Guides

How to Play the Captain Role in Vainglory: Part II

This is the second part of a multi-part series guide on how to play the Captain (formerly called “Roam”) role in Vainglory. The first part can be viewed here.

In this guide I’ll be covering Vision, Itemization, Map Panning/Scrolling and Your Device. Let’s get right to it.

Vision a.k.a. “Where TF is the Enemy?”

Are you wondering why your teammates keep dropping the purple question mark ping incessantly in every game? If it’s not being used 4x in a row, directly on top of your corpse after you face-checked a bush, then it’s probably being used to indicate that your teammates want vision in a particular place, or that they simply don’t know where the enemy is.

As the Captain, one of your main tasks is to provide vision on the map throughout a match. Having “Good vision” doesn’t always mean that you are spamming scout traps throughout the entire map. Instead, it means that your team has sufficient vision to win team fights and control objectives.

How much vision you purchase throughout a game can thus depend on your opponent’s hero selections, but also your own team’s. For example, to win team fights against stealth (read: annoying) heroes like Kestrel, Taka and Flicker, it’s likely that you’ll be picking up a Contraption in that match, but you would also probably spend significant gold on flares/scout traps in the early game prior to building the Contraption. This would slow down your item building a little bit, but it’s better than having your Jungle taken over and having a Taka become Frosty the Snowman and snowball the match so badly that you wish you were playing Vainglory in Death Valley, California.

Anyway, vision is granted in four ways:

  1. Flares (25 gold, or via Flare Gun/Contraption)
  2. Scout Traps (50 gold or via Contraption)
  3. Physical Presence on the Map (free… unless you die!)
  4. Some heroes’ abilities (e.g. Celeste and Gwen’s A)

When to Get Vision and When to Use Vision

Early game, as you are building Fountain of Renewal, you should have a stack of 2-3 Flares on you at all times. You’ll need to purchase scout traps to cover the Tribush and Lane bush. This covers the two most common routes to invasion of your side of the map. This will help protect your laner from ganks and your jungle from invasions. Having vision in these two places also lets your teammates run freely through your side of the map. This is crucial to keeping rotations quick and shopping a safe activity.

After Fountain is completed, you should have a stack of 3-5 Flares on you at all time. You should continue to have your two main bushes covered as much as possible throughout the game, and you can try to keep 1-2 traps on you in the event that a team fight goes well and you have the opportunity to put some sneaky vision in the enemy team’s jungle.

Throughout mid/late game, you should generally always have a stack of 5 flares on you. When it comes to late game, if you only have 1 item slot left and not enough gold for Contraption, then you should be purchasing flares so that your team never has to face check a bush.

In games against Taka or Kestrel, I will often get Contraption as a 2nd or 3rd item, and I will STILL purchase flares. I only use the Contraption to place mines (which cost 50 gold), and any time I need to flare, I will use one of the flares I have purchased. This maximizes the $ saved from the Contraption. Also, having two sources of Flares for a team fight will allow you to provide vision to a larger space, thus making it difficult for Taka to run away. Many Captains believe that once they have a Contraption, they never need to buy flares or scout traps again, but this is a mistake against stealth heroes, and it also doesn’t maximize the $ savings on scout traps that comes from Contraption!

At this point, it looks like I’m saying to only get Contraption when there’s a stealth hero as an opponent, but that’s not accurate. Since Contraption offers a serious reduction in ability cooldown, and scout traps also do significant damage, it is thus an excellent item to take when playing with Phinn, a slow-moving protector whose team benefits by a reduced cool down in his ultimate, Forced Accord! In the lower tiers, there’s really no problem with always taking Contraption, but just don’t forget to use it; every second that you have 3 stacks ready on that item is a second wasted.

Cases Where You Need to Flare

  • Chasing into bushes so that your heroes can maintain a lock on the enemy to continuously deliver damage
  • Approaching bushes that don’t have scout traps in them so there are no surprise attacks
  • On top of a Taka or Kestrel, anticipating when they will be going stealth to try to exit a fight or disrupt their damage intake
  • On top of any stealable objective like Kraken/Goldminer when you are taking it. This isn’t necessary but this helps ensure that there isn’t a tricky scout trap in the area that is granting the opponent 20/20 vision on the objective that they don’t deserve.

Where to Leave Scout Traps

There are really three placement strategies for scout traps: 1) ambiguous and hard to find places, 2) hard to reach places, and 3) aggressive places where they are intended to trigger.

