League of Legends: Viewer Guide
How do I watch League of Legends?
Watching a professional esports game is not unlike watching a traditional sports game. There are two teams, one goal, one winner and one loser. Sometimes, it is very difficult to dive headfirst into an esport and understand what exactly is happening on your screen, that being said, they are not too complex to follow along with when you understand the basics. League of Legends is one of the more complex being a MOBA style game, but knowing some key things will make watching it much more understandable.
What is League of Legends?
League of Legends is a five versus five Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) where the two teams fight each other to take the enemies Nexus. Taking the Nexus is the only way to win the game in the professional scene. There is a lot going on at any given point and can be intimidating for a first time viewer to watch, but there are a lot of generalizations that can be made to help the viewer understand what important things are going on and how to identify them.
What is the “Pick and Ban Phase”?
The Pick and Ban Phase starts off every single professional match. It takes place after the initial analyst desk welcoming and discussion. On the left half of the screen you see the Blue side start Team and on the right you see the Red side start Team. Each side comes with different advantages, the only relative one for simple viewership is that the Left or Blue side gets the first Ban of the draft as well as the first pick while the Right or Red side gets the last Ban and last Pick.
First pick is relevant because you have the opportunity to lock in whatever Champion your team feels is the strongest in the current Metagame. Which is often agreed upon by every team. Oppositely, having last pick offers the best chance for a team to counter pick into the other team, which tends to show some fun strategic picks.
In Best of Scenarios, the winning team normally gets to select which side they want.
Sometimes the winning team will want to switch up what side they are on in an attempt to Draft a different team composition, depending on the current Meta, one side may actually have more advantages with higher win rates to back up that theory.
What do Casters and Analysts do?
During the Pick and Ban Phase the Casters will go over everything that pertains to the different scenarios from the Champions selected as some mind games go into the Pick and Ban Phase to bait out certain picks or bans.
Listening intently when the casters are speaking will help decode all the information that is on your screen, after awhile of hearing the casters and comparing it to what is on the screen things will start to click rather quickly. Try not to look at whatever active chat there is, often times the chats will be flooded with people making jokes or saying things that will mislead the layman. While playing the game is the best way to help understand what you’re watching, it isn’t at all necessary, especially if you have played a different video game.
What should I be looking for?
In game there are many visual aids that are utilized to help the viewer follow along with everything going on. The Casters will often times focus on what is immediately on screen but will occasionally nod to a statistic on one of the visual aids or follow along with a specific lane for a bit to make a point of how things are going on in the game elsewhere.
For someone starting off not having played the game before, the stuff on the top side of the screen is the most important. Information on the side of the screen are really only useful for people who understand the ins and outs of the gameplay, and can recognize what’s going on on the screen when they’re looking elsewhere.
The top of the screen shows the Team names on either side as well as either their win/loss or nothing. Going from the outside in, there is the number of tower taken by each team, the amount of collective gold each team has, below that would be which Drakes were taken, then the amount of kills each side has and below that is the length of the time the match has been.
All of these details are the essential information to understanding how a game is playing out. Gold is the first way to tell who is ahead, while kills may be the biggest number on the screen they don’t even tell half the story. Whoever has more gold has more items and in theory has stronger Champions at that given time. Kills, towers and minions all give Gold.
When a team has the Gold lead they are in a better position normally all around and have control over the game. The larger the gold lead the more power they have over the game.
Of course sometimes the team that is behind can still come back to win but their odds are increasingly unlikely the more that they fall behind in Gold and Objectives.
The top right and top left corners will show what Dragon buff is up, what the timer is on Dragon and Baron, and will show the amount of Gold accrued during the Baron Power Play.
What else is on the screen though?
While the top most part of the HUD is the easiest indicator of what the game is boiling down to or how plays impact different aspects of the game, the rest of the visual aids have some good information to look for as well after the base level of understanding is reached.
On the left and right sides of the screen you see the rosters for either team, ranked positionally from top to bottom. Here you can see the Champion Icon for who they are playing, along with their Ultimate ability, and Summoner spells and their timer for the next use, as well as their Keystone Rune and Secondary Nature Rune.
