Learning to play League of Legends can be a taxing experience to say the least, but let’s say you already understand a little bit about it. Maybe you know all of the systems in the game because you read our beginners’ guide or maybe you had a friend talk your ear off until all the details were ingrained in your brain. (I have been that friend for several people, and if you keep playing, you will be too.) But now that you actually sit down to play, you find yourself asking, “Where the hell do I even start?” Well, that is a great question, and one that lots of people ask.
League is divided up into five different roles: top, jungle, middle, AD carry, and support. There are also 134 different champions in the game. Some of them can be played in multiple roles, others are barely played in one.
Identifying with a champion
When you are first starting out, you may find that you really identify with a champion, and think they are really cool. For example, Polygon’s Phil Kollar (also one of this site’s founding editors) really loves Galio, a gargoyle ... for some reason. So when Phil plays League, Phil likes to play Galio. We don’t question it, we nod and let him do his weird gargoyle thing. If you have a Galio in your life, fantastic! Love that champion and play them until you feel comfortable enough to branch out. You could look them up on Champion.gg to see where people are playing them the most and what they are building, or you could just play them wherever and however you want and mute the haters.
But not everyone has a Galio. Sometimes you are starting 100% fresh. In that case, you want to try and pick up a role and stick to it until you feel comfortable. Some roles are harder to learn than others, so let’s start easy and move up.
The starting roles
You could probably ask two different people and they would tell you two different roles to play when first learning. In my opinion, you want to start with either jungle or top. Why? Well, both of these roles can be fairly isolated if need be. Top allows you to do poorly without affecting the team too much, and jungle allows you to play at your own pace.
Top laners usually find themselves stuck top for quite a while in games. It can be lonely, but it can also be peaceful. Allow yourself the opportunity here to learn how to lane against an opponent while also farming. In top lane, it is likely that you could run into someone who also just wants to farm the lane and be patient, especially at lower levels of play. Top laners also have some of the easiest champions, mechanically speaking, to play. This allows for some broad experimentation across the board on the top lane roster. If you dive too deep, you will absolutely find some of the most difficult champions in the game, but if you are just learning, there are plenty of champs for you to try out.
If you are learning top, I would recommend checking out Garen, Maokai and Nautilus. Garen is a knight dude with a big sword who spins around in a circle a lot. He is really easy to farm with, hard to kill, and has fantastic sustain in lane, allowing you to spend more time learning to farm and less time walking back top. Maokai is just a rock...err...a tree in terms of sheer defense. He may not be the most glamorous champion in the game, but he is useful to his team in every single game. Nautilus is a big diving suit monster (?) with an anchor. He has the ability to hook people, a shield, a crazy-easy-to-use ultimate, and the ability to lock down basically anyone.
All of the champions above are tanks and there is a reason for that. It is hard to mess up on tanks. If you are new to top, stay away from champions like Riven (as if Riven mains needed an ego boost,) Jayce and Kled. These champions are either hard to play, really complicated, or downright weird. Unless you really, really like their looks, I would try to work up to them instead of diving in straight away.
Junglers can either impact the game to a massive degree or farm up safely in the jungle. This is a great role for new players. It can be hard to learn at first and you WILL get executed to a lot of jungle camps, but in the end you will benefit from starting in the jungle. It can teach you the lay of the land and offer you a really nice opportunity to branch out whenever you feel like it. If you are feeling bold, you can gank for your laners, or if you are feeling shy, you can hideout in the jungle, get some gold, and come out when you are ready. No matter what, there is always something to be doing while you are playing jungle, so it is perfect for the easily distracted.
It is important to mention that Smite, the primary summoner spell used when jungling, is not usable until your account level is 10 or above. So consider playing top until you unlock it.
When learning junglers, I would recommend champions like Rek’Sai, Olaf, and Warwick. Rek’Sai is this weird monster queen that burrows underground and bites stuff. She can be really nice for new players because she has really great sustain in the jungle and a great clear speed. Her ganks are also very simple and easy to execute. Warwick is similar, he has really nice life steal in the jungle and can be great for getting easy kills early on in the game. His clear speed is fine, and he is almost never in danger of execution. Olaf on the other hand is cheap and can move quickly through the jungle. He is very simple and actually clears camps faster the lower health he is. Perfect for new players trying to learn.
When I was first learning jungle, somebody recommend that I try out Lee Sin. This person is now in Diamond II, but that doesn’t mean that telling a sub level 30 player to try out Lee Sin wasn’t the worst advice ever given to me as a League player. There are a lot of champions in the jungle that new players should ignore and Lee Sin is one of them. There are others, like Rengar and Kindred, who should also not be played until the player feels really comfortable in the role. I cannot express enough, until you are very comfortable with League, do not play Lee Sin. Don’t do it. Please.
Also, it is a well known fact that only bad people play Shaco, so, don’t do that either.
Don’t be a jerk, learn to play support
I am not sure I would recommend starting with support, but I still firmly believe that everyone who plays League needs to main support for at least a little bit. Why? Because all of us are going to have to play it at some point. Everyone gets auto-filled to support. Do not be the jerk who comes into a solo queue game and says “I can’t support, I have never done it before.” Don’t be garbage. The world is a dark place and people are out for number one most of the time (sorry if you just had to learn that in an article about League of Legends). People who main support are the saints of the League world, and we should all put ourselves in their shoes at least once. Thank your support players, be nice to them, they might just save your life.
