We love games like Dota 2 , League of Legends , and Smite , but the myriad skills needed to master their complex gameplay can scare new players away. That's why we occasionally pick a key skill and teach you how to master it, using a character that particularly excels at or relies on that skill in-game.
We've activated League of Legends expert and former Senior Editor Josh Augustine to tackle the science (and art) of wards—the consumable items that you drop to illuminate LoL's ever-present fog of war. No one is better at warding the map than the little scout Teemo, who can toss down his own sight-granting mushrooms in addition to ordinary wards.
The scariest thing in games like League of Legends and Dota 2 is not knowing where your opponents are. If you can't see them, they have the huge advantage of being able to choose the time and place that they engage your team. Wards are the solution: placing them in key locations throughout the map can give your entire team the ability to not only predict incoming ganks and escape them, but also to monitor enemy movement and pick out the best times to be aggressive.
In LoL, warding the map is usually considered the job of the the support player or jungler, who already spend their time and gold helping their teammates. But anyone can do it and you probably should if your teammates aren't.
Teemo has been the most polarizing champion in LoL since we first revealed him in the magazine over three years ago. Equal parts cute, annoying, and griefer, this little bundle of poisonous darts has been used to troll games from the lowest ELOs to the All-Star Pro game before the Season Two world championships in October, where MakNooN played him in a jungle role as a joke. Even LoL's Lead Producer, Travis George , has told me that Teemo's secret passive is a global taunt, because everyone immediately wants to kill him.
But Teemo is more than just controversy, he's a fast, fluffy blur that mixes AP and AD damage and excels at on-hit effects. He also throws stealthed mushrooms—powerful fungi that grant his team vision of the area and slow opponents that trip over them. His skillset makes him a great one-on-one dueler, but he lacks any sort of serious presence in larger teamfights. As such, he's usually played in top lane, where he can (ideally) isolate his lane with mushroom land mines and pressure his opponent.
Our goal this week is to understand the primary benefits that warding offers to you and your team, how to capitalize on those advantages, and to identify key locations that should be warded to encourage efficient use of the gold you're spending to place them. On top of all that, we'll learn the best places to use Teemo's special brand of mushrooms as wards and defensive traps.
My friend and dedicated Teemo player Jeff Wycoff once told me that the first thing you need to know about playing AP Teemo is that it's bad. And while that may be true, the second thing you need to know about playing AP Teemo is that it's fun. There's very few things as funny as watching an enemy player limp away from battle, thinking that they've escaped, and then stumble across a mushroom and yell into chat as they slowly bleed to death.
The most successful builds for Teemo will focus on Attack Damage, relying on his quick movement speed and ability to blind his opponents to allow him to go toe-to-toe with most champions. Strong items for AD Teemo include Frozen Mallet Berserker's Greaves , and Blade of the Ruined King .
For this little experiment, however, we're going to build Teemo AP for a few reasons. One, Teemo's shrooms scale off of AP and it's more fun to play with shrooms when they're bursting for big damage. Two, it's funny. Three, it's a very unique playstyle. Some key items to build, depending on your opponents, are Nashor's Tooth , Rabadon's Deathcap , Zhonya's Hourglass , Liandry's Torment , Malady , Rylai's Crystal Scepter , and Sorcerer's Shoes .
For non-Teemos looking to ward for the entire match duration (usually the support champion), an absolutely essential item to buy is the Ruby Sightstone . This is a new Season 3 item that allows you to pay a large one-time cost to place infinite wards that last three minutes each throughout the match, with a maximum of three up at a time. Less-dedicated warders can pick up single-use Sight Wards and Vision Wards —more expensive, pink wards that also reveal hidden units, including other wards.
The tiniest little serial killer
But we're playing Teemo this week, so let's take a quick look at his arsenal. The key skills for his AP build are Toxic Shot, which deals magic damage on every auto-attack and leaves behind a DoT effect, and the Noxious Trap mushrooms I mentioned earlier, which have a whopping 10-minute duration.
Move Quick is a great ability that lets you move faster when not being hit by enemy champions, letting you dive in and out of range for quick pokes on melee champs. And his Q, Blinding Dart, is a great failsafe that helps Teemo hold his own when confrontation can't be avoided. And of course, his Camouflage passive lets him line up some fun ganks by lying in wait next to his shrooms.
The order that you should upgrade these abilities while playing AP Teemo is: R > E > W > Q.
It starts easy: you really only have one ward to place at the start of the game. Getting last-hits (which we covered last session ) is absolutely crucial early in any game like LoL. The gold and XP you earn will snowball you to future victories, but you can't do it if you're constantly being harassed by roamers ganking your lane. And Teemo is a very tempting target for champions with stuns and leaps.
Place your starting ward into the brush that borders your river entrance. Place it on the edge of the brush closest to the direction gankers will be traveling from to give you most warning. Support champions on bottom lane should place their ward in the same area.
