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

Highlights from the 2012 Dota 2 International tournament.


Whenever you play a MOBA match, you have to worry about two currencies: XP and gold. XP gets you skills by leveling you up, and gold gets you items to improve your hero. Each item is, in essence, a new skill for the hero, even if it’s not actively a skill. They can drastically change the course of a game by increasing critical damage, giving you a way to escape disables, or simply increasing your health to absurd levels. Items are the way your carries get good in fights, and without them they simply can’t get anywhere. You may think it’s silly that your archer is carrying four different types of axes, but when she kills an enemy hero in one shot you will be thankful.

Most MOBAs have a mix of active and passive items. Passive items buff the character, giving them a significant amount of stats. Active items don’t have stat bonuses as strong as passive items, but they make up for it by giving the player a new ability. These abilities range from the defense – like making yourself immune to magic damage – to the offensive, like creating clones of yourself that also deal damage. A good MOBA will often have a lot of active items, as it adds to the potential skill base and allows players to customize their skill set. Pick and choose the best ones for your situation, as a fantastic item in one game can be an embarrassment in the next.

A common theme among MOBAs is that items can also gain levels. Not through XP, mind you, but by purchasing other items and recipes to combine them into big items. Rather than buying items and selling them as you gain levels (a la Diablo), you are encouraged to get items that combine into great late-game gear. Some MOBAs change this up and make it so that you purchase higher levels in an item with more gold, but they are the minority. In either case, items are absolutely essential for winning, so make sure to shop often!

I’m sure after all that you are ready to enter the big bad world of MOBAs. Good! Keep in mind that all of the concepts I discussed here are the bare basics. Each MOBA game is slightly different, and terms mentioned and discussed here are simply the most common ones. The easiest way to get into the genre is simply by playing, and the most popular MOBAs have bots for you to practice against before striking out into the real world. Most new players are matched with low Elo opponents to start as well, which gives you a grace period to learn the game. Don’t be discouraged if you lose a lot, as it is bound to happen during your learning period.

If you want to share your own strategies and tips, feel free to drop a comment below!

Get started right with Game Front’s League of Legends Beginner’s Guide, or learn how to succeed with these Champion-specific Rammus, Annie, and Ashe guides.

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