Positioning

Learn how to optimize your unit positioning in Teamfight Tactics in our Fundamentals guide.

Fundamental Positioning

Optimizing your positioning can be both simple and nuanced. Some players struggle with the higher concepts and other players don’t realize that their positioning can be further improved.

Positioning also goes hand-in-hand with scouting and I highly recommend checking out “Scouting (coming soon)” before going any further if you haven’t already. Otherwise, let’s break it down to the three basic forms: Neutral, Offensive, and Defensive Positioning.

Neutral Positioning

This is the positioning your board naturally goes to without any outside factors. You are not positioning to defend or optimize against a specific board but to maximize the value of the units on your board.

I want to heavily stress the fact that a ‘default’ positioning does NOT exist for any comp and you should almost never be sitting in the same positioning. You should always be adjusting your board against your opponents. I use Neutral Positioning simply as a way to express how the comp would position in a complete vacuum.

The general rules are as follows:

  1. All frontline units go in the front (1st row) and all backline go in the back (4th row).
  2. Space your units out – don’t clump. In every normal situation clumping makes your board weaker. Never clump unless you have a reason such as enemy Assassins or you have Randuin’s Sanctum.
  3. Your carry should never be taking aggro when the fight starts. Place them in 4th row or behind a tank if they’re a melee carry.
  4. Strongest tanks on the outside. You want to hold the numbers advantage as long as possible during a fight, especially in the early game when there are fewer units.

Here is an example of a Guild Xayah Board from Set 7:

You’ll realize that most boards shown in comp guides and tier lists are positioned in neutral.

Let’s take a quick look to see why certain units are placed where they are.

Layer 1 – Roles

Xayah and Twitch are in the back near the corner to minimize taking damage and CC.
Twitch and Bard act as corner bait for hooking threats (they get hooked instead of your main damage carry) as well as Bard doubling as a backline bait for Sona ults.

Talon and Qiyana being assassins are meant to be aimed at specific targets but have no problem landing ‘middle’ due to the nature of their abilities.

Layer 2 – Traits

Swiftshots give more Atk Speed the further Xayah and Twitch are away from their target

Cavaliers are placed on the outside to take most of the aggro as their initial ‘charge’ grants them enhanced resistance at the beginning of each combat.

Ragewing units don’t gain mana when taking damage so they are placed away from initial aggro.

Layer 3 – Abilities

Twitch provides Armor Shred so placing him next to Xayah allows her to target the units with shredded armour.

Shen protects units from all physical damage in a 1-hex circle around him so place him in-between units to use it effectively.

You can see how the positioning of each unit maximizes their individual effectiveness and cohesively work together in neutral position. Now let’s take a look when we compromise certain aspects of the comp out of necessity to meet win conditions or to mitigate the chances of losing through defensive and offensive positioning:

Defensive Positioning

Anytime you are ‘defending’ against a threat to your team you are facilitating ‘Defensive’ positioning. These situations commonly include item-based threats like Zephyrs, Shrouds, and Frozen Hearts which are impactful enough to decide a fight but many units and traits are powerful enough to be held at the same level.

Positioning defensively is done when the threat that a board poses is greater than the value you’re getting from maximizing your units against it. 

An example is defending against an enemy Sona:

Neutral
Defensive

Sona is a unit whose spell has a ‘furthest unit‘ targeting. In the first slide, while Daeja -who has ‘most units in a line’ targeting- is in a good position to maximize her spell value, she is also in Sona’s sight lines.

Recognizing that dodging Sona’s CC spell is more important than squeezing value out of Daeja’s spell here is the start. Next determine the possible options to counter the threat.

In the 2nd slide you can see the two options shown. P1 is a quick 1-action swap of Daeja and Soraka. P2 is a 2-action relocation of Daeja to maintain the angle for her spell value.

Sona is a very common unit to quick swap right before a fight starts as depending on who she hits with her spell it can change the outcome of the fight drastically. If there a fewer players left in the lobby you can also be that your being scouted by opponents in your rotation.

Knowing this do you go for P1 where you have an less effective angle but a much safer swap, or do you go for P2 for a stronger board but a riskier swap?

When making a decision like this here are a few things you should consider:

  1. How many players are in my rotation?
  2. Can I beat this board without Daeja’s spell hitting perfectly?
  3. What is my HP in relation to others?
  4. Has this Sona player been swapping sides?

If it’s a 1v1, P2 is not worth it. You will be read and punished for greeding the angle as he just needs to respond to your Daeja placement (1 action) while you have to move two units (2 actions). If you can beat his board without perfect positioning or have beat it before P2 is again not worth it. Most times the risk is not the reward here. Dodging the Sona impacts your game more than getting a good angle for Daeja here and requires less actions to do.


