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League of Legends: Basics

League of Legends, abbreviated "LoL", is a very popular multiplayer battle arena game that launched in 2009. It has since grown into one of the most played games in the world and is a leading title in eSports.

Whether you're new to the game or an experienced player, these basic guides will help you understand the intricacies of the game, setting you and your champions on the path to victory!

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably at least heard of League of Legends. Maybe you have a favorite streamer who plays, and you want to try your own hand at the game, maybe you played a long time ago and you’re looking for a refresher. Either way, read on to find out all about League of Legends basics -- everything you need to know to get started playing. 

Get to Know the MOBA

League of Legends is a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena game or MOBA for short. MOBAs come in all different shapes and sizes, but usually, there are two teams competing against each other to finish an objective. In League of Legends, these teams are 3 or 5 player teams, and the objective is usually to destroy the enemy team’s base, their “Nexus.” 

Guarding the enemy Nexus are minions, towers, inhibitors, and, of course, the enemy team. So destroying the enemy base involves a lot more than just going for it head-on. At the beginning of a match, champions don’t start out strong enough to typically make much headway in destroying the enemy base or fending off the enemy team. You have to level up your champion, level up your skills, and obtain enough gold to kit your champion out with items. And even then, you still often have to successfully work with your team to win a fight before you can attack the enemy base to any sort of meaningful degree. 

So what are champions? Champions are, well, you! That is, champions are who you play as in League of Legends. At the start of each game you pick, or, in some modes, are randomly assigned, a champion to play as. Each champion has various attributes that fit them into a given category, such as tank or mage, and within those categories, each champion’s specific stats, skills, and the way you choose to build them, determine their role in the game on an individual level. Games can be won or lost at the character selection screen. If teams don’t have a variety of champions that can work together well, and if players don’t build their champions to their specific strengths, this usually makes the game an uphill battle with a low chance of success. 

Once you have a balanced team in terms of champions, you still have to build your individual champion in a way that plays to their strength. What does building a champion mean? A champion’s build is the items you buy for it. If you’re playing, for example, a tank that doesn’t deal any spell damage, buying items that increase your ability power will only waste your money. If, on the other hand, you’re playing a support champion, you’ll want to focus on support items. Even though big-ticket damage items can seem tantalizing for a support, you can only really go for those if you have the coin to spare. If you’re a mage, you’ll want to buy items that increase the spell damage that you do, or that add other effects to your spells. Just one person building their champion in a way that doesn’t make sense can make the match a loss for the whole team.  

So how do you get gold anyway? Early on, the best way to do it is to “last hit” minions. Dealing the killing blow to an enemy minion awards you a fair amount of gold. The more often you can successfully deal the last hit to an enemy minion, the more quickly you can get gold. And this brings us to the first important phase of the game: laning. 

Navigating the Rift

The Lane Phase in League of Legends is crucial. This is the part where your team splits off, in the beginning, to go to their respective lanes in Summoner’s Rift, which is the fictional realm where these games take place. Since minions are almost the only source for gold and experience in the beginning of the game, dividing up is the best way to ensure that everyone can get the gold and experience that they need. Things get a little more complicated, however, when we bring back champion roles into the mix. Laning is a very important time to know your role and where you need to go and what you need to do. 

Attack Damage Carries are typically marksmen characters who deal a lot of damage but don’t necessarily have much ability to withstand damage from enemy players. They’re usually pretty item-dependant, and so they need to spend a lot of time farming gold during the lane phase. Later in the game, they will be your team’s source for sustain, or consistent damage output on enemies, structures, and objectives. However, since they often don’t have many escape abilities or survivability stats, they often need the help of a support champion. 

Support players are the team’s lifeline. They heal, they shield, or they use crowd control (stuns, slows, knockup, etc) to keep their team alive. Or they tank the damage themselves. Playing as a support is rewarding and challenging, but keeping in mind these basics will go a long way toward giving your team the backbone of support it needs. First, since your attack damage carry or “ADC” is so dependant on gold for items, you need to make sure not to hog all of those last hits for yourself. Starter support items will help you share gold with your ADC while they farm gold Bottom. Bottom lane is typically where this ADC/support duo goes, where you’ll face off with the enemy ADC and support. But supports also need to place wards to avoid getting ganked, or attacked, by a player coming down to bottom for a kill from another lane or from the jungle. 

Mid players are flying solo. Typically, champions who go mid are assassins or mages. Assassins usually have high burst damage but aren’t usually the most sturdy. They get in, deal damage, and get out. Mages are also usually burst damage champions, but they tend to keep their distance. They stay out of the fray but send their spells into the action to deal huge amounts of damage to the enemy team. 

