Diary of a Noob Starting “League of Legends”
The last time I launched League of Legends was 2012. My friends had already been enjoying Riot Games’ MOBA phenomenon for two years, but I quickly got disenfranchised because I was terrible—despite a brief enjoyment of the way Volibear could throw enemy champions over his head.
So, despite this failed attempt nearly a decade ago, why am I playing League of Legends again in 2020? Well… COVID-19, actually.
The global pandemic has left me with a lot of spare time on my hands, and a limited capability to see and interact with my friends. I could have tried talking them into getting back on the Overwatch train, or maybe firing up some Left 4 Dead for old time’s sake. But realistically, they’re all on a bit of a League obsession right now; it happens every couple of years—usually I just ignore them and go back to whatever RPG I’m playing at the time.
So I got back on the League of Legends bandwagon. They tell me it’s changed a bunch since 2012 but honestly, I can’t tell you how. I don’t remember it well enough, but I think the main changes—aside from the obvious constant shifts in the meta—are in how the Jungle is laid out. Whatever, I’m not going to be jungling any time soon.
Struggles in Support
I quickly settle on doing the Support role in bottom lane. It makes sense, as I’ll have someone in my lane helping me out with the basics and I don’t need to worry about killing loads of minions or getting loads of kills. I don’t even need to be a gank machine, which is one of the only LoL terminologies I still remember. Oh, sorry, League—apparently nobody calls it LoL anymore.
It only takes me one game to realise that my first ever main, Fiddlesticks, isn’t really a Support anymore. Actually, I’m informed, he really just isn’t very viable anymore full stop. It turns out Riot are reworking him in literally five days’ time, and he’ll be pretty much exclusively for jungling. Volibear isn’t much of a Support anymore either, so I take a look at my champions pool.
Okay, I have a bunch of things unlocked from when I bought the actual physical box release of League of Legends. Yes, kids, they used to issue League on a DVD. I settle on Blitzcrank, a support with a hook. I play a lot of Roadhog in Overwatch and I specialise in capturing and pulling in squishy targets, so it seems a decent fit. It’s not.
Not knowing any of the 148 champions in League means that I don’t really know who I should grab and who I shouldn’t, let alone when or where. I pull in targets that wreck me. I pull in targets that wreck my ADC. Side note: I spend days calling it an ATM or DPS or BBC. I eventually learn it’s Attack Damage Carry and that roughly means the other guy down on Bottom Lane with me.
The laning phase—that’s the early bit where we just kill minions and exchange pot-shots with the enemy team—isn’t so bad. But I’m terrible as soon as it gets to team fights. Also, I’m quickly discovering, I can’t find all of my keys or abilities fast enough so I’m pretty much just relying on one or two abilities. And I never remember I have an R, my ultimate attack. My defence here is that I’m very used to the WASD keyboard configuration and my fingers are literally having to unlearn that to get used to sitting differently. I can’t convince my pinkie finger to reach Q, so I’m going for three fingers on QWE and sliding to R (when I remember it exists). Apparently, there’s something else I can press to level my abilities without using my mouse and another thing I can hold to self-cast. Screw that, four abilities is confusing enough. I think a lot of old-timer League players forget how overwhelming even using my four abilities can be in a game of League. My friends are already yelling at me about positioning and CSing and red buff and feeding and backing and—hey-why-is-that-cat-thing-floating-over-that-person’s-head?
Note to ranked League players inducting their noob friends—one step at time, okay!?
Okay, so I’ve moved on from Blitzcrank. It took me about three games to decide that the last thing I want to be doing is pulling enemy champions closer to me. I’ve moved on to Morgana. Apparently, I’ll like that she has a stun for when I get in trouble and a spell shield to stop enemies hurting me so much. It’s clear that even where I stand my champion can be the difference between dying and, well, dying less. I’m told to be clicking around way more, because I keep presenting an easy target when I try to line up my stun shots. This feels a bit like trying to learn ballet at the same time as playing ping pong.
