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The club's first match as a team began. The most important member to pay attention to was Luke. Not only because it was the first time Yuel saw Luke in action, but also because Luke picked Rogue of all things. According to Vincent, Luke's Rogue was actually solid, but Yuel had his doubts.

“A Sentry Ward right off the bat?” Yuel asked.

“Yep,” Luke replied. “Gotta make sure I got at least one safe route for approaching Mid.”

“I see,” Yuel wasn't sure what to say. It didn’t seem like a bad play but it was unconventional and therefore difficult to judge.

A Sentry Ward had twice the cost of a basic Ward. Therefore, the typical approach was to use cheap Wards during the early-game and only start using Sentry Wards from around mid-game. Then, during late-game, warding always turned into a counter-warding war of Sentry Wards.

Yet, Luke went ahead and purchased a Sentry Ward right at the beginning of the game. It was a peculiar move which, surprisingly, made some sense. The purpose of this early Sentry Ward was to counter Stealth Wards, which the enemy was undoubtedly going to purchase at some point to counter Rogue’s stealth. After all, using Stealth Wards was the 101 of countering any Jungler with stealth.

At least, Luke is putting some thought into it. This was already more than Yuel expected. It showed Luke knew some Rogue tech which was only available to the high-level memers. Yuel considered similar openings for Rogue before but, generally speaking, it felt like the cost-reward wasn’t in Rogue’s favor here.

Still, it was good to know Luke had a game plan in mind. As for the other goof...

“Say,” Lars titled his head. “What do I buy with Aero? Two Wards or two MP Potions? Or, one of each? How did that thing go, again?”

He already forgot how to open the game as a Mid Laner? Yuel sighed. This was the birdbrain goof at its finest. Yuel even went through the trouble of creating a build preset for every class Lars played so that the goof won’t need to stress over it, yet Lars still found a way to get lost in the options.

“Tell me,” Yuel started. “In what world would a Mid Laner begin the game without at least one ward?”

“Oh, right,” Lars nodded. “My bad, was thinking as a Carry for a moment there, haha.”

“Really now,” a Yuel made a face. Well, it wasn't exactly wrong. The Carry could open the game with anywhere between zero to two wards in the current meta, depending on how he agreed to split the burden of warding with the Support.

However, for a Mid Laner, starting off with at least one ward was pretty much mandatory. Mid was the only lane that was sandwiched by jungle on both sides, so it was the most susceptible to ganks. Therefore, the Mid Laner was responsible for warding at least one side of it, while somebody else could land a hand on the other side. Or, depending on what the team agreed on, the Mid Laner might have to ward both sides himself.

This was all elementary meta knowledge, but Lars clearly just followed Yuel’s presets without thinking much about them. That goof probably didn't really understand the deeper meanings behind all these meta decisions. Sigh.

Sometimes, I feel like I should babysit him less so he actually learns how to play. Yuel shook his head.

“When deciding whether you start with one or two wards,” Yuel said. “You need to consider what’s more important: an MP Potion to outlast your lane opponent on lane or an extra ward to defend against ganks.”

“Mhm, mhm,” Lars nodded with profound understanding. “So, how many wards I need?”

You didn't even try to think about it! Yuel wanted to facepalm all the way through his skull. “If you play it right, you should be able to outclear the Electromancer. This means, you’ll likely get many opportunities to advance up the lane and that means a higher chance of being ganked. Also, Aeromancer’s skills aren’t particularly costly and you’ll only need Whirlwind most of the time to clear minions. So, if you take all that into account, what do you think you need more? An MP Potion or a Ward?”

“Hmm, that's like some advanced math problem.”

Are you being serious right now? Yuel squinted his eyes.

“Haha, just kidding!” Lars smacked Yuel on the shoulder. “Of course I gotta buy... Potion of Strength! The only real answer. It gonna let me rek that dude real fast, yo!”

“Really funny,” Yuel rolled his eyes.

While Lars was joking around, he properly bought a Ward as he should. It seemed the goof had at least a minimal level of common sense.

They wasted quite some time on this banter but, fortunately, matches had a countdown until they truly began. So, that gave players enough time to prepare before minions spawned. Thanks to that, Lars wasn’t going to lose anything of note from heading out of the base a little late.

