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A Beginner’s Guide to LoL: Master the Basics

Written by: April M.
Beginners Guide to League of Legends

You’ve just finished watching the latest episode of Arcane and have finally given in to the temptation that is LoL. You download the client, load up the game, and…

Within mere minutes, you’ve died 10 times, have been told to “uninstall,” and still can’t figure out what the heck your champion does. Yep. Sadly, League of Legends is far from a beginner-friendly game. Its depth is greater than the Mariana Trench, and its huge learning curve is utterly daunting.

But you won’t have to navigate the Rift alone. In this guide, we’ll be breaking down the core aspects of LoL. So, next time you get told to “uninstall?” You can show those toxic fiends exactly how winning a game is done.

What Is League of Legends?

League of Legends is a free-to-play Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) [1]. The game is all about strategy, teamwork, and outplaying the 0/10 Yasuo mid (you’ll get the reference soon.) Each game you get to play as one of the many champions available. While League has several game modes to choose between, the “go-to” game mode is Summoner’s Rift.

What Is Summoner’s Rift?

Summoner’s Rift is a 5vs5 team-based strategy game. Each team has their own base, and whichever team destroys the other team’s base first wins.

While the “core” of it may sound simple, the hard part is what’s involved in getting to your opponent’s base. You have to battle it out across an extensive map, secure game-changing objectives, gather gold, and take down turrets (defensive, tower structures that’ll shoot you to death.) Not only that, but there are five roles and over 150 playable champions, each with their own unique playstyle and kit.

When Did League of Legends Come Out?

League of Legends was officially released by Riot Games on October 27th, 2009. A Mac OS version was later released in 2013. Initially, there were only 40 playable champions.

How Big Is League of Legends and How Many People Play?

League of Legends is the biggest MOBA out there, and since its release it has consistently reigned as one of the most popular video games in the world [2]. It’s even a top esports title, with a global competitive scene, hefty prize pools, and climbing viewership numbers. The 2021 Worlds Championship finals hit a peak viewership of over 4 million [3].

Riot Games has not released statistics regarding how many active LoL players there are. However, they have stated that across all their LoL universe-inspired games – League of Legends, Wild Rift, Legends of Runeterra, and Teamfight Tactics – the total monthly player count is 180 million [4]. It’s safe to assume that LoL players make up a good bulk of this number.

How to Play League of Legends and How Old Do You Have to Be to Start?

According to LoL’s Terms of Service, you must be age 13 or older to create a League account and play the game. Your PC or Mac will also need to meet these minimum system requirements [5].

You can download the League of Legends client and create an account here [6]. While the download process should run smoothly, if you come across any issues make sure to reach out to Riot Games Support [7].

If you’re a parent, you’ll be pleased to know that there are several in-game options that’ll help keep your child safe. For example, you can disable the game’s chat function, enable a language filter, and even hide other players’ usernames.

How Many Champions Are in League of Legends

There are over 150 champions in League and the roster is constantly growing, meaning you’ll need to become familiar with lots of new faces [8]! The plus side of a large champion pool is that you’re pretty much guaranteed to find a few that are perfect for your taste.

A Closer Look at Summoner’s Rift

Summoner’s Rift has three distinct lanes – top, middle, bot – and a jungle that stretches across the map. The lanes connect both bases together, but getting to the opposing team’s base is no easy feat. Each lane is decked out with turrets and minions spawn continuously.

  • Minions. Minions are combat units that spawn in waves from each team’s base. They charge down every lane and engage in active combat with the opposing minions. They will also attack enemy champions and turrets if the right conditions are met. Besides this, enemy minions have another vital role in the game: they provide gold if you last hit them [9]. More on this later.
  • Lane Turrets. Turrets are fortified structures that attack nearby enemy minions or champions. A turret hit deals hefty damage, especially during the early stages of the game. Each lane has six turrets (three defend your team, while the other three defend the enemy). To get to your opponent’s base you’ll need to take down all their turrets in at least one lane first. When a turret is destroyed, it collapses and grants gold and experience.

Base Turrets, Nexus, and Inhibitors Explained

Even after you take down the enemy team’s turrets, their base isn’t left defenseless. Both bases are protected by inhibitors and two turrets that guard the “nexus.”

  • Inhibitors. There are three inhibitors within each base. If you take down an inhibitor, ally super minions will spawn. Super minions make sieging the enemy’s base easier; they are exceptionally tanky and dish out much more damage than standard minions.
  • Nexus. The nexus is essentially a giant gemstone that represents the base’s core. To siege the enemy’s base and win the game, you must destroy the nexus. The nexus is untargetable until the following conditions are met:
      • At least one inhibitor has been taken down
      • The two base turrets are both destroyed

What Are the Key Objectives in League of Legends

Objectives are attainable things in the game that increase your chances of winning. They provide gold, buffs, and other in-game advantages. Objectives we’ve discussed so far include inhibitors and turrets, but there are a few more you should know about.

