At its core League of Legends is a game of incomplete information. Most of the map is covered by the Fog of War, a dark shroud over the terrain. This means that both teams can only see what’s going on around their allied turrets, minions, and champions. Without vision, you won’t be able to see enemy items, buffs, levels, and—most importantly—location. Fortunately, there are many ways to light up the map and win the information war against your opponents.
Trinkets are special items that occupy a separate inventory slot for themselves. In the beginning of the game, every player has a choice between two trinkets: the Warding Totem or the Sweeping Lens.
The Warding Totem is used to summon stealth wards—invisible items that you can place on top of the terrain to grant vision of the surrounding area. Before the ward becomes completely invisible, there’s a brief moment when the enemy team can attempt to destroy it. Warding Totems store up to two wards that recharge over time. This is the go-to trinket for most players, as it lets them avoid ganks and gain information on their opponents.
You can also get the Sweeping Lens—an item that reveals and disables enemy wards and traps in a small area. Once you reveal a ward, you can take it down with three hits of your basic attacks. The Sweeping Lens plays a key role in winning the vision war, as oftentimes you’d rather conceal your location or the fact that you’re going for a specific objective.
As the game goes on and champions get to level 9, they can swap their trinkets either for the Oracle Alteration or the Farsight Alteration.
The Oracle Alteration works in a similar way to the Sweeping Lens but instead of affecting a small area, it will reveal and disable wards around your champion for a short duration. Because of that, you can cover more ground, so this trinket is a clear-cut upgrade. A nice bonus of using the Oracle Alteration is that it also reveals the outlines of hidden enemies. So even if you don’t have direct vision of your opponents, you can still smell an incoming ambush as long as your trinket is active.
The Farsight Alteration serves a more distinguished role. While the Warding Totem requires you to be close to the spot where you want to place your ward, the Farsight Alteration can provide vision from a much longer distance. The catch is that Farsight wards are visible and have a single hit point, making them easy to destroy. In general, you should use your Farsight Alteration to gain vision in an area that you deem unsafe to approach.
Every trinket is interchangeable, so you can always swap your Warding Totem for the Sweeping Lens and—provided you’ve reached level 9—exchange it for an Alteration. A single champion can only have one trinket and a maximum of three wards active at the same time. A team that aims to control vision has to work together by getting a mix of different trinkets. Each trinket has a long cooldown and understanding when and where to use them is crucial in winning the information war.
Sightstone and Control Wards
Another method of securing vision in LoL is purchasing Sightstone—an item that has three warding charges you can use to plant wards around the map. Sightstone wards act the same way as the wards from the Warding Totem, although they last slightly longer. Unlike the Warding Totem, Sightstone doesn’t replenish its charges automatically, and you have to go back to your fountain if you want to restore them.
While anyone can buy a Sightstone, the role that’s traditionally responsible for getting it the support. The reason for that is simple—while Sightstone offers a lot of utility, it doesn’t do much in terms of combat stats. So other roles invest their gold into powerful purchases while supports don’t need as many items to be effective.
In addition, every player on the team can buy control wards. Control wards provide vision of the surrounding area while revealing and disabling nearby enemy wards and traps. If you want to destroy a control ward, you need to attack it four times (as opposed to three for the regular wards). If you don’t finish the job for some reason, the ward will slowly regenerate its hit points.
Control wards are visible, so anyone can take them down without needing a Sweeping Lens. Control wards are usually used to cover areas that are easy to defend or to deny enemy vision around important objectives. There can only be one control ward per player active on the map.
Tracker’s Knife and Special Abilities
In professional games, junglers are also playing their part in the vision game. This is done by getting a Tracker’s Knife—a jungle-only item that has two warding charges. Junglers aren’t tied to a single lane like supports, so they can roam around the map and set up vision for their teammates.
Finally, some champions have special abilities that can provide vision to allies or take it away from the enemies. For example, a long-ranged marksman, Ashe, can fire her Hawkshot to light up a remote area while someone like Nocturne can use his ultimate spell—Paranoia—to put the opposing team in the dark. Abilities don’t have longstanding effects on vision, but every little bit can be the difference between winning and losing.
In LoL, even something as simple as shrubbery growing around the map serves strategic purposes. For one, any champion that steps into a brush becomes invisible to his opponents. So if you’re standing in a brush, your enemies won’t notice you unless they also walk into it; use a ward, a trinket, or an ability to gain vision; or unless you attack them. You can spot the champions that are currently hiding in the brushes by the slight transparency of their models.
Brushes can be used to break the line of sight, escape your enemies, or set up ambushes. That’s why it’s almost always better to place wards into brushes to avoid getting blindsided by your opponents. Putting a control ward in the brush will conceal it, so even though the ward is visible, enemy champions would have to step into the brush to actually notice it.
So to recap, vision in LoL revolves around warding and clearing the enemy wards. This is done through trinkets, Sightstones, Tracker’s Knives, control wards, and special abilities. Having superior vision means that you will always have an idea of where your enemies are and will be able to adjust your strategy accordingly. And in the end, making better decisions is the first step to winning a game of League of Legends.