General Guide by The All Tomato
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Welcome! Want to know how to play League of Legends? This guide thoroughly explores the fundamentals, and will help you grow into a competent and competitive player.
Using the Guide
The best way to learn is to alternate play and study. Start with in-game tools like the Tutorial, Intro Bots, and Practice Tool; formulate questions, then find answers with the guide.
This guide is not intended to be read in one sitting. Pace yourself.
If you encounter an unfamiliar term or concept, look for it in other chapters. CTRL+F is your friend!
Icons, Spoilers, & Color Coding
I'm a passionate player who enjoys Community. Come learn with me as I live stream gameplay on Twitch and find me in-game (NA server; IGN: The All Tomato). Also see my MOBAfire bio and Twitch channel info for more.
This guide is the result of scores, maybe hundreds, of hours of learning, searching, testing, writing, editing, etc. It is an ongoing labor of love for the game and its community. I consider it a gift, and don't expect compensation, BUT, if you are inclined to give, it's not like I'm gonna say no ( ͡~ ͜ʖ ͡°)
What is League of Legends?
League of Legends is a MOBA, or Multiplayer Online Battle Arena. 2 teams seek to destroy the other's base in an intense real-time strategy (RTS) brawl. Players control and customize a single character, and work with their teammates to accumulate resources and outplay foes.
Each match, players choose a character from a roster of over 130 champions, and customize this champion with the resources they earn. Every match is a fresh start.
Visit the official League of Legends website to create an account and download the game.
You, the player, are titled a Summoner. Your account has Summoner levels. Playing games earns you experience towards the next Summoner level with no limit, and each level-up grants rewards.
Blue Essence (BE), currency used to pay for champions and other content in the Store, is one of these rewards.
Riot Points (RP) are currency purchased with money. Almost all content can be purchased with RP. Skins, a cosmetic feature, can only be bought with RP.
The Free Champion Rotation is a group of ten champions unlocked for all players, which changes every week. Before level 6, you can use the New Player Champion Rotation, a selection of straightforward champions that are forgiving to learn with.
Champions are player-controlled characters. You can think of each one as a different chess piece, with unique moves, uses, strengths, and weaknesses.
Champions begin each match at level 1, and grow in power with each level, up to a maximum of 18.
Each champion has a basic attack, a passive, and 4 abilities:
- A basic attack (auto attack, AA) is performed by right-clicking an enemy. Champions automatically attack enemies in range, and attack continuously until commanded otherwise. Attacks are either melee or ranged. Ranged champions fire a homing auto attack projectile. Each champion's attack is a little different; some take longer to complete a single attack, and some ranged champions' attack projectiles travel more slowly than others.
- The passive is an innate characteristic that affects gameplay, but does not require buttons to be pressed.
- The 4 abilities (skills, spells) are the unique actions available to a champion. Most have 3 basic abilities and 1 ultimate (ult, ulti), which is their most powerful or defining. Basic abilities have 5 ranks each, advanced with the ability points acquired on leveling up. The ultimate ability has 3 ranks and can be advanced at levels 6, 11, and 16.
Champions are categorized into different classes. Some champions share characteristics of multiple classes, while others are so unique they don't fully belong in any class. An important aspect of a champion's classification is the primary type of damage they deal:
- Physical damage is dealt through all basic attacks, and some abilities.
- Magic damage is dealt through most (but not all) abilities, and can be added to basic attacks.
- True damage is rare, and comes from various sources. It cannot be mitigated, whereas physical and magical damage can.
'Magic' and 'physical' are merely game terms, and are not related to the action a champion is performing. For example, Sejuani's Arctic Assault, an ability where she physically collides with her target, deals magic damage. All basic attacks deal physical damage, whether it's with fists, swords, fireballs, bullets, or bolts of arcane power.
Now that you understand damage terms, let's explore the classes:
|Mages (ability power carries, APC) are powerful spell-casters who use their abilities to deal magic damage and disrupt enemies. They are typically ranged, and have lower defenses to balance their offensive capability. This class encompasses a wide variety of playstyles; some mages control and demolish from afar, while others prefer to get in the thick of things.|
|Marksmen (attack damage carries, ADC) primarily use their ranged basic attacks to deal sustained physical damage to single targets, termed damage-per-second (DPS). They are characterized by abilities and passives that augment or complement their basic attacks. Fragile marksmen must work hard to stay at range and survive; this requires skilled movement, careful target selection, and foresight.|
|Tanks are typically melee and have high defenses, but relatively low damage output. Their job is to disrupt, disable, and protect. They are usually the first in a fight and the last ones out. Tanks can take a beating, and when ignored, can dish out significant punishment!|
|Controllers (supports) excel at protecting and empowering allies, and/or disrupting and crippling enemies. Utility, usefulness other than damage, is their defining trait, along with a sacrificial, low-income playstyle. Controllers shine when cooperating with teammates, rather than making big solo plays.|
|Fighters (bruisers) are typically melee, and boast a versatile mix of damage, defense, and utility. Fighters thrive in the midst of combat. Many are physical damage-oriented, some are magic, while others deal a mix.|
|Slayers (assassins) are fragile champions with extreme mobility and massive damage output, called burst damage for the short time it takes to deal. They can nearly instantly kill non-tanks, but, if caught, will die just as quickly. Slayers must remain elusive, yet ready to capitalize on narrow windows of opportunity. There are both physical and magic damage slayers.|
|Specialist is the official term for a diverse set of champions who share qualities of several classes, but don't fit into any particular one. Players tend to just refer to individual specialists by their closest related class. It's a bit complicated, sorry!|
Statistics (stats) are the numerical values that describe all units and structures, including champions, minions, and turrets. Understanding what these numbers mean, and how they relate to one another, is a crucial step to League mastery. I'll focus my explanation on champions.
