What is League of Legends?
League of Legends is one of the most popular games in the nebulous part-RTS-lite, part-RPG-lite genre that goes by many names, but which Riot Games, developer of League, calls Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas, or MOBAs for short.
It exists among a “holy trinity” of popular MOBAs: Riot Games’ League of Legends, Valve’s DOTA 2, and Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm. Difficulty-wise, it’s considered to hold the middle ground between DOTA 2’s complexity and HotS’s accessibility.
What is widely considered the original MOBA was actually a custom map/mod for Warcraft 3 that was called Defense of the Ancients. This is where the RTS-like control scheme and concept of gameplay revolving around the intersection of “heroes”(champions in League) with unique ability sets came from.
How Do I Play League?
Unfortunately, while the best way to learn is to do, League is inflicted with the perfect storm of conditions to cultivate a horrendously caustic community, many members of which create “Smurf” accounts to humiliate and shit-talk new players.
This being the case, you will benefit from having an idea of the basics to cut down on the flaming you will inevitably receive.
I’ll try to keep it to things that aren’t covered or are poorly covered by the in-game tutorials.
Oh yeah, and try to acclimatize yourself to playing with an unlocked camera. This game has RTS heritage and being able to rapidly reposition your camera to take in information is really important.
Most games take place on Summoner’s Rift, and utilize a modified iteration of the rules of the original DOTA map.
You can find a useful interactive map here that will help you to understand the basics, and the in-game tutorials are OK at explaining the basic functions of champion control and map features.
Before every match, you pick one champion that you will play for the entirety of the match. Your “job” in a given match is usually tied to the intersection of your champion’s role and position.
Roles usually describe the way your champion’s base stats and abilities help them to perform various tasks. Roles can be a bit nebulous sometimes, but tend to follow general patterns.
While Riot recently revamped and complicated roles, there are still a few basic archetypes in common parlance that are easy to understand.
– Melee Roles
These champions are usually naturally bulky and can take a beating. They often have abilities that can disrupt and endanger enemies, forcing the enemy team to focus them or suffer various consequences.
Tanks are sometimes, but not always, the team’s primary initiator, who should decide when teamfights start.
Juggernauts are a sort of medium between tanks and bruisers. They often build a lot of tanky stats, but also deal massive damage. Their defining trait is that while they can do work, it is very difficult to deploy them as they have mediocre to poor mobility. Their initiation tools tend to be very lacking compared to tanks and bruisers.
Like Juggernauts, bruisers have a blend of bulkiness and damage, but may have stronger options to lean more into building damage items.
While not always the case, bruisers often have stronger mobility options than their Juggernaut counterparts, which is part of what separates them.
Fighters tend to lean more on the offensive side of the melee scale. Squishier than other melee characters, they often rely on sustain, such as Life Steal, to survive in fights.
Usually, but not always, fighters rely on their autoattacks, and in this case their abilities often make it easier for them to close distance or enhance their attacks in some way.
Fighters tend to have a fair amount of bleedover with the Assassin role, but usually differentiate themselves by dealing sustained damage instead of burst damage.
– Hybrid Roles
Assassins are usually typified by the conceit that, using their damage and mobility tools in the right conditions, they can instantly kill a squishy member of the enemy team and give their team a numbers advantage in a teamfight.
While mages also deal similarly threatening burst damage (and there is some overlap with champions like LeBlanc and Ahri), assassins usually have strong mobility options on top of that high-threat burst and are consequently better at flanking.
Supports, generally speaking, are the force multiplier of a team. They exert high influence with the least resources available, forfeiting all minion gold in their lane to the laner they support in a duo lane.
Aside from this generality, supports are highly diverse in their function. Some supports provide healing or damage mitigation, some poke their lane opponents with high base damage, and some initiate favorable fights, among other possible tasks.
Often, the early game in the duo lane is determined by how skilled the supports are and how well they can leverage their pick against the opposing laners.
– Ranged Roles
Mages are the most potent source of magic burst damage. Their abilities tend to be devastating, especially against enemies with low magic resist.
Mages tend to lean into either high-range poke, massive burst, or lie somewhere in the intersection of both. While there are exceptions, mages tend to be brickwalled by tanks, have low mobility options, and are extremely vulnerable to assassins and initiators, so they usually need team protection in the later stages of the game.
Also known as the “ADC”, for “Attack Damage Carry”.
