfying abilities in League of Legends. I realize I give Nautilus no love in this guide, but that is because I am a support player and Naut is not a great support champion. I believe you will find that you can apply these hook tactics to any champion that is looking to land a skill shot that fires in a straight line. I have recently been playing more support Zyra, and I have found that the same kinds of situations that make for easy hooks also make for easy roots.

If you guys have any further questions or things to add please do not hesitate to comment below. Also, if you do find that this guide actually helps you then please let me know. I like to think that I have some experience in this area, but a reminder that I’m on the right track never hurts. Thanks for reading, and may your hooks bring you nothing but success – and occasional hilarity.

Reviewing Patch 3.8

It’s that time again. By the time most of you read this the latest patch will have gone live on the servers, and this one is quite big. As usual, let me break down some of the biggest changes to champions, items and game play that will be found in this latest patch. There are some big changes to Kha’Zix, Wit’s End and the jungle camps that are coming out with this patch. So give this a read before you jump into your games tomorrow.

Annie: Tibbers health and magic resist are being increased at all levels while the cost is being decreased. The intended result is that Annie can now use Tibbers to do more than just blow up her opponents. I believe there is a good chance we will soon see Tibbers used to take early turrets and dragons. I would imagine that a Nasus Tibbers combo could drop an early dragon quite quickly, with only limited damage to the champs involved.

With a string of recent buffs, Annie is quietly becoming quite strong. Her biggest restriction remains the short range of her spells. With the current meta favoring aggressive dash and long range mid champs, Annie has trouble remaining safe while casting her spells. I expect we will see more of her, but she will remain a non mainstream pick at the pro level

Ashe: It’s official, her new passive has finally arrived. Instead of gradually building up a chance to critically strike, Ashe will now build up Focus stacks every second she is not attacking. When she reaches 100 stacks her next attack will be a critical strike. The base amount of Focus will be equal to her crit chance, which can be built through items, runes etc.

I do not envision this making Ashe any more popular than she currently is. It will be nice to actually have her passive contribute more consistently than before, where it basically gave you one crit at the beginning of a fight and that was it, but the additional damage will not be enough to overcome her lack lustre early game and lack of escapes. Ashe has never been a weak champion, but she can be picked apart by ADC’s with stronger early games and can have trouble positioning herself in late game team fights if she is not fed.

Hecarim: Devastating Charge (E) is now able to jump over small obstacles. It might be worth it to carry a ward or two to allow yourself the ability to chase opponents through walls or escape from said opponents by dashing to an in range jungle creep. I had to do some reading to try and understand exactly how the changes on Onslaught of Shadows (R) will work. Apparently the charge used to deal shock damage at whatever location Hecarim stopped charging. This additional damage has been removed, but the actual damage dealt by the charge itself has been slightly increased. The hope here is that a fed Hec can no longer use his ult to dash through your team and burst your ADC, all in one shot.

If you have ever played against a fed Hecarim you know just how daunting a proposition that can be. This change shouldn’t make Hecarim any less viable, but it will hopefully reduce his ability to get ahead and destroy your whole team simply by hitting R. If anything, skilled Hec players should be able to use the changes to his E to make even more plays, and get around the map faster than they could before. If you’re looking to pick up a jungler do not let these nerfs scare you away from choosing Hec.

Karma: The mana cost on Inner Flame (Q) has been reduced and the damage radius has been increased. Her Focused Resolve (W) has now been changed to heal her immediately when the leash is started and again if it makes it to the full duration.

One of these days a pro player is going to take Karma mid and do some serious damage with her. Of course I’ve been saying this for several rounds of buffs and it is still yet to happen. The buffs do not change the fact that her kit still just isn’t the best for a support champion and that everything she offers other supports offer – with better benefits. The change on her W should give her some more sustain in lane, but like Annie, Karma continues to suffer from being a relatively short ranged caster in a meta that does not favor them.

Kha’Zix: Taste Their Fear (Q) now provides a 45% damage bonus when a target is isolated. This ability used to provide a similar base value plus an additional 200% of your AD damage, which will no longer be applied. When evolved, the ability will now also always provide bonus damage based on the target’s missing health, even if the target is not isolated. Perhaps the biggest changes to Kha are to his Void Spikes (W). The mana costs are being reduced at all levels, the attack damage ratio is being slightly increased and the ability now applies a 20% slow even when not evolved. On the downside, the evolved ability no longer applies Kha’s passive and it can no longer be cast while mid leap. Also, the damage reduction applied when Kha is stealthed has been increased by 10%.

These changes are definitely interesting. Kha will now be able to spam his W and have earlier access to a ranged slow. His evolved Q and R will definitely be more viable, especially considering his evolved W has lost a lot of its damage. It may not seem like it but most of the damage applied by Void Spikes was due it triggering his passive. I think Kha will still have a great deal of damage potential but his play style will be changed. To do his maximum damage, Kha now needs to rely more on his Q and less on poking with W.

