What is the best champion in League of Legends for beginners and new players? Where should you start? What LoL champion should you play? These are a daunting set of questions: so many choices! So much information!
Despite being billed as the most accessible MOBA, League of Legends isn’t exactly the easiest pool to dip your toe in. To help, we've rounded up what we think are the best champions to start with. This isn't meant to be exhaustive: one of the best things about MOBA games like League of Legends is that they offer so many choices for you to try.
What do you want to do?
The current meta (aka high-level strategy that most teams employ) in League of Legends supports five main roles on a team: Top-lane solo, Mid-lane Carry, Jungler, AD Carry, and Support. Your first step in picking a champion is picking one of these five roles that you want to specialize in. We’ll describe each of these roles in their separate categories to help you pick, but in general, Mid and AD Carry’s job is to kill people, Support helps AD Carry stay alive and kill targets, Top holds down a lane by themselves and often supports in team fights, and Junglers kill neutral minions and help everyone else do their jobs.
The best top lane champions
At high-level play, there are a lot of different ways you can play Top lane, and your choice of champion will often depend on whatever type of character your team needs more of (tank, support, DPS, etc.).
The general rule is that you want a champion that can hold their own one-vs-one in the lane, without having to retreat back to base constantly. Top lane is often left on their own, while the rest of your team focuses on making sure the Carries get a lot of kills so they can snowball into massive machines of death for your team. (Yeah, the other lanes are selfish like that.)
So you’re looking for champions that have sustain (healing or defenses), decent push (ability to kill packs of enemy minions quickly), and some element of support (buffs, debuffs, crowd control) to help your allies in teamfights.
Some current Top lane all-stars that you can work your way up to are Jayce, Elise, Malphite, and Kayle. But for now, let’s start with two choices that show the two main playstyles.
Shen - The Protector
If you need proof that you should play Shen, just look at any draft-mode game, where champions can be banned. Shen is banned in almost every single game. And when he’s not banned, he’s immediately picked, while the other team groans and starts typing “gg”.
What makes this blue ninja so scary? It’s not his ability to kill you, it’s his ability to materialize out of thin air to thwart any attempts to kill his teammates. Shen’s ultimate ability, Stand United, allows him to place a shield on an allied champion anywhere on the map and, after a few seconds of channeling, teleport to them.
While in the Top lane, you job as Shen is to keep yourself healthy and try to get minion kills, while harassing the enemy champion. Use your shield ability anytime the enemy gets aggressive, and use your taunt/charge ability to escape danger or to force an enemy to fight you under your tower if they get too close. Don’t be afraid to spam your abilities, since Shen uses Energy as his resource, which automatically replenishes quickly.
Your Goal: As a tank champion, your goal is to simply stay alive and hold your lane until teamfights start happening.
Your Trick: To make the best use of Stand United, your global teleport that shields an ally from damage, keep an eye on your allies and teleport to whichever one is getting attacked as soon a big fight breaks out. When you arrive, use your Taunt ability to force the entire enemy team to attack you, giving your allies time to kill them.
Another way to play Top lane is to pick a champion that can constantly harrass with damage and go for the kill in group fights. Olaf, Jayce, Elise, and Teemo are all good examples of this playstyle, but let’s start you off with Rengar. Like Shen, he uses an cooldown mechanic that lets you spam abilities more often, and he doesn’t have skill shots that can be tricky to master as a new player.
Rengar is a big-game hunter’s worst nightmare: a feral tiger-being that hunts people. Rengar’s playstyle is incredible aggressive, so it might not be the right pick for you. But for people like me that thrive on being in the middle of the fray, stabbing people in the face, Rengar is an awesome first champion.
His passive ability allows him to leap at enemies while he’s stealthed or inside brush, so your goals while playing Rengar should be to consistently run into the brush on top lane, leap onto your opponent and escape again. Thankfully, Rengar has a lot of burst damage, so take advantage of that small window of surprise after you leap onto your opponent, and then get out as soon as possible if you’re not going for the kill.
