Riding the Minion Waves to Victory
Updated: Feb 11, 2019
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Pushing is one of the very basics of the game and is probably the most essential. Sadly, it also seems to be the most overlooked aspect, with many players simply ignoring it which I can't think of any explanation for. To the uninitiated, pushing is basically defined as advancing a lane, with the main objective of taking down turrets.
With pushing, the terms wave management and minion timings are usually thrown in the discussion. Just check the links for more detailed info about the two. I have also talked about pushing in detail in the past.
Minions can be utilized to slowly (and subtly) push a lane. Oftentimes, they are just ignored thus resulting into a surprise tower takedown. Proper minion management can increase the chances of takedowns through creep waves. In this post, I will be sharing some tips to be a good minion commander.
THE BEST DEFENSE AND OFFENSE
Playing in soloQ as a tank/support, I often experience being "held hostage" by my own team, with our side barely advancing as the team focuses more on kills. I've tried splitpushing but my team usually end up getting killed as they lack numbers advantage, especially with me, the one who should be setting up plays, decided to split. Additionally tank/supports are usually inefficient tower breakers even though some have decent waveclear. Because of this, I slowly developed a personal playstyle to help the team push (if no one wants to) and support in teamfights at the same time. It's called............ *drumroll* uhm... waveclearing..
Waveclearing again wut?!
Yeah, just waveclearing. It's as easy as that. Check the map and whenever a wave crosses the river and enters your territory and no one else is getting it, try to clear it yourself. You don't even have to wait for the next wave. Just clear one and go to whatever thing you're supposed to do. This not only helps your turret from being sneaky pushed by creeps but it can also help your waves advance and if lucky, do a sneak push on the enemy. This helps with your gold income as well so it's a win-win. Since waves take 18 secs in mid and 27 secs in the sides to reach the center, you can even defend two lanes if you're using a mobile hero with good waveclear like Arthur (or Superman), provided that there are no enemy heroes making a push. Simply put, good waveclearing is the most fundamental skill of a minion commander.
GETTING THE MOST VALUE FROM YOUR MINIONS
A good general knows how to best utilize his/her troops. Likewise, a good minion commander will not just throw away valuable military assets. Remember that minions give gold to the enemy so simply letting them be farmed by the opponent is just basically giving them free kills. This is why pushing and amassing minions should be properly and carefully timed or you'll just be feeding gold to the enemy team.
For example, after securing a kill on the enemy laner, if your hero has poor tower takedown potential, you can just clear the wave (if there is any) and roam/rotate to help a teammate or get nearby objectives. Early game, it is advisable even for known towerbreakers like Kilgroth to clear nearby monsters like the scout bird or quick invade (safely) the enemy jungle while the waves are crashing onto the enemy turrets.
Allowing the waves to just crash to the enemy turret also gives you ample time to focus on objectives (like the abyssal dragon) with numbers advantage since one from the enemy team will most probably clear the wave instead of contesting. It's still a win-win if they decide to contest as the possibility of tower takedown increases.
Why would this simple tactic work?
1. Players simply ignore minion waves. Given a choice between a kill and a wave, a lot of players would opt for a kill (or even compete with the jungler for farm). This often results in forced fights or skirmishes around the map without any goal at all. With this in mind, you can just go clear a wave and then join the chaos yourself if you want to. At least, while you're all busy fighting, your waves are doing their job.
2. Minion waves can break a stalemate. This is related to #1. There are instances when opposing teams get into a wild wild west staredown, wherein one team gauges the other team while looking for a good timing to initiate a fight (usually ends in a chaotic-shoot-em-up clown fiesta or a no-action-all-bluster clown siesta). This happens even without a definite objective to fight on and is mostly a flamebait for anyone who won't join in. If you have a wave pushing towards the enemy base, stalemates like this would end in your favor as the enemy risks losing a turret in a prolonged staredown.
3. Players underestimate the power of minions. This has been the most common thing that I've seen. Players would come too late to defend. It's just ridiculous to see a marksman incredibly failing to finish off a siege minion as the turret gets reduced to rubble. This just recently happened in my game where a Valhein was getting blue while our tier 2 top turret nearby is being sieged.
4. Most players overestimate the power of turrets. By themselves, turrets are terrible defenders. They are meant to lose to minions over time, so you can't rely on them solely to stop a minion push. However, they support to your minion line and give vision, thus providing essential map control, so keeping them intact is still a top priority.
