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A Guide to Runes in League of Legends

Written by: April M. Reid
Runes Guide LoL

When Riot overhauled the runes and masteries system back in 2018, there was delight, excitement and… a whole lot of confusion. While the runes allow for more unique and interesting gameplay, they’re also a lot more complex and impactful. Making the wrong rune selection in champ select can give you a severe handicap – one that will no doubt leave you looking at the defeat screen.

This guide will cover the ins and outs of runes in League of Legends. We’ll explain what they are, how they work, and most importantly, how to pick the appropriate runes every time. If you didn’t already, we would recommend that you first read the LoL Beginners Guide before diving in to this topic.

What are Runes and Why Do They Matter?

Runes are essentially customizable bonus traits that enhance your champion’s abilities or stats. There are also runes that can give you additional in-game items, new attacks, and unique ways to gather gold (looking at you, First Strike). You decide on your champion’s runes before the match begins during champ select.

Different runes are better suited to different champions, playstyles, roles, and match-ups. Some runes are exceptionally versatile, and will work well on many different champions. Others only work well in extremely specific situations.

In other words, if you want to get the most value out of your runes, you’ll need to tailor them to each game. If you underestimate the importance of runes – and rely on the preset rune pages or don’t bother to change them – you’ll be putting yourself at a major disadvantage. The optimal rune build will allow you to win your matches in the most efficient and effective way possible.

What Runes Are There and How Does the Rune System Work?

There are dozens upon dozens of runes in the game, but they’re all organized into five categories – officially known as rune paths – based on the type of buff they offer players. These are Domination, Inspiration, Sorcery, Precision, and Resolve.

Each rune path also has a few “Keystones” to choose between. Keystones grant a significant buff and are more powerful than all other rune traits (known as “lesser” runes). You can only use one Keystone at a time.

Now, here’s where it gets a little bit more complicated. When you customize these runes, you can’t pick or choose traits from all of the different categories. You have to set one rune path as the “primary” path, and another as the “secondary” path. You can only pick traits within these two paths. Put simply, if you set Domination as your primary and Sorcery as your secondary, you won’t be able to use runes from the Precision, Resolve or Inspiration lines.

Which rune path you set as the primary one is also important; you choose your Keystone (and most of your lesser runes) from the primary path. When you set a rune path as your secondary one, you can’t use any of its Keystones, and you can only pick two lesser runes from the line.

An In-Depth Look at the Rune Paths and their Keystones

Here, we’ll provide a quick rundown of each rune path and all the Keystones in the game. While we can’t cover all the lesser runes in this guide, we will discuss a few vital ones later on.

Precision – Become a Legend

The Precision path provides runes that empower your attacks and increase your damage output, allowing for more aggressive plays. Many Precision runes also help you deal sustained damage and stay alive in extended fights.

Keystone Runes

Press the Attack:“Hitting an enemy champion with 3 consecutive basic attacks deals 40 – 180 bonus adaptive damage (based on level), and makes them vulnerable, increasing the damage they take by 8 – 12% from all sources for 6s.

Lethal Tempo:“Gain 15% (Melee) or 5% (Ranged) attack speed for 6 seconds when you attack an enemy champion. This effect stacks up to 90% (Melee) or 30% (Ranged).”

Fleet Footwork:Attacking and moving builds energy stacks. At 100 stacks, your next attack is energized. Energized attacks heal you for 10 – 100 (+0.4 bonus AD, +0.3 AP) and grant 20% move speed for 1s.”

Conqueror:“Basic attacks or spells that deal damage to an enemy champion grant 2 stacks of conqueror for 4 seconds, gaining 2 – 4 adaptive force per stack. When fully stacked, heal for 9% of the damage you deal to champions (6% for ranged champions).”

Domination – Hunt and Eliminate Prey

While Precision prioritizes sustained damage output, runes in the Domination path are all about upping your burst potential; they increase sudden damage output during short trades, and help you shred through squishy opponents. There are also Domination runes that improve your opportunity to locate and isolate enemy targets.