Still, there were some advantages to heading out of base early. It provided an opportunity to reach enemy territory early and sneak a ward onto their side of the map without their knowledge. A normal Ward couldn't expose other wards, so the enemy won’t be able to clear this early sneaky ward.

However, it was rare to pull off this sneaky play without running into danger. So, it took a daredevil player to go for that line of play. Like, for example, a certain Rogue who bought boots and a Sentry Ward as soon as the game began and darted toward enemy jungle on his own.

“Where exactly are you going?” Yuel asked.

“Told ya,” Luke said. “I gotta secure a safe ganking route. So, lemme just place this right here and get out. Perfect.”

Luke retreated from enemy territory as soon as he placed his Sentry Ward. Fortunately, he took precautions and entered stealth before venturing into enemy territory. Therefore, nobody caught him in action.

With that stealth on, this was actually a relatively safe play. A bold play, but a safe one. The placing of the Sentry Ward was also on point. It was right in the middle of an important crossroad which was often warded by Mid Laners to defend against ganks. It was highly likely the enemy team will drop a ward there sooner than later.

And, since Luke placed a Sentry Ward, his ward will expose whichever ward the enemy may place there. That’ll allow him to remove the enemy ward as soon as the laning phase begins. Not bad.

Meme Jedi or not, Luke definitely had a thought-out game plan. It was more than could be said about a certain goof who couldn't tell left from right unless Yuel held his hand. Sigh.

“Hehe, gottem,” Luke smirked as his Sentry Ward revealed the enemy Electromancer heading into the jungle. As expected, the enemy placed a ward there and it was a Stealth Ward.

“That's 80 gold down the drain for ya, pal.” Luke plucked out the Stealth Ward. That alerted the enemy about the presence of a Sentry Ward in that spot but there was absolutely nothing they could do about it right now.

In theory, somebody on their team could earn 120 gold and immediately return to base and buy a Sentry Ward to counter Luke’s Sentry Ward, but that was too inefficient of a play when the laning phase just began. Whoever was going to volunteer for that back-and-forth play was guaranteed to miss out on some important early-game farm.

Not to mention, unlike a Stealth Ward, a Sentry Ward couldn’t reveal stealthed players. So, even if the enemy counter Luke’s Sentry Ward with a Sentry Ward of their own, the end result will remain that the area won’t be protected from stealthed ganks. So, it was still a win situation for Luke anyway.

Considering all that, the enemy probably won’t do anything about Luke’s Sentry Ward. It wasn’t worth the effort. Especially, not for countering a meme like Rogue.

However, by not securing a Stealth Ward in such a critical spot, the Mid Laner left himself open to stealth ganks that could sneak up to him at any point. In other words, Mid Lane was completely exposed from Top Jungle’s side and the poor Electromancer will have to live in constant fear of Rogue ganks. Yuel should definitely arrange a gank there at the first opportunity that presents itself.

If Howard was in charge of the enemy team, would he have insisted to counter that Sentry Ward? Yuel smiled wryly as a pointless thought passed by. He shook his head and concentrated on the enemy Knight on his lane.

Knight's passive, Chivalry, slightly increased the defense of nearby minions. As a result, the Knight had a lane advantage over Yuel’s Viking by default. Therefore, if Yuel only focuses on clearing minions, the Knight and his buffed minions will overwhelm him.

Instead, Yuel made sure to harass the Knight from range. Every time the Knight stepped too close to the frontline, Yuel tossed an axe at the guy. The axe stuck itself deep into the Knight's armor and dealt damage over time, as well as slowed down the Knight's movement.

However, such aggression didn't go by unnoticed. The Knight's loyal minions responded to such assaults by focusing their fire on Yuel. They abandoned their fight with Yuel's minions and rushed to strike Yuel down.

However, that was all part of the plan. While the enemy minions were busy running forward to reach Yuel, they weren't attacking anybody during that time period. On the other hand, Yuel's minions continued focusing their fire on the enemy minions.

Especially, the bowmen weren't affected by the enemy's movements at all. In fact, they welcomed the enemy's advance because it just made their lives that much easier. The closer the enemy got, the easier it was to snipe them.

