The Beginner’s Handbook for TFT, Chapter 3, The Fundamentals of Combat


Fundamentals of Combat

When talking about combat, there are three ways that players have a direct impact; units, items, and positioning. It is important that players have a solid understanding of these factors in order to make round-to-round decisions that will influence the outcomes of fights. 

Note when discussing aggro: Champions will auto-attack the nearest enemy. They will cast their abilities at their current target in less otherwise specified.


Itemization terms:

Best-In-Slot (BIS) – Units have a set of items that best synergize with their abilities and traits. These are called ‘Best-In-Slot’ (BIS) and are their strongest items.

Slamming – immediately making items that may potentially be less than optimal, but provide immediate power to stabilize and are able to be used flexibly

Greeding items – Holding components to build more optimal items later, rather than slamming for immediate power

Mandatory Items – Some units are reliant on specific items in order to be effective. It is important to establish if you are running unit/s that have mandatory items that you need to be looking for

Itemizing Tanks

Tanks are fairly standard across the board. Almost all are melee and are very flexible in terms of itemization.

Any sort of defensive items are good in most cases, however, players should be aware of diminishing returns on items. Important to note, the formula for damage dealt to champions is: 

[DamageTaken = DamageDealt * 100 / (100 + Resistance)]

Example: Lulu Deals 100 AP with her ability to Zac who has 70 Magic Resist

100AP* 100 / (100 + 70MR) =58.72

In this case, Zac will receive 58.72 damage.

Taking this into consideration, it is important to understand that oftentimes, stacking one specific stat can have diminishing returns. 

For example, Defenders gain bonus armor and magic resist, therefore, it is more efficient to prioritize health items like Warmogs or Sunfire Cape over raw resistance items like Gargoyles Stoneplate. 

In general, most players like to run one armor item, one magic resist, and one health item on their main tank. An example of a well-rounded tank build is Warmogs, Bramble Vest, and Dragons Claw.

Itemizing Carries

Before going in-depth about carry itemization, we need to establish the different categories of carries

All units are either ranged or melee, and within the category of carries, there are different groups that excel in specific areas. 

Most carries fall into one of two main groups:

Single Target: Excels in bursting down a single focused unit 

AOE: Excels at dealing damage to groups of enemies

Subgroups of carries are:

Ranged backline: Ranged carries, positioned in the back, and usually cornered either left or right in order to survive as long as possible 

Casters: Usually AP, positioning can vary, however generally are positioned in the backline such that they can cast as often as possible, affecting as many targets as possible

Melee frontline: Melee carries, usually positioned off-side the tanks in order to not take excessive aggro early 

Assassins/Backline Divers: usually melee units (but not always), positioned so that they may dive and target backline carries 


Single Target Backline Diver – Set 7.5 Rengar, Set 8 Hacker

Single Target Ranged Backline – Set 6 Kog’Maw, Set 8 Vayne

Single Target Melee Frontline – Set 8 Bel’Veth, Set 7.5 Olaf

AOE Ranged Backline – Set 6.5 Zeri, Set 8 A’Sol

AOE Backline Diver – Set 3 Ekko, Set 3 Fizz

AOE Melee Frontline – Set 6 Galio, Set 8 Mordekaiser

Single Target Caster – Set 7 Ryze, Set 8 Soraka

AOE Caster – Set 5.5 Vel’Koz, Set 8 Miss Fortune

Itemizing carries varies significantly depending on multiple factors. Of course, AP carries generally value ap items and mana items that allow them to cast more often, and AD carries generally value items that boost their attack damage and attack speed. In most compositions, you will run a main carry and a secondary carry. Usually, you will try to have at least two BIS items on your main carry, and flex additional items on your secondary carry. Oftentimes, you will not be able to find your BIS items and may be put in situations where other items are actually more effective than what would be considered ‘BIS’. It is always important to assess the itemization and compositions of the other players to see if there are items that may be beneficial to look for. There are many items in TFT that are very good in niche situations. 

