This could have been three times as long. It would have been mostly fluff. I just thought you should know. I've broken this guide into a whole bunch of sections. Here's the Table of Contents. I'll hyperlink each section once I've posted it. Sound cool?
II. Runes and Masteries
III. Level One
VI. First Tower
VII. Sieging and Countersieging
Here are five statements you should remember whenever you enter solo queue. I'll go into detail below.
5) You are not better at League than the other players in your lobby. Not even you, random internet denizen currently cursing at your computer because you know you'd be Platinum if your teammates were even a little better.
4) You are not equally good at all roles or positions.
3) There is a role you like to play the most--know it! There's also a role you like playing the second most, and third most.
2) Everyone in the lobby wants to win the game. Even that guy who says he'll troll if he doesn't get mid. Yup, even that guy who claims to know your mother more intimately than your dad would like to hear.
1) You are going to lose half of the games you play.
Let's break it down.
5) You are not better at League than the other players in your lobby.
You just aren't better than the other players in queue with you. You aren't. If you were, you'd be playing with better players than you currently are, who you would also not be better than. It's the fundamental bedrock of matchmaking (it's so important that I was willing to be redundant--that's really important).
Why does this matter? Because people have a tendency to argue. And they don't default to trust. We're also egotists. If your heart was set on playing Akali mid, and some guy is trying to boggart your role, you're inevitably going to start viewing him as a sweaty, mouth-breathing troll who couldn't beat you 1v1 even if he used old Gragas red elixir cheese. You have to fight the reaction. Default to trust.
4) You are not equally good at all roles or positions.
"Fill or feed," they'll say. Or, "I can play wherever, just tell me where I need to go." They have the best intentions. But they are wrong. If you "fill," but take Jayce top when the team has no tank, then it's fairer to say you "fucked everyone over" more than you "filled" the team's need. Even if you recognize the need and switch to Shyvana, if you can't play Shyvana or don't know how to build for tankiness and peel, then you're still more of a liability than an asset. The team probably'd be better off if you just stuck with Jayce.
I want to emphasize, the fill mentality is awesome. If you have it, pick roles that are less contested and practice until you can Flash-Crescendo with the best of them. Traditionally these are often Support botlane, tank/peel Jungle and Marksman botlane, but that could change. By specializing, you're filling the most likely roles that you would have ended up in anyway, and the lobbies in which not a single one of the five of you play mid or top are rarer than a blue Hurricane (by the way, if you click that link, where it says, "hundreds of dollars," it means "thousands on thousands of dollars").
Why does this matter? Because roles are a hell of a lot more important than most solo queue players let on. If you want to win more games, starting right this second, repeat after me: "I know my role and I can play it." Tank, Support, Fighter, Mage, Marksman, Assassin.
If you truly want to win more games, starting right this second, know you will have a huge advantage with a competent Tank and a decent Marksman on Summoner's Rift. The Tank peels and protects the Marksman, while soaking up damage and disrupting the opposing team's efforts at killing his other squishy friends.
Assuming you can't coordinate perfectly for whatever reason, you'll instantly increase your chance of success if you also have a Toplane Tank/Bruiser who can crowd control against dives or initiate, along with a Jungle Off-tank with a little damage and disruption. Sprinkle in a Mage who can AoE from the backlines, protected alongside the Marksman by a utility Support featuring tons-of-peel. The final mélange will be a spicy little number capable of explodifying nexi in record time.
3) There is a role you like to play the most, know it!
There is a role you like playing more than the others. Odds favor you prefer a role that allows you to "carry". I'd like to take a moment to breakdown how each of the six roles can carry a game, even by the strictest try-hard standards.
Assassin: An assassin with a high KDA might not be carrying the game. An assassin is carrying when the strongest enemy carry is dead before each fight ends. If it's before the fight starts, that's even better.
Marksman: A marksman carries by leading the game in damage to champions and structures. Taking objectives and mowing down the enemy team in skirmishes, the marksman is one of the roles whose carry-ness can be measured by KDA, particularly high kills.
Tank: A tank carries the game by leading his team in damage taken. His score is completely irrelevant so long as one or both of his team's primary carries survive long enough to kill all the things.
Support: I could have cut and pasted the Tank response. But I didn't, I typed it out again, just for you. The support's ability to carry is measured by whether or not his lane partner and other DPS on his team are still alive when it comes time to count the bodies. See, I even slightly changed the words.
Mage: A mage carries the game by deadifying enemy champions. A marksman who destroys seven buildings might still carry a game, even with a single kill. Have you seen Ryze try to push a turret? If you like making your enemy's health bar disappear, you can measure your success by how high the K is in your DA as a mage.
Fighter: I'll be honest, it's really hard for a fighter to carry a game. But when you do, holy hot damn do you. A fed Fighter can 1v5 like it's Black Friday at Best Buy. You'll know when a Fighter is carrying. They'll have the sky-high KDA and the enemy team surrendering at twenty spamming allchat with Morello's favorite phrase.
With any luck, you see the importance of knowing the role you like to play even more than the position. For example, if you like playing Lulu or Orianna, you probably prefer mid lane, but you're actually most likely the sort who enjoys the Support role more than the Mage. In teamfights, you'll toss out AoE, but you'll slap shields on damage sinks and save your squishy friends from the business-end of a steamroller. It's different enough that knowing it will help you better fit in to solo queue team comps.
The same goes for any of the roles. If you like killing things but can't kite, you should probably try a Mage or Fighter. If you have the mechanical skill of a second-grader using a computer for the first time, but you can quickly identify danger in a brawl, maybe a lumbering Tank is a better fit than an agile utility Support. And so on and so forth.
