Solo Lane Tactics: brawling and dueling, rotating and crashing

[For information on certain terms please see our article Game Terms: League of Legends]

When a player decides to go into a solo lane in a MOBA they are typically seeking an experience where they will have to face an opponent one on one for a majority of the match. For the purposes of this article we will be discussing the lane structure and meta of League of Legends, but the same basic principles apply to playing a solo lane in other MOBAs as well. Although mechanically similar to their teammates, playing in a solo lane includes a different set of objectives, paths to success, and roles to fill within the team dynamic.
Playing in a solo lane focuses the player on a dueling dynamic with their opponent, anticipating their moves and taking calculated risks all while being unaided by their teammates. At first the two opposing players start by testing the water to determine who will set the pace, who is the aggressor, and where their weaknesses lie. Players fight for control and push each other’s buttons until someone makes an error in judgement.  The idea is to stress the enemy into becoming overwhelmed and to force them into making mistakes, then capitalizing on the advantages gained.

The pacing of the conflicts is also determined by the types of combatants. Mid lane conflicts are often characterized by quick duels between mages with high damage and low life. Here the focus is on getting kills but leaving turrets up until the team is ready to push as a group.  Whereas top lane represents an all out slugfest between fighters who can take a hit and keep fighting. Here the likelihood of getting a kill is lower because they have increased survivability, thus the fights resemble two friends in a sparring match as opposed to the quickdraw shootouts of mid lane. Likewise the goals are inverted, take down the turret as soon as possible and focus on kills later.

As opposed to playing in a duo lane, like bottom lane, a solo lane experience is one where the success or failure of the lane rests squarely on the shoulders of a single player for the start of the match.  When in a solo lane the results of the laning phase can feel more impactful than they are in the scope of the match. Winning your lane makes you feel like victory is inevitable, whereas losing your lane can make you feel like the match is doomed.

An interesting team tactic that can be implemented to compensate for a tough match up is called a rotation. When players rotate they switch who they face by changing lanes in order to create a viable path to victory. This is an exercise in team coordination and the sharing of knowledge; if the mid laner is going to be hard countered by their opponent and the top laner is confident they could do a better job of holding mid until the teamfighting phase of the match, they may discuss the switch and rotate lanes.

Similarly players in a solo lane may also be called upon to crash a lane once teamfights start to erupt. Crashing a lane simply means to converge upon a lane or location on the map where teammates are being attacked by an increasing number of opponents. While the laning phase is an important investment in the team’s strength in the late game, crashing to help a teammate helps to both create a sense of trust amongst teammates as well as to illustrate to the enemy that they are facing a unified front.

Whether seeking more autonomy, the playfulness of a brawl, or the thrill of a duel, solo laning can be a rewarding part of MOBAs. The main thing to remember when playing a solo lane is that there are always ways to contribute to the team dynamic in and out of teamfights. Whether it’s discussing a possible rotation for a teammate having trouble with their opponent or simply offering to crash a location. Communicating with your team about the challenges you face and what you can do to help before they become serious problems is the sign of a thoughtful solo laner; one who balances the fun of their lone hero experience with their role as a teammate.


Andrew Mantilla is a ludologist and video game journalist for Play Professor.  You can check out more of his content on Facebook, and Instagram.

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