LoL Wave Management Guide: When To Freeze, Slow Push And Fast Push

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LoL Wave Management Guide: When To Freeze, Slow Push And Fast Push

Learn everything you need to about wave manipulation.

Many people hear professional players and League of Legends analysts discuss wave management. In this guide, we will discuss the three main basics of wave manipulation and how to execute them to improve your own gameplay.

Why Does Lane Manipulation Matter?

Before discussing the types of manipulation, it is important to understand the underlying strategy of wave management. Manipulating the state of minion location revolves around space. By manipulating the space you have or are giving your opponent, opportunities arise that can benefit your champion or are disadvantageous to the enemy champion.

For example, a kill lane such as a Draven or Jhin with a Leona support in the bottom lane freezing the wave can be lethal. By forcing the enemy to walk up to kill minions, Leona can capitalize by stunning the opponents. With high damage per second (DPS) champions such as Draven and Jhin, you can easily set up kills to punish the enemy.

The first wave management tool we will look at is freezing.

What is freezing?

Freezing at the basic level creates space for your team. This is done by manipulating you and your opponent’s minion waves into meeting close to outside your tower's max range. As soon as the enemy has more minions on their side than yours, you can look to freeze. However, the closer the minions are to your tower, the more minions you need to sustain the freeze. This is because your spawning minions will reach the old wave before its counterpart reaches the current frozen wave. If too few minions are built up, your wave will clear the enemy minions too quickly. Then they will begin to push back towards your opponent in the form of a slow push.  If too many minions are on the opposing side, your minions will die too quickly and crash into your tower. This will cause the tower to quickly damage the minion wave. It will then force the minion wave back to the opposing side of the map.

In the images below, Irelia is building a freeze of minions to push to her side. She then thins the following wave in the next image to sustain the freeze.

A screenshot from League of Legends showing a player playing Irelia in the top lane and freezing a minion wave.

A screenshot from League of Legends showing a player playing Irelia in the top lane with a frozen minion wave.

Why is freezing useful?

Freezing forces your opponents to walk past the middle of the lane. This is done by keeping minions adjacent to the turret's max range. When the opposing team is past the midway point, it allows more opportunities for you and your team. This is due to the longer lane set up by the freeze. By freezing near your tower, the enemy has farther to run back to safety. It opens opportunities for your jungler to come in and outnumber the enemy. It also makes it difficult for the enemy jungler to attack you. This limits where the enemy jungler can go on the map. Communicating a freeze to your teammates can allow them to anticipate potential pressure points from the opposing team. This results in a higher chance of a win for both you and your team.

Situations to freeze: Freezing when ahead.

There are several different strategies in which utilizing freezing can benefit you and your team.

One example is if you are stronger than your opponent. This can be either through champion picks or through more gold income via kills or creep score. If this is the case, you can freeze the lane to force them into a longer lane. This opens more opportunities to attack them if they step too far forward. Constantly pushing against a weaker opponent would leave you more susceptible to enemy jungle interference. It would also not give you as much room to harass them under tower.

Freezing when ahead extends your win condition.

Imagine you are a two-kill, zero-death Syndra and are 20 minions up on your opponent. Freezing the lane outside your tower while looking to harass your enemy laner creates a very difficult situation. The only way that your opponent can come back into the game in this scenario would be through last hitting minions as much as possible. They could also try for a possible kill through outplaying you or jungle or support assistance or roaming to another lane.

With all these variables your opponent has to consider, you only have one job. Your primary concern is maintaining a frozen wave and harassing your opponent. If they get too close, you can kill them with your superior damage. If they refuse to walk forward, they do not get any gold from the minions. And if their jungler comes to help, you are successfully pressuring the map.

This allows your jungler to produce points of pressure elsewhere. If they leave the lane to try and obtain advantages elsewhere, you can maintain the freeze or mirror their roams. This makes their roam ineffective. Another response would be to shove the frozen wave into the enemy tower if they leave lane. This denies gold to your opponent and forces them to respond to your push. After they respond, you can then roam yourself to get your team ahead or take enemy towers.

