High Energy Action: a Guide about Teamfighting
Tue 15th Mar 2016 - 7:03pm
Team-fights in League of Legends are a generally chaotic situation. With up to 10 champions on the same spot, meaning 40 abilities, things can get too much to see through them really, really fast. One second can decide the outcome of a battle, the same as one minute can decide the outcome of a game. Therefore, losing focus or overseeing an important ability in a team-fight can very well decide the outcome of a 40 minute long back and forth. Hence it is very important to remain calculated in team-fights and to know what you have to do at any point of the fight. This guide will introduce you, or further increase your knowledge about initiation, positioning, kiting, and flanking. By working around these 4 concepts you can draft strong team compositions and vastly improve your ability to pull off clutch fights. Aside of the text I will display three team-fight examples from IEM Katowice in pictures and with descriptions talking about the concepts discussed within the guide.
Let’s start with the concept of initiation. Initiating a team-fight could be interpreted as simply “starting” the fight. The prime example of an initiation might be a Malphite charging in with his ultimate, or a top laner teleporting in behind the enemy to flank him. The bottom line is, somebody starts the fight by preventing the enemy from just running away, hence initiating the fight.
QG start a fight by picking off Gragas, thinking he is alone. A nice Ultimate from Bard prevents them from bursting him.
But initiation is much more than that. As we all know the Rift isn’t just a flat field, it consists of different areas where there are walls, bushes, towers or even cliffs. The area in which you fight in can hugely impact the outcome of your engage. For example: fighting in the narrow corridors of the jungle allows champions like Anivia, Rumble or Karthus to literally “Lay Waste” to their enemies. Fighting in a more open environment however allows for easier skillshot dodging and prevents zoning champions, such as the former, from controlling the area completely. There are other aspects such as the Fog of War. Fighting near bushes in which there aren’t any wards can result in devastating team-fights. Kiting through the Fog of War and pouncing from it onto a juicy carry are two of the most effective ways of turning a fight’s favour. Initiating a fight also means deciding the playground on which it is going to take place.
By buying more time, SKT can gather and react to the engagement. Faker attacks from the side. Duke and Bang are heading to the party.
Initiation also means picking the time to fight. By starting the fight you define the positioning of both teams at its start. By initiating onto an enemy carry standing in the frontline for example, you pretty much decided his fate. Picking the right time to initiate can be pretty hard. You have to communicate effectively when and where you are going to start the fight for your team to be able to follow up and you have to make sure, that your team is in the right position not to be picked off the other way around. However as important as communication is, you don’t want to give your team an exact timestamp for your initiation but more like a short period. Look out for enemies positioning incorrectly during this period and punish them by initiating the instance somebody is in the wrong place. Your team doesn’t need to know the exact timing; they will be ready if you warned them pre-emptively. You need to be decisive though. You can’t hesitate when it comes down to the moment, when you pull the trigger there are only two options for you and your team and they are full commitment or a disengage with casualties to prevent completely getting wiped out. But if you want to win the fight, you have to go in; there must not be any hesitation. Initiation means picking the time to fight; it decides the position of each player at the start of the action, creating the exact situation with which you have to deal during the chaos.
Still being alive, Blink can disengage the fight by using his Ultimate. Faker's flank forces Doinb out of the fight. Doinb eventually even dies because he is ignited.
The preferred place and timing of your initiation can differ vastly depending on your team composition, the contested objective and the state of the game. Picking the right place and time to fight can make and break your lead, bring you back from deficits and win you the game. Be aware that your initiation is deciding a lot of factors before the fight even started and keep in mind what the main target of a fight is. Do your carries have the needed items to fight? Do you have enough vision to engage properly? Is your team in position? Is the enemy team out of position? What abilities do we need to channel together to effectively force the issue? These are the questions you need to ask yourself when deciding whether or not to engage a fight.
Uzi and Swift position themselves behind their frontline and start to kite back. Wolf is about to charge into QG's backline however. Faker and Bang are safe behind their tanks.
Now let’s talk about positioning because it was mentioned several times during that first segment. Positioning is a word with many meanings during a game. It can mean lane positioning, a term used when describing early game trades, farming, zoning and other tactics during the laning phase. It can mean macro positioning, which is more important when talking about split pushing, invading, rotating and other macro strategies. In our case we talk about team-fight positioning, not very creative but pretty effective.
After he first disengaged the fight defensively by protecting Gragas, Bard now aggressively attack the enemy backline, stunning both Swift and Uzi with his cosmic binding. SKT's knowledge of when to disengage, when to flank and when to dive into the back line win them the fight against the great teamfighters of QG.
There are hundreds of factors that decide good or bad positioning. It is hugely depended on your champion, your teammates, the enemy champions and whether or not key abilities and/or summoner spells are up or on cooldown. The easiest way to describe proper positioning is the concept of the three lines. There is the frontline, a bunch of fat, tanky guys like Gragas, Nautilus or Poppy (she’s kind of an exception look-wise). These champions are always looking for a brawl. In a bar fight, those are the ones you don’t want to mess with. In League of Legends these champions are the ones to engage fights and to soak up damage, generally speaking. They build an impenetrable wall around their allies and lurk for a chance to mess up their opponents with their cc abilities, of which they have plenty. Behind them is the middle-line. In there are champions that can deal quite a bit of damage, while also being able to take some hits, but not as much as a designated tank. Irelia comes to mind, Jax or Pantheon are other possibilities. Also, this is where champions like Thresh, Bard and Leona position themselves whenever they are not trying to engage. In a fight, these are champions that can either peel for the backline or engage together with their frontline buddies. Behind everyone else is the backline. This is where the squishy machine-gun, nuclear blast kind of champions sits around. Champions such as Lux, Caitlyn, Xerath and others are found in this area of the formation. These are the guys who deal the most damage while being very vulnerable, thus needing protection.
