The Learn to League Items Guide: Part I

This page is not only to explain what each item does, but also to give recommendations on which items you should use, as well as items you should generally stay away from in game.  All thumbnails belong to Riot Games and are only included to help explain the content.

In alphabetical order:

Abyssal Scepter - 2650g
+70 Ability Power +57 Magic Resistance UNIQUE Aura: Reduces the Magic Resist of nearby enemy champions by 20.

This item is good for those magic damage heroes of which the AP ratios aren't so great for, as reducing magic resistance becomes more effective than AP due to the bad ratios.  Especially good on Fiddlesticks and Kennen due to the nature of their AoE ultimates and the need for magic resist.

Aegis of the Legion - 1925g
+270 Health +18 Armor +24 Magic Resist UNIQUE Aura: +12 Armor / +15 Magic Resistance / +8 Damage to nearby allied units

Great item for support tanks, and aura supports.  Provides team bonuses, and the buildup for it is more useful than most.  Best acquired early to mid-game.

Amplifying Tome - 435g
+20 Ability Power

Pretty basic here.  On few occasions it can be a starting item, but usually not; however, it is a key item in recipes later in the game.  You may be required to buy multiple of these early game.

Archangel's Staff - 2855g
+400 Mana +25 Mana Regen per 5 sec +45 Ability Power Passive: 3% of your Max Mana is converted to Ability Power. UNIQUE Passive: Each time your Champion uses an Ability their Maximum Mana will increase by 4 Mana. This effect has a 3 second cooldown. Bonus caps at 1000 mana.

A great late game item, it allows heavy casters to have a near infinite amount of mana, especially late game, as well as adding a lot of AP.  Keep in mind Tear of the Goddess should not be used to make Archangel's until late into the game.  More on that later.

Atma's Impaler - 2405g
+45 Armor +18% Critical Strike UNIQUE Passive: 2% of your maximum health is added to your attack damage.

A must have for heroes that need to do damage, while having a high amount of hp.  Great for Olaf, Mundo, and Mordekaiser.  Virtually required on Jax.

Avarice Blade - 750g
+12% Critical Strike Passive: Gain an additional 5 Gold every 10 seconds.

An good first item choice, the Avarice Blade should be rushed on heroes that need it, which include most melee DPS champions due to the fact that it can be turned into a Yomuu's Ghostblade.  Heroes that need this are Master Yi, Tryndamere, and Gangplank to name a few.

B.F. Sword - 1850g
+50 Attack Damage

Your bread and butter AD item, which is used for various late game items such as the almighty Infinity Edge.  This can occasionally be rushed on ranged champions such as Ashe, but is usually picked up later in the game to create much better items.

Banshee's Veil - 2715g
+375 Health +375 Mana +50 Magic Resist UNIQUE Passive: Blocks one negative spell every 45 seconds.

Great defensive item for tanks, and just about everyone else, and can supplement those that have skills or items revolving around mana, such as Manamune users.  Works great on pretty much anyone that utilizes the mana aspect of it, and needs a spell shield.  If your team buys multiple of these, it's one of the most annoying things to play against ever.  Synergizes well with Blitzcrank.

Berserker's Grieves - 920g

+25% Attack Speed UNIQUE Passive: Enhanced Movement 2.

A situational item that should only be used for AD heroes that can close the gap quickly and have no need for other boot types.  Good for Master Yi, or Tryndamere.  Also note that these are the cheapest type of finished boots.

Bilgewater Cutlass - 1825g
+35 Attack Damage +15% Life Steal UNIQUE Active: Deals 150 magic damage and slows the target champion by 50% for 3 seconds (400 range). 60 second cooldown.

The active slow is very underrated, especially when ganking; however, the lack of use of the active in public games makes it's actual effectiveness not that great.  To be honest, only buy this if you are building for a Hextech Gunblade.

Blasting Wand - 860g
+40 Ability Power

Core item for AP heroes, these must be stacked 2 or 3 times if you are building for AP.  Useful for many of the most important AP items in the game.

Boots of Mobility - 1000g
UNIQUE Passive: Enhanced Movement 2 Passive: When out of combat for 5 seconds the effect of these boots is increased to Enhanced Movement 5.

One of the worst boots in my opinion, the only times this shoe will have benefits are for travelers like Teemo that need to get around the map, or early game gankers such as Evelynn.

Boots of Speed - 350g
UNIQUE Passive: Enhanced Movement 1
This a required item no matter which hero you play for obvious reasons, and it should be purchased as your 2nd or 3rd item, and in some situations, first.  It builds into all the other boots.

