When I first started playing Bloodline Champions (the predecessor to Battlerite), one of the hardest things for me to learn was how to safely approach and attack an enemy without putting myself in danger.
I remember playing Astronomer (now called Sirius) and always jumping at an enemy with my Space ability so I could start slashing away with M1s — but then I’d lose half my HP by the time my Space came off cooldown and allowed me to get away. Looking back, it’s obvious that I was wasting my defensive outs, which left me vulnerable to attack and cost me a lot of rounds.
The solution? Stop using defensive abilities for offensive purposes and save them to get out of dangerous situations instead. Do not learn from this Sirius:
But that raises another question: if you can’t use your mobility ability to get close to an enemy, how are you supposed to get within range to attack them? Especially as a melee champion versus ranged champions.
Consider the start of a round. As soon as the gates drop, you rush to the middle of the map and face off against the enemy team, trying to do what you can to gain control of the middle rune spawn. You might throw a few Blood Axes (Bakko) or a few Storm Maces (Freya), but at some point you need to start fighting for real… and when that time comes, how do you get close enough to start M1ing?
This is called initiation — picking a target and committing to an attack — and it can be risky if you aren’t careful.
Try to Force an Out First
Initiation is all about entering a fight with an advantage on your side. When you have the upper hand, you should squeeze it for as much permanent damage as possible. Similarly, when the odds are stacked against you, you need to retreat, recover, and regroup (but more on that in another post).
And the easiest way to gain an advantage? Have more outs than the enemy does.
Suppose you’re playing Jade. You could start the round by throwing out a series of M1s while you position yourself for middle control, but you haven’t committed to anything yet. Maybe you start casting M2 (Snipe) at the enemy Rook, which causes him to use his counter. You cancel your Snipe and now the Rook is defenseless, ready to soak up the full force of your attacks while castrated in terms of his own damage output.
Or if you’re really lucky, sometimes the enemy will waste two outs in a row:
This obviously isn’t an outright “initiating tactic” so to speak — it’s more of a “what to do right before choosing who to initiate on” tactic. But if you always enter combat with more outs than the enemy, you’ll greatly increase your survival rate.
And yeah, it’s harder to force outs as a melee champion, but it’s not impossible. If you spam Freya’s Storm Mace, Bakko’s Blood Axe, or Croak’s Toxin Muck enough times, that alone may be enough.
Jump, Teleport, or Counter In
The easiest way to initiate is to blow one of your mobility outs, unless you don’t have one. (Looking at you, Varesh!) Just as that ability can get you out of combat in the blink of an eye, it can send you into combat in an instant.
And this is great! But you have to be very careful when you do this. Even though it’s the easiest way to initiate, it’s far from the safest. I only recommend it as a last resort when you know the other methods won’t work or they’re too risky.
So when is it okay to initiate with an out?
First, wait until the enemies are separated. The worst thing you can do is waste an out and land right in the middle of two foes — especially if they’re bursty (like Rook) or can insta-disable you (like Croak). Don’t feed yourself to them. Wait until they’re apart before you dive in.
Second, initiate onto your side of the target so that you aren’t caught between the enemies and/or you don’t get separated from your ally. This is especially important against champions with knockback potential! In the following screenshots, pay attention to my teammate (Freya) who jumped onto the other side of the enemy team:
The enemy Ashka knocked him away with a Molten Fist, which left me in a 1v2 situation that promptly ate away a big chunk of my health. Sure, it only took Freya about five seconds to walk back into the fight, but those five seconds were extremely costly. We would’ve been in a much better position if Freya hadn’t been so aggressive in her initiation.
Third, wait for them to blow a big cooldown. Not just defensive cooldowns, but offensive ones too. For example, when Ashka misses Flamestrike, Taya misses X-Strike, or Poloma misses Ghost Wolf, they have less potential DPS until those cooldowns reset — so if you jump on them and trade hits, you’re more likely to have the upper hand. Or at the very least, you’ll take less damage than you would’ve otherwise.
