This guide is designed to introduce people who have never played League of Legends to the game, even people who aren’t familiar with video games whatsoever. League of Legends is a very complex game that requires a lot of time to get down, which makes creating a beginner’s guide difficult. While there are several different game modes within League of Legends, for this guide we’re only gonna focus on the most popular, premier competitive game mode: a five versus five battle set on Summoner’s Rift. In this game mode, each team has five players, and each player controls a single champion. There are currently over 140 champions within League of Legends; with such a diverse cast of champions, you’re sure to find some that suit you and how you want to play the game.
Just a list of champions alone can be extremely daunting to new players. There are over 140 champions, and each champion has five unique abilities. One passive ability, three normal abilities, and one “Ultimate” ability. At first, learning them all can feel impossible. Trust me, I understand. That’s why I made another video that breaks down all of the champions into 7 classes, which further break down into 13 subclasses based on how the champions are played. This can greatly simplify the game because instead of trying to learn 140 champions, all you need to do is learn 7 classes. For example, instead of trying to learn the differences between Nautilus and Malphite, all you need to know is they are both Vanguards, which are part of the Tank class. If you want to learn more about the different classes and how they differ you can click the “i” in the upper right-hand corner of the video to see a link to that video or you can find a link to that video in the video description below.
How Do You Play League of Legends
Each player controls a single champion and each team is made up of five players. Each type of champion fulfills a different role on the team, so it’s important for players to work together to create a well-rounded team. To use a sports analogy, you wouldn’t want an American football team that didn’t have any linemen and you also wouldn’t want an American football team that is only made up of linemen. Each position in football has its own strengths, weaknesses, and purpose. It’s important to have a mix of each position on the field in order to achieve your goal.
It’s no different in League of Legends. You don’t want to have a team that’s only damage dealers and you also don’t want to have a team that’s just tanks. Ideally, you want a mix of both. I have a guide on team composition that goes much deeper on this topic but it’s a bit more advanced than this guide. If you want to check it out, you can click the “i” in the upper right-hand corner or you can find a link to the guide in the video description below.
So we’ve gone over the champions and we’ve briefly gone over how those champions can combine together to create a cohesive team. Before we get into the meat of how the game is played, I do need to talk about three final things: runes, summoner spells, and items. These topics are a little bit more advanced, but I do want to cover them very quickly, so at least you are aware of them and how they can influence the game.
Runes and Keystones
There are over 60 runes in the game and each player gets to choose six of them for their champion before the game starts. Each rune gives the champion a unique bonus which can further accentuate a champion strength or can help hide their weaknesses. These runes give further customization to each champion, meaning that a champion’s playstyle can change slightly depending on what runes a player takes. For example, a Darius with Resolve runes will play differently than a Darius with Sorcery runes.
There are nine summoner spells available on Summoner’s Rift, and each player gets to choose two of them for their champion. Summoner spells are bonus abilities the champion can use every couple of minutes, like teleporting to a location on the map, gaining a boost of movement speed, reducing the speed and damage of an enemy. The most common summoner spell is Flash, since it acts as both a great engage and escape tool. Most players in most games will take Flash as one of their summoner spells, and the other summoner spell will depend on what champion they are playing and what champions the enemy team is playing.
While a champion is in the game, they will accure gold. When a champion returns to the base they can use their gold to buy items. There are well over a hundred items in the game, and their cost varies from a couple of hundred gold to several thousand golds. In general, less expensive items are used as components to make more expensive items. Items provide additional stats to a champion, making their attacks do more damage, increasing their health and their resistances, or providing other beneficial bonuses to the champion or their allies. What items a player builds on their champion can vary wildly from game to game. For example, if the player is going up against an enemy champion that deals magic damage, he would build with magic resist to negate some of their damage. If he is going up against an enemy champion who deals physical damage, he would build items with armor to negate some of the physical damage instead.
