Wave Control – Basic Techniques

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Heimer working on his latest invention

(Shoutout to SoloRenektonOnly, his video guide was/is a huge influence on my understanding of wave control)

What is Wave Control?

Wave control is the art of interacting with minion waves to gain advantages. By understanding wave control, you can gain significant leads with very little risk. However, the strategies involved are pretty complex. We’ll dive into how to gain leads in the next article. Before we get there, you’ll need to know some basic techniques. Welcome to the wonderful world of minions.

The Rules of Minion Waves

Every thirty seconds, a new wave of minions spawns in base for both teams. Minions travel down the lanes towards enemy territory, meet, and begin to fight. Often times players will refer to the location where opposing waves meet as “the wave”. It is useful to think of the wave as having two qualities – a Size, and a Position.

Minion Types

There are always three melee minions and three ranged minions per wave. Melee minions are much sturdier, but deal less damage. Ranged minions are fragile, but deal a lot of damage.  As a rule of thumb, melee’s make up 80% of the health and 20% of the damage of the wave. Ranged are the reverse, making up 80% of the damage, and 20% of the health. Canon minions are both sturdy and powerful. They count for around three minions when making quick comparisons.

The size of the wave is a measure of which team currently has a more powerful group of minions. This is a combination of a simple count, the current health values, and types of the minions. The position of the wave refers to where the battle line is. If the minions meet in allied territory, the wave is pulled. If they meet in enemy territory, the wave is pushed. 

There are two rules of thumb that determine the direction the wave will move.

The Rule of Size: If one teams wave is larger, the wave will tend to push towards the opposing base.

The Rule of Position: If the waves are relatively even in size, the wave will tend to move towards the center of the lane.

The rule of size derives from the fact that if one wave has a higher minion count, then it deals more damage. This causes it to shred through the opposing wave more quickly, allowing it to advance.

The rule of position is slightly more subtle. Both waves of reinforcements spawn at the same time; they mirror each other. Thus, you can infer the location of the enemy wave by checking the location of your wave. But, when the wave is pushed, enemy reinforcements have a shorter distance to travel.

Because they move at the same speed, the enemy minions will arrive sooner. Until your allied minions catch up, the enemy wave temporarily increases in size. This causes the enemy wave to push, because of the rule of size. By the time your reinforcements arrive, some permanent damage has already occurred.

Wave Manipulation Techniques

As a player, there is only one way to interact with the wave – you can attack opposing minions. In effect, the only action you can take is to reduce the Size of the enemy wave. This means if the wave is slightly larger for your opponent, you are in control. You can then choose whether to allow it to push, or to thin it out and start pushing yourself. Yet, if your wave is too large, you can simply use the enemy turret to reduce its size. Using this, you can position the wave wherever you want it.

Pushing the wave

This one is so obvious I almost don’t even want to mention it. To cause the position of the wave to advance, shove with your minions. By killing the enemy wave, you decrease it’s size, which relatively increases the size of your wave. Then, by the rule of size, you will begin to push.

Pulling the wave

The easiest way to move the wave backwards is to bait your opponent into auto attacking you near your wave. Minions always prioritize defending allied champions under attack. If you take an auto attack from your opponent, they will switch focus and begin attacking them. Meanwhile, if you do not return the auto, their minions will continue to focus your wave. This causes your wave to thin out in size, and then by the rule of size, their wave will begin to push.

Bouncing / Resetting the wave

Another technique to pull the wave relies on the rule of position. Simply push your wave all the way into the enemy turret, then leave. Your wave will attack the tower, and the tower will begin to demolish your wave. Once the enemy reinforcements arrive, they will stop to attack your wave with the turret. But, your wave will be focused on getting tower damage in – it won’t switch targets till the tower falls.

Because of this, the enemy reinforcements will not take any damage. Eventually, the turret will finish off your wave, and the enemy reinforcements will move forward. But, because they were delayed, the waves will meet in enemy territory. To review, the waves are now even in size (the enemy wave took no damage), and in enemy territory. By the rule of position, once the next wave arrives, the wave will begin to push back to you.

If your wave dies to the turret before the enemy reinforcements arrive, then the wave will “reset”. Both waves will meet just like the first wave, in the center and evenly matched.

Freezing the wave

Because the rule of size and the rule of position are opposed to each other, they can cancel out. There are certain pairs of position and minion size that allow you to last hit and keep the wave in one spot.

The most obvious place of course is with even waves in the center of the lane. However, things get interesting when you’re trying to freeze inside of your territory. A good rule of thumb is if the enemy wave has three to four extra minions, it can be frozen outside the outer turret. With experimentation, you can determine rules for alternate positions.

Doubling the wave

If your opponent has just bounced the wave, they are about to gain control over the position of the wave. Doubling allows you to counter-bounce to regain control. Once the wave is even and on your side, wait for your reinforcement wave to get close, then hard push to preserve whats left of your first wave. If you time it right, this will stack your waves on top of each other, making a super wave of about nine or ten minions. Because this wave is so large, you can very quickly shove into turret, and bounce the wave.

Slowpushing

Often heralded as one of the most complicated techniques, slowpushing can be daunting. But, now that you know the two rules, it is actually relatively simple. Slowpushing is nothing more than setting up the wave so that it gradually builds in size and pushes in. To do this, reset the wave by bouncing then thinning it out back to even, then kill just the ranged minions. By leaving the melees alive, you delay your wave from advancing in position. But, because the ranged minions do so much of the damage, your wave will remain healthy. If uninterrupted, it will gradually build in size until it crashes into turret, demanding a response.

Practice

Practice tool is an excellent resource that you can use to practice wave control. I recommend practicing CSing in two distinct ways. First, just last hit and move the wave as little as possible. Then, hard shove as fast as you can. You should be able to get all the last hits doing either of these. Set small goals for yourself – try to put these techniques into practice. Push and pull the wave to different positions, practice freezing, and practice slowpushing. In the next article, I’ll go over how to use these techniques to destroy the opposition.

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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.