Breaking Down Legends of Runeterra Patch 1.2: Balance Changes Overview & Meta Predictions
LoR balance team has once again demonstrated they are not afraid to make sweeping changes. Patch 1.2 card updates affect every established Tier 1 deck and will significantly shake up the meta. Read on to learn about all the upcoming nerfs and buffs – and their possible impact on Constructed environment.
The Crimson Reaper has been a rather bleak build-around champion in Constructed and also an unexciting pick in Expeditions – so this change is very welcome. One of the issues has always been in the fact that his leveled-up version just didn’t reward a player enough. Now, with a Drain ability added into the mix, things are finally becoming somewhat interesting with Vlad.
But I’m not getting my hopes hign over him, not yet. New ability will mostly help Vladimir in matchups versus aggressive decks by providing a steady sustain in the mid-to-late stages. With a Regeneration keyword and Drain effect, leveled-up Vlad will be almost unbeatable for burn decks that were an uneasy threat for Crimson strategies. Also, in some specific midrangy matchups where you’d have to race them (ex. Scouts, Swain/Seju or Teemo/Seju), new Vladimir will also feel more powerful. But still, those specific gameplay situations will arise rather infrequently to really matter. In most match-ups against controlling decks like Corina, Lux/Karma or Deep, Drain ability won’t have any significant impact at all – just because your life totals hardly matter there.
Overall, while I do feel this change is very on-point thematically, it is unlikely to raise Vladimir’s playrate in the long-term. Players will toy with him in the first week, but then Crimson afficionados will likely find themselves only wanting more.
There’s a significant chunk of a LoR player base that would like to see Karma completely reworked. I do agree her play patterns sometimes feel oppressive and could get worse over time as more cards and spell synergies are added to the game. However, it would be a crime to kill the Enlightened One this early on – before applying some soft treatment first.
To nerf Karma’s mana-cost is the right move here, enough for both Ezreal and Lux decks to feel the massive impact of the change. Playing against Karma, 5-mana was the magic number to dictate when the mindgames around that champion card would begin. Starting from there, you’d know better not to tap out of an answer for her. From now on, this timestamp moves further away to the turn six – and it is a huge deal for Karma’s opponents in terms of developing their own gameplan rather than trying to play around her.
Protecting Karma in the midgame with Deny or Prismatic Barrier is now incredibly difficult, so I believe she is now effectively a turn 10 champion. Her generating spells while pre-Enlightened will come up in competitive games very infrequently– Karma is now primarily a pure combo piece for the dedicated decks.
The Piltover Enforcer’s duties have been growing and broadening constantly since the release of Rising Tides expansion. First, Vi pushed Karma and Lux out of Heimerdinger decks, then found her way into Corina Control. She then also became the best partner for underplayed Lee Sin, which shows her ability to carry even marginal archetypes into Tier 2 status. Last week, Vi even managed to replace Garen in Bannerman decks – and that was probably the biggest red flag.
The thing is, her raw power level is just too consistent and doesn’t require any specific synergies or level-up ambitions. If building a deck, you were unsure about your supporting color, the odds are your best option was to splash for PnZ and recruit Vi.
With the nerf to her health, this silly trend has come to an end. She will still be good enough to play in established control builds, but Demacia nonsense will cease to be. 5 health with Tough was allowing her to beat most 5-drops in the game, which proved to be a great advantage in midrange-on-midrange warfare. At 4 health, Vi will have to pick her battles more carefully, while still keeping her resistances up for damage-based removal.
This is nothing but a small tweak to a Barrier archetype that has been a thing of the past of Open Beta days. Players still haven’t discovered a better pairing for Shen outside of Demacia and Fiora, and it’s hard to expect any breakthroughs there.
However, since Stand Alone has been hit hard in this balance patch (see below), those decks will cease to be a mainstream way to abuse The Grand Duelist. In the post-Stand Alone power vacuum, old Shen/Fiora synergies might find their way back into the meta.
A nightmare from the past, Heca has been just a shadow of his former self for months now. Ephemeral strategies have fallen out of Tier Lists completely and so Riot begin to carefully infuse some power back into those decks.
Ionia/SI Ephemeral aggro has some potential and is still not properly explored in the post-Rising Tides world, with sweet additions like Blighted Caretaker and Neverglade Collector ready for a spotlight. A boost to Hecarim’s hard-hitting power might be exactly what those decks were missing.
Grizzled Ranger/Loyal Badgerbear/Greathorn Companion
I was worried the balance team would be reluctant to pull the trigger on those Demacia offenders this early into expansion’s life-cycle. Apparently, the incoming data correlated well with community’s emotional reactions and the Scout buddies got a well-deserved nerf.
Demacia’s early-to-mid board presence was unrivaled, with a perfect curve of highly efficient units – starting with Fleetfeather Tracker and ending with Cithria the Bold. After Grizzled Ranger nerf, I doubt too much is changing for those decks in terms of deckbuilding choices – there’re still no other good options at 4 mana besides Ranger and Bannerman. But the overall power-level, it will become much more reasonable.
Riot have also attempted to shift the ‘Scout powerspike’ from 4-mana point in the curve to a 5-mana one with the buff to Greathorn Companion. However, given how contested that slot is (Garen, Quinn, Swiftwing Lancer), that follower is still likely to be gated from competitive play. Meanwhile, it is the Lux decks abusing Remembrance that are the happiest with this change – that spell now has no bad drops whatsoever.
