League of Ancients: Why League of Legends is better than Dota 2

What is a MOBA?

As you may or may not know, League of Legends and Defense of the Ancients 2 (Dota 2) are competing games in the same Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) genre.  They have a bit of history between them.  The original creators of the Dota experience (Guinsoo and Pendragon) went on to found Riot Games and created League of Legends.  IceFrog (as he is known) was left to continue supporting Dota after Guinsoo and Pendragon left, and was eventually hired by Gabe Newell at Valve to create Dota 2.  Because of this, it’s easily arguable that both games offer the original MOBA experience.  And they both certainly hit the mark in terms of what they offer.  Let’s take a brief look at what makes them similar.

The Field

The competitive map features 3 “lanes” down which minions will constantly spawn and fight each other in an attempt to push to the enemy base.  Each lane also has a series of turrets which protect against simple minion pushes.  There are three turrets in each lane, with the home base protected by an additional two.  Both games feature a set of minion controls (one for each lane) that, when destroyed, cause stronger minions to appear in the lane.  In Dota 2, these are called barracks, while in League they are called inhibitors.  Both games end in victory for the team that is able to push all the way to the enemy base and destroy the final structure.  Throughout both maps, each game offers a variety of neutral monsters that will not move or interact with the map until destroyed.  These jungle monsters are worth increased gold and experience in both games.  For all intents and purposes, the maps in both games are identical, and intentionally so.  The reason for this is what they call “emergent gameplay.”  I’ll explain this a little later.  Finally, both maps feature a special elite monster that provides very powerful benefits for the team which is able to kill it during the course of a given match.  For Dota 2, teams will often fight over the rights to kill Roshan, while in League of Legends, Baron Nashor is hotly contested during every match.

The Heroes and the Treasure

Both games offer a large selection of heroes for the players to select and play with.  These champions start at level 1 at the beginning of each match, and progress through the game by earning gold and experience by killing enemy minons or heroes.  The experience is used to learn and upgrade a small selection of unique abilities.  The gold is used to purchase items from a shop to enhance that character and/or his or her skillset.  Both games draw from the traditional “holy trinity” of fantasy role-playing and offer a series of warrior tanks, agile damage dealers, and powerful wizards.  This wide selection of characters to choose from can often lead to interesting team compositions of disablers, carries, pushers and nukers.

The base set of items in both games is fairly similar.  Most heroes will want a set of boots which grant increased movement speed and other enhancements.  Basic potions for mana and health are available.  Wards that grant normal vision and invisibility detection are important for revealing enemy intentions at important objectives (such as Roshan or Nashor).  In both games, basic items enhancing a particular stat will often combine into more powerful items for a recipe cost.  Items are wildly magical in both games, offering a range of fantastical abilities to add to a heroes repertoir.  These amazing items include the ability to teleport short distances, become invulnerable but immobile for a short period of time or even provide a short burst of speed for the entire friendly team.

The Core Experience

There’s no question that both games offer a very similar experience and follow much in line with the game design concepts that gave us Chess or Poker.  Much of the base game is written in stone, beyond which the game can grow laterally.  This is where much of the emergent gameplay takes place.  If you’re not familiar with the idea, let me try to explain it.  Take Chess, for example.  The board, pieces, and the movements they can make have been solidified in the rules since the game’s inception.  Beyond that, it has been up to the players to determine strategies, counter-strategies, and methods for victory.  As it turns out, Chess is very condusive to that kind of player interaction.  There have been great innovators for Chess’s meta-game, and many people have given their lives over to understanding, memorizing, and adapting the great strategies that have evolved, or emerged, from the game’s highly mutable yet stringent set of rules.

And this is where the games begin to move apart from each other.  This is also where my opinion will factor into much of what is to come, for the rest of this article.