The prospect of learning how to counter positioning of every unit may seem daunting but it’s actually pretty simple as most of time can be boiled down to how they target and often times the developers will put emphasis on only 1 or 2 of them per set.

Ex. in Set 5/5.5 a large portion of units used the ‘furthest’ enemy targeting: Lucian, Velkoz, Zyra, Ashe, Scion, Thresh, Katarina, Poppy, Syndra, Kennen, Kalista, Akshan, Senna and Pyke. The rest of the cast had really simple targeting mechanics like ‘the target unit’ (meaning whatever unit they are currently attacking).

In Set 6/6.5 there was emphasis on the ‘largest group of enemies’ with units like Galio, Seraphine, Akali, Jinx, Ekko, Renata Glasc, Orianna and Zyra and the usual ‘furthest unit’ and ‘target unit’.

Here is a list of common counters if you’re interested in learning how counter them. If you can counter 1 -you can counter them all (if they share the same targeting mechanic).

[REMINDER TO SELF – link common counters here] [https://tftguides.com/common-counters-positioning-wip/]

Other examples of defensive positioning can include blocking melee carries from sneaking into your back line, clumping against assassin, isolating your carry from ‘biggest clump’ targeting and right siding against ‘Frozen Hearts’.

Offensive Positioning

All optimizations to maximize the value of your units against a board(s) are considered offensive positioning.

These include but are not limited to sneaking your melee carry to sneak inside the back line, de-clumping the enemy’s board when playing vertical assassins, lining up a skill shot to hit the most enemies/a specific target, ‘Zephyr-ing’ enemies and making all units target the same units (for on kill effects).

Let’s show an example of offensive positioning when playing Senna from Set 7/7.5 in the early-game. While many players will know that Senna is one of the strongest 1-cost units in the early game they don’t maximize her effectiveness or actually understand why high-elo players value her so highly.

Neutral
Offensive

In the 1st example we are not optimizing our offence against the enemy. Senna’s spell targeting mechanic is ‘furthest unit’. In this scenario who does it target? Karma– as she is the furthest unit away from Senna.

But WHO does it actually hit? That’s right: the front line (Wukong & Jax) is in the way and prevents us from taking out the back line early, leaving it to a battle of attrition. So how do we position properly?

In the 2nd example we position Senna on the right side. Same target -Karma, but the spell actually bypasses the front line and takes out the Karma. Now even though the enemy has a stronger front line than yours, your chances of winning/killing more units goes up significantly due to your ‘number & damage advantage’.

This simple example touches on more important concepts than you may first realize -especially in the early-game- but concepts do stay relevant into the late-game.

  1. Number Advantage
  2. Damage Advantage
  3. Counter-Play

You can easily defeat boards more expensive/stronger than yours with clever positioning from units like Senna. Getting rid of a unit is a bigger deal in the early-game as the few amount of units means each unit makes a large impact. Getting rid of a DPS early on means you immediately remove all that potential damage and a body on their board.

While fight’s are largely a team effort in the early-game there is still wide gap between a DPS’s damage and a tank/support unit’s damage meaning which makes them more valuable targets. Once you factor in the abilities of tank units to absorb damage and recover you can see how valuable the ability to target the back line is. Same ability for same mana cost, but wildly different results.

Let’s talk about point 3. ‘Counter-Play’ with another example:

Now we are both lvl. 4 with an extra unit each. The opponent has placed a ranged unit (Kaisa) in the opposite corner as corner bait (link) to protect their main carry (Karma). Our old offence no longer works as Senna’s spell will target Kaisa who is now the furthest unit from Senna and will be stopped by the front line. We can’t swap sides either because now we hit the front line again.

How do we hit Karma now?

Well whenever your opponents leave a unit open like this (Kaisa) you have the opportunity to take it with any melee carry. By moving Sejuani to the far left (A1) the nearest unit to her when the fight starts is now Kaisa making her Sejuani’s first target.

Senna will still cast at Kaisa but that’s alright because: 1. it bypasses the front line and 2. we get rid of a DPS unit.

By the time Senna cast for the 2nd time Kaisa should be gone and Senna’s new target will become Karma -who is the next furthest unit. She can still bypass the front line do to her positioning allowing her to eliminate the biggest threat again.

You can see that more units = more counter-play options for your opponents but also more offensive options for you.

Keep in mind that aggressive offensive positioning such as the 2nd example will leave you vulnerable for other players can take advantage of the holes you keep in your defence.

Who Do I Position For?

I personally think scouting in the early-game is nuanced and different enough to not be considered a ‘fundamental’ and should have it’s own page so I won’t cover it too heavily here. For now I want to approach scouting from a 3-board pool or less scenario (meaning you only have three or less possible boards to fight).