Keystone Runes

Electrocute:“Hitting a champion with 3 separate attacks or abilities within 3 seconds deals bonus adaptive damage.”

Hail of Blades:“Gain 110% attack speed when you attack an enemy champion for up to 3 attacks.”

Predator:“Enhance your boots with the active effect ‘predator.’ Gain increased move speed, ramping up to 60% move speed over 1 second, while chasing enemy champions. After ramping up, damaging attacks or abilities to champions end this effect, dealing 40 – 120 (+0.2 bonus AD)(+0.1 AP) bonus adaptive damage.”

Dark Harvest:“Damaging a champion below 50% health deals adaptive damage and harvests their soul, permanently increasing dark harvest’s damage by 5.”

Sorcery – Unleash Destruction

Sorcery is the most magical rune path out there. No, seriously. It’s centered around empowering and enhancing AP abilities (aka turning you from Gandalf the Gray to Gandalf the White). Several runes also increase your opportunity to dish out AP damage, whether by giving you more mana or reducing your abilities’ cooldowns.

Keystone Runes

Summon Aery:“Damaging enemy champions with basic attacks or abilities sends Aery to them, dealing 10 – 40 based on level (+0.1AP) (+0.15 bonus AD). Empowering or protecting allies with abilities sends Aery to them, shielding them for 35 – 80 based on level (+0.25 AP)(+0.4 bonus AD).”

Arcane Comet:Damaging a champion with an ability hurls a comet at their location, or, if arcane comet is on cooldown, reduces its remaining cooldown.”

Phase Rush:Hitting an enemy champion with 3 attacks or separate abilities within 4 seconds grants 15 – 40% move speed based on level and 75% slow resistance.”

Resolve – Live Forever

Resolve runes give your champion more sustain and survivability, whether through shielding, resistances or additional health. Some Resolve runes also give your champion extra crowd control, granting you more ways to safely disengage (or catch out your enemies).

Keystone Runes

Grasp of the Undying:“Every 4 seconds in combat, your next basic attack on a champion will: deal bonus magic damage equal to 4% of your max health, heals you for 2% of your max health, permanently increase your health by 5.”

Aftershock:“After immobilizing an enemy champion, increase your armor and magic resist by 35 + 80% of your bonus resists for 2.5 seconds. Then explode, dealing magic damage to nearby enemies.”

Guardian:“Guard allies within 350 units of you, and allies you target with spells for 2.5 seconds. While guarding, if you or the ally take more than a small amount of damage over the duration of the guard, both of you gain a shield for 1.5 seconds.”

Inspiration – Outwit Mere Mortals

Out of all the rune lines, Inspiration is the most unique. It gives players new ways to play around their enemy, and many runes provide additional items (or “tools”) that give you an advantage in laning phase.

Keystone Runes

Glacial Augment:“Immobilizing an enemy champion will cause 3 glacial rays to emanate from them towards you and other nearby enemy champions, creating frozen zones for 3 (+ 100% of the immobilizing effect’s duration) seconds that slow enemies for 35% (+ 5% per 10% heal and shield power) (+2% per 100 bonus attack damage) and reduce their damage by 15% against your allies (not including yourself).”

Unsealed Spellbook:“Swap one of your equipped summoner spells to a new, single use summoner spell. Each unique summoner spell you swap to permanently decreases your swap cooldown by 25 seconds.”

First Strike:“Attacks or abilities against an enemy champion within 0.25 seconds of entering champion combat grants 5 gold and First Strike for 3 seconds, causing you to deal 10% extra damage against champions, and granting 100% (70% for ranged champions) of bonus damage dealt as gold.”

Which Runes are Best for Each Role?

Here, we’ll discuss rune builds that (usually) work for every position. However,  remember that there aren’t any clear-cut “best rune builds;” the optimal build can vary depending on the champion, playstyle, and matchup. Always take the time to test out different rune combinations to find out what works best for you.