League is a 5 versus 5 games. Each player picks one of over 140 champions, which means there are over 40 billion possible combinations of teams. Each player also chooses 6 out of over 60 runes, which gives each player thousands of possible rune combinations. And 2 out of 9 summoner spells, which gives each player dozens of possible summoner spell combinations. And that’s before the game even starts. Once the game starts, players can choose from over 100 items, to give them billions more possible combinations. This is why I said at the beginning that League is a game of infinite possibilities. You could play millions of games and you’d never get two games that are exactly alike, which makes the game both very fun to watch and play year after year.
But I don’t want any of you to focus on that for the remaining of the guide. For the rest of the guide, we’re going to focus on the basics of how the game is played. I just want to make clear that what we’re going to focus on in this guide is just the tiniest tip of the iceberg, and there’s an immense amount of detail and strategy that we won’t be going over in this guide because I want to keep things as simple as possible. If you want to dive into more complex topics after this guide is done, you can watch some of my other guides, or I can recommend some other YouTubers for you to watch.
Summoner’s Rift is League’s largest and most popular map. One team has their base on the lower left-hand corner of the map, and one team has their base in the upper right-hand corner of the map. The goal of the game is to destroy the opposing team’s central base structure: a large crystal known as the Nexus. Sounds easy in theory, but the Nexus is protected by powerful towers that need to be destroyed before the Nexus can be attacked, and the enemy team’s champions will not take kindly to you attacking their towers.
Summoner’s Rift is divided in the middle by a river. Cross the river and you are entering enemy territory. On Summoner’s Rift, there are also three lanes. The forested area between the lanes is called the jungle. We’ll go more into the importance of the jungle later in this guide. For now, we’re going to focus on the lanes. Each lane is protected by an outer tower, an inner tower, and an inhibitor tower for each team. Before you can attack an inner tower in a given lane, you must destroy the outer tower of that lane. The same is true for inhibitor towers except that you need to destroy both the outer and inner towers in a given lane before you can attack that lane’s inhibitor tower.
Once you destroy a particular lane’s outer, inner, and inhibitor towers, that lane’s inhibitor will become vulnerable. The inhibitor is a smaller crystal structure that when destroyed allows you to attack the Nexus towers. Destroying an inhibitor also makes your minions in that lane much more powerful. We’ll talk about the importance of those little guys in a bit.
There are two Nexus towers protecting the Nexus. You’ll need to destroy both of them before you will be able to attack the Nexus directly. Destroy the Nexus and you win the game.
How Can You Destroy Towers
Towers have a lot of health, and they deal a considerable amount of damage to champions. The answer is minions. Minions are autonomous little creatures that spawn from your base in waves every thirty seconds. Once spawn minions will charge down a lane and attack the first enemy they see, usually enemy minions. Players cannot directly control the minions, but minions play an extremely important role in the game, because not only do they allow you to safely deal damage to towers, but also give you experience and gold when they die.
If an enemy minion dies near you, then you will gain experience, even if you didn’t attack the minion. Gain enough experience and your champion will level up, making him more powerful and giving you a skill point, which allows you to unlock one of your abilities or make one of your abilities more powerful. If your champion deals the killing blow to a minion, also called a “last hit”, your champion will gain gold as well as experience. When you last hit a minion, your creep score, or “CS” for short, increases by one. For this reason, last hitting is also called CSing.
Gold And Experience
Gold is extremely important because it allows you to buy items, which make your champion much more powerful. Gold and experience are the two ways for your champion to become more powerful over the course of the game, so maximizing your gold and your experience is extremely important in order to be successful. Enemy minions will not attack your champion once they’re in combat with your minions unless you attack an enemy champion. If you attack an enemy champion his minions will defend him and attack you. The only exception to this is area of effect abilities, or “AoE” for short. If you hit an enemy with an AoE ability then the minion will not change who they are attacking, making AoE abilities very powerful at poking your lane opponent for damage.