If things get sticky, you can use his Bola Shot to slow the enemy trying to chase you, and use Battle Roar for a burst of healing on yourself to tip the scales in your favor.
Your Goal: Constantly harrass the enemy champion in your top lane with Savagery and leap attacks, and use Battle Roar to heal yourself so you can stay in the lane longer.
Your Trick: Thrill of the Hunt, your ultimate, turns yourself invisible and reveals all enemy champions nearby. Use it in the middle of a teamfight to stop enemy attacks and leap onto a squishy enemy in the backline to instantly eviserate them.
The best mid lane carry champions
Mid lane carries have a lot of responsibility hefted onto their fragile shoulders. Champions in mid are usually the core of the team, playing a mage-type champion that excels at dealing burst damage with their abilities.
Once a fight starts, your job is to turn your mana bar into dead champions. How you do that depends on the champion you pick, but that’s always your goal. If you do that, your team will be happy with you.
Along with the AD carry (who usually relies on auto-attacks instead of abilities), you’re the guy that’s going to be protected by everyone else, and raining down the hurt on the enemy team. Head to mid lane, stay alive, stay levelling, and grab all the gold you can.
Ryze - The Caster
He's a tattooed ex-con with a penchant for wild magic, and his ability list makes it very clear how to build Ryze: get as much mana as possible. Because he’s not stacking pure Ability Power, like some Mids need to, Ryze tends to be a little less squishy, thanks to the extra health and defense provided by the mana items. Which is nice, when you don’t really know what you’re doing.
His Rune Prison is a great ability to have when you’re still learning the game, as it lets you pin an enemy champion in place while you rain down everything you’ve got. You don’t have to bother aiming when they’re standing still.
Your Goal: Spam spells as often as possible, focusing on killing minions and using Rune Prison to escape if someone tries to gank you. In teamfights, pick out an enemy champion and nuke them down quickly.
Your Trick: Your bouncy lightning ball spell, Spell Flux, will do the most damage bouncing between just two enemy champions. Only cast it if there’s at least two enemies for it to bounce between (minions count!) and, in a pinch, you can bounce it between just you and an enemy champion.
Master Yi - The Elusive
Not all mid carries are going to be stand-back-and-nuke casters, some of them prefer a much more up-close-and-personal approach. Or in the case of Master Yi, an up-close-yet-somehow-invisible-oh-god-where-did-my-health-go approach.
Master Yi is kind of silly. His Alpha Strike ability causes him to become green ninja-mist that darts between four enemies, dealing magic damage to all of them. And if it hits a minion, it has a 50% chance to double its damage. Killing minions and going invulnerable for periods of time are what mid carries live for.
And while Master Yi is waiting to teleport-kill minions, he can channel Meditate to heal himself and gain bonus defenses. You will learn to laugh at enemy champions trying to kill you while you sit there Meditating watching your health bar go up while they unload all their spells at you.
And if things get really hairy, Highlander, can be your “I’m out!” tool. It makes Yi super fast, ignore slowing effects, and attack much faster.
Your Goal: Play it safe in lane, using Alpha Strike to net minion kills and harass on the enemy champion without ever getting into range of the enemy. Abuse Highlander’s ability to reset cooldowns in teamfights and save Alpha Strike for a convenient disappearing act when you get targeted.
Your Trick: If you kill someone with Highlander active, it refreshes all of your cooldowns, including the cooldown on Highlander. If you can get a kill with it, keep the train going and continue mowing down the enemies.
The best AD carry champions
I can see that look in your eye. It’s that look that twinkles when you start up an MMO and you reckon you’re going to be the lone wolf that gets things done. That you don’t need anyone else, and you’ll help the team just be being awesome.
AD carries are the awesome killers of the LoL team. They may not look like the hardest role to play in League of Legends: you just auto-attack most of the time. However, they’re one of the hardest to play well, because they necessitate perfect patience and focus. Almost nothing matters more than you getting as much gold as possible in as short of a time as possible.
