A Complete Noobs’ Guide to League of Legends – Part 3: Builds and the Metagame

If you haven’t read the first two articles in this noobs’ guide to League of Legends, please do so. When you think you’re ready, move on to this article. Or do whatever you want, it’s all good.

The Chinese art is better.


Runes give you small boosts to your stats. More rune slots are unlocked as you gain levels. They can be purchased with IP but not RP, which means that you simply have to grind. But it’s OK, you won’t unlock all the slots until you reach the highest level anyway.

Buy level 1 and then level 3 runes. Better nerds than me have crunched the numbers and found out that level 2 runes (Available at level 10) are not cost-effective. Load up on level 1 runes and then save for the more expensive level 3 ones. You’ll be better off in the long run, and besides, runes aren’t hugely important until you start getting more slots for them.

Unlike skills and items, it’s usually better to diversify with runes rather than putting all your eggs in one basket. For example, when I play AP casters, I have magic penetration for my red runes, armor for my yellow runes, mana regeneration or AP for my blue runes, and AP for my quintessence runes. The main purpose of runes is to build up your early-game stats because you won’t have much gold for items when you first start a game.

You only start with two rune pages, which is not enough for every type of character out there. This is obviously to encourage players to spend real money on more pages. But when you’re first starting out, two pages is plenty. You could have one for AD and one for AP and stick to those two types of characters. Again, rune selection is not that important until you’re past level 20 or so.

Some people ask, “Do I spend IP on runes or new champions?” For new players, I suggest using IP to get a few of the champions that you’ve played during their free week and have low IP costs. Morgana is probably the most powerful character in the game and she only costs 1350 IP compared to the 6300 that most champions cost. Master Yi is a strong character for noobs and experts alike and he only costs 450 IP. You decide: Either grind for more champions, or pay real money for more champions. But runes must be earned by playing the game.

Here are my masteries for when I play as a support character like Lulu or Janna. Note that when you’re playing support, Utility and Defense and more important than dealing damage.


Masteries are like passive skills that you put points into before a game starts. Their purpose is to (Once again) slightly increase stats, but they are equally important as runes. They are divided into three categories:

Offense: This is where most AD and AP characters put their mastery points. If your job is to kill enemies, you’ll typically put 21 into this tree. The only question is whether to pick AD or AP, and whether or not to put points into critical hits. Characters like Tryndamere and Gangplank benefit from critical hits, but most AD characters don’t. You decide.

Defense: Tanks will almost always put 21 points into this category so they can get the toughness and durability they need to perform their duties. For squishy, easy-to-kill champions like AP casters who go to middle lane, it’s often a good idea to put 9 into Defense for a little bit of extra survivability.

Utility: This is where supports, the most neglected character type, need to build. The extra gold is essential to champions who won’t be killing very many minions.

Most (But not all) popular builds consist of putting 21 points into one mastery tree, 9 points into another, and 0 in the last one. This usually gives more overall benefits than just 30 points into one category. And of course if you’re under level 30 you won’t have 30 points to spend, so don’t worry about it.

You can keep up to 10 mastery pages which will suit a large variety of roles, unlike the piddly two rune pages you start with. They revamped the masteries in November 2011, and for the better, I think. You have more options available now. The old masteries are available for viewing on the League of Legends wiki, but they’re only for posterity, along with the discontinued items and summoner spells.

All we need now is Opera Sona and Internet Exploder Ziggs.


I love the item selection in League of Legends. It offers a great variety of builds to give players more flexibility midgame. Sure, you’ll have your favorite items that you’ll want to get most of the time, but what if the enemy team has a ton of CC that could shut you down? Divert some of your gold into getting items with tenacity to reduce the duration of those stuns and slowdowns, or get a Banshee’s Veil to block one enemy spell every 45 seconds.

Playing an AD carry and facing an enemy tank with trillions of health that you just can’t seem to damage? You can buy a Madred’s Bloodrazor (Normally an inefficient investment) which makes your basic auto-attacks deal bonus damage based on a percentage of the target’s health, helping to mitigate their health advantage.

Look at various builds on Solomid or LOLpro to get a good idea of what suits your character of choice. You can also change the in-game recommended item list with Enigma Item Changer. (Free, no stupid spyware, and saves time when you’re recalling back to base and trying to get to the item you want so you can get back into the action.) You may be outplayed at times, but you need never be helpless due to League of Legends’ item selection.

Summoner Spells

Flash is the best Summoner Spell overall. It’s useful for every character in the game either as an offensive tool to catch up on a fleeing enemy or as a defense to escape a sneak attack. As I’ve said many times before, League of Legends is all about positioning and timing. Flash can give you the little extra push you need to succeed. Riot keeps nerfing Flash but even in its weakened state it still remains useful for everyone.

Exhaust, like Flash, is a versatile spell that can be used for offense or defense. So is Ghost, which may be even better than Flash on champions that already have high movement speed, either naturally like Master Yi or through skills like Rammus’ Powerball.

Ignite is good on assassins and other characters who need an extra attack button. It does damage over time, so it can potentially finish off an opponent that’s running out of your normal range. Ignite is also great for shutting down Tryndamere, the bane of low-level play. Throw it on him a few seconds into his Undying Rage and he’ll be gathering vultures when he gets out of his ultimate.

All junglers except Shaco and Warwick should take Smite. It only hits minions and neutral monsters, but it does lots of true damage (which ignores defenses) and the cooldown is low. You can even use it to steal a Baron Nashor that the enemy team is about to kill, quickly kill siege and super minions, and ruin the day of champions with pets that can be damaged, like Annie and Heimerdinger. But it’s not worth it on people who stick to their lanes.

Clarity is great for supports to keep an eye on enemy movements from a distance. Combine it with wards for map awareness and control of the game. Heal is also a good Summoner Spell for supports.

