Scouting is an active skill presiding under the classification of game or lobby awareness. The fundamentals of awareness covers the information a player receives and how they processes it in any given game. There is a lot we can learn do without even going to another player’s board.
For instance there is a lot that just the side bar reveals for you. You can see who upgrades which units, who is currently streaking and for how long, who won or loss fights, when they level, how much HP they each have, how much HP they lose in fights, how long their fights last, the pick priority of the next carousel, if there are going to be ghosts in the next match up and who you could potentially fight next. The sidebar is one of the most valuable assets you have and is often underutilized.
Knowing and understanding what this information means for you are two different skills that go hand-in-hand. Being aware of the lobby’s condition is one thing, understanding how to play around these factors is another.
Scouting can be a bit difficult for a lot of players when they don’t know what they’re looking for. Most players often forgo scouting until the late-game when they have more time to dedicate to it and who they are facing becomes more clear.
This is actually perfectly fine for newer players if the time is instead used on figuring out more important aspects of your game plan is. The end goal is to be able to scout and position at least once per-round but never at the cost of higher priority tasks. Essentially you should work towards getting to a point where the other aspects of the game are practised enough for you to have enough time to scout.
When should you be scouting?
You should always be scouting during any spare time you have. If you’re not doing anything and just sitting looking at your board, you’re wasting a valuable resource in time. Scouting early game is just as -if not more important than late-game as it gives you access to valuable information that might affect your game plan.
Scouting before making impactful decisions like augments, during the carousel -before or after you pick, during PvE rounds and during fight rounds are great times to scout due to the downtime it provides.
What are you looking for?
At a base-level knowing all the information below should be expected from a player with strong grasp on fundamentals. Do not worry if you’re not doing some or any of the below as these are just some things you can work on improving over time.
Set Specific Info
Often a set will introduce a mechanic that can be learned about by scouting very early into the game. This includes Mutants, Mirages and Shimmerscale items and others. Even finding a Leona on stage 1-2 and learning what the mirage is 15 seconds earlier than the rest of the lobby holds an advantage as it gives you more time to shape your game plan. This goes for discovering the ‘Socialite Hex’ with an early Taric or Senna as well.
It doesn’t matter if you’re not going to be playing ‘Mirage Daeja’ or be using the Shimmerscale item, you still need to know what the trait or item is. You may have to play a Mutant units in the early/mid-game or you may be offered an augment or chance to make a related emblem and you won’t know what it is. Chances are, even if you aren’t going to be playing it, someone else is and you’re going to want to know as early as possible.
Augments reveal a lot about the current state of your lobby, it’s tempo and the direction players are taking. If players are mostly taking econ augments than you know that boards will generally be weaker, the lobby will be slower-paced and players might go for 5-loss streaks. On the other end a lot of strong combat augments will tell you that boards will be stronger with more player opting to play their strongest boards.
This also tells you what comps people are playing. Some may be very obvious like when someone takes a trait specific augment like ‘Scorch’, and others will be less clear in direction but will still give a general idea through augments such as “Battle-Mage” or “First-Aid Kit”.
A very important and useful tip is to pick your augment last so you can make the best informed decision.
Items & Gold
Items are a core aspect of the game and any decent player will play around them. This results in players revealing their hand when they slam and Archangels or Spear of Shojin as you know they are leaning heavily towards ‘AP’ comps.
Looking at components can give you somewhat of a heads-up as well. When the opening carousel begins take note of the contents. See a lot of rods and tears taken? Could be an AP heavy lobby. See a lot of gloves and bows taken? Might be AD.
It’s uncommon that a player will 100% play AD/AP because they took a specific component off carousel but it can be a potential indicator. If you take a rod off carousel and play Xayah, you can kill 1 rod easily with a Rageblade but have a hard time killing any subsequent rods you get making you learn more towards the AP tree. If you don’t understand why taking a rod off carousel increases your chances of ending up with two rods then you can learn about how item drops function here! [link]
You should also be checking the amount of components each player got dropped. The max. is 3 components. See what players slam items as well. Gold openers [link] usually mean that have 2 or less items to play with making them more prone to loss-streaking. Players who are slamming tempo-items are trying to win-out and vice versa for players who don’t/can’t slam items, as they are going to be weaker.
