Don't panic if this FAQ is long! Just use ctrl+f to search for the most pressing concerns you have regarding buying a new champion. Take it easy, you don't have to read this all through.
Having seen a rise in the number of "help me pick a champion" threads, I thought I'd post a compilation of some of the most frequently asked questions. These are just to help you rationalize your choice on the character you want to play. I'll try to build this guide to last from one game version to another, so expect updates. Also, if you'd like to add a question, feel free. I'll try to answer myself, or seek an answer (or pick one from the replies) and then I'll edit the question in to this first post on the thread (so only checking this one page will keep you updated).
About me, in short:
- I started playing last spring.
- I bought Master Yi as soon as I hit 400 IP, went 60% win ratio with him.
- I bought Tryndamere as soon as I could afford, went 60-75% win/loss ratio.
- I never used runes until level 20, at which point I bought Xin Zhao, Vladimir and Kassadin with skins using RP and spent ~15k IP that I had saved to build runes for Vlad and Kas.
- For every character I play, I have read at least five to ten guides from various sources.
- Currently I have a win/loss ratio of 55-60% which counts as "above average" in elo terms. I have rarely more than five deaths and less than ten kills in a match, but this varies with the champions I play.
- I don't claim to be an all-knowing pro, but I do try to do enough research to answer with credibility. The purpose is to help, not boost my ego by portraying vast knowledge. If I make a mistake, point it out and I will fix it.
There are no stupid questions, only stupid people who flame people asking questions.
1) Champion cost related questions
Q: I have ~3k IP, should I buy a champion or wait until I have 6300?
A: Up to you. I'd suggest you read through this entire FAQ to determine if there's a champion in the 3k points range you want more than any of the more expensive ones.
Q: Are 6300 IP champions more powerful?
A: This depends. General answer would be: If played right, any champion can kill any other champion. Then again, it's hardly ever so simple. This game is not 100% balanced, the black moon's aligment with the red moon is not fruitful for your spellcasting and the guy on the mid lane always yells at you if you bought The Widowmaker (Eve). From a newcomer's point of view, 6k champions are usually more complicated but possibly more rewarding to play. Also, the higher level you are, the less you will see below 6k champions being played. Still, I've seen a people or two who push Tryndamere into 17-0-20 legendary sprees. In fact, I sometimes do the same with Kassadin.
Q: I just started this game. Do I need to buy Riot Points with real life credits to get a champion?
A: No. You can just play with rotated champions (as in, the weekly changing champions that are free to play). After you have some experience under your belt, you can pick a champion you like and buy that.
Q: But I have my dad's credit card and I want to own?
A: Then buy some rare 6300 IP champion. Blitzcrank, Mordekaiser and Vladimir for example can be very powerful in beginner league when you're level one, because no one has a clue how to play against them. Then again, you also don't have a clue how to play them, unless you read guides, which again is hard because they may contain terminology you're yet unfamiliar with.
Q: I don't have my dad's credit card and my boy-/girlfriend won't loan me any money. Am I handicapped now?
A: No. Like I said, you can play with free champions and not do any worse. In fact, you might do better in later levels because you have a good general idea of how a lot of different champions work.
Q: At what level should I buy my first champion? Are those 400 IP champions worth it?
A: Some people say that it's best to play rotated champions until level 10. I bought Yi at level four and was happy with him until I could afford Tryndamere. All in all, I'd say it doesn't matter, buy a champion whenever you find something you like. Just make sure you get some experience playing other champions too, not just the one you own. I also recommend saving IP for runes when you're getting near level 20, some thousands above 10k should be enough for a full page.
Tip: You can buy a champion early on and master him/her/it to get good win/loss ratios and high elo rating right from the start. To prevent yourself from limiting your perspective to only that one champion though, play practice games with random champion picks. It's good fun especially if you are fortunate enough to gather six to ten friends to do it. Be sure to play at least five of these every champion rotation week and you'll soon have played every champion in the game at least once.
2) How to determine a good champion for yourself.
