A quick background: I’ve been playing videogames for as long as I can remember, starting with a beat-up Family Computer courtesy of my older cousin. I was also there at the birth of MOBA: an idea for a 5-on-5 hero vs. hero game mode that started with DotA 1 and refined by LoL.
That being said, I am in no way an expert: I started playing League of Legends in 2014, but before I could actually get into the whole thing, life got in the way and I found myself with more responsibilities than free time.
But I do get to play every so often, and while I don’t think I can help you win the World Championships, I can guide you to getting past at least Diamond (Challenger if we work hard enough).
For this article, though, I’m going to assume that you’re like me sans the videogame experience: probably in your late 20’s/early 30s, finding yourself bored because of quarantine restrictions and imagining yourself become the next global eSports athlete (seriously where was this hype when we were kids?!).
With that in mind, I’m going to talk to you about the most basic concept of League of Legends: lanes.
What are Lanes?
Every MOBA, from LoL to Dota 2 to Hon and even HoS, are all played the same way: you have two teams on opposite corners of the map, with each teams heroes tasked with destroying the enemy base. The bases are connected to each other by three lanes: the top, the mid, and the bottom.
Understanding League of Legends Top Lane (Farmville for LoL)
The top lane, known as Baron Lane, is the lane that runs across the top of the map (duh). It’s called the Baron lane because it’s the lane that’s closest to Baron Nashor, an epic Jungle monster that gives your team a huge buff when you defeat it (more about this later).
Traditionally, the top lane is occupied by each team’s tanks and/or fighters. Usually, players will run this lane solo so that they get to level up faster and are able to farm more efficiently. The downside of this, however, is that you get less help from other teammates (or, ganks, as it’s colloquially called). However, if you play it right, you won’t need a gank in the first place.
The top lane can be a pretty intermediate position to take: there are less opponents to deal with, but it means that you’ll have to be adept with your character enough to either go 1-on-1 with your opponent, or survive long enough to farm enough gold to start buying great items.
Understanding League of Legends Mid Lane Goals
The mid lane, as the name suggests, is the lane that runs across the middle of the map. It’s the shortest lane among the three, and it’s usually one of the main lanes where players clash.
This lane is usually occupied by ranged magic characters with strong wave clears and control skills. If your team is playing with an offense-centric mindset, the mid-lane is their opportunity to level up their mage characters and launch attacks against the enemy turret. If you’re playing defensively, mid-lane characters can effectively stop enemy advances and save your mid-lane turret.
Opinions might differ, but from a beginner’s standpoint, I would say that the mid-lane is a pretty advanced position to take: controlling the mid-lane can be a game-changer, so naturally, teams will congregate in this lane and clash, which means that whoever is occupying this lane needs to be an expert in denying enemy kills, crowd control, map awareness, and basically a whole lot of other advanced concepts that we won’t be covering in this article.
Bottom-line: if you have a KD ratio of anything less than 5, you probably shouldn’t volunteer to take mid, and if you don’t know what “KD ratio” is, you really shouldn’t volunteer to take mid.
Understanding League of Legends Bottom Lane Domination
Finally, the bottom lane, otherwise known as ‘bot’ or ‘dragon lane’ because of its proximity to the epic dragon monsters. In League, there are 5 types of dragons that spawn near the bot lane: Cloud, Mountain, Ocean, Infernal, and Elder. Each dragon type gives your team a specific buff when defeated, so the bot lane will affect which team gets it depending on their coordination with their jungler (more on this later).
The bot lane’s proximity to the dragons is one of the reasons why it’s also one of the most contested lanes in the game: pressure your opponents enough to keep them away from the dragons and your team gets a boost that could turn the tide of battle.
Normally, bot lanes are occupied by ranged characters with high attack damage or mages with high magic damage. Each team’s characters are tasked with keeping the dragon lane clear for their jungler by clearing wave minions, ‘warding’ the dragon pit, and/or assisting their jungler if and when they make an attempt at the dragon.
The bot lane, in my opinion, is the most beginner-friendly lane because it allows you to use powerful ADC (or attack damage carry) characters that are easy-to-use and relatively powerful enough to keep you from dying. It also helps you get used to League’s competitive strategies, as it will force you to be mindful of the map, provide support when necessary, and when to avoid ganks by the enemy jungler or assassin. And speaking of junglers…
Understanding League of Legends Jungling
Not exactly a lane, the jungle is pretty much all the spaces in between the lanes, including the river that cuts through the middle. The jungle is rich with neutral minions and epic monsters, with the latter providing specific characters a powerful buff when defeated: the Blue Sentinel provides characters with increased mana regen and cooldown reduction, while the Red Brambleback provides characters with increased health regen, damage over time, and Slow effects.
The Rift Herald is another jungle monster that can provide your team with a very powerful minion that can be summoned in any lane. Once defeated, the Rift Herald can be summoned onto a lane where it will charge into the nearest enemy turret to deal huge amounts of damage. Meanwhile, defeating Baron Nashor will give your entire team huge attack damage buffs, increased ability power, an empowered recall, and an aura that empowers nearby minions.
Your team’s jungler will usually be an Assassin-type hero, or a character that is designed specifically for Jungle use. It’s one of the most advanced positions a player can take, and is best reserved for more veteran players.
Pro-tip / Expert Advice:
Don’t go into the jungle alone.
A Final Word
I need to reiterate that this is a BASIC guide for newbie players, and as such, a lot of the concepts in this article, particularly the player positions, are general strategies: you might find traditionally “Tank” characters invading your jungle, or mages playing top. It all depends on your team’s overall strategy, the expertise of your teammates, and your loadout (i.e. runes and summoner spells).
As always, coordinate with your team about what’s the best strategy for you to use and what role you should be playing. My advice? Stick with Co-Op vs. AI until you get all the concepts down pat, otherwise you’re going to be yelled at as a noob by teenagers over voice chat. If you’re interested in more of our guides, have a look at our recommended games to stream on Facebook.