That means last-hitting minions every single opportunity you get, and taking whatever champion kills you can. Remember, as a carry, there’s no such thing as kill stealing. Your job is to get as much gold as possible so that you can buy the uber-powerful items and kill the enemy team’s biggest threats quickly. It’s all about the gold, and any teammates that shout at you for taking kills are crazy.
By the time you hit level 16 or so you want to be an unstoppable anthropomorphisation of death. So you need to be kitted out.
Miss Fortune - The Team-killer
Can I interest you in a sexy pirate lady? No really, one of Miss Fortune’s superpowers is being sexy. Beside allowing for ridiculous puns like “Impure Shots,” it boosts her movement speed while out of combat (she “Struts”).
But all that silliness aside, Miss Fortune is here to bring the pain in a massive wave of bullets, courtesy of her two giant pistols. Don’t get intimidated by the long tooltips on Miss Fortune’s abilities, she’s really fairly simple. You shoot bullets, and bullets hurt people.
Your job is to make sure those bullets hit people, mostly by using Double Up to hit those squishies trying to hide behind minion lines. Double Up causes your bullet to bounce off your first target and hit someone behind it.
Her other two primary abilities, Make It Rain and Bullet Time, let her throw out waves of bullets that hit the entire enemy team. Your job in team fights is to hang out near the back and wait until the enemy team groups up to unleash burning steel all over their faces.
Your Goal: Farm minion kills, using Double Up to harrass the enemy champions from safety. Buy a few big items, then rain down death in teamfights from behind your big tanks and bruisers.
Your Trick: Bullet Time hits all enemies caught in it 8 times over 2 seconds, meaning that items that add an effect every time you hit an enemy champion (such as Black Cleaver, which reduces armor), are a lot more valuable than they first look. Buy some, and proc the ability 8 times at the start of a teamfight!
Ashe - The Kiter
Anyone with a global Ultimate, meaning that it’s an attack that go anywhere on the entire map, is going to be a bit of a nightmare for the opposing team. And while Ashe’s Enchanted Crystal Arrow (which stuns and deals damage to the first champion it hits) can be devastating, it moves quite slowly, so you have to lead it incredibly well. That means that it’s not all that friendly to newcomers.
But the big secret of Ashe is that she doesn’t really need to launch that arrow across the map. You can just shoot the person right in front of you with it, and it’s still incredibly useful.
She's a frost-themed archer, and the rest of her skills are so generally useful that it doesn’t matter even if you miss some long-range shots. Every time you shoot it, you’ll be training up your skillshot prowess—and that can only ever be a good thing, even if you miss. You’ve got a lovely AoE slow in Volley, a temporary sight ward with Hawkshot to scare aware pesky gankers, and a nice little passive slowing effect in Frost Shot.
So just stock up on the items you need (the recommended are usually a good idea) and right-click your way to victory.
Your Goal: Farm minion kills in bottom lane from far away with Volley, using Hawkshot to keep an eye on the jungle nearby to make sure enemy champions don’t jump out to gank you. Once you get farmed up, focus your auto-attacks and abilities onto a single target in teamfights.
Your Trick: Ashe is one of the best kiters in the game, thanks to all the slows and stuns she has. Don’t panic when a melee champion is running at you. Slow them with Volley and AoE attacks, and once they get in range, stun them with you giant frost arrow, run away, and kite some more.
The best support champions
While everyone else is killing people and buying fancy items that make themselves stronger, the support player is doing all the janitor work of placing vision wards around the map, and buying the not-so-fun items that the team needs. Supports are something like a team mom/janitor/babysitter for their LoL team.
While they help in teamfights by making everyone fight harder and longer with heals, shields and buffs, or crowd control on enemy champions, their primary role is one of babysitting. They’re the Medic to League of Legends’ Heavy. And their Heavy is the AD Carry. Supports sit in bottom lane with the AD Carry, keeping them alive through those difficult adolescent levels until they’re all big and strong and able to decimate the enemy team single-handedly. Supports are the silent champions.