Using the previous three pieces of information, try to determine what comps players in your lobby are going to play. At a high level during certain patches you can accurately predict what every single player wants to play by the first augment. In most other cases it’s safe to say you should be able to get a decent grasp of what comps/trees most of your lobby is looking to play.
You may notice I left out ‘units’ as a something to look out for when predicting player direction. This is because players often overestimate how much impact your early game units make when deciding on a comp. For sure, units do impact your direction -especially for vertical heavy comps and reroll comps- and many comps do transition better with different unit openers, but Items and Augments are weighed heavier and are factored-in before taking into account your units. Definitely factor units into your scouting to a certain degree but really keep in mind that a good player will play around their augments and items more-so than their units and it can be a waste of time to analyze the units on their board when you can clearly see they’ve taken ‘Devastating Charge’ and are almost always going to be playing a comp revolving around cavaliers (ex. Daeja, Legends, Scalecorns, etc…)
Use this knowledge to navigate your game by: avoiding comps you are hard contested for, rolling for your carries earlier, making items that counter comps, positioning differently, etc…
With the same information you can get a good grasp of what player’s early games are going to look like. Find out what they plan to either win-streak, lose-streak or open-fort entirely. Some times you can guarantee a 7th by griefing a players game-plan; sacking your board against full-open mercs and ‘consistency’ openers are good examples.
Finally take a look at your board and formulate your best early-game plan with the information you have. Assess your board strength in-relation and decide the many important early-game decisions, like deciding to go for your own win/loss-streak, levelling, pre-levelling, holding units, positioning, etc…
Some factors your opponents have can make it near impossible to 5-winstreak into neutrals (ex. Built Different 3, Cruel Pact) and some can make it hard to properly lose-streak (ex. Mercenary Soul, 1-cost rerolls, open-forts)
Also look out for threats such as ‘Hooks’ [link] Assassin and other item-based threats that may sabotage your game plan.
The player pool should have narrowed down to 3 possible options per round by this point (stage 3-1). You should be observing those in your pool as well as those who are on win-streaking and deciding on what actions you should be taking. Are you going to be levelling early to extend your win-streak? Do you need to level or can you beat everyone in your rotation? Are other players boards strong? Are they levelling? What units have they hit.
You should also be positioning for certain boards in your rotation. Further info on ‘Who To Position/Scout For’ [link] can be found in a related guide.
You should start seeing the rest of the units/traits with elements that change every game in the mid-game. Units like Qiyana and Nomsy change their traits every game and traits like Socialite move their hex every game. Their should be more Shimmerscale items as well. Remember to keep a look out for these when scouting.
Comps will start to look finalized at this point and you should have a pretty good idea of who’s playing what, especially after scouting the 2nd augment.
The late-game is often when the most defensive/offensive positioning occurs and this of course means more responsive scouting from all players.
Look out for the biggest threats; the strongest boards, Zephyrs, Shrouds, Hooks, assassins/back line-access, unit that will stun your carry, etc… Prioritize the players in your rotation but keep in a look out for the rest of the lobby when you can.
You can scout to see units that are out of the pool that you may need and choose when to roll or not to roll until they return to the pool. There is no point rolling for units you can’t hit. You can start to see what items players really need and start to contest them after completing all of yours. For example if theirs a Last Whisper that directly counters your armour heavy comp you may realize it’s better to take it rather than let someone else have it. It may be more worthwhile than any other item available.
Gold is also crucial to look at as it gives you a great indicator of when they’re levelling and when they’re going to roll. Players HP plays a factor in this as well, and when gauging lobby-tempo. If you see a lvl. 8 board with 50 gold and high HP there’s a good chance that the player is waiting to go level 9 -meaning they’re not rolling to make their board stronger any time soon. You can estimate the amount of damage you’ll take from them and make informed decisions on weather you can afford to econ back up or if you need to roll it down. If you win against them you also know that it’s not necessarily because your board is strong but because they’re about to go 9.
By this point of the game, by viewing the levels, HP, gold, rotation and different board strengths of the lobby in-relation to yours you get an idea of what your placement will be and the most you can realistically play for (ex. “Playing for a 5th from this spot at most and 4th if I some how highroll”). Understanding this concept is a key component in achieving your best possible placement and an indicator of good game sense and awareness.