Some examples of situational items for AD carries:

Last Whisper – Other players have a lot of armor

Runaan’s Hurricane – You are struggling to damage the enemy backline

Rapidfire Cannon – Other players have a lot of dodge

Bloodthirster / Edge of Night – your carries keep being burst down

Giant Slayer – Enemy units have a lot of raw health

Some examples of situational items for AP carries:

Morellonomicon – Other players have a lot of healing

Stattik Shiv – Other players have a lot of magic resist

Giant Slayer – Enemy units have a lot of raw health

When itemizing carries, it is important to assess the items of enemies before slamming, as certain items can have diminishing returns depending on the situation. For example, say you are playing Vayne, a champion that scales with AD and AS. Her BIS items are generally Guinsoos Rageblade, Infinity Edge, and HoJ.

Several of the opponents have armor items like Sunfire Cape and Bramble Vest. Last Whisper will provide more effective damage than Infinity Edge. 

It is also important to understand how damage scaling works. If a champion is high in specific stats, it may be suboptimal to slam items that are adding a raw stat increase. A perfect example of this is Set 7.5 Olaf. Olaf gains a large amount of flat AD thanks to his passive.

  • A 3* Olaf with 0 passive stacks slamming Deathblade will receive a 47.8% damage boost, vs a 38.9% damage boost slamming Infinity Edge, however,
  • An 11 death Olaf will receive a 38.3% damage boost slamming Deathblade, vs
  • a 38.5% damage boost when slamming Infinity Edge. When slamming an Infinity Edge + a Hand of Justice,
  • at 11 deaths, Olaf receives a 74.1% damage boost, vs
  • Deathblade + Hand of Justice, which would give a 47.9% boost. 

That’s a lot of numbers but simply put, if you are already receiving a lot of flat damage, slamming items that provide more flat stats becomes less and less efficient. Keep this in mind, especially when running comps and units that provide a stat boost.

Itemizing Supports

Support and other filler units generally favor utility items that either buff your team or provide combat utility. They are also usually good for slamming leftover items.

Buff Items:

Locket of the Iron Solari – When you require additional shielding, especially good when protecting a specific carry from burst

Chalice of Harmony – Provide additional AP, best for casters and units with good AP scaling 

Zeke’s Herald – Additional attack speed, best for AD units who deal significant damage with auto attacks

Combat Utility

Shroud of Stillness – Good at delaying crucial units from casting

Zephyr – Good at removing a crucial unit from the early fight

Zzrot Portal – allows you to stall until your carries ramp up later in the fight, also particularly good vs assassins thanks to taunt

Banshee’s Claw – Can protect units from a crucial enemy cast

Utility items like these 

Supportive items like these are very flexible and can be placed on any unit as needed.


Tank Positioning

In almost all cases, tanks should be placed in front of your carries in order to draw the aggro from enemies. The three most common tank positions are solo frontline, in which a single unit is positioned alone in the front in order to take aggro from as many units as possible, grouped frontline, in which a handful of units are grouped in the front, or spread frontline, in which a handful of units are spread across the frontline to spread enemy aggro across multiple units.

In specific situations, secondary tanks can be placed in the backline, usually to draw aggro from divers who would otherwise ignore the frontline to dive straight into the backline carries. 

Carry and Support Positioning

Positioning of the carry can vary, however generally;

Ranged Backline – Corner, usually the opposite side of the enemy, so that they can auto-attack for as long as possible

Melee Frontline – Front corners, or second row. It is important to allow melee units to have space to walk up. If their pathing is blocked, they can waste crucial time running into attack range

Supports – Buff supports are usually positioned near the carries to ensure buff is applied. Utility supports that provide CC are usually in the first or second row, towards the sides

Assassins/Backline Divers – Position adjacent to the desired enemy target, or in a way that will allow them to gain access to the target as soon as possible

There are other specific unit positions that are quite important, but not too necessary for beginner players to be trying to focus on each game, so we will cover these advanced positions in the future.


With mastery of combat fundamentals, you’ll be comfortable building strong boards and positioning to win.

This chapter concludes The Beginner’s Handbook for TFT. On behalf of myself and the team at TFTGuides, I hope this guide has been informative. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this guide and what you guys are interested in learning about next.

Good luck on the ladder

– Dom

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