The Dota 2 Meta

In Dota 2, there is only one prevailent meta game.  That is, only one real strategy has emerged in competitive play, due to map and hero constraints.  The 4-protect-1 meta is fairly standard at higher levels of play, and rarely sees any deviation.  The idea of this meta is to have a single “carry” on the team, and four other champions dedicated to defending that carry at all costs.  I believe this single meta has evolved out of one of the biggest and most damning features developed for Dota 2 to set it apart from other MOBA games.  You see, in Dota 2, when a hero dies, a portion of their accumulated gold is lost.  This swing-action in the gold streams allows for two things to happen that you would never see in League of Legends.  First, ultimate snowballing (and this is where the 4-protect-1 meta comes from) occurs when a player is able to repeatedly kill and consume a part of the enemy gold stream.  To my knowledge, there are no diminishing returns for neither the gold gained by a player when killing the same player over and over, or from the gold lost when that feeding player dies.  I’ve seen games where a player who has died a few times becomes a 6th gold stream for the enemy team, simply by virtue of the whole team circling around the feeder, looking for a chance to cash-in on that poor player’s forced stagnation.  As he/she is unable to purchase items to become more survivable, so too does the enemy team constantly become more able to defeat him/her.  This is a never-ending cycle.

In competitive play, all efforts on both teams culminate in an attempt to get this snowball started.  Most games are decided very early on, with the victor of those early team-fights establishing a 6th gold stream (a portion of the enemy team’s 5 gold streams).  The other 4 members of the team will do anything they can to keep the 1 alive, even as much as sacrificing themselves to allow the carry to escape.  These suicide missions are very common at the higher levels of Dota 2’s competitive scene.

The LoL Meta

Currently, League of Legends also has a single prevailent meta-game.  But it is important to note that the current meta is the inheritor of the lessons learned by at least a dozen meta-games before it.  In League, the game constantly shifts the balance of power, and new methods for gaining advantages are found, practiced, proven, and adopted.  I could go into great length about the “roaming tank” meta, or the “double ap” meta, or even more recently, as a newer meta just beginning to emerge, the “jungle support” meta, but I won’t.  Currently, League is in the era of the “0 CS support” meta.  Whether that meta transitions to the “jungle support” meta or not remains to be seen.  There are other new metas being developed and practiced by the best teams in the game and every new tournament offers a brief glimpse at these new strategies (the “double teleport promote” meta is among my favorites, so far).

The “0 CS support” meta is a fairly standard setup.  A bruiser will head to solo top lane, an AP (ability power) carry will travel to mid lane, a jungle champion will head to blue or red, and an AD (attack damage) carry along with a support will travel to bottom lane.  The support in bottom has two objectives.  The first is to protect the friendly carry by whatever means possible.  Secondly, the support must attempt to prevent or limit the amount of gold and experience the enemy carry is able to gain in the lane.  And the support must do this all while having no gold income other than the base amount earned over time.  This creates some very interesting play/counter-play for the supports in the bottom lane.


So, in the end, why do I feel League of Legends is a better game?  I would pin the tail on two donkeys here.  And one of them might seem a bit backward to you.  I hate the graphics in Dota 2.


The simpler graphics of League of Legends offers several advantages over Dota 2.  The baseline for computer performance is leveled so that more players are able to play competitively, the game itself is crisper and lends itself to easier and faster interpretation of action occuring at any point in the game.  There is no day/night cycle in League of Legends.  The shading is consistent througout any given match, and harkens back to the idea of a Chess board.  The immutable nature of the map itself provides consistent grounds for the game to take place upon.  Where my experience is concerned, the night cycle in Dota 2 causes the beautiful game graphics to become little more than a splotch of gray wherein the heroes, and even the action itself, becomes a blur of shadows and fog.  No such limitations on player perception are found on any League of Legends map.  Surely, the stylized and often cartoony graphics in League of Legends is criticized, but I believe Riot Games has the right idea.  Consider for a moment one of the contributing factors to the success of World of Warcraft.  The simple graphics platform allowed for a much greater audience to contribute meaningfully to the game.

