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Positioning: the Good, the Bad and the Very Ugly


Let’s talk a little about positioning. I’m going to focus on laning and team fights during this article and try to talk generally about what you’re trying to accomplish with positioning and why you should do it. I honestly feel that good positioning cannot be taught, because of how complicated it is, and that experience will teach you more than I ever could; however, I’ll attempt to outline the thought behind positioning to help you on your way.

There are many strong tutorials on zoning and some of them include video guides so feel free to look those up, google “Zoning Tutorial League of Legends,” as these will assist you with your positioning during the laning phase.

 

The terrain is to be assessed in terms of distance, difficulty or ease of travel, dimension, and safety.

–Sun Tzu

 

What is positioning and why is it important?

This might sound like a stupid question, but it’s good to start from the simple stuff and work upward. Positioning is where you place your character in the game and is a very important aspect of League that is commonly misunderstood by much of the player base. The difference between “good” and “bad” positioning can easily cost you your life (or even the entire game) through a Blitz hook that grabs you over a wall.

The biggest problem is that it is very hard to teach “good” positioning because it is so variable and changes from second to second. What may be “good” positioning in one game is often awful positioning in the next just because of the number of things that can change on the fly. There aren’t many teachable, specific, ‘right’ answers when it comes to positioning aside from stay away from big threats. But there are a lot of “wrong” ones and these will be exploited by the better players in League.

Positioning is important because it allows you to use your character’s strengths to full effect, but it also assists in shielding your weaknesses, usually behind big tanky characters.

How do you go about positioning yourself in lane?

Let’s look at a specific scenario here. As I said before, it is hard to teach this, but hopefully I can explain the problem and what we want to achieve and this can then be extrapolated, by you, in to real games.

The scenario:  Both minion lines have met each other and a 6v6 battle is occurring between them. You are against Xin Zhao in lane, both of you have your ult up and have plenty of health and mana. The jungler is dead and you have good ward coverage so you know you aren’t about to get ganked. Let us also assume you are a melee champion.

Your objectives for this scenario are as follows, in priority order (you’ll see my reasoning later):

  • Get all 6 CS
  • Stop Xin from getting CS or make him pay for it
  • React to trade attempts
  • Kill Xin

We can break these down into individual sections here, but in reality you need to do them all at once during the game.

1.) Get all 6 CS

For positioning, this is quite easy. All you need to do is ensure that you are within auto-attack range of the minion when it is going to die. However this get’s complicated when several minions start to die at once or when a minion gets focused on the opposite side of the lane. Make sure you are thinking ahead.

You need to focus on minion health bars and look at who is dying first so you can move yourself into a position to pick up the CS. Most of you probably do this without even thinking about it, yet people still manage to miss CS even when there aren’t opponents in lane.

2.) Stop Xin from getting CS or make him pay for it

The best way to do this is to zone Xin away from the minion line completely. By making threatening moves towards him, or just right clicking on him, you can move your character in a way that will force Xin to react to this new threat. If he backs off, he’ll risk missing out on CS and you can comfortably farm your lane.

If he doesn’t back off, then this will probably result in a situation where you will battle, but for the moment let’s assume he does retreat. You can now easily pick up the farm in lane as he is scared to come close and challenge you.

Make sure that you are only last hitting during this phase. Do not do extra damage to the minions than you have to because this will lower the amount of time Xin spends away from his minion line, and thus miss less CS.

An exception to this is if your enemy struggles to last hit under the turret. If this is the case then you should attempt to do as much damage to the minions as possible without missing out on CS. Be careful here as extended use of abilities may result in a Xin “all-in” as you don’t have the abilities to counteract this new threat.

In terms of making him pay for it, the best way to do this is to attack him as he is going for a last hit. This allows you to get ‘free’ damage on him that he can’t return to you because he spent his auto-attack on the minion. If he attacks you instead, then he missed out on a CS and you get a relatively even trade.

In order to take full advantage of this strategy you need to watch the enemy minion health bars, as well as your ow,n as you don’t want to miss out on CS while harassing. This will result in a situation where you will need to be constantly moving in lane to adjust your positioning relative to your minions, the enemy minions, and the enemy laner.

You can go further than a single auto-attack by attempting “all-in” style trades where you blow many cooldowns on him, but aren’t actually attempting to get a kill unless they stick around and the opportunity presents itself. These sort of trades usually results in one of you dying, one character being forced out lane, or someone being zoned from the creep line.

3.) React to trade attempts

If Xin starts using the above tactics against you then you need to react to what he does. This could be by adjusting your positioning by using the brush to close on to minions while he can’t see you or backing off slightly yourself. If you can’t trade well with the opposing laner, then moving away from the minion line, so they can’t engage you, is probably the best tactic, but it will set you behind.

Try and grab as many CS as you can by maximizing your positioning. You want to be close enough to the minion line to get any last hits when Xin becomes preoccupied elsewhere, but far enough away to not allow an easy engage or easy damage to be dropped on you.

The reason I positioned this third rather than second is that you want to try and dictate the pace of your lane as best you can. The earlier you assert dominance, even if you’re not actually ahead and would lose a full on trade, the larger you can grow your lead before they realize and start to zone you.