Base stats are the default values a champion begins a game with. Most grow with level.
Bonus stats are gained from external sources, specifically items, abilities, passives, or runes.
All champions have base amounts of these (except mana & mana regen), but can also get them from bonus sources:
- Hit Points (Health, HP): The amount of damage a champion can take before dying.
- HP regeneration (Hp5): The amount of hitpoints a champion regenerates every 5 seconds. Regen actually occurs every half second, so 10 HP5 means 1 hitpoint gained every half second.
- Mana (MP): The maximum amount of mana available to cast abilities.
- Mana regeneration (Mp5): The amount of mana restored passively every 5 seconds. Like HP5, this effect takes place every half second.
- Armor (AR): Reduces incoming physical damage. Each point of armor makes HP 1% more effective against physical damage. For example, a champion with 100 HP and 0 armor will be killed by 100 physical damage. With 100 armor this champion has 100% more effective HP, meaning it will take 200 physical damage to kill them.
- Magic Resist (MR): Reduces incoming magic damage. MR functions exactly like armor, except against magic damage.
- Attack Damage (AD): The amount of physical damage dealt by one basic attack.
- Attack Speed (AS, ASPD): The number of basic attacks performed per second. This has a cap of 2.5.
- Range: The number of in-game units a basic attack reaches. Range does not increase with level.
- Movement Speed (MS): The number of in-game units a champion travels per second. This does not increase with level.
These only come from abilities, passives, items, and runes:
- Cooldown Reduction (CDR): Reduces ability cooldowns by a percentage. Caps at 40%.
- Ability Power (AP): Ability Power points enhance most abilities. This will be covered more in the "Abilities" chapter. When attacking structures, basic attacks apply the higher of a champion's bonus attack damage or 40% of their ability power.
- Magic Penetration (MPen): causes magic damage to ignore a portion of enemies' magic resist. Comes in percentage values (ex.: Void Staff) and flat values (ex.: Sorcerer's Shoes).
- Armor Penetration (APen): Causes physical damage to ignore a portion of opponents' armor. Has percentage values only (flat armor penetration is gained through Lethality, explained below).
- Lethality: immediately grants a portion of its value as flat armor penetration. The remaining portion scales linearly with champion level. Calculating Penetration, Reduction, and Lethality
- Lifesteal (LS): The percentage of damage dealt from basic attacks returned as hitpoints. Heal yourself by attacking enemies!
- Critical Strike Chance (Crit): Basic attacks gain a % amount of chance to deal double damage. Crits occur randomly, but measured over an extended number of attacks, every 1% of crit chance increases effective attack damage by 1%.
- Tenacity: Reduces the duration of disables by a percentage. For example, Lux can root enemies for 2 seconds using Light Binding, but enemies with 35% Tenacity will only be rooted for 1.3 seconds.
- Gold per 10 seconds (Gp10): All champions passively earn gold at the same rate, which can be slightly increased with items. Technically, this is not a stat, but a system that behaves like one.
This chapter explains general concepts and terminology. To learn about a specific champion's abilities use the League of Legends wiki.
To learn about ideal skill orders, I recommend using online guides for a specific champion. However, I can offer a few general tips:
- Determine which basic ability is a champion's most meaningful damage and/or utility, and max it before the others. For many champions, this choice is always the same; other champions can make reactive choices.
- Determine what abilites, if any, are '1-point wonders' - utility-oriented abilities that don't gain meaningful base damage or reduced cooldown with increased levels. Rank these once, but max them last.
- By level 4, each basic ability should be ranked at least once.
- Put a point in your ultimate ability whenever possible - at levels 6, 11, and 16.
What Do Abilities Do?
Abilities have a multitude of effects, some of which are unique to a champion! Often, a single ability has more than one effect. These are the most common:
- Damage: removes health. Damage-over-time (DoT, burn, poison, bleed) deals damage gradually, instead of instantaneously.
- Heal: return missing health. Healing a full-health target has no effect.
- Shield: give temporary health. Shields are shown in health bars as grey. Magic damage shields, which only block magic damage, are purple. Physical damage shields, which only block physical damage, are orange.
- Crowd control (CC): disables or impedes enemies.
most common cc types
- Hard CC completely removes a player's control of their champion.
- Soft CC partially removes control.
- Interrupts cancel channeled abilities. Any CC that prevents casting abilities is an interrupt, whether it's hard or soft.
- Buff: increase allies' statistics. Steroids are self-buffs.