Persistence and Customization

I don’t discredit Valve for even a moment for attempting to monetize certain aspects of their game, but I don’t approve of the way in which they do it.  Randomly (it seems) a player might be given an item at the end of a given match in Dota 2.  This item (for me at least) has been a locked chest 66% of the time.  These chests can only be opened by buying a key for $2.50 on the Dota 2 store.  And even if I were to buy a key, it is a gamble on what the chest itself it contains, as it may contain a number of items, most of which are of common rarity.  And even if I were to get lucky and receive a rare item from one of those chests, I can only customize 25% of a champion with it, as there are four “equipment” customization slots for each hero.

In League of Legends, the skins are certainly more expensive than what is offered by Valve at it’s Dota 2 store, but a) I can customize 100% of a given champion, and b) I know exactly what I’m getting.  There is no gamble.

Additionally, the battle points system offered in Dota 2 is useless.  Utterly and completely useless.  In League of Legends, my online profile gains persistence experience to a level cap, which in turn offers deeper, player-level customizations in terms of runes and masteries.  With three tiers of runes available, and new rune slots unlocked with each summoner level, I am able to grow as a player.  In Dota 2, I just get a nifty progression bar indicating my next guaranteed locked chest.

So, the following is my open letter to Valve, with regards to Dota 2.

“Fuck you, Valve

Are you fucking kidding me, a death penalty in a MOBA game?  What the fuck were you thinking, you stupid shits?  Why the fuck would you punish someone for dying in a game where death is fucking inevitable?  Are you fucking retarded?  Seriously, how goddamn stupid can you be?  Did you honestly think this kind of shit would fucking add to the game’s depth and complexity?  Think again, you herp-a-derp motherfuckers.  Where the fuck did you get your educations at?  Fucking Walmart?  Get with the fucking program.  Riot Games is breaking it’s own records after every tournament because the game is consistent, and the core game is fixed.  What the fuck is so hard about that?  Poke yourselves in the eye with your fucking printer cartridges, you brainless fucking twits.  A fucking death penalty.  Un-fucking-believable.

Fuck you,



League of Legends: IEM Grand Finals

So, I actually ended up taking a day off work and woke up early enough to watch the IEM Grand Final match between Team Solomid (TSM) and Counter-Logic Gaming (CLG).  I have to admit right off the bat that I am a CLG fan.  A friend of mine that I met in-game (thanks Daggrosh)  introduced me to General Wiser‘s youtube channel, and I would like to say I’ve learned quite a bit from watching HotshotGG play (even though I certainly wouldn’t be able to say that I’ve been able to put that learning into practice).

Before the games started, I was worried that CLG would repeat their performance from Dreamhack even though they completely dominated Group B.  I was also afraid that Reginald would end up with yet another reason to be the stout dickweed he’s proven himself to be.  I wish I could find a quote, but I read on the forums that, when asked about the outcome of the IEM tournament, he actually had the gall to say “Anyone can win, except CLG”.  Like what kind of douchebag would say that kind of thing publicly?

Anyway, this is not a blog about Reginald McHomotron.

After the first match, I was disappointed.  TSM came out strong (they always do, I will give them that) and showed why they were able to sweep Group A.  TheRainMan’s Irelia was especially strong and made an amazing initiation on HotshotGG at the dragon late in the game that (I believe) clutched the match for them.  The push that followed would not be repelled.  Chaox’s Kog’maw had blue and was spamming his ulti all day long.

The second match left me in higher spirits, however.  CLG baited TSM into a fight at baron and I believe the match really turned around with HotshotGG’s clutch flash/ult combo with Galio.  As a some-time Galio player myself, it was especially fun to see him in high-ELO action, at his very finest.

