Beginner’s Guide: 7 Budget Upgrades for LoR Starter Decks

So, you have just finished the tutorials and now you are left with 3 different starter decks and no clue what you should do next. Progression is very quick in Legends of Runeterra and after a week or two you should be well on your way to your very first meta deck. For now, however, you might ask yourself: which one of the starter decks is best for the very beginner and how should I spend the few common and rare wildcards I have?

Before crafting any new cards, I would recommend you do some basic progression on the first two days. For this, you can use the Ionia/PnZ deck called “Spells and Stealth”. In its basic form, it’s the strongest deck out of the three starter decks offered and is, therefore, best for grinding in these first few hours. However, feel free to switch if you need any of the other decks to complete particular quests of course.

Finish the prologue tree so you can unlock the region trees and get some much needed core cards for your collection. On the second day you will receive bonus quests and should have three in total. With the help of these quests you should be able to quickly progress 3 different region trees until level 4, which will give you 4 common and 1 rare wildcard. Even when you just do matches against bots this shouldn’t take you much more than a couple hours.

After doing all this you will probably be left with roughly 800 shards, 15 common wildcards, 6 rare wildcards and 1 epic wildcard on the second day. If you were lucky some of these rewards upgraded into epic or champion cards.

“Death and Spiders”

The first deck we will take a look at is the Shadow Isles / Noxus starter deck. Of all the starter decks, this one has the most potential after changing out a few cards. The pairing with Noxus opens up a lot of possibilities when it comes to building a good aggro deck. These types of decks are especially great for beginners, because they tend to be very cheap.

Upgrade Path #1: Spider Swarm

The strategy is very simple, swarm the board and overwhelm your opponent with a horde of powered up Spiderlings. Elise, House Spider and Crawling Sensation will be your main tools for flooding the board while Crowd Favorite and Arachnoid Host help finish the game once you’ve established dominance.


To help with early pressure, we will craft 2 powerful followers, if you didn’t get them as rewards already. These are Ravenous Butcher and Cursed Keeper. The latter is a very good target for any card which requires you to sacrifice an ally. Ravenous Butcher costs 0 mana, so you can play him as early as round 2 immediately after you played Cursed Keeper for board dominance. An even more powerful combo is with Chronicler of Ruin, who will spawn a second Cursed Keeper after destroying the original and triggering his Last Breath.

Crafts: 12 Commons + 3 Rares = 2100 Shards.

  • 2x Ravenous Butcher
  • 1x Precious Pet
  • 2x Crawling Sensation
  • 3x Cursed Keeper
  • 2x Glimpse Beyond
  • 2x Noxian Fervor
  • 1x Blighted Caretaker
  • 2x Crowd Favourite

If you want to improve this deck even further I would suggest getting a third copy of Elise and more Blighted Caretakers. In order to make room for these cards, you can cut cards like Captain Farron, Black Spear, Chronicler of Ruin and Darius. You then can continue building this deck towards early aggression by also including Crimson Disciple and Transfusion.

Don’t be afraid to remove Brood Awakening, as this card is too slow for this deck, despite the Spider synergy. Another possibility is to include one or two Fresh Offerings. Don’t craft this one, but you can experiment with if you’ve got it from rewards. This card isn’t bad for spider swarm decks but often ends up being a bricked card in your hand because getting three of your units to die in one round is harder than it sounds.

Even though the Spider swarming decks are currently not in the meta, by crafting cards like Glimpse Beyond and Cursed Keeper you will be well on your way to a competitive Shadow Isles deck.

Upgrade Path #2: Elise Aggro

If you would like an easier transition to a competitively viable deck, I would recommend to invest in Noxus a bit more and push the starter deck towards an aggro strategy. This deck foregoes the Spider synergy for raw early game power. This upgrade already contains a lot of the core cards of Noxus aggro decks and these types of decks already tend to be very cheap, containing almost no champions or Epic cards.


This deck is also ideal for beginners because it’s very easy to pilot. Jus rush down your opponent with cards that deal direct damage to the Nexus. Crimson Disciple will be your prime target for any card that deals damage to allies like Imperial Demolitionist and Transfusion. Cursed Keeper is also a good alternative target for these cards, because it will generate a strong unit upon being destroyed.

Crafts: 15 Commons + 3 Rares = 2400 Shards.

  • 2x Ravenous Butcher
  • 1x Precious Pet
  • 3x Crimson Disciple
  • 3x Cursed Keeper
  • 2x Imperial Demolitionist
  • 2x Glimpse Beyond
  • 3x Transfusion
  • 2x Noxian Fervor

If you want to further upgrade this deck you should prioritize getting more Decimates, 3 copies of Blighted Caretaker and a third Imperial Demolitionist. A good second champion for this deck would be Kalista. Cards which can be safely cut are especially expensive late-game cards like Darius and Captain Farron. House Spider, Arachnoid Sentry, Crowd Favorite, Culling Strike, Brother’s Bond and Might are also all replaceable.

