Coaching to Gold: The mental keys to a comeback

In League of Legends, even the best players and best teams fall behind.

SKT, the best team in the world and current world champions, are exemplary at stalling games out when they are in a massive gold deficit. Afterward, they allow the percentage gold gap to close and outperform their opponents as a result. Even at their apex, SKT did fall behind early and employed this stalling tactic to great success, sometimes coming back from over 10,000 gold down.

In solo queue, the ability to stall is still possible, albeit in different ways from a competitive match. Despite my immaculate advice, there will be times when you, intrepid player, will still be behind thanks to your own play, lack of coordination with the team, or your teammates’ bad micro decisions (and that’s okay!). Knowing how to come back from those deficits is just as pivotal as the guides that help you create advantages.

With that in mind, this week's Coaching to Gold is more about state of mind and ways to remind yourself of previously discussed fundamentals under pressure.


What’s most important from the outset is that you put yourself mentally in a position where you believe you can win. Every game is winnable. Everyone has been on either side of a massive throw during their tenure on ranked. Tensions can run high, people can be caught out in the late game, and people can outscale. Without this thought process, your play will suffer. You won't have the mentality to succeed, and you will find yourself getting more frustrated with the outcome as the game goes on.

One way to cultivate that mentality is through a feedback loop. Constantly reminding your team of win conditions can give everyone direction and allow you all to collectively visualize what you believe is the ideal set of circumstances.

Knowing your win conditions

Different solo queue compositions will constantly create different win conditions. If you’re part of a composition that relies on their ultimates to succeed, clearly identifying and communicating to your team is key. On the other hand, a split pushing composition might have the ones not split pushing attempting to play safe and move vision to the side of the split pusher. Try to identify your win conditions by thinking about the following when you're ahead in-game:

  • Which of the lanes outscale in damage?
  • Which team has more global abilities?
  • Which team have a better teamfight (normally determined by larger area of effect burst)?
  • Which team has the most pick potential (ability to catch out stray targets)?

If you can have an answer for any of these, that helps you understand the ways in which you can win. Having more globals means that split pushing is a more viable opportunity, while greater pick potential means baiting neutral objectives is a good way to come back. Understanding which lanes outscale can clue you in to who you need to play around. Just having a positive mentality and understanding your win conditions will improve your comeback potential substantially

Acting on your comeback

The second type of information that is key to coming back is controlling vision. Vision is a pivotal part of determining how far you can play up and how far the enemy team can safely play up. Most low ELO players won’t respect or constantly check the vision they have, so they’re more prone to making high risk low reward invades onto unwarded territory. Continue stocking up on control wards and taking every scuttle crab that you can.

Taking advantage of this is paramount to staging a comeback. Use priority that you do have from lanes that are pushed out to go and get vision in those quadrants. You’re not likely to be punished by this due to players moving to catch the minions, rather than moving into the jungle aimlessly. With this vision, you’re more able to ascertain how you want to play according to your win conditions. That vision can help direct your split pusher, help you further create bait at neutral objectives, or allow your team fighting composition to continue pushing mid without the worry of a deadly flank.

Once vision is established, and your game plan is evident, do everything you can to communicate intent to your teammates through chat and pings. This method of communication focuses on the game as a whole and the way to win rather than the individual players. It's non-confrontational and will lead to other players being more likely to listen to you..

Being the win condition

Sometimes, you’ll be the win condition that the team should play around to come back. Notify your team about how strong you are, when you’re going to get stronger through levels and items, and what kind of setup benefits you the most. For example, if you’re the split pusher, let your team know that you’ll eventually be able to 1v1 anyone on the map, and that if the other four can play back, not get caught, and help you with vision on the side you are split pushing, you’re way more likely to win the game.

Often, pings help communicate this as well. If you’re the main win condition for your team, let them know where you’re going, where you want the team to be, and if they can help you through simple usage of pings.

As you’ve probably noticed, a lot of this is about communication. There’s a benefit to being more composed, especially when mounting a comeback. The team with the lead is likely to be more demoralized as the gold lead slips out of their grasp.

If you can probably coordinate with your team, you’re more likely to score those mechanical outplays, since everyone understands their own place in fights. This is especially useful when shutting down an absurdly fed member of the enemy team. If you’re able to collapse appropriately thanks to their lack of information, you can collect shutdown gold and start the comeback process out with a bang.

Gabriel Zoltan-Johan is a news editor at theScore esports and the head analyst for the University of Toronto League of Legends team. His (public) musings can be found on his Twitter.

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