During the break between the second and final match, I had a chance to sit on my porcelaine throne and consider what kind of bans I would like to see CLG make.  My reasoning was as follows:  XSpecial with Alistar is just too silly to think about, so he had to get banned.  I also wanted to see Janna get banned, because Reginald was just scary with her in the first match.  And TheOddOne was particularly vicious with Nocturne, so I wanted to see him get banned as well.  But these bans would make Zilean available (which is also something I don’t want to think about, the vulgarity of it causes me to wretch — Reginald is just that good wtih him).  When it finally came time to see the bans/picks, I have to admit, I laughed out loud at HotshotGG’s Eve troll.  I was also relieved to see Nocturne get picked up for SaintVicious, forcing TheOddOne to jungle with Gangplank.

At the start of the match, I was concerned for Salce.  Vlad had no way to whittle down Udyr.  I was also relieved to see Reginald take top with Nidalee vs. HotshotGG’s Cho’Gath.  Sure, Nid is a tough top lane, but Reginald belongs in mid and TheRainMan belongs up top.  The position switch (I honestly believe) is part of what caused TSM’s eventual loss.  It’s clear to anyone that watches that Reginald is the team captain.  From his vantage point in mid, he can organize and rally the team.  Being in top lane, tied up by Cho’Gath’s inexorable push was a detriment to the team’s perforamance in general.

The game went on without first blood for the first 15 minutes, and the first team fight (and subsequent push up mid by TSM) caused my heart to sink in my chest.  Even though the gold and CS was fairly even, the 3-0 score and huge turret advantage put (in my eyes) CLG in a bad place.  But just as quickly, CLG made a great comeback and evened out the score at 4-3 and their own push up the mid-lane.  And that was it.  From that point on, CLG had firm control of the map, lanes and buffs.  As far as I’m concerned, TSM was in a bad place, and it was all but over.  And then the stand-off that caused stopped the hearts of nearly 100,000 fans on the stream.  Bot inhib was down, mid turret and inhib were just taken out and then…  Nothing.  Silence.

Would they give the match to CLG?  Would they remake after a 45-minute nail-biter?  No one knew, and everyone was furious.

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  Or rather, not seeing.  CLG, so close to winning the IEM Grand Final, was in position to be stymied by a hiccup in the interwebs.   During those moments I think I started gnawing on my finger flesh, since the nails had already been chewed off.  What was going to happen?  Would CLG be stripped of a clear and undeniable victory?

And then, just as quickly, the stream was live again.  All had been saved and the game was in a similar state (not exactly, but definitely better than the alternative) than it had been when the stream died.  A quick teamfight near baron ensued and a clutch ultimate from Urgot saved the day for CLG.

Well, after all that, I’m happy for CLG and the outcome of the IEM Grand Finals.  A well-deserved and hard-won victory for HotshotGG and his teammates.

Thanks for a great show, to both TSM and the rest of the teams that competed.


League of Legends: A Lack of Urgency

Lately, I’ve been playing ranked games almost exclusively.  During the course of my experience I’ve learned a few things about the game and what it takes to win.  Even though I believe my Only Strategy still applies to a good percentage of games, I have witnessed a few occasions where a team has recovered from a very serious early deficit.  Those games which last long enough offer both sides a better chance of success, and stronger team compositions and cohesion will win by gold advantage alone; regardless of the number of turrets which still stand.  I’ve even seen games won after a break-out ace in a team-fight at the nexus by a team whose nexus turrets had been destroyed .  The enemy team was incapable of defending their own nexus and still had 10-15 seconds on their respawn timers when the battle was ended.

But this is not a discussion about the Only Strategy.  Although it is somewhat related.

In my time playing in ranked games, I’ve noticed an important shift in my early-game paradigm.  Before now, I had always felt rushed to a certain extent.  The urgency to score kills in my lane and push the turret was a desperate priority for me.  I would often see what I perceived as opportunities to fell an opponent that had retreated under their own turret, only to find myself dead and ultimately feeding those very enemies  which I had assumed were weak and vulnerable.  The same goes for undefended turrets.  I used to see a mobbed turret (one being swarmed by minions) as an excuse to leave myself out in the open without map vision or egress.  I’m dismayed to recount the number of times I was caught in those situations with my proverbial pants around my ankles, scrambling for brush cover as I was set upon by far more enemies than I could possibly handle.

