League of Legends, the world's leading MOBA and Riot's license to print money, can be a complex game to get into. Not necessarily to pick up and play - that part's easy. But to understand how the game works past its surface level of pointing and clicking is usually the biggest barrier to entry. That and the inherent toxicity, but Riot is taking measures to curb that.
The game has many types of plays, and many phases for which each are appropriate. There are small parts of the game in which their importance can't be understated. This isn't a guide that's supposed to reveal the secrets to winning with in-meta, high elo champions. But for every aspect of the game, there is a champion or set of champions that personify it. Capturing the essences of these champions will, in turn, allow players to fully appreciate the many minor moving pieces involved in any given game on the Rift.
Farming - Wave Clearing
To kill the never ending waves of minions is a practice that is more complex than it may initially seem. Running up and hitting what's in front of you is part of the game, but every action needs a justification in this game, including getting exp and money.
And that's the first real application of farming - gaining these important meta numbers at a steady pace. Usually what makes a champion a Support or a Carry has something to do with how efficiently they can kill creatures. Supports tend to be pretty bad at it, while Carries tend to be pretty good. Being a Carry involves making the killing of minions an art from, and one of the best champions for wave clearing during the laning phase is the mad Yordle tinkerer Heimerdinger. Heim's miniature gun placements do his talking for him, and they are quite efficient at focusing down and killing minions quickly. So efficient, in fact, that you don't even have to be in the lane while it happens. Technology, am I right?
Other good wave clearers include: Sivir, Mordekaiser, Anivia
Farming - Last Hitting
Part of the art of farming comes from not just making sure the minions are dead, but that you are the one that killed them. If a minion, turret, or teammate kills a minion, you don't get the experience for it. If you try to just out auto-attack your minions, you'll find that, more often than not, you'll put your precious minion kills in better positions to get stolen. None of that is bueno.
The pros have adopted a technique early on called last hitting. To last hit is to do exactly what that sounds like. This usually means patiently waiting in attack range of enemy minions, then butting in and taking the final shot on ones whose health is low. Not only does doing this raise the chances of you getting that experience, but it saves you from getting trapped in an attack animation when an enemy champion comes knocking. Any good ranged carry can last hit, but in order to make learning it a focus, players should jump into a champion like Nasus. His Q ability, Siphoning Strike, gains power with every minion killed, so last hitting is a must for him to truly shine.
Other good last hitters include: Veigar, Ashe, Jinx
It's very easy to get tunnel vision in this game. You spend so long in your lane with your enemy, dancing around minion mobs and jockeying for the slightest of positions, that you can often forget that the map is bigger than your particular space. This can be quite costly, as the most common mistakes come from not paying attention to when someone is leaving their lane to bring the ruckus somewhere else - also known as roaming.
A good roaming champion usually has a kit that involves dealing with small groups of monsters or a single target quickly, as well as navigating through the map efficiently. This means the best roamers tend to be junglers. That being said, it's my experience that properly learning the map and its many quirks may involve not just being able to walk its twists and turns at a whim, but knowing where to be in a flash. Taking the Teleport summoner spell is good for this, but some champions can teleport globally thanks to their own abilities. A champion like Shen is exactly what a person trying to make their map awareness a bit better should start with, because unlike his global teleporting counterpart like Twisted Fate, Shen's naturally tanky and provides a larger margin for error. And in Shen's case specifically, you are teleporting to a friendly champion in order to protect them, so you need to keep your eyes on their health and positioning just as much as you would your own.
Other good globalists include: Twisted Fate, Karthus, Nocturne
Wards have become one of the most important things in the game as the pro scene has evolved, and the maps - and their objectives - have become more important. They help you to see through the fog of war, be more predictive of enemy movements, and see more of the board at once. Sight makes plays and saves fights, but it can be a hard thing to really know how to do well without lots of practice.
"But Jarrett," you say, "can't everybody use wards?" - Yes, they can, but some champions work better with items that double as wards, called Sightstones. Others have ward-like abilities. And then there's Teemo, one of the best champions to select when it comes to maintaining sight. His ultimate, Noxious Trap, plops down a mushroom that takes a second to arm, but afterwards acts like a Stealth Ward that slows and poisons on contact with the enemy. They are good to plant in bushes to establish a good sight network in the jungle or to plop in front of turrets or popular choke points to protect objectives or hinder escapes. One of the most annoying abilities in the game is also one of the best for good reason.
Other good visioneers include: Skarner, Rek'Sai, Bard
The "tank" is one of the most important roles in League, but the use of the word is often in contention. Tanks in MMOs have abilities that force enemies to engage them, and they have the health to absorb the incoming damage. League tanks normally have the health thing set, but not the taunts and what not. This means a tank in League has to learn how to physically get in people's way.
A good tank uses their body to shield softer targets from preventable harm and uses their mere presence to upset the enemy position. This is generally accomplished by being really big and building items that can damage people passively, like Sunfire Cape or Thornmail. Some tanks specialize in "peeling", or using their kit and their presence to disrupt an attacker's pursuit of one of your allies. Some tank champs can slow pretty well, others tackle or stun, and others can quite literally pull enemies away from people. My favorite champion in the game, Nautilus, can do all three. If you want to learn to be the best tank you can be, I can't think of a better starting point than the Titan of the Depths.
Other good tanks include: Tahm Kench, Thresh, Leona
Support has become a catch-all word that's come to mean "champion who helps other champions", but how that happens is a pretty wide variable. For example, many tanks are also considered supports, yet they often support indirectly by targeting enemy champions and making it easier for teammates to kill them (or escape them). There are also champions who use their abilities to buff friendlies directly. This is a key mechanic to get the hang of, as it usually can determine the difference between acing a teamfight and being aced.
This is a more difficult role to narrow down to one particular champ, because a series of champions do this pretty well. Zilean is quite adept at battlefield control thanks to his Time Warp and Chrono Shift abilities, which can increase ally movement speed by a bunch and save a player from death, respectively. Braum can leap between an ally and the enemy and absorb damage for them with his massive shield. The focus with these champs is usually on keeping other champs alive and playing to their strengths over your individual abilities.
Other good supports include: Sona, Lulu, Soraka
League of Legends is a team sport, for the most part. But the laning phase of the game, which lasts anywhere between 10 to 20 minutes, involves much of your team operating on their own with minor, one-on-one clashes erupting in lanes to help secure positioning. Removed from the spontaneity of ganks and other outside interferences, these tense duels can be quite compelling to watch.
Winning duels often comes down to timing, positioning, and champion kit/item builds. A champ with killer abilities is a baseline, but without knowing when and where to strike, you can find yourself at a disadvantage early. While almost any champ can become a 1v1 star under the right circumstances, some just excel at it. There is probably no "best duelist", but for someone trying to get better at one-on-one encounters, I can't recommend Darius enough. Like every juggernaut, he can be kited by ranged attackers pretty easily, but when it comes down to putting the hurt on someone in a straight-up fight, Darius is hard to overcome. Mostly because of his Hemorrhage passive, which does damage over time and stacks up to 5 times. When at full, he gains Noxian Might, which gives him bonus attack damage and allows him to place full stacks of Hemorrhage on any other targets nearby with just one hit. The longer you're in battle with Darius, the worse it gets for you.
Other Good Duelists include: Vayne, Jax, Fiora
Don't forget to check out Leaguepedia for all your pro League info.
Jarrett shares his love of video games and geek culture through feature articles on Gamepedia. He prides himself on his deep attraction to Japanese beat-em ups and his god-like Bushido Blade talents.