Legends of Runeterra Deckbuilding Guide for New Players
It is Mezume here and this time I am bringing something completely different from what I usually write. Welcome to the deckbuilding guide for beginners!
Note that this is aimed at players who just started the game, although if you are a bit more advanced, you can still find something for yourself here for sure.
Anyway, if you’ve always wanted to build decks, but did not know where and how to start or how to finish, this is the article for you! I do not aim to teach you to build Tier 1 decks here; these are just guidelines that might help your silly Khahiri the Returned deck get beaten up a bit less.
So you’ve played this game for a few weeks now, maybe even longer, now you’d like to make your first deck – the one you could call your own. You don’t really know where to start and how to do this. In this short chapter, I’ll go over a few most important principles that, in general, apply to most decks.
- Deck needs a plan
First and foremost, when you open your deckbuilding tool, whether in the game or on our website, you need a plan. Before you start jamming those cards in your deck, make sure you know what you want to achieve. It doesn’t have to be overly specific! Maybe you just want to win quick games without spending too much time pondering your options? Or do you want to base it around your favorite champion? Make that particular unplayable card work? There are tons of possibilities. From there, try to narrow it down – do I play fast or slow? Proactively or reactively? Once you know what you want to do, you can proceed to the next steps.
- Mana curve
In nearly every card game, this is an essential concept to keep in mind when creating a deck. What it means is simple – you need to make sure there is a good balance of cards costing each amount of mana.
The ratio highly depends on what kind of deck you are making – whether is it an aggressive list aiming to win quickly, or a control strategy, where your goal is to strip your opponent out of resources. Overall, the general rule of thumb is to have at least some early game cards that cost 3 mana or less.
This rule applies even more to aggressive decks, which will often aim to play between 9 and 12 cards that cost 1 mana and follow them up with other low-cost units and spells, often topping their curve as low as at 4 or 5 mana.
Some particular cards can also affect how you want to arrange the mana curve of your deck. They are called ‘ramp cards’ (such as Catalyst of Aeons and Wyrding Stones), as they allow you to gain additional mana and in turn, let you build your strategy where you run more expensive units and spells than usual. A great example of such an archetype are Freljord + Shadow Isles decks that utilize Warmother’s Call,
- Card types
In Legends of Runeterra, currently, there are three card types – units, spells, and the newest one, landmarks. For deckbuilding purposes, landmarks likely have the least universal role; very few of them are generally powerful, and most fit only in specifically designed decks. There is one main thing to consider if you are new to deckbuilding: each landmark when played will occupy a board space. Hence, if you envision your deck as the one that aims to have a full board of units at most times, landmarks might not be a great inclusion.
The balance of units and spells, however, is really important in any deck – there always needs to be a sensible ratio between the two types that serves your strategy well. If you want to be proactive in your games, have the first move and force your opponent to answer – having mostly units will often be the choice; while if reactivity and controlling approach is your thing, spells are the go-to.
You generally want to avoid having many more spells than units, as it can lead to bricked hands, where you don’t have cards to play for multiple turns. This balance is even more important in decks that utilize Strike cards like Bloody Business or Single Combat; they can become completely unusable if you do not have any units to play in your hand.
In most cases, your deck will be built around champions and their level-ups and win conditions. They are the most powerful unit type in LoR and you can only put a total of 6 champion cards in a deck. Choosing champions for your deck will often happen in the very beginning of the deckbuilding process, as they will be one of your main ways to win the game. This is a very important choice, as the slots are limited, and figuring out which champion fits your strategy can be crucial for success. For example, in an aggressive deck with few synergies, Darius, Elise or Draven can be great choices; while champions like Nasus or Irelia require more streamlined deckbuilding that is tailored to match the needs of these champions specifically.
- Deckbuilding approaches
There are two general approaches when it comes to deckbuilding. The first one is called convergent deckbuilding – there you want to base the deck around clear and strong synergies and build towards some payoffs for those synergies.
An example of this approach is Thresh Nasus; a deck that uses cards that aren’t necessarily very powerful in their base state; like Cursed Keeper, Ravenous Butcher,
The second approach is called divergent deckbuilding and it hardly relies on many specific synergies. While there may be some smaller synergy points, the idea is to play 40 cards that are powerful on their own, forgoing units and spells that require special triggers or activations (such as the aforementioned Cursed Keeper). Examples of cards that fit in decks with this approach in mind are Ruin Runner, Merciless Hunter, Doombeast, Draven, and Elise.