- Debuff: lower enemies' statistics.
- Movement: allows a champion (or champions) to quickly re-position by dashing, jumping, blinking, teleporting, etc. Most can cross terrain. Offensive movement abilities are called gap closers, defensive are escapes.
- Attack modifiers: give special effects to basic attacks. Some are attack resets, which allow a champion to attack twice in quick succession when used immediately after the damage of the first attack is applied. (Practice this with Garen's Decisive Strike.)
- Some abilities apply on-hit effects, which normally can only be applied to basic attacks. Examples of on-hit effects include lifesteal, Sheen's Spellblade passive, and Nami's attack modifier Tidecaller's Blessing.
- Passive effects occur without activation, as long as the ability has been ranked with an ability point. Don't confuse these with a champion's passive!
How Do Abilities Work?
- Cost: the amount of resource consumed per cast. Champions have finite resource pools; if this pool is empty, abilities can't be used. Most champions use mana, but some use their health or rapidly-regenerating energy. Some have no resource, and therefore no costs.
- Scaling: the way stats increase the power of an ability. Scaling is specified by a ratio, which adds a portion of the relevant stat to the base value.
- Cooldown (CD): the delay before an ability can be recast. Most abilities go on cooldown immediately after cast, but some have variations on this mechanic:
- Multi-use: can be cast multiple times in a short window. Ex. Ahri's Spirit Rush
- Charge/Ammo: stock multiple charges that can be used in quick succession. The charges themselves replenish with a longer cooldown. Ex. Teemo's Noxious Trap
- Toggle: grants a persistent effect when activated, with a cooldown between switches. Ex. Dr. Mundo's Burning Agony
- Range: the measure of an ability's reach. Range is illustrated by range indicators. Abilities with global range can be used anywhere on the map.
- Cast time: the delay between cast and effect. This is usually illustrated with a wind-up animation (for example, Annie rearing back to throw Incinerate, or Ashe drawing her bowstring to fire Volley.) Most are brief (~.5 seconds). Some abilities cast instantly.
- Channels: abilities with interruptable cast times. Interrupts put the ability on cooldown, without its effect occurring. This can be done by the caster through movement, ability, or attack commands, or by enemies through crowd control.
How Are Abilities Controlled?
- Auto-targeted: when cast, affects all those in an area around the caster. No aiming required, just positioning of your champion.
- Aura: similar to an auto-targeted ability, auras affect units around the caster. In contrast, an aura is a persistent effect, usually a buff or debuff. ( Sona's basic abilities incorporate both auto-targeting and auras)
- Targeted: point-and-click abilities require that the cursor be hovering a visible, in-range target to be cast. Most of these cannot be dodged and will follow the target regardless of its movement.
- Skillshot: requires aiming using the cursor. These come in many shapes and sizes, such as linear projectiles, conic spreads, or circles. Skillshots can be missed or dodged--aim carefully!
- Area-of-effect (AoE): can affect multiple units in one cast.
- Single-target: affects only one unit per cast.
Runes are a set of options that grant special attributes to your champion. These options are selected before game during Champion Select, or under the "Collection" tab in the client. A completed Rune combination can be saved as a Rune page. You are given 2 Rune pages and can buy more in the Shop.
Runes are organized into 5 Paths: Precision, Domination, Sorcery, Resolve, and Inspiration. Each Path follows 4 slots, and each slot offers a choice between 3 Rune options. The first slot is an extra-impactful, playstyle-defining Keystone Rune, and the following 3 slots are Lesser Runes.
A Rune page consists of a primary and secondary Path choice. Your combination of Paths grants a Path Bonus (for example, with Precision as your primary Path, any secondary path grants +18% attack speed). You have access to the Keystone and 3 Lesser slots of your primary Path, but only to 2 of the Lesser Runes of your secondary path.
Runes are all about meaningful choice - it's not possible to have all options, so choose what is best suited to your role, champion, and playstyle.
Start planning your Rune setup with the Keystone. In general, damage-focused champions prefer Keystones from Precision, Domination, and Sorcery. Utility champions prefer Sorcery or Inspiration. Durability-focused champions use Resolve. Champions from across classes can use Inspiration to mix things up.
Guide your choices with these questions:
- Which Keystone best enhances my champion's gameplay?
- Which Lesser Runes and Path bonuses best fit my situational needs this match?
- Do my choices make sense with my planned item build and playstyle?
Rune Forge is a great resource the explore suggested loadouts and the reasoning behind them.
Summoner spells are like extra abilities, which are chosen before each match in champion select. They have long cooldowns, ranging from 1.5 to 5 minutes. Some are unavailable before reaching summoner level 10.
You can take any combination of spells, but the best choices vary. Think about the champion, role, and position you're playing, and the champions you are facing.