  • Rift Herald: The rift herald – better known as Shelly in the LoL community – is an epic monster that spawns in the topside pit. If you manage to slay this monster, it’ll reward you with “Eye of the Herald.” This item allows you to summon the rift herald in a lane of your choice. When summoned, the herald will charge forward and deal substantial damage to turrets.
  • Baron: The baron spawns in the topside pit after 20 minutes. Killing the baron grants a buff to all living allies. The buff empowers nearby minions, making them stronger, tankier, and faster.
  • Elemental Dragons: Every few minutes, an elemental dragon will spawn in the botside pit. There are six different elemental dragons (mountain, cloud, infernal, ocean, chemtech, and hextech). Each one provides a unique buff to the team that slays it. There is no particular order that these dragons spawn in – you might get a cloud drake first one game and an infernal drake first the next.
  • Dragon Soul: Once a team manages to kill four dragons, they receive a dragon soul buff. The type of buff is dependent on the third elemental dragon slain. While we can’t cover everything about the dragons and soul here, you can find out more in this in-depth guide [10].
  • Elder Dragon: An elder dragon will spawn in the botside pit when a team has secured dragon soul. Killing the elder dragon empowers your team with a buff that executes low health enemies and makes your basic attacks and abilities burn the target.
  • Rift Scuttler: These little guys spawn in the rivers every so often. Killing a rift scuttler turns it into an unbreakable “ward” that grants your team vision and movement speed.

About the Item Shop and How to Spend Your Gold

You can earn gold by taking down objectives, slaying minions, or defeating opponents. You can then use this gold to buy items that’ll make your champion stronger. The item shop is located in the base.

There are hundreds of items in the game, and which ones work “best” will depend on your champion, the game situation, and matchup. That said, you can find the most popular item build for your champion here [11].

How the XP and Ability Leveling System Works 

You don’t just earn gold from taking objectives and securing kills – you also gain XP and can level up throughout the game. When you level up, you can put a point in an ability of your choice. The more points you put into an ability, the stronger it’ll become. The max level (and max points available) is 18.

Only one in-game ability is “unlocked” at the start of the match. You won’t be able to use the other abilities until you level up and put at least one point in them. Your ultimate (the strongest ability in your kit) is only unlockable at level six.

There are other ways to gain XP, including:

  • Assisting in kills
  • Being near a dead enemy champion, ward, or minion
  • Killing jungle monsters

How to Master LoL’s Champ Select 

Before you even enter the Rift, you have to pick a champion to play as. Each champion is unique; some excel at blasting the enemy to smithereens, while others are best at healing up allies from the sidelines.

What is Champ Select and How Does it Work

So, how exactly do you “choose” a champion? Has Riot Games implemented brain-to-computer technology that can magically tell which champion you want to play as? Nope. Sadly not. Before the game starts, you first enter a phase called “champ select.” Here, every player takes turns picking and “locking in” their desired champion.

We won’t go into too much detail about champ select, but you should know that each player has the option to ban a champion they don’t want to see in the game. In champ select, you can also change your runes and summoner spells, as well as more aesthetic in-game aspects like skins and emotes.

What Are the Best Summoner Spells for a New Player

Summoner spells are extra abilities you can choose in champ select before the match starts. While there are several summoner spells available, you can only pick two. The most popular summoner spells are:

  • Flash: Allows you to quickly teleport to a nearby location (short-ranged)
  • Ignite: Deals consistent damage to a target for a few seconds
  • Teleport: Allows you to teleport to a different location (long-ranged)
  • Heal: Heals you and one nearby ally
  • Smite: Deals damage to monsters and minions; the must-have ability for junglers

If you’re a new player, we recommend sticking to flash and heal. The flash will allow you to quickly escape unsavory situations, while the heal will give you some extra sustain throughout the game.

The Art of Runes: Why They’re a Game Changer

Runes are customizable bonus traits that buff up your champion’s stats and abilities. Some runes even give you additional in-game items. Runes can be challenging to wrap your head around – there isn’t a “one-build-fits-all” approach. The optimal rune build will depend on the champion you’re playing, your team comp, and the matchup.

Due to the difficulty involved, it’s best to use the preset rune pages to begin with. You can also explore applications like Blitz.gg [12]. Each match, Blitz.gg will automatically change your runes to ones that suit your champion and the matchup. If you would like to learn more about runes, take a look at our in-depth LoL runes guide. The guide covers what runes are, how to customize them, and optimal rune builds for each role.

The 5 Playable Roles in Summoner’s Rift

There are five playable roles in League of Legends: top lane, mid lane, jungler, ADC (attack damage carry), and support. Apart from the jungler, every other role is tied to a specific lane. If you haven’t guessed already, the top laner goes top and the mid laner goes mid.

The ADC and support both go bot – it is the only “duo” lane. The jungler spends their time roaming around the jungle.

