In auto chess games, positioning is often the slight edge that sets two teams of similar strength apart. Your unit placement decides who is first attacked, whether your units focus fire on a specific unit, as well as how and when abilities are cast. Basically, good positioning is the limit to which you can control how a fight goes.
Some of the advice here also applies to Drodo’s Auto Chess. However, few, if any, of these tips will also be true in what concerns Teamfight Tactics, mainly due to the latter’s smaller, hexagonal board.
Control Zones and Mana
One of the fundamental aspects that determine the outcome of a fight in Dota Underlords is the zone of control. For example, if you have only one unit on your board, then its zone of control is the entire other half. What this means is that heroes placed anywhere on the opposing side will certainly attack it.
When you add another unit next to it, the initial zone of control is split in two. If they’re down the middle, chances are that whoever is straight ahead and/or on their side will go for them. In our example, units on the blue side will go for Razor, while units on the Green side will go for Axe. This is almost always the case if you’re facing a line-up that is similarly placed.
An important thing to remember here is that the pattern of attack becomes more random the more distance there is between you and your opponent. In the image above, there is no telling which unit will be attacked by whoever is in the red zone.
As you can see, the more units you add, the more complicated it gets. Because the control zones on our sides are larger, the two Morphlings are the most exposed units in this particular set-up. When no major CC is available, this is an ideal circumstance, as it will mean a rapid increase of mana for each Morphling.
The hero’s ability, Waveform, is to become invulnerable and pass through all of the units in front of him. This also resets aggro, so chances are that whoever was attacking him initially has now switched targets. It does a lot of magic damage, so we want it to cast as soon as possible and to hit as many units as it can, hence the aggressive positioning.
In this last example, we have our Crystal Maiden all the way in the back, flanked by Queen of Pain and Puck, who will protect her (at least for a while) from jumping Assassins, as well as from any other units that jump behind our frontline. The reason why we want to do this is because the more she is alive, the more mana she gives to everyone else. As you might have guessed, Mana is paramount in a mage setup.
Above, we had an example of ability positioning in the case of Morphling. Razor was also placed with a mind to maximize his damage potential, since his circular AoE inflicts more DPS to those who are further away. However, there are more instances where ability positioning is key. Take, for instance, Necrophos. His Death Pulse heals allies placed all around him, while dealing damage to enemies.
As such, you’ll want to make sure he’s flanked by tankier heroes that can keep him alive for longer and greatly benefit from his cast. Drow Ranger’s passive also requires her to be placed in the middle of your line-up as much as possible, since she will increase the attack speed of anyone within 1 square distance. Another example is the Knights synergy. Whenever you have more than 1 Knight, it’s best that you keep them all together – the standard is to have them in a cube-like arrangement, three lines down, three lines across – to increase their odds of getting the most out of their racial.
Alternatively, Puck, Keeper of the Light, and Windranger should be placed in a corner due to their ultra-linear cast. KotL has the largest AoE, followed by Puck, and then by Windranger. The Elusive Hunter is not considered that strong mostly because she ends up hitting relatively few units with her Powershot, unlike KotL who has the potential to hit everyone in front of him.
Assassins are a thing of their own in Underlords. If there is no enemy within attack range, they leap to the furthest enemy at the start of the fight, much like with a Blink Dagger effect, but without the added mana. Typically, you place all of your Assassins aligned on the backline, as this increases their likelihood of jumping to the back of the opposing team where the squishy units are, rather than attacking the tankier ones up front.
In this example, the enemy Bounty Hunter jumped over our Tiny and Tusk straight to our Razor. However, we specifically placed our Razor there, since he was also one of the tankiest in terms of armor and health. As you might have intuited, there is a situation where the exact position of your Assassins matters, namely when there is one (or more) very strong units placed on the far corner a particular opponent’s board. In that instance, just hop onto their board and simply position your most effective units directly opposite from the backline hero you first want to die.
A Puck with a Blink Dagger works in the same manner. From his initial position, our Puck jumped straight to the enemy Shadow Shaman, as he was the furthest unit away. Our awesome position also ensured that his Illusory Orb went through all of the enemy squad. When faced against Assassins, try to corner-lock your squad and surround your most squishy/valuable heroes with the ones that can actually take a beating.
How to Counter-Position
Lastly, all of this information enables you to counter-position your units in order to mess up the game plan of your opponents. Stacked, corner-locked line-ups can be dealt with if you split your units into two – one group on one side of the board, the other group on the opposite. For Assassins, all you need to do is place a couple of tanky heroes way behind your line-up to ensure they’re the ones that get jumped first.
So far, these are the basic rules of Underlords positioning. As you play and witness more engagements, you’ll get to know more of how abilities, mana gain, and aggro work in this version of auto chess. Just remember that, sometimes, targets for both auto-attacks and abilities are chosen at random. For a head start in each and every one of your games, make sure to check out our guide to the best early-game heroes and synergies.