It's time to discuss side lane minion control and the way it impacts the game. The first thing to clarify is that this game is not about kills. It is not about Baron. It is not about dragons. It is not even about the Nexus.
This game is about minions.
The easiest way to throw a chance to win is to mess up how you manage your side wave control. Today, we're taking examples from EU LCS to highlight how important side wave control can be.
Freezing a lane and the Cabochard horizon
The Flame horizon — named after the former CJ Blaze/current LGD Gaming top lane player — occurs when one goes up 100 creeps in against his lane opponent. The Cabochard horizon is more than that. In today's Gambit Gaming vs Copenhagen Wolves match, Cabochard ended with 336 creeps to Lenny's 138: nearly 200 creeps up.
It's easy to look at this discrepancy and either give Cabochard a lot of credit or complain about Lenny's recent addition to the Wolves. The reality is that this differential started in misplaying the lane swap.
Both top laners misplayed their side wave control. The advantage originated when FORG1VEN and Gosu Pepper got the tower first with less help from their team because of the Sivir pick.
Following that, Cabochard got some time alone in the bottom lane with the wave bounced out after CW's duo traded the first tier turret and pushed the wave in Gambit's favor. Instead of freezing the lane and continuing to deny Lenny, Cabochard pushed it out.
This should have allowed Lenny to catch up in farm, but instead he pushed up halfway through the lane. He also failed to freeze the wave. Gambit took advantage and dove him to set him further behind.
The trend continued with Cabochard pushing out the waves, and Gambit diving Lenny when he did the same. In addition, the Wolves often pulled Lenny away to contest early dragons — which they ultimately didn't need with a top laner that behind — and Gambit's victory was the result.
I encourage both top laners to Google a tutorial on wave freezing for the future.
Jungle pressure and wave control
In one of the most questionable games of the European LCS this split, SK Gaming's Svenskeren invaded the jungle and waited for his laners to push out so he could dive. In many cases, the team failed to predict the flow of the wave.
Svenskeren's first attempt at an invade occurred on the top side of the map without his top laner's minions pushed out. With ROCCAT pushing the wave away from him, Steve could react much faster than Fredy122 when Svenskeren dove onto Jankos.
Later, Svenskeren wasted a lot of time waiting to dive Nukeduck when Fox's Cassiopeia was never going to outpush Varus. SK had an idea of the kind of early moves they wanted to make. Svenskeren looks for dives with Ekko because Ekko's ultimate allows him to reset turret aggro simply and facilitate kills.
Unfortunately, SK didn't seem to have a concept of how to time their ganks with minion flow. A dive really only works if your laner is pushed up with you. As a jungler, always pay attention to the way the waves are flowing. That would have made this game much shorter and potentially changed the outcome.
Getting picked in the side wave and Runeglaive Ezreal
I wrote an article earlier this split covering Giants' ability to push out side lanes before preparing to take an objective. In today's games, one of their biggest pitfalls was their execution of the 1-3-1 split after taking Baron.
After attaining a lead in a Baron fight, the Giants immediately tried to split their Baron buff pressure with a 1-3-1. Both side pushes got picked off by Fnatic members, stalling out the game and allowing Fnatic to make a comeback play.
While trying to pressure multiple waves with Baron buff makes sense, laying out the ward coverage for a push is important. And, failing that, Runeglaive Ezreal gives teams a lot of map pressure. PepiiNeRo had the champion at his disposal.
A good Ezreal can use his ultimate to clear a side wave safely. While PepiiNeRo was using it expertly for team fights, Giants' composition with Gragas gave them enough disengage to avoid fights when his ultimate was down. A 1-4 push with pressure from Ezreal may have worked better against Fnatic's global Rek'Sai engage.
As an aside, Runeglaive is good because it's 1) effectively a cheap Sheen, and 2) procs on-hit effects in an area. This makes wave clear from items like Luden's Echo massive. It also gives huge area of effect damage in a team fight, and PepiiNeRo today shattered the damage per minute record in the European LCS this split. As the build becomes more popular, it may become the center of its own roundup.
Something very strange happened in this game. Unicorns of Love spent six minute sieging the bottom lane first tier turret against Origen.
There are multiple things wrong with this. The first is that Unicorns committed three to four members for one turret, but they kept getting pushed off almost exclusively by xPeke's Jayce and sOAZ's Ekko. Given Unicorns' lack of siege potential against these two champions, Origen also committed too much manpower.
Origen made two smart attempts to counter. They sent xPeke and Amazing mid at one point to take mid tower and dive PowerofEvil. They sent Niels top to take top lane turret and farm up on his own. Ultimately, they should have done more, since their advantage was small relative to the faux pas made by the Unicorns.
This game played host to some very low farm totals across the board, and Unicorns should have had a much larger deficit given the situation. Origen only really needed two champions to hold the Unicorns' three to four man siege, so the advantages they got should have been larger. Alternatively, just give up the tower entirely and pressure two other lanes.
The Unicorns also shouldn't have committed so many resources to one tower for six minutes. They took one break to snag a dragon, but that was it. There's an entire map. One first tier bottom turret isn't worth underfarming most of your team, and they're lucky Origen didn't make them feel it.
H2K's mid game control
The only thing I want to highlight is that Odoamne did an excellent job of both splitting minion pressure and of being present for fights. He could push out a wave and Teleport into an engagement after someone else was sent to deal with him.
He had very strong mid to late game side wave pressure despite largely playing for skirmishes. Their shot-calling in early game lane swaps may need work, but their side wave control in the later game was on point against Elements.
(Frozen Mallet isn't necessary against Hecarim, by the way. It slows Hecarim down, but he's still going to run away from you. The only time it's really strong is if you act as a dedicated split-pusher, and that isn't Odoamne. He ended up building it anyway, but Phage's movement speed bonus is enough to stay competitive in lane. That's all.)
Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore eSports who likes Sivir because she likes minions. You can follow her on Twitter.