A nice little buff aimed primarily at Expeditions. Demacia struggles with card advantage in the draft mode, and 2-for-1 followers like Laurent Chevalier and Swiftwing Lancer are about the only way to compensate for that. With 2 health allowing even a 3-for-1 in a dream scenario, I’m no longer as embarrassed by Chevalier as Fiora in that hilarious full art of the card.
Well, that unique Stand Alone OTK deck with Fiora and Zed popularized by Swim is probably done now. A big part of its cheesy combo power was to bank 3 spell mana going into turn three and slap that burst-speed buff on either a champion or Solitary Monk. With Stand Alone costing 4 mana, it is now incredibly awkward to time things with this deck – to the point that it now likely won’t be able to effectively race opponents. The king of cheese decks is dead.
Legion Rearguard/Boomcrew Rookie
Behold, the much anticipated Burn nerfs! It was not hard to predict an adjustment to Boomcrew Rookie, and this article explains all the reasons why the change had to happen.
Rearguard one was a bit more unexpected – and probably even more unmerciful. For this follower to go down to 1 health is a big hit that will likely push it out of playability completely. Just think about it – the only scenario it is now remotely good in is when you’re attacking first and the opponent doesn’t have a 1-drop to respond.
But even in that narrow case Legion Rearguard pushes 3 lucky points of damage – and that’s probably the extent of it. He can’t block so he will never trade well; being sniped by Vile Feast or gated by Hapless Aristocrat is completely embarrassing. Also, not unimportantly, Burn decks can’t really make use of him with Imperial Demolitionist either.
With these two nerfs to Rearguard and Rookie, Nox/PnZ Burn aggro decks are slowed down significantly in this patch, and one can safely expect their fall from Tier 1 status.
This one proved to be the strongest spell in Ionia – which, given the region’s specialty, automatically makes it into the best spell in the game as a whole. Even in those rare occurrences when cast for undiscounted cost of 4 mana, Deep Meditation has always felt great. At two mana, it was straight up unfair.
Taxing the mana a bit more will not affect card’s playability much, but rather bring it in tune with reality of a card game. Paying two mana for a quasi-tutor effect for 2 cards is just not something you should be able to do. Even at 5 mana/3mana, Deep Meditation would still be a 3-of in most Ionia control builds and provide a steady stream of card advantage.
Interestingly enough, Heimerdinger might even welcome that mana-cost bump. Casting spells at 3 mana is something the Revered Inventor was always fond of because of the Elusive ‘Floor-B-Gone’ turret.
This is the only adjustment to Freljord in patch 1.2, which I personally find a bit disappointing. Sure, given that the power-level of all other regions is brought down all across the board, Freljord will find itself in a better place even without direct buffs. Still, it can’t be quite enough.
Kindly Tavernkeeper is a flexible follower that has always been in and out of various slower archetypes even at his old statline. As a 3|3 he is now even more solid as an option for Freljord decks that aim to go bigger on board or ramp into a win-con like Anivia or Warmother’s Call.
This is a reversion of a change that was made at mid-point in the Open Beta, patch 0.9.2. At that time, the balance team were looking for ways to compensate aggressive Spider decks for the hits directed at their staples Crowd Favorite and Mark of the Isles.
However, time has passed, and Brood Awakening has since found its way into too many archetypes not directly related to Spider synergies – the now-extinct Spooky Karma, then Corina Control and Endure Spiders. Awakening has never felt too oppressive, but the designers feel this too universal of a use goes against the intent behind the spell.
Fizz’s Longtooth/Monkey Idol/Slotbot
Bilgewater buffs in patch 1.2 have been managed very carefully. Fizz has so far seen only a little of Tier 3 presence, being paired with Twisted Fate. Still, the designers have to tiptoe around the Tidal Trickster because of his threat to suddenly become too toxic.
Chum the Waters/Longtooth buff is such very cautious attempt to give Fizz a bit of love, but fans of the champion shuld still feel thankful. ‘We can’t offer too much help at this time, but we’re thinking of you’ is a nice gesture from developers towards Fizz/TF players (full disclosure – I’m one of those players, so a bit biased).
Monkey Idol and Slotbot buffs have little chance to affect the meta, but will certainly encourage more experimentation and memeing. Slotbot is now a particularly fun and sometimes potent build-around, both in Constructed and Expeditions – and the slowing down of Burn strategies contributes to that greatly.
The Watchlist: Unyielding Spirit, Pilfered Goods/Black Market Merchant
Not many cards remain unchanged for too long after being placed on the balancing ‘most wanted’ board. And given the way that the designers’ concerns in this section are phrased this time, it is very likely both Unyielding Spirit and Pilfered Goods will see some adjustments soon.
The community has so far made some very reasonable suggestions as to the ways these cards could be addressed. Unyielding Spirit could be transformed into a Slow spell with its mana cost decreased – a design that will fall very much in line with the cards like Dawn and Dusk and Redoubled Valor.
As for card-stealing package of Pilfered Goods and Black Market Merchant, the only real negative impact it has on the game is in the way it hoses Freljord’s deck-buffing strategies. It feels miserable to get Pilfered after you’ve deployed your Omen Hawk or cast Shared Spoils. All of that can be neutralized very easily – just make all the card-stealing mechanics draw from the bottom of the opponent’s deck. Please, and thank you!
Conclusion: Top Decks Changes Overview and Meta Predictions
Below is the spreadsheet that sorts all the balance changes to popular meta decks and how they should impact their wainrates.
* – card affected indirectly by the change of an associated card; ** – winrate predictions: will go unchanged/will go down/will go up.