Earlier in the week, we put a spotlight on pro player Tilted_22 and the decks he used to win the EU Creators Invitational, but the Runeterra tournament scene is still going strong.
This past week also featured the beginning of the Korea Invitational, a tournament organized by Riot Games themselves, and the numbers that it drew paint a very positive picture for the potential that Legends of Runeterra might hold in the e-sports marketplace. While viewership wasn’t on par with an established behemoth like Hearthstone, the preliminary round of the tournament averaged somewhere in the neighborhood of 6,000-7,000 viewers, with a peak of just under 10,000 simultaneous people watching the games unfold. Those are numbers that are already competitive with the stats you might see for MTG: Arena, one of the next-most-established CCG games in the e-sports market, which, for a game like Legends of Runeterra, that’s still in relative infancy? I’d have to wager that Riot must be pretty satisfied with that.
As for the coming rounds of the tournament, I was fortunate enough to get the chance to ask one of the eight players still remaining in the field — Xixo, a German veteran of competitive CCGs — a few questions about his preparations for the matches ahead, what it’s like to play competitively in a game that’s still so new and fresh, and the uniqueness of being the only non-Korean player invited to take part in the tournament. You can check out the interview below, where my questions to Xixo are in boldface, and his responses are italicized, to easily differentiate.
Thanks again for taking the time to answer a few quick questions between your preparations for the Invitational. I know you must be busy, so let’s get right to it! For starters, as a longtime competitive Hearthstone player, the undisputed king of CCG e-sports at the moment, how many differences are there when you’re competing in Legends of Runeterra, a game that’s still so new and unexplored?
“I’ve competed in Artifact and other titles, and I enjoy playing new formats/games, as the advantage I get from better preparation is bigger than what I’d get if the game was older. It was quite stressful to prepare for the first week, as there hadn’t been any other big Runeterra tournament yet, so we had no point of reference.”
Do you feel any extra pressure from being the only non-Korean player in the field? Or is it business as usual for you?
“When I heard about the tournament, I offered to fly myself out to South Korea to participate. I am very connected to the Korean scene, have stayed over there for multiple months, and I don’t think I’d have more stress than others, since everyone could have seen that even if I lost, I was dedicated enough to travel to Korea for the tournament. But due to the corona virus situation, the organizer decided to hold the tournament online instead. I would have really hated losing and potentially have people think I only accepted for the free money, and wasn’t trying as hard as I could.“
You were one of only two players to bring a Jinx/Draven Aggro list to the first round of the tournament. The field overall turned out to be very diverse, but what were some of the advantages you felt this deck had over other aggro alternatives?
“I don’t believe decks like Draven/Ezreal are very strong against good players, so I had to find another way to play Noxus as (barring fully mono decks, which I don’t believe in) we had to play every faction. I also think Jinx/Draven is the hardest deck to play correctly right now, and that it’s stronger than people give it credit for, as most players will play it suboptimally.“
Your opponent in the next round, N3, brought two control decks (including the only Lux Control deck in the tournament) and a burn deck to the preliminaries of the Invitational. How do you feel overall about those match-ups against your more aggro/midrange decks?
“We get to resubmit decks for the Round of 8, and N3’s decklists look very messy to me, so I don’t expect him to play the same decks again. I am not willing to reveal my decks for the next round yet, but I think if we both were to play the same decks as we did in the previous round, his P&Z/Noxus list would have a very hard time getting a win.”
Those who wish to watch the quarterfinals live can do so via the official Riot Games Korea channel on Twitch, with coverage beginning at 6:00 AM ET/3:00 AM PT on Monday, March 16. For those who prefer to watch an English broadcast at a more amenable time, you’re also in luck! The team of Casanova and Ray Zhou will be providing English coverage of the tournament on Casanova’s Twitch channel at 5:00 PM ET/2:00 PM PT. Make sure to tune in and support Runeterra e-sports, and your favorite competitor!