Since the closed beta, the designers of Legends of Runeterra have repeatedly expressed their desire to have every card in the game find a home in at least one deck. Recently Alexz Lee, Design Lead for the Rising Tides expansion, took to Twitter to ask folks what changes they would like to see to some of the underplayed Epic cards in Patch 1.4. He presented an exciting opportunity for players to give direct feedback that impacts the very next update for Legends of Runeterra. I put my thoughts on the matter to proverbial “paper” to share with you all.
Chief Mechanist Zevi
At first look, Zevi seemed like an intriguing addition to the Discard strategies that were floating around before Rising Tides. Unfortunately, the expansion that brought Zevi into the mix also more or less pushed the Discard decks out of favor. The new Burn deck that was brought about by the addition of cards like Noxian Fervor and Imperial Demolitionist didn’t allow for Discard decks to see much play.
Regardlessthe amount of Discard decks we see in the meta, Zevi still misses the mark. Her stats are appropriate for the cost, but her effect leaves more to be desired. She doesn’t provide extra card draw herself, which means that she needs support if you want her effect to trigger on more than your draw for the round. Zevi also has the potential drawback of putting you down a card if you can’t (or don’t want to) cast the cards you drew.
I would like to see Zevi’s effect changed to giving the Fleeting tag to just the copy and not the original card. Doing so would remove the “feels bad” moments of drawing cards you can’t use without making her effect overpowered. Another route would be to reduce her cost to 5 mana, which allows her stats to be used earlier in the game. The former option seems more interesting and more probable in my opinion (we don’t need a bigger Badgerbear). Buffing her effect by only giving the copy Fleeting would make her a strong finisher for the Discard oriented strategies and would even give her a place in other archetypes such as aggro and target-based combo decks.
When I first joined the beta, Ren Shadowblade seemed incredibly fun and appealing. All of my opponent’s followers gain Ephemeral from here on out? Awesome! Unfortunately, he falls short in several areas.
For 8-mana, Ren’s stats are terrible. He is healthy enough that he survives most damage-based removal, but he also trades down in nearly every situation. I think the idea was that his effect removes any blockers that your opponent wants to play in the future, but he doesn’t do anything to deal with the current board.
Overall, he lacks synergy and power. In Legends of Runeterra, you want your 7+ cost card to close out the game alone, finish your combo, synergize heavily with the rest of your deck, or save a game you should have lost. Ren doesn’t do any of these things. He is just an 8-mana 6|4 that might cause your opponent to slow down a bit; if you’re lucky.
Ren might be the worst Epic in all of Legends of Runeterra. He either needs to be much cheaper (with adjusted stats to match) so that his effect can be useful, or he needs a rework that makes him useful later in the game. Maybe all he needs is a keyword or two, but overall either his raw power or lack of synergy needs to be addressed.
Yet another instance of a seemingly fun card that is unplayable is Jae Medarda. At first look, Jae seems to be a powerful Elusive card draw engine. Unfortunately, in practice, he doesn’t quite deliver. His stats are passable, especially on an Elusive unit, but his cost doesn’t balance with what he wants to do.
Being a powerful Elusive unit means that players should feel pressured into removing as soon as they can. He can attack for nearly a third of the enemy Nexus’s health and likely can’t be blocked. His stats make removing him difficult with damage-based removal (Vengeance, The Ruination, and Will of Ionia are among the cleanest ways to deal with him). Unfortunately, due to the way targeting rules work in Legends of Runeterra, if Jae doesn’t survive the card that targets him, he doesn’t proc the card draw. This means that the cards I mentioned above remove him from the board, prevent you from drawing a card, and put you behind on mana.
These aren’t qualities you hope to see in your 8-mana finisher. As the design team is usually fond of frequent incremental adjustments I would suggest simply reducing his cost a touch. The targeting rules of the game mean that changing his effect is more complex and drawing more than one card every time he is targeted doesn’t fix the removal issue I mentioned above.
Spectral Matron was a frontrunner for “most interesting non-champion” in Foundations for me. She’s a big body with a fascinating synergistic effect and a powerful keyword. How could she be bad?
An 8-mana 6|6 with Fearsome isn’t terrible, especially when it acts as a 2-for-1 bringing an additional unit with it. Spectral Matron has various benefits going for her. She lets you select the exact card you want to copy (The Rekindler says hi!), allowing for incredibly interesting play routes. She also synergizes well with Ephemeral strategies. On top of all this, her effect isn’t limited to followers. She can cheat your champions into play as well!
However, like the others on this list, she too falls short in most situations and fails to find a real home in any deck. Most Ephemeral strategies look to top out with Hecarim and, occasionally, one copy of The Harrowing or Dawn and Dusk. There is certainly room for Spectral Matron to make those lists, but she needs a slight push to make her viable.
Most likely, we’ll see the design team reduce her to a 7-cost to start and see how she performs from there. It would be curious to see how changing her Play effect to a Summon effect would alter her playability as well (however, this change would require a slight rework of her ability as Summon effect can’t target the same way Play abilities do). Matron is close to playability already and I expect she is a small tweak away from finding a deck to call home.
Last but not least is Aurok Glinthorn. I think it’s safe to say that he has the best stats-to-cost ratio of the units on this list. Unfortunately, his effect, as cool as it is in theory, often isn’t as effective as most would hope.
Stunning enemies would lead one to pair Aurok with Yasuo, but in that deck, Minotaur Reckoner is far more effective. I think all that is wrong with this card is that there are simply better alternatives. A small buff to Aurok Glinthorn could be enough to see Yasuo or other stun decks play him more frequently.
Perhaps adjusting his effect to read “Stun all enemies with X health or less” would be enough. A change of this nature would allow him to stun chump blockers reliably enough that he would be effective. The damage-oriented aspect of his ability would come into play when a player would like to stun larger enemy units. Players could damage specific units to drop them below the threshold that Aurok checks.
It is a huge testament to the design team’s desire to include the community on balance changes that Alexz Lee reached out publicly on the matter. This level of community engagement coming directly from the design team is remarkable and shows how valuable they find community input. In my opinion, this speaks volumes of the potential this game has.
The idea of new adjustments to Epics interesting, but currently unplayable or unfun cards is making me giddy. Will Spectral Matron finally find a home? Will Ren Shadowblade finally be a staple card somewhere? We’ll have to wait until Patch 1.4 drops on June 23 to find out, but the speculation has the community’s theorycrafters and deck builders bursting with excitement.
Focus of this upcoming balance patch is intriguing as it tells us the design team is comfortable where most cards are from a power level perspective. They want to shake the meta up slightly by giving other cards a chance at the spotlight rather than taking currently popular and/or powerful cards out of it. I find this refreshing given the number of nerfs we have seen to cards in the last few patches.
Which Epics would you like to see buffed or reworked? Would you like the design team to continue reaching out publicly for input on these topics? Are you excited about Patch 1.4?