Usually the primary source of sustained, ranged physical damage on a team. Almost every team composition comprises of at least one, although as of right now this assumption is being challenged as the role is considered weaker than ever due to the game conditions surrounding them.
Marksmen are fairly weak early, but deal massive damage late, and are the best role overall at taking objectives. They are the role most likely to pick up Critical Hit items as they scale the most of any role with them thanks to the range and speed at which they can apply crits.
Marksmen often lane with a support in bot lane, but some are capable of taking a solo lane.
There are four basic positions in the game, given the current state of the metagame. These positions can be altered freely, but be sure to communicate your desire to do so ahead of time so your team can prepare and coordinate.
Top Lane is generally used as a solo lane. While it is about the same length as bot lane, the way it is laid out and the fact that it is taken solo makes it feel significantly longer.
Top is often considered the “island” of the game, so champions taken there tend to be self-sufficient to some degree. Top is usually the best lane for drafting a melee champion, but some ranged champions show up there as well simply because they can make laning phase hell for those melee champions.
Top laners are the most likely to “splitpush”, which is pushing into structures solo and exerting pressure, forcing enemy champions to address them and preventing 5v5 fights their team might lose.
Mid lane exists right in the center of the map. From midlane, you have the ability to roam easily to either of the two other lanes, but the tradeoff is that there are many paths from which the enemy jungler can gank you.
Mid Lane is where mages and assassins tend to most often be drafted, as they benefit from the shorter lane, solo experience, and ability to roam and influence the map.
In the current metagame, Bot Lane is the only duo lane, comprising of two players. There is always a support, but as of this post there is a meta shift where you can optionally take a few specific mages instead of the usual marksman.
The reason that Bot is the only duo lane is because they reside next to the Dragon objective, so the team has the most people to swing by if the enemy is taking it and it needs to be contested.
Instead of taking minions, the Jungler relies on slaying neutral monsters in their jungle for gold. Because of this and the fact they need to build their unique jungle items to efficiently farm the jungle, they tend to be at a deficit of gold compared to their laners unless they are far ahead.
The jungler is by far the most likely to gank a lane, so vision control is extremely important for preventing them from killing you.
The Jungler requires an intimate understanding of game flow and strategy to be most effective. Being in the right place at the right time is what defines a good Jungler.
Note that until at least Summoner Level 20, you probably don’t want to take a Jungler, as they usually need the strongest tier of runes to survive the jungle. It’s best to ask to run a duo toplane until you get these runes.
Important Terms and Mechanics
Runes - These are items you manage by slotting them into pages before queueing for matches. They give flat stat bonuses that can give you a small but noticeable edge in customizing your playstyle in a match. Additional slots are unlocked as your summoner level increases.
You have to buy both runes and additional pages with IP, and the high-tier runes and pages can be pretty costly.
Masteries - You get points to put into these trees as your summoner level increases. These provide a combination of minor stat bonuses and tangible gameplay effects.
If you follow one of the trees to the end, you can pick up a Keystone mastery. These are extremely important and can have a major impact on your role in a game.
Burst Damage - Damage that occurs rapidly at once. Usually, if a champion has high burst damage, it is balanced by having to wait on their cooldowns before being able to repeat it. On average, assassins and mages tend to have the highest burst damage in the game. Tanks are usually very good at weathering burst damage.
Sustained Damage - Damage that occurs over time, whether from a damage-over-time ability or a series of autoattacks. On average, marksmen tend to have the highest sustained damage in the game. Sustained damage is the primary method of shredding tanks but the attacker needs to stay alive in order for it to be effective.
Push - The act of killing enemy minions quickly, allowing your wave to “push” further into the lane.
Freeze - When a minion wave is manipulated so that the line of engagement is in space the beneficiary controls, allowing them to farm safely while denying their opponent farm.
Zoning - Establishing an area of threat, usually based on autoattack or ability range/AoE, that scares the opponent away from that area.
Objectives - This is a sort of catch-all term that encompasses both enemy structures and the neutral objectives in the game. Those neutral objectives include the Dragon, the Rift Herald, and Baron Nashor.
Destroying turrets opens up more of the map for your team, as it removes the vision that turret provided and allows you to push minion waves further in.
