Dote Night: Learning To LoL


I said a little while back that I wanted to open up Dote Night to include interesting things across the MOBA spectrum. It doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten Dota 2 in any way, shape or form, nor does it mean there won’t be Dote Nights about Dota, but I’d like to try out a few things and see how they go. To introduce this week’s article: I’ve spent the last year following competitive League of Legends but I’ve never played more than a handful of games. I feel like a football fan who’s never really had a decent kickabout in the park. That’s why this week is about getting to grips with League of Legends [official site]:

I refuse to surrender. Point-blank refuse. WE CAN STILL DO THIS! We can still… oh, I see. No, not without our nexus, no.

The thing about a nexus is that it’s kind of crucial to staying in a game of League of Legends’s 5v5 mode. If you’re familiar with MOBAs you’ll know the drill – you’re on a team of five trying to co-operate in order to destroy a key structure in the enemy base. In LoL it’s called the nexus, in Dota it’s the Ancient and in Smite it’s the Titan. There are three lanes which little minions tread on their way to the opposite side of the map and stretches of jungle where neutral monsters live. The monsters and minions can be killed for gold and experience (as long as they’re not your own), as can the enemy heroes.

Thus far in my eSports career I have become good at watching professional-level League of Legends but never really played. I prefer to play MOBAs as a stack (a pre-formed group) where I can chat and bounce ideas around and communicate easily with voice. I have just one friend who plays League regularly and another who dabbles a tiny bit. As a result, my knowledge is almost entirely theoretical. It comes from watching the professional meta or is based around digging into interesting promotions and research Riot is conducting at any given time.

I decided to change that.

This piece is going to be about what what I’ve noticed in the first few matches. It’s not a play-by-play, but more about what I’ve noticed having come to LoL with prior MOBA baggage. I’ll aim to write about the project every so often to give an idea for how my understanding of the game evolves and changes.

After a lot of patching the client is ready to go – hurrah! I hit “PLAY”. The screen is instantly something you don’t see in the pro-gaming scene – game mode selection. For PvP your options are Classic, Dominion and ARAM (all random all mid). ARAM is locked until you reach summoner level 6 while Dominion (a capture point mode) is gated until level 7. Classic offers up 5v5 matches on Summoner’s Rift, which is the sort of game you’ll see if you watch the pro scene as well as a 3v3 option in the form of Twisted Treeline. TT is gated until level 7 as well, so the game basically funnels you into the classic flavour of LoL then you just pick the options which match you with others or helps you construct a team of your own.

I’d say this feels convoluted, having played other games in the genre. With LoL if you want to play with friends you invite them at this stage rather than forming a party beforehand which seems counter-intuitive. When trying to play with a friend over the weekend I spent a few minutes trying to work out how to partner up with her before finding the right option. It’s something you’ll only struggle with once, though, and it might have been covered by the tutorial which I played maybe two years ago.

Once you’ve found a match you get into the hero selection mode. Confusingly, for low level players you won’t have the same champion options as the game’s rotation of free heroes. I made that mistake and had geared myself up to play Brand – a fire-heavy mage who fits my current playstyle in other games – before realising I’d actually need to pick from the stable roster of starter champs. That’s something Riot introduced back in early 2014 so that newcomers would have access to easy-to-learn heroes which were rewarding to play. I feel like there should be an obvious reminder on the screen, or on each of the free rotation update pages, in case you don’t know why you can’t access the free rotation.

Given I couldn’t have fire I took ice, in the form of Ashe. She’s a Frost Archer and really fun to play. If you’re familiar with Dota characters she’s got a lot in common with Drow Ranger, who’s a character new players tend to click with easier than some of the others. Actually, that’s something I find hard to switch off as I play. I think of champions in terms of comparisons to other characters my fingers remember from other games. It’s something which faded as I got more familiar with the pro scene but now it’s back in full force as my hands try to get to grips with these familiar-yet-untested characters.

