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. 

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