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Path of Exile guide: What are Leagues, and which should I choose?

Pick the league that’s right for you

Path of Exile screenshots Image: Grinding Gear Games
Ryan Gilliam (he/him) has worked at Polygon for nearly seven years. He primarily spends his time writing guides for massively popular games like Diablo 4 & Destiny 2.

When you start a new character in Path of Exile, you have to choose which league you want to play in first. If you have no idea what the difference between the Metamorph or Standard or Hardcore leagues are, it can be a pretty daunting process without a quick Google search.

Here’s what the different leagues are, and which one you should pick.

What are leagues in Path of Exile?

Leagues are essentially a pool of players to play with, and a set of rules you play by.

The Standard league is always available. You play by standard rules, and with players not interested in doing Challenge Seasons. It’s the most basic form of the game, and a good place to start if you’re easily overwhelmed.

Challenge leagues are like Seasons in Diablo 3. Every three or four months, a new Challenge league appears — with new rules and features. You will need to create a new character and start from scratch. You can earn cosmetic rewards by competing in Challenge leagues and beating specific challenges before the three month period ends.

At the end of the Challenge league, your competing characters will transfer to the Standard league.

Which league should you choose?

Path of Exile League guide
Choose a League before you create your character
Image: Grinding Gear Games via Polygon

When you create your character, you will need to choose a league to play them in. The default choice is the currently-active Challenge league. But you can switch your character to the Standard league for a more vanilla experience. The Standard league is a good way to just focus on the story or run the campaign for the first time.

If you’re more interested in picking up Path of Exile for the late game or to interact with others, pick the Challenge league. You will have a new, seasonal system to learn, and you will play where a majority of the Path of Exile community is playing. There’s also no penalty to playing the Challenge league, since your characters will transfer to Standard league when the Challenge league ends.

We recommend picking the Challenge league, and only going Standard if you know you will get overwhelmed by the amount of things to do in the Challenge league.

What are Hardcore and Solo Self-Found leagues?

Standard league and Challenge league are the main options in Path of Exile. But if you want to test yourself — or just don’t want to play with others — you have a few other options.

You can choose Standard Hardcore and Challenge Hardcore at the start of the game. Hardcore characters work just like normal characters. However, if you die on a Hardcore Character, you will immediately get transferred to the Standard league.

Solo Self-Found is another option. This means that you can’t trade with other players or join parties with friends. Every item you earn is on your own. Nobody else can ever help you. Note this option is only available once you’ve rescued the Scion character class in Act 3.

These modes aren’t for everyone, but they’re a good choice if you’re looking to increase your difficulty, or just want to have a good time playing solo.

The choice of which league to play can be pretty scary. But if you still aren’t sure which to pick, there’s really no reason not to go with the Challenge league — even if you’re a beginner player.