These are the most commonly warded spots in the entire map, and for good reason: this is where 99% of all ganks will come from as long as you maintain the central position of the creep waves. As long as you're in this part of your lane, make sure that this brush remains warded. This is also good to keep in mind when you start looking to clear out the enemy teams wards to allow your teammates to gank your lane—tossing down a Vision Ward to this area will almost certainly let you gobble up one or more enemy wards.
Junglers fearing a level one invade (when the enemy team rushes to attack you in your jungle at the start of the game), can toss a starting ward closer to the jungler's first objective—either red or blue buff—to let you make a tactical retreat.
Support players on bottom may want to put a ward into the opposing team's lane brush to prevent aggressive support champions like Blitzcrank, Nidalee, and Nami from tossing surprise CC onto you. Doing so also lets your AD carry take cheap shots at champs that wander too close inside the brush who think they're safe. Remember, you can throw a ward into the brush without walking into it.
But as a top-lane Teemo, one ward should be enough to tide us over until we hit level six, when we can start placing shrooms. Until then, play it safe and don't push your lane. Stay close to your tower and retreat at the first sign of a gank.
Wall them in
Once you have access to shrooms, it's time to expand your fungi bunker to legendary lengths and toss your tiny, fluffy weight around up top. Your goal is to place mushrooms in such a way that no one can come up to your lane without stepping on at least one of them, giving you time to either escape unscathed or take pot-shots at the slowed champion if you want to take him out.
Key spots to hit for top lane, in order of importance are: (1) the river brush, (2) on the open river next to the brush, (3) the tri-corner brush just above there, (4) the corner of your lane's river entrance that is closest to your tower, and (5) near Baron and blue buff. You shouldn't need to ward the brush that runs along the top of your lane at this stage, but you can if your opponent is dipping into it often.
Traditional wards have a much wider range of sight than Teemo's mushrooms. If you're not Teemo, consider ward placement near spots number 1, 3, or the middle location of the 5s (blue circles), depending on the direction ganks are usually coming from. Similar placement works on bottom lane.
It's a fair criticism to say that we've been incredibly selfish with our Teemo shrooms and wards so far. And, early on, that's kind of okay. It's not safe for support champions to roam outside their lane to place wards during the first few levels, and Teemo needs all the help he can get. Teemo isn't quite a top-tier champion, and he really needs to get off to a good start to be of real use to his team. Embrace the selfishness that swaddles our fluffy Teemo in an impenetrable barrier of exploding mushrooms, at least for now.
Next page: The later phases of ward placement, key locations for them, master tweaks, and your homework for the week.
Once you've bought a couple core items and feel comfortable leaving your lane for a bit (and your partner is prepared to solo if you're support), you'll want to adopt some altruism and spread the wards around. Bottom should always have wards coming out from the support player, who should have bought the Ruby Sightstone for an endless supply of wards. But your mid-lane buddy is spending all off their gold on snowballing into the carry of your dreams. Placing your wards around their lane helps them doubly: it saves them money and their life by preventing ganks.
As blue team (the one that starts on the bottom of the map), there are four primaryu spots I love to place shrooms at on the north side of mid lane, pictured below. If you're playing support and just planting a ward, I'd go with the central brush clump.
The placement is pretty similar on the south side of the lane, but (if I'm on blue team) I place them a little more aggressively to allow mid to push the tower without leaving themselves vulnerable to the side path. For red team Teemos, just reverse which side you're more aggressive on.
Alright, by now you've done a good job warding through early and mid game. You've avoided ganks, saved your mid's life a couple times, and earned enough gold to snatch up some hefty AP stats. Your shrooms are ready to evolve from alarm systems to heavy health bar drains. In the later stages of the match, wards and shrooms should be used to set up traps for your team to ambush enemies.
Ward locations at this stage tend to shift away from lane entrances and go deeper into the jungles now that your champs are strong enough to survive expeditions into enemy territory. Assuming you're not being pushed back into your base, key spots to grab are the wraith brush, the red buff brush, blue buff brush, and, of course, good ol' Baron.
Doing all of these wards is probably overkill, but as you play, you'll start to get the hang of which ones are needed at that particular moment depending on the flow of battle. You'll usually want have at least three of them up whenever possible to help track enemy movement. All of these camps are key tactical objectives that will make the difference come teamfight time, and you need to be aware of when they're being fought for so that you can interrupt them if needed, or steal them if possible.
Ideally, the warded vision will allow you to spot isolated enemy champions and engage on them before they have a chance to regroup with their allies. At worst, it will allow you to proceed on your normal plan with confidence, thanks to knowing exactly where the enemy team is at any given time.