5. Pushing waves open up options for your team while limiting opponents' choices. With creeps providing vision, your team gains better map control allowing you to scout enemies moving in lanes. At the same time, the opponent is forced to decide whether to clear waves or riskily scout dragon or slayer especially if your team is nowhere in sight. Also, having multiple pressured decision making choices increases the chances of a team making mistakes. The team that makes the lesser mistakes will most often win the game.
Why not just siege or splitpush?
Wars need funding. AoV is basically a war between two teams. Ultimately, your team will be sieging or one of your teammates will be splitpushing later in the game, but both of those require resources to be done early. You need better items (sometimes even drake) to successfully siege, and the same goes with splitpush where you might even have to craft a play around it. On the other hand, keeping your lane clear of waves require little to no resources unless you're playing a hero with terrible waveclear. In fact, it even provides you income.
A botched siege wastes team effort and time which could've been used instead to take valuable objectives around the map. I've experienced a lot of games devolving into an "OM", ARAM, running it down mid, or whatever thing you call it and it usually ends with the one having the pushing lanes getting the upperhand.
A properly executed splitpush wins games, while a badly timed splitpush is just giving away gold to the enemy team, especially if you have to bail out with a large army of minions behind. It's just like sending your troops to be slaughtered.
Additionally, both strategies require having a decent team which does not often happen in soloQ. On the other hand, proper wave management is something that you can practice on your own and at the same time, can patch some holes in a crappy teammate's gameplay. If a teammate does not clear waves, you can just run to his/her lane and do it yourself. You earn gold and at the same time provide both defense and offense to the lane.
Heroes with good clearing potential can be good minion commanders. There are some heroes though, especially supports, that severely lack waveclear. Whenever I play support, I pick ones that can at least clear waves decently or if I want to improve my clear, I even itemize with Heart of Incubus. I only do it though in extreme need -- when teammates just won't listen to pings and clear. IMO it's a good investment especially if no one on your team is clearing waves.
As mentioned above, with the vision and map control they are providing, minions can be used as a bait to force the enemy's hand into desperate measures. With large waves pushing from your side, depending on their proximity to the enemy turrets, the enemy team would be baited to clear them while you can freely take objectives like dragon and slayer.
You can even double bait the enemy -- bait them with minions, dragon, and/or slayer while your team waits in their jungle for an ambush. Another double-bait trick is to wait instead in the fog of war, behind an advancing wave that is going near the enemy turret, and do a quick "stealth" push. A successful execution of any these will often lead to a win. This is how a meticulously planned minion wave push can add to your win conditions.
The Faux Splitpush
Some heroes suck at breaking towers but excels in waveclearing. For such, I'd just apply the usual laning tactics while pushing. Instead of staying in lane after clearing enemy wave, I'd get nearby jungle monsters or just go in a nearby brush while observing enemy map movement. I'd even let the minion waves crash onto each other and then just follow up. Somehow, it gives the false impression to the enemy that no one is pushing. Most of the time, enemies would respond only to heroes pushing, but not to creeps, so staying hidden as much as possible can help your minion wave reach further.
Another tactic that I use is to "leave" while the enemy wave is about to be completely cleared. I let myself be seen "rotating" but I just stay hidden and continue to support my waves, going in and out, keeping close watch on the map and tracking enemy movements.
Staggering your push can make the enemy guess your intentions. You can get one wave and just show yourself "leaving the push" as above. This has the same effect of "the waves can't push without a hero" line of though that I usually encounter in solo.
There are also times when I just stay in a nearby brush and wait for enemies to clear the waves then go out for an ambush. I've taken down a lot of squishies with this. Even if you don't get a kill, you can chunk the enemy low enough to make them insignificant and have to heal back up. I used to do this with Arthur as he is awkward in teamfights but his mobility allows him to rotate ala Superman.
These are just a few examples of application of minion commander tactics. There are probably more. A minion wave's potential is only limited by the minion commander's imagination and cunning. In chess, good usage of pawns can influence the outcome of the game. The same logic applies in AoV with proper management of waves.
To summarize, check the minimap for any amassing minion waves, either on your side or the opponents'. Always keep your lanes clear beyond the river, but be wary of large waves from your team. If there are any, look for would-be contested objectives around the map and force the enemy team into making a decision whether to clear the wave and give up numbers advantage or risk losing a turret and contest the objective. Don't let a minion wave on your side get cleared without getting something in return; and as always, observe, formulate, and adapt.
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