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The Newbie's Guide to League of Legends

Posted Tue, Oct 19, 2010 by Stow

New heroes are being added at about one per month.  Shown here is the new hero Lux, the light wizard.

In a new world where an MMORPG can go free-to-play and not be mocked endlessly for being a bland waste of time, there stands another game in another genre doing just the same. League of Legends has taken the Defense of the Ancients  gameplay formula and altered it in key places while improving it in others , and wrapped it in a completely free to play, with a currency earned in-game used to unlock some additional customizations. Years ago, the game was endlessly mocked by the elite of the community, but now it has earned its place in the market.

 I play DotA/Heroes of Newerth. Just give me the cliff notes on why I should care about this.
-    Heroes are much more dangerous at early levels, encouraging early aggression.
-    Mana costs and cooldowns are much lower, and auto-attackers are weaker.
-    Casters have several ways to scale through items—ignoring magic resist, increasing ability power, decreasing cooldowns.
-    There are two boss creeps to compete over, a dragon that gives global experience to the team and 130 gold, and a powerful serpent that gives 250 gold and a massive power and regeneration buff to the team that kills it. It is much more important to monitor these.
-    Tall Grass is everywhere, and it blocks line of sight in, but you can see out of it while inside. It enhances early ganks and evasion.
-    Jungling is worth less gold, but there are two large monsters in the jungle that bestow a buff to the killer-slowing attacks that deal damage over time, and massive mana regeneration with cooldown reduction. Controlling the jungle is more critical.
-    There is Much more versatility in item builds than DotA, and some heroes can play more than one role.
-    There are Summoner Spells that add two long-cooldown, universal skills to any hero you pick. They can be used for offense, escaping, mobility, and more.
-    You’ll find zero bashing in this game. All stuns are controlled and activated. No blink, invisibility, or bash items exist period. Stuns in general are shorter, but slows are more dangerous.
-    Matchmaking in League of Legends is better than matchmaking in DotA or Heroes of Newerth combined. You will end up with people of similar skill level after a while, making for far fewer blowouts. You can also reconnect to games in progress!
-    There’s NO DENYING. The experience range is a little narrower, so it is still possible to deny your opponents by offensively pushing them out of the lane/xp range. The inability to deny alone greatly increases the early game’s offense.
-    Barracks respawn after 5 minutes. The difference is the super creep that spawns for those 5 minutes cannot be ignored—it’s *much* stronger.

Okay, what? I don’t know what the hell you just said, Stow.

    Relax, I’ve got you covered.

These games involve a struggle between two teams of 5 players each. Each player has control of one hero unit that gains strength with experience and levels up. Each team also has an AI that automatically spawns units that go down 3 paths, or ‘lanes’, and engage the opposing forces. Should you begin to lose a battle, there are three defensive towers in each lane that can help you fight off your opponents.

In the event the defenses of a lane fall, your inhibitor will be vulnerable to attack. It’s a tough structure that prevents your opponents from summoning their full army, and when it goes down, each spawn wave will have a very powerful wrecking ball with it that will bowl over your army. This will demand attention from your team and make it more difficult to defend the other lanes. Inside your base with the inhibitors is a main nexus and two additional defensive towers. When those fall, the game is over for that team. Hopefully that isn’t you!

So how do you go about making their team suffer? There are a multitude of heroes to choose from, and picking a balanced team can be critical to victory on Summoner’s Rift, the 5v5 map. Heroes fall into one of several categories.

The Carry – A carry is a hero that starts off weak, but has a combination of skills that greatly enhance their damage to the point of being able to barrel over multiple enemies in a team fight—if they’re not killed or disabled first. Generally they are physical heroes, but there are a few mage carries as well. Shining examples of this are Master Yi, Tristana, and Kassadin.

The Tank – A tank in LoL is not a tank in the sense of the traditional MMORPG term. A tank is someone dedicated to spearheading the charge and setting someone up for a quick kill. They have skills that hold people in place or reposition them to set them up for their team, which is charging behind them . They will not kill a team by themselves, but they will make sure no one escapes and possibly save allies in the fight. If you enjoy this role, Rammus, Amumu, and Shen are wonderful.

The Initiator – The initiator is a hero who excels at starting a fight whether the enemy likes it or not. They have rapid movement or  “blink”  abilities that move them into, or out of the fray. They often do massive burst damage to get things started with a bang. Heroes like Gragas, Singed, and Xin Zhao are perfect for picking a fight.

The Support – If a carry is not capable of soloing the lane and needs a hand, a Support hero will generally be picked. A support is there to babysit the carry and ensure that they survive to come into power. They generally have powerful support in the form of healing, and are good at pressuring enemies with stuns or high range. They exist to set up kills and keep the team going, and they are damn good at that. To support your team you’ll pick Taric, Sona, or Soraka, for instance.

