One of the keys to success in League of Legends is being proactive. At the same time, you shouldn’t always be charging into battle… Sometimes it’s best to sit back and wait for your opponent to mess up! Learning to capitalize on enemy mistakes is an essential skill for climbing the ladder. Once you understand timing windows, you’ll be able to play out common situations in a consistent manner. Securing incremental advantage by punishing misplays will help you win your lane – and the game!
Let’s get into it!
Introducing Timing Windows
The first step to understanding timing windows is learning the concept. A timing window, simply put, is a span of time you can capitalize on strategically. This usually means “punishing” by inflicting damage on the opponent via an ability or autoattack. Punishes can be countered by evasion abilities that let the opponent escape harm – most commonly Flash. When Flash or a similar ability is used, its cooldown is a huge window of opportunity for a followup gank! It’s vital to identify these opportunities throughout the game, and take advantage of even minor timing windows that present themselves. Let’s go through the steps to build your game sense and start identifying timing windows!
Identifying Timing Windows
When playing proactively, you should always be asking yourself, “What can I be doing right now?” This is the first step towards building game sense: feeding yourself information throughout the early game. Whenever the enemy laner uses an ability, goes for a last hit, or attempts to harass you with a basic attack, ask yourself, “Is there any way I can punish this?” There are countless examples I could provide, as there could be – and usually are – hundreds of timing windows created in every single game.
Instead, let’s go over a few scenarios where a player has the opportunity to capitalize on timing windows. We’ll discuss how you can incorporate the concept further into your play… and what you might miss out on if you don’t!
Example 1: Aggressing When the Enemy’s Escape is Down
Let’s say we’re playing Thresh vs. Caitlyn in bottom lane. Set aside which specific other champions are in lane, for simplicity’s sake. The enemy Caitlyn just burned her 90 Caliber Net (E) ability to escape an unfavorable trade started by your ADC. Since we know her E is unavailable for the next 16 seconds, this opens a significant timing window.
We choose to play aggressively, forcing Caitlyn to use her Flash Summoner Spell due to her E being down. This creates a new timing window for us. Her Flash is down for the next four minutes and 30 seconds.
We then communicate to the jungler that Caitlyn doesn’t have her Flash, allowing him or her to rotate bottom lane in the near future. Knowing that her E is her only escape, we can definitely make a Flash-Lantern play. This will secure not just a kill but a realistic chance at “first blood” turret gold! The advantages of a small timing window can snowball into a huge lead – if properly exploited!
Example 2: Using Pressure to Create Opportunities
Let’s say you’re playing Ahri vs. Lux in middle. (See my Mid Lane guide here for more detail on this matchup.)The matchup heavily favors Ahri, but it can be tricky to kill Lux while her Flash Summoner Spell is off cooldown!
First off, as Ahri our goal is to get a solo kill on Lux. This will set us up to get a big experience lead and roam the map. So we plan to ult immediately onto Lux when we hit level 6 with our Spirit Rush (R). This forces the Lux player to use Flash or die.
Lux wisely uses Flash to get away when we aggress, which creates a timing window for us. Lux’s Flash is down for four minutes and 30 seconds while our R is only down for one minute and 50 seconds. This leaves two minutes and 40 seconds for us to catch Lux out of position for a free kill.
Example 3: Failing to Capitalize on Timing Windows
We’re playing Lee Sin jungle and looking to gank middle after clearing Rift Scuttler (aka Scuttle Crab). This is a high-priority lane for our team, because it’s an explosive matchup: our Yasuo vs. their Zed. Whoever comes out on top in mid will certainly go on to shape the course of the game!
This is a huge mistake. Zed’s W is his only escape, at least outside of his Flash Summoner Spell. With a whopping 22 second cooldown on his W, we could have made a strong gank and likely forced him to use Flash.
We “ward hop” into the lane to attempt the gank, but Zed’s W comes up just in time to escape. Though we succeeded in applying some pressure, it would have been much more effective if we ganked immediately. Had we punished at the right time, Zed’s Flash would be on cooldown and he’d be feeling seriously scared!
How to Practice Timing Windows
The most effective way to start mastering timing windows is to watch replays of your games! Pay attention to how you and your opponents react to ability usage. Look over your entire laning phase, noting each time you think you could have punished the enemy laner. Remember to look for more than just them using their abilities – poor positioning or slow reactions can be opportunities too!
Many players miss out on opportunities to punish the opponent because of last hitting or worrying about taking damage. You can also learn from higher-skilled players! Watch their replays or streams, paying particular attention to how they react to ability usage and punish during timing windows. Outside of replays, just being proactive in lane, communicating with your team, and keeping timing windows in mind is a great way to start learning.
Knowing When to Capitalize Takes Practice
Timing windows can be tricky business… Just because one shows up doesn’t mean you should do something about it! This goes hand-in-hand with understanding matchups: sometimes, you’re just too disadvantaged to look for opportunities. There are some matchups that you’ll lose heavily even if the enemy champ’s spells are on cooldown. For more on that subject, check out my guide to zone control here. Keep this in mind when practicing! If you’re having issues with understanding timing windows or matchups, reach out to your coach to help break these concepts down.
As always, thanks for reading & best of luck on the Rift!