On top of all these advantages, this game plan also drew all the minions to Yuel's side of the lane. They got too far away from the Knight, so his Chivalry effect didn’t reach them. If the Knight wanted to maintain the Chivalry aura on them, he’d have to advance on the lane to the point of overextending.

However, only a fool would wander into the Viking's domain like that. If the Knight dares to come any closer, Yuel will catch him with Takedown and toss the fool into the Turret's range. That should easily convert into a kill. If not, it'll at least bring the Knight low enough to force him to recall. In that case, Yuel will win the lane.

This Knight seemed to understand all of that, so he obediently waited for the minions to come to him. It’d be great if Yuel could score a kill or two with this simple tactic, but at the same time, that'd make the match a little boring. Where was the fun when his lane opponent couldn’t pose a challenge?

The only downside to Yuel’s game plan was that the enemy minions managed to sneak a few shots on him. However, it was a small price to pay compared to the huge lane advantage he was going to win from this exchange. Not to mention, Viking's passive, Battle Ecstasy, boosted his power and defense depending on how much HP he lost. So, being bold and aggressive like that actually played to Viking's strengths.

Once Yuel finished clearing the enemy minions on his side of the lane, he advanced toward the enemy side along with the few minions who survived the clash. Naturally, the enemy Knight had no choice but retreat to his Turret. There was nothing that guy could do alone against Yuel and his brigade.

While the Knight was hugging his Turret, Yuel used this time to venture into the enemy jungle and drop a ward at an important crossroad. Three paths converged on that crossroad: one leading to Top, one leading to the enemy’s Wolf Camp and another leading to the enemy’s Wraith Camp.

By gaining vision over such a tactical area, Yuel will know when the enemy Jungler was nearby. Whether the Jungler was just farming camps or coming to the lane for a gank, Yuel will be able to tell with this one ward. It was a critical meta ward that was pretty much placed by every Top Laner.

In fact, the enemy Knight has most likely already placed a similar ward on Yuel's side of the jungle while Yuel was busy luring all the minions to his side. Yuel already informed the team of this possibility, especially Luke who was the most likely to pass through that area while jungling.

After placing down this important ward, Yuel immediately returned to lane as if nothing happened. I just stepped into the jungle for a moment and then returned. Nothing suspicious.

Of course, any experienced player could tell Yuel went to place a ward, but the enemy had no proof. Maybe Yuel just pretended he went to place a ward but he actually hasn't done anything? On high-level of play, such mind games were a legit tactic. Every bit of paranoia a play could seed in the opponent’s mind was useful.

Even though he returned to lane, he couldn’t help his minions much with the push. They got a few hits on the enemy Turret, but the Turret bombarded them while the Knight cut them down. Needless to say, the little guys didn't last long.

However, brought the tower’s HP down by about 5%. It was better than nothing. If Yuel keeps getting opportunities like this every time, he and his minions will eventually shave off all of the tower's HP.

During the second minion wave, Yuel repeated the exact same routine. He threw an axe at the Knight, which drew the enemy minions to his territory. There, he finished them off with the help of his minions.

Once he won the exchange, he advanced all the way to the enemy Turret area together with his minions. However, he didn't dare to step into the Turret's firing range. The Turret’s bolts dealt devastating damage during the early-game because players had a low level, so Yuel didn’t want to take the risk.

Nevertheless, his presence all the way out here was of utmost importance. By advancing all the way out here with his little army, Yuel pressured the opponent into retreating all the way to the Turret. Without Yuel leading this herd, the Knight might have chosen to clash with the minions in the middle of the lane to halt their advance. That would have cost him some HP but he would have gained more exp and gold and would have prevented any damage from reaching his tower.

That's why Yuel traveled to the very border of the enemy's tower and stared down his opponent. It was nothing more than pressure but it worked. The Knight could try to retaliate, but that was ill-advised against a Viking and this Knight was smart enough to understand that.

Speaking of pressure from afar, there was somebody who could apply great pressure on Yuel in the current situation: the enemy Jungler. Yuel was extending deep into enemy territory. So, if the Lancer were to pop out of the jungle right now, Yuel would have a very bad time.

And indeed, just as Yuel checked the mini-map, the ward he placed revealed the Lancer hanging out nearby in the jungle. Based on the direction the Lancer was moving in, it was likely the Lancer was heading toward the lane. This was the right time to scoot.

