General Guide by VonMuggettramp
Not Updated For Current Season
This guide has not yet been updated for the current season. Please keep this in mind while reading. You can see the most recently updated guides on the browse guides page.
The Only Chapter of this Guide
Since hitting level 30 (which admittedly was not that long ago) I've noticed a spike in the number of people using "cookie cutter" builds. "Cookie cutter" is a WoW term which means that people find the 'best build' they can and follow it to the letter. In some videogames (like WoW) this is very effective, because the encounters are the same for everyone and optimizing builds is incredibly easy. Mobs have the same resistances and HP for everyone that ever fights them. They never change. It's the same fight. Over and over. And over. And over.
This is not the case with LoL. Every game is different. Now, it is true that every champ has a few items that work well with them regardless of the composition of an enemy team (ex. Rageblade with Jax, or Tri-force with Nasus or Trundle), one would be remiss to argue otherwise. However, there is no "best build" for a champion that will work in ever game you ever play. If you watch the truly great players on stream (Shushei, HotShotGG, and Pobelter to name a few) you will see that they rarely build the same exact items on a character from game to game. More importantly, even if they do build the exact same items the order in which they build them likely changes drastically.
Perhaps the exception to this rule is ranged AD carries, which I don't play often but see truly great players build very similarly from game to game. The key to that last sentence is "truly great players". They realize that their success as an AD carry depends on them stacking alot of AD and using their SKILL AS PLAYERS to keep them from dying 47 times in a game. If you died 47 times the last time you played Ashe even though you used the exact same build "that pro at Dreamhack used", you shouldn't be using that build. Take a more conservative build until you truly think you understand how not to get eaten alive by the enemy Trynd before you build glass cannon.
But I digress. The point of this guide isn't to tell you how to build a champ. That's something you learn after hours and hours of practice (ideally before level 30...but if everyone learned by then I wouldn't be writing this 'guide'). However, I will let you in on three 'secrets' that every good player knows, and the truly great players know so well you never see them do it on their streams.
I put secrets in quotes because they're not really secrets...RIOT practically BEGS you to look at them every chance you get
GoGoHappyFun Hint #1 (Sorry...there's gonna be more chapters)
READ GUIDES. I'm not saying that guides are useless, because they're not. Unfortunately the guides that you should read aren't the ones that have flashy pictures, awesome graphics, or have the writers game history in there as the first pic to prove to you they wrote 'the best guide ever'. Alot of those pictures are photoshopped images, stacking fantastic lines one after another to make it look like the author melted people consistently with his uber-build. Players that know what they're doing literally laugh so hard they sh** themselves when they see these pics.
The guides you look for are the ones with walls and walls of text. Buried in that text is the true wisdom of good LoL players. They will explain to you the intricacies of your character and how to play better with them. For example, there are alot of Poppy guides out there telling you to 'rush trinity force', then they'll post some youtube clips of insane damage from heroic charge-devastating blow. Only ONE guide specified that if you wait for a basic attack between heroic charge and devastating blow, you get TWO trinity force procs instead of one. That guide didn't have a flashy video...it was a wall of text someone took the time to WRITE OUT and EXPLAIN. See, the damage comes from knowing HOW to use your items, not which items to buy. In order to know how to use your items, you need to know what you're doing. If you don't know what you're doing, be honest with yourself and admit it and play/build more conservatively until you do know what you're doing. If you don't then you're gonna get flamed and people are gonna get angry at you really quickly. This is partially because LoL has the single most toxic and unfriendly in-game community of any game I've ever played...but that's another issue entirely.
SuperCoolAmerica Hint #2
These next two hints apply mostly to building Tanks, but this next one's also applicable to characters who have 'mixed kits', i.e. are able to do primarily attack damage or magic damage depending on how you build them (jax and poppy come to mind...kass too, but if you're reading a guide you probably shouldn't touch kassadin for awhile).
From the first minute of the game you can see what items the other team has on their champions. Seems simple enough, everyone probably knows that. Very few people, however, realize the wealth of information that you can attain from looking at your enemy's builds. So, I am going to repeat that first sentence in a way that conveys how important it is.
FROM THE FIRST MINUTE OF THE GAME YOU CAN LITERALLY TRACK WHAT THE OTHER TEAM IS BUILDING. THIS GIVES YOU INVALUABLE INSIGHT ON WHAT KIND OF DAMAGE THEY ARE MOST VULNERABLE TO, WHAT KIND OF DAMAGE THEIR CARRIES WILL MOST LIKELY DO, AND IF YOU KNOW THE ITEMS BUILD-PATHS YOU CAN PREDICT WHAT THEY ARE BUILDING TOWARDS. LOOKING AT THIS IS LITERALLY AS HELPFUL IF NOT MORE HELPFUL THAN OUTRIGHT CHEATING. IN FACT, IT SHOULD BE CHEATING.
Carries: This information can be used to tell you which one of their carries is putting out the most damage, which one is likely the squishiest, and give you hints on how to effectively take them down. For example, let's say the other team has two carries: Malzahar and Ashe.
Malzahar has been melting you guys all day, he's got full stacks on his Mejais, boots of CD lucidity, and 4 wizard hats. From this gear, you immediately know two things. The first being that he has a TON of ap. This means that he'll probably eat you before you can get to him if he sees you coming. The second is that he has alot of CD reduction, which means that if the fight goes on too long he'll be able to eat you twice...probably 3 or 4 times. So, if I were to go up against this Malzahar I would a) make sure he didn't see me coming, and b) make sure the fight didn't last too long. You might go about this by: attacking from the brush and opening with a Stun so you got the drop on him, flashing through a wall while another one of your teammates soaks up his spells, or, if it's a teamfight, have everyone focus him down first. These are just a few examples, the point is that you can learn alot from someones gear.