Morgana goes . . . okay. I’m enjoying the stun shots, and even getting complimented on some good stuns that let my team basically do everything else. But I’m only remembering my spell shield a painful two seconds after I should have used it, and apparently Morgana also has an R ability that I should be using. Weird. It’s called Soul Shackles, and it means me running into the middle of combat (the last place I want to be, in case you’re wondering) and shackling a bunch of enemies to me.
Apparently, I should then be triggering Zhonya's Hourglass. It’s at this point that I learn that items—the things I buy between deaths using a handy guide from u.gg on my second screen—have active abilities that I should be triggering using number keys. That means more buttons to be pressing!
My hands are only just beginning to adjust to sitting on QWER. I’ve got hitting F to trigger my Flash down to a fine art, mostly out of necessity and partially because that’s where I keep my “item” button on other games. Using D for heal or ignite is taking more time; by the time I press it, and then try to find the enemy to click on in the melee, I’m already dead. But now, and this really cuts the mustard, my friends are telling me I should be pressing number keys as well! Every time I try that, my hands default back to WASD, so that’s definitely not helping.
One final thing makes me decide I don’t belong in Support. Wards. I understand that these things give me and my team sight of areas we otherwise couldn’t see. I’m using them to keep enemies out of our bushes but apparently I need to be using them more. In laning phase that means putting vision in the river—I keep calling it lake, or stream, or occasionally pond—to stop the enemy team ganking us. During the late game, so far as I can tell, it just means putting these wards down everywhere at random (although they seem to move from the yellow icon in my inventory to the blue knife thing). Seems straight forward, right? Wrong. At a seemingly undetermined point of the game, I need to switch my yellow Totem Wards out for red ones that let me find other people’s yellow ones and destroy them. There are other ward types, apparently, but I’m not to worry about those. Suffice to say, I almost never remember to do any of this.
To summarise: I’m a Support player that doesn’t get kills, gets caught out of position and killed a lot, forgets to shield my ADC or myself, rarely wards the right places to get vision, and almost never finds the enemy wards to clear them out.
So, I switch to Mid Lane. To be clear, none of my friends recommend this change. But I’m not having any success in Support and I’m getting a bit jealous of seeing how bad ass my teammates get late game compared to me, dying in seconds. If you’re reading this as a League veteran, I know what you’re thinking, trust me . . .
Mid Lane Mishaps
Mid Lane doesn’t have to worry as much about wards, and it also has some awesome characters that can deal real damage. Veigar is my first real attempt at Mid Lane. He’s got decent range and, crucially, a stun. I can still try to control my enemy movement (which was vital to my Morgana play) and if I can feed myself up, I can become a killing machine. Better yet, my R ability—a big one-hit attack called Primordial Burst—kills things if I time it right without overcommitting myself. But then there’s the CS.
I discover quite quickly that getting CS (or Creep Score) is pretty much like playing a mini game within League of Legends. Whilst still playing the rest of League of Legends. In very layman’s terms, because that’s about all I can manage, CSing means killing the minions in a very specific order. This means last-hitting, i.e. timing your attacks so you get the killing blow on them to farm their gold and XP. It sounds easier than it is; your own minions and your tower will also attack the minions so if you mistime by a millisecond then you won’t get the kill. Add to that, if you attack too much you push your minions right up to the enemy tower and then you risk getting killed by the opponent who has tower support, or ganked from either side. Farm too slowly and your enemy will quickly out-CS you and therefore out-level you, which means you’ll have a miserable late game. Correction: your whole team will have a miserable late game and will make snide comments about how “fed” the midlaner is.
At this point, my next piece of advice to League veterans: If you invite your noob friends to play with you, expect them to have a damn miserable time as the game auto-matches them against people of your skill level, not theirs. League has world-class matchmaking (despite evidence to the contrary) and even your “smurf” accounts won’t protect them for long once the algorithms suss you out. And just because you’re a lvl 150 gold-ranked top laner, doesn’t mean that the lvl 150 gold-ranked player it matches won’t be in mid-lane with your noob friend instead of you!