ADC – The Team’s Strength

The ADC role is all about slaying your opponents with consistent high damage output, while kiting away from the enemy’s frontline to keep your own (very squishy) health bar safe. Considering this, runes that work well for the ADC role are those that enhance your attack speed, damage, or kiting capabilities.

Lethal Tempo is an excellent Keystone option, as it drastically increases your attack speed for 6 seconds, allowing you to spam as much damage as possible during a skirmish. Lethal Tempo also increases your attack range. This makes it easier to chase down stragglers (and deal the killing blow).

Lethal Tempo used to be the best Keystone for ADCs by far. However, the recent Preseason changes have hit it pretty hard; the attack speed bonus for ranged champions has dropped to a meager 5%-30%. Nevertheless, it’s still a solid option, especially for ADCs with playstyles that revolve around stacking attack speed, like Jinx, Caitlyn, and Vayne.

Other viable Keystone options include Dark Harvest, Conqueror, and Hail of Blades. If you’re looking to survive in lane against a difficult matchup, though, Fleet Footwork is your best bet. Not only does it heal you every time you move and attack, but it also grants you movement speed, which will allow you to dodge the enemy’s poke a little easier.

Mid – The Mobile Damage Dealer 

Just like ADCs, mid laners are heavy damage dealers. Their goal is to burst out their opponent, secure lane pressure, then roam to other lanes to find picks and help their teammates get ahead. The Domination path fits the bill perfectly. The Keystone Electrocute synergizes particularly well with champions that rely on combos to land their burst damage, such as Zoe and Ahri.

If most of your champion’s damage comes from their ultimate (ahem, Zed), don’t forget to take the lesser rune Ultimate Hunter. It permanently reduces your ultimate’s cooldown with every takedown.

Inspiration works well as a secondary path; the lesser runes Biscuit Delivery and Time Warp Tonic will allow you to stay safe in laning phase until you hit your power spike.

If you’re more experienced, though – aka you know how to not get poked out in lane and can dodge skillshots pretty well – Precision might be a more viable secondary path option. Lesser runes like Triumph and Coup de Grace will give you even more damage.

Poke AP – The Sorcery path is the best for poke mid laners, since it’s brimming with runes that increase your AP damage and reduce your abilities’ cooldowns. There are even runes that grant you more mana regen, which will allow you to stay in lane and poke out the enemy for longer. The best Keystone is Arcane Comet, as it ultimately gives you another way to harass your opponent.

Top – The Unstoppable Duelist 

Top lane – aka the island lane – is all about 1vs1 combat and creating global pressure by gaining lane advantage. The top lane is also the most versatile lane out there. It’s the home of several different playstyles, including tanks, bruisers, and split pushers. Each has a slightly different goal, meaning they each require a different rune build.

Tank – Tanks act as the frontline during skirmishes. Their main goal is to protect the carries and bear the brunt of the enemy team’s damage. Considering this, tanks need runes that can help them stay alive throughout the game – in other words, runes that grant sustain, health, and resistances. These types of runes can all be found under the Resolve path.

The Resolve Keystone, Grasp of the Undying, is particularly ideal for tanks: the healing it provides helps you stay alive in lane, and it also increases your maximum health every time you attack a champion. This additional permanent health will add up over time, and eventually turn you into an unstoppable machine that even tank shredders will struggle to slice through.

Bruiser – Bruisers like Renekton and Darius are essentially tanks that trade some of their sustain for damage. They have a more aggressive playstyle, and their main goal is to make their laner’s life a misery, whether by slaughtering them repeatedly, or zoning them off their farm. Grasp of the Undying is still a viable rune on most bruisers, especially those that already have a lot of damage in their kit.

However, if you’re looking to fully commit to an aggressive playstyle – or are playing a bruiser that could use some extra damage – the Precision rune path is your best option.

Split Pusher – If you’re dedicated to the splitpushing playstyle, don’t forget to take the lesser rune Demolish (under the Resolve tree). This rune lets you take turrets (and push the lane) faster and more efficiently.

