MOBA Games 101: Beginner’s Guide to League of Legends, Dota 2 & More

A collection of heroes from League of Legends.


Heroes are the core focus of all MOBAs, and rightly so. Each hero has the potential to completely alter the course of the match and the fight, although some are better at it than others. Killing heroes both removes them from the game for a short while and gives a huge chunk of XP and gold, so stopping enemies from getting too powerful is a huge priority. This is usually accomplished through ganks, which is when an ally sneaks up on an enemy hero and kills them. If they chase the hero into the tower for the kill, it is known as diving. A failed gank usually forces an enemy out of lane (thus denying them gold and XP), so even a gank that doesn’t result in a kill can be helpful. Unless the ganking player dies. That’s just straight up embarrassing.

If you die too much to the enemy team, it is known as feeding. An enemy player that has a lot of kills is “fat” and usually ends up far ahead in both gold and XP, which makes it even harder to take them out. There is nothing more frustrating than fighting some guy who has 20 kills and no deaths, as he has likely grabbed all the items necessary to completely destroy you. Most people frown on feeders, for obvious reasons, but a player with a lot of deaths and few kills is not necessarily a feeder. For example, a hero whose purpose is to take damage from enemy players will often die during a team fight, but his death enables his team to win the fight. Feeding is when a player dies constantly without contributing, rendering him a simple tasty snack for whatever hero has the munchies.

Two heroes fighting near a jungle camp in League of Legends.

Heroes are usually separated into four categories: carries, nukers, supports, and initiators.

  • Carries are the most common category of hero, and for good reason: they are how you win. To be specific, carries are your main damage output, and they will win games simply by being so lethal to the enemy team. They are called carries because they “carry the team on their back.” Naturally, people who play carries a lot think they are incredible, professional-quality players because they get all the kills. Carries generally have different times when they are useful, so while one carry might be dominant at 20 minutes, another might take over at 40. There are also “hard” and “semi-” carries. Hard carries are heroes with not a lot of utility, but which are exceedingly good at killing enemy heroes once they get enough farm. Semi-carries are heroes who are best in a different role, but can also carry thanks to their strong abilities.
  • Nukers are similar to carries in that they deal a ton of damage. However, unlike carries, they aren’t designed around sustained damage. Thus, nukers tend to be excellent at taking out enemies which have low health or defense. Nukers often play the role of anti-carry, as most carries are all offense and little defense. With no carry in a fight, an enemy team is at a significant disadvantage and will often lose. Nukers are also the best way to get the enemy carry to ragequit. Nothing quite like making somebody so mad they flip over the board and flip everybody the finger!
  • Supports are designed to do a few things: disable enemy players and support friendly players, specifically carries. In both cases, a good support’s value to the team isn’t just measured in kills but also in assists. A support that has zero kills, five deaths, and 25 assists is playing correctly. Disables are usually simple and consist of status effects like slows, stuns, silences (can’t use abilities), and other ways to take heroes out of a fight. Support abilities range from the direct (heals) to the indirect (aura that gives mana regeneration) and are often the biggest influence on a team fight. Supports are generally a thankless job, but a necessary one, so expect to deal with whiners a lot when you play a hero like this.
  • Initiators are the big scary guys. They are the dudes that jump into your team, disable everyone, and set up their team for the big kill. Thus, initiators are all about two things: staying alive and going all in. Most have a teleport of some kind that enables them to set up the fight, but some also bring the fight home by grabbing enemy heroes or otherwise displacing them into allied teammates. They are best at catching enemies out of position and capitalizing on their mistakes. A good initiator is absolutely necessary for a strong team, while having no initiator will often lose games before they even begin. Initiators are also best known for “rolling hard”, “rolling deep”, and “not giving a damn”. Don’t let that enemy hero intimidate you!

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