League of Legends is the most popular video game in Asia. and maybe the most popular game in the world. That means there are millions of League players out there, and most of them are—let’s be honest—pretty bad.
So how do you get better? I started playing League of Legends a couple of months ago for work (we needed someone on the team who knew the game), but I quickly realized that it was also something I enjoyed doing. What I didn’t enjoy was the failure, the confusion, and the constant abuse from teammates that comes along with being a new player to the game. There’s a lot to learn about League, and even if you’ve been playing for years you’ve probably still got areas where you can improve.
So when the folks at lolguides.com offered me a chance to review their service, I was pretty curious. Normally, access to the Summoner School costs $67. That’s more than most games cost new (although not more than League of Legends costs if you start buying stuff). What did they have to offer that could be worth $67?
What is Summoner School?
The lolguides.com Summoner School is essentially just five very in-depth articles about how to get better at playing League of Legends. And when I say in-depth I do mean in depth; by my count the full course runs nearly 60,000 words. That’s approximately the same length as a short novel, and that’s not including the supplementary blog posts the courses link to (many of which are helpful) or the embedded videos that are used to illustrate some of the finer points of the game, which take time to watch.
The school breaks down into five “courses” (articles):
- An introduction which covers the very basics and is by far the shortest section
- A section on pre-game that covers runes, masteries, summoner spells, and champion select.
- A section on in-game that focuses on the meta roles and the various aspects of the laning phase.
- A section on team-game that focuses on team fights and how to deal with your teammates.
- A section on postgame that’s about how to assess and improve your own performances, how to find advice and guidance, and where to find other good resources for learning.
It’s long enough that there’s no way to review every aspect in depth, but I do want to list a few of the objective things it has going for and against it before we move on to the rather more subjective assessment of how much it helped me and whether or not it’s worth it.
What it has going for it
- An emphasis on psychology. Even when you’re solo-queueing, LoL is a team game, but most guides out there pretty much ignore the game’s psychological aspects. Summoner School, in contrast, spends a lot of time on this, and has guidance both for how to handle your own emotions and how to handle all the frustrations caused by bad teammates. Riot’s own statistics show that positive, friendly players win more games, so this stuff is really important.
- An exhaustive glossary. For new players, LoL can be extremely intimidating because it basically has its own language. Having a glossary of all these words and abbreviations in one place makes things much simpler.
What it doesn’t
- Wall of text. Summoner School has some illustrations and a few embedded videos, but for the most part it’s all text. Well-organized, clearly-written text, but still text. 60,000 words is a lot to get through on a computer screen, and if you’re a visual or auditory learner who doesn’t learn as well from reading, you may struggle to get through it.
- No champion-specific info. Given the number of champions in LoL (117 and soon to be 118) and how long the courses already are, it’s understandable the courses don’t cover champion specifics. It’s still a bit disappointing there aren’t at least some quick tips for popular champions, but if you need champion-specific guides, solomid.net is a great free resource.
That said, what’s in the courses is probably less important than how much they can help you. So a more important question to answer is: after reading through the guide…
How much did I improve?
Gauging how much I improved is pretty difficult, and although I’ve tried to be as objective about it as possible, I need to make a bunch of disclaimers before I go any further, so here goes:
I’ve read through the full courses once, but that doesn’t mean I understand everything or remember everything there. There’s also lots of content that I now understand better, but am still struggling to apply to my play. While I have finished reading through the courses, I’ve barely even begun applying the knowledge. And, to be fair to the Summoners School folks, I also don’t have the time to practice as often as they suggest, or in the mindstate they suggest. And of course, it’s tough to know how much of my improvement comes from reading the course and how much comes from simply having another month or so of practice under my belt. That said, I know that my last-hitting, zoning, and team fighting has improved as a direct result of the course (although I’m still working on all of them).
In an attempt to be objective, I decided to play two games vs. beginner bots before taking the courses, and then again after finishing (or at least finishing reading it, not finishing mastering the skills). I also recorded video of one of each before and after game. The reason I chose beginner bots is that while they’re easy, they’re a pretty known entity. They are always the same skill level, and the games tend to last about the same amount of time (20-30 minutes). (In retrospect I should have tracked minion kills in the first ten minutes as it’s more precise, but I didn’t think of that until after I’d started).
And, looking at the data, I definitely improved:
- Renekton top: 0/5/13, 9.4k gold, 81 minions
- Thresh bottom: 1/1/11, 8.5k gold, 51 minions
- Renekton top: 6/2/7, 8.2k gold, 105 minions
- Thresh bottom: 11/6/12, 12.5k, 155 minions (obviously I was playing AD rather than support)
It’s worth pointing out that I had lag issues with both of the Renekton games (there seems to be some issue with my video recording software that causes it), and I felt I played pretty badly in the “After” Renekton game. Even so, the difference is pretty obvious. With Renekton I had far more kills and fewer deaths, and notably more minion kills even though it ended up being a shorter game than the first one by a couple minutes.
The Thresh matches, which I didn’t take video of, may be a better indication of my progression, as I felt I played well in both the before and after games. As you can see, in the “After” game I played more aggressively than in the “Before” game, where I started in a support role, but even so I ended up with more assists than I had as a support. I also landed several hook shots in the second match that I know I never could have landed before taking the Summoner School course because it got me thinking about positioning for zoning, and about predicting enemy movement.
Now, obviously, my “After” performances also show that I’m still a long way from Diamond. (I actually haven’t played any ranked matches yet; I’m waiting until I hit level 30 and have bought a decent rune page). But, for what it’s worth, I do feel like I am a significantly better player than I was before taking the classes, and the stats would seem to back me up.
Perhaps more importantly, I have a much better idea of what I need to improve and how to improve it. I still make a lot of mistakes when I play, but now I often realize right away that I’ve made a mistake, and often I can figure out what I should have done instead. That leads me to believe that my play will continue to improve as long as I stick with it and keep practicing the things I learned in Summoner School.
So, is it worth it?
Whether or not Summoner School is worth the money is a difficult question to answer. The short answer is: it’s complicated.
It’s complicated because a lot of what’s in Summoner School is available out there on the web for free. I haven’t seen anything like Summoner School’s focus on inter-team relations and handling your emotions elsewhere, but most of the tips for mechanics, warding, teamfighting, etc. are things you could dig up on your own for free if you have the time and inclination to go looking. And there are lots of great free resources out there: this video series, for example, is widely touted as great although it’s pretty boring to sit through.
But Summoner School is pitched at the beginning as basically a way to save time; no one is pretending the site contains any secret knowledge. Yes, you can learn almost everything that’s in Summoner School on your own, without paying any money. The trade off, of course, is that you pay with your time.
So whether or not the lolguides.com Summoner School is worth it depends on a couple things:
- How serious you are about wanting to improve, and…
- How much you value your own time (would you rather spend hours digging all this stuff up on your own, or pay $67 to have it available instantly in one place?)
I think if you’re serious about improving your game, you want to see quick results, and you have the cash to spare, it’s probably worth the money. If you don’t care that much about improving or don’t mind working at a slower pace and digging up some resources on your own, it probably isn’t.
If you’re interested, you can check out the free trial on lolguides.com, and they’ve got a bunch of free blog posts and videos there as well (many of which are quite helpful).