League of Legends is an incredibly complex game… The more you know, the better your chances of victory! There are many concepts that can help improve your overall champion mastery and laning phase. The idea of “zone control” is among the best of these – in fact, I believe it’s the most important tool to learn! Understanding what defines a champion’s zone of control will let you punish opponents who don’t respect your abilities, and avoid the same. There are many steps to mastering zone control, so we’re going to work our way up. Let’s jump in!
What is a Zone of Control?
A champion’s “zone of control,” simply put, is the area within which they can “influence” other units. The units in question could be champions, minions, jungle camps, or some other objective. Inside your zone of control, you have the ability (at some level) to directly affect what’s happening in the game. Outside your zone of control, you’re powerless. There are two forms this “influence” takes, and which define the nature of each champion’s zone of control: abilities and basic attacks. We’ll call these the ‘ability zone’ and ‘base zone’ respectively.
Measuring Zone Control: Abilities
The biggest contributor to zone of control is a champion’s longest range ability. Generally speaking, the maximum range of a given champion’s abilities define the champion’s area of influence. Let’s take a look at a level 3 Leona as an example. Leona’s longest range ability at this level would be her Zenith Blade (E), with a range of 875 units.
If you position yourself (impractical as it might be) in such a way that Zenith Blade can’t reach you, Leona will never be a threat. If Leona walks forward and you mirror her movements (assuming you have the same movement speed), she’ll never be able to force her zone into yours. With this in mind, when Zenith Blade goes on cooldown, the champion’s zone of control changes temporarily. The rest of Leona’s abilities are more or less melee range, which means her zone is extremely small during this window. This is the ideal time to harass her or go for some last hits!
Measuring Zone Control: Basic Attacks
Players often overlook the second measurement of a hero’s zone of control – auto attack range. It’s vital not to neglect this detail just because it’s so common! Auto attacks have a fixed range and define each champion’s base zone of control (with the exception of Tristana or a champion who has Rapid Firecannon).
Basic attack range is critical in determining who is favored in any given lane matchup (more on this subject can be found in my guides to winning solo lane and bot lane). Pay attention to the enemy champion(s)’s base zone. Unless you have a clear advantage, you should constantly reposition to avoid the base zone of your opponent. This is particularly crucial when a champion’s base zone is more threatening than their ability zone, like AD carries. So how do you make use of all this information? Here are some tips to take into your next games!
Strategy Sample 1: Mirroring Movements
In many matchups, failing to understand a champion’s zones can be lane- or game-losing. On the flip side, you can use this knowledge to punish players who don’t respect your own zone. Let’s look at an example champion who punishes those who don’t acknowledge his zone of control.
Brand is a powerful middle lane/support champion with a consistently high damage poke. He excels at zoning out champions with his long-range Pillar of Flame (W) ability. This spell is difficult to dodge due to its large radius, so a good Brand will reliably rack up damage with it.
The trick to winning an even or disadvantageous lane against Brand is to avoid this ability. Unless you’re prepared to use Flash or you have a mobile champion, your best bet is to avoid letting him into range. This comes down to mirroring Brand’s movements to avoid allowing him to move his zone into yours. If he charges forwards, you retreat. If he falls behind the creep wave, you can edge closer – though still keeping a respectful distance. He’ll naturally get ahead via controlling the wave, but once you’re ready to take on a full fight (you’re healthy and have jungler assistance, for example) you’ll have a far better chance than if you struggle in lane and feed kills.
This strategy can salvage the laning phase in most unfavorable matchups if done properly (even in especially challenging situations)!
Strategy Sample 2: Finding Free Damage
Free damage is when you’re able to harass the opponent and they’re unable to respond. If you know all the various zones, you can attack at moments when there’s no chance of being harassed back.
“Lane bully” champions have abilities ideal for punishing enemy laners with a large zone of control. Make use of this strategy as a champ with high mobility to dive the enemy and escape unharmed. Alternatively, this could mean having long-range abilities or attacks to do free damage from afar!
As an example, Caitlyn has an excellent attack range of 650 and Vayne has a more modest attack range of 550. Since she has longer range (and therefore a larger base zone), it’s easy for Caitlyn to harass while Vayne is last hitting. This will continually apply pressure to Vayne’s health while she’s preoccupied with getting gold from the minions. Caitlyn can repeat this process to force Vayne out of lane, without even using a spell!
Another great example is Renekton. He’s a notorious lane bully despite relatively short range: he has the ability to quickly dash in, stun the opponent, and dash out before they can respond. His mobility allows him to move onto the enemy and exit before they can react, providing free damage. Note that this works best against other champions with short range… Those with high mobility or long range of their own might still be able to punish this combo!
Practice Zone Control!
The best way to work on understanding zone control is to make a habit of identifying your champion’s zone and the enemy’s. From there, carefully watch how your opponents react when you pressure them. Practicing matchups with your coach with an emphasis on zone control is a fantastic way to fast-track your mastery! The end goal is twofold: punish the opponent when you have favorable zone control, and stay safe when you don’t!
If you have any issues with the concepts in this article, check out my profile below! I’m always happy to answer any questions you may have. Keep an eye out for my next article on advanced game mechanics, coming next Monday! Thanks for reading and best of luck on the Rift!