#1 is a good strategy when you find the opportunity to place a trap in the enemy team’s Jungle.

For #2, I will generally position my scout traps in my jungle in such a way that if the enemy decides to trigger them, they must walk the furthest amount of distance to do so. For instance, in the Tribush, I will always put my traps in the top left, which, if the enemy is invading from Jungle or trying to pop my vision, they have to really commit to do so.

Make the enemy work to trigger your traps.

Again, triggering this trap really forces the enemy Captain to stick their neck out.

Directly underneath the Stealable Objective is also good spot.

For #3, you can use scout traps against walls or place them at your feet mid fight. For example, when fighting Alpha, if she dies and is in her reboot sequence, you can place one directly under her. It should go off in time to contribute to the kill. Lance can also shove enemies against walls into scout traps, dealing solid damage.

Itemization (Picking the Right Items)

Alright, so itemization, here’s how I do it:

  • Fountain of Renewal first, always. You can strive to have this by the 4:00 minute mark.
  • If the enemy team is rushing attack speed or has attack speed laners like Ringo/Vox, then get Atlas Pauldron.
  • If the enemy has stealth heroes like Taka, Kestrel, Flicker, get Contraption.
  • If the enemy has heroes with Area of Effect (AOE) ultimates like Phinn/Catherine/Adagio, buy Crucible.

Click on the below flowchart for a little help.

vainglory captain itemization flowchart

Map Panning and Scrolling

If you want to improve your Captain/Roam game, you must be panning and scrolling with the map. At this point, you’re probably face palming like, goddamnit, isn’t there enough to do already? Yeah, well, you should feel bad for StarCraft players:

 

Anyway, if you’ve ever walked up directly next to a bush, and then flared it, you’re doing it wrong.

If you want to throw a flare at max range, then you’ll need to use the map to scroll and then throw the flare. This is a crucial skill because when you do it, you can actually flare and get vision on the Goldmine/Kraken from the lane. It also keeps you in a safer position when you want to check bushes.

In addition, you want to continually check out what is going on in the lane. Do you need to head up there to hold the wave while your laner is returning from base? It’s hard to tell the situation without taking a look yourself. In general, you scroll to keep tabs on places in the map where you are not physically (virtually) present. This can include checking to see if the enemy is clearing their jungle regen minions.

Your Device

When I started playing Vainglory, it was entirely for fun (which is somewhat debatable now, because every ranked game is more stressful than a job interview at the upper tiers). I started playing on an iPhone 5s. I can tell you that in my first and second season I was only ever able to reach Hotness Bronze and Hotness Silver. Playing as a Captain with my thumbs on such a small phone with so many activatable items meant that I would simply miss pressing on the right item icon or I didn’t press anything at all. It was frustrating because I knew what I had to do, but physically couldn’t make it happen with a high success rate; my thumbs on such a small phone weren’t reliable enough. (This is apparently one of the only times in my life where I’ve had to say that my thumbs weren’t reliable.)

I wanted to rank up and I was starting to take VG more seriously. One of my friends played with his thumbs on an iPad mini and he was at Rank 8: Simply Amazing. It was at that point that I decided to buy an iPad mini. I started playing with my fingertips, which meant that I had to completely relearn the hand mechanics and recreate a spatial awareness for where my activatable items were. Despite all that, in my first season with the iPad mini, I reached PoA Bronze; an immediate improvement! Once I got to that tier, I started learning new things because I was playing against better people.

The old iPad mini has some downsides. Mine tends to overheat, and when it does this, the game will start to jitter in team fights. It’s almost impossible to charge while playing, which I sometimes will get around by grabbing an ice pack from my freezer IN THE MIDDLE OF A RANKED GAME and apply it directly to the back of my iPad. Totally insane, but it usually resolves the jitter. The size of the iPad mini also means that the active item icons are still a bit small when there are 6 of them. This will sometimes still make it challenging to hit your Fountain or Crucible in a timely moment because you have a small window to react, and an even smaller button to hit. At this point, I’d be curious to see how well I play on a full-size iPad. I suspect that it would improve my game significantly.

Anyway, the whole point of this is to anecdotally tell you that your device (and your settings — check them out!) can affect your playing and rank as a Captain main (partially because a lot of your job depends on hitting the right activatable item at the right time). If you want to improve, you’ll need to have the right tool for the right job. If you choose to play with your thumbs or fingertips, that’s also up to you.