Mouse over the icons below to learn what each spell does. I will share some common uses of each.
|Ghost is for escaping or chasing enemies. Moving through units, also known as avoiding unit collision, means a champion won't have to walk around minions, etc.|
|Cleanse aids fragile champions such as mages and marksmen who can be devastated by crowd control, giving them a chance to escape or fight back. "Summoner spell debuffs" refers to Exhaust and Ignite.|
|Exhaust (exh) can be used defensively to prevent an enemy dealing damage and chasing, or offensively to prevent retaliation or escape. Exhaust is especially effective against burst champions like assassins.|
|Ignite (ign) is a popular choice for securing kills and making sure enemies don't duck out of vision in bushes or the fog of war. "Healing effects" includes HP regeneration, lifesteal, and spellvamp. Ignite is a powerful choice against champions who rely heavily on healing, such as Vladimir.|
|Teleport (tp) is fantastic for making surprise plays across the map, getting back to lane quickly, or escaping enemies. It can be used on a a variety of allied units, including turrets, minions, and wards. Teleport is a channeled spell, and can be cancelled by the player or by enemy CC. If cancelled by the player, it will go on a reduced cooldown.|
|Smite is for use on jungle monsters. Secure the killing blow, or just kill them more quickly. It operates by a charge mechanic. Certain items modify Smite so it can be used on champions - see the chapter 'Closer Look: Jungling' to learn more. Smite also works on various enemy units, such as minions, Annie's bear Tibbers, Heimerdinger's turrets, and the bloblets from Zac's Cell Division.|
Items are purchased during a match with the gold you earn. They occupy your champion's inventory and grant bonus stats and special attributes:
- Actives are essentially extra abilities. Use actives with the number key assigned to its item slot. Examples include Zhonya's Hourglass, Youmuu's Ghostblade, and Ravenous Hydra.
- Passives don't require any button-pressing. Examples include Trinity Force, Warmog's Armor, and Liandry's Torment.
Basic items are the building blocks of completed items. Different items use the same basics in their recipes, allowing adaptive build strategies.
Purchased items occupy 1 of 6 item slots and take effect immediately; there is no need to "equip" them. Consumables like Health Potions and elixirs don't do anything until consumed by using the number key of their item slot.
Unique passives and actives of the same name do not stack. This means owning two items with the same unique active/passive will only give the benefit of one. For example, owning 2 Zhonya's Hourglass and using 1 will put both on cooldown.
Items don't apply real-world logic. Boots of Speed are an important item on Nami, a mermaid with no feet. Infinity Edge is a sword that is core on Ashe, an archer. The stats granted, not the name or icon, are what matters.
Itemization choices are called a build. To build appropriately, ask yourself these questions:
- What is my champion's role?
- What statistics and attributes does my champion need to perform this role?
- What statistics and attributes will help me against the enemies I am facing this match?
Although you will build the same primary, or core items on each champion most games, always respond to match-specific situations. Varying build order, even among the same items, can make a huge difference! Consider secondary items that simultaneously amplify strengths and compensate for weaknesses.
Rushing an item means only buying its components until completion. Building several items too slowly can delay a power spike, but rushing one item can mean missing essential stats from others.
Maximize power and gold efficiency by choosing items that complement each other. A simple example is the relationship between resistances and health - health from one item will benefit from the magic resist/armor from another, and vice versa.
Do not copy the bots' item builds seen when playing Co-op vs AI. They are intentionally poor.
Summoner's Rift: Environment
Get acquainted with League's most popular arena, Summoner's Rift. Remember, you can create a custom game and explore for yourself!
Spawn & Shop (fountain): the dais where you begin each game. Standing here rapidly replenishes health and mana. Use the recall function (B key) to return from any location. Items can only be purchased from here. Spawn is guarded by the Nexus Obelisk, a laser that kills things fast.
Base: the area bounded by walls that contains a Nexus. There is a gate in the middle of each wall that allies, but not enemies, can pass through.
Lanes: the 3 long, wide pathways guarded by turrets. Each has its own name - top, bottom (bot), and middle (mid).
River: the body of water that sits perpendicular to the lanes. 2 pits, one on each side of middle lane, are home to powerful neutral monsters.
Jungle: the quadrants between lanes characterized by narrow paths, terrain, and bushes. Each is mirrored, so that both sides of the map are identical. Neutral monsters live here.
Structures are destructible buildings. Each lane's structures must be destroyed sequentially, starting with the outermost. They take damage from basic attacks (and only a few abilities).
Turrets (towers): these are statue-like towers that fire powerful physical damage attacks. They target the first enemy to step in range. They will instantly re-target enemies who damage ally champions.
A turret's damage against champions increases with each subsequent attack. Their defenses increase if no enemy minions are present. Turrets provide true sight, meaning any Camouflaged or Invisible units in its vision range are revealed.
Each team has 11 turrets. 3 guard each lane, and 2 guard the Nexus. There are 3 tiers of turret:
- Outer (tier 1): fire a slow, yet powerful attack which ignores a portion of champion armor.
- Inner (tier 2, middle): have more powerful attacks than Outer.
- Inhibitor (tier 3) and Nexus: These more powerful turrets also regenerate their health.
Inhibitors (inhibs): gem-like structures found at each base entrance. They do not attack, but are guarded by turrets. They take reduced damage from champions, regenerate health, and respawn 5 minutes after being destroyed. Respawn timers are shown as a colored ring (example). If an inhibitor is destroyed, the opposing team spawns extremely powerful minions in that lane.