I suppose I’ve matured in some sense with regard to the way I percieve those early game “opportunities”, insofar as I now take them with a seriously tangy grain of salt.  What’s more important is my perception of the early-game as a whole.  Although, in the back of my mind, I always knew that last-hitting and turret defense were priority, I never really took it to heart.  Granted, on some champions (especially Kassadin, who is notoriously difficult to last-hit with for me, espcially if I’m laning against a ranged opponent) I still don’t fully embrace the proper pace I should be playing at.

So what am I trying to say here?  Well, I’ve noticed that the early game has only one real consequence.  Whether the lane is won or lost.  The time that it takes to win that lane is usually pretty fixed depending on the lane opposition.  In normal play, lanes can be won or lost in a matter of minutes — the skill disparity is outrageous sometimes.  In ranked play, on the other hand, a trend I’ve observed is that lanes will stand in contention for at least 10-15 minutes.  It is very, very rare for a turret to fall before then.  Teams tend to work better together when ELO is on the line and well-defended lanes will often quickly move to defend a turret that has been exposed.

And what does that all mean exactly?  It means that lately, I’ve started my laning phase with a little more of a disconnected approach.  Falling into the twin traps of greed and anxiousness is something I’ve started to try to avoid.  Patience is key.  With a steady approach to the early-game, and keeping a strong, determined perspective with patience and a lack of urgency, I’m better equipped to distinguish false or misleading opportunities from the real clutch gameplay that often makes or breaks my ability to sustain throughout the mid- to late-game.  This also often works to my advantage, especially when solo-mid, because my nonchalance often incites impatience and irritation in my foes.  That aggrevation is a method of harassment all in it’s own.  Eliciting careless mistakes due to the very same urgency and greed that I actively avoid has often been an important factor in my lane victories.

Naturally, I still struggle with these issues from time to time.  Early game failures to adhere to the tenets of patience and determination commonly result in a measure of frustration and desperation.  Also pitfalls to avoid, to be sure.

If there’s anything I can pass on from these hard-won lessons, it is this: Bide your time and watch your opponent carefully.  When the time comes that a mistake is made, it is your perogative to capitalize and punish those failures.

Good luck and have fun.  See you in game.


League of Legends: Mastery before adaptability

In the game League of Legends, there are more than 75 different champions to choose from and each fills a role typical of the traditional archetypical trinity of role-playing games.  There are healers, tanks, dps’ers, rogues, warriors and wizards of all sorts.  The common belief that all players should learn and be able to use any of those types of champs effectively is widely accepted as the norm.  And for ranked play, this is certainly very true.  Focusing specifically on a single champ can leave you high and dry in ranked play if your favorite happens to get banned.  The most popular way to avoid this, of course, is to learn many different champs filling all the different roles.  This helps players not only adapt to their team’s needs in any given circumstance, but also broadens a players understanding of the game as a whole.

With that said, however, normal (unranked) play is a whole different ballgame.  Normal play is determined by what is called a “Blind pick” (as opposed to the Ban/Open Pick one experiences in matches where ELO is on the line).  What that means, in essence, is that every player on a particular team is free to choose whichever champ they feel like playing.  Only occasionally do players actually have any real concern for team composition or necessary roles.  For example, I’ve found myself in countless games without a tank, or even in the worst cases, without any real team-fight initiators at all.  But this discussion is not about team composition.

This discussion is about champion mastery versus player adaptability in normal, unranked games and why I believe champion mastery far outweighs the importance of being able to play several different champions and/or roles in those situations.

I believe the school of thought that states that players should learn a number of champions does not apply here.