By the time the Lancer reached Top Lane, Yuel has already retreated all the way to his side of the lane.

Sorry, no dice. Yuel wasn't going to be caught by such a low effort gank. The Lancer’s presence applied enough pressure made him retreat but that's all he was going to get out of that play. And honestly, even as a pressuring tactic, this Lancer's play was on the weaker side.

He didn’t have to walk all the way to the lane. Yuel shook his head.

The Lancer should have realized he won't be getting any kills as soon as Yuel began retreating. At that point, the Jungler's presence has ready served its purpose as a pressure tool, so there was no reason for him to keep traveling toward the lane. It was a waste of his precious time as a Jungler.

I wish I could see his rank. Yuel's team was a mish-mash of different ranks, so there’s a good chance the system matched them against a team with a similar salad of ranks. If so, this Lancer might be among the lower ranks on the enemy team.

That’s something to keep in mind. If enough evidence accumulates to suggest that this Lancer was the enemy’s weakest link, it’ll be a good idea to focus him first.

The next minion wave arrived. This time, the Knight decided to switch things up. He was fed up with Yuel’s aggro tactics, so provoked Yuel’s minions with Honorable Duel before Yuel got to execute his usual plan. The provoke effect made the minions focus the Knight, so he retreated toward his side of the lane to lure them away, similar to Yuel’s tactic.

“Two can play this game! See? I can lure minions too!” That’s probably what the Knight was thinking right now. His play was essentially a copy of how Yuel has been handling the past two waves.

However, there was one key difference. Unlike the Knight, Yuel wasn’t afraid to advance along the lane with his minions.

A nice try but you chose poorly. Yuel smiled meaningfully. It was cute how the Knight tried to switch things up this round but that only made him fall into Yuel’s trap. This was a great opportunity for Yuel to press onward and deliver a devastating blow.

He chased the retreating Knight and threw an axe at the guy. The axe dug deep into the Knight’s armor and got stuck in it. Now, it was time to activate the follow-up skill: Axe Blitz!

Yuel blinked across the lane and appeared right in the Knight’s face. Now, both Yuel and all his minions were about to run over the Knight! If Yuel had access to his ult, he could summon additional soldiers and this would have turned into a complete slaughter. Unfortunately, he was still at Lv.4, so he had to make do with the manpower he had at hand.

The Knight realized the danger and tried to dash away with Shield Bash, but Yuel was faster. He already buffered the input for his Takedown during the blinking animation, so it came out as soon as Yuel appeared in front of the Knight.

The Knight began transitioning into the dashing animation of Shield Bash, but the Viking wrapped his arms around the enemy’s metal armor and slammed the Knight into the ground. It dealt sizeable damage and dazed the Knight, making him recover slowly from this assault. So, for a brief moment, the Knight was completely vulnerable.

In that short period of time, all of Yuel’s minions caught to the Knight and were ready to strike. A flurry of slashes and shots followed! Yuel slashed, his swordsmen slashed and his bowmen fired. There was no mercy to be found in this gang assault.

Yuel also made sure to body-block the Knight’s escape route, so the Knight had a hard time retreating from the scene. Shield Bash was on cooldown because Yuel’s Takedown interrupted it after it was already activated, so the Knight's only real option was to slowly run away while being swarmed from all sides.

The Knight could use his Noble Steed to ride away but that’d suicide. He’d receive extra damage while mounting the steed, so all many attacks hitting him would become even more devastating. He’d die on the spot.

Yuel half-hoped the Knight would commit this mistake. But, for the better or the worse, this Knight was more competent than and simply rolled past Yuel’s body-blocking.

He’s not bad. Yuel nodded to himself. If he rolled away just a little earlier, he might have gotten away. But, he’s done for.

『You have killed an enemy!』

『FIRST BLOOD!』

Yuel drew the first blood of the match, so the team was off to a strong start in Top Lane. However, how will Lars fare as a Mid Laner? And, what else will Luke bring to the table with his “high-level memeing”?

The answers to these questions will dictate the direction this match will take.

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DarkClaymore

Bio: A programmer who writes Light Novel-esque fics and occasionally other things too, like Visual Novels and reviews.

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