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Let’s Learn Together // Getting Started in League of Legends

If you’re a PC gamer and haven’t heard of League of Legends in the past six months to a year than I have no idea what you have been doing. League of Legends is possibly the most popular of the DotA clones and has grown exponentially over the past year. It is a free-to-play team based strategy game where each player takes on the role of a Summoner and controls a champion that fights their way across the Fields of Justice destroying minions and turrets until reaching the opposing team’s base and destroying the Nexus. It sounds simple enough but the sheer number of champions, equipment to buy and player choices make it into a tactical game that takes quite a bit of time to get good at. For the sake of this walk through I’m going to assume you have only heard of League of Legends and haven’t actually done anything about playing. We’re just going to cover the Classic gameplay for now, and we’ll talk about Dominion in a later article.

Step 1: Get Into the Game

Go to na.leagueoflegends.com if you live in North America, or just www.leagueoflegends.com if not and it will redirect you to the proper domain. Click the giant Play for Free button and fill out the form.

Your standard sign up form.

Now you’ll have to download the client, much like any other MMO. As I’ve mentioned before, I own an iMac. You’ll notice there is no Mac client for LoL, as of last year they cancelled the Mac client for who knows what reason other than laziness. Fear not my Apple loving friends, there is a solution that doesn’t involve using Bootcamp. Nerds will always prevail.

Step 2: Understanding the Basics

A word of advice, if you don’t have thick skin, if being called every insulting name in the book, actually bothers you, don’t waste your time trying to play this game. The worst douchebags on the planet play LoL. I am not joking, I haven’t been called faggot this many times since high school. And that was my OWN TEAM! So, with that being said, here are some things you should know before playing so you don’t look like an idiot. Another thing to consider is that each match can take anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour to finish. Make sure you have the time available because Riot takes leaving games very seriously. I myself am at a “Leaver Penalty 3” because of my stupid internet connection crapping out in the middle of games.

The first time you login you’ll be asked if you want to play a tutorial game against bots. Go for it! Honestly, play beginner bot games until you stop dying 10 times without scoring a kill of your own. Don’t move to intermediate bot games until you know you can survive more than 10 minutes without getting killed. I’ve played intermediate bot games where the bots have been smarter than actual people I’ve played against. When playing against bots you will be matched up with 4 other people of about the same summoner level as you. This does not mean they are the same skill level, sometimes they are very skilled players starting alternate summoners for whatever reason. They are the worst people to play with when starting out because they will kill steal without discretion and then call you all kinds of names for not leveling up fast enough. While starting out I would suggest taking a lane with the help of a support champ just to get a feel for your chosen champion and how hard you can push a lane before getting yourself killed.

When I started playing I didn’t understand how anything worked, so I would just throw myself at enemy champs over and over again, dying to help save other team members or just out of pure boneheaded ignorance. This is called “feeding” because each time a champion kills another champion, they get a bunch of gold and XP. Eventually you have opponents who are maxed out while you’re still at level 10. Discretion is the better part of valor, feel free to go back to your base when you get low on health or mana and can’t push effectively. League of Legends is all about taking down the towers to get into your enemies’ base and destroy it. That’s all there is to it. At the heart anyways. But then it gets complicated. The usual set up is two champs go down the top and bottom lanes, and a single player solos the middle lane, since it is the shortest. I wouldn’t suggest going solo mid your first couple of times, it’s a fast road to Gankville, population:you. Try to take out enemy champions if you get the chance but don’t chase them past towers. If they make it that far, let them go, it’s better to let them survive then get yourself killed.

Something else you’ll have to worry about is what is called a Jungler character. In between the 3 lanes there is “jungle” filled with neutral monsters. Dragon and Baron give experience and gold to all nearby champs when they are slain, whereas the others just give xp, gold or buffs to the champion that slays them. A few champions are designed to go into this jungle and take out these creatures while leveling up. The scary part is that while in the jungle they are considered MIA and the opposing team has no idea where they are. These players usually come out into the lanes out of nowhere to gank a team member, then back into the shadows they go.

Choose wisely.

2A: Speaking the Language
There is a short hand that has popped up in the game, that you will need to know. Speaking from experience, when someone calls “mid mia” you should probably know what that means. Especially if you’re pushing bot really hard you’re about to get ganked. See that? you have no idea what I just said. In essence, the opposing champion in the middle lane has disappeared, either to go back to base to heal, buy gear, or possibly to go to the bottom lane and kill you with the other two champs. Pushing a lane is the act of going down the lane and taking out the towers in force. Here’s a pretty good guide to get you started.

