8 Best Champions & Archetypes to First-Pick in Legends of Runeterra
Hello brave adventurer! You are seeking to embark on an Expedition I hear?! You are in for a wild ride full of many twists and turns. Before you set off however, you will want to be as prepared as possible to ensure that your journey is a success! Allow me to present you with a few tips and tricks from my own adventures that I am sure will provide a useful roadmap on your route to 7 wins.
Introduction: Understanding The Algorithm
There are some basic principles that Legends of Runeterra draft mode shares with similar formats in other card games. Knowing which cards are bombs (game-winning cards), prioritizing removal spells, and paying attention to your mana curve are a few of those that translate over to LoR. However, there is a unique component to Expeditions that, in many cases, takes priority over these: The Algorithm.
What separates Expeditions from other draft modes is that it is designed with the express purpose of allowing players to build highly synergistic decks. To accomplish this goal, Legends of Runeterra has introduced archetype buckets – there’s at least one for each region and combination of regions. Each one offers an unique game plan and has select tools from the Runeterra card pool that best fits its purpose. Knowing which archetypes consistently perform well will significantly maximize your chances of reaching the coveted 7 wins.
The Algorithm is designed in such a way that your first pick champion influences one region you will be guaranteed to see on your second pick. Take “Disruption” from the archetypes shown above for example. Yasuo is an Ionia champion that levels up when you have stunned/recalled 5 units. After he levels up, each subsequent stun/recall effect will allow him to strike an enemy unit (usually killing it). However, the highest concentration of stun and recall effects are found in Ionia and Noxus. This means that he really needs to be paired with Noxus if you are going to have a viable deck.
The Algorithm ensures that if you first pick Yasuo, you are guaranteed to see a random Noxus champion from their accompanying archetype bucket on your second pick. At this point you have successfully seeded yourself into the “Disruption” archetype and will be able to pick up key cards from that list on your Synergy Picks throughout the draft. The more you continue to take “Disruption” when it is offered, the more the the algorithm will narrow down on that list as you progress through the draft, leading to a more streamlined deck.
Knowing that your second region is guaranteed based on the first champion and archetype pack you pick, it is important to know which champions you should always take when you see them on your first pick to maximize your chances of reaching 7 wins in an Expedition trial.
Just because a champion is powerful on its own does not mean it will guarantee a powerful deck. Some champions will place you in archetypes that often offer a handful of weak cards throughout the draft that dilute the power level of your deck. Some may require a higher level of synergy that even The Algorithm doesn’t fully bring together consistently. Also, some archetypes are only worth playing if you have first picked the best champion from it. The following is my list of which champions have performed well by placing me in archetypes that consistently yield powerful decks.
1. Lux – Spellbound
Region(s): Demacia/Piltover & Zaun
Strengths: Lux has the greatest potential of any champion to gain too much value for your opponents to deal with. Combat tricks and unit generating spells turn into Final Sparks that remove enemy units and often hit the enemy Nexus as well. If you make it to the late game and protect Lux, you will run your opponent out of resources and lock them out of the game pretty quickly. You also are backed by arguably the best units any region has to offer (Demacia).
Weaknesses: This archetype requires a handful of spells to make Lux work. If you draw the wrong spells first, you risk being overwhelmed by an opponent with a good curve of units. Lux is your great comeback plan and if you don’t draw her or can’t keep her on board, you might not be able to lock your opponent out of the game before they finish you off.
Draft Plan: Expeditions tend to be very unit focused and require your decks to have a much higher number of units to spells. However, this is one archetype that allows you to have a more even distribution by the end of your draft (about 15 units/15 spells). Spells that create units (Remembrance/Unlicensed Innovation) increase in value as they will place a unit on board and create a Final Spark in hand when you control Lux. Cheap early removal spells from P&Z are your main tools for reaching the late game where Lux shines so make sure to pick them up when offered.
Top Performing Cards: Mystic Shot, Flash of Brilliance, Mageseeker Investigator, Back to Back, Remembrance, Judgment
2. Heimerdinger – Spellbound
Region(s): Piltover & Zaun/Demacia
Strengths: Much like Lux, Heimerdinger utilizes spells to out-value your opponent. He takes a much different approach by turning spells into powerful units (turrets) rather than removal spells. These turrets increase in power level based on the mana cost of the spell cast. They can be used as chump blockers, unblockable 3-cost Elusive turrets, or just plain monstrous beasts (I’m looking at you T-Hex). At some point you create too many waves of turrets to deal with and swing for lethal.
Weaknesses: Heimerdinger is unbelievably fragile as a 3 health champion. You really need to set up a turn where you can play him and protect him with a barrier or buff. You also suffer from the same weakness as Lux decks where you can draw the wrong spells and get overwhelmed before your deck gets online. You heavily rely on drawing Heimerdinger in these matches so you need to hard mulligan for him. If you don’t draw him, you often find yourself just casting spells to stay alive without actually pushing an advantage to win. Take additional copies on your first and third wins to maximize your chance of drawing him.