This information is important for recognizing when plays can be made, and keeping track of things like Flash and Teleport can show you ahead of time who can find what advantages in the next fight that may occur. Often time if there is a long lull in between fights it is because a majority of the players don’t have their abilities or Summoner spells ready, which gives them a slight disadvantage in initiating or even just being a part of the next fight.
The Keystone and other Rune information is more for speculation for people who play the game, to see what the pros think are the most optimal Runes to take into their matchups.
The bottom of the screen hosts the most amount of information, most of it is more or less either useless or repetitive. It may be nice to see the face of your favorite pro player on the screen but it really adds nothing to the understanding of what's happening on screen during a game. On the left you can see who the Observer is hovering over and some of the Stats and Cooldowns they have, none of this is essential and can be found elsewhere. It also constantly changes and can be hard to follow along with. Below it is usually a rotating sponsor plug, also relatively useless.
The far right bottom corner shows the minimap which can be used to see the whole team’s positioning as well as their vision, a lot of people who play the game can just watch this and understand what is happening and isn’t really all that important for people just watching the game.
In the center it shows the individual players Itemization as well as their Kills/Deaths/Assists and their amount of Creep Score (CS). this aid will often rotate to show the amount of Gold each player has individually both as a whole and that they have yet to spend.
What are the Casters saying?
Casters do their best to be noob friendly in their explanations and play by plays, however some of the traditional esports lingo makes it through and may go over the heads of some people new to the game. There are a lot of them and some references to specific things but we will try to cover some of the most basic and most used League of Legends related slang.
Tilt- Tilt refers to a players mindset, normally Casters will avoid using this term because of the negative connotations around it but this is a real term that relates to how a players mindset goes from positive to negative.
- Gank- when a Jungler is coming in to assist a lane, it is known as a Gank and can be referred to as a lane gank or river gank.
- Playing one side- Sides refer to either the top half of the map or bottom half of the map, different teams will favor one side of the other and focus on making plays and taking objectives on that side of the map to make the Champions there scale quicker.
- Scaling- Scaling or trying to scale references how a Champions power evolves over time. Obviously every Champion starts off weak, but some power scale in different ways and may take longer or shorter times to reach their optimal level of power.
- Base Race- Once in a Blue Moon games are super close and events play out that lead to any number of Champions from either team attacking the enemy base at the same time, whoever melts the Nexus faster wins the game. Sometimes these situations are immensely stressful and the whole screen changes to watch both sides attempting to win, listening to casters may not be enough to follow along here.
- Xpeke- Backdooring is the more common call for this but it was immortalized by a player named Xpeke who saved a game by sneaking into an enemies base and killing the Nexus.
- Smite Fight/ 50/50- Most often Refers to when both Junglers are contesting a neutral objective or when both teams are fighting in a very risky fight.
- Standard Play- Whether at the beginning, middle or end of the game, and sometimes in Pick and Ban, you will hear the term “Standard” it may seem obvious but Standard refers to the teams sticking with the Meta and playing out a game in a normal fashion, eventually the Meta will change and things that weren’t standard before will become standard.
- Clown Fiesta- Refers to when the game is the furthest thing from standard play, that the Casters are having a hard enough keeping a straight face, let alone giving a play by play.
- Synergy- Casters will talk about either a bot lane synergy or the synergy between two players and this refers to their ability to work well or poorly together.
- Flashy play- Sometimes pros show off their prowess by making unnecessary plays that come out in favor of themselves.
- Kite- When a ranged Champion is walking backwards and attacking melee Champions it is called Kiting.
- Recalling/Backing- Pertains to the ability that every Champion has to fast travel back to the nexus, used to escape situations or go back to buy.
- Reverse Sweep- This is a more common saying across all sports that have Best of Series games, when one team doesn’t win a game until Match point, then continues to win out the next couple of games until they win the whole series, it is called a reverse sweep.
It isn’t super important to memorize all of these quips. They are just frequently said and for the most part refer to things that would be unfamiliar to you. Don’t let these words overwhelm you when you first start to watch, with time, just like everything else, they will become second nature and just another part of the great game you’re watching.
There are some catch phrases to look out for as well that really help with identifying casters’ hype around something. They aren’t the most amazing things but you will hear them multiple times in a day and can use them as references to what casters think was good or bad about something.