While enemy minions appear small and weak, they can do a significant amount of damage to your champion, especially at early levels. So you need to be mindful of minions whenever you decide to attack an enemy champion directly. If you kill minions faster than the enemy champion then your minions will continue to march forward until they reach the enemy tower. This is called pushing the wave. Enemy towers will prioritize attacking minions over attacking champions, so as long as there are minions within tower range, you can attack the tower and the tower will not attack you back. However, if you attack an enemy champion while in tower range the tower will immediately target you. Towers deal a massive amount of damage that increases with each tower shot, making them powerful deterrence to enemies attacking you. If you feel that you’re weaker than the enemy champion or if you’re outnumbered, then staying at your tower can offer a large degree of protection. However, not even a tower can protect you in certain situations.
While pushing the wave allows you to deal damage to the enemy tower, it forces you to cross the river into enemy territory. This makes you very vulnerable to being flanked by enemy champions, since you are much further away from your tower. Learning when to push and when to play safe is an extremely important part of the game. I could spend a good thirty minutes or even an hour talking about that topic alone, but the primary tool that a player uses to judge when they should play aggressive or defensive is the mini-map.
The mini-map gives you a miniaturized version of all of Summoner’s Rift, and lets you know where your allies are on the map. The mini-map will also show you where enemies are, but only if your team has vision in that area. By tracking enemy movements on the mini-map players can determine when they can play more aggressively and when they need to play more defensive. Because vision is crucial to making good decisions, the more vision of the map you can get, the better. Some champions have abilities that grant them vision and some items grant vision as well, but in general, wards are the best way for a team to get vision.
Placing wards in key chokepoints around the map allows you to track enemy movements and prevent you from falling into their traps. Conversely, denying enemy vision can enable your team to set up plays or take valuable objectives.
Roles In The Game
So we’ve talked about how the minions in each lane give gold and experience, so it makes sense to send one player to each lane to get that gold and experience. These players are referred to as the top laner, the mid laner, and the bot laner respectively. But what about the other two players on each team? Where do they get their gold and experience?
Well, one player called the support shares experience with one of the other laners, and typically buys an item that gives them gold over time as long as they don’t last hit minions. Supports usually go bot lane with a bot laner to start the game, but they can roam to other lanes unexpectedly in order to start favorable fights in other lanes. Supports typically get less gold and experience than other roles, but they can still be extremely impactful with their roaming ability or by building more utility-oriented items.
The final role we haven’t talked about is the jungler, who gets his gold and experience, not surprisingly, from the jungle. The jungle is the forested area between each of the lanes, and is home to monsters and other beasts the jungler can slay for gold and experience. Two of the monsters, the Blue Sentinel, and the Red Brambleback, also grant powerful buffs to whoever slays them, commonly called a ‘blue buff’ and a ‘red buff’.
Because the jungler moves through the jungle in between lanes, frequently out of vision of the enemy, he is in a prime position to assist his allies in killing enemy champions. This is called ganking. A jungler must balance his time between killing jungle camps to get golden experience and trying to get his lanes ahead by ganking for them. Ganks are extremely powerful since they result in situations where you have a much higher chance to kill an enemy or force him to go back to base and heal, giving you time to deal damage to their tower and time to get a gold or experience advantage. Killing the enemy champions also grants additional gold and experience, which is also beneficial.
In addition to the jungle monsters, there are also creatures who inhabit the river. The smallest of these is the scuttle crab, who grants a vision in the river for a short period of time to whichever team defeats him.
The southern river is home to the Elemental Drakes. At the beginning of the game, one of four drakes will take up residence in the Dragon pit in the southern river. Cloud, Ocean, Mountain, or Infernal. Slaying these Drakes gives your team powerful bonuses that last the entire game. Once you kill a Drake, a new Drake will spawn six minutes later. The bonuses from each Drake stack, so slaying multiple drakes gives your team a lot of nice bonuses that can turn the tides of a battle later on in the game.
