General Guide by Mowen
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Table of Contents
Strategy and Terminology
Warding / Vision
Picking / Banning
Welcome to League of Legends! If you've just picked up this game (especially if this is your first MOBA) then you probably have a lot of questions and are a bit confused. Don't worry, you are not the only one. League of Legends has a high learning curve just like most MOBA games, there's just so much to learn. This guide should cover all the basics as well as more in depth mechanic and strategy explanations.
First of all, how do you win the game? In the most popular map, Summoner's Rift, the enemy Nexus must be destroyed in order to win.
However, before you can damage the enemy Nexus you need to destroy the enemy's Nexus turrets, an inhibitor, as well as the three turrets leading up to that inhibitor.
Turrets are structures that attack enemy units. They have a lot of health, deal significant damage, and have an attack range of 800. When they are destroyed they grant everyone on your team 150 gold as well as experience. There are 3 turrets in every lane, an outer turret, inner turret, and inhibitor turret. There are also 2 turrets guarding the nexus. The 3 lane turrets must be destroyed in the order of outer, inner, inhibitor in order to destroy the inhibitor for that lane.
Inhibitors are located within the base. There are 3 inhibitors on Summoner's Rift, each specific to 1 of the 3 lanes. They do not attack but still have 4000 HP (no resistances). They also have native health regeneration so if you do not finish off an inhibitor it may be back at full health by the time you come back.
When an inhibitor is destroyed it will cause your Nexus to spawn Super Minion s in the lane the inhibitor was destroyed in, applying immense lane pressure. In addition, minions spawned while the inhibitor is destroyed receive bonus HP and Attack Damage. Inhibitors respawn 5 minutes after they were destroyed.
The Nexus is the structure you must destroy in order to win the game in Summoner's Rfit. It is deep within the base and the source of each team's minions. The Nexus has 5500 HP as well as native health regeneration.
In order to damage the Nexus both Nexus Turrets must be destroyed as well as any of that team's inhibitors. Remember that since inhibitors respawn it is possible for one to respawn while you're damaging the Nexus or Nexus Turrets and those structures will regain their invulnerability.
Other than enemy structures there are also Map Objectives that both teams can access and dispute. These are powerful neutral monsters that grant you and your team buffs, gold, and experience. They vary in their importance and what they grant. Again, these are specific to the Summoner's Rift map.
Note that no neutral monsters are "hostile." They will not attack you simply by getting in range. All neutral monsters will only attack champions that attack them and will chase them until they "unleash" and reset. When a monster unleashes it will run back to it's spawn point, quickly regenerate health and not attack until attacked again. Hitting a monster after they unleash will cause them to leash back to you and try to attack you again, stopping their health regeneration.
Neutral Monsters will attack the closest champion that has attacked it, so you can change Neutral Monster's target by having the champion it's currently attacking move farther away, have another champion move closer, or both.
Ancient Golem (aka "Blue Buff")
Spawn Time - 1:55
Respawn Time - 5:00
Ancient Golem is a neutral monster that spawns in both team's jungles. Grants a buff to the killer.
Lizard Elder - (aka "Red Buff")
Spawn Time - 1:55
Respawn Time - 5:00
Lizard Elder is also a neutral monster that spawns in both team's jungles. Grants a Buff to the killer.
Dragon - (aka "Drag")
Spawn Time - 2:30
Respawn Time - 6:00
Dragon is a neutral monster that spawns in the river on the lower side of the map, close to Bottom Lane. Grants team-wide gold.
Baron Nashor - (aka "Baron")
Spawn Time - 15:00
Respawn Time - 7:00
Baron Nashor is an extremely powerful neutral monster that spawns in the upper portion of the river near top lane. Baron grants a powerful buff to the killer's entire team.
Minions (aka "Creeps") are units spawned by a team's nexus (at 1:30) and allied with that team. They walk down one of the 3 lanes towards the enemy base. Minions are hostile and will attack enemy minions or champions on sight. They will prioritize attacking enemy minions unless a nearby enemy champion attacks an allied champion.
The Nexus spawns a group of minions every 30 seconds (often referred to as a "wave"). In these waves there's always 3 Melee Minions in the front, 3 Caster Minions in the back, and a Siege Minion also spawns once every 3 waves. Siege minions are worth the most gold and have the most health, then Melee, then Caster Minions.
Minions will typically be your main source of gold, so getting a high number of killing blows on minions ("Creep Score") will allow you to buy more items; making your champion stronger and helping you win. Remember that getting a high Creep Score ("CS") is very important. You will average about 18.5 gold per creep kill (at level 1), so getting 16 creep kills will give you roughly 300 gold -- the same amount of gold you would get for killing an enemy champion.
Of course, another way to gain gold and experience is by killing enemy champions. The champion that deals the killing blow or was the last champion to deal damage within 10 seconds of that champion's death will receive 300 gold as well as experience.
You can also receive gold just by helping kill an enemy champion within 10 seconds of its death, this is called an "assist." You can get an assist by damaging the enemy champion, using an ability on the enemy champion or using an effect on an allied champion that assisted or killed the enemy champion. Assists grant 50% of the gold that was rewarded by the kill as well as experience. If there are multiple assisters this gold is split between them.
