‘Death and Spiders’ Beginner Deck Upgrades

If you are a new player, check out this new series of articles where den offers advice on how to improve free 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. 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 first 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.

An important thing to recognize in the beginning is that most people will want to start playing on the Ranked ladder right away and climb the tiers as fast as possible – however, this approach can actually slow down your progression in the long run. If you are a free-to-play beginner, in the first couple of days you should prioritize completing quests and tutorials, progressing the reward tracks, discovering the various modes, and learning the basics of the game.

It’s best so that your initial focus would be on learning as a player and collecting the precious wildcards and shards that we will then use to build effective decks to climb with.

Now let’s talk about the first starter deck – which is called ‘Death and Spiders’ – and how to improve it.

This Shadow Isles/Noxus list is potentially the best starter deck in terms of ladder viability once we make a few changes to it. If you want to get serious very quickly, you can look for the ‘Elise Burn’ lists online. This is a deck that is played at the competitive level and it has a great damage output potential.

The starter version of the deck as it is presented above has a big problem though – it is not reliable in executing its game plan. As we can see in the list, it has the early game that applies pressure. However, the spells in the deck are geared towards defending, which goes against the aggro plan.

Our focus when upgrading this list will be on restoring and streamlining that consistency aspect. We want to build a 40-card deck where every piece works towards the same purpose. And with what we have already, going fully towards an aggressive plan looks to be the easiest route to follow.

There are various approaches to building aggro. Some decks want to steadily apply pressure with the board, using spells to support that board dominance. Another way is to attack with direct damage to Nexus (‘burn’), prioritizing quick damage output at any cost and sacrificing board presence when necessary.

The third approach we’ll try is to build an aggressive deck around the particular ‘payoff’: a powerful, often game-winning card, that feeds and becomes stronger over the course of the game and comes down as a huge threat to close things off. In our case with one of the upgrades offered below, They Who Endure will play the role of such ‘payoff’.

Ravenous Butcher x3Legion Rearguard x2
Barkbeast x3Phantom Prankster x1
Crawling Sensation x2The Undying x1
Hapless Aristocrat x1Trifarian Shieldbreaker x1
Precious Pet x1Captain Farron x1
Arachnoid Horror x3Scuttlegeist x2
Cured Keeper x3Blade’s Edge x1
Glimpse Beyond x2Black Spear x1
Brother’s Bond x2Might x2
House Spider x1Decimate x1
Grasp of the Undying x2
Withering Wail x2
Brood Awakening x2
Vengeance x2

Shadow Isles is a region that you will soon learn to value for its defending capabilities, first and foremost. But the region can also be quite devastatingly powerful when going the exact opposite route: building early pressure.

Using only common wildcards, we can build a very good deck to climb the lower ranks of the ladder. It is a list that relies on simple synergies aiming at building up the board.

By making changes and cutting some of the more defensive cards, we’ve made our early game much better. We have a snowball-type of a deck looking to outnumber the opponent early and transforming that advantage into Nexus damage.

Later on, if you’ve liked the archetype, you can invest in more rares for the deck. We are looking at getting more copies of Crowd Favorite, possibly a second Decisive Maneuver, a playset of Frenzied Skitterer, and 3 copies of each of our champions.

Legion Saboteur x3Phantom Prankster x1
Precious Pet x1The Undying x1
Arachnoid Horror x3Arachnoid Host x2
Glimpse Beyond x2Trifarian Shieldbreaker x1
House Spider x1Scuttlegeist x2
Legion Grenadier x3Blade’s Edge x1
Iron Ballista x3Vile Feast x2
Noxian Fervor x3Black Spear x1
Grasp of the Undying x2
Withering Wail x2
Brood Awakening x2
Vengeance x2

With this build, we are going to explore Noxus’ damage output potential. Something that newer players usually have trouble with is containing aggressive pressure. And it is exactly the issue that we are going to leverage with this deck.

The goal of this build is to quickly get ahead on the board and start damaging our opponent’s Nexus. The Fearsome and Overwhelm keywords will be really helpful in that regard.

It is very expected that we will begin losing the board in the mid-game, and this is where we transition towards our spells to try and close out the game. Noxian Fervor, Decimate, and Might are our surprise damage sources.

If we have enough time we can also use Darius, who should likely be level 2 by the time he is played, and Captain Farron. Both present huge threats to our opponent.

To evolve this deck into something more competitively viable, I’d recommend looking for the ‘Elise Burn’ archetype online, as this is pretty much a budget version of that deck.

Ravenous Butcher x3Noxus cards
Barkbeast x3The Undying x1
Hapless Aristocrat x1Scuttlegeist x2
Omen Hawk x1Grasp of the Undying x2
Avarosan Sentry x3Phantom Prankster x1
Cursed keeper x3
Glimpse Beyond x2
Vile Feast x1
Spirit Leech x1
Atrocity x2
They Who Endure x2

So we’ve explored two classic aggro concepts so far: one pressuring through board pressure, and the other one using direct damage to force the opponent into uneasy situations.

Now we will talk about another kind of deck, which still is on the aggressive side of things, but doesn’t necessarily need to deal a lot of damage or get an insane start to win the game.

They Who Endure is a card that feeds off our dead units and can come down onto the board as a huge threat at the end of the game. Thanks to Overwhelm, we are guaranteed to get damage in even if a blocker stands in the way. Once we add Atrocity to the equation, we can pull off a 20-damage turn to win the game on the spot.

This is what this deck is about, relying on a swarming army of units that will either win us the game through raw aggression or, if dealt with, will help us grow our They Who Endure.

Instead of Noxus, we need to pair Shadow Isles with Freljord this time. This deck is the one that we will have to invest a bit more into as we will need to craft some rare cards to make it work as both Those Who Endure and Atrocity are rare.

To keep on improving the deck, you can check out ‘Kalista Endure’ decks as this is the budget version of the said archetype. If you enjoy the Shurima region and happen to get the champion Nasus at some point, he can be slotted instead of Those Who Endure for a similar archetype with Shadow Isles and Shurima, you should find it with the name ‘Nasus Endure’.

Closing Words

Stay tuned with us, as more articles covering other starter decks – ‘Spells and Stealth’ and ‘Buff and Tuff’ – are coming soon! In those, you will find ideas of how to adapt the basic versions of your free decks for cheap.

As usual, feel free to stop by and ask us questions on RuneterraCCG Discord, and on my Twitter page.


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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