Legends of Runeterra in 2021: A Year in Review

Mezume takes you on a trip down memory lane, as he recaps all that's happened this year in LoR. Sit back, relax, and let's revel in nostalgia!

Hey guys, it’s Mezume here. We are nearing the end of year 2021, which has been the first full year of Legends of Runeterra being fully launched. 

We have been through the good, the bad, and the ugly; and some of us surely see it more fondly than others. That said, I am sure we all have some great memories with Legends of Runeterra in this passing year.

In this article, I would like to take you on a trip down memory lane, as I recap 2021 in our beloved game month-by-month. Sit back, relax, and enjoy your journey!

As Christmas is traditionally a big break time for the employees of Riot, including those working on Legends of Runeterra, the year started off slow for the game.

But not for the players, as we were trying to find answers to one of the most oppressive decks we knew back then – Twisted Fate Go Hard. From the perspective that we have now, that deck was actually quite a mild problem, but we simply did not have a big history of dealing with those kinds of dominating lists at that point.

This was fixed in the middle of the month with an emergency balance patch. The nerf was ruthless, as Pack Your Bags went from 1 to 5 mana – a 5 times increase in cost! This patch also brought about the first co-op lab to the game, as the dev team began to experiment more and more with the Labs mode.

As for the complete meta breakdown – I mentioned Go Hard before, which remained playable, but much weaker, after its nerf. All kinds of decks with Zoe began popping up, including Zoe Vi, Zoe Aurelion Sol, and much more.

And towards the end of January, omens of a new terror have started to appear in the waters – we saw the beginnings of the archetype that might be the strongest deck to have ever existed in Legends of Runeterra – Fizz Twisted Fate.

We entered February full of excitement, as we received our first Champion Expansion to date – Aphelios. He instantly generated a ton of memes around himself due to the unprecedented length of the card text – his trademark complexity from League of Legends got transferred into LoR perfectly well. He was released alongside numerous cards that supported his archetype, as well as additional thematic cards for each region.

Despite initial doubt around his release, Aphelios turned out to be insanely powerful, especially when combined with The Veiled Temple – which at the time was giving a +1|+1 buff. With nearly endless mana, card creation as well as stat generation, tons of decks running Aphelios came into existence, among which TF Aphelios and all its variants, Slow Nightfall, and many more.

Aside from unleashing a new meta upon us, Riot also gave us a new gaming experience in the form of PvE adventures that soon became a fan favorite mode. Lab of Legends was the first of its line, featuring a total of 9 encounters with 3 bosses: Thresh, Sejuani, and Viktor. It also included many ways to boost your deck through power-ups and card improvements. It became a foundation for all the following PvE releases we have been seeing throughout the year, like Saltwater Scourge and the Path of Champions.

The first Seasonal Tournament of the year 2021 took place in February. Any meta report was quite easy to compile: Twisted Fate and Aphelios were so dominating as champions that the only question was how to best split them between two different decks – and what will be the third.

These lists also single-handedly removed many others from the meta or at least made them way weaker. One thing that has to be noted is that while they may have been way overtuned, strategies including TF and Aphelios were also both extremely fun to play!

March saw the release of the first major expansion of 2021 coming to Legends of Runeterra. Shurima was the third region to be added since the game release – and 9th overall.

The champions that joined the fray with the first Shurima expansion were: Jarvan IV, Taliyah, Lissandra, Nasus, Kindred, Sivir, LeBlanc, and Azir.

Their first weeks were actually quite underwhelming, as new decks couldn’t nearly compete with the meta kings – TF Fizz and Aphelios. Shen Fiora was the third deck to show up often on ladder – but especially in tournaments. This is also when Trundle Lissandra Control started to come into place with its infamous combo to summon Watcher as early as turn 8.

Shurima showed some signs of life thanks to Overwhelm, as well as multiple ways to try and utilize Azir (mostly with Lucian or in aggressive decks as a way to get wider attacks through).

What I find truly astonishing from today’s perspective: it was the month in which we published an article, written by Spaiikz, analyzing the problems of Ionia and how it was a completely dead region outside of Lee Sin – oh how things change! (Except Lee Sin, that deck never goes away.)

Finally, at the end of the month, we got the nerfs to the two top decks, leading to a completely new look for the ranked ladder meta in April.

April was when LoR turned one year old! We celebrated it with a bunch of free stuff given away and hopes that the next year would be even better. Did it turn out this way? We will judge in April 2022!

