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How To Play League of Legends

Mike Plant | 
2018 Mid-Season Invitational Finals at Zénith Paris in Paris, France, on 20 May 2018.

2018 Mid-Season Invitational Finals at Zénith Paris in Paris, France, on 20 May 2018.

What is League of Legends?

League of Legends is a free-to-play multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game. All that you need to play is a computer that can run the game. If you are looking to elevate your game, using a mouse instead of a trackpad is highly recommended for added precision.

What is the Objective of the Game?

The objective in a game of League of Legends is to destroy the enemy base, known as the nexus. There is no time limit on games, so games last as long as the nexus of both teams remains.

What are Champions?

The characters that players play in game are known in League of Legends as champions. Every player gets to pick a champion in “champion select”, the lobby before the game begins. Each week there are a rotating number of free-to-play champions unlocked to select from, with the other champions available to play only by purchase or in-game currency. Each champion on a team must be unique, so you and your teammates cannot pick the same champion.

What are Runes?

After you pick your champion, you will want to pick your runes. Each rune has a special effect or stat bonus that you can use to build a playstyle around for your champion in game. If you are not sure what runes to pick right away or run out of time, don’t worry—Riot has pre-set rune pages to use.

What are Summoner Spells?

In addition to their basic abilities, each player gets to choose two summoner spells for their champion. These are generally long cooldown (time before you are able to cast the spell again) abilities that thus have a large impact on gameplay. Your selection of these, like your runes, will shape your playstyle on your champion based on the type of spell chosen, whether it be offensive, defensive, or general utility. More summoner spells will be unlocked as you level your account up.

How do you Control your Champion?

To move your champion, simply right click on the map where you want to go. To auto attack an enemy, right click on the enemy. If your champion is in range, it will begin attacking the enemy. If your champion is not in range, it will walk into range and then begin attacking.

Abilities and summoner spells have pre-bound keys (indicated in game) that are hit to cast those spells.

What are Ranged and Melee Champions?

Ranged champions can auto attack from a range. Melee champions must be right next to their target to auto attack.

What are Champion Abilities?

Each champion has four abilities: three basic abilities (pre-bound to keys Q, W, and E) and one ultimate ability (pre-bound to key R). You are able to put one point into a spell each time your champion gains a level (based on experience gained). Each of your basic abilities can be leveled up five times and your ultimate three times, as champions are capped at level 18. Your ultimate spell is not available until level 6 and is generally a much longer cooldown and higher impact spell, more in line with a summoner spell.

What are the Two Bars Above my Champion?

The top bar is your health bar and shows you how much health you have remaining before you are killed. Kills grant gold to the killer and any champion that assists on the kill.

The bottom bar is your mana bar and shows you how much mana you have remaining. Mana is a resource that most champions use to cast their abilities.

Some champions, however, use another resource system called energy or have no resources to manage at all.

What are Items and How do I Buy Them?

When you load into a game, you spawn on your fountain pad, next to the item shop. This is where you buy your items (pre-bound to key P). Items give your champion stats: damage stats like attack damage and ability power, defense stats like health, armor, and magic resist, and utility like cooldown reduction and crowd control cleanses. Each champion has a recommended build provided in the shop that can be used as a guide. Larger items build out of smaller components, so if you cannot afford a full item, you can buy some of the smaller pieces and return to the action.

How do I Get Back to Base?

Recalling (pre-bound to key B) allows you to, after a delay, return to your base. Here your health and mana bars are quickly restored and you can purchase items again before returning out on the map to battle.

What are Lanes?

There are three lanes on the Summoner’s Rift map: top, mid, and bot. A standard layout would be to send one champion top, one champion mid, and two champions bot, with the fifth player in the jungle. Each lane has three turrets and an inhibitor for each team and connects the bases of both teams. This is where you will fight the majority of the beginning of the game, as this is where minions travel.

What is the Space in Between the Lanes?

In between the lanes lies the jungle, where neutral monsters are found. These monsters do not attack unless attacked themselves and can be killed by either team. A player who is jungling is expected to kill as many of these neutral monster camps as possible while also assisting the laners by unexpectedly showing up to fight the enemy champions, known as ganking.

What are the Champion Roles in the Game?

League of Legends champions fall into six general champion roles: Assassin, Fighter, Mage, Marksman, Support, and Tank.

Assassins try to kill champions up close in a quick burst, meaning they tend to have high damage and low survivability. Assassins are most seen played top, mid, or jungle.

Fighters excel in extended fights by dealing strong base damage and having survivability, but need to stay close to targets to be effective. Fighters are most seen played top or jungle.