Draft Plan: Removal spells and protection spells are your key to success with Heimerdinger. You aren’t really looking for spells that create units because your spells will become turrets when Heimer is online. Lean into P&Z for great early removal spells that will get you to the late game where you can drop Heimer and unleash a swarm of turrets that will send your opponents running for the hills. You are looking for a fairly even balance of units to spells with this archetype as well. If you are a fan of Heimerdinger like we are here at RuneterraCCG, check out our in-depth guide to drafting and piloting this sweet archetype: How to Crush With Heimerdinger.
Top Performing Cards: Flash of Brilliance (absolute best card), Mystic Shot, Thermogenic Beam, Trueshot Barrage, Unyielding Spirit
3. Nautilus – Terrors from the Deep
Region(s): Bilgewater/Shadow Isles
Strengths: Nautilus is the biggest and baddest of all Champions. His 13/13 stats put Tryndamere to shame. Not to mention, he runs with an entourage of terrifying sea monsters that get massive real quick. This archetype relies on getting down to 15 cards left in your deck. At this point you have gone “Deep” and awoken all the terrors that lurk there. Your sea monsters get a +3/+3 buff and force chump blocks until your opponent has nothing left standing. Expedition decks start at ten cards less than constructed decks, making Deep easy to reach quickly.
Weaknesses: One glaring weakness of this archetype is that you are running a bunch of expensive sea monsters that can be stranded in your hand in the early game. You shed a tear every time your Nexus is getting smashed repeatedly by units your opponent played on rounds 1 and 2. If you make it Deep and haven’t found Nautilus, you also run the risk of having these big units that you can only play one of each turn. It is a constant struggle to turn the tides of tempo in your favor.
Draft Plan: Balance, Balance, Balance. You are constantly juggling three major components with this deck: early units/removal, Toss cards, and Sea Monsters. I don’t have exact numbers for you, but you honestly don’t need more than 7-8 Sea Monsters to make this deck work with your initial draft. Make sure you take sea monsters at varied mana costs though. If you just hoard the Shipwreck Hoarder, not even Nautilus can save you from being devoured. Double up on your early units/Toss cards as much as possible by taking Dreg Dredgers and Deadbloom Wanderer.
Top Performing Cards: Deadbloom Wanderer, Jaull Hunters, Salvage, Abyssal Eye, Devourer of the Depths (absolute best card)
4. Garen – Demacian Steel
Strengths: This archetype focuses on “Elite” units. It is new player friendly to both draft and play. You have a steady curve of units at each mana cost that can punish slow decks or opponents who didn’t draw their early game.Many elites come with powerful buff abilities that ensure your units will always be bigger than your opponents’. Battlesmith and Vanguard Bannerman are premium units that offer these buffs. Garen is a very resilient champion and his “Judgment” spell that comes with multiple copies of him can solidify a victory if it resolves.
Weaknesses: This deck performs well when it gets on board early and overwhelms your opponent. If you have a slow opening hand or face an opponent with a grip of efficient removal spells, it becomes almost impossible to find a way to recover and navigate to a win. You heavily rely on units and combat tricks to win games which leaves you very light on removal. If your opponent can manage to drop a big unit or valuable champion before you can close the game out, there isn’t much you can do about it. You also lack card draw in this archetype. If your opponent stabilizes and you run out of gas, that’s it.
Draft Plan: Garen is also found in the “Crimson Guard” archetype which very weak. Make sure you are only first picking him out of “Demacian Steel”. This deck really wants to be mono-Demacia. If I am not offered another Demacia champion on on my second pick, I will just take an aggressively slanted one and continue to force Demacia throughout the rest of my picks. This is because Vanguard Bannerman is a very powerful Elite that buffs your entire board and relies on the majority of your deck being Demacia to trigger consistently.
As you narrow down on Demacia, you have a greater chance of being offered high value Elites toward the end of your draft as well. Don’t worry if Vanguard Bannerman doesn’t show up in your draft. You will often be able to pick up or trade for it as you progress through your Expedition. The trade picks throughout your Expedition are also a great way to trade out the off-region cards you took in your initial draft
Top Performing Cards: Battlesmith, Vanguard Bannerman, Swiftwing Lancer, Cithria the Bold, Reinforcements
5. Miss Fortune – Scout it Out
Strengths: Bilgewater is proving itself to have very powerful units that can play both a strong aggressive or midrange game like Demacia. Miss Fortune takes that to another level by utilizing the strong board presence Demacia brings to push a bunch of damage and clear opposing threats in the process. At some point you just attack too many times for your opponent to handle.
Weaknesses: Like the Elites deck, this deck wants to get down early and start attacking. You also want to attack in such a way that Miss Fortune stays protected until she levels up after seeing you attack four times. MF is a prime target for opponent removal and often gets removed before evolving. This is common in many of your earlier games unless you drafted a constructed level Scout deck. If you run into a deck that has too much efficient removal or can make enough value trades to protect their life total and begin dropping big units, you can get outclassed and lose your window to push through enough damage.
Draft Plan: Grizzled Ranger. Enough said. But seriously there are very efficient units and combat tricks on the Demacian side of this archetype. Couple that with Razorscale Hunter and Citrus Courier and we have ourselves a deck. You don’t even really need to force Scout units to make this deck work. Take the premium ones like Grizzled Ranger and Island Navigator and let the other high quality units of these regions do the heavy work. Feel free to refer to my Tier List if you need help determining that.
