Hey there, Raphterra here! My articles and content revolve around making detailed guides for decks that I find success with in ranked ladder.
I recently came to the realization that in order for my audience to use these decks to their full potential, they must be equipped with some fundamental skills in the game. In this article, I will cover four intermediate to advanced skills that you need to compete at high ranks in Legends of Runeterra.
Card anticipation is the most basic skill in this list, and it is the foundation for the skills that follow. This is the skill of knowing or anticipating what cards your opponent runs in their deck. The concept is pretty straightforward; at each spot in your games, you need to ask yourself the following questions:
- What card can my opponent play this turn?
- What can I do / what happens if my opponent plays that card?
Let’s look at a specific example ( images were made using Shadawx’s LOR board simulator ):
Let’s say that you’re facing Ezreal Caitlyn with your Zoe Aphelios deck. It’s Turn 1, and your opponent has the attack token and they do an open pass. You have a Zoe in hand that you can play, but you can anticipate that your opponent might have a Thermogenic Beam to counter.
Alternatively, you can play your Zoe on Turn 2 instead once you have the attack token. If you do that, your opponent needs to commit a 3-mana Thermogenic Beam or a 2-mana Mystic Shot in order to stop Zoe from attacking. If that happens, you’ll be slightly ahead because your 1-mana Zoe traded for a card that costs more.
Pretty simple right? Just constantly ask yourself what your opponent can do on specific turns, and you can make your play based on those. Your ability to anticipate cards will improve the more you play Legends of Runeterra because you will familiarize yourself with the play style and builds of different decks.
It’s one thing to be aware of what cards to anticipate from your opponent’s deck, it’s another thing to make assumptions on whether your opponent actually has that card. For example, you can anticipate that Ezreal Caitlyn has a Mystic Shot in their deck, but that doesn’t mean that they will always have it in their hand. This is where the next fundamental skill will come in handy.
Hand Reading is a skill that allows you to make assumptions on what cards your opponent has or doesn’t have in their hand.
Let’s start with how to make assumptions on what your opponent doesn’t have in their hand. This one is quite simple; you just need to watch out for situations where your opponent could’ve used a card, but they didn’t. In that scenario, it’s very safe to assume they don’t have the card in hand.
For example, let’s say you’re playing Deep against a Shadow Isles control deck. On Turn 7, you play Nautilus but they didn’t respond with Vengeance. For the next turns, it’s very safe to assume that they don’t have Vengeance unless they top deck it.
Next we go on how to make assumptions on what your opponent has in hand. This will be more complicated, since you need to observe on how your opponent is playing on specific turns.
A simple example would be if a Shadow Isles Noxus control deck goes out of their way to ping one of your units with Go Hard or Vile Feast. It’s likely that they’re setting up a Scorched Earth or a Ravenous Flock in their hand.
A more advanced example would be a scenario where you’re playing against Scouts or Bard Demacia, and they don’t play any units in the early turns. These decks usually want to curve out and establish an early board. If they’re not playing units in spots where they should be doing so, you can assume that they might have a spell-heavy hand with Golden Aegis or Relentless Pursuit.
Card counting is a fundamental skill that goes hand-in-hand with hand reading. This involves making assumptions on whether your opponent has another copy of a card that they already played.
Before we go further, I want to point out that before doing card counting, you should always do hand reading first. If you’ve already made the hand read that your opponent doesn’t have a specific card, you don’t need to card count anymore.
With that out of the way, there are 3 questions you should ask yourself when card counting a specific card:
- Has your opponent already played the card?
- How many copies of the card does your opponent’s deck usually play?
- Does your opponent’s deck hard mulligan for this card?
Let’s look at some examples:
Aphelios in Targon Decks and Ravenous Flock in Noxus control decks are usually always ran with 3 copies and both cards are always kept in the opening hand. For these cards, if your opponent already played 1 copy, it’s still reasonable to assume that they might have another copy in hand. If they already played 2 copies, the chances of them having the 3rd copy is very low.
Another good example would be Vengeance, which is usually ran as 1-2 copies in midrange decks, or 2-3 copies in control decks. In the mulligan, Vengeance is a card that you either keep only 1 copy or no copies at all. Thus, if your opponent already played 1 copy of Vengeance, it’s logical to assume that they don’t have any more copies in their hand.
My third example would be for late game cards like The Ruination, Buried in Ice, or Feel The Rush that are usually ran as 1-2 copies. Although these cards are never kept in the opening hand, I always still assume that the opponent has a copy of them (unless I make a hand read that they don’t). These are late game cards and players have a lot of time to draw into them.
And now, it’s one skill to know or anticipate what cards your opponent runs in their deck. It’s another skill to assume if they actually have that card in their hand. However, if they do have that card din their hand, it’s a totally different skill to identify on whether you should play around it or not.
Just because you made the assumption that your opponent has a specific card in hand, doesn’t mean that you should always play around it. Only play around a card if you have answers to it or if you can afford to play around it.
Let’s look at a specific example of when to play around a card:
Let’s say you’re playing a Viego Ionia deck against a Shadow Isles control deck. It’s Turn 5, and you have Viego + Deny in your hand. You can safely assume that your opponent is saving Vengeance for your Viego. However, because you have access to Deny, you can afford to play around Vengeance. By passing this turn and playing Viego on Turn 6, you will have enough mana for both Viego and Deny.
Let’s change the situation to where you’re playing a Viego Noxus deck against the same Shadow Isles control deck. In this scenario, you don’t need to play around Vengeance on Turn 5. If they have Vengeance, they’ll always use it on your Viego. There’s nothing you can do about it, since Noxus doesn’t give you access to protection spells. This is usually referred to as the “if they have it, they have it” mentality.
Let’s look at more specific example where you’re playing Bard Demacia against Trundle Timelines. Let’s say that it’s Turn 7 and you have a wide board of units. It’s reasonable to assume that your opponent has the Buried In Ice + It That Stares combo.
You need to ask yourself what happens if you do either option. Let’s start with the first one. If you play around Buried In Ice by open attacking, will you win?
In this specific scenario, your opponent has enough blockers and you won’t inflict enough damage to win the game. If you don’t win this turn, they will start stabilizing on Turn 8 with Ice Pillar and Level 2 Trundle. It’s likely that you will lose the long game in this scenario.
The two possible outcomes are either:
- Your opponent responds with Buried In Ice, in which case you lose the game on the spot.
- Or your opponent doesn’t have an answer to your wide board and you win the game.
- Play around by open attacking -> They have an answer -> Lose slowly
- Play around by open attacking -> They don’t have an answer -> Lose slowly
- Don’t play around by developing -> They have an answer -> Lose on the spot
- Don’t play around by developing -> They don’t have an answer -> Win on the spot
This is a scenario where if you evaluate your options correctly, you conclude that you cannot afford to play safe. The only path to victory is to take a risk and develop a stronger attack.
This example leads me to my conclusion for this tip, which is the mentality of playing safe vs playing risky. You want to play safe only if you are ahead, if you are favored, and if you can afford to.
If you are playing from behind or playing in an unfavored matchup, you cannot afford to play safe. You need to play risky and just hope that your opponent doesn’t have answers to your threats.
A final tip I’d like to give before closing this article is to remember to use good decks! Sometimes, a bad deck will slow down your climb by a lot, regardless of your skill. RuneterraCCG is the place to look for in-depth guides for both meta and off-meta decks that are good for ranked.