If a champion dies and was not damaged by an enemy champion within 10 seconds it is counted as an "Execution" and does not reward any gold, although nearby champions will still gain experience. If you know you're doomed it's preferable to attempt to be executed by running into enemy towers etc than dying to an enemy.
Getting successive kills without dying will increase the amount of gold you're worth (your "bounty"). Similarly, getting successive deaths without getting a kill will decrease your bounty. This is in order to counteract the snowballing effect common in MOBA's. Remember to keep killing sprees and dying sprees in mind when deciding whether or not to go for a kill since it may not be worth it. If you can kill someone on a killing spree but die yourself, it is still worth if it you're not on a spree. However, in the opposite situation, if you can kill someone on a dying spree but you are on a killing spree that would be a bad trade.
So! Now that you know all of the objectives that can help you win the game will we get to the unit you control, a champion.
First of all, how do you obtain champions to play? Every week there are 10 champions that are free to play. When the week is over that set of champions will rotate out and a new one will rotate in. In order to always have a champion available to play you need to purchase it from the LoL store with either Influence Points ("IP") or Riot Points ("RP"). IP is gained from playing games and RP is bought from the store with money.
Every champion has 5 abilities. Champions always have 1 passive ability (or "innate") that does not need to be unlocked or ranked up and is with them from level 1. Passive abilities typically don't require any action on the part of the player to activate them. Then they have 4 other abilities that need to be unlocked and ranked up. These are typically 3 basic abilities that can be skilled at any time and have 5 ranks, and another ultimate ability that can only be skilled at level 6 and has 3 ranks. In order to use them you must use their keybinding or click on them. The keybindings are QWER (from left to right) by default.
You get one ability point at the start of the game that you can spend to unlock a basic ability. Every time you level up you get another ability point that can be spent to unlock or rank up your abilities. Basic abilities cannot be ranked higher than half the level of the champion (rounded up), and ultimate abilities can only be ranked up once at level 11 and 16. Because of this you typically focus on ranking up one ability every other level ("max"). The one you choose to max first depends on what gains the ability gets from ranking up and the importance of the skill.
"Crowd Control" ("CC") is the term used for spells and abilities that affect the actions or movements of another champion. It is essential to understand how each CC type functions in order to respond correctly to being CC'd, so please read the below spoilers if you have time.
In Summoner's Rift your champion starts the game at level 1. Your champion gains experience by killing minions, neutral monsters, champions, or simply being nearby when these things die. When your champion gains enough experience they will reach the next level and gain more stats and a new ability / ability rank. The max level in League of Legends is 18. Being a higher level than your opponent gives you an advantage in stats and ability rank, while being a lower level gives you a disadvantage (referred to as "underleveled"). Take this into account when deciding whether or not to fight!
Your Creep Score (often referred to as "CS") is a counter of how many minions and neutral monsters you have landed the killing blow on, and therefore the gold from that minion or monster. CS is very important for some roles and not important for others.
You can check your CS by looking at the number in the top right beside the purple minion icon. It is good to keep track of your CS and keep trying to improve on your last hitting, because the more gold you have the stronger you will be. Check the timer at the 10 and 20 minute mark and see how much CS you have every game, and try to keep getting better and better! You can gauge how well your team is doing in money versus the enemy team by using tab to check other's CS and kills.
This image is the map with an overlay of where the "lanes" are considered. In a typical game there is a formula that is usually followed for who goes to what lane. I will briefly talk about that here and explain it in more detail in the roles section.
Top Lane - You send 1 champion top, the person in the "top" role.
Mid Lane - You send 1 person here, the person in the "mid" role.
Bottom Lane - You send 2 people here, the people in the "marksman" and "support" role. Since this lane is close to dragon you want to have the 2 person lane here to provide more pressure.
Jungle - The jungle area is where 1 person, the jungler, goes. This area is not a "lane" but I put it here so you can understand where the jungle is considered. The jungle is notable because it has neutral monsters for the jungler to kill to gain gold and experience. There are "sides" in the jungle, the half of the jungle that is closest to your team's base is considered your team's jungle. Going into the other teams jungle or into the river can be dangerous, and is considered "invading" or "counterjungling."
There are many roles, or playstyle / objective groupings, in League of Legends. Many people will debate over what is considered a role, which champions fit in that role, etc. For simplicity's sake I'm going to explain what are considered the 5 overarching roles, and their corresponding lane assignments. In 99% of games this is what the roles / lanes will be like, 1 role for each team player.
Try to increase your team's chances of winning by communicating in champion select what role you want to play, and clarifying what role other's are playing.
So, you know that every team has a Top, Mid, Marksman, Support, and Jungler. However, there's much more to team composition than that! The best team would have a combination of 5 players that enhance each other's strengths or fill in each other's weaknesses. For example, if you had a team with an AP Nidalee mid and Jayce top, they could do a ton of damage from a safe distance ("poke"). However, they are weaker if the enemy team engages them in a brawl. So, you could have a Janna support who can disengage the enemy if they ever try to start a fight. There are many different combinations and strategies, so just try some out! The main point is to think about what other champions are on your team when picking your's.