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If you haven't played League of Legends, you aren't hardcore enough.

Welcome to part 1 of my 74 part series on how to not suck at playing League of Legends. For those who don’t know, League of Legends is an evolution of an insanely popular Warcraft 3 mod called Defense of the Ancients, DotA. While several sequels to DoTa (Heroes of Newerth and the recently announced DOTA 2) are currently being developed by members of the original DoTA team, LoL is known for being completely free (with microtransactions), removing several griefing tactics, being much easier for newbies to pick up, and adding new champions regularly. For anyone who has yet to try this gem, I highly recommend you play a game or two… after you read this mini-guide.

I decided that rather than start right off the bat writing about individual champions, I should go over some general strategy and go over a lot of the common terms you’re going to be hearing from me in future articles. Most if not all of what I write about LoL is for 5v5 games, although it could be applied to Lame League as well (also known as 3v3s). In this article I’m going to review concepts that many people already know, but about which a surprising number of players are completely clueless. A basic understanding of concepts like team composition and the various phases is key to not sucking.*

Make Friends

Random queueing can have its benefits. For example, when you lose in a random team, it’s never your fault. It’s either your team’s fault, lag’s fault, or shitty balance. But as long as you are playing with a random team, there is never EVER anything that you could have done that may have helped your team.

On the other hand, random teams suck. Most teams you join in this way will have at least one person who’s a leaver, a feeder, or some other form of terrible player (of course, everyone except you and I are terrible). Regardless of what anyone might tell you, you can win even with a terrible team. I’ve personally turned a game around when I had 1 player afk for half the game, 2 players who just fed, and a jungler who died to the golem 3 times. Given the odds of random team compositions, the other team probably sucks just as bad. Regardless, you don’t want to be stuck in these games forever.

Even someone as absolutely amazing as I am can’t always win a game alone. As much as it may pain you to think of playing with others, if you want to become halfway decent at LoL, you need players you work well with. When you find a player who doesn’t suck (you may have to lower the bar on that definition), add them to your friends list. I also suggest finding a mod that renames friends list to either “plebs” or “tools”. This is also key. Remember that you are not playing with friends or teammates, you’re playing with tools. A means to an end who sucks slightly more than you do.

Understand Team Compositions

The biggest mistake I see newbies make is picking one or two champions and always playing them. These are the people you see get into a queue and lock in within the first five seconds. My favorite games are those in which I see someone decide “I’m going Ashe, I’m taking the middle, and anyone who has a problem with it can blow me.” Don’t be that guy; I don’t want to have to come to your house and rip your throat out. As much as you may love playing Warwick in a game with 4 other junglers, if your team needs a tank, you should play a tank (remember, the rest of your team sucks too much to do it).

Full Tank
You know that champion who you think is the best tank ever? Yeah, he’s probably not a tank. Tanks are the ultimate masochists. Your job is to get the other team to keep on beating on you until you get off so hard that the other team can’t move. But it’s not enough for a full tank to be beefy, since your team, unfortunately, sucks. They did not have your brilliance, and decided that someone had to actually do damage for some reason. This of course means that they can’t absorb much damage and the full tank needs tools to protect them. That means that this role is restricted to characters who can take blows to the head while providing things like stuns and taunts. A few examples of this are Rammus, Shen, and Amumu.

As a tank, when the fight is starting, you get to be the first one to run in (with fingers crossed that you don’t die instantly). You also get to be the last one to leave when retreating (you’re just so lucky, getting to be in all the safe positions). But best of all, if you play a tank, you too can know the joy of being completely dependant on items without getting any signifigant number of player kills! The most important thing to remember is that you don’t do a lot of damage; damage is highly overrated (real men don’t need to do damage). Your first priority is to protect the squishie babies on your team. Do this well, and you will always win.