Lastly, when you do initiate, be extremely aware. Keep at least one other out ready. If you landed in a spot that’s more dangerous than you expected, retreat. If you’re taking too much damage, retreat. If it looks like the enemy’s teammate is going to switch on you, retreat!
Note that some abilities are both defensive and offensive, and among these, some skew more heavily towards offensive than defensive. I’m talking about Bakko’s Valiant Leap, Freya’s Electric Shield, Shifu’s Javelin, Rook’s Rush, Varesh’s Wuju, etc. Use these primarily to initiate! In a lot of cases, a strong offense can double as a strong defense.
Disable and Walk In
Instead of expending a defensive cooldown to initiate, it’s much safer to expend an offensive cooldown instead — and in this case, that means using a hard or soft disable that buys you enough time to walk up and close the gap.
Hard disables include but aren’t limited to:
Soft disables include but aren’t limited to:
Sirius is the best example for this. Lunar Strike is one of the longest non-EX disables in the game, Petrifying targets for up to 3.5 seconds. That’s more than enough time to walk up and prepare yourself — no need to Space in and waste a valuable cooldown.
Other examples include Ashka’s Flamestrike and Iva’s Tazer. Oldur’s Quicksand and Poloma’s Ghost Wolf can work as well if you pick the Battlerites that grant Root to those abilities. Freya with the Battlerite for double Storm Maces can do this too under the right circumstances.
If you can build up some energy, you can also initiate with an EX. Consider Jade’s Snap Shot (Root), Iva’s Concussion Shot (Incap), or Lucie’s Petrify Bolt (Petrify). This is most useful in the middle of a round when you need to re-initiate combat, but it can work at the start too if you can build energy fast enough.
But most champions don’t have long-range hard disables, which means you’ll need to rely on soft disables instead. You usually won’t be able to walk up with only a Snare, but you can use it to get a bit closer, then repeat with another Snare later, until eventually you force an out or they initiate on you.
One last note: if the enemy has an ability with a long cast time, you can almost consider that as a disable too! An Ashka who’s charging up Firestorm or a Jade who’s charging up Snipe are vulnerable for at least a second, which may be enough time for you to encroach.
Just Walk In
What a lot of newbies don’t realize is that you can actually just walk right up to the enemy. There’s a finesse to it, of course, and it’s definitely a risky move, but it can work well if you’re able to play it properly.
It really works best when you’re mounted. The extra movement speed makes it a lot easier to dodge incoming projectiles, and if you’re able to dodge three of them, you should be close enough to start smacking them — if they haven’t already blown an out to get away from you.
Invisibility is another useful way to walk up, though most players will either retreat the moment you disappear or predict when you’ll attack and retaliate accordingly. Still, invis plus soft disable could start the fight in your favor.
But without a mount, the “just walk in” tactic only really works if the target is melee. Situational? Definitely. But keep it in your repetoire.
Or Just Let Them Initiate
When playing against an aggressive player or team, it might be better to play passive and let them initiate on you — or at least attempt to. In my experience, this is the best way to deal with impatient players who don’t have the discipline to wait and would rather be in your face 24/7.
These kinds of players are unsurprisingly common in the lower grades, possibly because over-aggression tends to win games between the inexperienced. And I don’t mean that in a derogatory way — in fact, if you find a tactic that works, by all means take advantage of it. But if you have trouble dealing with over-aggression, it’s okay to play towards passivity and wait for them to jump on you as long as you have a retaliation plan in mind. It’s your job to make them pay as soon as they do.
One caveat: if you’re going to let them initiate, don’t just give it away for free. Make sure they blow a cooldown or at least end up in a bad position (e.g. both you and your teammates can get a few easy hits in). If you let a Freya or Bakko walk up to you, for example, then you’re just asking to lose.
Hopefully that helps. If you have any questions, I’ll do my best to answer them below. And I’m sure there are some aspects of initiation that I missed, so if you have anything to add or if you see any errors, please let me know!