Not being able to cast the spikes mid leap will also take some getting used to and should make it easier for opponents to flash away from without also getting slowed in the process. I believe Kha will still be a popular pick, but with his mana costs going down and his Q damage going up, we may see him built tankier than when he could do massive poke damage before jumping in to kill his opponents.

Lissandra: The mana costs and cooldown on Ring of Frost (W) are being decreased. Glacial path’s (E) cooldown will now begin when the ability is first cast. The damage on Lissandra’s ult is being decreased but the slow is being increased along with the duration of the self cast invulnerability.

I am convinced that Lissandra will get some serious playing time soon. She has potential to make some amazing plays with a dash that allows her to clear pretty much every gap in the game. My hunch is that, like Elise, the pros have been practicing her hard and should be close to ready to use her. She is much more of a battlefield control mid than a burst mage, so she does need specific comps to really shine. You cannot go wrong picking her up, and these buffs will only make it easier for her to dash into a lane and lock down everyone.

Nautilus: The damage on Titan’s Wrath (W) has been decreased at mid and later levels.

This won’t slow down Nautilus at all. If you are playing him for the damage you are doing it wrong. Nautilus is a CC machine who doesn’t out damage the other team but can easily make their lives difficult as they become rooted, slowed, knocked up etc. He will still be a very popular choice.

Sejuani: The damage on her Northern Winds (W) that scales from her max health has been reduced. The duration of the slow on her Permafrost has been slightly reduced along with the duration of the stun on her ult.

There was always going to be a pretty good chance that Sej would come out of her rework overpowered. Riot would say it’s because it takes a while to balance a champion properly; some of us might say it’s to encourage people to buy and play her. Either way, these changes shouldn’t hurt her too much. Her area of effect damage and CC remain very strong, and in case you haven’t tried her out, she has a dash that does damage based on the opponents max health – something that will also do respectable damage. She hasn’t become ridiculously popular, but it’s unlikely we will see any less of her than we already do. Unless they finally buff Olaf back to life….Riot please.

Sona: That’s right. Everyone’s favorite musical support is getting some changes. The damage on her power chord is being reduced fairly decently. Her base health and armor are getting a small boost and the power chord effect of her W will now actually reduce opponents damage as was intended.

If you have ever faced a Caitlyn Sona comp, as anything not including a Blitzcrank or Thresh, you know truly just how painful Sona’s poke can be. She basically gets to walk towards you and then shoot you with an ability that requires no aim, goes through creeps and does a bunch of damage (you bet Karma is jealous). I would contend that a lot of lower level Sona’s don’t even use their power chords that well; they can still win just from her Q poke alone. There is no other support that matches Sona’s ability to poke her opponents heavily while sustaining herself and her ADC, and this will not change. Her weakness to being blown up at early levels will remain, but she will continue to be a very tough challenge for supports without the ability to lock her down and blow her up at early levels.

Thresh: He can no longer start to cast Death Sentence (his hook) and flash while still casting it. For those of you who don’t play Thresh you can breath easier knowing that there is one less way for him to get at you. For those of you, like me, who thought learning how to Flash hook was the best thing ever: I’m sorry. We had a good run. I’m hoping that Riot realizes that this lead to some super cool plays and they will bring it back. If their changes to Blitzcrank over the years are any indication they will probably never change Thresh back.

General Changes to Champs

Abilities that disrupt Flashes will now either disrupt the Flash (causing the Flash to not be cast at all) or will, themselves, not be cast. This is a nice cleanup for those times when you tried to Flash, but somehow, had it get magically interrupted.

Due to some tinkering with the timing mechanisms, slows that are applied to you as part of a zone effect should now wear off more quickly once you leave the zone. Riot admits that this is a mini nerf to pretty much every champ with a zone slow, so if you play champs like Lux and Singed you might want to start getting used to people regaining their movement speed a bit faster than they used to once they leave the area of your ability.

Oh and if you are the type of player who enjoys jumping over walls, Riot has tinkered with the mechanics and claims it will now be easier to make the jumps. So take that, angry mob of champions upset over the fact I took their team’s Blue Buff. This time you won’t be catching my Nid because I will not be awkwardly failing that wall jump!

Item Changes

Doran’s Ring: The cost is being reduced down to 400 gold but the health given and the mana restored on kills are being slightly decreased. A lot of mid laners were taking the risk and starting with this item anyways. Now they can do so and also throw in a few health pots for sustain. The stats that this item gives are just too good to be ignored. I believe a Doran’s Ring two pot start will be pretty common for most mid laners who do not require wards to deal with jungle ganks.

Doran’s Shield: The cost is being reduced down to 440 gold. It no longer gives armor but does provide slightly more health regen and blocks two more damage from champion auto attacks. Starting with a Doran’s shield has always been attractive to champs like Vlad or Kennen, who need a bit of regen and early game damage mitigation. This will help them stay in lane longer, but i do not believe it will become a mainstream starting item. Most top laners will continue to favor starts that allow them to take wards top, and starting with a Doran’s Shield is still too expensive (and falls off too hard too fast) to be a useful investment for any champs other than those that already used it.

