Den here, for the second part of our Lab of Legends guide.
In the first part, we’ve covered some general strategy and advice on how to be successful in the mode. This time, we’ll dive into some more specific tips on how to pick passives and items during your run.
In this section, I’ll provide a general reference list for passives, rating them on two axes: Power (i.e. how good the passive is in the right setup) and Flexibility (i.e how often a deck can be built to benefit from this passive).
‘Flexibility’ is great early as it allows you to go in different directions and adapt your items and next passives. ‘Power’ is great once we know the direction and are ready to invest in it.
With some champions, we can commit to ‘Power’ passives very early in the run (mostly pressure champions like Lucian or Miss Fortune), but with others, we will need to wait and prioritize ‘Flexibility’ passives until we get a better idea of the direction we want to go (e.g. Braum or Heimerdinger).
Often the ‘Power’ value of passives is tied to their rarities – Epics and Rares have a higher ceiling than Commons in a properly built deck. ‘Flexible’ passives usually affect your board output and/or mana – which both lead to better tempo. As a general rule, when you don’t have an established strategy, picking tempo-oriented passives is the best way to keep your options open for later in the game.
|Black Market Discount (E)||Round End: Reduce the cost of your most expensive card in hand by 1.||4||5|
|Can’t Stop; Won’t Stop (E)||Allies buffs (except Barrier) are permanent.||5||2|
|Domination (R)||Round Start: Rally||5||3|
|Dragon’s Rage (C)||When you summon a unit, grant it Fury. It is a Dragon.||2||4|
|Duelist (C)||When you summon an ally, give it Challenger this round.||3||4|
|Empty Mind (C)||When your hand is empty, draw 1.||4||2|
|Enfeebling Strike (C)||When an enemy is damaged, reduce its Power by the damage dealt.||3||4|
|Evolution||Allies have +1|+1 for each keyword they have.||3||2|
|Fast Deal (C)||Round Start: Draw 1 and give it Fleeting. When you discard a card, shuffle a copy of it into your deck.||4||2|
|Flexible Gameplan (C)||Start of Game: Draw 1.||1||4|
|Grit (R)||Allies have “Attack: Raise my Power to match my Health.”||4||2|
|Higher Education (C)||When you draw a card, give allies +1|+0 this round.||3||3|
|Immortality (R)||Start of Game: Heal your Nexus 10.||2||4|
|Lil’ Buddies (E)||Round Start: Summon 1 random 1-cost Poro.||3||3|
|Manaflow (E)||Start of Game: Get an empty mana gem.||4||4|
|Nature’s Revenge (E)||When you gain the attack token, summon a Sapling.||5||4|
|Out the Gates (E)||Start of Game: Summon a 2-cost unit from your deck.||4||5|
|Share the Bounty (E)||When you target an ally with a single-target spell, copy it on your weakest ally.||4||1|
|Sorcery (R)||Round Start: Refill your spell mana.||4||2|
|Spellslinger (R)||Your spells cost 1 less.||5||1|
|The Best Defense… (R)||Allies have “Attack: Raise my Health to match my Power.”||5||2|
|Trifarian Might (R)||When you summon a 5+ power unit, it strikes the Weakest enemy.||4||1|
|Wild Inspiration (C)||Your created cards cost 1 less.||2||1|
|Yipp’s Genius (E)||When you summon a 1 cost unit, grant it +2|+2.||5||3|
Passive powers affect your whole strategy and deckbuilding direction, but items are quite different – the card they are attached to matters a lot. As such, while it is possible to accurately rate the passives, in the case of items the evaluation is always in flux. So instead of attempting any ranking for all the items available in the mode, we’ll instead cover some basic principles of item selection.
- Should I equip units or spells?
As a general rule, I would advise going for units when it comes to items. Units provide value for as long as they stay on the board while a spell is usually a form of ‘one-time deal’. Spells can be very good to invest into, but if the spell doesn’t create a huge tempo swing, then it’s difficult to capitalize on it. A unit can be protected and stay on the board generating some form of continuous advantage when backed up by strong items.
So apart from specific synergies in the case of strategy-defining spells or obvious power-level mismatches in the pick you’ve been offered, I’d generally go with a unit-focused game plan when it comes to item-picking. Also, this approach rewards you for putting all your items onto the same unit and trying to build a juggernaut.
However, mana-reduction items on important spells shouldn’t be overlooked, and even though I go with units when in doubt, cheating some mana and getting some cheap support to our units is always valuable.
- Which units should I equip?
The first rule when trying to go nuts in a mode like Lab of Legends is that we are trying to do as much as possible for as cheap as possible. This will help us create a tempo advantage early in the game and then just maintain our lead until we win.
As such, focus on cheap minions (or reducing the cost of your most impactful ones) to create the threat we can drop early in the game. There’s almost no hard removal in the mode, so stats are usually very good to go with. However, be careful with the items that add stats but also increase mana-cost as this could lose you tempo.
It’s important to plan out how we will use the threat we are creating – taking into consideration the capabilities of our deck and also the decks of our opponents. The Shadow Isles part can be mostly ignored here because in that part of the run we won’t have enough items yet to plan around. But when it comes to the Frejlord and Piltover & Zaun battles – it is important to remember that they are very different from one another.
Frejlord usually has a good late game so we want something aggressive early in the game, a 1 or 2 cost threat that we can then protect with spells. Another approach is to have several minions and a Challenger unit that will take on the fights to let the rest of the army find the opposing Nexus. Frejlord also cannot deal with Elusives – apart from occasional Vulnerable and Challenger mechanics.
For Piltover, this region has a lot of chump blockers so going wide isn’t as great here and Overwhelm can be a good way to play around the many small units that will be on the board. Elusive is again one of the best keywords to have on your itemized unit.
- What to do with the ‘bad picks’?
Sometimes we get offered some underwhelming picks with no exciting items. In these scenarios, it’s important to remember that when you add an item to a card you also add some additional copies of that card to your deck. It incentivizes us to equip the same good card over and over, even if the item offered on it is not that fantastic.
But sometimes, we get neither the item nor the card we’d wish for among the available choices. When we don’t have any good picks to go with, and can’t afford to reroll, there are a couple of tricks we can do to cut the losses.
Picking a draw effect is always good as it will decrease the variance of draws our deck can produce. As such, the cheapest cycling effect is usually the best option when forced to pick among bad options. Elixir of Skill (‘When cast, draw 1’) on a cheap spell or Philosopher’s Stone (‘When I’m summoned, draw 1’) on a low-cost unit is a perfect way to handle a ‘bad pick’.
Another option is to go for some situational item or card that could help us in a particular upcoming fight. And if the items aren’t good at all, then the pick should solely be decided on which cards do we want more of in our deck. Be creative: think about the fights ahead, think about how you could support the already boosted cards, imagine a future choice that could help make the current bad one feel a little bit better.
Here we are now, at the end of this second piece for the Lab of Legends – I hope it could help some of you out there finally get that legendary win!
While I did offer my take on how to tackle the lab, and would like to thank the various players I asked for insight about it (Wolwiloreal, Taytwo, Owi), remember a PVE mode is a lot about going crazy and creating some otherwise impossible combinations.
As you should be used to now, feel free to drop by our Discord to join the community or chat with the staff, and if you are looking to message me directly, either for questions about this write-up or coaching, my Twitter is usually the best way to reach me.