Off Tank
Have you ever been playing a tank, ended up in a fight by yourself, and found yourself wishing you could do more than tickle the enemy? Chances are, you suck. Keep your team from dying next time. Have you ever been playing a DPS, blowing everything up so hard that their grandmothers could feel it, when a stiff breeze came and killed you? If either of these have ever happened to you, then the role of the off-tank is for you. Though their job is mostly to do damage, they are unique in that they get to be right in the fray. “But Ferret,” you might ask, “if they deal damage, and they’re right in the middle of the battle, won’t they get blown up?” While some losers might be that way, you are built to survive. Some examples of these characters are Warwick, Garen, Jax, and Mordekaiser (my favorite, expect a guide on him next week).

As an off-tank, you’ll either go in right before the tank or right after the tank depending on your team if your team knows how to initiate. If the opposite team is smart, you will most likely know the joy that is being targeted by everyone instantaneously. As for your role, you should always be the person going for the squishiest enemy. A successful off tank will scare the shit out of them, and make them run for their mommies.

I have never seen a term in any game that is more misused than “carry” in League of Legends. This is unfortunate because a well played carry is key to victory. So let me be completely clear here: a carry is a champion who focuses on increasing their auto-attack damage as much as possible. You aren’t some loser who relies on cooldowns to kill things. You are the king of dealing damage (a good carry will try to get his team to treat him like royalty). Not only do you deal more damage than all the other noobs on your team, you can sustain it for as long as the fight lasts. Towers cower at the mention of your name. A few examples of this role are Ashe, Master Yi, and Tryndamere.

Carries are squishy, there’s no way around it. That means that if you want to play a melee carry, you need to bring in some serious skill. It’s imperative that you practice with bots or in custom games with friends. If necessary, find yourself a brain-eating hive mind alien and use it to suck out the knowledge of someone good at a melee carry character. In between damage-dealing blows, you want to look out for blinds and exhausts, since you can’t be expected to kill things without perfect vision and a good night’s sleep now, can you? Regarding timing, you must learn when to attack the enemy team under a tower and when to murder the bastard tower itself. You also need to learn how to position yourself correctly. Your tank is your meatshield; use him like one. If the other team is stacking armor, chances are you’re doing your job right. Finally, you want to look out for thornmail. It isn’t the end of the world for you, but you need to be aware of the extra damage you’ll be taking from it.

Mages are the magic version of the carry. They do lots of damage through their abilities. You aren’t some loser who has to use auto attacks to do damage over time. As a mage, you put out burst damage to kill the enemy before they even know what hit them. Since you rely on your abilities, your job is to get in, blow all your cooldowns, and get out. Because mages focus so much on their abilities, each one plays very differently. Eve has to manage stealth, Anivia has to manage her wall (as well as dealing with the menal stresses of being a giant damn bird), Annie has to manage her pyromania, and Ryze… well… just don’t play Ryze, ok? Mages excel by stacking magic penetration and lots of ability power. If the enemy is stacking magic resist, chances are you’re doing your job well. Other magi you need to know are Kogmaw, Fiddlesticks, and Vladimir.

Support is the most varied type of champion. Your teammates may be idiots, but if you play a support champ well, they can be powerful tools. Support focuses on buffing your allies, and annoying your enemies. Some have heals, some have auras, some have CC. Play a support, and you’re pretty much like Santa Claus. You make your team smile and be glad that you’re on their side. You bring joy to all the little boys and girls all around the world. Who hasn’t been jungling and not doing as well as they should when you suddenly get healed by Soraka? It’s those kinds of moments that make support so great to have. A few examples of support champions are Soraka, Morgana, and Sivir.

Each support plays very differently. They all generally stay to the back to do their job. Aura champs stay in there, buffers and debuffers will jump around more than an ADD hamster who just discovered Starbucks. They also play very differently during the early game. Morgana is great to solo the middle lane, wheras Soraka always needs a partner, and does almost no minion farming. Of course, the true utility of support characters comes in team battles. It is important to recognize your role and play accordingly.

Though some champions can fill multiple roles, it is important to know how each of these roles works, allowing you to fill the role your team needs. An optimal team will have 1 full tank, 1 off tank, 1 support, 1 mage, and 1 carry. There are other things to keep in mind, as well. Junglers will primarily be getting  buffs until around level 6 or so. You don’t ever want to have more than 2 people on your team dependent on the blue buff for the early game.**  Decide who is taking what lane before you lock in your character, as well. Mordekaiser works much better in a solo lane than with a partner. So unless you have a jungler, don’t have two characters who work best in mid. Finally, keep in mind that some characters work better together than others. Amumu and Fiddlesticks are a deadly combination. Teemo and Soraka are not.