Ashe has been beating you up all day too...she's got Zerkers greaves, an Infinity Edge, and 4 bloodthirsterers. This tells you that she does insane amounts of damage with her Auto-attack, and that auto-attack also heals her for ALOT, so she needs to be bursted down. Unless you kill her quickly she's just gonna heal herself up to full and your spells/auto-attacks will have been wasted. Focus fire on her...get a buddy to help out. Hell, you might even try telling people this before the fight so you don't have to yell at them afterwards. Also, it'll tell you how powerful they are in relation to you. Just because you're both level 15 doesn't mean that other ashe isn't gonna melt you. If you've got a BF sword and Zerkers greaves but she's already working on her second thirsterer then you're a tall glass of...blood...for her...sword...swords. Nevermind, the point is that if the other person has been eating at the Bottom Lane Buffet all game then you're gonna have a rough time.
Tanks: If you look at a teams items and you see nothing but attack damage items, guess what? Build armor, don't worry about magic resist. Magic resist is only good if you're having spells cast on you. When the other team is Yi, Trynd, Jarvan, Xin, and Wukong you're not going to take significant enough amounts of magic damage to warrant buying any amount of magic resist. Unless you're cho-gath and you think it's intimidating to have a huge banshees shield around you when you're all feasted up. Because it is...people will run from you for no reason at all, I swear to god. If you're not sure what kinds of damage you're taking in a teamfight, stacking health isn't the best idea but it's better than guessing wrong and ending up with 250 armor when Malzahar gives you lazer eyes...no one likes that. Or, even better, if you're not sure you could follow the third hint...
GumGumRocket Hint #3
You know that button that shows up in the middle of your screen every time you die? Pressing it doesn't give you a virus...it's not even a video of a Riot Dev. telling you how worthless you are for dying in a game where it's actually really hard to die (but, after the 5th time you die in a game I think it should be just that. Someone start a petition, i'm sure Phreak or TreeEskimo would be on board. Phreak might even film it...i'm talking to you RIOT, get on that.). What it actually is is a comprehensive breakdown of the kind of damage that you took immediately before your demise. It even tells you which champ did what kind of damage and what spells you took that damage from. Literally, it's the most amazingly helpful thing for building a tank this side of spawning with 6 Warmogs.
READ THIS INFORMATION. STUDY IT. It's not even like you don't have the time to. What do you really do when your screen is grey? Besides flame your lane partner for not helping you on your aggresively stupid flash-exhaust-attack-attack-die attempt at first blood? It takes 5 secondsm there's literally no reason not to do it. This information is KEY. From it, you can discern: what kind of damage the other team is primarily doing, who is doing the most damage, and who does nothing besides auto-attack from the bush and ignite you for a kill-steal (i'm lookin at you teemo/caitlyn). The things you can learn from it are numerous and extremely helpful.
Lets say you die. Now, I know that YOU are a fantastic player and you never die, but let's pretend for a few seconds. You click on that funny box in the middle of your screen, and you see the following. Yi used his autoattack and did 15% of the damage to you as AD, Cho'Gath screamed at you dealing 10% of the damage as AP, and Veigar 'Cage-Meteor-Baleful Striked] you for a grand total of 75% of your life as AP. This tells you that their Yi does attack damage while Cho and Veigar deal AP damage. It also tells you that Veigar is the most active member of their team, meaning that you should really get some magic resist. This would also be a good time to tell your teammates that Veigar is the one doing most of the damage, so that the tank (if that isn't you) can get some magic resist, and so that the carries know who to focus to take down first. All that information can be gleaned in the first 5sec after you die, leaving you plenty of time (at least 15sec) to yell at your teammates for whatever wrongs you want to blame them for, imaginary or not.
Basic things that a lot of guides touch on and a lot explain in depth but can NEVER be repeated enough.
1. Don't attack the tank unless they're the only one left standing. This is for two reasons, the first being that their resistances are likely going to be really high and they're gonna be tough to being down. The second, and more important reason, is that they're really not that dangerous, they just look scary. Good tanks can really mess up a fight by knocking you out of position or stun-locking one of your carries. The good thing is that these abilities often do comparatively little damage and their cooldowns are usually extremely long. This means that they're really only scary once every 10 seconds or so. If you panic and blow even one spell on a tank instead of a damage dealer you put yourself at a huge disadvantage in the teamfight.
2. Don't attack the tank unless they're the only one left standing. Even if they're 3/4 dead. Don't do it. It's stupid and it makes you look stupid, and even if you kill the tank he's just gonna get on allchat and call you stupid while their carries rip you apart. See the trend?
3. Don't attack the tank unless they're the only one left standing. The carries do much more damage and are much easier to take down. Even if your spell would kill the tank, blow it on their ranged AD carry. Carries often use "snowball" items that lose their bonuses if they die (i.e. Mejais, Bloodthirsterer, or the Sword of the Occult), and they would much rather leave their teammates to die than risk their stacks. So really, you don't even have to kill a carry. You just have to make them think they're going to die and they'll run off.
4. Two people can kill a person faster than one person can. Focus fire. Find out who does the most damage on the other team and melt them first, then go to the second, then the third. If they have a healer the healer dies first...or second depending on how much damage their carries are dealing...but definitely first if the healer has alot of CD reduction and can pump out alot of heals...but DEFINITELY second if their veigar has 4 wizard hats and it's thursday.
See? There I go trying to give you instructions, and there I go realizing that there isn't a set order to kill champs in. Because every game is different. Because every team is a little bit different. So there is no 'best' way to build any champ. So "cookie cutter" builds set you up for failure because LoL is an ever-changing game. Because LoL isn't WoW. Because every game is different. See?