The next balance patch for Legends of Runeterra is expected next Tuesday, May 26, and it will bring some adjustments to Champions and other cards – based on the trends and stats Riot have been tracking over the first month of the Rising Tides expansion.
As usual, we are all on the edges of our seats now – praying for the nerf to that one bitter nemesis deck of ours; or some love for the pet archetype we feel the deepest affection for. If, for some reason, you’re unhappy with the current meta (can’t say so for myself!), the wait gets long. So let’s use the time to talk about the balance of the game and make some predictions about the cards that will feature in the next patch notes.
So, here’s my persons of interest with Legends of Runeterra right now:
Noxus/Piltover and Zaun Burn is a deck that has been a subject of passionate discussion in the community and players have presented a full specter of different opinions. On one hand, it is almost essential have a strong aggro deck in Legends of Runeterra that would punish and keep all the greedier lists in check. Even those who complain about the burn decks tirelessly, won’t be happy to live in a heavy control meta where each game takes upwards of 30 minutes to finish. On the other hand, when Nox/PnZ list is consistently killing its opponents without connecting through combat damage even once, that seems a bit overtuned.
Burn staple Boomcrew Rookie is probably the biggest offender of the archetype and it would be highly unlikely for him to escape a nerf in the next patch. With 1|4 in stats as a 2-drop, Rookie gets to attack 2 times in a game before he finally can be taken down – at least. The thing is, with how much pressure the Burn deck is able to apply, you often disincentivized to block a 1-attack unit when there are Legion Rearguards and Grenadiers threatening your face. Add the synergy with Imperial Demolitionist to the mix – and the long-term damage enabled by Rookie reaches unacceptable levels.
Additionally, this card obviously contradicts the very own LoR designers’ principles, who aim to make every card to be somewhat unique and playable, with no ‘strictly better’ prints. Well, currently Boomcrew Rookie is exactly that to a poor Vanguard Lookout, so something has to give.
Going with a nerf from 4 to 3 health feels like a right move with Boomcrew Rookie. This change would power down Burn decks just a bit, but not so that the archetype would suddenly fall out of meta. It’s worthy to note here, that the deck’s winrate isn’t that high as is currently, but the percentages are not the problem here. It is the oppressive feel of Burn what makes meta unfun at times – that’s why the archetype has to be addressed in some way.
Overpowered Demacia Midrange strategies, both Scouts and pure Bannerman ones, need a bit of tuning as well. It may appear as somewhat of a ‘hot take’, but I do believe the strongest card of the archetype Grizzled Ranger may escape a nerf this time. It’s just there are no obvious adjustments that make perfect sense with this card right now, just after three weeks of play. You can’t nerf its health stat, while power/manacost change would probably hit the playability of the card too much. Scout keyword has to remain there as well. It’s just tricky to balance this follower, so the LoR team may choose to leave things with Grizzled Ranger as they stand for now and just place him on The Watchlist.
What Riot could do instead is to look into powerful Demacia cards that have escaped the radar for a long time now and will aim their nerfs right there. War Chefs is one such likely candidate – everyone agrees now how ridiculously powerful it is. Before Rising Tides, its synergy with Fleetfeather Tracker was what induced nightmares, but now there’s also that unfair pairing with Loyal Badgerbear that makes Demacia’s early board presence completely unrivalled. Meanwhile, for a unit that has such a beneficial effect towards his allies, War Chefs are a bit too hard to take down on their own at 3 health. So, it would feels totally reasonable to bump the follower down to a 2|2.
This neat follower doesn’t feel like a particularly overpowered card, but it’s still quite likely she will become the target of the first Ionia-related nerfs. Shadow Assassin is currently an autoinclude in every Ionia archetype, and it also boasts a consistently high win-rate, according to stats regularly released by Mobalytics.
There’s nothing Riot want more in their card game than a variety, and the trend of every Ionia deckbuilder starting off by including a 3-of Shadow Assassin is not a healthy one. The follower was mentioned as the one being on The Watchlist as of from couple of patches ago – it is likely its time has finally come.
Once again, I would expect to see another health adjustment here. Going down to one health here would be an interesting nod to Magic: The Gathering designs, that have made a habit of printing various 3-mana 2|1 flyers with ‘draw a card’ ability. It’s a tried and tested formula, so no shame there.
Catalyst of Aeons
Freljord needs a lot of love right now and it will get some in the next patch for sure. The Northerners are in a state of dismay since Rising Tides have hit, despite some initially promising card releases for the region.
Currently, Freljord suffers from what could be described as a crisis of identity. The thing is, there always appears to be another region that does better in any department that Freljordians are attempting to claim as their own. Aggressive strategies with Ruthless Raider/Ember Maiden? Well, Noxus leads the way for beatdown and it would rather pair with the burn options of PnZ. Ramp into late-game bombs of Anivia and Tuskraider? Karma/Ezreal and Nautilus decks will get their inevitability plan online quicker. Midrange with Sejuani and Wolfriders? Demacia can beat that easily. So, what remains for Freljord? Currently, it is playing support role for Elusives and… Poros, there’s always that last harbor.
So, where would Riot likely aim the buffs this time? I would guess that the designers will once again try to make Freljord’s ramp options more viable. We’ve already seen that trend in a recent buff to Wyrding Stones. Continuing on this path, making Catalyst of Aeons’s cost cheaper would make a perfect sense both for the ramp archetypes and for the current meta. Non-SI Freljord decks need more options in fighting the onslaught of aggro to have a chance in the ladder environment, and the affordable healing of Catalyst will come a long way.
I believe the Crimson Reaper is going to receive some major adjustments soon – or even a rework. Riot intend to stick to their guns in making every champion card playable, which they’ve demonstrated by rebuilding Kalista recently.
Currently, Vladimir is probably the only champion that is equally underwhelming in both Constructed and Expeditions modes. He is too slow to put a threatening clock on your opponent with attack ability, all the while being not quite reliable in providing value as a Crimson archetype backbone.
One possible way to take on things is also the simplest and safest one – give him the Yasuo treatment. First, ease the requirement on champion’s level-up, down to five or even four allies that survived damage. If Vladimir can be consistently played on curve in his leveled-up form, he suddenly becomes a real threat, a beater that is very tough to deal with for the opponent. In the following balance patches you can also reevaluate things and make additional stat tunings if needed.
Another, more extreme, option is to move Regeneration keyword to his Level 1 side and make his Attack ability into a Level 2 pay-off. Obviously, in this case the ability itself or the level-up quest would require a rework as well, as they would no longer feed each other. But what this kind of approach would do is that this way, Vlad would play out a lot closer to Garen-like patterns and provide a reliable board presence for midrange Noxus decks. Noxus has always had the potential to carry those kinds of decks with Legion Veterans and Swain, but still was always falling a little bit short there.
Overall, I feel that the sad state of Freljord is the main thing that should be addressed over the course of the next few balance patches. I struggle to sound unbiased here, but the region is beaming with flavor and his image of power within Runeterra world is not currently supported very well.
Other than that, the balance doesn’t have any ridiculous offenders right now – nothing that a couple of tweaks here and there can’t fix. So, I believe the patch 1.2 will contain more buffs than nerfs – and we may get some surprising ones there, because they are often harder to predict!
Anyway, what are you thoughts on the current meta? Do you enjoy it? What’s you stance on Burn – do you want to see them nerfed to the ground, or Boomcrew Rookie tweak would be enough? Also, is there any other champion besides Vladimir that needs an urgent intervention?
Feel free to express your opinions in comments section below or hit me up on Twitter!