More news came in hot, as World Championship was announced, alongside an explanation of how to qualify for it. It gave more meaning to both Seasonal Tournaments as well as Ranked Play, while also keeping us excited throughout the next months.

It was also the month in which Riot held the first Seasonal Tournament in a new format, with 9 qualifying rounds – a big improvement as compared to the previous 5-round system, but also quite a time sink.

With the nerfs from the previous month, the meta was completely different. TLC became a full-fledged part of the meta, alongside two other dominant archetypes: the ever-enduring Ezreal Draven and the newcomer, Nasus Thresh. Overwhelm with Shurima was another powerhouse in this month.

While TF Fizz was, in my opinion, the strongest deck of all time, the winner in the nomination of the most hated archetype ever goes to a different deck: Azir Irelia. May was the month that it manifested itself upon the world of Runeterra.

New Shurima expansion came out, featuring 3 champions: Zilean, Malphite and Irelia. The first two saw some play for a short while before being tossed away in favour of the real star of the show – Irelia.

The month also brought to us the newest cosmetic addition: Champion Skins. Zed was the champion who received the first-ever skin with a new revamped level-up animation!

The was revolving completely about Azirelia and its strongest counter – Nasus Thresh. This was demonstrated especially well throughout the qualifying period to LoR Masters EU, where those two decks made up the vast majority of played lists.

Other decks that attempted to counter Azirelia and/or Nasus Thresh popped up; such as Dragons, Cithria Matron combo and Targon decks, but they still made up a much smaller part of ladder.

Beginning of June saw an attempt at nerfing Azir Irelia – which ended up pretty futile. We also had Taliyah and Malphite buffs which actually breathed some life into those forgotten champions. This would have been even more exciting if it was possible for them to at all compete against Azir Irelia, but luckily they at least worked quite well against Nasus Thresh.

We also received a new set of skins – Pool Party! This is my personal favourite line so far introduced to LoR, with Taliyah as the main champion of this release, getting her own fancy level-up animation.

The meta continued to revolve around Azirelia, TLC, and Nasus as there was not much reason for that to change – the nerfs from the beginning of the month were easy to get around for the best Azirelia deckbuilders.

At the end of the month, we received a treat to make our summer better. The final Shurima expansion was released, with Pyke, Rek’Sai, as well as Ekko. While the latter did not quite make an impact, the Lurking duo managed to take the meta by storm and become the most popular deck for some time.

We thought that the final Shurima expansion would have to last us at least a month, but instead July surprised us with another quick reveal – Akshan and Viego joining the fray, coming with The Sentinels of Light event.

This was quite hype, as Akshan was being revealed across all Runeterra games at the same time. Our own LoR version definitely made justice to a Shurima sentinel, and he continues to be very viable even until now.

On top of that, the PvE began expanding, as The Saltwater Scourge has been released. This was a mode in which you got to play an adventure where you could choose your own path – it was much more elaborate than the initial PvE Lab of Legends.

Lurk dominated the first half of the month – not necessarily in win rate, but thorough the fact that it was the most played deck by far. As soon as Akshan came to the game though, we witnessed a big shift, as he was tried in nearly every possible champion combination – and worked in most of them, which just shows his versatility.

After the crazy pacing of releases in July, the beginning of August is when the game took a breather for a couple of weeks.

Competitive players were focused on trying to make the most out of their last chance to qualify for the World Championship. This also meant a little less creativity in deckbuilding and much more emphasis on refining what was already good. Except..

Sivir Akshan Demacia, a deck that came to light in late July but was mostly overlooked initially, became the new terror that triggered an outcry of those who wanted nerfs.

I personally really enjoy the deck to this day, but defeinitely understand that. It was one of the few times where the outcry was quite warranted. Plunder also began its rise to the top, being the strongest contender for the second strongest deck in that meta.

Finally, the end of the month came with the big expansion and the final region being added to the game – Beyond the Bandlewood and Bandle City.

Not only that, we also got new a type of cards – multi-region units. The champions that were added were: Poppy, Caitlyn, Veigar, Senna, Tristana, Sion, Nami, Xerath, and Ziggs!

Hotfix balance change came in at the start of the month off to reign in most of the main meta offenders – both Sivir Akshan versions (Demacia and Ionia), Azirelia, and more. to this day, many consider this move has saved the World Championship meta.