Ashe has a Frost Shot ability which is bound to Q. When this is toggled on her arrows slow enemies for a couple of seconds, making it easier for Ashe to keep pace with them as she brings down their health. I was using it along with the Ghost summoner spell, which lets you move 27% faster for 10 seconds. It let me chase down a kill on an enemy Graves and a Ryze who seemed to think they had pulled off an excellent escape.

Ashe’s W ability is a volley of arrows which fire in a cone and deal physical damage. I was using that to help clear minion waves, as well as to deal damage to several targets at once in team fights. Her E ability is Hawkshot, which is useful in its passive form for gaining bonus gold. The active is where you send out a hawk to scout out an area for a few seconds. I mostly forgot about that because I was just placing ward totems regularly. In retrospect I should have put a point in Hawkshot far earlier though as my team ended up behind gold-wise (our Warwick abandoned in the first few seconds of the game). The extra item it could have helped afford might have turned a fight or two.

Her ultimate is an Enchanted Crystal Arrow. It’s a massive arrow which deals magic damage and stuns when it hits an enemy hero. Because of being on the back foot for so much of the game, I was using it to escape rather than to initiate fights. I think Graves was starting to get irked by me as the game progressed, as I managed to stun him long enough to get away while on low health and looking like a sure kill.

I think general MOBA experience is helping me an awful lot at the moment. I don’t tend to die stupidly. I’m not diving towers or wandering into areas of zero vision and maximum enemy. The rhythm of the game makes sense and I can recognise what enemy players might try to do with their hero abilities. There are some parts where it trips me up though. I keep trying to block my minions as they waddle to lane, I can’t help trying to deny minion kills and thus I’ll disrupt my own lane farming by falling out of rhythm. I don’t have a sense of the timers at work either so I’m wary of trying any junglers, although my warding is decent and I rarely seem to get jumped or taken completely by surprise.

The pro scene stuff is patchy in its applicability. It’s useful in that I’ve absorbed information about champions and combos and some item build preferences, so I can pull that out at odd moments. The lessons in warding have paid off too, I think. But I’m playing babby League. People will pick on a whim, not on any sensible drafting basis. They’ll also abandon games for whatever reason. As I said, in that Ashe game our Warwick just left and never came back, leaving us 4v5 for the whole thing. I find myself wondering if, perhaps, playing less cautiously might actually be better in some ways. It’s not good game sense and would be useless at higher levels but sometimes it feels like blind aggression can brute force a win whereas trying to inflict or expect teamwork when part of a fivesome of varying ability and attitude can backfire.

In case you’re curious, I ended up going 5/4/5 on Ashe this morning. That means 5 kills, 4 deaths and 5 assists. It was the only positive kill/death ratio on our team so I was doing okay, although should have communicated more with the others. I find that hard to remember when getting to grips with so much other new stuff. My fingers are learning which button for the shop and which for my active abilities and items so typing in chat slips down the priority list. This evening was far better – 16/0/5 plus we won the game.

I’ve not encountered any rudeness in my recent games, either. In fact I just saw that I had a commendation for my behaviour in a recent game. Perhaps being quiet, getting kills and refusing utterly to surrender was that person’s cup of tea. Either way I’m having fun. It feels like playing Dota, improving at Smite and learning League are all feeding into one another in helpful ways (even if it does mean I keep switching to cinematic view in Dota because I’m hitting the shop shortcut from Smite).

But I have one question.

Is there really no way to invert the mouse drag in League of Legends? HOW DO YOU PEOPLE LIVE LIKE THAT?


  1. Arathain says:

    You are awfully brave for trying to play multiple MOBAs at once. It must be confusing as heck. Do you find yourself looking for non-existent items, or heading for shops were there are none? Best to throw in Heroes of the Storm as well, for maximum puzzlement.

    I, on the other hand, am confused as to whether you are Dave or not.

  2. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    Valiant effort, Philippa! Ashe is a great learning champion. The best way to learn the champions is ARAM, where you will see all the champions being used. ARAM has less pressure and there is less expectation that you’ll be an expert in the champion you’re playing.