The Jungler – An optional hero pick, a jungler exists to kill the neutral creeps around the map from the start. Generally heroes have to gain some power before they can kill these monsters efficiently, but some heroes can kill them quickly and efficiently from the start. This will give your team an experience advantage since you’re not soaking up experience from the enemies in the lane. One of your team’s lanes will likely be 2 vs. 1, so you will be expected to come into the lane from time to time to assist. Not for beginners, heroes like Udyr, Nunu, and Warwick are born for jungling.

Whoever you pick, you’ll have four skills to choose from. You get one point each level, and you’ll eventually be able to max out all of the skills at the highest level of 18 (unless you’re Udyr, who can only max out 3). You’ll start in a fountain area where you’ll be healed quickly upon your return. You can also shop here by clicking on the nearby icon. Purchase a starting item and a healing potion or two if you can afford them, and head out to the lane of your choice, by the last tower.

The Laning Phase – First 15 Minutes

The main goal of this phase is to gain experience and not die. The armies will clash and you’ll be against one or two heroes in the lane, probably with an ally nearby. If you don’t know what the opposing heroes do, make sure you ask. Someone will let you know for sure, because they don’t want you to die needlessly. You don’t lose anything upon death, but you’re worth a lot of gold and experience to kill for them!

It doesn’t do you any good to attack the mindless minions carelessly. If you get the last hit that scores the kill, you get the gold regardless of the damage you did to the minion. Additionally, this will keep the fight closer to your tower in case you need to retreat quickly. Be patient and don’t overextend yourself. These are the two main mistakes new players make.

As you level up your skills, you can try to coordinate an attack. Don’t be afraid to use your skills to attack the enemy hero if you see an opening. Mana is plentiful and regenerates faster in League of Legends than it does in other games of this type, so go on the offensive once you understand what their heroes are capable of. You need to be careful though, as a sure kill can often be negated by a Summoner Spell—the two spells you pick at the character select screen in the middle. Spells such as Heal and Ghost can give an opponent an advantage while running away, or just ensure their survival. Don’t chase too far because a tower will murder you early on. Should you die, don’t worry--you’ll respawn in about 30 seconds.

If you’re low on health, don’t fret and don’t give up the easy kill. Retreat a bit and hit B to use your Recall ability. It takes 8 seconds and warps you home, but it cancels if you take damage, so make sure you’re safe before you use it. Do your shopping while you’re back home, and head back out to the lane quickly. You have to be in the fight to get experience, and you don’t want your opponents to gain an advantage.

Make sure you alert your team to any missing heroes; they’re often roving between the lanes at that point looking to gank or ambush an enemy hero in another lane. Heroes rarely have more than one stun or slow, but when multiple heroes use these in rapid succession it often leads to a kill. Help prevent that for your teammates and they will do the same for you.

The Team Fight Phase – Remainder of the game

Once people group up and start attacking together, you need to be a part of it. A 3v5 or 4v5 is rarely winnable, so even the odds to the best of your ability. If you are playing a support hero, you *need* to be there. Be careful to avoid getting too overzealous in your attack. Overextending yourself against a team often results in you getting pummeled before you can react, with 5 heroes nuking you to dust.

If you initiate a battle or see an opportunity, pick your targets well. Look at your opponent’s items in advance on the scoreboard with Tab and see if they’re building defensive items that work well against you. Try to avoid attacking those heroes and instead hit the squishy ones that built for raw damage or ignored the defensive type that would slow you down. A hero that builds Thornmail should be ignored by Master Yi, for instance, because all of his damage is dished out by attacking normally.

Focus down targets one by one, much like an MMORPG. Support heroes and Summoner Spells can give wounded enemies a second chance at life if they’re left alone for a second, so bring people down with everything you’ve got. The moment a few die, the others will inevitably retreat and a chase scenario occurs that can end in a total rout for the losing team, or an Ace when every hero is dead at the moment.

When you reach enemy towers, they will always attack nearby minions before attacking you unless you deal damage to a nearby enemy hero. Keep this in mind and pull back if you can’t take the hits when the nearby minions are almost gone. Stay with the team, and if they retreat you should as well. Keep repeating this flow of battle and eventually you’ll take out their inhibitors, which will apply additional pressure and give you a further advantage you can press for victory.

Victory gives you IP, influence points. Influence points are used to purchase champions for permanent use and runes that give you innate bonuses. Defeat gives you some as well, so don’t fret.  Most of all, don’t panic if you’re doing poorly. Comebacks do happen, and it takes some time to gain the understanding necessary to be good at this game, even for the hardened DotA veteran. Just have fun with the League of Legends, and enjoy your time on Summoner’s Rift!
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