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A Beginner’s Guide: League of Legends World Championships 2016

This month planet Earth will shake as the League of Legends World Championships thunder across the globe. It’s the esports Superbowl and for the teams taking part there’s big cheddar to be made. Our LoL correspondent Eugenia Woo is covering the event all month with weekly round ups and standings, but first here’s a in-depth primer for anyone new to the sport.

(Click on over here for Eugenia’s team standings for week 1 of this mayhem.)

Okay. You’ve probably heard of League of Legends. Even if you haven’t heard of it, then you’ve probably been at an internet cafe at one point and witnessed a lot of dudes playing a videogame where a bunch of characters kill each other in a forest. Those dudes probably yelled “ULT” a lot (pronounced: alt) and complained loudly about someone called Teemo. If nothing I’ve said so far makes sense to you, that’s alright. I’m here to make all that confusion go away. I’m going to tell you more about what League of Legends is and how one lucky international team is going to pocket $1 million by the end of the month.

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Photo by Riot Esports

What is League of Legends?

League of Legends is often colloquially referred to as ‘LoL’, or ‘League’, or ‘the game that ruined my life’. It’s a MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) game created by Riot Games that is played five-a-side with two competing teams in any given session.

How does the game work?

Each team has a base that they have to defend, and the primary objective of the game is to kill the enemy’s base. The secondary objective is just straight up killing the enemy team.

You accomplish both the primary and secondary objectives in spectacular fashion if you do tons of damage. And in order to do tons of damage, your character is going to need to buy things like daggers, guns, and spellbooks. In order to get your hands on those bad boys, you’re going to need tons of money – you get rich by killing various NPCs (Non-Player Characters) and looting their corpses for gold.

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Photo from playbuzz.com

As you can see above, there’s 3 distinct lanes connecting one team’s base to the other, and then there’s shadowy places in-between that the light doesn’t touch. Generally, players stay within their particular lanes for most of the game depending on their assigned role (ADC, Support, Mid, Top or Jungle), with the exception of all-out teamfights that could give Smash Bros a run for its money. Not sure what these roles are or what the point of them is? Here’s a helpful not-quite-infographic:

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In competitive LoL, each game starts with a drafting phase. It’s a bit like a football draft where your team picks up players – here, each team’s players get to pick the characters (champions) that they want for this game, and they also get to ban the other team from picking certain champions. There’s an incredible amount of champions in LoL for a team to choose from, and each one has its own kit of abilities that synergises with those of other champions to make up an effective team composition. Teams will pick champions that fit different types of compositions in order to combat their opponents, and will often try and trick other teams into not banning these champions.

The pick-and-ban phase is about mind games, and more often than not, teams will either lock themselves into a loss or a win depending on whether they’re the mindfucker or the mindfuckeree.

Like with any other sport, some strategies almost never let you down. In LoL, that’s referred to as the Meta – champions and tactics that are currently the strongest in competitive play. Naturally, teams will gravitate towards these compositions. You’ll never see all the champions ever created being played on the Worlds stage, but there will be a few fan favourites. To familiarise yourself with all the champions, you can watch some videos created by Riot Games explaining what they do, and why they’re each amazing in their own way.

So, where does the $1 million come in?

Every year since 2011, there’s been a LoL World Championship (Worlds) However, we’ve definitely come a long way from the original prize pool of $99,500. This year’s winner of Worlds walks away with a cool $1 million and with the Summoner’s Cup – indelible proof that your team deserves to be crowned the best in the world. Worlds gets more extravagant each year. They even got Zedd (aka dude that made this annoying popular song) to compose the theme for 2016, and a few years ago it was Imagine Dragons (who have now gone on to bigger things like the Suicide Squad soundtrack) and they had a hell of a live show with a full orchestra at the opening ceremony.

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Infographic © Riot Games. From L-R: Teams from North America, European Union, South Korea, China, Taiwan, and the International Wildcard regions

This year’s Worlds has 16 teams participating – 14 from the major regions, and 2 wild card teams from outside those regions. These teams are split into 4 different groups where they’ll play against everyone from their group twice. The 2 teams from each group with the highest scores after that will progress to a knockout bracket aka the Quarterfinals.