Boots of Swiftness - 1000g
UNIQUE Passive: Enhanced Movement 3
This is a situational item, which is better for ranged champions due to their slow starting speed.  I recommend this on heroes like Ashe that are too soft to stay in combat, so they need to move quickly.

Brawler's Gloves - 400g
+8% Critical Strike
This is an item that is purchased really just to build it into many other items; however, heroes like Tryndamere and Gangplank benefit from buying this as a first item due Tryndamere's heal and Gangplank's gun critical damage.

Catalyst the Protector - 1325g

+290 Health +325 Mana Passive: Restores 300 Health and 250 Mana upon leveling up.
This item is used to build into a Rod of Ages or a Banshee Veil; however, if you are able to get this early it can be really annoying in lane as you level up so fast.  Recommended early game on Singed or Anivia.

Chain Vest - 700g
+45 Armor
A great armor item that does wonders alone and then builds into many other useful items.  Unless you are fighting a team entire composed of magic damage, this is a must have for tanks.

Chalice of Harmony - 890g
+30 Magic Resistance +7.5 Mana Regen per 5 sec UNIQUE Passive: Increases your Mana Regen by 1% per 1% Mana you are missing.
This used to be a fairly viable item, but since the emergence of Manamune, this item has taken a back seat because even with it's unique passive, a Manamune is better.  In other words, it's not very good at all for any situation.

Cloak of Agility - 880g
+18% Critical Strike
Simple, it adds critical chance rate and a decent amount at that.  You will buy this on a DPS champion, it's a good item that builds into everything you need for physical damage and even attack speed.

Cloth Armor - 300g
+18 Armor
This is purchased first usually when you have a jungler.  It can be helpful early game, but late game it is overshadowed by much better armor.  Turns into many armor based items.

Dagger - 420g
+15% Attack Speed
Please, please, please do not get this as a first item.  It is absolutely horrible early game, yet for some reason, some players still do this.  Don't buy this unless you will turn it into something else.

Deathfire Grasp - 2610g
+60 Ability Power +10 Mana Regen per 5 Sec UNIQUE Passive: Reduces ability cooldowns by 15%. UNIQUE Active: Deals magic damage to target champion equal to 30% of their current health (+3.5% per 100 Ability Power) with a miminum of 200 damage. 1 minute cooldown.
Ah, the Deathfire Grasp, one of the most underrated items in the game.  Not only does it add ability power and mana regen, it has an absolutely overpowered active.  Use this with Veigar and your combo will get a kill every time.

Doran's Blade - 475g
+100 Health +10 Damage +3% Lifesteal
Ever since the increase in price, this item is not really viable unless you stack them, in which case you build your other items first and sell the Doran's Blades off as you farm more gold.

Doran's Ring - 475g
+100 Health +5 Mana Regen per 5 sec +15 Ability Power
I'm not a fan of this item at all.  The price will not allow you to bring potions to lane, which you need, and stacking these is bad as all the stats are easily obtainable by other items in the same price bracket.

Doran's Shield - 475g
+120 Health +10 Armor +8 Health Regeneration per 5
This is more viable than all of the Doran items due to it's early game defensive properties.  You need hp and regen to survive, and the armor really helps too.

Elixir of Agility - 250g
Click to Consume: Grants 12-22% Attack Speed, based on champion level, and 8% Critical Chance for 4 minutes.
Elixer of Brilliance - 250g
Click to Consume: Grants 20-40 Ability Power, based on champion level, and reduces cooldowns by 10% for 4 minutes.
Elixir of Fortitude - 250g
Click to Consume: Grants 140-235 Health, based on champion level, and 10 Attack Damage for 4 minutes.
I'm grouping all these together since you basically use the one that applies to what type of hero you're using.  The worst of these is the Elixir of Agility because it really does not add helpful stats, even to DPS champions.  Instead, the Elixir of Fortitude should be used in any situation an Elixir of Agility would be needed.  The Elixir of Brilliance is a great option for magic damage champions because the 10% cooldown reduction is such a great trade off for only 250g, and has AP as a bonus.

Emblem of Valour - 800g

+17% Lifesteal UNIQUE Aura: Nearby allied Champions gain 10 Health Regen per 5 sec.
Not a very good item on it's own as the HP aura is not that great and the only other stats it adds are lifesteal %, an especially easy to obtain stat.  The Vampiric Scepter adds a tad bit less lifesteal for only 450g.  This needs to be turned into a Starks Fervor asap.

