With so many champions and item builds, the range of possibilities when creating a League of Legends team is pretty staggering. This has led to a variety of strategies, centered around a few team concepts, which are then tweaked around for specific champions and play styles. A long overdue request for this series is to take a look at the Poke Comp’s natural predator: the Hard Engage team.
Hard Engage teams are designed to stop the enemy in their tracks, and then steam roll the entire team. Rather than the protracted siege of the Poke and Split Push teams, the Hard Engage favors short, decisive team fights or 1-2 man picks. Or even both: picking off a member of the enemy team, and then relentlessly diving on their retreating allies. This is done through a combination of gap closers, hard crowd control, and physical displacement. Like almost all of the team comp articles before this, elements of the Hard Engage strategy can be woven into a wide variety of team compositions. In fact, most teams, regardless of style, try to have at least one champion with initiation capability, should the need arise. However, the ideal team comp would be a combination of many disparate elements, coming from the entire team one after the other in a fiery hell-storm leaving a trail of corpses to cushion your feet as you stroll toward the nearest available tower to take down.
The ideal champion set for this team will be comprised of highly mobile champions, with either a stun/knockup or massive AoE damage. Sometimes, you can even manage both at once through chained ultimates, an achivement commonly referred to as the “Wombo Combo” or “Curse of the Sad Bullet Time”, depending on which combination is being used – or simply “Press R.” Champions who can create walls, or other disruptive barriers, are also often effective members of this team, if they strategically position their ability to create an engagement opportunity. One advantage to this team comp is, thanks to “CC Creep”, there are an ever widening variety of champions with stuns or other disables, making the comp extremely flexible and deep; your opponent can’t ban out this strategy.
This strategy can be fairly effective in solo queue, where the coordination required for more complicated team comps is probably lacking. Additionally, the opposing team of random strangers will find it difficult to deal with your team’s brute force approach, once they fall a little bit behind. This is far from a guaranteed win, however. If your own team falls behind to the point where you can’t initiate and win confidently, then your path to victory narrows sharply.
The greatest weaknesses of this team comp often come to light in situations with poor team coordination. Common mistakes include one member of your team using their CC on the wrong target, or too far from the team for the rest to follow up. Another is improperly chaining your CC, burning everything at once so that instead of being stunned for 10 seconds, your target only gets stunned for 2-3. If your opponents can survive your initial crowd control and burst damage, either through improper execution of your CC combos, outplays/tricks by your opponent (like with Zhonya’s/Guardian Angel), or simply being tanky enough to live through it, the resulting team fight will probably go poorly for you.
Now let’s look at building this team in champion select:
Malphite: Owner of one of the best initiation ultimates in the game, this classic rock is an excellent choice for your top lane. The ultimate is a long-range dash, with a wide AoE knock-up. Because it usually centers Malphite in the middle of the enemy team, it combos well with champions like Lulu and Orianna. He’s tough, especially vs AD heavy teams, and deceptively fast which can help with chasing down enemies after the initial engagement. Combine with Teleport for maximum effect.
Jax: Getting the initiation is the first step, but you also need the damage to seal the deal. Jax is a damage powerhouse in the top lane with a strong, low cooldown gap-closer and a short, but handy, AoE stun. Jax can jump onto the main target, do strong damage with auto attacks, and then provide a follow-up stun, if necessary. He itemizes well with speed boosts, which combine with his gap closer to give him excellent post-initiation clean-up.
Orianna: Hands down, the best AP choice for a Hard Engage team. Orianna brings incredible utility to a dive-based team, along with serious damage. Her character is based on the Ball, an untargetable “pet” she can zip around the battlefield. She can send the ball to provide a large shield, with a slight armor and magic resist buff, to your initiator. But her ultimate is the real prize, which does strong AoE damage around the Ball and pulls in enemy champions caught within the blast. The original Wombo Combo is assigning the Ball to Malphite, having him ult into the enemy team, and following it up with Orianna’s massive displacement ultimate.
Katarina: Though she doesn’t have any CC of her own, Kat has a lot of synergy with teams that do. She’s the highest AoE damage dealer in the game, with her three-target ultimate being able to 100-0 supports and carries over a short period of time, if they are caught by the full effect. In most cases, however, this is difficult to do, either because the target moves out of range, or because Katarina gets CC’d which interrupts the ult. However, if your team is locking down the enemy team with chained or AoE crowd control, the ideal becomes a lot more realistic. Furthermore, when one of the enemy team dies, Katarina’s basic ability cooldowns are reset, which allows her to clean up many low-health targets quickly.
Varus: The only ADC with an AoE CC ult, Varus is an easy choice for this team comp. Amazing damage, some of it percent health, combined with the possibility of rooting multiple targets in place, makes him very valuable and flexible; he can start the fight, keep the enemy rooted during the fight, or clean up afterwards.
Ashe: If you’re looking for a more global presence or strong single target initiation, go with Ashe. Ashe’s Crystal Arrow can go from one edge of the map to the other, and will stun the first enemy champion it hits. Aiming long range arrows can be tricky, but they are game changing if they land. The ult can also work at point-blank range for team fight initiation, or for mid-fight peeling. Ashe’s auto attacks have a built in slow, which gives her excellent chase potential.
Leona: A gap close which immobilizes the target, a low cool down stun attack, and a low cooldown long range AoE stun ultimate. In a support you say?! Leona’s all that and a pretty thick tank, with a passive that increases team burst damage on her targets. She itemizes fairly well, with tanky support items in the late game and can easily create advantages early in lane. Her major drawback is a complete lack of sustain, so pick your engagements carefully.
Sona: Sona’s ultimate, Crescendo, is the best AoE CC in the support line-up. While Nami has grown in popularity recently, the simplicity and immediate effect of Sona’s ult (especially if combined with an offensive Flash) gives her the slight edge here. Unlike Leona, Sona is a very passive sustain-based laner who combines heals with long-range harass for a relatively stable laning phase. Unlike Leona, Sona is extremely squishy and is best served by retreating to the back line after her CC has been used.
Jarvan IV: The most important thing for Hard Engage junglers is mobility, and no one can match the mobility of Jarvan. With his normal ability combo, he can gap close incredible distances, including over walls, while even knocking up any enemies in range. When followed with his gap closing ultimate, which creates an impassible ring around the target, Jarvan can essentially go the length of a lane in less than three seconds. Combined with an offensive use of Flash, and J4 is the best gap-closer in the game bar none. Speaking of Flash, landing that ultimate on an opponent will almost guarantee they burn it immediately to escape.
Zac: A close runner up in the high jump competition, Zac is a newly-added champion with an extremely long range gap closer which also knocks up the target it lands on. However, it takes some time to charge up and aim properly. If you master it, you can gank from very unexpected directions and perform some tricky Smite steals. In team fights, the gap close can be combined with his ultimate, which knocks the target up yet again, as well as any subsequent champions you pass. Finally, his revive passive makes him a fantastic kamikaze initiator for early turret dives and late game team fights against skittish enemies.
Honorable Mention: Ammumu (it’s OK, don’t cry)
Though it lacks the finesse of a Poke Comp or the map pressure of a Split Push comp, Hard Engage is a time-tested reliable team strategy that is easily accessible to new players. Get out there and start dunking!