Nexus: large gem-like structures found close to the spawn platforms, guarded by two Nexus turrets. Destroy the enemy Nexus to win!
Minions: spawn from the Nexus and march down the lanes. A wave spawns every 30 seconds, each containing 6 minions (3 melee and 3 caster). Every third wave has a 7th, more powerful minion, known as a siege or cannon. Siege minions take 30% reduced damage from turrets, and are important allies.
Super minions: powerful and durable minions that spawn when an opposing Inhibitor is destroyed. They spawn with every wave, replacing any siege minions, and buff nearby minions, making entire waves more powerful and durable.
Monsters: the creatures found in the jungle and river. Monsters are "neutral" and will not attack until attacked. Each has varying amounts of health and damage - size is an indicator of power. Monsters follow fleeing attackers a short distance before resetting to their camp and rapidly regenerating health. A monster will reset when a thin bar above their HP indicating Patience drains and turns red. Camps respawn if, and only if, all its inhabitants are killed.
- The Murk Wolves, Raptors (birds), Krugs (stone beetle-turtles), and Gromp (massive toad) are found in between the lanes.
- The Rift Scuttlers wander each side of the river. They don't fight back, but instead evade when attacked.
- A Blue Sentinel (blue buff) is found at the center of the east and west jungle quadrants. Blue Sentinels take increased magic damage.
- A Red Brambleback (red buff) lives in the north and south jungle quadrants. Bramblebacks take increased physical damage.
- Dragon (drag, drake) is a fearsome monster that rests in the south river pit. It knocks back enemies when taking flight. Its attacks deal a painful amount of damage, and they also splash, damaging units behind its target. It is immune to CC.
There are 4 "species" of Dragon: Mountain, Infernal, Cloud, and Ocean. The species spawn randomly each game, and only 3 of the 4 types will spawn in one game. Each species has different attributes. Infernal is the "standard", Cloud attacks and moves faster, Mountain is slower but tougher, and Ocean slows targets it attacks.
After 35 minutes, these Elemental Dragons are replaced by the more powerful Elder Dragon.
Each Dragon's strategic significance will be covered in the next section.
- The Rift Herald (Harold) is a touch enemy found in the north river pit. At the start of fights, Herald will charge through enemies, knocking them aside. It uses a special attack at certain HP thresholds that deals extra damage in a cone. Herald also takes reduced damage from ranged attacks. However, it has a vulnerable eye on its back that causes massive bonus damage when attacked from behind, while open. Herald Herald does NOT respawn once killed. It will de-spawn to make way for Baron Nashor.
- Baron Nashor (worm, nash, baron) is the most powerful monster on the Rift. He resides in the north river pit, replacing the Herald at 20 minutes. Baron weakens those he attacks - they deal less damage to him, and take increased damage from all sources. He also has a large arsenal of abilities, including a stun, slow, knockup, and knockback, some of which can be avoided. He is immune to CC.
Plants are stationary, neutral units. Basic attacking them triggers an effect. Plants spawn as seeds and grow after 60 seconds. The first plant spawn locations are identical every game, but are somewhat random after that.
- Blast Cones explode and knock away everything in their blast radius.
- Scryer's Blooms release vision-granting pollen in a large cone, revealing champions for 3 seconds, and other units for 12 seconds.
- Honeyfruits drop 5 fruits on the ground. Each fruit restores health and mana, but also briefly slows.
Summoner's Rift: Strategy
Battle on Summoner's Rift isn't a deathmatch. Victory is achieved more by strategic and purposeful play than with flashy moves and high KDAs. This chapter will greatly prepare you for PvP!
Primary objectives are the things your team won't win without. Secondary objectives are ways to get an extra edge, but don't underestimate their importance. They are often crucial steps to achieving primary objectives, or deciding factors in closely-matched games.
- Experience: Champions gain levels by earning experience. Higher levels means higher base stats and ability damage.
- Minions and Dragon grant experience locally (to champions in proximity) when they die.
- Destroying Outer Turrets and slaying Baron Nashor grants experience globally (to all teammates).
- Champion kills and assists give experience.
- Monsters and wards give experience to their killers.
- Gold through minion & monster kills: To buy items, players need gold. Last hitting, dealing the killing blow to a minion or monster (termed creeps), is a player's greatest source of gold income. Last hits are recorded as a number called the creep score (CS). Building a higher creep score is called farming. Miss as few minion kills as you can! If you can farm better than your opponents, you will have more items, more quickly.
- Structure kills: The only way to win is by destroying the enemy's Nexus, and the only way to the Nexus is through Turrets and Inhibitors.
- Turret kills give gold to all allies, and removes enemy vision and protection. Once a turret is destroyed, your team can control that area. Minions can push further, threatening, or pressuring, other structures.
- Destroying inhibitors and releasing super minions is extremely important, tantamount to adding a sixth player who relentlessly pressures the enemy's base. Protecting your inhibitors is as important as destroying the enemy's.
- Vision Control: Place and protect wards, while destroying the enemy's. Learn more in the chapter 'Closer Look: Warding & Vision'.