Upgrade Path #3: They Who Endure Spiders

This is basically a budget version of currently one of the most powerful decks in Legends of Runeterra. This deck cuts Noxus in order to pursue more of a control playstyle by adding Freljord. Your goal is it to destroy as many of your own units as possible, so you can play a massive They Who Endure on turn seven. You can then cast Atrocity on They Who Endure and destroy your opponent.


Crafts: 11 Commons + 5 Rares = 2600 Shards.

  • 2x Ravenous Butcher
  • 2x Avarosan Sentry
  • 3x Cursed Keeper
  • 2x They Who Endure
  • 2x Glimpse Beyond
  • 2x Fury of the North
  • 2x Atrocity

(Note: Currently LoR offers Daily Login Rewards for new players for the first seven days. On Day 4 a player is set to receive 2x Atrocity for free, so it’s highly advisable to not craft this card early and wait for the reward instead.)

This upgrade has very high potential but it’s more expensive than the aggro decks. You require a lot of rare cards like 2 Neverglade Collectors and 3 Blighted Caretakers, which should be your number 1 priority to craft next. Braum should also be replaced with Kalista, who synergizes much better with the many ally deaths. Other cards which you should craft are Barkbeast and as soon as you have Kalista, Haunted Relic.

In order to make room for better cards you can cut Lonely Poro, Icevale Archer, Avarosan Marksman, Kindly Tavernkeeper and Avalanche.

“Spells and Stealth”

This is the most unconventional starter deck. It has some pretty good cards in it however, which is why this deck is the best for anyone who just needs something to get through the first few hours of the game. So how do you improve it? Mostly by dumping one of the two regions and building a budget version of either Ionia/Freljord Elusives, Ionia/Noxus Aggro or PnZ/Noxus Discard deck.

The problem with the starter list is that the combination of Jinx and Zed has no inherent synergy. You are better off by either focusing your deck on Elusive units and Zed or on the Discard package and Jinx. It is nice that you do get three copies of Jinx immediately at the start – however, a Discard deck will still have a hard time without Draven. An Elusive deck just needs Zed and no other champions, so for a free-to-play beginner, it’s better to focus on him.

Upgrade Path #1: Kinkou Elusives

This is another rather aggressive deck. The strategy revolves around playing units which the opponent can’t block while protecting them against removal with Elixir of Iron or Twin Disciplines. It’s a very straightforward strategy and is therefore ideal for beginners. Another advantage is that this deck is already pretty close to a meta deck but it does require an Epic card in order to truly shine.


Crafts: 11 Commons + 3 Rares = 2000 Shards.

  • 3x Navori Bladescout
  • 3x Iron Elixir
  • 1x Omen Hawk
  • 1x Navori Conspirator
  • 3x Kinkou Lifeblade
  • 3x Kinkou Wayfinder

If you want to stick with Ionia / Freljord you should definitely craft a full set of Windfarer Hatchling’s and a third copy of Zed. The Empyrean, Scaled Snapper, Greenglade Elder, Health Potion and Dawn and Dusk are all replaceable in favor of including third copies of core cards like Greenglade Duo, Twin Disciplines and Jeweled Protector.

Upgrade Path #2: Elusive Aggro

Another option for an Elusive deck is to tap deeper into Noxus for even more early game power. For this version, you won’t even need champions and all cards you will have to craft are either common or rare, making it a good option for beginner players.


This pretty much plays exactly like the other Noxus aggro decks, only that this time you won’t have to care about the opponent’s defences as much. If the opponent doesn’t run Elusive units you can quickly rush them down with the added support of the Crimson Disciple/Imperial Demolitionist combo.

Crafts: 12 Commons + 3 Rares = 2100 Shards.

  • 2x Navori Bladescout
  • 3x Crimson Disciple
  • 3x Imperial Demolitionist
  • 2x Legion Grenadier
  • 2x Elixir of Wrath
  • 3x Transfusion

To further upgrade this deck you only need a full playset of Solitary Monks, Noxian Fervors and 2 Retreats. The cards you won’t need anymore eventually are Zed, Darius, House Spider, Culling Strike, Might, Twin Disciplines and Deny. Instead replace them with more copies of important cards like Navori Bladescout, Precious Pet, Legion Grenadier and Decimate.

Upgrade Path #3: Jinx Discard

If you are more interested in PnZ and would like to play around with your 3 copies of Jinx, this is the potential build you can pursue. This deck is worse than the other aggressive options with Ionia, but it’s a good start if you really like Piltover and Zaun playstyle. This is a light version of the standard Discard deck, which would usually run 3 copies of Draven instead of his brother Darius.


The strategy is a bit harder to make work than with other aggro decks. Your goal is it to empty your hand by discarding cards to effects like Get Excited! or Augmented Experimenter. This will cause Jinx to level up and then you can tear down your opponent’s Nexus by unleashing a hail of rockets on it.