Know the Game Phases

A lot of people seem unsure as to when they’re supposed to be doing what. A game of LoL has some pretty regular stages, and it’s important to know what they are.

Champion Selection
This one should be obvious, but people discount how important it is. Have you ever tried to raid in WoW with half the tanks you need, only one healer, and only 2 or 3 different DPS classes? It’s fun times, trust me. But that’s more or less what a game of LoL is like if you ignore this phase. Talk with your team. Get your composition right. Figure out if you’re going to have a jungler, and figure out who’s going to take solo lanes. A little bit of simple communication here will increase your chances of winning dramatically.

Pre-laning Phase
You’ll notice that I while I said to decide who is taking a solo lane before the game begins, I did not say to decide who is going what lane. As stunning as it may be, you do not have clairvoyance (unless of course, you took the summoner spell clairvoyance, in which case use it to see who is going where on the opposing team and ignore this paragraph) and as such, do not know who you will be up against. Just as some champions work better with other champions, so too do certain champions work better against other champions. And never forget that everyone around you is a noob. Your jungler is a noob. Protect him from getting ganked. Their jungler is a noob. Go gank him. Don’t just go straight to killing minions. Move around the different lanes based on who you’re up against, and get some early ganks if you can.

Laning Phase
For those of you who have never played a game of LoL before, if your attack kills a minion, you will get money. Experience is a bit different: you get experience when a minion dies in your lane regardless of whether or not you hit it. But if you want to earn money, last hitting minions is your top priority. This means  you should not be attacking a minion unless that attack will kill them. Last-hitting ensures you get as much money as possible, while keeping the enemy waves as close to your tower as possible.†  Sure, you might get called a “pussy tower hugger,” but a “pussy tower hugger” gets more gold and XP than the toughest, manliest corpse. Just remember that the other team is sneaky; get too close to their tower, and they will gank you. And as shocking as this might be, dying is bad.

Of course, the enemy team probably has no clue how much of a hardened badass you are. If they did, they wouldn’t have the nerve to send another champion to your lane. But, unfortunately they will send someone, and they’re a problem you’re going to have to deal with. A lot of people think that harrasing means “I’ll use all my abilities on them and they have to die, right guys?” Go ahead, try it. I’ll wait here.

Did it work? No? I didn’t think so. Harrassing is not trying to get a quick gank. It is not tower diving. It is not chipping away at their health, especially if you end up taking just as much damage.

It has been said that pursuit of money is the root of all evil. The evil is this case is them having more money than you do. Money means gear, gear means power, and power means kills. Being too amazingly awesome to die, you want to keep them from getting money, without putting yourself in any extra danger. This means that your goal should be to scare the hell out of them (roaring helps). If they aren’t last hitting, they aren’t getting money, which is good. If you can get them to recall and heal so they aren’t getting xp, that’s even better. If you manage to kill them and get a gold and XP bonus yourself, that’s great, but if you end up taking so much damage that you have to recall or even end up dying yourself, you gain no benefit, and may even end up hurting yourself more than helping. This is especially true if you’re in a solo lane against 2 champions. If you kill one of them but end up kicking the proverbial bucket, it’s true that you both earned the same gold and XP bonus. However, while you’re dead, they still have a champion roving free in that lane. Your team does not.

Ganking Phase
This is the phase that connects the laning phase to the end game, when you actively leave your lane to try and get the 300+ gold and XP from killing enemy players (thereby increasing your Effective Potency EquivalencE Number also known as kill count). There is no specific beginning to this phase, and in fact, it  begins at different times for different characters. For some characters such as Warwick or Akali, it begins the moment they hit level 6. For others it begins when the first enemy tower is destroyed. This is also the period in which placing wards becomes especially important to keep you alive (if you’re asking whose job it is to place wards, it’s yours).