Speaking of which, the first ever Legends of Runeterra World Championship took place in September and the first World Champion was crowned. The king hails from Poland and his name is Alanzq! Japan’s Yamato came second, while the podium was completed by yet another Pole, Szychu. Poland truly is the strongest region in the world.

The meta at the World Championship was quite diverse, with the most played decks being Nami Zoe, Draven Sion, Draven Ezreal, Poppy lists, as well as the newly-risen TF GP Bandle City list.

All three of the top players, however, brought their own signature decks: Alanzq piloted Shellfolk, Yamato favored Darkness, while Szychu just brought a lineup of seemingly random decks with the highlight being Zoe Heimerdinger.

At the end of the month, after the World Championship, an all-new burn deck with Ziggs and Poppy started to dominate the ladder.

October came with a large patch that brought about the Battle Academia cosmetics drop with a multitude of skins, including Lux as the one champion getting a new level-up animation.

This was followed two weeks later with a major balance update that saw not only nerfs to the largest meta offenders, such as Nami, Draven, and Lost Soul, but also buffs to some underplayed champions and cards – most notably Lux and the Dragons archetype as a whole.

As for October’s meta, it mostly carried on from September all the way until the balance changes, which then sort of flipped the game on its head.

This is where all kinds of Bandle City “soups” and “piles” became the most popular in the meta. Dragons turned out to be slightly underwhelming once more, as they have throughout every meta, while Draven Sion remained very much playable.

November was the month of hype across all Runeterra-based games, as Riot has released its animated series – Arcane.

It launched alongside events across all games and Legends of Runeterra was no exception to that. We all loved watching this amazing animation and the main characters definitely got a playrate boost in LoR.

The Path of Champions released in November and was a huge success. This biggest to date PvE mode consists of 6 main adventures and lets you play as a multitude of champions, while upgrading their abilities, equipping items, and evolving your deck as you progress through each adventure.

This coincided with Jayce joining the game in the newest Champion Expansion. His launch was a part of the Arcane event and brought around tons of hype – deservedly so, as he turned out to be powerful and enabled multiple archetypes such as his pairings with Lux and Heimerdinger in spell-heavy decks.

While Jayce did join the fray and became viable, the meta was still mostly taken over by Bandle City piles. Rally decks with Poppy were the name of the game for most of the season, while multiple other Bandle decks also existed outside of Demacia – we can mention Teemo Sejuani and Ziggs Poppy. Lee Sin, as always, managed to make its way into the top of the meta and Jayce had his time in a control deck with Shadow Isles!

December started with a bang! Newest Bandle City expansion featuring Kennen, Ahri, Rumble and Pantheon has been released, shaking up the meta considerably.

The following balance changes reigned in Poppy, who now became 2/3. Gangplank, one of the few meta champions who managed to escape a nerf throughout the year, finally got hit, losing one point of health.

The main reason for the hotfix patch was different, however. Kennen was released with such a strong synergy with Ezreal, especially through Kinkou Wayfinder and God-Willow Seedling, that it needed an immediate nerf for the game to be reasonably balanced.

The meta after that evolved a lot, with Kennen Ahri Allegiance being one of the top decks, together with Swain Teemo and Pantheon Demacia decks.

What is the most impressive in my opinion is that through the unrelenting efforts of Drisoth, we got to see a Christmas miracle or Twisted Fate and Nami both coming back to the meta in a powerful and versatile TF Nami deck based around multiple win conditions and versatility.

Closing Words

Reminiscing of the year 2021 for this article was a great experience – reliving all those moments that I’ve been through myself playing Legends of Runeterra made me quite nostalgic on multiple occasions.

My personal favorite time of the year was towards the end of the Aphelios meta, where potentially my favourite deck of all-time was viable – Slow Nightfall. I loved the playstyle of creating a huge Diana or Aphelios attack through Nightfall triggers and The Veiled Temple.

Other than that, I was happy any time Zoe Vi was a viable choice! Other highlights for me include the Path of Champions release, the introduction of Ahri to the game, as well as the Akshan and Viego champion expansion.

Let me know in the comments which moments in LoR you remember fondly this year!

With that, I’d like to wish you all guys the best possible 2022, in Legends of Runeterra, but most importantly outside of it. Let it be better than 2021 was!


Mezume is a competitive Legends of Runeterra player with an unexplained love for midrange decks. He believes the important thing is not the end result of the game, but the choices made within it. Loves learning more about the game and sharing that knowledge with others!

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