Thanks for checking out this guide; I’m interested to hear your feedback. I’m planning at least one more section of this guide which will include the following topics: Lane Camping, Jungle Roaming, Coming Back from Behind, and for fun, Playing Captain Heroes as Carry or Junglers. 

Guides 1

How to Play the Captain Role in Vainglory: Part I

This is the first part of a multi-part series of how to play the Captain or “Roam” (the old name for it) role in Vainglory. I’m a Rank 10, Roam main player in NA who has been playing since season zero. This information was written during patch 2.2-2.3, but some of the content is probably going to be applicable to the Vainglory Roam/Captain role for quite some time.

Why Captain/Roam

The Captain role (formerly known as “Roam” — I’m going to call it by both throughout my guide) in Vainglory is arguably the hardest role to play in the game. However, playing Roam will accelerate your player development and you will hopefully ultimately become tactically superior to your teammates.

After you’ve Captained for a while, you will be in a advantageous position when you want to take on other roles. You’ll be armed with a strong understanding of the game flow and what the other team “likely wants to do.” You’ll see things before they happen, and that sixth sense will pay dividends over your VG career by helping you avoid lane ganks or jungle thefts (among many other things).

This guide is broken into sections for some of the topics that I believe are important to becoming an effective Captain.

Hero Mechanics

TLDR
  • Learn hero cooldowns and passives.
  • Think about how a hero might tactically be played.
  • Learn hero strengths and weaknesses.

The first step to Captaining well is knowing your heroes, but also knowing your opponent’s heroes. You need to be exposed to the other heroes to effectively defend against them. For instance, when a new hero like Grumpjaw comes out, it’s paramount to your success to learn what his abilities do as soon as possible. You must be prepared. You should play the hero yourself.

For new players, you can also play Battle Royale to get a quick feel for random heroes and also get you out of your comfort zone. I don’t advise playing heroes for the first time in Ranked matches; because that is disrespectful to your teammates who want to have the best chances of winning.

You should not be “learning what this hero does” in a Ranked match.

You can instead do that in the other game modes like Casual.

Hero Selection and Drafting

How do you pick the right Roam? The answer depends on your opponents’ and your teammates’ heroes.

Left-Side Draft (First Ban and First Pick)

If you have first-pick, Left side in the draft, picking a Roam first is usually the right thing to do. Generally the order of operations for first-pick are as follows:

  1. Most OP hero in current meta (could be Vox or Ringo, in 2.2 patch for instance)
  2. Most OP Roam in current meta, if any (could be Lyra/Adagio in 2.2 patch).
  3. Any Roam, but ideally a comfort pick like Ardan/Catherine.
  4. Whatever hero your teammate really wants to lock in.

1-3 should be difficult to counter; that’s why they are first-picks. #4 is like a Taka first pick, which by the way, is a terrible first-pick and anyone who does this should go to a Hell where Alpha is counterpicked and destroys you for the rest of your existence. You don’t want your first pick to be hard-counterable, which is why Roam is often selected as the first pick.

As for you Roam first picks, Lyra/Adagio are commonly selected in the current meta (2.2); they fall into #1/#2 category. But I like to pick Ardan/Lance/Catherine as first-picks. Ardan is one of the most common first-picks because of his all-around utility and ability to synergize with any comp. Catherine and Lance are similar in this way, but can be slightly more situational. For instance, if your teammate wants to run Celeste in the lane, you might want to grab Catherine or Lance so you can keep a hero stun-locked for what will feel like a miserable eternity to the opposing team.

Right-Side Draft (Second Ban, and Last Pick)

On this side, the rules are pretty much the same. If the enemy team first-picked a laner/jungler, your team should pick a counter to that hero, and also pick a Roam. You can also choose a Roam that plays well against their first-pick. For example, if the enemy first-picked Ozo (which would be a miserable first-pick), then you can pick up Lance/Catherine, knowing that you’ll want to be stunning Ozo out of his AcroBounce and Bangarang ultimate.

If the other team first-picked a non-op Roam, your team could then also choose to lock in two heroes that are currently OP the meta (in 2.2, for example this could be Vox and Glaive). I don’t really advise this draft strategy, but it’s an option. In most right-side drafts, though, you should have a Roam hero selected in your first two picks.