End Game
This phase essentially begins when everyone on your team has finished their laning phase (last one to finish is a loser††). At this time, you’ll see a lot of battles in which every player takes part. Always choosing one champion regardless of your team and blaming your team when you lose having a good team composition is essential here. Towers are going to die during this stage of the game, as will you as your team gets pushed. Stick with your team, play your role, put down wards, and you’ll do fine here. The longer the game goes on, the more you need to play defensively. If your team dies (losers), the respawn timers become long enough that even one player can push a lane all the way back and maybe even take out your nexus before you even respawn, especially if they’re a carry like Master Yi or Ashe. Just cross your fingers and hope they suck too much to realize they could win the game.

Random Tips

You may already be familiar with some of this information, but many players don’t know these important gems of wisdom:

  • Attacking a champion will cause minions and towers to attack you
  • Entering brush will cause minions to stop attacking you
  • Attacking from brush reveals you
  • Minions increase in health and do more damage as the game goes on
  • Buff potions can help a lot if you can spare the gold. They are automatically applied if you don’t have space in your inventory. After all, who doesn’t want to be buff?

That’s all the basic knowledge you need to become a solid League of Legends player. We’ll be going into some of the more advanced tactics in the coming weeks, with a few champion-specific  guides as well. Just remember that champion builds will only get you so far; you need to practice and learn  general game strategy to become a solid player.


* Yes, you probably suck. Get over it.
** If someone needs the buff more than you do, suck it up and buy Chalice of Harmony. Yes, giving up the item slot until late game will make you cry yourself to sleep, but someone has to do it.
† This is not true for all champions. Mordekaiser should be pushing as much as possible unless he’s up against a lot of CC.
†† Thus, it is the opposite of the rules of sexual intercourse. ~WiNG

37 replies to this post
  1. Hey, am I too late to download the game and join the ‘I last played this years ago when it pretty much first came out and I sucked at it then but now I’m interested’ gang?

  2. I started playing since beta (and quit a long time ago) then recently came back (not due to this post).

    Several notes to this post. Add something about the layout. 3 lanes. Typically 1 person goes to “solo mid” lane. Blah blah blah.

    Full tanks need to deal a moderate amount of damage to be a decent tank (be it through Sunfires or otherwise [especially Amumu’s Despair]).

    Next, Warwick is not an off tank. Kog’maw is considered a hard carry. Sivir is a carry. I don’t know what game you’re playing.

    Getting pushed to your tower is great, but you also have to make sure that you aren’t being denied last hits. A huge part of last hitting and pushing is to also deny last hits by letting the tower get the last hits for them.

    Good stuff in general though.

  3. Hey ferret,great guide, it really clears things up.One question though: isn’t it more prudent to target the nuker or the carry BEFORE targeting the offtank?Just asking here, no awesomeness infringement intended…

    alc sleeper

  4. Quote:

    “I also suggest finding a mod that renames friends list to either “plebs” or “tools”. This is also key. Remember that you are not playing with friends or teammates, you’re playing with tools. A means to an end who sucks slightly more than you do.”

    I am having a difficult time determining how much of this statement was motivated by humor and how much of it was literally meant. Either way it made me laugh haha (especially when I found out what a “pleb” was.)

    You forgot two more categories for the modders to create: (a) people who you are plebs when compared with, and (b) literal friends made by playing the game.

  5. Thank you for writing this. Not only was it full of good information but very entertaining. I recently started playing after my boyfriend got me hooked while watching him play. I started playing without and knowledge of what the hell I should be doing and boy did my team let me know. Now with a better understanding and after playing a few bot games I am ready to be the bad ass I know I can be! Thanks for the help and I look forward to reading more!

  6. k so i dont like how u say a benefit to solo queing is bassicly being able to blame a loss on anythign but yourself. FUCK ALL THE ASSHOLES ON LEGUE WHO DO THAT BECAUSE if you lose and it was your faul;t maybe you should try to improe instead of playing the fucking blame game with lag, your teamates, etc. thats such a shitty thing to promote on the LoL community.

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