A Quick Guide to the Most Popular Game in the World: League of Legends


With 32 million monthly players, League of Legends is currently dwarfing every other game out there in terms of player base. The free to play Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) is surging in popularity all over the world in terms of a past time and a spectator sport. Hundreds of thousands tune in to watch pros play the game online, and it’s a fantastic experience that rivals any actual sporting event if you’re in attendance (I had a blast at the World Championship in Santa Monica last year).

All this said, it’s a game with a learning curve that’s rather steep. As such, many try and fail to play the game, quickly becoming discouraged because of the unfamiliar genre and the usually overly hostile player base.

I am the furthest thing from a pro playing this game you can be, but I’ve been playing it pretty consistently for well over a year now, and I think that’s enough to give some helpful tips to new players that will dramatically improve the game. I won’t explain the basic rules in much detail, but rather once you generally understand the concept, I’ll give you some tips that should help you improve dramatically, at least at low levels.


The basic rules:

– Five players on each team

– Three lanes filled with AI minions that walk in a straight line until they encounter resistence

– Towers guard each lane at various points

– Object is to kill the enemy nexus after a full lane or all of the lanes of the guard towers have been killed

– Gold is granted on kills of enemy champions or minions (“creeps”), but only if you are the one to get the last hit

– Gold can be used to buy items to make your character stronger

With that out of the way, here we go:

Understand that This is Not Team Deathmatch


Early on in the game, nearly every player seems to forget that the ultimate goal of the game is to kill the enemy nexus, not rack up the most kills. Often times these two things go hand in hand, as if you get more kills, you get more items which will make your character stronger and more easily able to eliminate enemy champions from the map and take down towers.

That said, the pursuit of a kill often leads to more trouble than it’s worth. As much fun as it is to take pot shots at an enemy in your lane, you need to make sure you don’t fall behind on farming, ie. killing minions. You might cut your enemy down to 15% health, but if he’s killed 30 minions and you have three, you’re way behind. Even if you killed him, you would STILL be behind because the minion gold outweighs that for the kill. Getting a kill may feel a lot better than simply last-hitting minions, but if you want to actually win, farming or “CSing” is the best way to get ahead of your lane opponent.

The same goes for chasing. Yes, a champion might have a sliver of health and you’ll be DAMNED if you’re going to let them get away, but sometimes, you just have to let them go. I’ve seen this happen a million times at every skill level, where a player goes deep in enemy territory in search of a kill only to find themselves surrounded and dead seconds later. Sometimes, it’s  just not worth it.

Pay No Attention to the Haters, But Do Try to Learn


Perhaps this should be the first bit of advice because it’s the one issue that you are guaranteed to encounter as a new player. You will get yelled at, a lot. It’s simply the nature of a game where you are required to work together as a team in order to achieve an objective. Call of Duty deathmatches require no such coordination, but League of Legends battles can be entirely lost based on the mistakes of one person.

This can create a rather hostile atmosphere when four players who are doing perfectly well are sunk by one person who is either bad or just having a bad game. This will be you at some point, and has been everyone who has played the game on many occasions. Especially when you’re new, you will make a ton of mistakes. It would be nice if at low levels people understood that, but they won’t. In reality, other players are likely to be the biggest obstacle between you and your enjoyment of the game. If you understand to expect hostile treatment going in, perhaps it won’t be such a shock when it happens. All you can do is strip the profanity out of their harassment, and attempt to learn what you did wrong for next time.

Learn the Roles, and How to Play Them


Yes, League of Legends is all about experimentation, trying new champions and builds and gameplay  strategies, but only to a point. At a certain point, you have to learn at least the lose ‘rules’ of the game when it comes to champion selection and gameplay. There are supposed to be five main roles:

Top  (Top lane)

Top is usually a bruiser, a tank or an assassin. You can assist mid lane, but you’ll likely be going 1v1 for a large portion of the game.

Mid (Mid lane)

Mid is usually an ability power champion, though lately bruisers have been played mid as well. Mid can roam top or bottom to help their lanes.

Jungler (Roaming)

Junglers come in all types, but you won’t always see one in low level games. Going two people top is fine for early levels, but eventually every team should have a jungler who will attack (gank) around all the lanes, hopefully giving his team the advantage.

Attack Damage Carry, ADC (Bottom lane)

A ranged champion who builds attack damage. Can carry a game singlehandedly if given enough kills.