    One thing that LoL has that DotA2 doesn’t is the option to surrender at 20 minutes. This can be good – sometimes it’s just not fun to be farmed by a team that could push you over at a whim but has decided to see how many times they can kill the Baron while slaughtering you every time you step outside your base, for example. But it also leads to “ZOMG WE’RE GONNA LOSE GG SURRENDER” when the slightest thing goes wrong.

    • RedViv says:

      I might add Annie to the perfect teaching champs as well. Ashe teaches last hitting and positioning, Annie teaches being cautiously timing abilities just right and knowing when to burst and when to slowly trickle damage out, while not too punishing if you overdo it.

    • Vandelay says:

      I honestly believe this is why DOTA2 has the most hateful of the MOBA communities. The inability to leave a game if it goes to shit just leads people to start yelling at each other.

      I don’t have much to compare it to, but Smite, which does have a surrender button, has always been a much pleasurable game and I could count on my hands how many times I have encountered grumpy people. I think the surrender system could be improved, but it is definitely better than nothing.

      As you say, having conditions is good, although I would rather see the use of the status of the match, instead of just the match time. For example, gold or xp difference, number of towers destroyed, or kill count. They could even disable it in ranked modes if it is such a big deal for some.

  3. stringerdell says:

    MOBAs are terrible

    • tormos says:

      gee, random internet commenter, your puerile comment has really forced me to reconsider the literally hundreds of hours of free entertainment that the genre has provided for me in the last few years. I bet that you feel really vindicated in your decision to read and then comment on an article about a genre that you clearly dislike now.

    • Calculon says:

      It almost appears to me to be like Magic The Gathering, but in an ‘action’ form. Ive struggled to understand MOBA’s personally. They just dont do ‘it’ for me.

      • igrad says:

        While I can’t say I know much about Magic, I would say LoL is more like Pokemon mixed with TF2’s “cart-race” mode. Every champion has at least one identifying game mechanic (just as fire types have ember, flamethrower), but all champions work to achieve a common goal of reaching a destination while killing foes along the way and maintaining a cautious balance of offensive play and defensive countermeasures. I’ve been playing since season 3, just before the holidays in 2012, though it took me a solid six months to really start to enjoy the game. Back then the learning curve… well, it was a bit like storming the beaches of Normandy compared to the learning system Riot has since put in place.

        As per the community, it can be very harsh at times. Think 4chan/b/ mixed with AIM. People take LoL far too seriously, which leads them to get frustrated after a single death and go on tilt the rest of the game. I’ve seen this so many times in the community, but there are the rebellious few who maintain positivity and make the game somewhat enjoyable again.

        If anyone should want to start played League, do you damnest to stay positive; mental disposition is one of the easiest facets of an enemy to cripple.

    • GHudston says:

      As evidenced by their incredible popularity, I assume.

  4. Baf says:

    Re rudeness: My experience was that it got worse as I progressed up the ranks. You eventually hit a point where basically every match has someone who spends the entire match trash-talking their own teammates. But that was a couple of years ago, so I suppose it’s possible that things have changed.

    • tormos says:

      In dota my experience has been that rudeness is kind of a hyperbola. In the beginning people are very cooperative (How do I call the courier? What items will help my attack damage? What does that enemy hero do?), in the middle people tend to be very rude ( commonly either because they are marginally better than the people they have been randomly matched with and thus feel justified in making them miserable or because they can’t’ understand why they’re losing so pick a random victim to blame), but then as you approach 2-2.5k mmr (about the point where people are expected to know all the heroes and their items etc) nastiness tails off because teamwork is now the most critical reason for success or failure of the team and rudeness tends to minimize it.

      • Vandelay says:

        As someone who had truly awful placement ranked mode games and came out with a sub-1700 MMR, this sounds about right (it is my own fault, I picked heroes like I would in regular mode, rather than who I was actually good with.) The people are pretty much the scum of Internet, yelling at anyone they have decided has not met their standards.