4.) Kill Xin

I’ve put this last even though this is probably the top of most people’s priority lists just because I believe this shouldn’t be something you should exclusively aim for in lane, but instead something you set up and then capitalize on through harassment, until you get fed at least. Positioning for kills is relatively similar to what you do above, but you try and get yourself between your enemy and their route of escape, usually the tower.

This means they need to either come through you to get away or attempt to run through the river, which is a longer and more importantly not as safe as coming past the turret as anyone could be lurking in the brushes. If you’ve got Flash up and the enemy doesn’t, then you can use this to quickly reposition yourself for the kill, just don’t blow it too early!

 

Lane Summary

You can see that this situation started out as “position yourself near your minions to get CS” and went to “position yourself near your minions to get last hits while aggressively attempting to get the other laner away from the creep line by enough that they miss CS, but without forcing a full on engage unless you feel you can win it”. We’ve not even considered the situation if you’re nearer/further from your turret, can’t see the jungler, or where one/both of you are ranged. It’s a complicated game.

Lane positioning is all about trying to control the creep wave and then forcing the enemy to react to your movements. You want to position close enough to the creeps to last hit, but far enough away that you won’t take signficant harass from the enemy or potentially risk an unfavorable engagement.

 

Team Fight Positioning

I’m not going to make this section more complicated than it needs to be and as such I’m going to attempt to list some factors and considerations that might come into a “pre-team fight” and a team fight scenario.

If you are a squishy character, you need to position yourself away from damage and CC threats. Usually this will be behind the more beefy characters in your team so they can absorb some of the CC as the enemy attempt to take you down.

Consider what kind of initiation is likely to come your way and adjust your positioning to counter this. You don’t need to be far enough away that an Amumu Bandage Toss + Ult combo won’t hit you, but if that initiation does come in, you need to be able to react fast enough to get yourself to safety.

The tankier characters need to form a front-line against the enemy team and use their presence to dissuade an initiation on to the squishy members of the group. In many cases you aren’t required to provide any initiation either because your character doesn’t have any or because your team doesn’t want to fight at this moment in time, and as such you should just use the mere threat of an initiation to move the enemy team away from objectives.

In many cases it can actually be detrimental to use your moves and miss targets because the mere threat of an Amumu Bandage Toss or Xin dash is enough to stop the enemy team from diving you under a turret.

In a team fight, positioning is far too complex to discuss in an article aside from the simple things of keeping yourself alive and doing damage or peeling for the characters who can. A good place to look for actual advice on this subject would be pro player streams or pro matches; pause the game when you see a team fight approaching and at periodic times during the fight and make note of the players’ positioning.

You’ll see subtle movements in the fight that may cost some players while others are able to abuse these to get out a few more hits before they die and this ultimately wins the team fight.

 

Previously, it was mentioned that positioning strengths and weaknesses change from second to second, but why is this the case?

On a basic level it’s because your champion’s (as well as your opponent’s) kill potential, CC potential, or just harass potential changes with time and changes with ability usage. The obvious thing to ask is how scared are you of an Annie or Orianna with their ultimate available compared to ones that don’t?

You react to these strengths all the time without even thinking about it by playing more aggressive against a Kassadin pre-6, staying away from trouble when you’re out of mana, or by going aggressive when your jungler is coming to gank.

To use another example, if you miss a hook as Blitzcrank your damage, CC, and kill potential is very low until you get it back off cooldown. So for the next 15-20 seconds the enemy will play more aggressively and they will be more likely to go for CS that you could previously have zoned them from just by the threat of a grab, even if you would’ve missed it.

 

How do you break the positioning deadlock?

Have you ever wondered why Zac, TF, Amumu, and Malphite are all common bans? They allow you to transcend the whole positioning meta game with a use of their abilities and then follow these up with strong CC.

TF can easily teleport behind someone in lane, turning their previous “good'” positioning into terrible positioning because they are now sandwhiched between two members of the opposing team and a long way from safety. Amumu can use his Bandage Toss to quickly close the gap and then his ult to catch the squishies at the back who were previously safe sitting behind their tank line. Zac and Malphite have similar stories.

It can obviously be done with the classic “run up and punch the guy in the face” tactic.

 

Conclusion

The positioning meta game is an interesting and challenging part of League of Legends. It’s painfully obvious when someone has bad positioning because you can see them get brought down by an entire team’s focus fire after a Blitz grab; however, good positioning can frequently result in an unkillled AD carry pentakilling an entire team, so learning how to position properly is a vital skill that many at low ELO just don’t have.

Learning from the pro players by watching streams and the old LCS games can help give you the basic understanding you need, but if you want to improve you need to play more and actively think about where you are in relation to the threats on the opposing team. Additionally, you need to attempt to look out for when characters on your team are out of position and be prepared to react to any initiation or counter initiaion that may result in a team fight.


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Fridgecake

Esports and Blogs Manager for Cloth5.com. I’m a Plat 5 all around player, I know I should pick a role but it’s too much fun playing all of the champions! Add me on Fridgecake or Yawnedeverywhere and i’d be happy to have a game.

Currently playing Hearthstone, Gangsters 2, GTA 5 and Football Manager.

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