Quick introduction to abilities in League of Legends

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Every champion has at least four abilities where each one defines their utility in team composition. Some champions are designed to work in a specific role so they are given abilities that work best when placed in a specific situation. Others have abilities that let them function outside of a team fight as they work great at taking objectives. 

Although each of League of Legends’ hundreds of champions has a unique set of abilities, they can all be studied through the basics. Each one can be dissected into the following elements:

Ability types

Ability types refer to the conditions in which it is acquired or used. They all equally contribute to defining a champion’s identity in League of Legends so consider the following labels as nothing more than just means to classify them.

Basic abilities – also known as active abilities

When talking about abilities, most people automatically refer to the ones that they can activate using the Q, W, and E buttons. Most champions can unlock each of them by spending 1 skill point each. Once unlocked, they can give the champion all of its benefits. Some abilities can be activated at a target while others can be toggled to empower an attack. They can also come with passive effects, not to be confused with innate abilities. 

The only time that you can’t invest a skill point on it is when your champion level is too low or that it has already reached its maximum level of 5. Most basic abilities have a low cooldown and are part of the champion’s iconic combo. Some, like Ashe’s Hawk Shot, are only for utility.

Innate ability – also known as passives

Innate abilities add more depth to a champion’s mechanics which give them an advantage as long as they meet a special condition. Most assassins and fighters gain extra damage or lessen the opponent’s defences after they hit them three times or more. Some turn invisible when outside of combat. Beginners tend to overlook this part but good players revolve their playstyle of a champion around this. 

Ultimate – Mechanics vary from champion to champion

The ultimate ability is usually unlockable only at level 6 and can be activated with the R key. However, transforming champions already have this unlocked as soon as the game begins and can only strengthen it with skill points at a later stage of the game. 

Active ultimates can be game-changers as they range from a devastating attack to an inescapable trap. Other times, it’s a power-up to make a character more efficient in their role or completely change their dynamics for a short time. Transforming champions can do that, too, but the effects can last for as long as they wish.

Summoner Spell

Every player can take two summoner spells per game which can be activated with the D and F hotkeys, although some players moved the keymap. These are abilities that all champions share and they speak more about the player’s preferred style than the champion’s. Each one can be game-changing if used effectively but they take too long to cool down so use them wisely.

Resources for abilities

Most abilities need resources to work but the type of resource used depends on how they are designed. There are champions that don’t need resources to activate their skills. That includes  Garen, Katarina, and Riven to name a few who don’t have a gauge below their health bar. Renekton and Tryndamere also don’t need resources but they have a gauge that empowers their basic abilities or enables their ultimate.


Mana is the most common type of resource and it is presented as a blue bar under the health bar. It usually comes in a large pool but it regenerates slowly unless the champion holds supporting items.


Energy is almost exclusive to ninja-styled champions like Akali, Kennen, Zed, and Shen with Lee Sin being the only exception. This resource comes in a yellow bar that is capped at 100 points. It cannot be expanded using items but it regenerates quickly at 10 points per second. Every aforementioned champion also only needs their maximum pool to complete their combo before it is depleted so they don’t need to raise its limit.


Stack is not a replacement for either mana or energy but an additional condition to an ability. This is presented as a counter near the ability icon which indicates how many times it can be used. Stacks make it possible to reuse the ability in quick succession instead of waiting for a cooldown. 

Stacks work differently per ability. Some are like Ashe’s Ranger’s Focus which gains a stack for every damaging ability or attack she lands. Once activated, each of her auto attacks consumes a stack until the effects wear off or deplete. Others are like Vi’s Relentless Force which recharges one point by waiting. A stack is consumed every time the ability is activated. 

Other terminologies found in abilities

There are a few words in abilities that need to be expanded on. These are the vocabularies used in ability descriptions and their meaning for those who are new to League of Legends. Veterans of the game already know them so they are used when talking about tips and tricks online. 

  • Attack Damage – Scales with attack damage items and often inflict physical damage
  • Ability Power – Scales with ability power items and often inflict magic damage
  • Damage type – Determines if it deals physical, magic, or true damage to calculate the resistance
  • Buff – Power-up as opposed to ‘debuff’ which weakens the target
  • Range – Reach of the ability
  • Area of Effect – The size of the surface area that an ability affects
  • Crowd Control (CC) – Any ability that stops or slows down a target or multiple units

There are several types of crowd controls in League of Legends and each one can have a different impact on team fights. The strongest ones are suspension, stun, forced action, and suppression which completely stops a champion’s movement and ability to fight back. Other effects remove one action or partially limit them such as nearsight, blind, and cripple. There’s a wide variety because of the large roster of unique champions in the game.

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