League of Legends (LoL) is the biggest esport in the world. It’s also the only setting where a sentence like “My armored polar bear just executed a tiny fluffy man throwing wrenches at dragons” makes any sense at all.
It’s played professionally every week all over the world, including in North America, Europe, China, and Brazil. So it’s the natural first game for DraftKings’ esports fantasy contests.
But before we kick off the contests, we want to give you a brief explanation of what LoL is all about, and why it’s such a fun fantasy sport.
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The BasicsLeague of Legends is a 5v5 Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA), which means that each player on a team controls one character and they battle against another team of players. During the course of a single match, the players’ characters gain experience and items, which increase their power and give them access to new abilities.
There are many ways to earn experience and items, but it mostly comes down to killing things. You can kill the players on the other team (who will return to the field after a brief time out when killed), small minions in the opposing team’s army that try to fight their way into your base, and neutral monsters that mind their own business.
A lot of the skill comes from micromanaging all of the actions you could take in a game, and choosing and executing the best ones. Do you take a step forward and risk getting attacked so that you can get a little more gold? When an enemy player ambushes you from the bushes, how do you respond to get away safely? How do you work with teammates to secure important objectives or bait the opposing team into a trap? These are the sorts of things that demand a very high combination of strategy, quick-thinking, and god-like reflexes at the pro level.
The ultimate goal is to destroy the enemy team’s base by fighting down one or more of the lanes, destroying buildings as you go.Don’t worry if all of that sounds pretty complicated. MOBAs are famous for being one of the most difficult genre of video games to learn, but it’s easy to understand what you need to play fantasy.
Choose Your ChampionThe last big slice of the delicious LoL esports pie is champion selection. At the start of each game, players each choose one champion to play for that match. This choice determines the abilities they’ll have access to, which can do all sorts of things like heal allies, summon monsters, or assassinate a far-away target.
There are currently 126 champions, all of which have a unique set of abilities that let them specialize in certain tactics or strategies. Many pro players have signature champions that they excel at, similar to how traditional sport athletes are famous for particular play styles or moves.
Photo Credit: League of Legends
A big part of professional matches is choosing champions—done in a draft format before each match. You can build specific team compositions to accomplish certain goals. For example, you can pick all long-range damage dealers and try to win by throwing out pain from afar or you can pick hard-to-kill brawlers that force fights and soak up the pain longer than their opponents can.
Photo Credit: League of LegendsThere are countless strategies to try, and because the game is frequently updated by the developer, pro teams are constantly finding new team compositions to surprise their opponents with.
The RolesThere are five positions on a professional LoL team, mostly defined by the in-game location they spend most of their time in during a match.
Top Lane: These stalwart players are typically tasked with protecting one of the three lanes all by themselves. They’re self-reliant and sturdy—the reliable rock of the team.
Mid Lane: These superstars are often the most famous players on the roster. They stay safe in mid lane, where they can amass lots of power quickly and roam around to rack up kills. They frequently play damage-heavy champions that let them flex their immense skill and carry their team to victory.
Marksman: These steady damage dealers are the team’s late-game insurance. An hour into a match, no one deals more damage than the marksman, but they need protection early in the game, where they’re traditionally weak.
Support: These selfless souls help the Marksman survive, while also roaming around to help other lanes and make sure no one gets flanked by the enemy.
Jungler: The jungler is the only player that isn’t dedicated to one of the main lanes. Instead, they hunt neutral minions in the jungle area between lanes and try to surprise opponents with ambushes.
Photo Credit: Riot esports Flickr
For fantasy, these roles are similar to roster positions in other sports. You’ll often draft players by position—1 top laner, 1 mid laner, etc.—and a big part of winning is learning which position should do well in a particular matchup. For example, if a team has a weak top laner, then the top laner on the other team should score big because they’ll be able to bully their opponent and power up early.That’s another key difference between LoL esports and traditional sports: characters in LoL get more powerful if they’re you’re winning the match. Jamaal Charles is always going to run hard and hit hard, no matter how his team is doing. But in League of Legends, a player’s champion gets more innate power (abilities and items) as they acquire resources, which they get by killing enemies. So the better their team is doing in a match, the more power the player’s character gets and the more likely they are to snowball that lead into more fantasy points.
Watch It NowLeague of Legends is one of the most frequently played esports, and all of it is available for viewing online for free, which makes it super easy to find a match and start learning about the game, the players, and the teams.
The best place to start is Riot Games’ official videos page, which lets you find games from every professional region and tournament.
The closest Josh Augustine ever got to going pro in esports was beating his older brother at Street Fighter. He currently works as a game designer on EverQuest Next at Daybreak Games. He’d love to talk with you on Twitter.