What is zoning?
Your zone is the area you are able to control with your champion. Zoning is the act of controlling your enemy's positioning and/or making them afraid of entering your zone. Zoning occurs when you push enemies back from minions by making them fear your zone. This is benificial because they will have a much harder time funding items mid- and late-game due to not being able to last hit minions for gold. Additionally, by pushing enemy champions far back enough, you can even deny them experience from dying minions. Both of these things together can be extremely advantageous throughout the game, as your opponents can be both undergeared and underleveled.
How can I zone?
Successful zoning requires your opponents to be afraid of being inside your zone. There are several ways to do this, some of them include: putting out more damage than them 1-on-1, hiding in the brushes, and making them fear a gank (either from a jungler or fellow laner that can travel quickly). Some tactics are more effective than others and combining them can be very effective. For instance, if your enemy laner knows that you can kill them if you get within range, your zone is limited to the range of your attacks and abilities. But, if you are hiding in the brushes, your zone covers virtually the entire lane, as your enemies don't know what part of the brush you are in.
Certain champions are better at zoning than others, and certain combinations can be very effective. For example, Xin Zhao is an excellent zoner. His Audacious Charge has a moderate range and it slows, preventing enemy escape for a few seconds. His Three Talon Strike makes it even more difficult to escape him with its Knock-Up. All this combined with decent damage output and a fellow laner can quickly take out an enemy. All this makes Xin a very proficient zoner. Coupling him with a Lux can almost assure a kill with proper coordination. However, note that most ranged champions have the advantage in zoning over melee champions.
You can also zone by gradually shifting their movement from one side of a lane to another. This can be useful when setting up a gank. For example, if you are on the Blue Team (bottom left of map) and in bottom lane, your jungler will more than likely be coming from the river during a gank and will typically hide in the brush to wait for the right moment to strike. To increase the chances of successfully ganking a squishy or low health enemy, moving your champion to the right side of the lane can force the enemy to go to the other side, near the river. This makes it much easier for the ganker to get the jump on the enemy.
Crowd control and high damage output are the main components of zoning. For melee champions, a gapcloser can also be very beneficial. Any enemy's sustainability in the lane can be used to counter virtually any harass and allied sustain can be useful to leave the enemy zoned for longer as the enemy will probably have to poke back to regain position in lane. Some potentially strong zoners are listed with explanations:
- Annie: Annie is an amazing zoner in a solo lane, thanks to her passive Pyromania and her farming sustain with Disintegrate. While farming, Annie can control a lane by activating her stun and coupled with her bursting, she prevents enemy champions to come in her range, giving her a good lane dominance.
- Anivia: Anivia has one of the highest autoattack ranges in the game, allowing her to hit her enemies from afar without fear of retaliation.
- Blitzcrank: Blitzcrank is an excellent zoner in a duo lane, especially when paired with a heavy damage-dealer. His zoning relies on Rocket Grab, as frightening as it can be it can be blocked by minions.
- Caitlyn: Caitlyn is a excellent zoner in any lane. Her main zoning technique is laying Yordle Snap Traps, discouraging the enemy from utilizing brush/limiting their movement. If they do step on one, you can repeatedly autoattack for significant damage. If you charge up Headshot the threat of the nuke will push most champions back. Piltover Peacemaker does massive amounts of damage if it hits.
- Cassiopeia: Cassiopeia is a very powerful zoner in any lane. Her Noxious Blast is enormously strong for harassment. Also, if either Noxious Blast or Miasma hit, her zoning capability becomes more powerful due to her spammable Twin Fang.
- Heimerdinger: Heimerdinger's H-28G Evolution Turret are useful for zoning and Hextech Micro-Rockets are useful for poking. The abilities combined can easily force a champion to retreat under their tower.
- Irelia: Irelia's Bladesurge is not only a good ability with which to last hit minions, but it can also be used as a gap closer to reach enemy champions. Using Equilibrium Strike and a few autoattacks afterward can deal a fair amount of damage will little fear of retaliation as Irelia can simply Bladesurge to another minion if the ability isn't on cooldown.
- Jax: Jax is a very effective zoner with his Leap Strike + Empower combo.
- Karthus : Karthus is a great zoner. His zoning capabilty is great when duo laning, but is best in a solo lane, where he can spam his Lay Waste on the opposing champion and deal double damage if the enemy is alone.
- LeBlanc: LeBlanc is an extremely effective zoner in any lane. Her Sigil of Malice combined with another spell can put out incredible damage. The slow/snare from Ethereal Chains can prevent enemies from escaping on top of providing even more damage. When she acquires Distortion and Mimic, her zoning potential increases even more.
- Lux: Lux zones well with fairly high burst damage, and strong CC abilities. The snare from Light Binding is her primary advantage in zoning, as the CC prevents enemies from escaping as she casts Lucent Singularity and procs Illumination with autoattacks.
- Renekton: Renekton's Slice and Dice allows him to cover a fair amount of distance in a short amount of time. Following Slice and Dice with Cull the Meek and Ruthless Predator can deal a significant amount of burst damage early in the game. Although the cooldown on Slice and Dice is fairly long, it is spammable because Renekton is manaless.
- Ryze: Ryze's Overload is on a very short cooldown and can be available practically any time an enemy champion would want to last hit. This can be especially effective against a melee champion.
- Singed: Singed's Fling gives him a great deal of zoning potential. His Mega Adhesive makes it difficult to get away if it is placed well, and his Poison Trail can put out steady damage at its higher levels.
- Taric: Taric's Dazzle has a moderate range and is one of the best stuns in the game, and his heal can keep him and his teammate alive for quite a long time. By himself, his zoning ability isn't so great. But when put with a champion with high early game damage, he can be very good at it.
- Tristana: Her Range over time allow her poke Champs, her Explosive Shot passive makes her a strong pusher while the active can shut down champs like Warwick or Dr. Mundo and thanks to her Rocket Jump and Buster Shot she is a really hard target to gank.
- Urgot: Urgot is one of the best zoners in the game. He shines best in a 1v1 lane, where he can abuse the massive range on his locked-on Acid Hunter following a Noxian Corrosive Charge. The enormous range of this combo essentially guarantees that he will be able to use the entire combo while being relatively safe from retaliation.
- Xin Zhao: As explained above, his damage combined with his CC makes him an excellent laner, as his charge outranges a lot of champion skills and almost all auto-attacks.
- Yorick: Yorick's ability to sustain with Omen of Famine is virtually unparalleled right now and if used in unison with Omen of Pestilence can be ranged harass that is difficult to avoid. He can close the gap with Omen of War but that ability is severely constrained by his other mana costs.
- Akali: Akali is an excellent zone Post lvl 6 as she gains a massive gap-closer with her ult which can be incredibly intimidating to a squishy target and may even scare them out of lane.