Why does this matter? Once you know the style you like to play, you can practice it, honing your skill and refining your game sense to help elevate you above the other players who play in the same lane. Most importantly, everyone having a second and third spec makes it impossible to end up in a lobby with players who can't field a standard team because no one wants to support or jungle or whatever.
Of course, since not everyone will have read this, you can accelerate your progress up the tiers by picking "undesirable" specs as your alts. This isn't a world-shattering revelation, I hope, but that doesn't make it any less true. And I've already described above how you can adapt your favorite style no matter what role you're playing so long as you ultimately end up fitting in to the team. (Taking a "support" with an Amp Tome and a pot isn't fitting in, and it isn't going to help you win. If we're being completely honest, it's not teaching anyone on your team any lessons, either. Unless the lesson is, don't ever play with that guy, he's an asshole. That lesson is probably coming through loud and clear)
2) Everyone in the lobby wants to win the game.
Everyone in your lobby actually does want to win. Blah blah blah, trolls and intentional feeding above, blah. Stats and numbers explaining the actual odds of seeing a troll, blah. But seriously. If you're in solo queue, unless you are one of the tiny percentage of players who find no greater joy in all the world than wasting four random strangers' twenty to forty minutes, you're there to kick ass and replace the bubblegum you gave that lady last night.
Honestly, this is pretty self-explanatory. If you're tempted to believe the worst, remember that the fact they've opted in to the experience makes it likely they're similar to you. While there are probably things that could happen that would drive you to troll for a game or two, and those things could have happened to someone in your game, the odds are far higher that they haven't.
Why does this matter? Because there exists this incredibly bizarre tendency to believe that someone on your team is secretly plotting against you personally to impede your progress to the next tier. If the jungler misses smite on dragon, he did to ruin your afternoon. If the support snipes a kill with an errant Power Chord, it's because she knows you're the one that nicked the last cookie from the jar. If the assassin gets caught trying to flank the enemy AP squishy, it's because you told him that you'd let him have mid as long as he didn't feed and that pissed him off or something. Whatever it is, that attitude starts brewing in champion select, and it matters enough to call out and dispense with the notion of it right away. You have to default to trust. Everyone wants to win.
Telling the lobby, "All I want this game, just one time, is to not play with any feeders," is like telling a cop, "All I want this traffic stop, just one time, is to not get a ticket." Of course you don't want a ticket. No human ever has clicked on the ranked tab and entered queue thinking, "My god, I hope I get at least one feeder in this game, that'd be just swell."
Just try it once, you'll be amazed at how effective assuming everyone else wants to win can be. If you give them the benefit of the doubt, and recognize that they are all just as good as you are (which is pretty damn good, if you do say so yourself in this imaginary conversation I'm pretending you're having in your head), then you set yourself up for a pretty easy win. I mean, damn. If you could just play all five roles, you'd be Challenger (in this imaginary conversation I'm writing out for you, you're like a combination of Faker and Doublelift with Montecristo's encyclopedic MOBA mind). And the truth is, playing with the other people in your ranked lobby is actually pretty much the same as if you were playing all five roles--because your skill levels are indistinguishable from one another as the baseline definition for how the ranked system works!
1) You are going to lose half of the games you play.
I made this number one because it feels like everyone forgets this at least once a day. In the great grand scheme of ranked, you'll eventually hit a 50% winrate for your career thanks to the modified Elo system in place. Now, it's possible that you're on the upslope, climbing your way and toting along a 60% or higher win-rate. But eventually that'll taper off, and this statement will apply to you.
Before I go any further into my argument, an aside: I hate people who say, "it's just a game," as if that makes losing ok. Losing isn't fun, and it annoys the shit out of me every time it happens. But that's all, it's an annoyance. Because I know it's going to happen and I can't change that. I found it from too many different sources to know who said it first, but there's a prevailing notion with Elo-based systems that there are three types of games you can play. Games you should win, games you should lose and games that could go either way. While flukes are always possible--often where streaks come from--the only type of game that you have a huge impact on is the third one. So long as you are winning those, you'll climb, and when you aren't, you'll plateau or fall.
The point isn't to magically wish away the pooptastic flavor of losing with the power of positive thinking. That'd be bullshit. It's just to acknowledge that you'll lose a lot while playing ranked, and it's up to you to find things to learn in even the shittiest circumstances.
Why does this matter? Because you're going to lose half of the games you play, and it's going to suck.
Sometimes you'll lose because you got beat so hard in lane you're afraid you might have an IRL concussion. Sometimes you'll lose because your botlane duo tunnel-visioned on a tower and let the team get aced in the enemy jungle. Sometimes you'll lose because Time Warner Cable genuinely does have a vendetta against you, and they play enough LoL to know when you're pushing the enemy nexus, just begging for a massive clamp on your bandwidth.
You'll lose in the worst, most soul-smelting, dream-dashing ways that make Locodoco look like a prophet. You'll lose in the first five minutes to ridiculous back-to-back aces at a contested blue buff. You'll lose in the last five minutes thanks to the heroics of some Trick2g wannabe.
But you'll also win half your games.
Sometimes you'll win because you kicked your lane opponent's ass so hard he had to stand up and check for bootprints. Sometimes you'll win because your botlane duo pulls your lagging ass out of the Internet slow-lane and serves you up the enemy team in your jungle. Sometimes you'll win because Time Warner Cable also hates xxFioramaster18, and it's her turn to get "appropriately routed" while her team is trying to make a final push.
You'll win in the best, most life-affirming, dream-soaring ways that make Locodoco believe again. You'll win in the first five minutes because of a trap you set at the enemy red buff after acing them at the blue. You'll win in the last five minutes thanks to some guy Madstone-ing his way to Diamond.
That's why it matters. That's why I play ranked. I love winning. Infinitely more than I hate losing. I'm guessing you're the same way. Let's kick some ass.