Most Informative Lane Pressure Guide
Hey guys, it’s edihau here to share the most informative lane pressure guide which will cover all aspects of having multiple paths to send troops down. Many people have a basic-intermediate understanding of this concept, using tactics such as deploying offensive minions in the center by the river in order to distract an inferno tower, sending a cheap troop/combo that can do substantial damage to the opposite lane when the opponent overcommits on one side, or placing the musketeer to attack an offensive push coming down one lane before she moves down the other. However, lane pressure extends far beyond these tactics, and understanding it can turn the battle completely in your favor depending on the circumstances.
*Why Lane Pressure is Important
*PART 1: Single Lane Control Cards, Switching Lanes, and Opposite Lane Pressure
*PART 2: Double Lane Pressure, Defensive Hard Counters, and Playing in the Middle
*PART 3: Lane Pressure When It's Not 0-0
Why Lane Pressure is Important
Lane pressure is important because for almost all decks, you can use it to dictate the entire flow of the game. Whether it's switching the lane you send your giant down or determining exactly how you should split three musketeer pushes, understanding lane pressure makes you better at both creating an effective offense and transitioning from defense to offense. I have seen player after player not take advantage of the concepts of lane pressure in situations that they obviously should have, and it always works to their disadvantage overall. So without further ado, here is the guide:
Single Lane Control Cards:
At the beginning of the game, when you are in a 0-0 situation, there are seven cards that generally control lane pressure very effectively. These are cards that you must invest elixir into countering, and they will usually dictate which lane is being attacked depending on who has which ones and when they are played. They are listed from most to least reliable at forcing your opponent to play in a certain lane:
A case can be made against some of these cards being valuable for lane pressure at all depending on your deck. With two buildings, you can pull most building-seekers into the other lane, and one properly placed building luring the tank to the middle is enough to place melee troops that will go down the other lane after killing the tank (this does not apply for the lava hound and royal giant). In addition, the non-building-seekers can generally be kited into the other lane. However, in general, these are the best cards for establishing the lane that the troops will fight in, with a brief explanation of each:
The royal giant can't be pulled into the middle or the other lane, and he is not cheaply countered when supported by literally anything, so he is the king of lane pressure when used properly. In addition, his cheap-ish cost of 6 elixir (compared to the other available choices) allows him to be easily supported, which makes cheaply countering him even more difficult. If you are playing in opposite lanes, the best way to counter the royal giant's lane control ability is to pressure your attacking lane so heavily that you will win the race to 3 crowns. However, this is not a reliable strategy, especially if you do not have a heavy beatdown deck. Usually the better way to handle royal giants is to play in the lane they dictate and punish them for repeatedly placing a 6 elixir unit that cannot damage troops. In addition, because Royal Giant decks cannot accumulate large amounts of damage quickly without a mistake on your part, you can pressure the opposite lane and take a tower in overtime if your opponent decides to switch lanes to their stronger tower late-game. Of course, this is all circumstantial, and understanding when you can/should do this depends on a few other factors that you should be aware of based on your understanding on the game and the cards in it.
The lava hound, if properly placed, has the ability to pass centrally placed buildings, and therefore it does not have a kill zone (the area where both arena towers can target the unit). Cards that complement it, such as the miner, balloon, mega minion, and both minions, can bypass centrally-located defenses and troops or don't stay in the middle for long enough for the other arena tower to do a substantial amount of work. Usually it is the tank that you want the other arena tower targeting anyway, so on defense, the other tower sniping minions is fine, but it's usually not what you would rather have, since the tower will usually not take them all out and you will have to have some other way of dealing with them. So when playing against a lava hound deck in the context of lane pressure, your objective is to play defense in the same lane, and either counter-push or push in the opposite lane, whichever is appropriate. Lava hound decks are slightly better at getting 3 crowns against a weak defense and a race in the other lane than Royal Giant decks because a tank usually supports the lava hound's pups, and they do a lot of damage. For that reason, it is usually beneficial to play defense and succumb to playing in that lane. Luckily, the more-expensive lava hound makes it easier to quickly rush the other lane in overtime and take out a half-health tower, so if the opponent switches lanes to his stronger tower, a quick push in the other lane is slightly easier to accomplish.
