Keybindings – Abilities, Items and Summoner Spells

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Ryze powering up
Combo king powering up right here

Look, you’re gonna cast a lot of abilities if you want to play League of Legends okay? Similar to the justification for previous articles in this series, the reason to be conscious of your ability keybindings is to make sure that you’re being as accurate and efficient as possible. Anything that you could do with your mouse, you’d rather do by hotkey. Anything that requires fewer inputs is generally desirable. Optimizing your keybindings for your abilities will allow you to get your combos off faster, miss fewer skillshots, and spend less time clicking on your HUD and more time clicking on your opponents.

Before we talk about how to control your champion properly, we first need to know what the different commands you can use are. All of the options you’ll want to mess with can be found in the Hotkeys → Abilities and Summoner Spells and Items menus (although some modifications can be made at the top-level “quick-bind” section of the hotkeys menu).

Items are in the section just below.

Tools of the Trade

To save time, I’m not going to cover every single keybinding you could use, and will assume that you use the standard QWER-DF setup for abilities and summoners. Instead, I’ll touch on the different casting methods as whole groups.

Quick Cast (AKA Smart Cast)

The optimal solution for nearly every ability – the ability casts on key-down, and therefore is as fast as possible. The downside is that you get no indicators, so you have to know the ranges of your spells intimately to be able to actually hit things. In very low ping / high skill environments like tournament play, this becomes extremely important. Champions like Annie and Ryze (as of 7.6) can get their full combo rotation off nearly instantly using quick cast. Most pros re-bind QWER to this.

Quick Cast with Indicators

QCI provides a nice middle ground between normal casting and quick casting. On key-down, it displays the range indicator, and on key-up, it casts the ability. Quite a lot of people prefer this to standard quick cast due to the added accuracy that you can get. This becomes especially relevant when throwing out important / high CD skillshots like hooks or ultimates. The difference is quite noticeable however when you’re trying to cast multiple abilities simultaneously. Waiting for key-up between each cast can slow things down quite a bit. However, for the vast majority of the playerbase, it doesn’t end up mattering outside of extreme edge cases. If you use quick cast on QWER, a typical solution is to rebind quick cast with indicators to shift-QWER in order to have access to the indicators when you want them.

Items and Trinkets

Both items and trinkets follow the same casting patterns as regular abilities – however, there’s a bit of a debate around what you should for keybindings for them. The default, strangely, is to have items 1-3 on 1-3, trinket on 4, and items 4-6 on 5-7.  I think this is ludicrous. The T key isn’t bound to anything by default, and it’s well within reach, so why not use it? You would think that I use 1-6 for items 1-6 and trinket on T, but you’d be wrong. I use trinket on 5, and item 7 on T. This is a holdover from the way that I used sightstone before trinkets were introduced to the game however, and is by no means an intuitive setup for newer players.

Level-Up

Bound to ctrl-QWER by default, hotkey leveling is actually an exceptionally important skill to get down. Picture a level two all in in the toplane – having access to your second ability is enormously important. You don’t want to wait until you can click the little plus on your UI before you do it – by then you’ll have totally lost the element of surprise. Some people find control quite difficult to press. I do it with my pinky curled under and to the right because I have enormous hands and a laptop keyboard. If it’s uncomfortable, try using alt or shift as their modifier instead.

Target Champions Only

I debated whether or not to cover this in the previous article since its primary use happens to be with movement and auto attacks, but it’s in this menu so now is the time. This key works as a modifier to all your other abilities and actions, and causes your clicks to ignore minions, monsters and structures for the purposes of targeting. In the “Game” menu, there is a checkbox to treat this as a toggle, rather than having to hold it down.

I cannot stress enough how important a tool this is. Towerdiving, kiting in large minion waves, running into spawned jungle camps to get close to a wall for a flash, the applications are near endless. By default it’s bound to the `/~ key which is in a truly horrific spot to reach. If you have a gaming mouse with side-buttons, I highly recommend binding it to one of them for easier access. Alternatives involve giving up something else as opportunity cost (usually X or something around there is used).

Tools We Don’t (Typically) Use

Normal Cast

Normal Cast is pretty hard to mess up but very slow. It requires two button presses per cast: a key on they keyboard and then a left click with the mouse. Not what we’re looking for. This is what QWER are bound to by default, but most people unbind them and don’t reassign to anything.

Self Cast

Bound to alt-QWER by default, it autoselects you as the target of your ability. This can be quite handy if you play champions with utility abilities that also want to be able to kite quickly (Kayle comes to mind). Unfortunately, most champions don’t have abilities that can self-target. I’ve gotten used to using it on occasion, but it’s not the most important thing to learn. Also, keep in mind self cast can be combined with other casting modes. Pick the mode that feels the best to you if you do end up using it.

Use Movement Prediction (Checkbox in the Game menu)

A setting that causes your computer to display your character movement immediately, rather than waiting for confirmation from the game server. This makes the game “feel” better because your character looks as though you are controlling them with zero ping, but players with high latency (above 30 or so) should be cautious when using it. If the delay between where you think you are and where you are is very large, skill-shots that look like they’ll miss might hit, and cause a lot of confusion. If one has lower latency, it’s a personal choice as to whether or not to turn it on, because it’s mostly a cosmetic difference.

In Conclusion

Usually I end with a few interesting techniques, but ability, item and trinket uses are so wildly varied and deep that there’s simply no point to it. Instead, I hope that you learned something new about keybindings, and have found a new skill to practice on the rift! Also, check out the other articles in the series here.

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Atherton Wing
Atherton Wing is a long time League of Legends player and coach. When not initiating teamfights, he enjoys cooking, writing bulleted lists and composing video game soundtracks.

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