Target Selection: The Hows and Why's



Target Selection: The Hows and Why's

 You would think picking the proper target in a team-fight would be easy.  The AD carry must always die first right?  Or is it the AP carry?  Surely not the support?  The problem is that picking the right person to kill first is not that easy.  There is a general order, but you pick who dies based on the team compositions and how the game is going.  Then there is positioning and item builds.  It is no wonder people often go after the wrong target at the wrong time.  Hopefully after this article it will be clear that diving the enemy carries is not always the best strategy. 


The General Idea on Who to Target

In a very general sense, the target order is:

1. AD Carry

2. AP Carry

3. Everyone Else

The basic idea is to kill the sources of damage before they do their work.  With their damage dead, yours can then clean up the fight, even if you died.  It is a very simplistic idea on who to target but it is a good place to start the theory. 

The next part of the theory is Team Composition, Gold Value and Positioning.  Each one comes into place to help pick what you should do in a team-fight. 

Team Composition

For the sake of discussion, assume the only difference between teams is their composition.  If I have a team of Singed, Udyr, Orianna, Sona and Vayne and I am playing against Jax, Diana, Jarvan, Ashe and Janna, what is the focus?

My front line is very tanky but has no gap closers.  For them, does it make sense to dive the enemy Ashe?  Not in the least.  Ashe would kite both of them to eternity and Janna is a huge pain in the rear.  However, the front line has plenty of peel to try to stop Jax, Diana and Jarvan from diving in.  Vayne significantly out damages Ashe, so Vayne's value is much higher to my team.  So my focus targets are not the usual carries, but those going after my carries.  Orianna and Sona should do the same to protect Vayne as best they can. 

Vayne's target priority is going to be based a lot on what happens.  Vayne will want to target the nearest person she safely can while trying to stay alive.  Jax is a big one to target.  If she can attack him safely.  Jax has high sustained damage himself and can easily make up for Ashe's lack of steroids if Jax is left unchecked.   

The enemy team has an easy choice, Vayne.  Even if Ashe is left out to die, the damage on the rest of their team is more than enough to finish the remainder.   


Gold Value

Now take the above consideration, but throw in how each team member has a varying value based on how much gold they have accumulated.  This can really throw a monkey wrench into the plan and makes it very important you understand the value of each teammate to the team overall, then their value compared to the enemy. 

Using the above example, diving Ashe is a bad idea.  But what if Ashe was 7/1 and Vayne was 0/4?  While Vayne out damages Ashe by a wide margin in DPS meters based on kits, if Ashe is a full item ahead of her, then Ashe is going to hurt more in most cases.  Now what if the rest of Ashe's team was behind and Ori/Singed/Udyr were ahead?  Diving Ashe is still difficult, but it needs to be done as Ashe is worth much more to the enemy team than Vayne is to yours.  Should you trade AD carries, you are likely to pull ahead in the 4v4. 

Now what if Udyr, Singed and Orianna are equal but Vayne is behind?  Now this is going to be tough.  Ashe still needs to die, but your chances of winning the 4v4 drop dramatically without any gold lead.  In this case, your better off forcing the game to go longer to let Vayne catch up.  Ward up and defend until the relative value of Vayne is greater than the value of Ashe.  It is not easy to do, but your playing from behind and your team composition requires Vayne to kill the enemy.  Not fighting in fair fights is your best option.  

In some ways, especially in solo que, gold value matters more than team composition.  Gold value in each game per individual will swing wildly compared to organized play and that will dictate your actions.  Team composition is important to keep in mind but in a lot of my games it is not the determining factor.  Gold value and positioning are.  



Straight forward and simple to understand but complex to master.  Even if someone is not your theory target but they offer themselves up, you take it.  

The target in the above situations is technically Ashe, but I will gladly target any other member of the team if they make a poor positioning error.  If they die fast enough, it essentially becomes a 4v5 and dramatically increases my chances of winning a brawl.    

 Winning on positioning requires quick reflexes and vision.  Quick reflexes is the ability to identify the positioning mistake and the ability to capitalize on it quickly.  Wait too long and it is no longer a mistake they are making, but one you are.  Vision is straight forward and is there to let you see the mistake.  Such as overextending or walking around alone.  Wards are legal hacks.


Theory League

Unfortunately there are no hard and fast rules on who to target.  Sure Kog'Maw is a horrifying little void creature, but if he is 4 kills down and has pitiful CS, do I really care to devote my resources to killing him?  Vi diving my carry?  Who cares when their carry is worth so much more!  Karthus is in the middle of my team?  He better die before I go after Graves.   This kind of thinking can go on forever but it illustrates one thing.  



Sometimes going after that Shen is actually the correct choice.  I cannot tell you the number of times I have wanted to beat my teammates for going after the AD carry and not the tank that is actually being the problem....

RoGr's what else needs to be said about Target Selection?  Tell me in the comments!


About the Author, Emeraldw:

  • Loves psychology and philosophy.  Then tries to apply it to even simple things like League of Legends. 
  • Cookies and Ice Cream have been known to buy Emeraldw's loyalty and affection.
  • Basics are the most important thing in learning anything
  • For more by Emeraldw, click on my name and go to the "Articles" Tab under my profile. 

If you have any comments or ideas for future articles, please send me a message and I will be happy to communicate with you! 