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By recognizing your opponent's win conditions, it adds a repeatable strategy into the game your opponent may not understand. It may force them into mistakes as discussed above and improve your chances of winning the game.

How to freeze

Freezing can be difficult to learn and execute in the moment. Constantly thinking about your wave state, especially in the laning phase, comes with practice. One rule to keep a wave pushing towards you is to keep more enemy minions alive than your own. As they near your tower, more minions are required to hold that push. However, too many will crash into tower and break the freeze. When you have three to four minions near your tower, you are able to maintain a freeze long-term. This is done by not damaging the wave except for last hitting them. This will guarantee damage to your incoming wave as the enemy incoming wave meets yours. Cycling through three to four minions will keep your wave in this state.

Below is a video demonstrating a freeze followed by a fast-push strategy.

Situations to freeze: Freezing when behind.

Freezing can also be beneficial if you are behind in gold. This is particularly useful if the enemy jungler is frequently visiting your lane. Playing reserved and letting the enemy push into you will decrease the likelihood of jungler interference. This is due to your opponent having less space to work with.

Forcing a freeze slows down the gameplay and can force enemies to make risky plays. Leaving their lane with a freeze causes experience and gold deficits from minions in the hope of making plays elsewhere. In the case the enemy hovers on your side of the map, ask your jungler for assistance. They can come and create a beneficial two versus one situation.

However, holding a freeze versus champions who are good at roaming such as assassin can be difficult. Champions with high mobility such as Zed, Talon or Fizz can snowball if your team does not respect roams. Open communication with your team to play safe is your best option when holding a freeze. We cannot control our teammates. Once they show up in another lane, look to hard push if you have good wave clear. If you can push the wave,  it punishes their roam through gold and experience denial.

A screenshot from League of Legends showing a Fizz and Orianna fighting in the middle lane with a large blue minion wave advancing into a small red one.

Dangers of freezing when behind

Freezing can also be dangerous if you are extremely far behind in the game. Your opponent will have much more damage than you and can freely harass when you try to last hit. Knowing how champions can punish you and correct positioning will help you figure out if you can freeze. For instance, if you are on Orianna and are down two kills to a Fizz past level six, it is nearly impossible to hold a freeze. Fizz will repeatedly dive you without punishment. However, if you are only slightly behind in gold and near equal in experience, things change. You may be able to hold a freeze and punish a diving Fizz through positioning.

Always freezing does not work

Knowing when you can and can not freeze is always going to be important. Analyze the game situation by going through a mental checklist before initiating a freeze. Objectives, jungle camps, extensions of your team’s laners and jungle proximity all come into play freezing. If an objective such as dragon, rift herald or baron are coming up, look at the enemy movements. If they are rotating that way, freezing can be a good option. This is only true if you can guarantee the wave will stay on your side of the map and not crash into your tower. Fixing the wave for returning to lane after an objective can help you snowball your gold lead from minions. However, if you cannot keep the wave frozen, shoving the wave is the best option. In doing this, it will deny gold and experience as they roam towards an objective. It also guarantees the wave to bounce back into you once finishing the objective. This punishes the enemy and rewards you at the same time.

Next, we will review slow pushing.

What is a slow push?

A slow push is a buildup of more minions on your side of the map. This can typically be a result of a freeze breaking. As the minions bounce back, last hitting the enemy minions will cause two to three minion waves to build up. This will eventually push a massive wave into the enemy tower.

A screenshot from League of Legends showing an Aphelios and Braum in the bottom lane slow pushing their red minion wave towards the opposite side.

Why is slow pushing useful?

Slow pushing allows for more damage output should your enemy decide to attack you or if the enemy jungler comes. Your opponents will have to deal with the minion wave you have built up alongside the damage you have. This creates a riskier two versus one or three versus two scenarios for the enemy team.

Slow pushing also allows you to go back to base to buy items. You can also roam to the enemy jungle to track enemy movements and get objective control. Minions will be aggressive onto the enemy tower once they crash in. They will minimally damage the enemy minions and allow a free push back once you return. This will get you farther ahead, force your opponent to stay in lane longer. It may also cause them to take a disadvantageous base for items.

