New To League/Gameplay/Power Increases

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TL;DR

Champions get stronger over the course of the game by increasing in level from experience and buying items with gold. Being near enemies that die gives experience; killing enemies gives gold. Don't worry about "runes".

This page talks about ways in which champions and other units get stronger over the course of a game. There are a few ways for that to happen.

Runes

The game has evolved to such an extent, where being able to recognize the runes a player has chosen is actually important. Runes are basically ways of customizing the stats that your champion starts out with prior to the start of game, to a certain extent. They are extremely important to understand if you're going to play League of Legends yourself, but for understanding the esport enough to watch it, it's unimportant to know exactly how they work. A general picture of how they function, especially the Keystones, is more than enough. You can take a look at the champion portraits on the right and left sides of the stream overlay to see the primary, part of which are the keystones, and secondary rune tree choices every player has made.

Experience and Levels

Just like in many other games, your champion levels up over the course of each game in League of Legends. At the beginning of the game, champions start at level 1, and then they gain more and more levels all the way up to a maximum of level 18. At each level, a champion gains base stats (armor, health, and sometimes magic resist) and an extra skill point to allot. The player chooses where to allot the skill point, with a few restrictions.

  • In almost all cases, champions start at level 1 with 0 points in any skills, and 1 skill point to allot. (Exceptions: KarmaSquare.png Karma, JayceSquare.png Jayce, NidaleeSquare.png Nidalee, EliseSquare.png Elise)
  • Champions cannot cast spells that they haven't learned yet. To learn a spell is to put a skill point into that skill for the first time.
  • Point 1 allows the champion to cast the spell at all, points 2+ make that spell stronger.

Restrictions on leveling spells:

  • Points may not be put into Ultimates until level 6.
  • The number of points in an Ultimate must always be less than (Champion Level) / 5.
  • The number of points in a regular ability must be at most (Champion Level + 1) / 2.
  • Ultimates can only be leveled up to 3 points total.
  • Other abilities can only be leveled up to 5 points total.

Experience

Generally speaking, you get experience (usually abbreviated EXP and pronounced E-X-P, sometimes XP) from being near dying enemy units. The maximum distance you can be from a dying enemy unit and still get experience is known as experience range. Neutral monsters give experience as well.

Each champion level has a certain amount of experience required to reach it; upon reaching that amount of net experience gain, you automatically gain the level and are prompted to choose a skill to allot your new skill point to.

Ultimates

Synonyms: Ult, Ulti, R.

Ultimates are typically very powerful spells on a long cooldown, though, as always, there are some exceptions (such as CorkiSquare.png Corki's Missile Barrage.png Missile Barrage and Kog'MawSquare.png Kog'Maw's Living Artillery.png Living Artillery). In all cases, skill points cannot be allotted into an Ultimate until level 6.

Special cases:

  • UdyrSquare.png Udyr does not have an Ultimate.
  • NidaleeSquare.png Nidalee, JayceSquare.png Jayce, KarmaSquare.png Karma, and EliseSquare.png Elise are granted their ultimate at level 1, but they still may not spend skill points on it until 6.

Gold and Items

In addition to earning experience and leveling skills, champions can get stronger by earning gold and then buying ingame items through the game shop (located in each team's fountains). Items are bought with a resource called gold. There are hundreds available items, and some items can be combined together to make stronger items. For example, if you buy an  Amplifying Tome and a  Ruby Crystal, you can spend 665 additional gold to combine those two items into a  Haunting Guise. This process removes the Amplifying Tome and Ruby Crystal from your inventory, replacing it with the Haunting Guise (a stronger item). Every item that can be built out of components like that has a unique way of being built.

Items in League of Legends can provide many different stats, including:

Items frequently also have secondary effects in addition to the stats that they give. For example, if you buy a  Phage, then you gain a brief movement speed bonus immediately after each autoattack. Some items have activatable effects; such items are called "active items."

For more information about items, see this page. You can also find a complete list of items with full descriptions of what they do here (takes you out of the New to League section).

Gold

Gold is granted in a few ways:

  • Passively (every champion gets a set amount of gold every second of the game, built into the game)
  • By killing a unit - every champion kill or creep last-hit grants gold to the killer
  • By assisting on a champion kill - See below.
  • By being on a team that kills a Tower or Baron - a certain amount of gold is granted to each champion on a team that secures one of those objectives
  • By purchasing one of a few items that grant bonus passive gold generation or bonus gold in other ways (a few of the jungler and support items found here).

Assists

Understanding kills is fairly straightforward (whoever deals the last bit of damage that causes the unit to die gets the kill), but assists are a bit more complicated. In short, any player who contributes to a champion kill will get an assist on the kill. It is not possible to get assists for minion kills.

  • If OriannaSquare.png Orianna damages ZedSquare.png Zed, and then Orianna's ally VayneSquare.png Vayne kills Zed a couple seconds later, Orianna will get an assist.
  • If LuluSquare.png Lulu provides a shield to Vayne right before she kills Zed, Lulu will get an assist.
  • If Lulu provides a shield to Orianna, who damages Zed prior to Vayne killing Zed, and that's Lulu's only contribution, Lulu will still get an assist.
  • If Lulu Whimsy.png polymorphs Zed (dealing 0 damage but applying a crowd control to him), and that's her only contribution to Vayne's kill, Lulu will still get an assist.