Top Performing Cards: Island Navigator, Grizzled Ranger, Razorscale Hunter, Citrous Courier, Genevieve Elmheart
6. Zed – Discipline
Strengths: Zed is an incredible tempo pushing champion that makes it easy to close out games before your opponent is able to set up. The real secret strength though is that his “Discipline” archetype comes with a host of Elusive units that push through unblockable damage. Elusives are kept in check in Ranked by efficient removal and opposing Elusive units, but those are scarcer in Expeditions, allowing you to snag fast and easy wins.
Weaknesses: Elusives, along with their fearless leader Zed, all have very weak stats. They are very fragile and don’t block well at all. If your early aggression is not enough to close out the game, you find yourself in a position where you are chump blocking until you die. Much like the Elites deck, you are relying on units and combat tricks to close out games which means you don’t have removal to deal with problematic units from your opponent.
Draft Plan: Simply put, you are going to want to take as many Elusives as you can get. I recommend Greenglade Duo and Shadow Assassin as the main ones. If you want to mitigate the weakness of Elusive units, take a couple units that buff your hand (Greenglade Elder/Jeweled Protector). Having an low, aggressive curve of Elusive units is going to be your main concern. Although, I would prioritize 1-2 big Elusive units like The Empyrean or Windfarer Hatchling when you see them. They have the ability to finish a game where you have run out of steam from your early wave of Elusives.
Top Performing Cards: Greenglade Duo, Shadow Assassin, Kinkou Lifeblade, Twin Disciplines, Windfarer Hatchling
7. Elise – Arachnophilia
Region(s): Shadow Isles/Noxus
Strengths: Elise is a champion who is great on her own as an early drop that creates another spider when she attacks. She is very easy to level, and once she does, it can spell game over for your opponent quickly. This archetype can swarm the board early for a bunch of damage and refill the board easily and efficiently if it has been wiped. You are often the one determining the pace of the game. This forces your opponent to play proactively as they try to regain control and you can blow them out with combat tricks.
Weaknesses: There is literally nothing more fragile in the game than a spider. Your spiderlings are only going to have one attack and one health. If you can’t find a way to keep your spiders alive to push damage or have ways to reload the board, you are going to operate on zero tempo. If your opponent is running too many board wipes like Make It Rain or Withering Wail, it will be an impossible game. Try to play around them as best as possible, but close that game out as fast as you can.
Draft Plan: Your main goal with each pick is figuring out what card is going to maximize your damage output in your matches. I like to find at least 1-2 ways to cheat damage with this deck as well (i.e. Phantom Prankster/Neverglade Collector). You need to find a way to balance your aggression pushing cards with your reloading cards. If you took a bunch of the early game spiders like Precious Pet, House Spider and Frenzied Skitterer in your first picks, balance that out in your later draft picks with Brood Awakening and Glimpse Beyond.
Top Performing Cards: Vile Feast, Glimpse Beyond, Frenzied Skitterer, Crowd Favorite, Brood Awakening
8. Fiora – Suit Up/Shield Wall
8. Fiora – Suit Up/Shield Wall
Strengths: Fiora is an alternate win-con champion that immediately warps the whole game around her presence. She forces your opponent to carefully consider each unit they play and attack they make. With the right suite of combat tricks, it is easy to steal wins with Fiora that your opponents could literally do nothing about. She is also backed up by the best units any region has to offer which means she doesn’t even have to be your only win condition.
Weaknesses: Some games you spend a bunch of resources and tempo trying to reach the alternate win of killing four units with Fiora only to have your opponent deal with her somehow and take over the game. She requires a specific build that strikes a balance between protecting her at all costs and taking decent units that can win the game on their own. This is a very difficult archetype to pilot correctly, but can be very rewarding when done right.
Draft Plan: As I mentioned already, you need ways to protect Fiora. You can take the Suit Up route that uses Barriers and Frostbite to make sure she doesn’t take any damage. The other option to is to utilize barriers, buffs, and Deny from Ionia. Both routes have their merit. You just want to make sure you have plenty of combat tricks to keep her alive. When you see the stronger units from Demacia, feel free to pick them to shore up your deck’s weaknesses.
Top Performing Cards: Single Combat, Brightsteel Protector, Prismatic Barrier, Riposte, Unyielding Spirit
Of course you aren’t always guaranteed to see these Champions in either of your Expedition Trials. We have other resources that you can utilize as well to help you start off on the right foot. Here is our Champion Tier List that gives an overall ranking of each champion based on power level and archetype modifier. You can also access my Expedition Tier List that will give you a general idea of the power level of each card.
The amazing thing about Expedition Mode is that all champions and archetypes are really well tuned. Just because these are my top 8 picks does not mean that others are not viable. They are all very close on average and have the potential to reach 7 wins. So take time to experiment with each champion and archetype to find what works best for your unique play style. After you have completed three Expeditions in a week, you have an unlimited number of free trials to experiment and improve!
Good luck on your Expeditions, champion!