Shooting the tanks
The perfect teamfight anatomy
In a perfect world where everyone on both teams execute perfectly, a teamfight consists of two bubbles of control that slightly overlap, with the tanks clashing in the center and the damage burning down the tanks without being exposed.
In this situation, damage dealers must shoot tanks because going after the enemy damage would result in getting focused and killed by the enemy team. Bruisers and assassins cannot dive onto the enemy damage because they would again get focused and die, so they are forced to fight the tanks as well. This model, while ideal, almost never happens.
Fights generally start because of some sort of inequality, whether it's artificially created by an initiation power or naturally created by someone getting caught out of position. It is vital to know when your team has an advantage and how to best extract that advantage. It's also important to know that the enemy has an advantage and that you need to cut and run.
I hear a lot of advice during matches telling me to focus on a particular damage dealer because that person is a threat. It would be really nice if I could follow that advice, but unfortunately doing so generally leads to death.
As a damage dealer, you generally want to shoot at the juiciest target you can safely attack. If an enemy damage dealer becomes exposed, it is in everyone's best interest to unload on that target. However, this situation doesn't always happen. If the only safe target is a tank, melt the tank.
This advice is most true with ADCs/Marksmen (who get Last Whisper largely because they need to deal with tanks) and less true with other roles. Characters who rely on lengthy cooldowns should not spend them on tanks, but that also means that their shorter-cooldown attacks should be used until an opening can present itself to attack the backline. Characters with very short cooldowns (for example, Ryze) should play like marksmen and just shoot the first exposed target.
Diving the enemy team
Going after the enemy damage is a huge risk unless that damage is out of position. However, there are some times when it's OK.
If you have some escape trick or survivability gimmick, jumping on squishies is more viable. Jax is a pretty good example; he can make himself fairly hard to kill and jump on vulnerable enemies. It's important to know just how much extra survivability you bring; if you're Jax or Poppy and have some fairly absolute defense, you can dive the backline and possibly even live through it. If you're Riven, you probably don't want to dive the enemy backline most of the time as her shield is not really an absolute defense.
On the other hand, if you are extremely far ahead, you can leverage your gold advantage best by decisively killing squishies. This can backfire, though; even if you are fairly tough, you can be eaten by enemy DPS if they have some crowd controls. If they're getting wise to your advances, it's better to stick with the rest of the damage dealers and kill the tanks first.
Assassins need to kill someone and get out, and that might not always be possible. If you're not especially far ahead of the enemy team, you simply have to pass on that and go for what is available. If you can go deep on the enemy damage dealers and burst one of them down from full to dead, do so; it's your job. Just understand when you can't do that and find some other way to contribute.
Onions have layers
Peeling is a concept that is probably not obvious to everyone. As a tank or bruiser, sometimes going after the enemy damage-dealers can separate them from their team. While this frequently means your death, especially if you peel more than one enemy, the benefits are often worth your life.
First, if your team has two relatively tanky characters and the enemy splits its focus between you, your team will cut down one enemy before the other team does, assuming the rest of your team focuses a single tank or bruiser (or if lucky, a squishy).
Second, if you can dive the enemy damage and deal some, you can force your targets to completely retreat from the fight. This is an extremely desirable outcome! I've had situations when I dived the enemy DPS and did 80% of an enemy carry's life and died, and my team kited and killed the enemy tank with minimal damage. My team went on to win these battles, typically in a 3-1 or 4-1 exchange, sometimes even acing the enemy team with our only loss being yours truly.
The other part of this is knowing when to peel. For a damage dealer, the answer is generally all the time
. If a tank or bruiser gets in your face, there isn't usually a choice; you have to kite. If your backline has some single-target CC, you can use that to counter someone who dives on you. However, if you don't, you have to peel.
If you're a tank and making a decision on what to do, it can sometimes be hard. If the enemy tank dives your DPS, sometimes it's better to go after him and CC him so he can't do lasting damage to your team. When playing a tank like Rammus, if I can't expose an enemy squishy, I usually try to just protect my allies, and that often means pulling tougher guys off my carries.
Ideal strategy doesn't account for bad players
Sometimes your decisions have to be made based on your team. Some characters have special tricks that will let them get away with more things than they should, but I mean more that you might have to deal with unskilled teammates. I find that in normal games and ARAMs I often end up with ADCs that cannot be bothered to kite. If a bruiser dives that person, the bruiser will probably walk away 300 gold richer. While I would normally want to harass the enemy backline, saving my incompetent damage dealer so she can continue to right-click on enemy players is more important.
The main goal in teamfighting is simply this: Keep your damage alive and kill or contain the enemy damage. If the enemy damage lives and yours dies, your team probably loses. Likewise, if you kill the enemy damage but your Varus is the only one left, the enemy team is a triple kill waiting to happen. Even if he can't combo and can't kite, it takes very little for him to right click on enemies and melt faces. Sometimes, protecting him is your only hope.
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