The deck that is built using the principles of divergent deckbuilding is Shurima Overwhelm. While having some synergy points between attack buffs and Overwhelm units, it just plays cards strong on their own, like Ruin Runner, Alpha Wildclaw, Sejuani, and Renekton (and in some builds, Sivir).
Below I will dive a bit deeper into each of the approaches and go through steps that you can take to give yourself an easier time building a deck.
- Step 1: Choose a build-around
To start off when it comes to convergent deckbuilding, you need to figure out what kind of a goal you want to pursue. There is nothing stopping you here; sky is the limit. Choose a theme or a card that you would like to build around. Preferably, this would be a card or a group of cards that have a high payoff for playing them with synergies, as you want to be able to win games with those pay-offs. Some of the examples of this can be Nasus, Khahiri the Returned, Taliyah, Blade Dance, or Targon’s Peak.
- Step 2: Add and evaluate synergy points
Once you’ve decided what your win conditions will be, it is time to find a way to fuel your synergy payoffs. It would sound simple to just add all the possible synergy cards and call it a day, but that has some big flaws in it. First of all, if you only include those cards, you will find yourself struggling if you can’t draw your big win condition. Secondly, you will lack other tools that the deck may need – extra draw, survivability, early game defense, and so on.
Let’s take, as an example, Khahiri the Returned. He is a pretty large pay-off for cards that use the Predict mechanic – a powerful tool to fish for cards that you might need in the future turns.
You could just jam all the Predict cards in, but what you’d end up with is a deck full of mediocre cards that may or may not get you a turn 6 Khahiri with 10/10 in stats and Fearsome. It doesn’t sound good and pales in comparison to meta decks like Nasus Thresh. Due to that, it is important to keep a good overview of what cards are the most useful. One way to do it is to add all the Predict cards into the mix and then slowly evaluate them to find out which ones and how many would be the most feasible.
Let’s try to do that here: let’s say our deck currently consists of Khahiri the Returned only. There are 6 Predict synergy cards we could potentially add: Ancient Preparations, Aspiring Chronomancer, Scrying Sands, Time in a Bottle,
It is easy to remove Time in a Bottle, as a Khahiri deck will rarely need to accelerate a landmark. Zilean dilutes the Predict pool with his Time Bombs, which has anti-synergy with Khahiri; however, he also provides an additional defensive tool, which is likely good enough to try and include him in the first version of the deck. The rest of the cards are pretty low commitment and can fit an early curve to fend off some aggression; due to that, we can keep them in the list for now.
- Step 3: Check all the boxes
Once you’ve got your synergy base down, there are some additional things you have to take care of to create a successful deck. This will always depend on what type of deck you are creating – if it’s an aggressive strategy, you need to make sure your mana curve is low enough that you can actually present some early aggression. If you’re playing midrange, you have to make sure you rune enough threats and have the ability to out-tempo your opponent. Finally, if you play a slower deck, you have to survive until your big win conditions come into play.
Overall, the main ‘boxes to check’ are: card draw, reactive spells and combat tricks, threats fitting for your deck type, early game aggression/defense and reasonable mana curve, unit-spell-landmark ratio.
To continue the Khahiri example, we need to still check nearly all of these boxes. Because by nature, Khahiri will take some time to get going, it may be good to pair him with a defensive region. Shadow Isles is my choice, as it packs a lot of healing and removal.
Let’s go box by box. Card draw is easy; Shurima has the insane card in Preservarium, while SI brings us Glimpse Beyond, which works well with small units like some of the Predict package. As for combat tricks, we already have Scrying Sands, which should be enough, as we do not aim to be in combat too much.
Let’s move on to removal spells. Shadow Isles offers us a lot in that matter: Vile Feast is a staple in nearly every SI deck, while Withering Wail allows us a fighting chance against swarm decks. In the current meta we see a lot of decks that tend to summon several units in a turn, so throwing in a copy or two of The Box cannot hurt either. On top of that, with a big threat like Khahiri being our main win condition, protection in the form of 2 Rite of Negations is useful.