The giant and the golem can be pulled into range of both arena towers every time, but their ranged support troops will not be pulled into the middle, making it very difficult to construct a counter-push in the opposite lane. The cheap cost and tremendous power of the giant makes opposite-lane pressure difficult to accomplish successfully, while the high cost of the golem makes it easier to pressure the opposite lane. However, both decks will three-crown you relatively quickly, so pressuring the opposite lane is less valuable the earlier you are into the game. If you are in overtime, it may be worth it to go all-in to take the other tower, but depending on your deck, smart golem/giant players will either partially or completely ignore your push, perhaps sacrificing a tower to take 3 crowns. Early in the game at 0-0, it is usually best to play defense in the same lane because of the risk of losing 3-0 or 3-1 to either of these cards, but again, these decisions are circumstantial and depend on other factors in the game.
The Sparky is a ranged unit that is almost always supported with one of the other units in this list. Since she cannot be pulled into the other lane, you must deal with her in the same lane, and pressuring the other lane against a sparky is risky because your opponent likely has two strong lane-control units that you'll have to deal with in addition to the potential counter-push you've just given your opponent in the other lane. Sparky is on this list because of the immediate threat she is, regardless of how easy it is to counter her in the current meta. When Sparky approaches the bridge, you are all but forced to play in the same lane and counter-push there, and when Sparky is placed in the back behind the king tower, it usually isn't wise to send a push down that lane (especially not a hog rider, even if you zap Sparky to get a few hits in). However, when not paired with any of the other units on this list, Sparky is not as much of a threat, and does not dictate lane pressure in the same way. Despite not being able to be lured into the other lane, glass cannons are not able to control lane pressure because of how easy it is to kill them when they are alone.
The Giant Skeleton is a great way to force damage into the other lane. Most things that don't go down the other lane will end up dying, no matter how much you send down the same lane. For this reason, placing him in the back is a great way to force your opponent to switch lanes. However, it isn't a failsafe, and depending on how eager the opponent's troops are to move, it could backfire. Offensively, it can be kited, and smart players will counter the giant skeleton with troops that will go down the other lane, so the point of the Giant Skeleton is to force pressure down the opposite lane. Of course, quick chippy pushes are less susceptible to this because they have less to lose and won't kill the Giant Skeleton with several troops left, which is why the Giant Skeleton is less reliable in general at controlling lane pressure.
The PEKKA, with her high cost, melee range, and no splash damage, is very susceptible to kiting or being lured into the kill zone for a long time, despite how formidable she can be otherwise. When defending against a PEKKA deck, success depends on using the opposite-lane arena tower to deal as much damage as possible, and it is not hard to do so compared to the other cards on this list. Because of her ability to attack troops, she is not a bad defensive card for shutting down an offensive push, but she is expensive and slow, so it isn't always your best bet, and usually a giant skeleton or other defensive troops will be better options. However, like the Sparky, the PEKKA is good at defending the same lane, and it is usually not wise to build a push right into a PEKKA.
If one of your towers is damaged, it can be smart to direct the lane pressure into the other lane. If you have one of these cards and your opponent does not, you will generally succeed in this feat. The only caveat is that if your opponent has accumulated a lot of damage on your weak tower, his best move is to take the tower when you commit to the other lane and there isn't enough time left for you to accumulate the damage necessary to take either of his towers before overtime. It all depends on what cards he has to do damage to your tower, and what cards you have to prevent that damage. For this reason, lane pressure is very time-sensitive and deck-sensitive, and requires experience playing the game to master. I cannot possibly teach you everything about time-sensitivity because of the sheer number of examples.
Trading towers may or may not be to your advantage, depending on the health of each tower, your deck, and your opponent's deck. In general, if you have one of the lane control cards mentioned above, you should be in a decent/good position at an even 1-1, whether parallel or diagonal. I will discuss this in greater detail later in the guide.
