If you haven’t read the first part of my noobs’ guide, please do so.
League of Legends is a game all about positioning and timing. During the beginning phases, you have to be at just the right distance to kill lots of enemy minions while keeping out of reach of the enemy champions. You also have to be close enough to damage the enemies if you get the chance. This may seem like a contradiction, but you’ll get the hang of it after a few dozen games. And later in the game during the big team fights, you have to be positioned properly or you’ll be useless. A ranged Attack Damage Carry in the front of his teammates will usually get his health bar melted down instantly by the enemy and sent back to their respawn point.
And about timing, you have to know when to commit all of your resources to get that kill and when you should back off. Sometimes it’s worth it to sacrifice your life so your allies can kill the enemy team or turret or inhibitor. Sometimes it’s better to hug your own turret and play it safe until a better opportunity presents itself. Every situation is different and every character and team composition is different.
There are three lanes in Summoner’s Rift, the most popular map, and where the majority of games are played. The other maps—Twisted Treeline, Crystal Scar, and Proving Grounds—I’ll get to later.
Middle lane is usually for AP casters and sometimes ranged AD. Both character types are hungry for gold and thus benefit from getting lots of minion kills. It’s generally accepted that middle lane is always occupied by a long-range champion, but if you think you can make it as a Sion or Renekton, go for it, but understand that you will be repeatedly harassed by the long-range enemy.
Top lane is usually played solo (If you have a jungler, which you should). Champions with lots of self-sustain (Like Tanks, or any champion without mana costs) are usually best, but it’s not uncommon to see AP casters or ranged AD up top. If there are two in the top lane, they’re typically the same composition as the bottom lane.
Bottom lane can be just about anything but is usually a ranged Attack Damage character and a tank or support to back them up. If you’re the tank or support, you should let your companion get most of the minion kills. Another reason for having two on the bottom lane is to control access to the Dragon, the neutral monster that grants gold to the whole team if it is killed.
Some characters are better in a solo lane because they benefit disproportionately from getting lots of minion kills (AD Carries, Nasus, Veigar), or they’re so strong defensively that they often don’t need any help (Yorick, Heimerdinger, Shen), or both (Melee AD Carries with built-in defenses like Tryndamere, Irelia, or Xin Zhao). Experiment and see what works for you. An Attack Damage Carry might need a melee fighter or tank to help block damage in their lane, or they might be tough enough to survive on their own.
And of course, in games against bots, you can generally do whatever you want and still be able to win. All of the previous advice assumes you’re playing human opponents.
Someone on the Something Awful forums gave this useful advice (archives required):
“Having a jungler is beneficial because otherwise the gold and buffs in your jungle are going unused. It also adds pressure to the enemy team because they don’t know where your jungler is and they can show up for ganks. Of course having a jungler means you need to have a solo lane.
The solo lane is usually top because having two people in bot lane gives you better control over the neutral monster, the dragon. By the time Baron comes into play later in the game you are usually roaming around as a team so your lane composition doesn’t really matter for it.”
I’ve played games without a jungler on my team and have always suffered for it. Not only are the buffs and gold not getting used, but the enemy jungler/roamer will have free reign over both sides of the map, giving them extra buffs, gold, experience, and opportunities to assassinate the people on your side.
Have a jungler on your team. And they should take Smite.
No matter what position you pick, you’ll need to kill lots of minions (Unless you’re a support with lots of items that give gold, but that requires being paired with someone who knows what they’re doing). And the act of killing minions requires proper timing with your “last hitting”. A last hit means attacking a minion (Usually with your auto-attack, but sometimes with abilities) while its life is low to make sure you get the gold for the kill. Unlike with champions, you get no gold for “assisting” a kill against minions, not even super minions. (You do, however, get experience simply by standing near enemy minions that are being killed, even if you didn’t touch them.) So if you or a teammate isn’t the one killing off minions, the gold they grant is wasted. Don’t let your minions kill enemy minions if you can help it. The more enemy minions to which you deliver the fatal blow, the more gold you get, and all characters need gold.
Also keep in mind that minions on both sides grow stronger with each wave that comes out of your base’s Nexus. You’ll get stronger faster than they do, but remember this fact in case you’re wondering why you used to be able to kill minions in 2 hits and now it suddenly takes 3.