  • #20 stuffedcheesybread

    Thank goodness...Can't tell you how many times I have played adc and a tank like shen makes it through the frontline to focus me, online to hear my time bitch "OMG STOP FOCUSING SHEN". Im just like "ok, then keep him off me" Hate it when teammates expect you as the ad carry to dive the enemy team's backline, even while they themselves won't peel for you

  • #19 guidooo4

    Your priority target as adc is the target closest to you, but far enough /cc'ed enough to be unable to deal more damage to you, then you can lifesteal back. ;)


  • #17 rathyAro

    I find this question very easy to answer. You just compare damage to ease of killing. So I would probably always go for Diana before the ADC, because she's jumping into our team anyway, having to get past her while she's blowing up my team, just to get to their carry who I may not even be able to kill isn't worth while. Taking out DIana is both easy and valuable (even with her shield and zhonya's).

    Of course if its really easy to get to the enemy carry then go for it since they will do the most damage. And since sometimes people forget, above all melee carries are primary targets because they both are the easiest to get to and do the most damage.

  • #16 kaiserwroth

    Are there illegal hacks in league of legends?

  • #18 underthemoon


  • #15 AcheronEHJ

    This largely ignores the importance of enemy assassins, who will negate your AD/AP carries if left unchecked. 

    As an ADC, I want that assassin down, and down NOW so that I can be relevant for the rest of the fight.  Failure to do this means your AD will be out of the fight, while theirs is not.


  • #13 Bloodwrath2

    Great article target priority is very important. Sometimes it's the ADC or you want to gib the AP to stop the burst, hell sometimes if you can gib the Soraka to stop her counter initiate it's worth it.

    I remember in my last ranked game we all won our lanes so I naturally have our team group up and push objectives. Yet we weren't dominating them in fights. At first I thought it was due to having an AP Nidalee though fed kinda meh in teamfights. Then I later looked at the score sheet and saw their Twitch was like 3/8 while our ADC was 9/7. Turns out I'm diving an ADC instinctively when he's not even worth aiming really. Had I been protecting our ADC he'd have less deaths and our fights would be more decisive. 

    Oh and you should have used Master Yi as an example, aim that sucker first so he doesn't own your carries then proceed to own theirs. 

  • #12 ratchethoes

    I agree with this for the most part, i have lost way too many games where our front line goes buck wild on the enemy adc leaving our carry to fend off 2 or 3 people. If your team can come to a conclusion as to who can become the assasinators/disruptors and who will peel for your carry it allows for great team cohesion. Your carry lives longer and the enemies team has either been killed or pushed out of the fight

  • #9 ohgreatone32

    I think this could be a weekly 'column' if you put in videos and described the situation and how/why things went down the way they did.

  • #8 Valkorie

    i created an account JUST so i can post a comment on this. " Wards are legal hacks." that is the single best statement ever made about this game. 

  • #7 Gprinziv

    Uhh, if you're the AD carry your targeting priority is NOT the enemy ADC, it's whoever you can hit without fucking up your positioning so badly that you get bombed on by the enemy team. This often means that unless you have a specific skillset that can get you in and out, you're gonna wanna be focusing the tanks while your bruiser does the work.

  • #4 TheSeeing

    There's a small mistake in the beginning of the second paragraph of "team composition":

    "For them, does it make since to dive the enemyAshe?"
    => It should be "does it make SENSE "

    I loved the article though and agree with you 100%.
    Keep up the good work! :D

    Last edited by TheSeeing: 8/12/2013 6:15:12 PM
  • #10 Emeraldw

    I have made my fair share of mistakes but that is a new one. 

  • #3 MikaDoooo

    This is good stuff. Could you do more scenarios in following articles?

  • #6 Emeraldw

    I could dedicate an article to different Scenarios.  The question is usually "what is the scenario teaching?"  Much like a good fable, it should be used to illustrate a point.  What that point is I would have to decide on.  What is the thing you would most want to learn? 

  • #11 MikaDoooo

    Coupled with videos, scenario describings could learn one things about poking, kiting, targetting(like this one), when to (dis)engage. Those things, imho, come with experience. Though when you explain different scenarios about the same subject into detail, one could really learn from it.

    Last edited by MikaDoooo: 8/12/2013 9:02:17 PM
  • #14 skippersd

    I believe the same article with video examples would be great (not necessarily Vayne-Ashe etc teams, but the basic idea of don't focus a 0/7 adc, when their apc is on a rampage. Especially if said 0/7 adc is an Ezreal)

  • #2 EZblacktears

    I agree that identifying how your team has chances to win is most important (Peel or Dive, who to focus, etc.) but the way your team engages or disengages matters too.

    Catching people, even if you don't kill them, makes them usually trying to flee, and you ain't win a teamfight while you are running away - especially if you rely on some on-point mechanics to succeed. (Let's say an fed Ori and her Ult - or "wombo combos" in general)

    That doesn't mean you have to group up closely and run mindlessly afterwards.

    You are against a Fiddle? You might wanna try to have as much vision as possible and also to engage on him when you have the opening.

    You want your AD to shoot freely, thus dealing the most amount of damage possible, engaging on tanks when the other team isn't ready can be a good idea. (Let's say you ulted with TF, and someone of their team was completly out of position)


    You want to identify what sources the enemy has to win the fight and how you can avoid losing to that. Especially facing an Ashe, one of the biggest threats is dealing with her Ult and the engage afterwards, and that also might destroy the synergy in your teams kit (Let's say you have Zac/Ori and need to start a fight to be most effective - the focus on Zac while you dish out a shitton of aoe damage and also disrupting the enemies attempts to really hurt your Ad.


    You want all your team to do their damage at the same time while the other team isn't able to retaliate. If you can delete someone before they do their job it doesn't matter if you are equal in gold or 10k gold behind.

  • #5 Emeraldw

    The theory level of the game can get crazy if you really want to go there :)

  • #1 IronTempest

    Good article. Keep up the good work


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