        Of course, you look at what they are doing and realise why your game has gone awfully. I had one match in which we had a Pudge that bought nothing of use but a Dagon that he leveled right up to 5. Naturally, he was getting a lot of kills and by the far the most on the team. Yet, he also had the most deaths and was almost 1:1. So, he was getting all the kills, when Pudge only requires assists to get the lovely Flesh Heap stacks he craves, he was getting all the money from kills and then losing it when he died, and using the money he was getting on an item that wasn’t particularly needed for his character. But, of course, our inevitable defeat was not his fault, but his fucking noob team!

        I mainly feel sorry for my regular ranked mode friend, who is about 2250 MMR, being stuck with me in the cesspit. Wish I could redo my placement matches. It seems impossible to increase your MMR without playing 1000s of games.

  5. salgado18 says:

    You made me want to play DotA to get better at LoL. Naughty you.

  6. DrGonzo says:

    Well, I don’t use mouse drag to look around! I dunno how you live like that! Also, don’t use Ashe’s W on minion waves :P

    But good article anyways!

  7. Monggerel says:

    I don’t know what it was what made me snap. Used to be I was just your run-of-the-mill trash talking shitkid. After about a year I started getting pretty decent at LoL and, I think, that’s about when I went comprehensively lunatic and insults were replaced by bloodthirsty gibbering madness. Don’t even gotta work at it. This shit literally writes itself.

    So yes, I can confidently attest that the League gazes also.

  8. honuk says:

    I think the starter kit thing has Jinx in it in addition to Ashe, right? Jinx is like a hundred times more fun (and, uhh, better) than Ashe.

  9. kalzekdor says:

    Has anyone else tried Prime World? I put a few dozens of hours into it last year, but I’ve not played it for a while. (Work taking up all my time, as per usual.) It was the only MOBA I actually enjoyed. I didn’t really like DotA, and LoL only held my attention while I had friends playing. Prime World throws in some permanent progression for heroes, and a lot of customization options. It also gets rid of the shop/equipment thing, which I always found too hectic. Killing mobs, minions, or heroes in Prime World gives you Prime, which is sort of a Gold/Exp hybrid. Your hero can have 36 talents, (6 talents in each of 6 tiers), some unique to that hero, some generic talents that give stat buffs, etc. You start each match with a bit of Prime, but no Talents activated. You then use prime to purchase talents as you play. You can also use prime to purchase one time use items like potions and wards.

    I found it to be an interesting mix of strategic builds and tactical decision making. It also means that, with different loadouts, a hero can viably utilize different styles, adding a lot of variance that DotA and LoL lack.

    Maybe I’ll pick it back up again. If work chooses to settle down, anyway.

  10. vivlo says:

    So ! Now at last, you can say knowingly that Dota is the best ! Don’t be afraid, just say it !

    btw Ashe is a carry, no ? so why would you buy a warding item ? especially since there are free trinkets.. and i often skill hawk first for the passive (extra gold per creep) – people usually told me not to do that, but i like the added starting difficulty – but haven’t play lol in a long time so maybe it changed in subsequent updates

    • DenieD says:

      You get to take a free item in LoL that either grants you a free ward every so often or a free deward every so often (theres another option too but I can’t remember what that is lol).

    • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

      Ashe is often played as a support, as she has her own gold-generation abilities, easy-to-apply slows, a built-in area reveal, and an ultimate ability which can project a stun across the entire map if well aimed.
      Warding items are useful for additional ward coverage, or alternatively they can be used to provide vision coverage while you use a detection trinket to hunt enemy wards.

      • vivlo says:

        aye if she’s played as a support, that makes sense. But never heard she was played as supp ; she seems a bit frail without farm, not a lot of useful spells as well..
        Plus doesn’t her passive require that you kill creeps to get more gold ? hence that’s maybe not very good mechanism for a support no ? or did that change ?

        • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

          Constant reliable slows, a ranged reveal, and a whole-map-range stun make for a powerful support combo. You’re right, the gold generation isn’t that useful unless the carry is back at base shopping, but good gold items can make up for it, and one point in Hawkshot is enough for the reveal. Plus, late game she can gear up to be a respectable damage dealer herself. She’s not the best support, but if the game goes on for a while she can pick up power in the lategame.

  11. Ashlyn says:

    You mentioned communication; I don’t know if you know this; it wasn’t immediately obvious to me when I started LoL last year (ex HoN, DotA 2 player myself), but you can easily send different pings without taking time to type anything out. Hold alt on the overworld, and a little wheel will pop up, then just drag your mouse to the desired ping and let go of alt.

    You can call missing in your lane, danger (with another modification I forget signalling fall back), “On my way” with a displayed path highlighted on the minimap based on your pathing, to where you pinged while moving, and a request for assistance!

    Just thought I’d chime in, hopefully it’ll help!

  12. Gothnak says:

    I just play LoL against Bots. You win all the time and it is more enjoyable. The competition is who can get the highest score and occasionally you get matched with some right idiots who can’t play at all, and it’s really enjoyable trying to carry the team.

    LoL vs real players? God no…

    • vivlo says:

      People are mean by altruism : that way you’ll have less remorse killing them, and it will be more satisfying. It’s a way to encourage you.

  13. sicbanana says:

    I didn’t play DotA 2 long enough to experience every champ/spell in their roster, so I’m kinda curious if there are really that few skill-shots in it? You see, that’s the thing I’m really diggin’ about LoL: the huge amount of fast skill-shots which generate sooo much fun, when you finally “get” the champ and their spell-set. (Ezreal, Jayce, LeeSin, Lucian, Lux, Morgana, etc… the list goes on and on)
    For instance, I really love Ahri, an assassin mage with huge mobility and many skill-shots. The thing is, you are able to interweave her spells: Her R (the ultimate) let’s you jump/dash 3 times during a short time frame whilst firing fireballs at the nearest enemy champ during each jump. Her Q shoots a ball which returns to you in a straight line (doing more damage on it’s way back), kinda like a yo-yo, and her E shoots a “heart” with which you can stun/taunt an enemy, making him slowly walk towards you for a short while.
    In practice you may send out any spell at any time: You can start with a dash on R to gap close, hit him with a E to taunt (activate W here), use another R to dash behind him, throw a Q, use another R dash and let the Q-ball return to your new position. he mostly be dead by then. :)
    So, it is simple to see that you can do SUCH AWESOME PLAYS with these mechanics. And that’s the thing which really elevates LoL in my eyes! (you know that feeling from CS 1.6, when you hit someone and it goes *headshot* ;) )
    Is something similar possible in DotA 2? I ask, because ‘dem DotA players seem to believe their game is “harder” or “superior”, which is fine I guess… but, do you see the fun in making such plays as mentioned above?
    *my 2 cents*

    • Bios Element says:

      Uhhh, What? Yes, Dota does indeed have skill shots. link to

      • Vandelay says:

        It does, but not that many. I would definitely not consider Dota to be reliant on skillshots.

        I’ve never played LoL and didn’t realise that it did focus more on skillshots. However, my experience of playing other MOBAs has always left me thinking that I might as well just be playing Dota. It might be stupid, but the ability to deny does change things massively for me and just gives you an extra thing to be doing during the otherwise rather mundane laning phase, particular as I tend to favour support characters. A lot of the other “complexities” in Dota are more about annoying elements left over from the mod though, which the community won’t let go of. For example, there is really no reason why there should not be an individual courier for each hero, except for needlessly adding unnecessarily fiddly controls.

        The only exception to my experience of other MOBAs is Smite, which I do dip into once in a while. The change of perspective is a big difference, as well as it being more reliant on skillshots. Hearing that LoL has more skillshots does make me tempted to give it a go too.

    • jrodman says:

      Dota has many skillshots. League of Legends has more skillshots and many more spammable skillshots which makes them feel more present.

  14. int says:

    Lol hon, I got the hots for dota.