Jumping through hoops with League of Legends

I know I’ve done a thing recently about League of Legends, but that was mostly about the lore and backstory of the game. The footage used in the video is made from a chopped up recording of aabicus’s first non-tutorial game, playing against intro bots. Except it’s from my perspective – he was the Jinx in the game, and I was obviously the Terror of the Void. But when aabicus and I sat down to do a few more games and discuss how things worked, I realised how convoluted everything sounded.

The first thing we did was look for champions aabicus would like. I did a brief lowdown of every champion in the game, nearly 130 characters, each with their own role, up to 4 abilities and a few passives each. That’s all fine and dandy, although to this day, I still haven’t played the likes of Poppy, Tryndamere and a few others. It’ll take aabicus a long, long time to know what every champion does, but you can get a fair idea. At least you know everyone has 4 abilities and a passive or two, rather than the pretty much anything in Dota 2. Looking at you, Invoker.

Then we got into champion select. Aabicus is only level 3, so he has access to a small collection of starter champions, that he can use until he reaches level 6. At that point, the starter champions are replaced with free week rotation champions – ten champions plus Garen or Ashe who are free for a week, before being swapped for another 10 champions every Tuesday. You unlock new champions with Influence Points (IP), although I often accidentally call them IP Points. Also on the champion selection screen are summoner spells, which are pretty basic in their use, and runes and masteries. Aabicus asked about them, but I didn’t really give him a very good explanation, because I’d been hit in the face with a big realization.

This was all very convoluted.

So first off you pick your character. Then you tell your team where you want to go (outside of Coop VS AI), then you select your Summoner Spells. Then you select your runes and masteries. But what ARE runes and masteries? My basic explanation is that they both give very small buffs while you play the game, but it’s way more complicated than that. By the time you get to level 30, and especially if you want to lay Ranked (the meat and bones of the game which everything is balanced around) or just not get your ass kicked in general, you need to know this stuff.

Let’s start with masteries. Masteries give you small utility boosts, based on three trees,  – tankiness, offensiveness and magic-iness, I guess? They’re actually called Ferocity (mostly based on doing damage), Cunning (support and utility) and Resolve (tankiness). They’re basically like upgrade trees seen in other games, and you unlock more mastery points by leveling up your account, for a maximum of 30 points. You can have up to 20 different Mastery Pages, so for example, you can have a Mastery Page for support champions, one for marksmen, or a single Mastery Page for each of your favourite champions. Weirdly though, each mastery tree can be filled up with 18 points, finishing with a Keystone Mastery that gives additional power. On the plus side, that means you can get a Keystone Mastery in your page at level 18 rather than level 30, on the downside, you’ve still got to grind to level 18.

Runes are something different. Rune pages contain up to 30 runes, which give you flat bonuses, like 0.8 extra attack damage, 1% extra health, or 0.5% extra movement speed. You get two rune pages at the start, and unlock rune slots as you level up, like mastery points. But you need to actually buy runes to put in the slots, and runes can be a gigantic noob trap, as there are 3 tiers of runes, and tier 1 and tier 2 runes are useless. On the flip side, tier 3 runes give the most benefit but are incredibly expensive. For 3 Quintessences (the biggest runes unlocked at level 10, 20 and 30), you could find yourself spending 6000 IP. Newly released champions are 6300 IP, and they are much, much more fun than runes. For that reason alone, I STILL have the tier 1 runes I bought when I was a noob.

That being said, runes are changing. Tier 1 runes are soon to be removed (unless you already own them), and tier 2 runes are about to cost 1 IP each. Some important tier 3 runes were made cheaper, but for two Rune Pages, you’re looking at about 15000 IP. Want more Rune Pages? That will cost you 6300 IP. Each. Wait for the bi-yearly Buy One Get One Free Rune Page sales.

All that was very complicated, wasn’t it? I can see why these things were added, particularly masteries, as they add variation to everyone playing a champion – two people playing Jinx may have different runes and masteries. But they’ll also build different items, so the variation exists whether these two complicated systems exist or not. And the amount of grinding needed to fill Rune Pages is beyond silly.

At low levels, the lack of both runes and masteries isn’t really a problem. No one else really has anything either, and everyone’s on the same level – apart from summoner spells, which unlock at different levels – 1, 4, 6, 8 and 10, with the most used spell in the game, Flash, not unlocking until level 8. But it’s mostly even.

The problems start to pour in at about level 15. By then, you get far less experience and IP from all Coop VS AI games, and if you want to hit level 30 in the next few months, you HAVE to do PvP. At around level 15 though, you find yourself fighting against anyone from level 10 to level 20, who will have much more or much less when it comes to runes and masteries – particularly the keystone masteries unlocked at level 18. Even though the grind to level 15 and to level 30 have been shortened over the last two seasons, it’s still a long, arduous struggle.

While aabicus did start to get the hang of things in our second and third matches, he’s only just hit level 4. There’s a long path ahead of him, and I don’t blame him if he never reaches level 30. The learning curve is quite high, but is it worth it once you become skilled at the game? I’m not sure. I’ve been playing for over 2 years now, I’ve never touched ranked, I’ve barely touched PvP Summoners Rift. I have fun in my bot games and the occasional ARAM or featured game mode, and that’s what makes me happy.

So what if I still have tier 1-2 runes?

On a related note, I’m probably not the best teacher when it comes to LoL. Sorry aaby.

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