  • Top: Top laners are usually tanks or melee fighters.
  • ADC: ADCs do the most damage – hence their “carry” name – but they’re also the squishiest.
  • Mid: Mid laners are typically assassins or mages.
  • Jungler: Junglers kill jungle animals (camps) to gain XP and gold. Junglers are also responsible for securing objectives and assisting ally lanes.
  • Support: Supports don’t farm and instead rely on gold-generating items to gain gold. Their main goal is to help their ADC and team stay alive in fights, while establishing vision around the map by placing wards. Setting up vision is essential in League due to the “fog of war. [13]”

The Different Modes of Summoner’s Rift

There are several different versions of Summoner’s Rift. Here’s what you need to know about each version.

  • Draft pick is standard Summoner’s Rift. It has the champ select phase and allows you to pick your preferred roles beforehand. You get access to this game mode when you own at least 20 champions.
  • Blind is Summoner’s Rift without the role selection and pick/ban phase. You can pick whichever champion you want, as long as an ally hasn’t claimed it first. It’s good etiquette in blind to type in the chat what role you want to play.
  • Ranked solo/duo is the competitive version of Summoner’s Rift, where you can battle other players for a rank (bronze, silver, gold etc.). You can either play this mode solo or with a partner (duo). This mode unlocks when your account hits level 30.
  • Ranked Flex. Similar to solo/duo, ranked flex is a competitive version of Summoner’s Rift. The difference is that you can play with up to five premades (party members).
  • Co-Op Vs AI. You can also swap from PvP to co-op vs AI (bots). It’s a good idea to first practice against bots before venturing into PvP. You’ll be up against easier opponents, the pace will be more beginner-friendly, and it’ll be a whole lot less stressful. Plus, you can increase the difficulty of the bots as you improve.

How Do I Play My First League of Legends Game?

Now you’re familiar with the basics, it’s time to load up the client. As a new player, you won’t be able to access PvP initially. You’ll first have to go through a tutorial and battle it out against bots.

  • Login to the client and decide on your in-game name
  • Select Summoner’s Rift to load up the relevant tutorial
  • The tutorial has three stages – complete each stage to gain access to the full game
  • Once you finish the tutorial, click “PLAY” to find the various game modes

Some Quick LoL Tips for Your First Game

League of Legends is one of the most fun MOBAs out there, but it’s also one of the most difficult. While we’ve covered the basics here, there is still plenty more to learn.

  • Use the “B” key to go back to your base (recall). Recall takes six seconds. If you move or get attacked during this time, the recall will be cancelled.
  • It’s best to play only a few champions to start with. This will allow you to focus on figuring out the game itself rather than how to play all the different kits. Once you know what role and champions you want to try, look up champion-specific and role-specific guides.
  • The “cog” icon is for Game settings. Use it to customize the settings of your game. Stick to the “increased performance” default setting if your PC has the bare minimum specs. If you’re blessed with a good quality gaming rig, opt for the “increased quality” setting.
  • Mute Toxic Teammates or enemies. In PvP, type “/muteall” in the chat to silence everyone.
  • Practice last-hitting minions. You can do this easily in the “practice tool” game mode.
  • Stay behind your minions and keep out of turret range. Only enter turret range if your minions are there to protect you, and you can safely deal damage to the turret itself.
  • The LoL store is where you can buy new champions. It’s also where you can splash IRL money on skins, loot, and in-game emotes. To access the store, simply click on the “coin” icon at the top right of the client.
  • League’s main currencies are blue essence (BE) and riot points (RP). Blue essence can be earned simply by playing the game. Riot points can only be attained by spending real-life money.
  • There is no need to spend RP on champions. You can unlock every single champion with blue essence, and there is also a free champion rotation. The rotation allows you to try out new champions every week without needing to own them.
  • A ward is a trinket that grants vision of the nearby area. Place wards in the “fog of war” to increase field of view

Last but not least, welcome to League of Legends. GL and HF out on the Rift!


[1] https://www.dbltap.com/posts/moba-explained-what-is-a-moba-01dgjj459b9z

[2] https://www.statista.com/statistics/1079072/most-popular-video-games/

[3] https://escharts.com/tournaments/lol/worlds-2021

[4] https://twitter.com/riotgames/status/1455172784938651649

[5] https://support-leagueoflegends.riotgames.com/hc/en-us/articles/201752654-Minimum-and-Recommended-System-Requirements

[6] https://www.leagueoflegends.com

[7] https://support.riotgames.com/hc/en-us

[8] https://www.leagueoflegends.com/en-us/champions/

[9] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KlqA2Il1EP8

[10] https://dignitas.gg/articles/blogs/Unknown/14933/here-be-dragons-a-guide-to-dragons-and-souls-in-league-of-legends

[11] https://u.gg/lol/champions

[12] https://blitz.gg/

[13] https://leagueoflegends.fandom.com/wiki/Sight