Up in the Top lane, you might also see assassins, or you’ll run into fighters. Fighters are usually pretty sturdy, but can also pack a bunch. A good fighter is great for engaging on the enemy team and winning a team fight. During laning phase, top lane is also usually a solo lane. This means you’re responsible for last hitting minions, and trying to keep the enemy top laner from doing the same. 

If you’ve been keeping count, you’ll realize that for a typical 5v5 game, we’re still one role short, and that’s because Junglers don’t head to a lane at the start of the match, they head to, well, the jungle. Since there’s only as much gold and experience to go around as there are minions, junglers make it so that two lanes, mid and top, can solo farm, while they farm neutral creeps in the jungle. Neutral creeps are, unsurprisingly, neither yours nor your enemy’s minions. They can be attacked by anyone, and award gold, experience, and sometimes powerful buffs (or short-term power-ups) to anyone who kills them. So junglers can get their gold primarily from neutral creeps, making it so that the gold and experience from enemy minions is divided into one fewer share. More for everyone! And, since junglers are lurking around in the jungle, often out of sight for the enemy, they’re usually going to be helping their team set up the first few ganks of the game. 

Taking the Fight to the Enemy

Although the importance of farming rarely diminishes, the importance of slaying enemy champions will start to come more and more toward the forefront. Slaying an enemy champion awards more gold and experience than killing minions, and it also means that the enemy champion will need to wait a while before they respawn. When the enemy is down a player, or two, or five, this is the perfect time to attack their base or try for more specialized objectives such as Dragon or Baron. Don’t get too greedy though! One of the biggest mistakes beginners make is chasing too many kils. We all get the bloodlust, but you don’t want to lose sight of the team objectives, or chase an enemy too far and end up getting killed yourself. You’ll eventually learn how long is too long to chase, and which dives are doomed from the start, but that comes with practice. 

Of course, the best way to learn the game is to play, but this overview of basics should give you a leg up on the competition. Be sure to try out all the various roles to see which one suits you best, and try out as many champions as you can. Learning different champions will give you different points of view on how the game is played, and help you predict what your enemy might do if they’re playing a champion you know or a role you’re experienced in. Staying one step ahead of your enemy is a great way to help ensure success for you and your team. 

The League System, League of Legends’ competitive ranking ladder, has a lot of moving parts. It’s often complicated to understand, even for long-time players. Read on if you want to know about the League System, how to be ranked, how to move up in rank, what exactly each of the ranks even means, and more. 


Once you’re done grinding your way to level 30, you can finally start participating in ranked matches. But first, you have to complete your Placement matches. Placement matches are basically a series of matches that help the ranking system determine where you should start. It doesn’t mean you’re necessarily stuck there, but it is going to be your jumping-off point for climbing the ranked ladder. Keep in mind, just because you can climb throughout the ranked season, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put your all into the placement matches. In fact, the opposite is really true. The fastest way to get to a ranking that you want is through placement. Climbing the ladder after that can take a long time. 

After you’ve completed your ten placement matches, you will be placed into a specific Ranked Tier based on your performance in those matches. The tiers are Iron, Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond, Master, Grandmaster, and Challenger. Each of these ranks has four Divisions. So if you’re in Platinum, but prove yourself to be better than other players even within that rank, then you might be Platinum I. If, on the other hand, you’re in Gold, but you’re not doing so hot, you might be in Gold IV. The only way to move up through each of the divisions from IV to III to II all the way up to I is to win matches. 

The Climb

When you win a match you are rewarded League Points or “LP.” On the flip side, when you lose a match, you will be deducted LP. If you earn 100 LP in your division, you’ll move on to a set of matches called Promotion Matches. If you’re moving from one division to the next within a single rank, you’ll play three games and you have to win at least two of them. If you’re moving from division I of a given rank into a higher rank, you’ll play five games, and you have to win at least three of them. 

So now that you know how to move up in rank, what exactly do these rankings mean? Obviously, the higher your rank, the better you stack up against the rest of the league of legends player base. For most ranks this can be a bit relative, and people often move around between ranks and between divisions, and there’s no limit of spots available for players to be in any of the most common ranks. The special cases are those higher ranks: Master, Grandmaster, and Challenger. 

Challenger players are the best players on their servers. For example, in North America, only the top 300 players on the server can be in Challenger. Only the next top 700 people can be in Grandmaster, and only the next 4,000 after that can be ranked at Master. And these ranks are updated every day. Every 24 hours players’ skills are calculated and the players are placed in the appropriate ranking. Players who make it to challenger, especially those performing at the top, have a good chance of being scouted and going pro.  