In my own experience, I can say with confidence that I have mastered one champion.  Out of all the characters available, I’ve learned as much as I possibly can with Sona in the confines of unranked play.  I say this, because I’ve played hundreds of games with her and have faced nearly every possible matchup.  I’ve played Sona against a Sona.  I’ve played Sona against Xin Zhao.  I’ve played Sona against every other champion out there, with the exception of Vayne (who was only just released earlier this week).  I know how Sona stacks up in terms of range, durability and mobility.  I feel confident that I can approach any game with Sona and win with very few deaths (0-2) and a very high number of assists (often more than 20).

So what does that say about me as a player?  Nothing, other than the fact that I am consistent with Sona.  Otherwise, I know nothing, and that’s why I only play unranked games.

The reason I say this is because of my recent experience with Vayne.  When I enter the fields of justice with Vayne, I feel as though I have started from scratch, and must re-learn the game anew.  With Sona, I feel confident being aggressive against a champion like Irelia because I know that I will not only be able to outmaneouver her, but I have a very distinct range advantage and a superior form of healing.   Alternatively, with Sona, I know to maintain safe distance from champions like Taric or Sion.  The ranged stun those champions have can put Sona in a very bad situation.

With Vayne, on the other hand, there is definite danger aggressing Irelia.  Irelia’s Bladesurge has approximately the same range as Vayne’s auto-attack.  Moving into that range puts Vayne in jeopardy due to her fragile nature and Irelia’s high burst damage.  Add to that Irelia’s ability to heal with Hiten Style, and Vayne is simply out-matched.  For me, this lesson was hard-won.

But that just brings the point home all the more dramatically.  In order to be as consistent with Vayne as I am with Sona, I’ll need to relearn all the possible match-ups against her.  Not only that, but Vayne has an entirely different style of play.  As a support champion, Sona requires very little gold and needs to be close to the action in order to be effective.  Her healing, speed boost and even her ultimate all have a range that requires her to be on the heels of her carries and tanks (albiet at a slight distance and safely behind those she supports).  Vayne, however, is an assassin type.  She requires a great amount of gold and a strong initiator ahead of her.  Sona can initiate team fights with her ultimate.  Vayne is effectively useless until someone else has committed to a fight.  Only at that time can Vayne truly bring her weapons to bear, behind the scenes, and seek and destroy that enemy support or ranged carry.

Sure, I’ll be able to fill a few different roles by playing with Sona, Nasus, Vayne and Galio, but will I be consistent?

I believe taking the time and making the effort to master a single champion at a time is the best foot forward in the direction of success in League of Legends.  Yes, being able to play several different champions and roles makes a player more versatile, but focusing on a single champion at a time allows a player to become consistent.

If one were to become serious about competitive play (or “going pro”) one should very seriously consider spending the time it takes to learn several different champs, certainly.  But I highly recommend doing so one character at a time while maintaining good practice with those champions who are already mastered.

League of Legends: The Only Strategy

Currently, in the game League of Legends, there are two maps: Summoner’s Rift and Twisted Treeline.  I have to admit here that I haven’t played Twisted Treeline as much, because it is a 3v3 map, and I prefer the larger, more epic, 5v5 battles one experiences in Summoner’s Rift.

With that said, however, I’ve played enough of the game, both in pre-made teams and solo-queues to know that the game really comes down to a very simple formula for victory.  By following a few easy-to-remember rules, any team can achieve victory against virtually any other team.  Before I get to the Only Strategy, I would like to cover a few simple reminders that really underline and stress the importance of the Only Strategy.

1) Stay in your lane.  If you absolutely must leave your lane, follow the suggestions below.

  1. If you are in the top or bottom lane:
    1. If you must buy an item, wait until the current creep wave is at least near the break in the brush along the wall.
    2. If you are low on health, tell your partner to hug the turret until you return.
    3. If your solo-mid teammate has just fallen or needs your assistance to defend the middle turret, warn your lane-mate, and move to hold mid until your solo teammate returns.
  2. If you are mid, and have not taken teleport, or teleport is currently cooling down:
    1. Ask a top or bottom laner to hold mid until you return.  DO NOT leave the lane until your teammate arrives.