Support (Bottom lane)

In the laning phase, it’s the support’s job to keep the AD carry alive in the bottom lane and help them get kills. Eventually, they’ll need to help the team as a whole, but usually sticking close to the AD carry is a good bet.

It would take a million years to explain what roles all 100+ champions fall into, but that’s something you have to simply learn over time. But even knowing these roles exist going in is a huge step forward in the right direction.

Be a Team Player


One surefire way to avoid getting yelled at and actually help to win games is to simply go with the flow. You will quickly have a favorite role and favorite champions, but do not be a baby about it when someone else wants the role you were planning on taking.

Simply put, you need to fill whatever role the team needs. Do not join a game and instantly lock in your favorite champion so no one else gets it. They will hate you. I will hate you. In blind, try to call it first, or in draft or rank, pick it first if you’re near the top. People usually respect that, but if not, don’t make a big thing out of it. Sure, you can call each other names and whatever, but if you go into a game as one of two mids jockeying for the position, you’re probably going to have less fun if you simply adapted and played support.

Those are the basics, if there’s any interest, maybe I’ll do another one of these at some point.

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  1. This is actually a very informative article. I’ve been playing LoL for a few months now (as much as I can with a job, wife, and 3 kids) and still feel like I don’t know what I’m doing sometimes. Main issue I have is with the “roles”. I’ve searched for what the big difference is for mid, top, and bottom and never seen it spelled out as simply as you’ve put. I still don’t fully understand a jungler and think it’s better to have everyone in the lanes and pushing against the towers. I just go to the jungle for quick XP and/or gold.

  2. @rich, Katarina
    @grant If you don’t mind, i’ll do my best to try to explain it to you.
    As you know main “meta” these days is that you have top, jungle mid, adc and support as paul already said in his article.
    the reason of the jungler is that he can earn his own xp and not share with top, who can level faster while being alone. another reason for this is some champions have really weak or nearly impossible early phase of the game when playing against another player, so they need themselves to build up first and then they can “gank” and get kills.

    as for the roles, you want your mid (ap carry, although it’s coming back that ad carries should be in mid) to get really buffed. jungler will/should/how they decide get most ganks on an enemy mid so your mid get kills.

    adc on the bottom has support with him already whose sole role early in the game is to protect his ad carry. also, to ward map and provide buffs for the whole team. eg. sona has ap/ad buff for the whole team, heal, speed buff and great stun. usually support doesn’t “creep” at all, just leaves all the minions for the adc.

  3. Sounds like a game taken way too seriously like a lot of the popular games out there lately. Fun must take on a new meaning when the laughs and carefree attitude are absent for a good 90% or more of the game. Just an observation. Don’t shoot me. I’m harmless! 😉

  4. @Rich : this redhead is Katarina, but you should see miss fortune too if you like redhead : http://lol.zfcdn.net/db/champion-skin/MissFortune_0.jpg

    more seriously, playing for 6 month, 5-6 games/week now, I try to fellow all these rules.

    At my level, there will be at least half the game without jungler if I don’t do it. But learning how to jungle seem very complicated to me. I’m so bad a jungle that I still feel sometime that it would be better for me to play duo-top. I don’t even talk about the times the ennemi jungle invade and rape me or when the top laner is so bad at last hitting that I could feed easily with what he left. Support is not as easy at it sound too : you should place some wards (where? when?) and knowing what supportive item to buy depending of your ADC and other teammate and enemy… you shouldn’t have one or two builds always the same like other roles generally can!

    Moreover, these two role are the less likely to do lot of kills…so there are less likely to be played… so if you fellow the rule “Be a Team Player” you will play a lot these two roles!

  5. Well I dont play LOL, but i had my share with MOBA games in the form of DoTA, HoN and now DoTA2.
    I recently discussed with my friend the problem that these kind of games have because all the whiners, haters or trolls. He’s the sort of person obsessed with APM, K/D ratio and points these games have, and he is a hater. He spends more time writing curses than acctually playing the game, and this is in my oppinion the biggest problem these games have- not being able to play the game casually because someone is so worried about their stats.
    I think the best sollution to this particular problem is just to remove stats, well keep them internally for matchmaking purposes, but don’t let them be visible to you or to other players. You can reward the players for winning with items that can change your heroes apperance, different anouncers, sound packages or stuff like that, but don’t keep score (anyway not visiblly). Leave that to pro players or players who want to play the game competitevly.
    Sometimes when I come back home from work tired and just want to have a quiet game to relax, it is impossible because someone is going to hate or whine for sure and ruin your quiet game.

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