Executioner's Calling - 1350g
+18% Lifesteal +15% Critical Strike Chance UNIQUE Passive: On hit, you cause 4 damage per second for 8 seconds. UNIQUE Active: Inflicts target enemy champion with Grievous Wound, causing 50% reduced healing and regeneration for 8 seconds. 20 second cooldown.
A mediocre item, it adds a fair amount of lifesteal and critical chance, but the fact that it doesn't turn into anything better is a huge drawback; however, if the situation should arise that you are facing a Dr. Mundo, the active on this item will absolutely ruin him.

Faerie Charm - 180g
+3 Mana Regen per 5 sec
The mana regen this item adds is not noticeable.  It builds into a mana manipulator though, which is especially useful if you are laning with a mana dependent early game champion.  The mana manipulator can also be further built into a Soul Shroud which is a decent situational item.

Fiendish Codex - 1245g
+30 Ability Power +7 Mana Regeneration per 5 UNIQUE Passive: Reduces ability cooldowns by 10%.
It adds the basic necessary stats for the generic AP magic damage champion, and also builds into a Morello's Evil Tome, but more importantly it builds into Deathfire Grasp, which is an actual needed item for some champions.

Force of Nature - 2175g
+76 Magic Resist +40 Health Regen per 5 sec +8% Movement Speed UNIQUE Passive: Restores 0.35% of your champion's health every second.
This item is just absolutely amazing when it comes to your magic resistance options, especially on tanks as the magic resistance offerings are slim when compared to all of the great armor alternatives.  A necessary item when facing full magic damage teams, and synergizes great with Warmog's Armor with it's unique passive.  Bonus movement speed is always useful.

Frozen Heart - 2475g
+99 Armor +500 Mana UNIQUE Passive: Reduces ability cooldowns by 20% and reduces the attack speed of nearby enemies by 20%.
A situational item, it can absolutely break DPS based teams because of it's enormous amount of armor and a straight attack speed degeneration aura.  This is the only item that can do this.

Frozen Mallet - 3250g
+700 Health +20 Attack Damage UNIQUE Passive: Your attacks reduce your target's Movement Speed by 40% for 2.5 seconds (30% for ranged attacks).
This is technically a strongly based situational item, but the situation in which this item is strongly beneficial arises often.  It can be used to beef up ranged champions that can abuse it's unique passive, such as Tristana and Miss Fortune, as well as synergize with heroes like Olaf.

Giant's Belt - 1110g
+430 Health
Adds a huge amount of flat hp points, enough said.  When building items that need this in the recipe, this should traditionally be bought before the other items provided you have enough gold at the time of basing.

Glacial Shroud - 1525g
+425 Mana +45 Armor UNIQUE Passive: Reduces ability cooldowns by 15%.
Only buy this to turn it into a Frozen Heart, making this a very unpopular item.

Guardian Angel - 2600g
+68 Armor +38 Magic Resistance UNIQUE Passive: Revives your Champion upon death, restoring 750 Health and 375 Mana, this effect can only occur once every 5 minutes.
Now THIS item is interesting.  This is usually a very bad option because when you die, it's usually due to 2 or more champions ganking you or forcing a team fight.  If you die in an isolated area, they will simply camp until you come back and kill you again.  If you win a team fight, this item is no contribution.  Now if you lose the team fight, your team will most likely be dead or fleeing; again, they will just camp your position.  Now say the game has lasted over an hour and both teams are at a stand off, if every single person on your team buys this item, well... use your imagination.

Guinsoo's Rageblade - 2235g
+35 Attack Damage +45 Ability Power UNIQUE Passive: On attack or spell cast, increases your Attack Speed by 4% and Ability Power by 6. Lasts 5 seconds (stacks up to 8 times).
There a few champions that are hybrid DPS and magic damage champions, but when you're playing these champions, this item can be amazing.  Necessary for Kayle, but this is item is totally broken for Jax.

Haunting Guise - 1485g
+25 Ability Power +200 Health UNIQUE Passive: +20 Magic Penetration
Not a very commonly used item, but is viable in the situation when you are an AP champion, yet not dependent on mana.  Not a first choice, but this can be used on champions like Vladimir.

Health Potion - 35g
Click to Consume: Restores 200 Health over 20 seconds.
Your early game laning savior, this item not only keeps you in the lane longer when facing early lane control, but there is a cool trick you can do with this that most people do not know they can take advantage of.  When entering a fight, pop one of these even at high hp, and it will give you more effective hp, 200 to be exact.

Heart of Gold - 975g
+200 Health +27 Armor Passive: Generates 5 Gold every 10 seconds.
The "Avarice Blade" of tanks, this item needs to be purchased early or not at all.  In the case that you feel you need the extra gold gain from this, leave this item as a Heart of Gold as long as you can to take advantage of the bonus gold passive.  It builds into Randuin's Omen which is a great item that synergizes with many champions.