After the 35-minute mark, Elemental Drakes will no longer spawn. Instead, the elder dragon will take their place. The Elder Dragon is an extremely powerful monster that requires the whole team to be killed. However, if you were successful then all surviving members will gain a massive damage boost and have the effects of all drakes they previously killed increased considerably.
Rift Herald and Baron Nashor
Within the northern river dwells the Rift Herald. The Rift Herald is a scuttle crab corrupted by the void, turning him into a powerful monster. Rift Herald spawns at 10 minutes, and if you can slay him before the 20-minute mark, you gain the ability to summon him to the battlefield once to fight for your team. The Rift Herald is a powerful tower-destroying siege monster and, when employed correctly, can destroy multiple towers before the enemy team can slay him.
After 20 minutes, the Rift Herald is replaced with Baron Nashor, an extremely powerful rift monster who requires the entire team to be defeated. However, if you’re able to slay him, then all surviving members on your team will gain a powerful buff that reduces your recall time by 50%, grants you bonus offensive stats, and makes your minions much, much more powerful. Baron is an incredibly important buff because since it makes minions much stronger, it allows teams to siege down towers much easier.
The way that you win the game is by destroying the enemy Nexus. You can’t attack the enemy Nexus until you’ve destroyed at least one outer tower, one inner tower, the inhibitor tower, the inhibitor, and both the Nexus towers. There are five players on each team and the roles that each player can play is top lane, jungle, mid lane, bot lane, and support. Minions are extremely important sources of gold and experience, who also allow you to attack enemy towers if you decide to push into enemy territory. Enemy champions will try to defend their towers, attack your towers, and kill you. If you’re able to kill enemy champions, then you gain additional gold and experience. Destroying towers also gives your team a lot of gold. There are also monsters in the jungle and in the river that can give gold and experience, as well as powerful buffs, which make you stronger in fights or allow you to take down towers easier.
So now that you understand the basic layout of the map, how to win the game, and what the different roles are, it’s time to talk about the different stages of the game and how the game is played in each of those stages.
Phases Of The Game
Before the game starts there’s a phase called the pick and ban phase, where the players are allowed to ban champions that they don’t want to play against, and pick champions that they want to play. How exactly pick and ban phase works depends on what game mode you’re playing. At the professional level, the pick and ban phase is extremely important and can give teams a large advantage going into the game. But to keep this guide simple, I’m not going to go into much detail on it. Just understand that it’s important. If you want to learn more about pick and ban phase, check out my “team compositions” video.
Once the game starts, the game is generally broken up into the early game, the mid game, and the late game. Each phase of the game does not have a set duration. Rather, the beginnings and ends of phases are based more on when towers are destroyed.
The early game, also called the laning phase, generally lasts until the first tower is destroyed. During the laning phase, for the most part, laners will stay in their assigned lanes to try and maximize their gold and experience, while trying to harass the enemy laner to the maximum extent possible. Occasionally, laners will roam to other lanes to set up ganks or tower dives, but the real goal of the laning phase is to accrue as much gold and experience as possible and deny as much gold and experience as possible from the enemy team. Junglers are especially powerful during the laning phase since a well-timed gank can put the enemy in a one versus two fight, which will normally result in their death, allowing that lane to gain gold and experience advantage. The goal of the laning phase is to gain small advantages over the enemy team that you can use to get the first tower of the game. Advantages can be gained by csing better than your opponent, harassing your opponent so much that they have to return to base to heal, or outright killing them. Never forget though that the purpose of getting these advantages is so you can knock down the first tower of the game.