- Rift Scuttler: When "killed", a Rift Scuttler will temporarily bury itself in the riverbed, creating a circular area that grants vision and a speed boost to allies. This gives control over Dragon or Baron, and aids movement between lanes.
- Buff monster rewards: The Blue Sentinel and Red Brambleback grant temporary buffs to their slayers. Protect them, and try to steal the enemy's. These buffs transfer to a champion's killer.
- The Crest of Cinders (red buff) adds extra true damage and a slow to basic attacks, plus health regeneration. Its effect is strongest on melee champions, so fighters and tanks use it best, but marksmen can apply a weakened effect more easily.
- The Crest of Insight (blue buff) grants resource regeneration and cooldown reduction. It's best to give blue buff to ability-oriented allies (a mage, assassin, or fighter).
- The Rift Herald: On death, the Rift Herald drops an item, the Eye of the Herald. ANY ally of the slayer can walk over the Eye to pick it up, replacing their trinket for 4 minutes and granting them a faster recall. Using this item summons the Rift Herald as an ally that marches down the nearest lane, attacking minions and turrets in its path.
- Elemental Dragons: Killing Dragon grants local experience and a permanent buff to all ally champions called Dragon Slayer. The effect of this buff varies with the type of Dragon that was slain, and slaying multiple dragons of the same species stacks its effect (up to 3 times):
- Mountain: bonus true damage to strucures and epic monsters.
- Infernal: increased Attack Damage and Ability Power.
- Cloud: bonus movement speed while out-of-combat.
- Ocean: restores missing health and mana at regular intervals while out-of-combat with champions or turrets.
- Elder Dragon: After 35 minutes of game time, Elemental Dragons are replaced by the Elder Dragon, the most dangerous type. This Dragon gives a temporary buff called Aspect of the Dragon:
- Basic attacks and spells burn targets for 45 (+45 per stack of Dragon Slayer) damage over 3 seconds.
- Dragon Slayer stack effects are increased by 50%.
- Baron Nashor: Killing Baron grants gold, experience, and a buff called Hand of Baron to all teammates. The buff gives 40 AP and AD, halves recall time, and increases healing and movement speed after recalling. Most importantly, champions bearing the buff have an aura that massively empowers nearby minions. Hand of Baron makes a team a formidable siege force. Lasts 3.5 minutes.
Kills are not objectives! They are a means to an end - controlling actual objectives. While killing champions gives substantial gold and experience bonuses, a numbers advantage, and is disturbingly satisfying, it is possible to win games with no kills.
A perfect example of a low-kill game is the professional match CLG vs Curse in the 2014 NA LCS Spring Split. CLG was able to push their advantage and completely beat Curse while only getting 4 kills. First Blood happens at an astounding 23 minutes into the game, and the game ends a mere 2 minutes later. CLG secured victory through superior objective control, prioritizing objectives above kills.
A game on Summoner's Rift has 3 distinct phases that transition as champions gain levels and items, and structures are destroyed:
- Early Game (laning phase): Players focus on farming and gaining experience, denying farm and experience to opponents, and destroying outer turrets. Denial is accomplished by forcing opponents away from minions, back to base through consistent harass, or by killing them. Basic items and components are purchased. Dragon and Rift Herald are realistic, but dangerous, objectives.
- Mid Game: Players begin roaming and grouping for ambushes, or to concentrate on an objective. Skirmishes and team fights, battles between all 10 players, start occurring. Champions have surpassed level 6 and have one or two core items completed. Middle and inner turrets are the focus, along with Dragon, the Herald, and remaining outers. Vision control becomes even more important. Baron is a realistic, but extremely dangerous objective.
- Late Game: Champions are nearing level 18, have their core items completed, and are working towards full build (6 complete items). Inner turrets, Inhibitors, and Nexus turrets are the focus, along with Baron and Dragon. Grouping and team fights are common, and it is dangerous to be found alone. Respawn timers are now extremely long, and one poorly timed death can cost the entire game. Vision control is crucial to victory.
The Meta: Roles
The meta (metagame) is the unwritten rules that guide player decisions. Efficient strategies, popular or imbalanced items and champions, game changes, and professional play all influence these "rules". Innovation and adaptation are encouraged, but understanding the meta is an important step to proficiency.
The meta is constantly shifting, but the foundation remains unchanged. To gain optimal amounts of gold and experience, teammates take on different roles which occupy different lanes during the early game:
- Marksman and Support (the Duo or Bot lane): A Marksman and a Controller or Tank typically share the bottom lane. Marksmen are fragile champions who need gold, more than experience, to become powerful. Controllers and Tanks excel at protecting and empowering, and don't need as much gold to do their jobs. These two make the perfect duo, sharing experience and allowing the marksman to take as much gold as possible. Almost always, this duo begins at the bottom lane to stay near Dragon.
- Mid: Mages and Slayers typically go solo in the middle lane. This gives them exclusive access to experience and gold, both of which are crucial to their success. The distance from turret to center-of-lane is shorter in mid than the outer lanes, which offers extra safety to these fragile champions. Also, midlane's central location makes roaming for surprise attacks on outer lanes convenient.