Except when a fight goes all wrong and they rage in chat.
Janna - The Helper
It’s tempting to throw Soraka in this list, just because she is awfully useful and very easy to play, but Soraka is also incredibly boring. No damage output, and nothing but heals makes for a pretty dull forty minutes. Instead, I present you with Janna, the elf lady with questionably dignity when it comes to fashion choices and a powerful control over air.
Before you even start a game as Janna, your team is going to like you because you give a global speed buff. And then once you’re in-game, your suite of shields and crowd control is going to make you lovely to lane with. You can put damage shields on that AD carry that also boost their damage to keep your little gestating killing-machine in a happy mood. In teamfights, your ultimate can create an Exclusion Zone to rival the Olympics, knocking back enemies and healing all allies in range.
For smaller-scale harass, Janna can summon mini tornados that charge up and unleash in a direction, knocking up every enemy hit, giving your AD carry a champion to take free pot-shots at them.
Great AD Carry support tools and awesome teamfight healing—who doesn’t want that on their team?
Your Goal: Use your shield to protect your AD carry in the laning phase while you toss out little tornadoes to keep the enemy team paranoid and injured. In teamfights, use Monsoon’s knockback to split the enemy team in two, so your team can kill half of them while sitting in your healing winds.
Your Trick: Use your tornadoes to knock-up enemy champions, either giving your AD Carry time to shoot them, or run away, whichever the situation warrants. If possible, cast your tornadoes inside the brush so that the enemy can’t see them winding up.
Thresh is the most fun support champion I’ve ever played, so I’m including him on this list even though he has some more advanced mechanics.
This skeletal jailor may not seem like a support champion at first glance--he doesn’t heal or boost his allies’ damage, and he doesn’t sit back behind his AD carry, hoping he’ll carry the fight for both of them.
Thresh is the aggressive player’s support champion: you start the fights with Death Sentence, throwing out a hook that latches onto the first enemy it hits and pulls it towards you, stunned.
Not aggressive enough? You can choose to leap onto the person you hooked and start hacking them at point-blank range. Pop your ultimate and you’ve just erected an MMA-style deathmatch cage around you and your prey, forcing them to stand and fight you or take heavy damage and get heavily slowed while trying to run away.
Thresh’s other two abilities also support in non-traditional ways: manipulating movement. Flay rips up all enemies near you and shifts them in a direction. Dark Passage throws out a lantern that an ally can click to suddenly teleport to you, allowing you to pull friends away from harm, or bring them into the frontlines of the fight after you leap in.
Thresh also has a fun minigame built into his passive, which allows him to boost his stats by collecting souls that drop from dead minions and champions. It’s not a huge power swing, but it helps pass the time in a role that can sometimes be a bit dull.
Your Goal: Early on in the game, hook the enemy AD Carry as often as possible, giving your AD Carry two seconds of free shots on him or her. Use your Dark Passage to bring junglers in from the brush to help your lane gank and throw down The Box in teamfights to slow the enemy team down.
Your Trick: The real trick with Thresh is remembering that you’re the support. Yes, you’re initiating the fights and leaping onto the front lines, but your job is still to help your teammates kill the enemy. Sometimes you do that be damaging the enemy. Other times you do that by backing out of the fight and offering a Dark Passage escape tool for your AD Carry.
The best jungle champions
Hold up a second. Are you really sure you want to try jungling already? I mean, you’re new to the game, and jungling is pretty tough. It requires a lot of map awareness, and a willingness to put the needs of everyone else (yes, even the Support) above your own well-being. The best description of jungling I’ve seen is that you’re job is to make sure that everyone else can do their jobs.
If top lane is getting crushed, your job is to get up there and stop the hemmoraging. If mid lane is getting ganked by the enemy jungler, your job is to sit in the brush near mid lane and be ready to counter-gank (coming out of the brush when their jungler engages and turning the tables on them. If the enemy jungler is stealing the buffs in your side of the jungle, your job is to set up wards and coordinate traps to catch the bugger off guard and make him pay.