Madred’s Razor: Now deals a consistent amount of bonus magic damage to jungle creeps with each auto attack.

Wriggles Lantern: The attack damage and lifesteal have received decent increases while the armor has been slightly decreased. The duration and cooldown of the ward have both been decreased and the item now deals a consistent 100 magic damage to monsters (monsters being the jungle creep, not the lane creeps which are technically minions). I like these changes. The consistent damage should make it faster to clear the jungle and prevent you from having to worry about a stray proc messing up your buff transfers. I also feel like it is more useful to have the ward on a lower cooldown so it can be used more tactically than for pure vision. The items that build out of spirit stones will remain better investments for most junglers, but if you are worried about your clear time or do not benefit from mana regen, the new Wriggles should be something to consider.

Spirit Stone Related items now all carry the Butcher passive, which describes their ability to increase damage done from all sources against monsters – not minions. The damage on the Spirit of the Elder Lizard has been decreased by 10. This will not stop the item from being used a lot by AD champs who benefit from the CDR and mana regen. Those aspects of the item, paired with the bonus true damage, will continue to make it a very popular choice. Just remember that it will no longer allow you to do more damage to minions – if that was ever really your biggest concern.

Nashor’s Tooth and Wit’s End have now both received changes to correspond with the removal of Malady from the game. Nashor’s Tooth will now convert your AP into bonus magic damage applied on each of your auto attacks. Wit’s End now gives slightly more attack speed and allows you to steal magic resist from your opponent with each auto attack (stacks five times).

Nashor’s Tooth was always a powerful item for any AP champ that relies on auto attacks. This change will only make it more powerful and popular. The Wit’s End changes are the ones that should be fun to watch. While Nashor’s is more focused towards pure damage, Wit’s End contains a strong defensive component. This item will now be great not only for people looking for some attack speed and magic resist but also for those looking to dish out magic damage and lower their opponents MR. Riot has already stated that this item will even make a decent difference for champs that build Sunfire Capes, and I can’t imagine what it will do for champs like Udyr or Diana who apply magic damage on hit. Wit’s End should regain a lot of it’s lost popularity, and we will see it used on a lot of tankier champs who need the MR but can also benefit from the shred and attack speed.

Jungle Changes

This is important for everyone to know. Riot has received a lot of complaints about all of the non jungle lanes going into the jungle to gain extra experience before going to lane. Now, all jungle camps will spawn at 1:55 instead of 1:40. The idea here is that it will prevent certain laners from gaining the bonus ability to hit level two first without sacrificing their CS scores in lane. I was never one to leach experience in most of my lanes, but if you liked to use that to get an early level two, I could see that this would be frustrating.

Riot has tried to make it up to junglers by increasing the experience given by the Lizard Elder and the Ancient Golem and by making the other camps spawn slightly more frequently. I am not sure if these changes will be enough to make up for the lack of early leash that the jungler will be losing on wolves or wraiths, but they should hopefully still be able to hit level two off of their initial start. I think there might be some bot lanes that will still consider doing double golems, especially if they against a really bad lane that would simply block them from getting the early XP in lane, but these changes should accomplish what Riot is hoping for from the laners.

Whether or not it hurts junglers will remain to be seen but the thoughts are that it will allow junglers to get early levels faster and will allow junglers with quick clear times to always have camps up and waiting to be farmed. I do worry that this will encourage some junglers to simply spend all day farming and not ganking, but hopefully the allure of kill gold will lure them out from the jungle – just hopefully not when I do not have any wards top.

 

Throw in new notifications for when your Ranked League Points are about to decay (a great idea though too little too late for 20 of my points 😦 ) and the promised notifications that warn you when you are misbehaving and that should cover all of the major changes. The official patch notes are here if you want to find out about the minor things that I didn’t include. The patch preview video, along with the Champion Spotlight for Aatrox, are below. My guess is that Aatrox will be released this Friday or Saturday, if there are no major problems with the rest of the patch.

This patch has the potential to shake up the jungle and change life for a pretty popular assassin. On the whole, I am happy with the changes that Riot is making – though that might be because I am not a jungle main who fears change nor do I often leach experience. If you are a jungler please let me know if the changes have made things better or worse for you. Oh, and if you are not a fan of Thresh, please resist the urge to gloat about the changes being made to Death Sentence. I just realized that I played him twice today and did not get in a single Flash hook. I am feeling pretty glum about that.

 

Weekend Plays

Every so often, I realize that I am not actually going to be a LoL pro and I content myself to just watch some other very talented people make plays.

One of the gentlemen I have really enjoyed watching is Onebadbrad. Brad is kind of rare amongst LoL streamers in that he is actually as chill as he claims to be (most of the time), and if you have ever wanted to learn how to jungle, he is probably the most informative jungler out there. As for proof of his abilities, or if just want to see a couple of awesome plays whilst doing your weekend blog scan, check these out. Man do I wish I had his moves.

http://www.twitch.tv/onebadbrad/c/2385813

http://www.twitch.tv/onebadbrad/c/2385793