The following is just a list of questions you should ask yourself. Answers are not provided, 'cause you're meant to think these through all on your own.
- Can I afford the champion
- Does he look frickin' awesome and have a nice background story
- Does my background music / soundtrack fit the champion
- Do I aim to deal tons of damage and / or play solo in the middle
- Do I am to help my team mates and generally gain assists and not as many kills
- Do I am to assist my team and hinder enemy champions, gaining mostly assists
- Do I want to prosper in early game, usually making me weaker in the late game
- Do I want to prosper in late game, usually struggling at start
- Do I aim to build all my characters around a certain set of runes, making it easy because I only need one rune page.
- Do I am to have lots of different types of characters so I have broad experience and capability to adapt to different situations.
- Do I want to try a lot of different characters, then build my rune pages around the ones I like most.
- Do I care if some obviously-more-skilled-than-anyone-else on my team tells me our team can't win because I picked the wrong champion.
Now the Q&A part:
Q: You said assisting (support/heal/tank) characters don't get a lot of kills
A: Yes, because I assume you're pretty new to the game. Once you get a good feel of how to play a tank or a support character like Soraka you will be gaining kills. Of course, you can just read a guide on how to build your support character into a damage-per-second killing machine, but this hinders your ability to act in a purely supportive role. As such, a tank with just tanking items focusing on survival will not land too many killing blows until you learn to time your abilities and survive in the chaos of team fights without having to focus on it.
Q: I want to play a champion, but I'm told he / she is not a good pick
A: This depends who's saying so. For example, if your friend wants you both to have characters that lane well together, then it's probably not beneficial to play a character that has very little synergy with other champions. Vladimir comes to mind as an example. Then you can reconsider, but if you still think you want to play a certain champion then go for it and negotiate with your friend. I've won on a lane with Kassadin pairing with Tryndamere, but it certainly wasn't easy. Still, because me and my friend both played a champion we enjoyed and had a lot of experience in using them, we managed to make it work.
Q: I read on the forums that champion I'm about to buy fails but I absolutely want to try her / him
A: Read some guides first. They usually have surprising insight into a champion. If you think the reason why people consider your pick is weak is something you can overcome, then go for it. Prepare for a high learning curve though. Possibly lots of deaths and tons of flaming from angry teammates too. For example, Ezreal is very hard to play in middle lane because you're 1v1 against enemy champion who can solely focus on dodging your abilities. You have a lot higher chance hitting your targets from a bush on bot / top lane with your lanemate keeping the enemy's attention on himself. This doesn't mean you can't go middle as Ezreal though, but you have to know what you're doing before you can expect to be highly succesful.
Q: I want an overpowered champion for easy play.
A: If you think you can skip reading guides and learning curve by getting something that's supposed to be insta-win you're wrong. If you want to be succesful, you need to work hard. Then again, if you've read through the whole FAQ this far, you probably are aware of these basic facts of life.
Q: What does difficulty in the champion description mean then?
A: It means how quickly you can grasp a champion's basic concept and run it succesfully. For example, Tryndamere is listed hard to play because he relies heavily on his ulti and especially inexperienced players tend to die on him a lot before they learn to kill even when the ulti is not up. Or at least learn not to make ten second tower dives when the ulti only lasts four seconds. Playing an easy champion does not mean it's easier to win a game, bear this in mind. Especially when your lane partner asks you how come you just died when even a monkey could play your champion properly (because obviously, your lane partner is mistaken).
Q: I don't know what my playstyle is!
A: Then play free champions to find out. For example, some people find tanks boring compared to the sexy "livin' on the edge" nukers that do loads of damage in short time, but also take loads of damage and die in a short time. Others, on the other hand, think tanks are great to play because they contribute to the team instead of bonkering around solo casting boring damage spells. Some people like carry characters because they start weak and develop into huge killing machines, others prefer to aim for first blood by preying on this said type of champions early on. It's all up to you, and only you know what you like after you've tried'em all.
Q: I still don't know what kind of champions I want to have!