At this stage, we’ve just wrapped up Week 1 of Worlds. If you’ve been wondering how to get a piece of the action and where to go from here, I’ve got you covered!

Where do you watch the games?

Unless you’re reading this article from San Francisco, you probably aren’t going to be able to see the games in person. You might get lucky with some tickets for the other stages, but those would also, regrettably, be in the US. A much more realistic (cheaper) option is to watch the games online. The 2015 Worlds had people glued to online streams of the event for 60 million hours, so you definitely won’t be alone.

Photo by Riot Esports

Photo by Riot Esports

On game days (Fridays – Mondays so far), Worlds usually starts around 12PM NZDT, and goes until 6PM. For those who are stuck in the office, there are rebroadcasts done at friendlier times.

For a full schedule of all the games and when they’ll be on (it’s all in local time, one of the good things about letting your browser access your location), check this out.

Things you’re going to hear that might confuse you

There’s an extremely helpful guide compiled by Reddit user SimplifyEUW that deals with popular terminology that will be used by the shoutcasters and analysts during the games. Yup, that’s right. Like with soccer and basketball, there’s continuous live commentary. If you watch the online streams, then you have the added benefit of being able to access an Alternative stream to the main game that deals specifically with the featured player match-up for that game and has former/ current pros weighing in on the technical stuff.

If you want to make sense of anything going on during the game, here’s some key phrases and words that you’ll need to know.

1. Shotcalling – As the word implies, this refers to players calling the shots, or making decisions. It can range from shit to god-tier depending on the team.

2. Minions – The tiny blobs that walk towards enemy towers in the various lanes. They only exist to be killed for gold and EXP.

3. Wards – These are like lightbulbs that grant vision of the dark and shadowy places on the map when placed down in-game. They time out after a while.

4. CS – Creep Score. The act of ‘CS-ing’ is racking up kills on minions.

5. EXP – Experience. This is gained from killing NPCs, enemy champions, and from destroying base defenses.

6. Farming – Staying in the lanes and killing the NPCs in order to get gold and EXP, usually because a player is trying to save up to get an important item.

7. Gank – When a player (usually the jungler) goes into a lane where one of their teammates is and tries to help them kill their opponent.

8. Turret – These are present on both sides of the map and they act as the first line of defense for each base. You have to get rid of them to advance to the centre of a base.

9. Nexus – The core of a base. It must be protected at all costs.

10. Teleport – Also referred to as TP. This is when laners use a spell called Teleport to magically move to a different place on the map that their allies have vision of. You can only TP to a structure, a minion, or a ward.

11. Flash – When a player travels a short distance instantaneously, sometimes over walls. This is usually used defensively, but can be used to get closer to an enemy that’s on the brink of death.

12. Flame Horizon – This is when a laner has dominated lane to the point where he’s 100 CS up on his opponent. It was coined because of Lee “Flame” Ho-Jong, a famous top laner who would do that consistently.

13. Clown Fiesta – e.g. “That last fight was a total clown fiesta.” This is used to describe a game or fight where everything was sickeningly bad and disorganised.

14. YEEAAAH BOI – This is shouted every time an item called Zz’rot Portal is put down in a game, so long as it’s being casted by Trevor “Quickshot” Henry.

Where to from here?

I spent most of last weekend drinking cheap Sav and live-tweeting the games, so if any of you were following that, you already know how destroyed I was by the sheer madness of this week, and that I’m going to continue covering Worlds for the next month.

After every week of games, I’m going to put out some hot takes and a ranking of which players triumphed and slumped. There’s also going to be a round-up of tweets from casters, players, and people like me and you re: the highlights of the games and the spiciest memes. Tweet me @ginnywoes on game day for some cheeky banter and amateur analysis, and I’ll catch you later on the Rift!


Let those grunty laners at Bigpipe do the shotcalling, for it is they who have made this post possible.

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