If your team has a jungler, then the above rule(s) are even more important.  When in lane, always fight defensively.  Your highest priority is to last-hit creeps and stay alive.  It is paramount that you make as much effort as possible to stay in lane.  There are several reasons for doing so, and the most obvious reasons are xp and gold.  Not as apparent, but the defense of your turret is the only real reason to be where you are.

And this brings us to the Only Strategy.

Think of the outer turrets as a “best of 3” series.  Also think of them as the only turrets that really matter.  The whole game is decided by which team can destroy at least two of the enemy turrets before two of their own are destroyed.

“But this is preposterous, sz.  How can you assume the whole game will be decided by only the first two outer turrets on either side?”  It’s simple.  If the enemy team has been dominant enough to destroy two of your outer turrets before you could destroy two of theirs, then probability dictates that they will most likely continue that trend and begin an inexorable push down mid that will ultimately lead to a surrender or destruction of the nexus.  It’s very simple.  If your team hasn’t given enough priority to turrets in the early game, then it is also very likely to not pay them the same mind as the game progresses…  or, even if your team does shift priorities and begin to push turrets, your defensive position is weakened and the enemy’s advance is strengthened by virtue of one of the most basic tenets of military dominance: Divide and Conquer.  Your team will be split between offensively pushing your enemy’s outer turrets, and defense, while your enemy will be solely focused on offense and pushing your inner turrets.

To assure victory in every game you ever play of League of Legends on Summoner’s Rift think of the early game as the most important and follow this very simple rule:

The first team to destroy two of their enemy’s outer turrets before losing two of their own will eventually win the game.

League of Legends: A guide for new players

A few things before I get to the good stuff.  First of all, if you don’t have patience enough to read this guide in its entirety, just stop now.  Go away.  You won’t learn anything here.  Otherwise, read on.  Second, I understand that most of these tips are common sense.  However, most of these things are not immediately apparent to players new to the game.  In fact, I would even wager that there are some long-time players out there that could benefit from what I have to say in this guide.

So, on that note, let the guide begin!

Character Selection/Team Composition

There are a number of things to be aware of when you select your character, and most of these are related to the rest of your team.  In a 5v5 match, each team should have a good balance of offensive and defensive champions; having a tank, an off-tank, a support champion, and both AD and AP carries is considered optimal.  I highly recommend reading this guide (or any guide on MOBAFIRE, really).  It not only provides excellent suggestions on how to play each role, but also offers the reasoning behind why each role is important.  Being able to adapt to any role based on the choices of the rest of your team offers the best chances for success in any game you play.  But for most new players like me, this is really just a moot point.  To use myself as an example, I only know how to use one champion effectively — Vladimir.  Attempts to use any other champion almost always results in dismal failure.  In time, that will change.  But for now, as I grow and learn as a player and adapt new playstyles and archetypes, it will have to be as it is.

That being said, I believe finding your own prefered playstyle is key.  Selecting one champion to serve as an anchor for you to be free to learn the mechanics and nuances of the game, in my opinion, is a preferable start on the road to being an accomplished League of Legends player.  Becoming mired in a large selection of poorly played champions can only serve to hamper your mastery of the game as a whole.

Zone and Map Awareness

To start, I think that you should watch the following video several times.  Once is not enough.  If you have never seen it before, this video will instantly improve your game at least two-fold.  I guarantee it.

Learn to lane like a pro. Watch this video NOW!

As each game progresses it is important to be mindful of your own creep waves.  A quick glance at the minimap can allow you to assess potential opportunities to destroy unattended turrets.  At the same time, doing so can also allow you to defend turrets being pushed by the enemy team.  Turrets are the true objective of the game, not your K/D ratio, nor your team-kill score.  Destroying enemy turrets while defending your own is an effort toward certain victory.  Being aware of creep waves will allow you to do so — they peel back the fog of war as they march.