The Right Roam for the Right Occasion

Below is a list of the various Roams and what occasion they can be good in.

Hero NameGood AgainstPairs Well With
AdagioLyraBlackfeather, Fortress
Ardan**Very well with: Skye, Taka, Reim

And any other hero.
CatherineOzo, Joule, Skarf -- any heroes that you need to interrupt their abilities or ultimates.Laners and junglers with stuns.
Flicker**Tricky hero to play well, but can be exceptional for diving and locking down enemies. Try running with a good Reim/Baron.
FortressWeak carries like Ringo/Celeste/Vox. Blackfeather, Vox -- any heroes that are fast and can stick to targets.
LanceFortress/Petal/Alpha. Lance can create the peel you need for these sticky heroes.Koshka, Celeste -- any heroes with stuns or weak heroes that might need a lot of peel.
LyraFortress, sometimes Catherine
Phinn**Reim/Vox/Saw

** Means that I don’t usually pick these heroes to counter the opponents. Instead, I pick these heroes to for synergy with my teammates.

Setting the Tone and General Playmaking

A good captain can set the tone for your team’s playing style. By getting a strong forward position, you can ping your teammates to join you there. If they are smart, they will realize you are trying to make a play. Maybe they see what you are trying to do, maybe they don’t, but they should join you. You can make the play for setting up a jungle or lane gank with good positioning, vision, and directions (can be in the form of pings).

It is also possible for players to read the demeanor of their teammates based on their movements in the game. If a squishy laner like Ringo is already a timid player and his Captain is timidly face checking a bush, it’s likely that the Ringo will keep a further distance from the fight than needed and will more likely disengage than engage, and that can cost you. Sometimes, being a good Captain means that you will assert confidence and gain the trust of your teammates by providing good communication via pings, and strong positioning. Essentially, you want to control as much as possible: team fights, jungle camps, and lane farm. In the end, controlling these things will mean that you’ve controlled the game and won. When this happens, you are the Captain Carry, and your teammates might not even know why that game was so easy.

Dealing with Passive Teammates

Sometimes you can’t be aggressive because your teammates are too passive. If you’re playing aggressive with passive teammates, you’ll probably end the game 0-8-0, and everyone is going to be a sad panda. The problem with this mismatch in styles is that the aggressive player will make a risky play and if his teammates do not come, they make the aggressive player look like a dead idiot.

But the aggressive player might only be a dead idiot because his passive teammates didn’t come with him to make the play happen. So, if you’re playing as an aggressive Roam and your teammates are hanging you out to dry on the shittiest clothesline of death ever, then you’ll need to shift to playing like a Passive Peter. This can mean that you really focus on protecting the laner to ensure they get a full build and wait for late-game engagements, but also try to set up engagements so that the enemy team will basically be walking into your trap. For instance, if you’re playing with Ardan, you simply might not be able to use your gauntlet for an engagement, and instead might need to use it mid fight to save your timid laner and split up your enemies in a way that can tilt the fight in your direction.

Dealing with Aggressive Teammates

But what about when BestDeadKrullNA is on your team? This dude is more aggressive than Mike Tyson, and he can’t stop won’t stop (CSWS, to be precise). Well, if you know it’s a bad play, you can caution him and hang him out to dry once. If he persists after that, you will need to join him and play at his aggression level for the duration of the game — the alternative is usually losing. He may really know his hero well and might be able to teach you something. You simply have to play with him and trust him. This problem often comes up around turrets. People are terrified of following a teammate through the turret, but the success rate of getting a kill increases when everyone commits.

Leashing the Goldminer and Kraken — Steal-able Objectives (SOs)

Key points

  • Clear the vision on the objective area early
  • Consider leashing it into one of the side bushes, which bush is circumstantial
  • Position yourself according to your opponents and their stealing abilities

If you’re going for a Vainglory SO, it’s a little different than a real life SO. ..

First, you want to clear the vision in the area. If there is a scout trap around the Kraken, it’s giving the enemy team a ton of intel and will make it easy for them to steal the objective. Clear the vision immediately. I will often just pop a flare on top of the objective to ensure there is absolutely nothing there.

