Hi everyone, den is here, with a beginner-friendly theory article. Today, we are going to explore some basic concepts of the game as I’ll be offering you 7 easy tips that will allow you to immediately get better at the game and start working your way up the ladder.
These tips are intended to be evergreen and independent of the state of the current meta – we will focus on improving your overall understanding of the game. I am convinced that if internalized, the basics explained here will carry you to Masters in any metagame environment you would commit to learning.
So without further ado, let’s dive into these basic yet crucial tips in order to become a better player in Legends of Runeterra.
1. Focus on developing tempo
‘Tempo’ in card games is just like what it is in music – it’s the rhythm of the play. If you have a high tempo, it means you are using your cards to present a threatening situation to your opponent, while a slower tempo means that you are playing with an intention of taking things slow in a longer match, where controlling your opponent will be the key to victory.
Developing tempo is the most important thing in many card games, including LoR. If you have the tempo, it means that you are the one dictating the pace of the game. To do that you often need to assume the role of the aggressor – and it is much easier to play as the aggressor than it is to be defending. The latter role usually requires you to have a lot more information to play efficiently, especially when you are new to the game.
The best way to be effective in card games is to be proactive with your gameplan. Play in order to present must-answer threats to your opponents rather than look for elaborate counter-plans that might all fail and crumble.
Obviously, as time passes, you will get more familiar with concepts that will help you manage lower tempo situations, like assessing risks and reading your opponent’s hand, but it’s optimal to start as the one setting the pace.
2. Play around scaling cards
A scaling card is a card that gets stronger and stronger as the game goes. For example, all champions scale through their level-up mechanics, but there are also some units, like Fae Bladetwirler or Wounded Whiteflame, that also benefit from some form of scaling.
In Legends of Runeterra, winning strategies are often built to abuse specific scaling cards and their synergies. Compare a game where you did draw your champions and another game where you didn’t – you will quickly realize the huge boost of power your deck gets from its scaling pieces.
There’s is a huge gap that exists between the best cards in your deck and everything else, so you should play and build your lists to maximize their value instead of trying to make a flexible catch-all strategy work.
3. Treat Health as the most important resource
Card games function around 3 key resources: Cards, Mana and Health.
As more sets and expansions are added to the game, the quality of Cards and Mana as resources might change. For example, in a power-creeped set, you might get access to stronger game pieces, and so you will be able to ‘do more’ with those two resources. However, after a balance patch that had toned down the set power level, these resources will see a deflation – in other words, with same cards and mana investment, you won’t be able to do the same amount of broken stuff as before.
Health is a resource that doesn’t change over time by itself – you will always have access to 20 life-points. But because the Cards and Mana do change, the relative value of a health point does not stay the same. As the game gets faster, Health effectively becomes more and more scarce as a resource. Nowadays, a deck threatening lethal around turn 5-6 isn’t so uncommon – but it wasn’t the case a couple of years ago.
For this reason, I would emphasize the importance of Health as a resource at the start of your journey, both as an aggressor and a defending player.
4. Use Spell Mana to build up tempo
In LoR, any time you’re left with up to 3 unused mana, it is saved as a Spell Mana in a special bank. This simple feature opens up a whole swath of strategic possibilities, and it drastically alters the pacing of the game.
The fact that you can store Spell Mana allows you to sometimes slow down and play reactive, forcing your opponent to act first and show their intentions. After you’ve passed, if they would choose to pass as well, you wouldn’t lose your mana as it will be banked.
Saving up Spell Mana allows you to do more than your regular mana curve would allow. Because of this, on a given turn where you have access to the bank and the opponent doesn’t, you can develop much more tempo than them. Set up and use these kinds of situations to your advantage.
5. Know all the 40 cards in your deck
One downside of netdecking is that a lot of players that copy lists rarely do take the time to learn the exact cards that are in their deck. This lack of awareness makes gameplay much more complicated than it should be.
For example, when your opponent plays a unit that presents a problem for you, knowing which card in your list is a good answer for it, and how many copies of the said card are there in your deck, are necessary to effectively manage the threat that is in front of you.
Know all the cards that have been put into your deck and their purposes – it will allow you to be efficient and reasoned in your decision-making during the game.
6. Always think about win conditions
A win condition can mean different things depending on the context.
A deck’s win condition is the game-winning goal that the deck is trying to reach by design, and in most games. For example, Scouts is looking to establish the strongest possible board presence and leverage it into damage.
A matchup’s win condition is your way to win against a specific opponent, using the information we have on the opposing deck, in addition to what our list is trying to accomplish. We will then compare both decks’ win conditions to see how they match up against one another and come up with our ‘matchup’s win condition’.
A metagame’s win condition is a common trait amongst top-performing decks in a competitive environment that sets the norm on what a deck should be able to do in order to be considered as a contender in the meta.
As you progress in your journey, you will learn and understand these concepts more and be able to use them to your advantage on the ladder. But as a new player, simply knowing your deck’s basic win condition and one or two most common matchup’s win conditions is sufficient to have a good time and start climbing.
In our Deck Guides, we often list the basic win condition of the deck at the beginning of the article and then elaborate on various matchups win conditions in the dedicated ‘Matchups’ section at the end.
7. Focus on what you CAN control
Card games do have a great deal of ‘RNG’ by nature, which can be the source of frustration for players who might feel punished for no reason when the RNG goes the wrong way.
Staying calm and composed is a key component to be proficient in any card game, and the one and only secret to that is to care only about the things we can actually have an impact on.
Getting frustrated over things we had no control of will also negatively affect our thinking about things we do control, as we won’t be at full capacity to rationally think them through.
Becoming good at LoR and getting to the point where you climb the ladder consistently can take a lot of time as raw experience is a key factor. However, what you can change instantly is adopting a more efficient approach to the game and building habits that will later transfer into experience.
LoR is still a wide-open game when it comes to opportunities, and we constantly see new players rise to the top of the ladder or perform well at the Seasonal Tournament, winning big cash prizes. There is still is plenty of space for the up-and-coming talent that can dedicate themselves to the game.
I hope these few tips can help some of you start on the right foot as you begin your adventure in Legends of Runeterra. There is obviously a lot more that can be said, but this list should already be a great starting point for anyone looking to take the game seriously.