Turrets will kill your character in seconds. That is the fact until later in the game when you have stronger defenses, in which case they’ll take a slightly longer time to kill you unless you’re heavily Tanked out. Don’t “tower dive” (Attack a turret with enemy champions nearby and/or no friendly minions to take the turret hits) unless you’re certain you can destroy it in the little time you have to survive. I spoke of timing and positioning earlier, and this is one of the most importance cases. Attacking a turret when the enemy has it guarded will probably result in your team getting slaughtered.
When you attack an enemy champion near a turret, that turret will immediately attack you! Therefore, the best time to attack enemy turrets is when no enemy champions are nearby, and the best defense from enemy attacks is to stay near your own turret.
Also, it is generally very valuable to destroy an enemy inhibitor, as this will create super minions for your team that will probably keep the enemy busy for quite some time.
The biggest noob mistake in League of Legends is focusing on tanks instead of squishy ranged AD/AP champions. Granted, if the tank is the closest, it may be appropriate to take him out first, but most of the time he’s there to distract you while his friends do the real damage. If your team catches an enemy Malphite off by himself in the jungle, then by all means take him down. If you’re a damage-dealer yourself, try to get past the tank and use all your abilities and summoner spells and attack items on the enemies with the lowest health/defense/magic resistance. Then after they’re gone, you can focus on the melee fighters, then the tanks (Usually in that order).
Now, things don’t always go this way. You may be ambushed while your team is out of order (To prevent ambushes, see the next section). Maybe the enemy Blitzcrank grabbed your frail Ability Power Caster from a distance and killed them before they could do anything. And of course the enemy tank is using all of his Crowd Control (slowdowns, stuns, blinds) to keep you from doing your job. Depending on the character composition on both teams and their positions (There’s lots of matchup knowledge and trial-and-error necessary here) you need to decide who to focus on killing first, but the majority of the time it should be those who deal the most damage and have the lowest defense.
Champions with built-in escape skills like Ezreal, Kassadin, and Ahri just might not be worth the effort to chase until their teammates are gone. Or maybe they’re the biggest damage dealers and you need to prioritize them right away. I apologize if that doesn’t sound helpful, but each individual game has different circumstances that you need to take into account and there are few rules absolutely set in stone.
And don’t worry about stealing kills. Anyone who complains about kills stolen is almost always a whiner who wants the game to be all about them. In my opinion, kill scored don’t belong to players, they belong to the team. Yeah, there are sometimes jerks that will use a long-range ability to finish off an enemy that someone else was clearly going to defeat, but the huge majority of the time it’s better to get that kill for your team rather than risk the enemy escaping. Remember, “ks” doesn’t stand for “kill steal” but “kill secure”.
Sometimes you’ll ace the enemy team (Kill all enemy champions at the same time). This is the perfect opportunity to push and destroy some turrets or inhibitors, even if you’re low on health. Press the tab key and check to see when the enemies are respawning. When they are, stop pushing. You can also use an ace as the time to kill Baron Nashor without fear of being interrupted.
Map Awareness, Warding, and Stealth
If you don’t control the map, then the enemy will. This will make it easier for them to ambush you, gank players who are overextending, get all the buffs in the jungle, and backdoor your home base when your team is busy elsewhere.
When you expect an enemy champion to be in your lane and you don’t see them, type “mia” or “[your lane] mia” into chat (Or Skype, if all five members of your team are on). This lets them know that something is unusual and that they should consider playing more defensively in case the missing enemy shows up with a sneak attack. Similarly, if someone gives you the sign to retreat (Signified by a white ping), they probably saw an enemy champion head your way, so run to the nearest turret or at least get out of there.
The second-biggest noob mistake in League of Legends is not buying wards. Buy wards. Then buy some more wards, and maybe consider buying some more wards and place them in the bushes between lanes, in the jungles, and especially near the neutral monsters Dragon and Baron Nashor, who grant useful gold and buffs to their slayers.
Support characters usually buy the most wards, but everyone can find them to be handy. There are green wards (75 gold) that grant vision of an area for 3 minutes and pink wards (125 gold) that do the same and also reveal stealthed enemies, including enemy wards! You can also get Oracle’s Elixir (400 gold) to enable your character to see stealthed enemies and wards, but this only lasts for your current life, so it’s best to give to Tanks. There’s also a very handy item, Wriggle’s Lantern, which grants all sorts of bonuses as well as letting you place a free green ward every three minutes. If you’re a jungler or ranged AD, consider getting one of these early in the game.
Next time on Part 3: Builds and the Metagame!