League of Legends is ultimately a strategy game which revolves around securing objectives for your team. The first tower is an extremely important objective because it grants your team 800 gold and it gives your team a tempo advantage going into the mid game. However, if your team does not get the first tower, then it isn’t the end of the world. There are other objectives like Drake or Rift Herald that your team can secure in the mid game to negate the gold advantage that the other team got from the first tower. One of the most important rules of League is if you can’t stop an enemy from taking an objective it’s better to try and trade objectives, rather than contest the objective, lose it anyway, and potentially give up some kills as well. This is called cross-mapping. It is an extremely important tactic that is used in professional play.
Once the first tower drops you’ve entered the mid game and the rules begin to change. Laners will tend to roam a lot more. You may see the bot laner and the support go top. You may see teams starting to group up and four-man or five-man squads and starting to look for teamfights. The goal of the mid game is to claim as many objectives as possible. This means towers, Drakes, Rift Herald, Scuttle Crab, enemy jungle camps… anything that can further accelerate your gold leap. At some point, usually after the 20-minute mark, both teams will begin to stall out and neither team will be able to secure any objectives except for the occasional Drake. Usually, this occurs after one team has knocked down all of the outer towers and at least one of the inner towers. Games normally stall out because it’s much easier to defend inner towers and inhibitor towers because they are much closer together than the outer towers, allowing teams to move to defend towers under attack much easier. It also takes less time for champions in the base to reach the inhibitor or the inner tower, giving the attacking team less time to press an advantage if they kill an enemy or force them to recall back to base to heal. This is when the game transitions into the late game and it become all about teams dancing around Baron Nashor.
If the winning team can secure Baron Nashor then that is usually the push they need to be able to crack open the enemy base and look for the win. If the losing team can steal Baron, they can use Baron to equalize the gold and get back into the game. The later the game goes, the more punishing a single mistake becomes. In the early game, if you die it can be bad and it can cause you to potentially lose your tower. In the late game, however, a single death on either side can allow a team to get Elder Dragon, or Baron, or both, followed by two or more towers. This means that a single death can result in over a 5000 gold shift if the team knows how to capitalize on that mistake. This knowledge makes the game more and more exciting as the game goes on since the game is balanced on the edge of a knife, with each team trying to outmaneuver and outwit their opponents.
Because a single mistake can be so punishing, vision control becomes even more important in the late game. Having vision allows your team to make smart calls, which prevents your teammates from mispositioning while denying vision or destroying the enemy team’s wards makes it much easier to set up for fights and also makes the enemy team much warier about going for plays if they don’t know where the rest of your team is.
While fundamentals like CSing, minion wave management, vision control, objective control, and macro decision-making are what truly wins games, what the fans cheer for are the fights. Fights in League of Legends can be extremely confusing since there are so many effects and abilities lighting up the screen all at once. To make matters worse, each teamfight is incredibly unique so it can be very hard to figure out at the moment who is winning. In general, though, it is best to look for the initiating abilities with crowd control. If a team can stun or knock up multiple enemy players then that gives them a massive advantage in the fight since they can strike first and eliminate an enemy before they can react. Another thing to look for is low or blinking health bars. In a teamfight whichever team loses a player first is usually the team that loses the fight, so how each player positions to maximize their effectiveness without dying is often the deciding factor in the fight. Typically, each team will have one or two key damage dealers, and if they die then the fight is pretty much over. Since a team has no chance of winning a fight if they can’t deal damage.
Alright, time for a final recap. Pick and ban phases where players get to ban away champions they don’t want to face and also pick the champions they want to play. In professional play and ranked play the pick and ban phase is very important, but from a beginner’s perspective, you don’t really need to understand all the nuances of how a team can get an advantage during this phase.
In the early game, players tend to stay in their assigned lanes and focus on trying to gain small advantages over their opponents that will eventually allow their team to get the first tower.
The mid game starts once the first tower drops. It’s basically a mad dash to capture as many objectives as possible.
Once the game starts to slow down, you’ve entered the late game. The game focus is much more around vision control and dancing around Baron Nashor. The longer the game goes on, the more punishing a mistake becomes and a single death in the late game can cost a team the game if they are not careful.
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