One of the big reasons newer players don’t scout or position before the late game is that they aren’t exactly sure of who to position for. I cover what to look for when scouting over at ‘Fundamental Scouting (link) but we can talk about who to position for here:

  1. Board strength in relation to yours.
  2. Who is the biggest threat to you?
  3. What are common threats?

Board Strength in Relation to Yours:

Determining board strength (link) is another fundamental skill that ties deeply into others and without it, will severely lower the quality of your scouting and positioning. Knowing who you can beat without positioning, boards you have a chance at beating with positioning and boards you can never beat regardless of positioning is vital when deciding on how to position.

Obviously you shouldn’t bother positioning for boards you beat -for the most part, which eliminates them as boards you have to worry about. Boards you have no hope of beating can be ignored too under most circumstances. This narrows it down to just boards who’s odds can be affected with good positioning

Biggest Threats

Now among those boards what are the biggest threats? Some boards ARE the threat with vertical assassins and some provide a few obstacles and things to go right to defeat them. Look for item-based threats like Shrouds and Zephyr’s as well as unit-based threats like Hooks(links) or a supertank you can’t get through.

Common Threats

Look for commonalities between opponents to position against multiple boards at once. Out of the three possibilities let’s say two of them have threatens your left side and one of them threatens the right side. The math clearly says we should position our carry on the right side for our highest chance of victory. As we have an equal chance of rotating into either board so 2/3rds of the time right side will be safe and 1/3rd of the time left will be safe.

To use Sona again as an example, if two of our possible enemies have a Sona (she targets the furthest unit) on the right and one of them has a Sona on the left side -we naturally want to put our carry on the right with corner bait on the left to avoid getting cc’ed.

Sometimes the amount of threats are dead even -at times like these you just gotta open up a new tab, pull up the picture on the right, pray to mortdog and hard position left or right.

Or if it’s the exact scenario where its a bunch of Sona’s you can just position middle with 2 corner baits.

Basic Item Positioning

Before we put it all together let’s briefly cover some basic positioning strategies when talking about items.

Zephyr

Targets the closest unit on the opposite side of where it was placed and takes them out of the fights for the first 5 seconds. While avoiding it is as simple as moving the unit away from the zone it is crucial to monitor it due to its ability to impact the fight.

Common uses are for getting rid of the carry to stall out damage or to gain easier access into an exposed back line by floating away the main tank.

Shrouds

Shrouds on a surface-level are as simple as moving units out of the beam but can, when used properly, force players into making difficult split decisions. It also allows boards to be positioned less optimally against yours when they have to swap sides quickly to avoid being shrouded.

Recognizing which units can afford being shrouded and which cannot is a pivotal skill. Rarely can you position every unit outside the beam resulting in you having to make compromises.

Gargoyles Stoneplate

You gain more defensive stats the more units that target you so maximize this item by positioning the item holder at the very front row with no other units.

Frozen Heart (Removed)

If the majority of the lobby have their carries in the back line it can be very effective to have an Assassin or any unit with back line access to hold a Frozen Heat. If it’s mainly melee carries without CC immunity it’s more effective to be placed on a front line tank. If the lobby is back line or Assassin heavy, having it on one of your back line support units can be a clever way to slow them down.

Putting it Together

Now we put it altogether to position in a way that increases your chances of winning. Recognizing what needs to happen for you to win and forgoing any other optimizations to enable that is the key to this.

For instance we might want to ‘solo front line’ our primary tank with a ‘Gargoyles Stoneplate’ to greed the value we get from being targeted by everyone, but then we realize that they have a Lee Sin on their side. In this scenario we must sacrifice the max value of Stoneplate and play a fodder unit in front of Lee Sin for him to kick. Now while we may lose some stats on your main tank we avoid it being kicked into the back line and leaving a huge opening for the enemy units to collapse into.

Realizing what’s more impactful in this situation is what saves the match. You’ll find yourself in situations where the stakes are even higher with a lot more variables and comprises that you have to decide to make. Figuring out what your win condition can help you immensely and prevent you from getting dizzy.

Conclusion

All-in-all positioning can be simple to get the hang of when you break it down. Learn how to optimize the value of your units (neutral). Positioning against other players is all about AI and knowing the targeting mechanics (defensive & offensive. Then you understand WHO to position for by strengthening you grasp on the related fundamentals. Finally take it to the next level by learning some advanced tips, tricks, some mental games and some practise.

MokaByNone
MokaByNone

21 year old Korean-Canadian with a love for creating and teaching. You can often catch me trying to min.max a game or theory craft my own version of whatever I am obsessed with at that particular moment. My current passion is often TFT as I head the Windfall Tactics TFT server where the mission is to help others improve at the game and do free coaching over at Metafy in my spare time. If you have any questions or comments for me or anything I do feel free to contact me on Discord or through Email!

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Email: Mokabynone@gmail.com

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