Two weeks ago, I talked about zoning in League of Legends. One of you mentioned in the comments that I should focus more on teamfight positioning and less on laning, since there is more complexity in that. I agree, but there’s a caveat.
It is extremely difficult to explain how to position properly in League of Legends. It is one of my greatest disappointments that I learned this skill purely through practice and experience. Positioning is a fluid thing; no guide can tell you exactly what you should do in the situations you find yourself in. Mistakes are the greatest teacher. I can do only so much.
However, it was a request, so I will do my best to convey my instincts on this. I had to play and watch a bunch of games just thinking about this to try and put my feelings into words. I hope it will help you out, if only a little bit.
Don’t get caught
My first point of advice is to not get caught out of position. When I was a novice, I did this all the time and then put the blame on my tank for not initiating. I didn’t think it was my fault because I felt that if there was no initiation, the best thing I could do was fish for harassment. Don’t make the same mistake.
Harassment is good, and you want to do it. However, don’t overextend past your team. When I’m looking for an engagement, I visualize both teams’ area of control as giant 700 range zoning blobs and try not to push my blob out too far. If I’m separated too far from mine, I can’t get support if I get focused. That one thing helped me avoid a lot of mistakes.
Don’t depend on escapes too much. I’ve been killed as Kassadin while Riftwalk was up enough times to say that it is not a 100% safety net to have a long-ranged blink on a short cooldown. If you get hit with crowd controls, you are dead even if Flash and your escape skill are off cooldown. Don’t overextend past your team! It can only lead to tragedy for you.
Look for overextending and punish
In the same vein, when I view the 700 range zoning blob, I am aware of elements that come out of place. If you are patient and wait for opportunities, they frequently happen. If any of you remember the World Championships match of CLG.eu vs. World Elite, you’ll recall that the final crash before they closed the venue came right after WE’s Ryze was caught out of position and CLG.eu immediately captialized. One little positioning mistake would have won CLG.eu the game if not for the crash (which makes the re-game decision very bad, in my opinion) as WE was forced to engage in a clearly losing battle.
In your own games, constantly look for those times where the enemy pushes out too far. Don’t stretch yourself out to do it; just look and be patient. If it happens — and it usually does unless someone on your team does it first — punish it. I’ve probably done millions of damage points just looking for this.
Initiators in particular should be constantly looking for good opportunities. As Poppy, I’ve initiated more than my share of fights by just looking for people to make mistakes. When it happens, I move in with W and slam sideways, which usually leads to the first kill of a teamfight. The enemy team is forced to focus me, but I’m Poppy, and Poppy doesn’t care about their puny damage. At worst, I trade my life for a damage dealer and a lot of damage on the enemy team. At best, I live and we win the fight with no losses. Don’t be afraid to get hurt to kill an enemy out of position as an initiator. It’s your job to take lumps for your friends.
This sort of hearkens back to my guide on initiation. A sudden burst of aggression after a large period of passivity can be startling. After the back-and-forth of pre-teamfight zoning goes on for a little while, people start to get complacent. When something unexpected happens, people frequently react more slowly. When Leona snares and chain-CCs a target, it’s empowering to her allies and demoralizing to her enemies, especially because Leona has a million defense and is impossible to hurt while she’s doing it.
Zone people out of the fight
Last week I talked about chasing a big enemy threat (a “queen”) out of a battle, and I want to try to explain some of the technicalities of it. As a tank or bruiser, your job is to get into the fight and hunt for squishies to mess with. Once the fight starts, hopefully you’re already in the fray or are ready to dive in.
At this point, it’s really very situational. For instance, a Morgana near the middle of the action is a huge problem unless she’s already crowd controlled because her ultimate forces you to scatter away. You don’t want to chase through her to the enemy carry, or if you do, you want to chase the carry out of Morgana’s ultimate. You need to learn as many specific situations as you can or you will be in trouble.
Once you’re in the thick of things, you want to try to force the enemy carry out of the battle. If you’ve still got a gap closer move available, just use it to dive on her and stick some CC on her. If that isn’t available but you’re in a good position, just chase normally. Your goal is entirely to get her to run away, but if you can just unload damage on her, she’ll die extremely quickly — especially if teammates follow suit.
If you can’t get to the carry easily, you have to weigh the risks of running through the fight to get to her or sticking in the fight and pounding down supports, mages, or other bruisers. Look at what your team members are doing; if they’re focusing the tank, the best thing you can do other than zone the carry out is to help them DPS the tank. It might be slower, but putting all your damage in one spot is still better than spreading it out. Eliminating the tank’s CC from the fight entirely is better than taking 60% life from from three foes. There are a few situations when this isn’t worth it (mainly with ultimate-reliant characters like Nunu), but in most cases, one kill is better than zero. Obviously, in a perfect world, everyone focuses squishies (and everyone attacks the same target), but that rarely happens except in organized competitive play.
If you’re getting focused, don’t stick around. As a squishy or even a bruiser, if you are taking fire, you need to get out of the fight ASAP. Shoot back if you can (stutter-step micro), but don’t try to fight if you’ve got three foes trying to kill you. Running away is by far the best play! If you live at 10% life and three people chase you for even five seconds, you just bought the rest of your team five seconds when those three people aren’t fighting. If they disengage from you, you live and you might be able to contribute or at least make a last-ditch attack with all your spells.
If you’re not being focused but all your useful damaging skills are on cooldown, it is also a good idea to pull back, though as always this choice is situational. I’ve stayed in a fight as Ahri or Zyra with all my spells down just because I wasn’t getting attacked and my autoattacks contribute a tiny amount. Sometimes this can be bad, as getting bursted down means that you can’t contribute another round of spells. However, if enemy cooldowns are down too, staying in the fight can present an alluring squishy target — one full on HP and ready to run. If you’re low on health and your spells are all down, definitely run. Even if you’re not getting attacked, someone is probably trying to click on you at that exact moment.
I hate making generalizations in a guide that is almost all about situational knowledge, but in general, the lower your health is, the more you benefit your team by running away. In all situations except ranked teams (and professional play), you will draw stray players looking for blood if you are low on life. Pulling them out of the fight is a win for your team.
I am a broken record
My best advice is really simple. Watch videos. Play ARAM and Dominion if you want to get better at teamfights. Be cognizant of mistakes and learn from them because they will teach you much more than I ever will.
Practice, practice, practice. That’s the real message of this guide. No amount of text will help you get better at teamfight positioning. If I help you get even 1% better, this guide has done its job, but the other 99% is all you. Keep playing and keep practicing, and as always, good luck and have fun!