Crafts: 13 Commons + 4 Rares = 2500 Shards.

  • 1x Astute Academic
  • 1x Boomcrew Rookie
  • 3x Cimson Disciple
  • 2x Flame Chompers!
  • 3x Jury-Rig
  • 2x Rummage
  • 1x Mystic Shot
  • 3x Transfusion
  • 1x Get Excited!

You only need to craft a few cards in order to further upgrade this deck, but you will need 3 champion wildcards or 9000 shards. Draven is a absolute must have in this deck, so craft him and replace Darius as soon a possible if you like this deck. Draven is one of the better Noxus champions, which means you can also find use for him outside of discard decks. After crafting Draven you should replace the House Spider with Draven’s Biggest Fan.

This deck may not be the strongest of the starter deck upgrades but it’s a good start for starting your collection of essential PnZ cards. Get Excited, Mystic Shot and Rummage are all very common mainstays in competitive PnZ decks. Jinx isn’t considered to be that strong however, so you should aquire more popular champions like Heimerdinger or Vi if you want to build stronger PnZ decks.

“Buff and Tuff”

The last one is probably the worst of the starter decks. Sadly, at the beginning you don’t get more than 1 copy of 3 different champions from Demacia, making it somewhat hard to build a viable deck around a champion at the beginning. The best way to pack some power into this deck is to make a Bannerman deck out of it.

Upgrade Path: Freljord Bannerman

This is again a very simple deck which mostly relies on beating the opponent down repeatedly with units that have huge stats. Usually, this deck is run with 3 copies of Fiora and Garen but they are out of our reach for now, so we will make do with 1 Garen and 2 Braums. Since his rework in patch 1.4, Braum is actually not a bad replacement for Fiora. Forcing Braum and an enemy to strike each other with Single Combat, as well as attacking multiple times with Relentless Pursuit will help with levelling up Braum.


Crafts: 10 Commons + 5 Rares = 2500 Scraps.

  • 1x Fleetfeather Tracker
  • 3x Brightsteel Protector
  • 2x War Chefs
  • 1x Laurent Protege
  • 2x Loyal Badgerbear
  • 2x Grizzled Ranger
  • 3x Vanguard Bannerman
  • 1x Single Combat

The cards you can safely dump for more valuable ones are Braum, Omen Hawk, Vanguard Defender, Vanguard Sergeant, Tianna Crownguard and Judgement. If you are a fan of Demacia you should either eventually build towards a Miss Fortune Scouts deck or a classic Fiora Bannerman deck.

Essential cards which you should craft next are a full set of Grizzled Ranger, Cithria the Bold and Riposte. These are considered to be some of the best cards in the Demacia region and are part of almost all Demacia decks. Other cards which you should craft a third copy of are Loyal Badgerbear and War Chefs. Ranger’s Resolve is also a very good card and you can never go wrong with including 1 or 2 of it.

The big advantage with Demacia is that they have a very strong core set of cards which are used in almost every deck that employs the region. So once you have crafted these cards you will be able to build a lot of strong Demacia decks, which only really differ in what champions they run.

The classic Bannerman deck with Fiora and Garen goes deeper into the midrange strategy and prefers more raw value. You actually have some flexibility when it comes to choosing the second region in this deck. Freljord and Ionia are the best choices as support regions for Bannerman. If you go with Freljord you should run 3 of Fury of the North. If you partner with Ionia you should include a couple Deny’s and Will of Ionia’s. For this deck, you will also want to drop Relentless Pursuit to make room for a couple of Silverwing Lancers.

The alternative is the Miss Fortune aggro deck. This deck aims to attack as often as possible in a turn so it can end games very quickly. The normal version runs 3 Miss Fortune’s and 3 Quinn’s, which will require you to spend a lot of resources and time in order to craft them. If you want to save a little bit of time you can run Lucian instead of Quinn, saving you 1 champion wildcard. In this deck, you will, of course, want a full set of Relentless Pursuit and one or two of Citrus Courier is also very useful for his Rally abilities. Keep in mind that if you decide to run Lucian instead of Quinn, you should drop Loyal Badgerbear and instead include 3 of Senna, Sentinel of Light.


The generous economy of Legends of Runeterra allows you to start crafting the beginnings of a competitive deck from Day 1. Overall, I would recommend starting with the upgrades that lead you down the road towards an Ionia/Noxus Aggro deck or PnZ/Noxus Aggro deck. Those are the best if you want to quickly build a strong deck and are easy to play.

Don’t feel pressured to build this one though if you don’t like its playstyle. It’s always the safest bet to just simply build a deck you know you would enjoy, as I did when I first started playing back in open beta.


Cellstealer’s love for card games started at the school yard, where he used to trade away his valuable Yu-Gi-Oh cards for the ones that ‘looked cool’. Since then he’s played various online CCG's until he decided to stick with Legends of Runeterra. Occasionally he spares opponents from another beating in LoR and channels energy into other productive endeavours such as art, film-making, or playing video games.