MOBA Games 201: Beginner’s Guide to League of Legends
Malzahar pitted against Trundle. Malzahar’s “zone” is depicted in green.
The most obvious change in League of Legends – as compared to Dota and similar titles – is the removal of the attributes system. Instead of having attributes like strength or agility that impact smaller stats like armor and health regen, League focuses on those smaller stats. Instead of getting strength items, you get health and regeneration items. Instead of increasing a primary attribute to deal more damage, you simply increase damage. It’s a very easy system to comprehend compared to Dota, and serves to make the game more accessible for those just starting. Most important of these stats are attack damage (AD) and ability power (AP). They increase physical and magical damage, respectively.
Zoning is an important advanced concept in League, as the game balance emphasizes harassment over the “all-in” commitment that other MOBA games have. Each hero has a zone that they are most dangerous in, and the main draw of League is maintaining yourself so that you are in a stronger position than the enemy. Think of it like zone defense in football. Each hero has an imprint on the field where they can potentially alter the course of the game, and entering that zone pits heroes against each other.
A lot of good heroes have reach that extends far beyond their standard zone. These heroes are often known as zoners, as they have the ability to control the battlefield in unexpected and interesting ways. My personal favorite zoners are Orianna and Malzahar, as they have unequaled reach when it comes to harassing and controlling enemy movements. Any hero that forces an enemy to move in odd patterns can be thought of as a strong zoner, though. Heroes like Amumu, Blitzcrank, and Heimerdinger often force the enemy into taking different routes or risk taking absurd amounts of damage. That’s good zoning!
League of Legends also introduces another concept that is absent from the more traditional DOTA design. As you can’t destroy trees in League, the complex interactions in setting up paths and knocking down trees for vision is gone. In its place are clumps of brush. These clumps are zones that players can not see beyond and which hide players inside. Thus, you can get the drop on an enemy player as they enter or pass by brush where you are hiding. If you are face-checking (running blindly into) brush, then you almost deserve to get destroyed. Not even a nice set of masteries and runes can save you from a mistake like that.