Second, you should consider leashing the objective to one of the side bushes. But which one? This can depend on the outcome of the last team fight. If you are coming off of an ace and the majority of the other team’s timers are within 5 seconds of each other, you will probably want to leash the Kraken in the bush towards your side — that is, furthest away from their base as possible. However, if you are taking the Kraken when one of the opponents is still up, you can leash it to the opponent’s bush. This will make it easy to see them coming and can allow for an easy gank if they are trying to steal it from you.

Third, you should assess your opponents and their abilities when you begin taking an SO. Are you going against a Kestrel or Celeste? If it’s Kestrel, then you want to be standing in between the objective and Kestrel’s likely location (if you’re coming off an Ace, she might try to steal it with her C from base). If it’s Celeste, then you might want to leash the SO to an odd place, and then also stand between it and Celeste’s likely location. This helps prevent the objective from being stolen by Celeste’s C. When you’re taking these objectives and going against heroes like these, you should also be sending a series of two pings to your teammates: the first one is Caution at the opponents base, and the second one is an attack ping of where they should be standing to block an Ult Steal of the objective.

Another random tip for taking an SO after an Ace is to leave a scout trap in the opponent’s tribush, and then leash it over to yours. This way, you’ll know when the opponent has arrived to try and steal the Kraken. You can choose to unleash it or still go for it at that point.

Place the trap in this area, or inside of the tri-bush before taking Kraken (if you are blue side).

Protecting

This is essentially one the main things you do with a Captain — protect. You protect your teammate’s with three things: 1) good positioning, 2) items, and 3) your abilities.

Body Blocking is a way to use positioning to protect your teammates from incurring damage. This is considered an advanced tactic which requires leveraging your knowledge of hero mechanics, your own hero skills, and experience. Skye’s Forward Barrage (her A) is a skill that can and should be body blocked by you for your teammates. Stand in front of it and incur the damage. So if you are the one playing Skye, you will be shadowing your enemy’s movements, but if you’re the Captain on the other team body blocking, you will be shadowing the movement of the teammate whom you are trying to protect. Plenty of heroes can have their skills body blocked (for example: Skarf’s fireballs, and Kestrel’s One-Shot-One-Kill); blocking these can save your squishy teammate’s from death.

Items like Fountain of Renewal and Crucible can save your teammates. For the new Roams out there, always rush Fountain first. Crucible or Atlas Pauldron may be second, depending on the opposing team. If they are running a comp with many stuns or a Phinn, you’re probably going to want Crucible second, and then follow that up with Atlas Pauldron.

Learning how to use Crucible well to block key enemy skills for your teammates is usually the difference between a POA-tier roam and a VG-tier roam. VG roams will block Phinn/Catherin’s ultimate abilities 50+ percent of the time. POA roams will often miss the block or not try for it at all. There is somewhat of an unwritten rule for Roams when playing against a Phinn or Catherine — in the higher tiers, your teammates are going to expect you to buy a crucible and block Phinn’s hook and Catherine’s silence. If your teammates have purchased Reflex Blocks, then they will want to use it later in the fight, especially if there is an Atlas Pauldron coming for them shortly afterward.

Abilities save your teammates by getting them out of a bad position, or creating peel for them. If your teammate is caught in a 3-man gank in the lane, you may be able to Fountain/Vanguard them out to safety, just in the nick of time. Or perhaps you’re engaging in a teamfight and the enemy team’s Blackfeather is immediately on top of your laner — then you will want to immediately attempt to peel that Blackfeather off. If you are playing Lance, that means you will attempt to land an Impale followed by a Gythian Wall. At this point, if you’ve landed both, you can assess if you need to use Fountain of Renewal. Also at this point, it is imperative that your teammates have been focusing on doing damage WHILE running, not just running. If your squishy laner simply runs, then fights against strong diving heroes will often be lost.

All Roam heroes have some type of ability that will protect your teammate or create peel for them. For example, Lyra and Adagio heal. Flicker has Binding Light and Fairy Dust to peel for his teammates. Ardan has Vanguard/Gauntlet. Catherine has Merciless Pursuit and Blast Tremor. All of these heroes can use at least one of their abilities and couple it with a Fountain of Renewal to save a teammate from a dangerous burst of damage and keep their team in the fight.

I hope you’ve enjoyed Part I of this guide. I will be adding the next Part which will include sections like: Vision, Turret Diving and Agro, Your Device and Device Settings, Map Panning and Scrolling, Lane Camping, Jungle Invading, Coming Back from Behind — Turtling, and Picking the Right Items.