For most people, however, the common tiers are going to become home. There’s no shame in playing at Iron or Bronze. The reason these ranks exist is so that people can be stacked up against enemy teams with similar skill levels and playstyles. Casual and beginner players will tend to get matched up with other casual and beginner players. And, if you’re ready to move up and face off against more experienced and more serious players, you’ll have the opportunity as long as you keep working, practicing, and improving. So don’t get discouraged if you don’t get the rank you want for the season or in your placement match, just remember that there’s always an opportunity to climb. It can be frustrating at times, and the process can be long and difficult, but that’s what makes achieving a higher rank such a worthwhile reward.

League of Legends is all about Champions. Champions are the characters you play as in the game. Each one has a specific set of strengths and weaknesses, a certain set of skills, a unique ultimate, and offers an individualized way to play the game and defeat your enemies. There are over 145 playable champions in LoL, and each one brings something unique to the table. Games are often lost or won based on the champions selected, how they work together, and how they fulfill their specific class roles. 

You’ve Got A Job To Do

Understanding the champion classes is half the battle. Each class has a specific set of skills and attributes to bring to the table. From the durable Tank who can take on loads of damage and still manage to walk away from a fight, to the sneaky Slayer carefully picking their targets before going in for a clutch kill, each class plays a different role in the game. Understanding the different advantages and drawbacks of all of the classes on your team is the best way to ensure a good chance of victory. 
More often than not, your champion will determine your role in the game. For example, if you pick Morgana, whose powerful spell-shield and effective bind make her a great support, with spell damage to back it up, you probably won’t be wasting your money on attack damage items or trying to jungle. 

If you are trying to Jungle, you’ll want someone who can cut down neutral creeps, get farm and buffs, but also be able to engage for a successful gank. Someone like Master Yi, Vi, or Amumu. And your role as a jungler will also dictate your item build. You’ll want to grab a jungle item at the start of the game, and that will dictate your build going forward. 

And that’s how it works typically. Your champion and class dictate your role in the game and that dictates your build and how you play. So, at its core, League of Legends is a game that’s all about the champions. 

Stack Your Roster

The various skills and gameplay relationships of and between champions are at the heart of every single League of Legends match. The best way to be good at the game is to understand as many champion as possible, and the fastest was to do that is by playing as many of them as possible. 

Free Champion Rotation is a great way to get your foot in the door and try out champions. Each week there is a set of 15 champions that anyone can use without owning the champion. Then, after a week, a new pool of 15 is available. This is the perfect way to try before you buy. If you’re looking to play a specific champion, there’s not a good chance that the one you’re looking for will happen to be a part of the free champion rotation, so you won’t be able to play them in an actual match. 

The only way to have a champion always available for play is to purchase the champion with Riot Points or Blue Essence. Riot Points, or RP, are the in-game currency obtained by spending real-world money. Blue Essence, on the other hand, is basically obtained by spending time playing. You can get Blue Essence from rewards for leveling up your summoner level, disenchanting champion shards, and getting your First Win of the Day. There are various other ways to get BE, such as completing certain event missions, but the key thing to remember is that the more you play, the more BE you’ll be able to stack up. 

Once you have enough currency, it’s time to head on over to the shop and pick out a champion. With so many options, and with BE so slow to come by, this can be a tough choice. That’s why it’s recommended to play a champion during while it is in free rotation to make sure you like playing as that champion in real matches. Of course, since free champion rotation is random, you might not see the champion you’re itching to play in the rotation for a whole season, while other champions you aren’t interested in show up more than once. It’s all luck when you don’t have any currency. But don’t fret, we’re coming out with more specific guides about champions to help you pick the best one for you, and about obtaining currency, to help you unlock it once you’ve decided. 

Strut Your Stuff

Now that you have a champion, what’s next? For those looking to really show their personality or dedication to a champion, there’s one more way of looking the part: Skins. Skins are retextures/recolors of the champions in-game model and associated splash art. But that’s the least of it. Some of the skins come with new effects, new lines of dialogue, and new sound effects. 

Skins are a great way to showcase your skill with a given champion. Skins are typically only unlocked with RP. So most people only tend to acquire skins for champions they have mastered. An in-style champion with a high mastery level and a wicked skin is the best way to strike a bit of fear in your enemies before the match has even started. 

A lot of skins are great for showcasing your own personality and playstyle. Some skins don’t take themselves as seriously as others. League of Legends skins are filled with jokes and goofiness. From Urfrider Corki to Pool Party Ziggs, there are plenty of skins to choose from if you’d rather set a different tone.

Unlocking skins with RP is as easy as locating the available skin in the shop and trading in the RP for the skin. There are a few other ways to get skins without forking over the cash, such as chests and keys, or special events and end of season rewards, etc. But for the most part, RP is king. So save your RP for skins. It might seem like a good deal to unlock champions with RP, but if you’re patient, you can unlock champions with BE and save your RP for skins. Because even though you can unlock champions with RP, you can’t unlock skins with BE. 

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