Support does directly impact the AD Carry role, which is why I don’t recommend starting it. Instead, I think you should learn it second, once you feel really comfortable in your primary role. If you are just starting out in support, check out champions like Braum, Sona, and Soraka. Braum is a tanky man with a big shield that can do a great job protecting his AD Carry. Soraka and Sona, on the other hand, are pretty easy to kill, but can heal their allies. All of these champions are very focused on defense, which is a great place to start.
I would avoid champions like Bard, Tahm Kench, Blitzcrank, and Thresh. Bard and Tahm are both champions that are defensive, but have the potential to actually screw your AD Carry over. When learning, you are more likely to hurt than help. Blitzcrank and Thresh are both high skill champions that rely on skill shots to get the job done. They are mostly offensive supports and require a really active play style. Save them for when you are more comfortable with the game and the bot lane.
Supports teach valuable lessons, like warding, roaming and playing safe. They also give a unique perspective on the game. You are given the chance to assess the threats on both teams, and forced to protect your own while exposing the enemies. Even if you never main support, it is important that everyone play it for a little while to understand what it has to offer.
The carry roles
While both mid and AD Carry can absolutely be taken up as your starting role, I obviously think there are better options. Both roles require you to bear a great deal of the weight in a game — after all, these are the carry roles for a reason. As the primary damage dealers for a given team, you are always a target and you are constantly in high pressure situations. Sure, good plays can be more rewarding and bring a swift end to a game, but mistakes on behalf of the mid laner or the AD Carry can be extremely costly for their team as well.
The mid lane brings unique challenges to a learning player. It is the shortest lane in the game, meaning you are almost always within range of your opponent. This can make learning to farm difficult, especially if you are trying to learn on a melee mid laner. There is also a higher importance on resource management in the mid lane: how do you conserve your mana or energy in order to be useful when a gank/roam happens? Ganks can come fast from the enemy jungler and roams from either top or bot are fairly likely. Mid can often times feel like the busiest lane, for better or for worse. On top of that, most of the champions in the mid lane are very easy to kill, meaning that you have to have an understanding of your opponent’s champions and their limitations as well as your own.
When jumping into the mid lane, you want to try and pick a champion or two that is forgiving. By that, I mean look for someone that can get a ton of damage out in almost no time, so even if you do die, you probably Pentakilled somewhere along the way. As such, the first recommendation for new folks is Annie. Annie does very high burst damage and has a fairly easy to understand kit. Throw fire (or a bear) at people a couple times so that the next time you throw fire (or a bear,) it stuns. Another great choice is Ziggs. This weird little bundle of joy is one of the easiest to farm on champions in the game. His spells are cheap, his wave-clear is awesome, he is fluffy and enjoys bombs. What’s not to love?
The mid lane certainly has lovable, straight forward champs like the two mentioned above, but it also has the highest amount of champions that you could rank 10/10 on the difficulty scale. For instance, new players should avoid the emperor of the sands, Azir, as he is one of the hardest to master champions in the game. Similarly, champions like Syndra, Zed and LeBlanc should also be avoided until the player feels extremely confident. All four of those champions are fairly mechanic heavy, and take a great deal of focus.
AD Carry is similar to mid in a lot of ways. The role is very busy but starts the game out fairly weak. As such, you have a buddy with you in the form of a support. This can be great and it can also be...not so great. Miscommunication with your support can lead to disaster, and falling behind as an AD Carry can be incredibly damning for new players. There is also a high probability that the entire enemy team might just decide to come hang out in your lane for a little while. Not unlike mid, most AD Carry champions are squishy, and require that enemy champ knowledge that we spoke about earlier. But with AD Carry, you also have to know the limitations of your support, as well as discover what kind of player you are working with.
The act of playing AD Carry champions can also be a taxing one. The role is very gold-dependent, meaning you have to farm very well in order to do damage at any point in the game. While most AD Carry champions require a decent mechanical understanding of the game, there are some that have easy to understand abilities. With that in mind, I would recommend new players try out Caitlyn, Sivir, and Miss Fortune. All of these champions have on thing or another that makes them easy to grasp. Sivir can farm effortlessly with her Boomerang Blade and Ricochet abilities, Miss Fortune has a real “point-and-shoot” kind of ultimate, and Caitlyn has the longest auto-attack range in the game.
Most AD Carry champions require similar mechanics, however, there are several unique champs out there who have very specific mechanics added to them. These carries have a lot of potential, and in the hand of the right player, can be devastating. That being said, similar to champions like Lee Sin, they should almost never be played by a learning player. I would avoid champions like Draven, Vayne and Kalista. One day, down the road, you may become a Draven main, and that is awesome for you. But while you are learning, do yourself a favor and do not over complicate a already difficult role.
At the end of the day, League will always end up being different for different people. That is doubly true when it comes to learning. Maybe you want to jump in on a carry first because you like to learn in a real “trial-by-fire” environment. That is awesome for you. If you know that about yourself, by all means, go for it. The best part about League of Legends is that there is so much diversity to it. No matter who you are or what you love, you will be able to find a champion and a role that fits you like a glove.
While you are looking for a champion to fall in love with, here is a quick TL:DR of the champs that I recommend:
- Miss Fortune