Learning a new role in League of Legends is difficult. This is down to the array of different champion types in each role: for example, top laners can be any one of a wide spectrum of champion types, from tanks to bruisers, mages or assassins. I find it’s best to learn a generalist champion type in your new role first, and for mid lane that has to be the control mage. If you couldn’t guess from their name, control mages thrive at controlling their enemy and the battlefield. This can be through area of effect abilities, crowd control, burst damage or high impact combos. Your archetypal control mages would be champions like Orianna, Lux and Anivia, but there are multiple nuanced picks that fit in the same category.
Why play a control mage?
Control mages are amazing at dictating the pace of teamfights and skirmishes. Their large zones of damage and crowd control can stop engages onto your team. Their ranged snares, stuns and roots can catch priority targets. Their immense range can let them cripple carries to the point where they can no longer participate in the fight. They scale extremely well with both levels and items, so they will usually be immense late game threats if left unchecked. Many of them have an easier time surviving fights than AD carries since most control mages have some form of self peel or damage mitigation ability. Their burst damage tends to be on the higher side so they can generally either kill the opponent outright with a full combo, or force them back at the very least. Due to the utility and crowd control of their abilities, control mages are still useful when fighting from behind.
Control mages lack mobility, so positioning is incredibly important. This makes them appealing targets for aggressive junglers, and if played poorly, food for assassins. They are heavily skillshot based and often rely on properly-aimed abilities to avoid death. This makes them more easily outplayed than other classes like assassins and tanks, most of whom have at least one targeted ability. They can also have trouble if the enemy frontline is a threat since they are easily crushed by crowd control and walled by tanks. They’re not quite as good at outright carrying games 1v5 as assassins or high damage bruisers, since most don’t have as much sustained damage, survivability or duelling ability.
Picking your control mage
When deciding on which control mage to play, you should work out what you want to excel at and what fits your team. If your team is lacking sustained damage, pick someone like Azir or Cassiopeia. If you have a fragile hypercarry in the bottom lane, pick someone who can peel or help them kite—Anivia, Lulu or Orianna would fit here. If you just want to have a big wombo combo, pick Orianna or Vel Koz.
There is, however, also the problem of picking a decent lane matchup. In the same way that no Singed would ever voluntarily lane against Teemo, some matchups spell certain death for control mages—Anivia against Fizz is a particularly terrible one. You also need to factor in the enemy team in general—picking Xerath into a team with Pantheon, Leblanc, Fiora and Blitzcrank might not be the best idea.
Know your win conditions
This is a big one. You need to know what a win for your champion and your team looks like. If you’re Azir and you’re against a LeBlanc (god forbid), you need to realise that getting kills in lane and going utterly bananas isn’t what you need to do. You’ll beat her late game and you’ll beat her in teamfights, so just be safe for now. Get your minion gold, levels and items and get ready to crush teamfights. Sometimes you’ll have a favourable matchup, like early-game Akali, which will let you pressure for kills and deny farm, but it’s rarely going to be your priority. You’ll usually want to just farm towards your strong mid and late game then group with your team for fights and sieges. Obviously if you’re presented with a gank from your jungler, you can go aggressive and use your crowd control to ensure the kill, but don’t get obsessed with “winning” your lane. Your victory will come through beating (or going even) with your opponent in minion kills, then winning teamfights.
As discussed, you usually just want to farm minions, but don’t be afraid to punish your opponents for poor positioning. Your burst will usually win you trades if the opponent is stupid enough to walk past minions, and sometimes even if they aren’t.
The different mages have very different trading potential at different points in the game so it’s important to study up on when your champion is strongest. For example, Viktor’s early game damage is fairly unremarkable before he buys his first augment for the Death Ray, whereas Orianna with her passive, or Anivia with her essentially double damage spells (as long as you hit the stun) are more powerful early.
Generally you want to finish your first item and look at what needs doing on the map. How are bot and top doing? Is the enemy jungle ripe for the picking? If you can get past the assault of ‘your mum’ jokes and yelling, establish a plan with your team, or if all is going well and your win conditions are to get to late game and teamfight, just farm. A key part of playing a control mage is to understand that sometimes you don’t need to be doing anything proactive. You need your late game power, so just farm. If you want to roam permanently and duel people, play an assassin.
In the mid to late game
Oh hi there, power! This is your time to shine, as you group with the team, push down towers, teamfight and contest objectives. You play a very important role in your team’s success at objectives—you might be locking the enemy team into baron pit, catching persistent pursuers with a stun or snare, or bursting down the enemy ADC.
This is not to say that every fight is a good fight. Refrain from being caught with your abilities on cooldown—being responsible for waveclear, this can happen easily—and survey the battlefield before fighting. Keeping your flanks warded is especially important as a control mage, since a bruiser or assassin getting behind you will lead to your death nine times out of ten. Make sure the fight is on your terms, so if you’re somebody like Vel Koz or Xerath, poke them down beforehand, or if you’re a Viktor or Anivia, try to bring the fight into a choke point.
Another important aspect of your teamfight is to work out how important your life is to the team. Sometimes it’s worth sacrificing yourself to save an adc or bruiser—somebody like a Kog Maw or Fiora will do more damage for the team than you will. This is not to say that you’re not important, but sometimes you’re not number one.
Closing the game
You’ll need to look for fights at objectives to close out the game. Make sure you look at your team, especially your top laner, before you commit to anything. Somebody like Fiora, Jax or Riven will probably be most useful split pushing then teleporting into the ensuing fight, whereas a Malphite, Nautilus or Rammus will stay with the team and initiate fights. Therefore, depending on your teammates, you’ll need to determine whether you’re going to start the objectives/fights, or react to the enemy team’s plays. This makes vision control unbelievably important, so make sure you do your bit with a pink ward and yellow trinket (or red trinket if the enemy team’s vision is overwhelming.)
Objectives are especially good for you to fight at since your abilities do a great job of making your enemies play into your hand. You can force backliners away from the fight by zoning them with area of effect damage and crowd control, and lay out areas to slow or disable the frontline to help your own carries with kiting and staying out of lethal range.
A full-on teamfight often isn’t necessary—you might be able to catch a priority target if you control vision well enough, and a catch on an AD carry or jungler could win you the game. You therefore have a few ways to go about winning, and tailoring these to each team you face will make your life easier. A team with only one or two damage threats will be destroyed by a catch on their carry, whereas a team with strong duelists will usually succumb to a well played teamfight. Work out which playstyle will counter the enemy team hardest, pull it off, and win. Then win again. And again. Until you want to main a control mage. You’ll thank me.
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