After being engaged by CLG Fnatic start to kite upwards using Lulu's abilities to stay alive and slow their enemies.
There are exceptions to this rule of thumb. For example having a Lulu or Janna in your team may allow your carries to position more forward, enabling them to poke or siege down enemy champions and structures while being able to quickly disengage any kind of fight. Disengaging in general is a counter mechanic to an enemy initiation. Champions with disengage abilities, such as Gragas’ Ultimate or Janna’s Monsoon, allow your team to regain control of the situation and to start kiting backwards.
This leads us to our next talking point, which is kiting. Kiting is a term mostly associated with AD Carries only, but it really affects a big amount of different champions and whole team compositions. Whenever you are facing teams with strong initiation or strong melee, tanky champions like Shyvana, Mundo, Jax etc... You want to kite them. Kiting, in general, means: taking a reduced amount of damage, down to 0, while still dealing damage, maybe even up to your full potential. In other words your whole team walk away from the enemy frontline while your carries hit them. This prevents the enemy carries from hitting your frontline and slowly drains the life out of your opponent. As soon as the enemy frontline got low enough or wants to turn and run, you now have to reengage, using your own initiator. The result is a team-fight with a weakened or already useless enemy frontline, which should then result in a dominating team-fight win.
After draining CLG's frontline Fnatic now start to reengage aggressively, using their lead and health advantage to take it to CLG.
Kiting is the way for DPS heavy champions such as Anivia, Cassiopeia, and basically every marksman to use their whole potential. These are champions that cannot just use all their abilities once to successfully win a fight; they need longer periods of time to deal their damage, which then however reaches absurd amounts. It is also the only way for squishy carries to deal with champions like Jax who can kill them way faster than they themselves get killed. To be able to kite you can draft champions such as Lulu, Janna, Braum or others, who are able to slow or disrupt enemies and can speed up allies.
The most dangerous counter to kiting is being pounced on from the side or from behind. A flank can successfully prevent a team from kiting backwards, because running away would simply result in getting torn apart from a different angle. If your team wants to kite, be sure to ward possible flanking positions and be aware of enemy movement in these areas. Clear your back with pink wards and sweepers to prevents teleports and keep eyes on enemy initiators suddenly disappearing in front of you.
CLG was unable to lock down their targets and were kited. Now that their frontline is dead Fnatic is on the march to victory and cleans up the fight.
This brings me to the last of the four concepts, the concept of flanking. I already introduced flanking as a counter to kiting but there is more to it. On a higher level of play and, as players get better overall, in lower tiers as well, people are very aware of your initiators and which abilities to look out for. This awareness results in less positioning mistakes from carries, and better reactions, like flashes out of Malphite, Sejuani, or Orianna Ultimates etc... Charging into your enemies upfront like a bulldozer becomes less and less of a viable option and may very well cost you the fight. When upfront charging is not enough to reach the enemy backline and initiate a nice fight, you need to start worrying about flanking your opponents. A champion with heavy burst and/or cc can wreak havoc when coming from behind or over a wall out of the Fog of War.
Hauntzer arrives in the back of CLG after teleporting to a ward behind them.
The easiest and one of the most effective way to get a nice flank is the teleport homeguard top lane engage. Getting the necessary wards behind your enemies may prove to be difficult when behind or when your enemy is playing the vision war correctly, however if you successfully get a nice teleport ward, it will prove to be worth the struggles. The concept is super simple but is reliant on your top laner having teleport not on cooldown and being able to recall. What your top laner does is teleporting behind the enemies and charging into them with his homeguards. Be cautious, this can be countered, like any other flank, by your enemy being aware of the attempt and going all-in on your top laner, the so-called weak side of the flank.
Hauntzer's flank prevents CLG's carries and frontline from dealing damage to Fnatic's carries who are allowed to move up and win the fight.
Aside from initiators there are others who prefer to flank instead of upfront charging into the chaos: Assassins. Whenever you play an assassin your only job is to get into the enemy backline and tear them apart. However, assassins normally have issues dealing with beefy champions and are very vulnerable, thus easy to burst down when cc-locked. Instead of having to deal with Alistar, Nautilus and his bar brawling friends you may prefer to lurk in the shadows behind your enemy. Take your time, wait for your team to initiate and then, when there is not much peel left, pounce out of your hideout and win the fight for your team.
Late game fights have a completely different dynamic. As AD Carries start to get 3 -5 items, fights start to be more centred on them. This is when you need to start thinking about your in-fight goals as a team. Do you want to protect your own carry or is your team built around getting to and killing the enemy’s? Be aware of the weaknesses and strengths of your team composition and play around them. If your carry is somebody like Ezreal he might not need as much protection. If your team consists of Lulu and Lucian however, you might want to play around them in late game team-fights. This is also the time when kiting becomes so much more effective because your carries can kill the enemy frontline pretty fast when being able to survive, hence flanks get more important as well, because you cannot afford to chase a kiting Lucian for longer than a few seconds. Play around the 4 main principles of team-fights and according to your champion's and your team composition's strengths and you will increase your chances of winning these game deciding fights by a lot. Remain cool and calculated even when the heat is turned up. When you know what you are doing, and you are decisively doing it, you will eventually win more and lose less.