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How to start in League of Legends, Part 2: Playing the game

League of Legends games usually take no more than an hour – often significantly less – but the game has several key phases where a lot of things can go wrong. Here’s a short rundown of what you can expect to see in the game and some basics you need to know.

The client, leveling and runes

Before you enter a game, you are in the game client – the place where you can unlock and review your champions, look at missions and prepare your runes. The play button should need no explanation, but the small icon next to it can be quite important as clicking on it shows any ongoing issues with the game. If it’s yellow or red, definitely click to see what’s going on, but if it’s red, it’s usually either not a good idea or flat-out impossible to play (i.e. the game is disabled due to big technical issues).


Image courtesy of Riot Games

The Profile menu will let you access your recent match history (you can also download replays from them, but they only work for the same version of the game), ranked status, clubs, highlights and stats, while the Collection menu lets you check what champions, skins and other content you have. Furthermore, it lets you review and change your runes, passive abilities (as in, you don’t have to select and actively cast them) you choose before the game starts that can have a big effect on your playstyle; runes can both synergize with a champion's abilities and subtly change your playstyle with the same champion. Each profile has five preset rune sets and two you can customize. You can also unlock extra customizable sets by purchasing a rune page from the store. Each page also allows you to select a set of stat bonuses to go with your abilities. Previously, these depended on the combination of runes you are choosing, but they have been made independent from the runes.


Image courtesy of Riot Games

To their left are several icons: two cards over one another indicate that there are special skin offers for you (usually because of a holiday event), the box is the Hextech system which lets you craft or unlock certain content, and the stack of coins is the client shop, where you can unlock champions, various cosmetic icons or account upgrades. In the store, you can purchase most things with Riot points, symbolized by a small fist (you buy these for real money via the “purchase RP” button in the store) or with blue essence, symbolized with a fragmented blue gemstone. You can see the amount of Riot Points and Blue essence next to your Summoner Name (this is the name other players in the game see, so it’s best for it to not to show or indicate your real name – it’s a good idea for it not to be something offensive either). You can use blue essence only for champions, and it is obtained through various missions. In order to play with a certain champion, you need to either have him/her unlocked or they need to be available in the weekly free champion rotation. You can see the rotation champions in your collection: they will be marked with an open padlock icon. As you play games, you will collect experience and level up your profile; every level you will get blue essence, champions or a capsule containing champion shards you can use to either get more blue essence or unlock a champion with blue essence with a discount.


Image courtesy of Riot Games

When you click on “Play” you will then select what game mode you want to play. The default option, PVP, has the game modes where you play against other people. The default choice – 5v5 Summoner’s Rift – is the most widely used map. Blind Pick and Draft Pick are “normal” games that are not counted towards your ranked placement (Blind and Draft refer to how champions are selected – more on that later).

Ranked Solo/Duo and Ranked Flex have their own ranked queues. In the former, you have to either queue alone or with only one partner, while the latter is more flexible and you can queue alone or with up to four other players (except four). Ranked games are counted towards the ranked system, where players are placed in various tiers based on their wins and losses and compete for various in-game rewards; players in the highest tiers may participate in various regional tournaments and be invited by professional gaming organizations.

Twisted Treeline is the 3v3 game mode, which only has blind pick normal and ranked flex games. ARAM – short term for “All Random, All Mid” is a 5v5, single lane mode with only normal games; it tends to be a lot shorter than a Summoner’s Rift game and most of the usual role distinctions don’t apply nearly as strongly. Finally, there is often a rotating game mode temporarily featured in the client; the current such mode is Nexus Blitz, an experimental new 5v5 game mode with two lanes.

There are also coop vs AI game modes, where a team of players take on AI-run champions (“bots”) on either the Summoner’s Rift or Twisted Treeline maps, and a training menu where you can find a tutorial and a practice tool sandbox game. You can also create or join custom games, where you can play with particular friends. When joining a draft game, you also need to select up to two roles you queue in for; while there is no guarantee you will get either, the chances are very high you at least get the secondary one and can expect the first one.

Champion select: picks, bans and comps

The game starts with the Champion Select screen, where you pick your champion (or, in the case of ARAM, have it randomly rolled for you). In draft modes, the process is extended: first, you indicate what champion you want to play (that does not oblige you to play that champion, just that you want to do so), then everyone on either team bans one champion from play for this round. Once that is done, teams alternate to pick champions. You can trade champions with another player if both players have the same champion unlocked (you will see a small icon with two arrows next to that player’s name if you can trade). You can also pick your rune page, summoner spells and ward skin, if you have one. Once the time is up, you will be taken to the gaming screen, where you will see the other player’s summoner names, champions and skins, “capstone” rune and their summoner spells selected. Not banning a champion, not selecting a champion or leaving the game during the champion select screen will be counted as a “queue dodge” and you will not be able to start a new game for several minutes.


Image courtesy of Riot Games

The stages of the game

The game starts with everyone in their base, with some money for starting purchases from the game shop (where you purchase equipment for your champion in this game round) and either one skill point or three (for ARAM). You will have sometimes before minion spawns to do some purchasing before minion spawn. In the standard Summoner’s Rift game, a regular match is roughly divided in three stages.

The early game, which tends to last roughly 15 minutes in pro play but can be shorter or longer, the players mostly stick to their lanes killing minions to amass gold – that’s called “farming”. Junglers do that as well, coming to “gank” (or help a lane player get a kill) when they can and think it would work. Laners can go to another lane, which is known as “roaming”, but that tends to happen quite rarely.

In the mid-game, farming is still a priority, but “pushing” the lanes, advancing map control and teamfights become more important. At this point, teams often group to force advantages and take objectives such as towers, dragons or the baron.

The late game is when most players have gotten all or most of their items and skills; at that point, the biggest focus is the enemy base. That said, when a team is sufficiently ahead, they can end the game before what is seen as the late game.

The game ends when either team’s Nexus gets destroyed, but players can surrender a game if they wish; they can do so with a unanimous vote past the 15th minute and with one player against past the 20th minute. Players who have left the game are not counted towards the surrender limit.  During the game, players can check on their teammates and opponents’ items and stats such as minions killed, kills, deaths and assists. Player also have the option to “mute” disruptive players and disable receiving chat messages from them.

After the end of the game, players can honor one person on their team; the three categories are for staying cool, for being a good leader in game or for being friendly and pleasant to play with. After that, they go to the post-game screen, where they can chat with other players, report players for negative behavior or view advanced game statistics such as vision contribution, damage done or received per player, and so on. If you have played a ranked game, the post-game screen will also show how many League Points you won or lost and, if you are in a placement or promotion series, how well it’s going.


Image courtesy of Riot Games

There is obviously a lot more to that, but these are the basics. The rest will come with practice.  Our next piece will deal with the professional League of Legends gaming or, as it’s also known, the esports scene.

Thumbnail images courtesy of Riot Games

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