- Top: Fighters and Tanks also benefit from solo gold and experience, but with their inherent durability, don't need the safety of the shorter mid lane. The duo lane is usually bottom, so top is the lane of choice for these champions.
- Jungle: junglers earn their gold and experience by killing monsters in the jungle, rather than minions in a lane. There are champions from every class that can occupy the Jungle. See the chapter 'Closer Look: Jungling' to learn more about this complex role.
A team composition is the aspect created by the combination of synergistic champion attributes. A variety of roles, a mix of damage types, and complementary crowd control/utility are all things that benefit a composition's cohesiveness.
Forming strong compositions takes experience and communication. Focus first on learning your individual champions and determining your personal strengths. However, to help you understand the subject, I've listed common compositions below.
Closer Look: Jungling
The jungle lives up to its name. Jungling requires skilled decision making, efficient time management, and thorough game knowledge. It can be difficult to succeed there, let alone survive. This chapter will put you on your way to becoming a seasoned trailblazer!
The Jungler's Purpose
Rather than farming minions in a lane, a jungler farms monsters across the entire map. Towers and minions reveal the locations of laners, but junglers are hidden in the fog of war.
Junglers use this advantage in many ways. Ambushing enemy laners (called a gank) can put teammates ahead. Counterjungling, stealing monster kills from the enemy's side, denies the enemy jungler farm. Dueling their jungler, who might have low HP after clearing a camp, and either killing them or forcing them back to base, is another way to keep the enemy behind.
The Jungler's Tools
The jungling role revolves around the summoner spell Smite and the items Hunter's Talisman and Hunter's Machete. These are mandatory.
The Hunter's items combine into 3 different items, each of which aid junglers in unique ways:
Stalker's Blade makes ganks more fearsome! Smite champions to damage them and steal their movement speed (slow them while boosting yourself).
Skirmisher's Sabre is for duelists, who can Smite enemies to kick some ***! Once smote, the enemy takes more damage, deals less back, and is marked with vision so they can't sneak away.
These items can be enchanted by combining them with other items:
When building these enchantments, follow the logic demonstrated in the chapter 'Items'.
Technically, any champion can jungle, but some are better suited for the wild.
Good junglers must be able to farm efficiently, meaning they clear camps reasonably fast without taking too much damage. Champions with low-cooldown, AoE damage abilities and/or good single-target DPS are good picks.
Their abilities help them perform one or more of the tasks mentioned above: ganking, counterjungling, or dueling.
Closer Look: Warding & Vision
The vision system gives players control over the fog of war, the darkness that obscures the map. Every player needs to understand this system, and contribute to vision control every game.
The items called Trinkets are the foundation of vision. These 2 items are free, and have their own item slot:
- The Warding Totem gives you Stealth Wards, place-able objects that grant vision in a small radius. They become invisible to enemies after 1 second of being placed. After level 9, this can be traded for the Farsight Alteration.
- The Sweeping Lens (sweeper) scans for enemy units, revealing and disabling enemy wards for a short period so they can either be destroyed, or bypassed without revealing yourself. After level 9, this can be upgraded into the Oracle Lens.
Control Wards are another important vision tool that reveal enemy wards, traps, and Camouflaged enemies, like that sneaky Evelynn who keeps ganking you! Wards they reveal are also disabled. They are purchased in the shop, and occupy your normal inventory.
Using Vision Tools
Habitually check your minimap every few seconds. There is no point to using wards if you're not aware of the information they are providing.
Players can place up to 3 Stealth Wards and 1 Control Ward.
Defensive wards provide advanced notice of incoming attacks. They can spot ganks during laning phase, or cover your team's flanks and rear during fights and sieges.
Offensive wards spot enemy movement on their side of the map, exposing them in vulnerable positions. They help a team control objectives like Dragon and Baron. In the side lanes (top and bottom), warding lane bushes keeps lane opponents in check.
Warding becomes more dynamic as Turrets fall and their vision is lost. It's not feasible to keep the entire map warded, so choose portions to focus by knowing your team's needs, and anticipating your enemies' actions. Factors like jungle buffs, Dragon, Baron, vulnerable Structures, and large minion waves should be kept in mind when choosing which area of the map to control.
Interface & Commands
This game offers an overwhelming amount of information. It's important to know what you're looking at.
The Heads-Up Display (HUD)
The HUD provides most information. Here is an image that shows the HUD components together; below, I'll describe each individual part.
- Passive, Ability, & Summoner Spell Icons: each icon gives status information, such as cooldown timer, mana cost, ability rank, insufficient mana, cast disables, etc. Hover the cursor over each to read its tooltip.
- HP & Mana Bars: visual representation of your current HP and Mana, with numbers. Hover the cursor to see current regen per second.
- Current Level & Experience: the curved purple bar next to your champion portrait shows how close you are to your next level. Hover the cursor to see exact numbers.
- Stats: toggle this by clicking the helmet icon at the bottom left of the champion portrait. Extend it to view all stats using your chosen keyboard shortcut. Mouse over each stat for more detail.