In between solving everyone’s problems for them, junglers spend their time killing the neutral jungle camp NPCs for XP and gold, often in order to secure the buffs given by them for your mid and AD Carries.
Like I said, it’s not an easy role, but there is no better way to learn the layout of the map, and little facts like exactly how much time it takes to run from one side to the other. It’s also the best way to immerse yourself in the meta-game of LoL (the high level strategy of your team). You need to know what’s going on all the time, or you’re likely to get shouted at. Try it if you’re feeling brave, but I’d recommend starting with one of the other roles until you feel like you have a good handling on how the game works at a strategic level.
Sometimes the best way to deal with a problem is to punch it. And then keep punching until it explodes. That’s pretty much how Vi solves all her problems. And her biggest problem is that everyone on the enemy team is not dead yet.
Vi’s passive abilities give her a small damage shield when she’s punching, and allows every third punch she dishes out to deal extra damage and debuff the enemy. She can then power up specific punches to either launch herself at her target or punch so hard that bits of their body fly off and hit the people behind them.
After she warms up her boxing skills on the jungle creeps, she can go to a lane to gank an enemy champion. And thanks to her ultimate, Assault and Battery, she can sprint at them from the bushes, grab them by the scruff of the neck and, courtesy of one of the best animations in the entire game, leap with them into the air and punch them back down into the ground for huge damage.
It’s terrifying, it’s awesome, it’s brutal. That pretty much sums up Vi too.
Your Goal: Punch jungle minions until their dead, and then use your leaping punches to lock down enemy champions in their lanes so that you and your allies can kill them before they can flee. In teamfights, leap straight onto their AD Carry and make sure they die quickly.
Your Trick: Vault Breaker, the big punch that lets you leap into the fray can also be used to jump over small walls to either escape a bad fight, or surprise an enemy who think they’re all alone.
Nasus - The Objective-killer
Vi is the assassin, who believes that the best way to help her team is by killing enemy champions. Nasus is her opposite: focusing his energies on securing map objectives like dragon kills and tower pushes, which help his team win in a less-direct way.
Killing dragon is an extremely undervalued goal early in LoL. It gives bonus gold to your entire team and solid XP for anyone there who helps kill it. Nasus’ ultimate ability, which drains 5% of maximum HP of all enemies near him every second (and converts it into extra damage for himself) allows him to kill Dragon faster than pretty much any other jungler in the game.
His passive gives him a 20% lifesteal on all of his attacks, which will definitely help you stay alive as you learn just how strong each of the jungle camps are—and nothing is more embarassing for a jungler than dying to a pack of neutral minions in the jungle while no one else is around.
When teamfights roll around, Nasus pulls his weight—once again—not by killing enemies, but by helping his team accomplish their goals. His Wither ability will absolutely cripple the enemy AD Carry, making them worthless for the first 5 seconds of the fight, plenty of time for your team to tear them apart.
Your AoE spell, Spirit Fire, does damage and, more importantly, reduces the armor of everyone standing in it. Help your AD Carry secure kills by making sure his target is standing in that magical fire.
And, come on, Nasus is a giant egyptian dog. How can you not want to play that?
Your Goal: Clear jungle camps quickly and safely, then secure big global objectives like Dragon and tower kills before the other team can contest. In teamfights, shut down the enemy AD Carry and let your team do the work.
Your Trick: Your Siphoning Strike gets stronger every time you use it to last-hit a minion or champion. If you use it well, last-hitting at least 75% of your minion kills with it, it will be absolutely ridiculous damage by the end of the game.
Before you run any of these guys into an online PvP match, it’s worth trying each out at least once against the bots, as unexciting as that may sound. People will be much friendlier in bot matches, and will often offer advice for playing the champion if you ask for it. Having a basic understanding of how each ability works and when to use it will make a massive difference in your effectiveness in a “real” (PvP) game. It’s only forty minutes, and if you’re looking to invest serious time into League of Legends, forty minutes up front really isn't that bad.