A: Then make sure you have and (know how to play) at least one tank, one melee dps and one ranged dps. One of them at least should be a carry.
Q: I can't decide between X, Y and Z!
A: Buying them all is the only way to be sure. If that's not an option, ask your friends what character they'd need to fit their team, ask on the forums what certain characters are like to play, read guides about them all and see what kind of builds are effective for them. For example, if you discover that character Z has a runebuild that does not line up with your other champions then you can cross him out of the list. If you at this point find that you like Z so much you might want to have him anyway, then consider if your intended rune build needs changing.
Q: Is there a champion you wouldn't recommend?
A: Not really. I will only single out one champion, which is Warwick. Not because he fails, but because to a lot of people he epitomizes jungling playstyle. This means he will not lane but spends the first six levels killing minions and acquiring buffs in a bush. That playstyle is very different from typical laning and hard to grasp without any previous experience or knowledge of the layout of the map (mob positions etc.). You can still take Warwick and play him on a lane, of course. Or you can try jungle if you want to (on some other characters too, Shaco for example). But you have been warned.
Q: Are all champions equally good?
A: No. Nor will they ever be. No game in history has ever been 100% balanced. However, neither do all players have equal skills. You can take a champion people consider an underdog and turn it into mean killing machine. I'm yet to meet a champion who would absolutely not be able to get statistics like 20-0-25, some champions just take a lot more work before achieving this than others.
3) Playing competitive
Q: I play Shaco and I was told he always gets banned in ranked games, what does this mean?
A: In ranked games, both teams have captains that take turns excluding champions from the game. These champions, called banned, cannot be picked in the character selection that follows. There are certain champions that get banned more often than others because they are considered serious threats if the opposing team is allowed to play them. There are usually lists somewhere on the forums of champions who most often get excluded from ranked games. Paranoid people also ban characters that are flamed as op currently, so follow the forums. If you find yourself playing such a character, there's not much you can do apart from making sure you have a good secondary rune build and character you like to play in case your main gets banned.
Q: You talk a lot about reading guides?
A: Reading guides should not be boring and feel like work. However, they are the most effective way to win. I read around five to ten guides through for each champion I intend to buy to have a good general idea what kind of playstyles work on the character and what don't. If you feel you just want to play LoL once or twice a week and chill out, then don't worry about guides. If you want to aim for 90% win/loss ratio to gain the right to call yourself a pro, then guides are a must. Simply because they offer so much insight into how each champion works and by following their different builds you get a feel of what items you want and how you want your champion to function. Playing the game takes a lot more than just theory, but playing by guides also give you a good mindset and solid starting ground. Above all, they make it easier to face an enemy who play the same champion as you do - which is something a lot of people hate. In addition, more guides you read, the better you get in evaluating what guides actually might work in practice and would be worth trying.
Q: Do I need runes to win?
A: From my personal experience, you can do fine without until about level 25. Sooner or later though, you'll run into Veigar who takes 75% of your health off with a single spell or Xin Zhao who seems to be able to stun you every third second. You can still win them if you play well, so runes may not make or break a game. However, with right runes on a right character (read: someone you play game after game and still love), with a solid guide and loads of experience, you can become nigh unstoppable in normal games. I also wouldn't try ranked without having a rune build I've tested in plenty of games first.
Q: Is it worth it to buy Tier 1 or Tier 2 runes for my champion?
A: There are mixed opinions about this. I personally didn't buy runes before I was able to buy Tier 3, and I don't regret that decision. If you want to buy only one champion and get a rune build for him then go ahead, there are many paths to being a warrior.
Q: What champions are most often invited to highly ranked teams?
A: If you aim to get a sure spot on a world-class guild, learn a tank or support. Any champion will do good, however, as long as you can play him and play in a team. Smart, strategically minded people who spend time reading tactics and tweaking their playstyle are overall more valued. This brings us to the great irony of how the rude know-it-alls in normal games rarely gain spots in the best of the best. If you never learn to play in a team, you never learn to win as a team.