Teleport is secretly overpowered. Instead of taking a full minute to waddle from the base to your lane, you can immediately get back to farming. Or use it to turn the tides of team fights that used to be one-sided. Or Teleport to that ward you placed near the enemy golem and steal their blue buff as soon as it’s available. Or wait until the enemy team is beating down your door and Teleport to one of their faraway turrets and smash it. This spell is incredibly useful and potentially game-changing. The biggest downside is the charge time, which means you can’t use it in the middle of combat, but Teleport is still fantastic.

Cleanse, Promote, Revive, and Surge are decent and definitely useful in certain situations but they are usually relegated to specific builds intended to directly benefit from them. Instead of using a valuable Summoner Spell slot on Cleanse, you could get Quicksilver Sash. Promote is only good on characters who like to push enemy turrets, like Sivir and Heimerdinger. Revive is strong in Dominion mode but not on Summoner’s Rift; the nine-minute cooldown is way too long and you shouldn’t make a strategy that revolves around you getting killed in the first place.

For even more info about Summoner Spells, go to this Mobafire guide and improve your knowledge.

Udyr’s not THAT bad. These are all strong characters, though.

Bans and Counterpicking

In Ranked mode, before the character select, both sides have the option of picking certain characters they don’t want to see. This enables a player to pre-emptively stop irritating characters from ruining their upcoming game. The good thing is that overpowered flavor-of-the-month champions are usually out of sight. The downside is that the second- and third-most powerful champions will become much more common and effectively turn into the new top tier.

There are various sites that go into detail about why certain characters are banned more than others. Some are simply too powerful compared to others, like (As of 7/17/2012) Morgana, Shen, and Darius. Others are not necessarily overpowered but merely irritating to face, like Shaco and his multiple unfair escape methods or Sion’s seemingly infinite health.

So, what do you do if you know the enemy team is going to have a character you hate? Some are clearly stronger than others, but no champion is unbeatable. Heavy damage-dealing characters like. How do you beat my favorite character, Singed? Long-range characters like Teemo, Kennen, and Vayne absolutely murder him despite his tankiness. Or those with a lot of sustainability like Alistar or any character that doesn’t use mana can usually outlast him. Faced against squishy characters that deal lots of damage? Pick a tank character to block their attacks while your teammate picks someone with a lot of CC and you can instantly melt down that Ashe or Leblanc even if they normally deal tons of damage to you.

And what if your favorite champion is banned? With 100+ characters, you can probably find a similar one. If someone bans the (very very good) ranged AD Graves, then play the almost-as-good Corki or Caitlyn, who are comparable to him in many of their skills. You have lots of options.

And again, when you first get started, banning and counterpicking won’t be a top priority. It’s when you hit level 30 and start playing Ranked games that it becomes important.

Dealing with Jerks

A League of Legends game will frequently be full of stupid trolls, ragequitters, violent racists, and ridiculous braggarts. I live on the internet and I’ve never seen any game with this many terrible people in it. I’ve seen women in Saudi Arabia treated with more respect than the League of Legends community has for one another.

When your team is raging and calling each other crippled Gypsy retards and threatening to report everyone for being a total total gay, telling your team to calm down so they might have a chance of winning or even having fun might help your chances a bit.

A Something Awful Forums poster said: “Something like ‘hey we can argue about who is the worst lol player ever later can we just not throw away our lead please’. I think the key is not to tell them not to fight since they’re mad at each other and WANT to fight and they’ll just get angry at you if you say it. You want to give them a reason why they should shut up and concentrate.”

I could write for volumes on this subject. Stuff about what could possibly lead people to be so pointlessly cruel to each other over the internet, what’s wrong with gamers as a whole, and why the Tribunal doesn’t work in its job of banning disruptive players. But the best thing you can do is put fools on mute and report them even though it’s unlikely that they’ll receive any punishment for their behavior. Just remember that a poor player is not necessarily morally poor; if they keep running into 1v5 fights and getting slaughtered, try giving them advice like “Wait for us” rather than assuming they’re a stupid troll who is deliberately trying to ruin your game. Though those certainly do exist.


One final note: There are no free RP generators. Most of the game info is server-side, so an alleged pirate would have to somehow hack Riot’s servers to make them think that they legitimately sold RP to someone with a real credit card/RP card, then not have any Riot employee notice it, and then decide to share it with strangers on the internet. Not a chance. Grinding is irritating, I know, but it’s either that or pay real money if you want more champions.

I hope you enjoyed this guide and I hope you all become better players because of it. If you have any advice to give on any of the three parts, leave a comment and I’ll correct any mistakes I made. Thank you all, and please sign up with my referral link if you wish to show your appreciation.

And be patient where there are login queues like this one that happened to me. It is a free game, after all.

About Lee

Lee Laughead writes stuff about video games. Read his Twitter at https://twitter.com/Mesarphelous even though Twitter sucks.
Fantasy/Sci-Fi, League of Legends, Online Gaming, Video Gaming


  1. You offer valuable tips that any new League of Legends player should read about. Although they are simple, they are still very effective tips that any player, including veterans, still know about. They are the foundation of what makes a good League of Legends player! I especially liked your stance and how you should go about dealing with jerks or trolls; it’s exactly what I do and it works all the time on how you should focus on the game and try your best to bypass the jerking/trolling.

  2. Lee

    This page is still getting a lot of hits so I thought I should mention that it’s ten months out of date. Most of the general info is still useful, but the meta changes as players develop new and more efficient strategies and Riot makes frequent updates. That and I’m still not very good at the game.

  3. Lee

    Note: Champion Select is a pretty terrible site nowadays. Anyone who thinks Sivir is good against Caitlyn because of her spell shield probably doesn’t know what an attack range is.

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