Riding the Waves: Basics of Minion Manipulation
BY IAm Vangel - April 22, 2016

May you be a novice Silver player or a veteran Diamond player, there is no denying that minions play a vital role in League of Legends. Thus, it is very important to be able to know how to manipulate these “minion waves” to your advantage (yes, even for junglers). Luckily for you, this article will talk about exactly that, and the concepts that I will be talking about can be learned by even the newest of players.

First off, let’s answer the question, “Why would you want to manipulate minion waves?” There are two main reasons:

1) Minions are your source of gold and experience in the early game. The laning phase mainly consists of last-hitting minions to gain gold and level advantage over your opponent. Being able to deprive your opponent of even only 2 minions per wave can lead to them being 1 item behind when the 15-minute mark comes, which can have a big impact in team fights. It is also important to note that last-hitting a whole minion wave (6 minions if not a cannon wave) gives you, on average, 105 gold [1]. Meanwhile, killing an opposing champion for first blood gives you 400 gold [2]. With basic Math, we can conclude that it takes only 4 waves (2 minutes) to gain gold equal to the gold you gain when you get first blood - all the more reason to get those precious last-hits.

2) Wave manipulation “indirectly” influences the action of your opponent. Remember that your opponent also wants to get those last-hits in the laning phase. You can use this to your advantage by manipulating the minion wave such that you “force” your opponent to do what YOU want instead of what THEY want. I’ve had a game where it was 10 minutes in and my CS was 80 while my opponent’s was 30, and our standing was both 0-0-0 (this is a Diamond level game, by the way). This was accomplished by “freezing” the lane under my turret (will be discussed later). This goes to show just how powerful wave manipulation can be, and how it can sometimes lead you to winning the game.

Now that we have our motivation to learn, let us now discuss how to actually manipulate minion waves. There are two basic strategies: freezing and fast-pushing. Each strategy will be discussed separately and in-detail.

Freezing is the act of hitting the minion only when it is about to die. Most players keep on hitting their minions and then time their last-hits accordingly. The problem with this is that the enemy minions die faster than they normally would, and eventually your minions will push to the enemy’s turret. When this happens, you will have to “overextend” to get those last-hits, which leads you to being more vulnerable to ganks.

Freezing your lane answers this problem. If the enemy laner is not freezing, then the minion wave will inevitably push to your turret. This is the perfect time to freeze the lane (close to your turret but far enough from tower aggro range), as this will force the enemy laner to overextend to get those last-hits, and at the same time you are less vulnerable to ganks. If the enemy is smart, he will realize the danger of overextending and sacrifice some of those last-hits. If not, then the enemy will overextend and you can simply call a gank from your allied jungler and get a free kill. Either way, it’s a win-win situation for you.

On the other hand, fast-pushing is the act of using your auto-attacks (and sometimes even your skills) whenever possible to push the lane as fast as possible. It is basically the opposite of freezing. This is usually done in two major scenarios: a) when the enemy has recalled and b) when you are planning to recall. The reasoning behind this is that when the minion wave reaches tower range, the minions will die really quickly due to the damage of the tower. If the enemy has recalled without pushing the lane, you can fast-push the lane so that the enemy tower kills all of your minions, thus the enemy laner loses a lot of gold and experience. This also applies to when you want to recall - fast pushing will prevent the minion wave from reaching your tower, but when it does, hopefully your act of fast-pushing buys you enough time to return to lane and get those last-hits.

There are a lot more advanced techniques out there when it comes to wave management, some of which I have not even learned/mastered, but freezing and fast-pushing are some of the most fundamental skills you can learn. They are also the building blocks from which other techniques are derived from, so getting a good grasp of how these two techniques work and how to apply them will definitely improve your game. Like I always say, practice makes perfect, so don’t feel down if you fail in doing these techniques at the very beginning. Just remember to always work hard and do your best, and you’ll be riding the (minion) waves to the enemy Nexus in no time.