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A screenshot from League of Legends showing an Aphelios crashing a large red minion wave into the enemy tower and backing away.

When to slow push?

If your enemy forces you to break a freeze, you can instead let the wave bounce. Then, you can look to push the wave slowly if your opponent(s) are playing reserved.  This lets the wave naturally push towards them. This will negate their opportunity to try and attack you unless they fight you and your minions. If the wave is near your tower and starting to push the other direction, build up a slow push with a wave or two. Then, fast push the next wave and force your opponents into a suboptimal situation. They must play back and wait for the minions to crash or fight you in a wave of minions. Fighting in a wave will damage your opponent upon attacking.

You are also freed to attack your opponent during this time since there are less minions to damage you. If your opponent takes the trade, then your minions will punish them. If they do not take the trade, you get free damage.

Utilizing a slow push with a fast push can help you gain massive control over your enemies. It limits their scope of attack and can allow you to play more freely inside the game. This allows you to play around your win conditions such as items and levels.

Next, we will look at fast pushing.

What is fast pushing?

By fast pushing, you kill the enemy minion wave as quick as possible. A simple concept in theory. Knowing when to fast push while also knowing when to freeze or slow push also comes into play. Killing all the enemy minions quickly can result in many advantages for you and your team. Singed is one of the best fast-pushing champions in the game through utilizing his poison trail.

A screenshot from League of Legends showing a player playing Singed and using his Poison Trail to fast push a minion wave in the top lane.

Why is fast pushing useful?

Clearing waves quickly gives you more time to roam around the map. If you are a mid-lane player and enjoy assassins, this can help you get off better roams. However, top laners and bottom laners can make use of this strategy. It forces your opponent to stay in lane or they lose the gold and experience from minions. Lower ELO players typically think they need to follow their laner at all costs. However, they typically cannot follow them, resulting in a lost wave and experience.

For instance, shoving the lane as Talon against a Syndra early game is very easy with your W and Q auto attack reset. An early game Syndra cannot match this. She must use much of her mana to clear waves and cannot consistently do this due to high early mana costs and high cooldowns. By shoving in waves, Talon is free to roam around the map to make plays on every member of the enemy team. If Syndra responds to Talon’s roam, she will not get to his destination as fast as Talon will. She will ultimately have to watch her team die if her teammates do not respect the roam. If she follows as her team dies, she may be the next victim. Syndra may find herself in a three versus one situation against the enemy. If Syndra dies, she also loses the mid-lane wave Talon shoved in. She may also lose the next wave if Talon goes back to lane and shoves it into her tower. This puts her at a major gold experience deficit. This can be extremely lethal to snowball a game out of control.

A screenshot from League of Legends showing two player hard shoving a large blue minion wave into the enemy tower in the bottom lane.

When to utilize the fast push?

You can freely fast push waves into the enemy tower only if you know where each enemy member is located. Early game champions with no wave clear unless they use all their spells and mana can them at a disadvantage. It also allows you to focus on dealing damage to them under their tower. This pressure can be very frustrating to deal with.

Playing around objectives can also be another good time to fast push. If a dragon, rift herald or baron is about to spawn, shove your lane to beat your opponent to the objective. Noticing the enemy laners playing past the middle of the lane, you can look to flank them and outnumber them. This then results in kills, gold and map pressure.

Fast pushing a built-up wave also prevents the enemy team from freezing it. This helps you gain momentum as the wave will push back for free. It also gives you time to base, complete objectives or ward for the enemy team.

Final Thoughts

By always staying conscious on how to best manage your wave, you can be more open in your gameplay. Utilizing this knowledge will guarantee an increase in your micro knowledge of gameplay. It also allows for different strategies to implement in the appropriate situation. Through practice, you can learn to manipulate your games and improve your win-rate.

Avatar of Anthony Borrelli
Anthony Borrelli
Anthony has a master’s degree in Linguistics where he has experience analyzing and determining the most effective strategies to communicate ideas to groups of people. He has been an avid League of Legends Esports fan for the last 7 years, primarily following the LCS and LEC. Anthony enjoys debating League of Legends strategy and playing Teemo.