Mages rely on their abilities to pump out their damage, often in quick bursts. Mages are most seen played mid or bot.

Marksmen are ranged champions that rely on their auto attacks to deal most of their damage, trading consistent damage for vulnerability. Marksmen are most seen played mid and bot.

Supports are the healers and shielders that try to protect the carries on the team, often loaded with crowd control spells. Supports are most seen played mid and bot.

Tanks are the frontline of the team, soaking damage with their beefy health pool and resistances. Tanks are most seen played top, jungle, and bot.

What are Minions?

Each team has their own minions that spawn and walk down each of the three lanes to fight the opposing team’s minions. Killing a minion by dealing fatal damage to it grants gold, called last hitting. If there are no other minions to fight or champions are fighting each other, the minions will start fighting enemy champions instead. Minions can also damage enemy towers, inhibitors, or the nexus if they have no other target to hit.

What are Turrets?

Each team has 11 turrets: three in each lane and two guarding the nexus. Turrets are evenly spaced defenders, attacking enemies that approach. Turrets prioritize minions, unless one of their champions is being attacked or there are no minions to attack. Killing a tower is permanent and only the outermost turret that is left standing in each lane is targetable for attack. You must kill three towers in a lane, an inhibitor, and the two nexus towers before you can attack the nexus.

What are Inhibitors?

Each team has an inhibitor in each of their lanes. After taking down the three towers in front of an inhibitor, teams can attack and destroy an inhibitor to gain super minions, a very powerful minion that will spawn with your other minions while the inhibitor is down. Inhibitors respawn after a period of time and the super minion bonus is then lost.

What are Neutral Objectives?

Powerful neutral monsters are found in the middle of the map. These monsters require teamwork to destroy, but offer powerful bonuses when captured.

What is the Nexus?

The nexus is the heart of each team’s base. When destroyed, the game is over, so protect it at all costs. After taking damage, the nexus will slowly heal itself over time, and can only be attacked while one or more inhibitors are down.

What is Fog of War?

The area of the map that is blacked out is called the fog of war. Map vision is given around your team’s champions, turrets, minions, and wards.

What are Wards?

Wards give your team temporary vision around the area where the ward is placed on the map.

How do I Check the Scoreboard?

Pressing and holding TAB shows the scoreboard for the game. On it you can see the champions in the game, along with their items, kills, and the number of minions they have killed. Towers and neutral objectives taken are also shown.

How do I Chat with my Team?

To communicate with your team, you can chat by hitting ENTER, typing, and hitting ENTER again to send a message in the chat. Messages are only shown to your own team unless you turn on all chat and use SHIFT in addition to ENTER.

What are Some Gameplay Tips?

The minimap on the corner of your screen shows you what is going on across the rest of the map in real time. Remember to take a look at it often so you can see where champions are across the map and if and where fights are taking place.

When you are more comfortable, unlocking your map allows you to reposition your point-of-view without your champion always being centered. This lets you better position your screen to see what you want to look at, not necessarily what is centered around your champion. If you ever lose your champion, you can always hit space bar to recenter your vision.

Remember to recall back to base whenever you take too much damage or have an item you would like to buy. Try to buy items each time you go back to base, even if only health potions to keep your health high out of the base.

Turrets are very strong early in the game before champions gain stats from leveling up and buying items, so try not to take any shots from them.

The brush areas on the map hide champions and minions unless another champion, minion, or ward from the enemy gives vision, so be careful around them.

Constantly re-positioning your champion by right clicking around on the ground makes it tougher for enemy champions to hit you with skillshots (spells that can be dodged).

While abilities can be cast by clicking on them with your cursor, using the hotkey allows you to keep your cursor positioned for other actions and allows you to complete actions in succession quicker.

What are Some Strategy Tips?

You can try to plan out ideal recall timings by looking up how much gold you need to buy an item and then recalling when you have that amount.

Early in games, players tend to stick to their own lanes to farm up minion kills and (hopefully) champion kills. As the game goes on and turrets are knocked down, teams group up and fight each other 5-vs-5, called teamfights.

Ward the brushes around you to keep vision on your enemies or to catch out a potential gank from another lane or the jungler.

Some items synergize with other items, so take some time to plan out what your ideal item build will look like each game.

Mike Plant
Michael Plant has been playing League of Legends since 2010 and analyzing it nearly as long. More recently, he's been interested in the developing PUBG and Fortnite scenes. When he's not playing or watching video games, he's more than likely following one of his Houston sports teams.
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