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League of Legends: a beginner’s guide

Lost in the rift? We can help

(Image: © Riot Games)

Welcome to our beginner's guide to League of Legends. League of Legends is a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) created by Riot Games, a fun-filled, strategy-charged team game with multiple game modes, rich lore, and a super-strong competitive and pro scene.

Now, there is a colossal amount to learn in League of Legends (even the in-game and in-client shop and loot system require their own tutorials) which is why this tutorial will solely focus on how to play the main game mode.

If you've ever wanted to see what the fuss is about and try out League of Legends for yourself, our beginners guide will help you get started.

So, what do you actually do?

The main game mode in League of Legends is Summoner’s Rift, often simply called 5v5, as that’s exactly what it is; a PVP (Player versus Player) five versus five game.

You, the player, are a Summoner and you summon a champion (champ) to play on your behalf. These champs vary in abilities, specialisms, and intended roles. You and your team must destroy the enemy team’s Nexus while defending your own in order to win.

To reach the Nexus your team have to destroy the turrets that protect it. There are three per lane (which are paths that lead to the Nexus), plus two protecting the Nexus. Once you’ve knocked down at least three of those, you will have to destroy at least one “inhibitor”. There are three of these in your base and the enemy’s base, one per lane.

Once an inhibitor is down, your Nexus spawns super minions on that lane, which do a lot more damage and are a lot more beefy, making them push the lane (and reach the goal of the enemy’s Nexus) faster.

Tip: You must be careful to stay out of a turrets’ reach. They will attack you otherwise, and they pack a hell of a punch. It’s also not a very cool way to go down… just saying.

Minions

Coming down the lanes in waves every couple of minutes are minions, a source of gold income for your champion. In order to farm (get money) you must “last hit” each minion. You get nothing but experience if you don’t get the last hit.

For the newbie, last-hitting is harder than it sounds, and failing to do so is nothing to be ashamed of, even if your teammates tell you otherwise.

Tip: Minions also help to push lanes and provide protection to champions from turret attacks. You should always ensure there are minions at the tower before attacking it.

Tip: Do not attack an enemy champion under their tower as the tower will automatically turn on you, ignoring any minions between you.

League of Legends

(Image credit: Riot Games)

Getting into the game

Once all champions are ’locked in’, you have a further 10 seconds to set up your rune page, skills and any extras like emotes, little legends (pets), and champion and ward skins. Make sure you do lock in, otherwise you’ll be unceremoniously thrown out of the lobby and prevented from playing another game for a while.

League of Legends

(Image credit: Riot Games)

When you initially spawn on to the rift you need to open the shop and buy your starting items. The items you buy should depend on the champion and position you are playing.

The positions you can play are Top, Middle, Bot Lane and Jungle. Of course, you could go anywhere you like, but your teammates might become upset with you.

Top and Mid are “solo lanes”, meaning you get to play in glorious isolation. In the Top lane you usually play a tank or fighter, and in Mid a mage or assassin.

Bot is a “duo lane” and is played by a Marksman with a Support. Only the Marksman farms there. 

The Support buys gold-generating items and acts selflessly for the good of the team for no glory.

League of Legends

(Image credit: Riot Games)

Around Summoners Rift there are monsters, some with buffs. The Jungler gets their income from farming these monsters. Their job is to put down wards to provide vision for their team and gank (ambush) the lanes.

There are also two neutral mobs in the jungle called scuttle crabs that provide a view of the area surrounding two large buff-bestowing monsters, Dragon and Baron Nashor, who is usually referred to as either ‘Baron’ or ‘Nashor’.

League of Legends

(Image credit: Riot Games)

Communication

Smart pings are color-coded and are used in game to alert your team to different instances:

  • Enemy missing = Yellow ‘?’
  • Danger = Red ‘!’
  • Assist me = Blue flag
  • On my way = Green downward pointing arrow

League of Legends

(Image credit: Riot Games)

In the image above, you'll see runes that you need in order to help  your champ on the battlefield as they aid your stats and abilities.

These are selected when you choose your champ. Also, bear in mind that the number of rune slots available will increase as you climb up to level 30.

5v5 modes

There are three 5v5 game modes.

'Blind Pick' is the simplest. Players simply choose champs at same time, with each team unable to see each other’s choices until the loading screen.

In 'Draft Pick', both teams select a champ each to ban from the game, making ten in total. Bans should be strategic in order to have an edge at the start of the game. Both teams see each other’s champion picks once they are locked in.

The 'Ranked' mode follows the same ban pick method as draft pick, but for competitive play and ranking in the league. You will be unable to play ranked until you reach level 30.

League of Legend’s professional eSports scene uses the draft pick system in tournaments.

What’s next?

Speaking of level 30, you have to play up to level 30 in order to get full League rights, including taking part in competitive play (ranked).

When you first play in the League you will have no idea what is going on and why that one champ keeps killing you (although that actually never changes), but eventually you’ll get used to it and find the champs and positions that suit you.

LoL will test your patience. It’s not easy and there is a lot to learn. There’s a lot of skill and strategy involved and if you suck at it, you will get flamed.

So, if you enjoy questioning if your mother telling you that you were special was true then this is indeed the game for you. 

While it can induce rage and self-loathing, it is actually a really good game – if you stick at it, you’ll grow to love its fast-paced, intense and challenging matches, and all the rather impressive trimmings Riot loves to gift its community.

Piqued your interest? Download League of Legends here.

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