So on top of the aforementioned ballet with dodging gold-ranked opponent attacks, I now have to play this CS minigame. Hey, I only have myself to blame; I wanted to stop playing Support, right?
The CSing utterly ruins me in Mid Lane. I switch out to Talon, as he’s on the free rotation, and he’s considerably better at minion farming. I have some throwing stars that I can throw out which cut through minions and punish overzealous champions at the same time. I have an R which I’m starting to actually use now—aiming it at enemy champions who are low health in team fights. That’ll learn ‘em! That’s when I’m told that my R is supposed to be an “engage”, I’m supposed to be leading battles by hitting that thing first. I’m also forgetting an ability (again). Talon’s whole shtick is his movement. He’s one of the most mobile champions as he can jump over the map scenery. I should be ganking; I should be running from lane to lane to react to situations. My CS still isn’t brilliant, despite a couple of lucky games, and my kill score is way low. It’s at this point that a kind fellow League player in the text chat tries to get me reported for “inting”, which I’m told is super-secret League code for intentionally feeding an enemy champion. Our games are all being lost to over-fed mid lane champions, but I’m sure that’s a coincidence…
Okay, fine. Talon has really helped me learn the laning phase, and the basics of CSing, and even helped me learn to react to team callouts like the drakes and the Baron Nasher. But I’ll admit that I fall apart as soon as we get to late game and big team fights.
Another thing League veterans may forget is just how damn busy the screen looks to a League noob. Once there is anything between six to ten champions on screen at once, bright things happen and loud noises go off and I’m dead. Someone is usually yelling down mic asking why I was stood somewhere or why I didn’t use a certain ability, but the honest answer is usually “stuff happened.” I repeat: at time of writing there are 148 champions in League of Legends and I’m having to hastily learn all 148 of them and what their abilities do and whether I should engage them or run away, whether they have regenerating health or don’t, whether they can stun me or throw me or charm me or send-me-into-a-special-realm-where-I-am-trapped-and-alone-and-they-have-a-massive-mace.
It’s for this reason that I abandon my Mid Lane aspirations and begin playing ADC. I don’t want to be in the middle of a crazy busy screen of bad things happening to me. I want to be on the outside of all that, leaving it to the veterans and pot-shotting some unlucky bastard who (hopefully) hasn’t noticed me hiding in the corner doing damage.
Besides, the theory I applied in my first game in 2020 was that having a second person in-lane with me was critical to my learning and that still applies here. Only this time, that person’s role is to Support me. Literally, it’s in the name. Oh, sure, it’ll probably be more like babysitting for them. But at least I won’t be alone to be ganked or poked out of lane because my ballet skills still suck.
Bot Lane Battles
I go specifically for the long-range ADCs to keep my distance. If nothing else, it buys me thinking time. When all goes according to plan it even means I can get some kills from afar. And whilst CSing is still a daily challenge (especially in “kill lanes”) I’ve found a lot of the ADCs have decent abilities for racking up minion kills. I toyed around with Ezreal and Varus and eventually landed on Caitlyn. I’m informed reliably that she has the longest range in the game, and that sounds absolutely marvellous to me. She can also lay down little traps to get her extra damage from headshots. This is great for team fights when no one is paying me any attention. Her R ability, Ace In The Hole, is a super long range “execute”. That means I can use it the way I kept accidentally using Talon’s and I even remember to use it because its utility is once the on-screen noise has quieted down, to finish off fights as the enemy is running away. It’s like an acceptable form of kill-stealing.
Oh, sure, I kept forgetting the net thing. But I’m now starting to use her 90 Caliber Net ability to escape when I’m in trouble (which is a lot) and even getting a few headshots off it too.
I’m still terrible at LoL—sorry, League—but I’m having fun playing with my silver and gold ranked friends through this quarantine. I’m never going to know every champion off by heart, and I’ll probably be using u.gg for my item builds for the foreseeable. And maybe eventually I’ll be considered an asset to my team, rather than someone to carry. Or maybe I’ll convince them to give Overwatch another go instead. Oh hey, this Jhin character looks interesting . . .