Hexdrinker - 1385g
+35 Attack Damage +30 Magic Resistance UNIQUE Passive: If you would take Magic Damage which would leave you at less than 30% of your Maximum Health, you first gain a shield which absorbs 300 Magic Damage for 4 seconds. 60 second cooldown.
It can work in place of a Banshee Veil early game, but this item is generally just bad.  It has a low chance of coming in handy when it comes to saving your life, but most times it is simply not worth the slot.  Only purchase if you plan on ending the game early.

Hextech Gunblade - 3190g
+60 Attack Damage +75 Ability Power +20% Life Steal +20% Spell Vamp UNIQUE Active: Deals 300 magic damage and slows the target champion by 50% for 3 seconds (700 range). 60 second cooldown.
Ever since this item has gotten buffed, it is absolutely broken for champions that can utilize both magic damage and physical damage.  It counts not only as your lifesteal item, but also as your spell vamp.  This may very well also have the BEST active in the game.  300 damage is nothing to laugh at and 50% slow is the best in the game.

Hextech Revolver - 765g
+40 Ability Power +15% Spell Vamp
Can be built directly from the Amplifying Tome, it has an easy build up and adds spell vamp, the rarest of game obtainable stats.  Buy this before the Bilgewater Cutlass if you rely more on AP.

Infinty Edge - 4080g
+75 Attack Damage +20% Critical Strike UNIQUE Passive: Critical hits now deal 250% damage instead of 200%.
This is technically the best AD item, but it's high price tag can sometimes make it not worth it.  Needed for critical strike based heroes such as Gangplank or Tryndamere.

Ioanian Boots of Lucidity - 1050g
UNIQUE Passive: Reduces ability cooldowns by 15%. UNIQUE Passive: Enhanced Movement 2.
Since this item has been released, it's pretty controversial in it's acceptance.  Champions that would benefit most from CDR, often times benefit more from Sorcerer's Shoes.  It's a love it or hate item; personally I don't like it because 40% CDR is the limit and is obtainable without these.

Kage's Lucky Pick - 765g
+25 Ability Power Passive: Gain an additional 5 Gold every 10 seconds.
This is the "Avarice Blade" for AP mages, but it is significantly less commonly used due to the fact that it only builds into a Deathfire Grasp, which is situational and not seen very often despite it being a great item, and beneficial to so many heroes.

Kindlegem - 850g
+200 Health UNIQUE Passive: Reduces ability cooldowns by 10%
Not a bad item by itself, it's generally overshadowed by other items which should be purchased first in the recipes, so it usually isn't directly built, but used to finish better items.  CDR is always helpful.

Last Whisper - 2290g
+40 Attack Damage UNIQUE Passive: +40% Armor Penetration
Ever since the attack speed was replaced by AD, this item has gotten really bad to the point where I would say just never buy it, unless facing a full armor team.  It's not so much that it is useless, but when it comes to application, it's really only used on tanks, and there are much better alternatives to taking them down such as Madred's Bloodrazor's or Black Cleaver.

Leviathan - 1275g
+180 Health UNIQUE Passive: Your champion gains 32 health per stack, receiving 2 stacks for a kill or 1 stack for an assist. This effect can stack 20 times; you lose a third of your stacks if you die. At 20 stacks, your champion takes 15% less damage.
Mejai's Soulstealer - 1235g
+20 Ability Power UNIQUE Passive: Your champion gains 8 ability power per stack, receiving 2 stacks for a kill or 1 stack for an assist. This effect can stack 20 times; you lose a third of your stacks if you die. At 20 stacks, your champion's cooldowns are reduced by 15%.

Sword of the Occult - 1369g
+10 Attack Damage UNIQUE Passive: Your champion gains 5 damage per stack, receiving 2 stacks for a kill or 1 stack for an assist. This effect can stack 20 times; you lose a third of your stacks if you die. At 20 stacks, your champion's movement speed is increased 15%.

I've decided to group all these together because they are all based on the same concept, getting kills and assists to improve the stats of the item with the risk that you will lose a portion of your stacks if you die.  I do not recommend these items to new players for obvious reasons, but if you are playing a high kill to death ratio champion, note that it only takes 4 stacks to make the item worth the amount you paid for it.  Anything else should be icing on the cake, but don't even consider them if you don't plan on getting at least 10 stacks consistently without losing them all.  They are primarily bought on tanks, mages, and DPS respectively, and all have overpowered self-buffs when you max the item out at 20 stacks which help with your type of hero the stacking item applies to.