Click to embiggen.

2B:Choosing a Champion
Your champion is your avatar on the Fields of Justice and how you will interact with the game. There are 90 champions as of this writing, the newest being Viktor who was just released last week. Riot Games is on a 2 week release schedule with their champions so who knows how many will be out when you read this. It’s almost overwhelming. Lucky for you, you don’t have access to all of them right away. League of Legends is free to play, if you so choose. Where Riot Games makes their money is in Riot Points, a sort of virtual currency that unlocks new Champions and skins for your champions, as well as a few other things. Check the site for which Champions are free to play at the moment and read up on their abilities so you know how to use them when you start playing. Like every team based game or MMO, there are different classes of characters. Everything from your tough tank melee characters to your ranged support characters are featured in LoL and it’s up to you how you want to play the game. For the most part all of the champions are evenly powered and it’s all about player skill that defines you. When I started playing, Nasus was free to play and I became pretty confident with him and his play style worked for me. Currently I’m using the newest champ Viktor and trying to get used to his style of play. Ezreal was free to play a few weeks ago and I really wanted to use him because he looks awesome, but he is definitely a skilled player champion. I died a lot with him and it was just sad. My suggestion is read over each champ’s abilities and decide on one that you think will work for you and stick with it. After the first week you should have enough IP to unlock a champ permanently. Do so wisely. I unlocked Morgana based solely on the fact that she looks badass and I’ve used her once.

2C:Summoner Abilities
As this is an introduction article I’m not going to go into detail about Summoner Spells, Masteries and Runes. Each time you play a match you gain experience and Influence Points. You gain levels as a gain summoner levels you get access to new spells, rune slots and a mastery point each level. If you’ve ever played WoW or any other RPG in the past 5 years then the mastery table will look very similar. Runes are like gear for your summoner that give your champion certain buffs at the beginning of the match. There are runes for everything, from cool down reduction to extra health. Runes can only be purchased with IP so be careful with how you spend it.

3: Understanding Towers

There are 3 towers, sometimes referred to as turrets, in each lane protecting the opponents’ base. The last tower defends an Inhibitor, once the Inhibitor is destroyed your base will start spewing Super Minions. These are key to victory. Get those towers down as quickly as possible without dying. The towers will lock onto you if there are no other targets available, meaning, no minions, or closer champs. A tower will also defend it’s champion if you are in range and attack a champion, regardless of whether or not there are minions to hit. They will kill you very, very quickly. This was the hardest thing for me to understand. With Nasus and his ultimate up there was a fair amount of survivability if the tower was about to be destroyed. More often than not though I would get killed either by the turret or the nearby champion. Tower dive at your own risk, and only if you think it’s worthwhile.

Towers don't give a fuck if your ult is up.

4: It’s a Team Game

This is the MOST misunderstood aspect of this game. Your team has to work together. You might be able to win with a single crappy player who isn’t helping out, but if you have two or more that just refuse to work together, you’re doomed. Call your MIA’s, set up wards, help lanes that are in need, etc. This fact cannot be stressed enough. Another detriment to your team are players who keep whining about how your team should just surrender. The other night I was playing and a player, who was not very good, and had his lane devastated, kept calling surrender votes every five minutes. Sometimes your team will get completely face rolled in the first 20 minutes and a lot of people decide to just surrender instead of dragging it out. On the other hand, I’ve played games where my team was on the brink of disaster, then the other team got cocky and we stormed their base in force and won the game. It came down to team work.

Once the first towers in the lanes have been taken down players are going to start leaving their lanes and start looking for kills. Cooperation with your teammates at this point will make or break you. Stay together and push the lanes as a single unit. Once you break through that final turret it’s nearly over for the other team. Unless they work together even better and are able to push you back and make your team fall apart.

Much like horror movie rules, stay in groups, and never, ever go into the woods alone.

5: It’s Just a Game

Seriously, don’t freak out if you’re not good at first. I’m still pretty awful and I’m summoner level 17. It really is all about the basics of teamwork, understanding how you want to play the game and filling that role. Don’t get into shouting matches with the other players when you’re not doing well, show some good sportsmanship. Above all, have fun!

Let’s Learn Together is an ongoing series of articles helping you get into games you might have passed on for a number of reasons. Not so much tutorials or guides, but inspiration.