The wall hop
Keep in mind that many spots can be warded safely from over a wall, such as dropping a ward into the Baron chamber from the red team's jungle, or hitting the tri-brush from inside that same deadly boss chamber to check the jungle. Wall-hopping wards can be a huge advantage during standoffs, giving your ranged champions the line-of-sight they need to hurl death at opponents who can't even see it coming. Base walls are another great spot for ward vaulting—particularly useful when one team is pinned inside their base by super minions.
Just one step more...
Teemo's shrooms become more flexible at this stage in the game as well. Now you have the option to either ignore the vision perk and use them to push creep waves or focus on setting traps for ambushing enemy players. The former is straight forward, but the latter requires watching player movement throughout the game to identify walking routes that the enemy frequents. It's what we'll be working on for this guide because it's a great way to train your mind to spot the frequently traveled routes and gain a sixth sense about ward placement.
You must always be aware of the status of all three lanes and how that will affect what routes the players will use to travel. If top lane is pushed all the way to their inhibitor, shrooms by your top lane river entrance will likely be wasted.
Some of my favorite trap lanes are enemy team wraith camp brush to my team's wolf brush, mid-lane river to baron, and the crossroads at enemy blue buff. You don't have to hit all of the spots at once with these—see where lanes are fighting and make your best guess at which paths are the most likely to be traversed soon. This is definitely a skill you'll develop over time.
You should see that in most areas, and especially Blue crossroads, we're hedging our bets by placing the shrooms in places where multiple paths intersect, and spacing them out far enough that the DoT will wear off right as they run into the next one if they continue moving forward. This ensures maximum damage, and the enemy will usually have to return to base if they hit even three of them.
1. At first, you will only be able to think of a few "must have" ward spots. But as you begin to play more and focus on placing shrooms in right locations, you'll start to find yourself analyzing the geometry pecularities of the map that lead champions through specific locations much more often than others. Placing a ward half an inch to the right can actually make a huge difference.
For example, champions walk through the jungle river entrance near mid lane all the time, and the game will always pick the most efficient route for the champion to travel. So you can look at the terrain sticking out and draw a mental line connecting the two path entrances to see where they will walk. That route is the perfect place to throw a few mushrooms. You can also use this to calculate what line-of-sight the champion will have and place your wards in tiny nooks that are less likely to be revealed by invisibility-seeing buffs.
Below I've drawn the efficient route the path-finding will run the player on who clicks towards bottom lane river from mid lane, highlight in orange where your ward grants line-of-sight on them.
2. There will come a time when you'll prefer to use your immense knowledge of where people walk on the map to ensure that players don't step on your mushrooms . They last 10 minutes and serve as excellent vision wards, but only while they're undisturbed.
Especially as an AD Teemo, whose shrooms do very little damage, the little guys are more useful as vision-granting wards than land mines. You'll need to walk a thin line of placing them near heavy traffic areas while placing them in odd nooks and crannies where they won't get stepped on and exploded before their time runs out.
Here are a few example locations you can use to ward the river with shrooms, granting line of sight on all the primary routes while maintaining a very low chance the enemy will step on the mushrooms.
3. Being aware of key objectives opening up, or when and where your team is going to push next will allow you to place mushrooms in the battlefield before the fight happens . Talking to your teammates is absolutely essential, but it's also important to note if the enemy team seems to prefer to congregate or teamfight in a certain part of the map. For example, if you notice that the mid often runs to gank bottom lane, make sure you put shrooms in the river near bottom lane. That will ensure that the shrooms are where the fight will happen, even if you can't be there.
4. This one is very situational and the payoff is debatable, but placing wards in spots that let your teammates hop terrain can save their lives. Champs like Katarina and Lee Sin can leap to friendly targets, including wards you place. It's rarely worth placing them beforehand, but it's good to keep in mind when choosing the specific location for your ward in an area.
5. I focused solely on the LoL map in this guide, but once you understand the core ideas, you can apply them to the maps in Dota 2, Heroes of Newerth, Smite, and the rest . One other important element to remember in Dota 2 is that it's terain is 3D and height matters. On top of that, trees can be destroyed to cut makeshift paths through seemingly impassable terrain. Still, placing wards near lane entrances and prime objectives is always a safe bet, and a good place to start as you master the travel paths of other maps.
Good luck out there this week, adorable Teemos! As always, you can download and play League of Legends for free . Teemo is one of the cheaper champions, and you can pick him up for $4.50 or 1350 IP if you don't already own the cutest killer with a blowdart gun. Once you've mastered wards with Teemo, taking care of ward duties on any other champion will be easy.
Five goals to aim for as you learn to ward with Teemo:
1. Avoid three ganks before hitting level six thanks to your wards.
2. Receive a "thank you" from a teammate who benefits from your wards.
3. Place more than 50 wards/mushrooms in a single game.
4. Escape an enemy chasing you in the enemy jungle by leading them over at least two mushrooms.
5. Draw a smiley face with wards.