Survey Data About Win Conditions & Some Additional Comments
In the survey I took about primary win conditions right before the nerf to giant-poison, about half of responders selected one of the cards above as their primary win condition, and another 35% selected either the miner, hog rider, or some form of quickly cycled cards. The numbers, I am sure, have changed since then, and the people I surveyed don't make up the meta the way the player community does (I am certain that more than a fifth of the players had the giant as their main win condition at that time), so the numbers are slightly off, but my guess is that these numbers are relatively similar now in terms of beatdown, control, and siege decks because the changes to the meta haven't switched the most powerful archetype substantially. This brings up an interesting point of the tradeoffs between beatdown, control, and siege and the fact that beatdown decks generally do the best job at controlling lane pressure because their offense is naturally something that must be dealt with, usually in the same lane. This is unlike facing control decks, where you can cheaply counter some combinations and ignore others to send a huge push down the other lane that they cannot ignore. It is also not present in siege decks, where you can actually counter the xbow (and sometimes the mortar) by putting immediate pressure on the other lane with one of these lane control cards. So another tradeoff of playing defense first and offense second is that you have a hard time controlling the lane of attack, with few exceptions.
Cards that are decent at controlling lane pressure, but are not always reliable, include the following (in no particular order):
Spawners such as the barbarian hut, the goblin hut, and the furnace force a response on defense, or chip damage will eventually wear the tower down. Tombstone is the exception to this, and it does the opposite. If you have a tombstone placed proactively, it is harder to play into the lane with the skeletons than the lane without, especially with the wrong support troops to effectively deal with skeletons. However, this difference is usually slight and can be overcome with the right support cards, such as a bowler or the log. The tombstone is a defensive card in general anyway, so even pressuring the other lane isn't always wise. But stacking up goblin huts/barbarian huts/furnaces can take down a tower for sure.
The mortar is a siege card, and has a large enough range to be attracted from the opposite lane. However, this is not always the smartest way to address it, because the mortar will hit the ground support troops when firing at the tank. This is unlike the x-bow, which will lock onto a tank in the other lane and stay on it for a considerable amount of time. Its increased cost is another reason why I say the x-bow is not a reliable lane control threat compared to the mortar, though it can still force some decks to play in the same lane.
The bowler is not threatening alone, much like the sparky, but he normally supports one of the powerful lane control tanks and makes most giant/royal giant combinations much more formidable. He is also an effective defense against fast ground troop attacks, such as the ones present in hog decks.
Hog rider decks are dependent on chip damage, so allowing a hog rider to get to the tower mostly uncontested is a dangerous play. However, since it is difficult to support compared to the other tanks and not difficult to shut down or counter-push against it alone, it is usually not a major lane control threat. However, the threat increases quite a lot the weaker your tower gets, because while most beatdown pushes lean more towards all-or-nothing attacks and depend on positive trades by the end, there are many more hog-control pushes per game, and while only one or two are necessary for success if very bad trades are made early, usually the total damage is built up a little at a time from each individual push, making the later pushes much more important to block completely, since hog decks are fast enough to take a tower in overtime before most beatdown decks can.
The miner is one of the more powerful lane control cards because he cannot be lured into the other lane. However, supporting a miner with a formidable push is generally more difficult because the miner is weaker and is usually separated from the support troops, meaning that the support troops are easier to handle. In addition, the miner's cheaper cost trades off with the fact that he is not a threat to towers alone, and he can be ignored when he's alone so that you can make a bigger push in either lane. However, what allows the miner to control lane pressure is the general inability to fight him or his support from the other side of the map, as well as the great amount of damage that some cheaper combos can do unaddressed, since neither he nor most of his support troops can/should be pulled into the center with a building, either because of bad trades or the necessity of saving that building for something more appropriate, like a hog rider.
And finally, there are cards that can directly change lane pressure from one side to the other and aren't mentioned above:
Skeletons, Goblins, Guards, etc. (against air units)
The princess, musketeer, and ice wizard can all attack troops from the opposite lane, with varying degrees of success. All of them are weak to spells in general, and both the musketeer and ice wizard can be fireballed out of range of the troop they are targeting and forced down the opposite lane unsupported and weak without accomplishing their objectives. For that reason, sometimes it can be difficult to play any of these cards in the opposite lane effectively, though this strategy of forcing them into the opposite lane is not well-known and is not always the smartest idea for an opponent. Taking advantage of this tactic when possible is very valuable, because these cards allow you to change the lane pressure from one to the other without ignoring the opponent's offense. For that reason, they are limited in other ways, such as health, because their range is so useful not just for shooting towers across the river (in the princess's case). They can also build a counter-push in the opposite lane, which is generally more effective because those troops will not be stalled or damaged by the remnants of the opponent's support troops, which can sometimes be left alone to do minimal damage on the tower in exchange for a stronger push the other way. In addition, if you are playing against any of the strong lane control cards and do not have one of them yourself, this strategy with an ice wizard, musketeer, or princess does a good job of switching lanes to the one you want to attack. Of course, it isn't always a good idea to switch lanes in the first place, but having the option and knowing the possibilities is very valuable. Note that against a properly placed lava hound, neither the musketeer nor the ice wizard can attack from the opposite lane without the help of a building to distract, and against a royal giant or sparky, the musketeer and ice wizard must be placed in risky spots near the river, where they can potentially be countered effectively by shooting them from across the river. The princess does not have to be placed in a very risky spot against any of these.
