‘Buff and Tuff’ Beginner Deck Upgrades

In the last article of the series, den helps new players to upgrade the Freljord-based midrange starter deck.

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. Until then, however, you have to work with one of the starter decks and find a way to optimally spend the few common and rare wildcards you have to upgrade it.

This is the third and last article in a series where my goal is to help you choose the starter deck that fits you and offer advice on how to improve it. When I offer upgrades I will try to mostly suggest commons (and sometimes – rares) for you to craft, whenever possible. This way, you can save your more important resources (like Epic and Champion wildcards) for when you’ll have a better idea of what you like to play.

In the two previous articles, we’ve already covered ‘Death and Spiders’ and ‘Spells and Stealth’ starter decks. Compared to these more aggressive lists, ‘Buff and Tuff’ a much slower deck that relies on value.

‘Buff and Tuff’ is considered to be the worst out of the three starter decks. Personally, I don’t think this one is much worse than the other two, as both ‘Death and Spiders’ and ‘Spells and Stealth’ have glaring weaknesses and overall very weak synergies going on.

The main difference here is that because ‘Buff and Tuff’ isn’t built to be an aggressive deck, which means we can’t rely on simply pressuring the opponent to cheese out some wins.

But the actual main reason why the ‘Buff and Tuff’ archetype can be considered to be the weakest one of the starter decks is this.

As a beginner player, the main thing that we are missing is knowledge about the game. The slower the deck we are playing is – the more turns we will have to play out each game. Each turn requires us to make choices, which are mostly based on the knowledge we have. And because we are lacking the knowledge to make educated choices, longer games also put us in a position to make more choices that are wrong.

But whereas the other two decks have an easier curve to figure out, it doesn’t mean this particular deck cannot find a curve that will allow it to become just as good as the other starter decks.

What is ‘The Curve’? Curving in a card game is the concept of using all mana available every time it is possible to do so. While doing that, we ensure that we maximize the tempo we could develop during each turn.

In Legends of Runeterra, there is a unique possibility to store mana in order to use it later on, which makes the curve concept not as mandatory it comes to spells. Units though are still functioning based on that concept, and we will try to use that aspect of ‘curving out’ to the fullest when building the various decks based on this archetype.

When looking at the various synergies available in the deck, we can see that there are a lot of things mixing and it’s difficult to find some balance or coherence between all the cards.

The champions all want you to be dominant on the board, and we can see buff effects as well as combat tricks as the main supporting mechanics. This means that we’re looking at a deck that is trying to seize the board in order to support its future development and build a threatening army over time. 

In order to have an overall cohesive deck, we will then aim at finding and including cards that can help with that game plan. So we will invest into cards that can either build our own board or help keep the opponent’s forces at bay.

Midrange decks in card games require you to have a solid knowledge of fundamentals. You need to spend your mana efficiently, control the trades and develop your board.

Demacia and Freljord are the best regions for that strategy, and Buff and Tuff is actually a great educational deck for new players that teaches all of those concepts. It is a simple deck that is capable of climbing the ladder if used correctly.

Here, we have a unit-centric gameplan. Barrier, Challenger, and Overwhelm, are all combat keywords that will help leverage our position on the board. Spells are coming in as support in order to either keep our units safe or deal with our opponent’s threats.

As we can see by looking at the deck’s curve, we have units to play on each of the turns starting from 1 and going up to 6 – and then we have Tryndamere as the big late-game enforcer.

The goal with this build is simply to keep developing units on the board until we reach Alpha Wildclaw and Tryndamere. Both of them have the Overwhelm keyword, so they will be able to deal big Nexus damage even against a blocker.

Our weakest turn in the curve is turn 4, where we only have a Babbling Bjerg to play. If you’ve played Avarosan Trapper prior and happen to draw the Enraged Yeti, you’ll have a 5/5 and set well to keep pressuring. Otherwise, the Bjerg can act as a transition towards bigger units.

Here we drop Demacia to include Noxus cards instead. Freljord and Noxus have a fairly good Overwhelm deck in the meta featuring Sejuani and Tryndamere at the time I’m writing. The deck we will build follows its steps and focuses on pressuring the opponent through the board and finding a way to close out thanks to the Overwhelm keyword

And actually, this deck could end up being the best out of all the ones we’ve talked about throughout these starter deck guides.

While it might be a little trickier to understand at first, you really have to give up on trying to directly answer the pressure from your opponent in order to develop an even bigger one in return.

This deck is also very easy to further improve adapt and you can keep crafting cards to make it better once you are ready to invest rare, epic, or champion wildcards.

Gameplay-wise, we want to play like a midrange deck, with the emphasis on pressuring the opponent through bigger and bigger threats – up to the point where Tryndamere and Captain Farron can come in and close the deal.

Just like before with the Demacia + Freljord pairing, we are aiming at curving our threats and never letting any mana go to waste. Banking spell mana at some point can be very useful though as we have several spells that cost exactly 3 – most importantly, a Whirling Death, which is one of our best tools to protect a minion in combat or to push some Overwhelm damage as the spell will remove the blocker.

Closing Words

Here comes the end of our beginner’s guides series, I hope it was helpful to some of you out there, starting the game and trying to get better at deckbuilding.

If you’d like to keep improving or simply exchange with other players, feel free to stop by our Discord where you’ll always find someone to help you. To find me directly, whether it is to talk about an article or for coaching, my Twitter page is the place to go.

Wishing you the best of luck if you’ve just embarked on your journey in Legends of Runeterra.

Good Game everyone.


Den has been in love with strategy games for as long as he can remember, starting with the Heroes of Might and Magic series as a kid. Card games came around the middle school - Yugioh and then Magic. Hearthstone has been his real breakthrough and he has been a coach, writer, and caster on the French scene for many years now. Although it took him a bit to get into Legends or Runeterra, his EU Seasonal Tournament win was the perfect start to get involved in the community. He now coaches aspiring pro players and writes various articles on the game. Find him on Twitter at @den_CCG!

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