Ranged –Many ranged top laners rely on auto attacks for a huge bulk of their damage (like Teemo, Quinn, and Kayle). These champions will benefit from Press the Attack, or if attack speed is a critical factor,  Lethal Tempo.

For other ranged top laners, First Strike is a good Keystone option. The majority of top laners are melee, so you’ll easily be able to land an attack first as a ranged top laner. Plus, ranged top laners tend to be weak early and require items to become a threat – First Strike will give you the gold quicker, allowing you to become a threat quicker.

Jungle – The Strategist 

Junglers are the strategists of the Rift; they plan meticulously in order to efficiently clear camps and help their allies without sacrificing objectives. The three main jungle playstyles are assassin, bruiser, and tank. Like top lane bruisers, jungler bruisers typically go the Precision path.

Assassins – Assassin junglers can easily pick off overextended enemies, giving their teammates an opportunity to gain lane advantage. However, this playstyle is “high risk high reward;” if you don’t burst the enemy quick enough, you’ll be the one looking at the gray screen instead. Since your main goal is to deal as much damage as possible in the shortest amount of time, the best rune path is Domination.

Tanks – You’ll want to go the Resolve path as your primary. Virtually all tank junglers have some form of CC in their kit, so Aftershock is usually the most optimal Keystone to take.

Support – The True “Carry”

Supports have a pivotal role in the game; they set up vision, keep their team alive, and help their carry get fed. There are several types of supports. Some excel at engaging, while others excel at bursting the enemy (often before their ADC can even get an assist!). With that said, the two main support playstyles are tanks and enchanters.

Tanks – If you’re playing a tank support such as Nautilus or Leona, you should stick to the Resolve path and go for the same keystone that tank junglers take (Aftershock). Resolve runes will provide you with heaps of sustain, and Aftershock will make it easier to engage on the enemy bot lane. If your champion’s kit is brimming with CC, though, Glacial Augment is an equally strong pick.  It’ll make it impossible for the enemy to escape from your engages.

Enchanters – Enchanters can take several different runes. If your main goal is to poke out and harass the enemy bot lane, the Sorcery path with the Arcane Comet Keystone works best. Arcane Comet increases the damage your poke deals. Plus, the Sorcery lesser rune, Manaflow Band, gives you extra mana, allowing you to poke (and stay in lane) for longer.

If you have protecting or empowering abilities in your kit, opt for the Summon Aery Keystone instead – it’ll give your allies even more protection. Against tough matchups, the Guardian Keystone under the Resolve path is a more viable option.

How Do I Create and Customize Rune Pages in League?

Creating and customizing rune pages is pretty straightforward – once you know where to look. During champ select, click on the pen icon next to your Summoner Spells. This will open up your rune pages. You can choose one of the preset options, edit a current rune page, or create a new one by clicking “add new page.”

You can also set up your rune pages before you enter a game:

  • Open up the client, and click on the collection tab (the bag icon)
  • Go to the runes tab
  • Click “create new” to set up a new page, or click on your other rune pages to edit them

Riot gives you five preset rune pages to start with. These preset runes are “locked,” meaning you can’t customize them. Each preset rune has a different build, and are a good starting point if you’re new to the game.

Can I Buy Additional Rune Pages?

Besides the preset rune pages, Riot gives every account three customizable rune pages. It’s possible to buy additional rune pages from the LoL client store. Here’s how:

  • Click on the store tab (the coin icon)
  • Go to accessories
  • Select the “rune pages” option
  • An additional rune page will set you back 6300 blue essence, or 590 RP

Your account can have up to 25 custom rune pages.

Will Rune Optimization Truly Help You Climb?

Optimizing your runes each game will lead you on the path to victory (aka up the ranked ladder). However, you can’t just master rune optimization and expect to see tier-jumping results. Another core part of League is itemization. To truly “get gud,”  you need to master rune building and itemization – even if you have perfect runes, picking the wrong items in game will render your runes worthless (and vice versa).  If you want to learn more about itemization, take a look at our guide on how to get better at LoL. In it, we cover what itemization is, why it’s important, and how to itemize properly.