- Status Icons: icons representing buffs, debuffs, and most anything else affecting your champion are displayed here (stacks for Annie's passive Pyromania shown in this example). Hover your cursor over them to read details. A cast timer bar shows just above this.
- Items, Trinket, & Gold: your inventory. Drag and drop to rearrange items to preferred hotkeys. Item icons show cooldowns and other information. Hover your cursor over icons to read details. The button that displays your gold also opens the shop.
This overview of the entire map shows the position of champions and minions not obscured by the Fog of War. Left-click it to move your camera, right-click to move your champion. Hover the cursor over structures to view their HP. Some movement and long-range abilities can be cast by targeting the map.
A variety of minimap icons mark objects such as wards and Teemo mushrooms. Hourglass icons show respawn timers for the Sentinel, Brambleback, Dragon, and Baron. Skull-and-crossbones icons appear on champion death locations. Unique icons give information about global abilities like Shen's Stand United and Jinx's Super Mega Death Rocket!.
Above the minimap are your allies' champion portraits, which show their respawn timer, current HP and mana, and ultimate availability (the dot above each portrait). Targeted abilities can be cast on these portraits.
Portraits of slain enemies appear above these, showing their respawn timer.
Left-click a unit to view its stats. In this example, I've selected the enemy champion Miss Fortune, and can see her stats, items, HP and mana, creep score, KDA, and a status icon representing the passive effect Strut.
Scoreboard & Monster Timers
Hold TAB to view.
Displayed at the top are each team's Dragon, Turret, and Kill scores. Below is champion info - items, KDA, creep score, and summoner spells (cooldown displayed for allies only). Drag-and-drop to rearrange champions (for quick comparison between lane opponents).
Use the loudspeaker icon to mute/unmute players' chat messages. Hover the cursor over a champion portrait to read the player's name.
The scoreboard only updates when a champion is not in the Fog of War. Hidden champions have a '?' next to them.
The Monster Timers above the scoreboard indicate Baron (purple), Dragon (orange), and buff monster respawns. You will always be notified when Dragon and Baron are slain, but you must have vision of a buff monster camp's death to get its respawn timer.
From left to right: team kill score, KDA, creep score, game time, connection strength indicator. Underneath are optional ping and FPS numbers.
Mouse over interface elements (such as your ability icons, or an enemy's item on the scoreboard) to reveal tooltips stating exactly what they represent. This example is from an unplaced ability point for Caitlyn's Piltover Peacemaker, and it shows what changes with the next rank.
In tooltips, statistics are represented by this color code: AP, AD, armor, MR, HP, and mana. Base amounts sometimes are indicated in different colors than bonus amounts.
Use pings to quickly communicate with your teammates.
- Alert ping (A): ALT+left click, or G. Use on an enemy to Target them (B), and on allies, to Request Aid (C).
- Caution ping (D): CTRL+left click, or V. Use on a unit to issue a Retreat ping (E).
- Radial Menu: Hold ALT or CTRL+left mouse button to view the radial menu. Move your cursor in the direction of the ping you want to issue. This can be done in a single, swift motion.
Hit Enter to open chat, type your message or command, then hit Enter again to send and close chat. ESC closes chat without sending. View the chat history by pressing Z. Click and drag the top bar after opening to move the window. Important notifications such as pings are announced automatically in chat, so make sure your time stamps are turned on.
- '/w "summoner name" ': send a message to out-of-game friends.
- '/r': reply to the last message received from an out-of-game friend.
- '/all': send a message visible to both teams. Shift+Enter will open the chat window in this mode. Visibility of /all chat can be toggled in the Options menu.
The spoiler below contains important abbreviations and jargon. Item and champion abbreviations, for the most part, are intuitive enough to not be listed.
If you want to be an Encyclopedia Brown of League, check out the terminology page from the MOBAFire wiki.
Be aware that LoL evolves, and community-made resources may fall out-of-date. Read patch notes and watch live streams to observe the most up-to-date gameplay.
Conclusion, Change Log, & Credits
Congratulations on reaching the end! I hope that you enjoyed my guide and have been bettered by it. If you have, please support it by sharing, commenting, upvoting, or giving me +rep!
I have an admonition to make. LoL's players have earned a reputation for toxicity and immaturity, and I would like to see this change. The best thing you can do for yourself and the community is to play with the right attitude. Play for fun, be open and willing to learn, and be encouraging to teammates as well as yourself. The Summoner's Code is a great set of guidelines in and outside of the game - learn it, and abide by it!
Special thanks goes to:
Cestian, for taking the time to teach a random newb.
DaBrownCharizard, Knoxycotten, Animositty, and Suprar15 for introducing me to the game.
All of my stream viewers, especially: TheQueenofPatatas, Urain, Vespidas, Varega, dree11Z, tehdingus, whytefang, guessingbruce, duh fuh, Lalenis, Pavion. I wish I could remember and mention every viewer I've ever had. Thank you all. Sorry for anyone I've forgotten.
Everyone who left comments on MOBAfire and reddit and helped improve the guide.
dudandwiggles for the awesome Nami picture.
Reddit user Fornoitdoesnt, for translating the guide to French!
You, for reading all the way to the end :)