Uncoordinated teammates are perhaps the most frustrating part of playing League. There simply isn’t enough time to conceive and communicate a plan before situations change, rendering plans useless. Even if there was a way to do so (e.g. voicechat) there would be disorder followed by disaster in determining which voice to listen to amid the chaos. However, there are some principles that guide coordination between teammates, and understanding them will help you be on the same page as your teammates as well as avoid several common but nasty failures.
To understand these principles, we must look at how each role is designed to function, and how they work together. Last week we examined Tanks, whose existence is fulfilled by making targets easy to kill for their damage dealers. Their close relatives, fighters, work similarly but are worthy of distinction.
Fighters are a hybridization between the DPS and Tank classes. While a tank wants to make life easy for his damage dealers, a fighter is able to deal significant damage themself, at the expense of tools that teammates can capitalize on. As a result, fighters work better when dueling -split pushing, catching people out, and the laning phase- while tanks work better when team fighting.
What makes Fighters Fighty?
Let’s compare Maokai, a quintessential tank, to Irelia, a quintessential fighter. Maokai’s passive is a %HP heal that scales with spells spent near him, and Irelia’s is flat tenacity that scales with nearby enemy champions, maxing out at 3 champions. While numerically Maokai’s passive scales better for teamfights and Irelia’s scales better for dueling, tenacity negates CC, which is better for teamfighting (since there are more people there to take advantage of disables), and spells will be happening in bursts around Maokai such that his passive will be inefficient in a 5v5, so they are relatively even in respect to teamfighting vs. dueling.
However, compare Irelia’s dash with Maokai’s. The base stats of the 2 spells are fairly close for damage, but since Irelia generally builds more AD than Maokai does AP, her dash will generally do a bit more damage. The real discrepancy is between Maokai’s dash providing a root which can be used by teammates in teamfights, and Irelia’s dash providing a refresh on killing targets, which will primarily be used to help with farming in lane, pushing it faster to bully the lane opponent, and getting a double jump to make surprise engages and tricky escapes. Generally speaking, this is going to be most usable by giving a stronger lane presence and some splitpush potential- places where she is going to be alone.
Now think about their slows. Maokai’s is multi-target, while Irelia’s is single target, and while Maokai’s gives displacement/disrupt, Irelia can use hers to turn into a stun if she plays things right. It’s pretty easy to tell that a multi-target ability is better for team fighting than a single target one, but Irelia has to use her stun deliberately, generally waiting for an opportune moment, which hinders its usefulness in a team fight. However, in a duel, holding out for the stun opens up the chance for extreme outplay.
Then contrast the vision-granting saplings of Maokai with the true damage of Irelia- one is clearly designed to be taken advantage of by multiple people, and the other works better for dueling. The real difference however is between their ults. Irelia’s focuses on damage, while Maokai’s can be used for damage, but is more suited for the damage reduction for his team.
Fighters and tanks share a few similarities, but differ greatly in how they function. A fighter like Irelia thrives in dueling scenarios- even within a teamfight they try to get a semi-isolated 1v1. While a tank like Maokai in a teamfight wants to push their targets into a specific zone where they are susceptible to his team’s attacks, a fighter focuses more on pushing the target away from the protection of their team. A tank doesnt want to fight their opponent when splitpushing, they only want to splitpush if they can draw an opponent out and get to the teamfight faster somehow (e.g. teleport), because it can create a temporary 4v5. A fighter is generally better at making picks- since they often have some burst and more mobility than a tank, and they are stronger at 1v1s and 2v2s than a tank is. Fighters also have a strong amount of sustained damage, which makes them more necessary to focus, since a tank will usually do most of their job right away.
That was a lengthy comparison, but by now you should understand what type of things mark the difference between a tank and a fighter and why. Now let’s look at how that affects gameplay.
The limitations of a fighter
Despite the fact that fighters often have most of their kits devoted to dealing damage, most of them are melee (or very short-ranged, like Rumble), because melee champions get stronger stats for brawling. Because fighters are melee, they take more damage, and so they have to build partially tanky, because even if they are a full-time splitpusher, there will be times where they will be needed in big fights, or times that they will be converged on and need some durability to survive.
Take Shyvana for instance- all of her abilities revolve around helping her deal damage, and the only part of her kit that gives her durability is her passive, but yet she generally builds things like sunfire, randuins, and spirit visage- durability items. Between burnout mobility and her ult, you would think she could splitpush safely, and build almost exclusively damage, so why isn’t that so?
Much of why fighters build tanky is simply because someone needs to do it. Having a tank means having the power to initiate, and having the power to initiate means you can fight when you want to, not when your enemies want to. You might think that there are plenty of champions that can initate without being tanky- Veigar, for instance, can use his long range stun to catch people and start a fight on his terms. The problem with these initiations is that proper positioning from priority targets means that unless the enemy team is all squishies as well, you’re not going to get on priority targets, and risk wasting a lot of resources on tanks which in the end may live anyways, and the threats that can kill your whole team go unhindered.
Someone like Shyvana who gets some durability from her kit, but also gets damage in ways that would be difficult to optimize with any damage-centric build. Her AP ratios are minimal enough that AP or even hybrid Shyvana isn’t worth bothering with. While her Q scales nicely with both AD and AS, her W only scales with AD, and her E only scales with AS, so she wouldn’t benefit from a full DPS build like a ranged marksman or even a melee carry would. What’s more, her abilities deal primarily magic damage, so getting useful penetration proves difficult. In other words, building a lot of damage on her doesn’t multiply the same way as it does for carries, so damage Shyvana wouldn’t be that effective even if she didn’t need durability for some reason. However, by building durability Shyvana can stay close enough to targets to get longer burnouts, and get more cooldowns off in a fight. So in the end, a durability Shyvana will likely put out more damage than a damage Shyvanah, even in a lot of dueling scenarios.
What it all means
Fighters and tanks are often thought of as being so similar that distinctions aren’t worthwhile, which is why fighters like Renekton, Shyvana, and Mundo are commonly referred to as tanks. However, marking the differences in the two classes can help you make better decisions about the situations you get into.
Because fighters want to create a duel even in the middle of a teamfight, they’re good against Marksman (or other carries) that are weak duelists. Against a carry that is a strong duelist (like Vayne) however, it’s better to choose a tank that won’t be fighting by itself. If you’re deep enough into the pick phase that you see one team clearly has an edge in 5v5s, picking a strong fighter that can break an enemy team into separate groups or a reliable tank that can force 5v5s will have a tremendous impact on how the game plays out and heavily influence who gets to destroy a nexus.
When deciding whether its best to splitpush or teamfight, how to split up the team for a splitpush, who to send back in a base race, or when and where it best to press advantages based off team strengths, properly assessing the strength of someone in a teamfight compared to by themselves will help you make better decisions. This is why understanding how to differentiate between group fighting prowess and individual might is an essential skill to playing League well. It’s not a simple matter of saying “this champion is a duelist and this one isn’t,” but rather determining where on the spectrum they fall relative to their counterparts in any given match, and acting accordingly.
Sorry this one is so long, some things can only be condensed so much :/
I love feedback, and I love talking League even more. Please drop your thoughts into a comment below . Also be sure to tune in next week as we continue to dissect these roles!