Too little too late is one of the most common, I feel as though I hear it a lot in every Esport I watch but for whatever reason it gets said in every english cast to end the game.
While it is not part of the game per se, an easy way to learn more about the game is to watch and/or listen to the pregame show and the LCS Cooldown at the end of the weekend for NA, the LEC also has their version of both and they all offer a little more insight to the inner workings of the game. After every game there is an analytical discussion that also helps teach everyone more about why the game went the way it did.
As brought to our attention by Weldon and some other big names in the scene, these only offer an outside looking in opinion, but a lot of what they say is based off of good ideas and can be trusted until told otherwise. Because even if the means isn’t true, the end is and can be a potential reason either way.
The analyst desk also offers storylines that can help keep people interested, things like the TSM and TL trophy cases, when a player leaves their old team and then meets them in the Finals with their new team.
Who should I cheer for?
Every game a fan watches is ten times more fun when their favorite team is playing. If you’ve never watched before it’s important to note that even a team with a losing record can have more fans than the one winning the split. There are a few bandwagons but there is a lot less bandwagon shaming in Esports. For North American teams the ones with the most amount of fans would be Team SoloMid, Team Liquid, 100 thieves and Cloud 9. Over in the LEC, G2, Fnatic, Vitality and Origen boast a great number of fans.
There are a lot of underdogs in each league as over the past few years the same three or four teams repeat their appearances in playoffs as well as the World Championships. When picking a team to follow you can do it based off of anything, which players you like, what logo you like, the fan chants for their team, etc. When Worlds comes around however, those predispositions go out the window and we are all cheering for any of our regions representatives.
Don’t be afraid to cheer for multiple teams, sometimes it's hard to see some teams consistently lose out, and we really want to see certain players succeed where they haven't been able to.
Can I watch games from previous years?
League of Legends has grown up over the past decade. Graphical changes, over a hundred Champions with new ones coming out periodically, and live production has gotten better as well. There is a certain nuance to the old VODs though, you can learn a lot about the games history and watch the evolution that League of Legends in its entirety has changed. Look for old story lines and watch the growth of some pro players that have been here from the beginning. Sometimes it brings another level of appreciation for the analysts and casters when you see how much they have grown as well. Finding a team that you want to cheer on can be easier as well, when you follow the story of Regi and Hotshot maybe you take one or the others’ side and cheer for TSM or CLG in their El Classico matches.
So how can I be a better League of Legends fan?
Unfortunately for the newcomer, playing the game is the best way to learn how to watch. The more you understand how things work in game the easier it becomes to follow along and understand each individual aspect of what you see on the screen when you watch. It is recommended as League is a great game with something for every kind of player. Even the Rotating game modes offer some deeper insight to how things work.
If you have played another MOBA before than it may come easier to you when you’re watching as LoL contains so many similarities to other MOBAs.
It is a tug of war style game which leads to a lot of highs and lows for both sides leading to some intense matches. Sometimes, however, games can be a complete methodical sweep which, if they are longer, can turn into a rather boring game to watch, but if it’s a hit and run quick game then it becomes more sad or hype to watch.
Are there other ways to watch League?
Twitch is the main way people spectate the games, but YouTube and lolesports.com also show the games live. There are many different ways to view and the League website offers more stats and graphics on the page that may be helpful for newcomers. If you’re looking to learn more about anything specific that goes on in League of Legends, you can find it in our other guides as well as on Leagues website. There is a lot of outside information that can expand your knowledge on the universe Runeterra is in, as well as the schedule for professional matches that you may want to watch. The LCS starts around 14:00 MST on Saturdays while it starts at 12:00 MST on Sundays. LEC starts on Fridays at 0900 MST and on Saturdays at 0800 MST. While the Korean (LCK) and Chinese (LPL) scenes may offer some higher level games, they are available at some odd times for those of us in European and North American time zones.
Chanting TSM, and playing League of Legends.
Playing the game is again recommended but isn’t at all necessary to understanding what you’re watching. The big thing is to continue to watch and support your favorite teams. It may take awhile for things to click but when they do you’ll be chanting TSM in a region TSM’s never been to in no time. If you do decide to pick up the game and try it out make sure to check out our guides, suited for any skill level.