The minimap also offers information on the position of enemy players who are not obfuscated by the fog of war.  This is important throughout the game, but I believe it is most important during the start of the game, which is commonly referred to as the “laning phase”.  At this early stage, having an eye on enemy champions can save your life and allow you to stay in lane gaining experience and gold.  Pressure can be applied to an entire team simply by stepping out of view.  If one of your teammates calls “mia” (which is short for “missing in action”) watching the map for those champions to reappear can relieve the map pressure caused by the fog of war.  Similarly, you can assess the awareness of your opponents simply by stepping into the enemy’s fog of war for a moment or two and watching how the other lanes react.  If they immediately go on the defensive and pull away from the xp-line or move toward their turret, then you know your lane opponent has called out a warning that you are missing.  You can use this to your advantage as well, if you notice that one of the other lanes isn’t responding to the threat.  You can probably take this that they are unaware that you’ve gone missing, and are probably a good target for ganking.

To reiterate: calling “mia” can give your teammates a chance to defend themselves against possible threat and stay in-lane.  At the same time, using enemy fog of war can provide an opportunity to assess the awareness and responsiveness of your opponents.  Watching the movements of enemy players can improve your game drastically.  As much as you can, glance at the minimap.  I promise that you will not only improve your own game, but you will assist your team in improving their game as well.

Overconfidence & Aggression

There is a point in a player’s development when a breakthrough occurs.  They “click” with their chosen champion, and notice an immediate improvement in their own overall performance.  As I mentioned above, this happened to me with Vladimir.  As far as I know, there is a champion out there for everyone, as I’ve read threads on the official forum about this phenomenon, and it seems as though everyone has a different “go-to” character.  But when this happens for you, a hard lesson will soon follow.  A lesson on overconfidence and undue aggression.  Becoming overconfident is a pitfall I’ve fallen into far too many times to recount, and I’m sure is the same for many other players out there.  Heed this warning: don’t assume you can walk into any fight and win simply by virtue of your champion mastery.  There’s an old saying that goes, “No matter what, someone, somewhere is bigger, badder, tougher, stronger or better than you.”  If you’re religious, this is universally true.  Otherwise, you can count on probability to back it up.  Even those guys that are at the very top of the game ladders lose sometimes.  Even they are not infallible.  And I’ll guarantee that they have learned this lesson at least once, if not a number of times over for each champion they have mastered.  The point is simple.  Playing defensively, especially in the early game, is the best way to increase your chances of success and victory.

That’s not to say that aggression should be avoided.  In fact, the nature of the game makes that assumption wholy untrue.  At some point, you will have to aggress.  And when that time comes, I suggest taking a cautious approach, rather than diving in head-first and hoping for the best.  Testing the waters of your opponent’s skill is much safer.  Poke your opponent and step back.  Take a few jabs if you have to.  But each time you do, be sure to absorb your enemy’s reaction.  Do they overextend?  Do they retreat?  Observing these things can allow you to better position yourself offensively, or set traps for your opponent to walk into.

Kill Stealing

Finally, I want to make a quick note about the concept of “kill stealing” or “KS” as it is commonly called.  There is no such thing.  League of Legends was built from the ground up to be a team-based player-vs-player game.  As eSports go, keeping this in mind is crucial to being an effective and respected teammate.  I don’t recall ever hearing a professional sportsman complaining that his teammates are stealing his touch-downs or home-runs or slam-dunks.  Your own personal stats are important, yes, but not to the detriment of team cohesion.  In this game, it is never good to assume that you are a solo-god and can easily destroy your enemies without help from your own team.  Any player that does so is surely a feeder waiting to happen.  Either that or they are nowhere to be found when a critical team-fight occurs.  So, for the sake of your team, the game’s community at large, and your own experience, please, for goodness sake, don’t take “kill-stealing” to heart.  I’m certain that your teammates had no intention of taking your thunder, but instead, were simply trying to help.

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