Crowd Control (CC) - Status effects that help you to prevent enemy champions from being effective without having to kill them, or keep them from escaping you while you kill them. “Soft” CC still allows enemies to move, while “Hard” CC eliminates their ability to move at all.
CC does not “stack”, meaning that if, say, you have two roots on your team each lasting 2 seconds, you should wait until the first root is almost over before applying the second, or you won’t get the combined 4 seconds of both these roots.
Last-Hits/Creep Score(CS) - You can only obtain the full gold value from a minion if you land the killing blow. Get as many of them as you can; in bulk, CS is far more valuable than kills are.
Ganking - The act of surprise attacking the enemy by moving in from the jungle or another lane and killing them. Even fed, menacing threats can be taken down by a numbers advantage.
Vision Control - Make sure to get a trinket before you leave base, they’re free and extremely useful.
If you have a yellow trinket, the Warding Totem, you can place vision wards that are hidden from the enemy team after a brief delay and give you persistent vision in a radius around them. This is very powerful as among other functions it can give you advance warning of incoming ganks, tell you which side of the map the enemy jungler is allowing the opposite side to be more aggressive as there is no threat of a jungle gank, etc.
You can upgrade this to the blue trinket if you want, the Farsight Ward, which is a tradeoff as it has very long placement range but can be destroyed far more easily as it has 1 health and can be seen by the enemy team if they have vision of it.
You can also pick up the red trinket, a Sweeping Lens, which will help you to uncover and disable hidden objects like enemy vision wards and champion-specific traps. It will also outline any stealthed characters. Unlike the blue trinket, the oracle alteration is pretty much a straight upgrade that follows you around for a long duration, very helpful for cleaning a wide area.
In addition to all this, you can buy Control Wards, which you can place to reveal and disable wards and traps within its area of effect.
Kiting/Orbwalking - The act of cancelling your autoattack to move faster. Your autos have a set number of frames, and the follow-through after you’ve attacked doesn’t benefit you at all. As soon as your auto fires, click where you want to move and click the enemy again. You will have an easier time chasing, or be able to reciprocate damage while running away if you’re the one being chased.
Denying - Unlike in DOTA and DOTA 2, you cannot directly autoattack your own dying minions to keep your enemy from farming them. However, if you can either zone your enemy away and let their minions kill yours, or push your wave into the tower and get your minions killed, you can deny your opponent that farm.
Wave Management - The way minion waves position is a bit complicated, but it all stems from something called the Even Minion Rule.
This states that, assuming interference is limited to last-hitting on both sides, when two minion waves are equivalent, the position of the wave will eventually push towards the opposite side of the river (the “center” of the map) from where they meet.
It takes game knowledge, but eventually you can take advantage of this rule and its more complicated corollaries to freeze and hard-push effectively at the right times, starving your enemy laner of farm and snowballing your small advantages into massive ones.
Splitpushing - The act of pushing one of the side-lanes solo, with the goal of exerting pressure and control and drawing multiple enemies to you, wasting their time and putting them out of position to contest the rest of your team from taking objectives.
Usually, only champions that have explicit strengths in splitpushing can do it effectively. These include, but are not limited to, Singed, Tryndamere, Jax, and Shaco.
Some splitpushers, like Singed, can contribute very well to teamfights, and will often take Teleport so they can immediately drop splitting to force advantageous fights.
Dying - It’s always worth
Should I Start Playing League?
I’ll be honest - League is a very hard sell. It’s complicated and at times unintuitive, the player base is notoriously bad, balance changes tend to be sweeping and hard to keep up with, and you’re stuck in matches for anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. And the new player experience? Full of smurfs, and even without them you’re bound to end up facing enemy players who have sheer statistical advantages on you from runes and masteries. It can be very frustrating and alienating when you don’t yet have a solid grasp of it.
That said, it’s a popular free game, it can be fun and chill if you play with people you like, and there’s a lot of room to show off your mastery with your favorite champions if you put in the time to learn their quirks. With a cast of 123 and counting, you’re bound to find one that clicks.
League of Legends Wiki - Contains useful information on game concepts and the stats and abilities of all champions.
champion.gg - Statistics for champion and build performance
op.gg - Similar, but focused on player stats
LOLKING - Yet more stats, and also useful guides for champions
Play with LP’zoners
[If someone wants to set up a club in a region, I’ll put it here. If you want to start a club in NA feel free, I can do it myself too if there’s demand.]