Moving onto threats, Khahiri the Returned and levelled Zilean are the only ones in our deck. Because of Predict, it is acceptable, as we are more likely to draw them. Our main win condition, however, is very likely to be blocked by anything over 3 attack, as its only push-through ability is Fearsome. Due to that, we can turn Khahiri into a one-turn kill with one of the most dreaded cards in the game – Atrocity. One copy will suffice, as Predict will make it easier to find.
We can now take a look at our mana curve: our early game is pretty strong and so is our late. We still have 5 card slots left to fill and we can see that we are missing good cards for the mid-game. We also have a free champion slot. If we look at mid-game champions, there are a few that cost 4 or 5 mana, but none of them fit in our deck – we will thus go with just Zilean. Luckily for us, Shurima has some of the strongest units at 4- and 5-cost. We have quite some removal in the deck, so triggering Rampaging Baccai’s ability will not be too difficult. On top of that, Baccai Sandspinner, as well as Merciless Hunter are both great choices to add even more interaction to our deck, while smoothing out the mana curve.
- Step 4: Final list
This is the final version of the deck we just built. The last step is simply to look at it and re-evaluate all the steps we’ve just gone through. Then, you can playtest and see which cards perform well and which don’t do enough to warrant staying. Of course, this is just a Khahiri deck and it’s not strong enough to challenge the top dogs, but I hope the process helped you understand how to build a convergent deck.
- Step 1: Choose a direction
As opposed to the other convergent approach, here we do not have to pick a card or package to build around. Instead, we are free to just choose our favourite region and a favourite archetype or strategy and go with that. As I am a big fan of midrange decks, I will choose that as our playstyle. For the regions, let’s go with Shurima, as it is the newest and see what other region we can pair it with as we go!
- Step 2: Pick a strong core
While there is no need to build around anything, we still need to choose the most powerful and important cards for our deck; even divergent strategies want to have a coherent game plan and some small synergies to highlight the power cards.
As we are in Shurima, we are already given a plethora of insanely powerful tools, especially for a midrange strategy that we are going to build. Ruin Runner is one of the strongest standalone cards in the game, as is Merciless Hunter; they are auto-includes in lists like this. To finish off the core, we can add Renekton and Sivir – these two can curve out great after playing Merciless Hunter, as they both benefit strongly from being able to challenge units.
- Step 3 – Add supporting crew
Here is where we can look at what region we want to pair our Shuriman core with. Demacia comes to mind as a perfect fit since it features champions that synergize with Challenger, as well as powerful midrange units.
Once again, we are looking to add strong followers that fit our midrange game plan. Penitent Squire and an Elite package is a strong choice, due to their synergy with everything else in the deck; as well as raw power. We can add the Squire, but also Honored Lord and Cithria the Bold. We can also add 2 copies of Gallant Rider – we don’t want more as that would skew our mana curve too heavily to the 4-cost mark. Rock Hopper and Ancient Preparations also fit our game plan and help smooth our early curve.
Now that we have 29 units that build a strong curve, let’s look at some of the boxes from previous approach. In this case, card draw is replaced by strong value – most of our units are meant to trade up. Preservarium is the only consideration in this case and can be put in as a 1- or 2-of.
We currently do not have any spells or combat tricks; as is the theme for the entire approach, we will choose ones that are very powerful. Sharpsight lets us trade up extra, preserve our units and block those pesky Elusives if the need arises. Concerted Strike works well with both Renekton and Sivir’s level-ups, as well as with the naturally high attack of most of our units. Single Combat is a must for any Demacia deck.
We can finish off the deck with Rally effects. As we are trading up and keeping board advantage a lot, a well-timed Rally will let us finish off any opponent. Because it is cheaper, and mana is scarce in this meta, I put in 2 copies of Relentless Pursuit; but in a slower metagame, Golden Aegis can fill this role just fine.
- Step 4 – Final list
As with the other deck we built, this is the step where you can re-evaluate your list, see if you like all the cards and if they fit well together. You can re-check all the boxes and then take the list to the playground and see in practice whether everything is working as it is meant to.
Building decks can be tons of fun – I especially enjoy theorycrafting with new cards whenever they are revealed, as well as the days right after their release.
Playing with your own decks can sometimes be a frustrating experience, more so the higher you climb on the ladder. I hope this guide will help you alleviate at least some of that feeling as you polish up that list of your own and give it a bigger fighting chance against the field.