The ice golem can be used to kite troops into the other lane, and since he ignores troops, is incredibly cheap, and has a modest amount of HP, he is the perfect card for this function. This switch of lanes not only allows both towers to get into the action, but you can also place troops other than the aforementioned three on the far side of the map while still protecting them from whatever you're kiting.
Skeletons, goblins, and guards, as well as any similar units, can pull air troops into the other lane, but they cannot set up a huge counter-push because they're either too fast, too weak, or not meant to be used offensively.
The tornado can drag ranged support units into the other lane, which is very useful for splitting up lane pressure. Being able to drag a tank into the other lane is very valuable if the 3 elixir you lost wasn't necessary for a successful defense in the new lane being pressured. It also prevents troops from splitting up if you drag them all into the lane of your choice immediately, and can persuade a troop to come into the kill zone when it was previously not targeting something there. And finally, many of us have seen the tornado dragging a troop to the king's tower from the arena tower in order to activate the king, but remember why the king tower is so protected in the first place, and make sure you aren't about to lose your king's tower because you spent elixir on activating him instead of countering the troops. It can also deny kiting offensive troops into the other lane by dragging that troop back to the middle of the map.
Opposite Lane Pressure:
Opposite Lane Pressure is attacking the opposite lane that your opponent is attacking. There are two types—quick and racing. The first, quick opposite lane pressure, is when you send a cheap troop or combination of troops in the opposite lane that your opponent is pressuring in an attempt to get them to spend their elixir on the other side of the map, use a card they would rather have supporting their push, or take a lot of damage on their tower. Common types of quick opposite lane pressure include sending a lone hog rider at the tower opposite the side a beatdown player is pressuring, but this can work for all cards. However, some cards are shut down more easily than others. Barbarians, the minion horde, and the bowler are all great hard counters that I will go into more detail about later in the context of double lane pressure, but for opposite lane pressure, the general rule is that if your opponent has these cards, you should not pressure the opposite lane, because you will end up with a negative elixir trade for little damage and pressure in both lanes. Obviously these cards do not counter every form of quick opposite lane pressure, so it is more important to be aware of the hard counters that exist for your potential opposite lane pressure combinations. Again, I will go into more detail about this in the context of double lane pressure. Now, quick opposite lane pressure is not limited to the opposite lane, despite the name. A tactic I like to use as a hog rider user is to play the hog rider offensively and alone in the same lane that my opponent just placed a giant in, especially if he is running a beatdown deck. Hog riders generally trade evenly with defenses, so sending one to cycle your deck and not max out on elixir is usually smart. But the real power comes when your opponent does not have a building. If you place your hog rider quickly enough after you see a troop like a giant or golem go down in the back, you may get your opponent to play his support troops in front of the tank, losing them for a better positive elixir trade in the big push they are building up than if you had to take on that card with everything else next to it.
Racing opposite lane pressure is something of a misnomer, but bear with me. It comes from the idea of racing to three crowns by building your deathball push in the opposite lane that your opponent is doing it in. This turns into a race to three crowns, even though the buildup for both pushes is slower than quick opposite lane pressure (which generally will not take three crowns). However, it is rare that this happens without either side attempting to defend the other's push (usually resulting in trading towers). This can be very helpful when you are in a position to defend your opponent's push with, say, a defensive rocket, and your opponent was going to beat you to three crowns had you not played it. However, most players do not like taking this risk of going all-in because of [loss aversion](http://loss-aversion.behaviouralfinance.net). But it is still useful to know that this exists, since it can be a good way to beat your opponent when you cannot conventionally counter his deck, depending on the scenario.
If you have read as far as here, thank you, and I hope you can use this information to your benefit.