Legends of Runeterra Expeditions Guide: Champions Tier List
UPDATED FOR PATCH 0.9.0
When a player embarks on a new expedition trial, the very first decision he has to make is to pick two Champions for his deck. This choice is quite important as it will guide a draft in a particular direction.
The Expeditions mode algorithm offers a player new choices based on the cards he has already included in his deck during previous picks. So, knowing the criteria by which to select your starting champions will come a long way. The tier list presented in this article is a tool to help with that crucial drafting decision.
- This guide is intended for newer players who have not yet had a chance to experience every archetype and champion in Expeditions mode.
- The tier list below evaluates each LoR champion card in a ‘first pick scenario’ only. Champion stats, board impact and long-term value the hero provides are the key factors we consider.
- Expeditions mode offers a player card choices within certain pre-built archetypes and their card pools. So, we often have to think of champions as staples of certain archetypes – in other words, some of the heroes are affected by meta more than others. These considerations affect the tier list below as well and we will do our best to explain them as we go.
- As you score more and more wins in a trial, you will also add new champions to your draft deck. However, at those later stages many more factors affect your pick decisions than in the pure ‘first pick scenario’. By then the deck will dictate your choice – in particular, synergy and mana curve will be crucial to consider. As such, the lines drawn by the ‘first pick’ tier list can become blurry.
The Role of Champion Cards in Expeditions
There is a notable difference in how the players generally think about champions in Expeditions as compared to the constructed mode experience.
In the regular deck-building, the LoR heroes are very often the central figures for each particular deck. A champion card is essentially the core of its deck’s game plan. For example, Ezreal Control build aims to stall the game, evolve the champion card, and then close out the match using a bunch of cheap spells that trigger Ez’s special ability for direct Nexus damage. Without The Prodigal Explorer himself, the win would never be possible.
However, in Expeditions champions play a role that is much more humble. Don’t get me wrong, Fiora would still be a threat and one of the best cards in your deck. And just as in constructed, you would surely have a few ways to protect her during duels and make the combat phase a hell for your opponent. Still, Fiora would more often act as a pure value card rather than a core engine.
Part of the reason here is purely mathematical – in Expeditions, you start off with just 2 champions within 30-card deck (1:14 ratio). As you play you get additional picks and may end up with 4 champions in 36 cards total (1:8). In constructed, dedicated decks play 6 champions within 40 cards (less than 1:6 ratio) – and that is not even accounting for additional card draw and selection. Put simply, there are not enough champions in your Expedition deck so their role in the game plan of a draft deck is different.
There’s no rule without an exception, but basic guideline here should be like this. Treat your champions in Expeditions like you would your rares and mythics in a Magic: The Gathering draft. They are huge bombs and raise the power level of your deck significantly – however, they also rarely make or break your run. Don’t overestimate their importance!
The Tier List of Champions
With theory topics out of the way, let’s sink our teeth into the list itself. Please note that relative order of champions within each tier has no significance – the heroes are arranged alphabetically.
Tier S – Hecarim, Tryndamere
What do these guys have in common? As opponent deploys them on the battlefield, they all make you lose hope. They add ridiculous amount of stats to the board and have threatening combat abilities on top of that.
Hecarim is a 4/6 with overwhelm that summons another 6/4 in stats. Enough said.
Tryndamere is an almost unkillable finisher. For 8 mana, you get 8/4 right away and 9/9 when he dies. Both bodies have overwhelm, so no chump-blocking for your opponent. With practically no ‘polymorph’ or ‘exile’ effects in the game, The Barbarian King is a cause for many panic attacks in Expeditions.
Tier A – Draven, Garen, Fiora, Heimerdinger, Jinx, Thresh, Zed
These champions have extremely oppressive abilities and often require a timely removal from the opponent in order for him to get back in the game.
Draven and Jinx are efficiently-costed quick-attackers, who are exceptionally dangerous when played on curve. Even though these two marksmen are meant to carry aggro archetypes, one shouldn’t underestimate the long-term value they provide. Draven can fuel various discard effects with the Spinning Axes he generates and make combat phases really awkward. And Jinx – well she becomes a mad draw engine once leveled up.
Heimerdinger is a buildaround champion that gets pretty consistent value. You need to draft with him in mind and prioritise spells that can defend him. If you set up your Heimer correctly – and that is not a very hard thing to do – he runs away with the game completely. Often, even in the worst case scenario, you can get 1-2 turrets out of him, which is still a great deal.
Fiora and Thresh are both challengers – and as such can act as a repeated removal when backed up by combat tricks. The value generated this way make them very threatening as is. In addition, their level-up clauses are not that hard to achieve.
Garen stands for Demacia as a 5/5 body with regeneration and ability to activate your attack token every turn once he levels up. He is a perfect midrange bomb. The Might of Demacia is able to shut down aggro strategies with his wall of stats and also to put pressure on control decks with his relentless attacks.
Zed is a 3/2 quick-attacker for 3 mana that creates an attacking shadow with the same stats. Good Zed players will want to play him with some buff synergies. Thanks to the latest patch, with the nerf to Inspiring Mentor the champion feels not as busted as before.
Tier B – Anivia, Ashe, Braum, Darius, Elise, Karma, Lux, Shen
Basically, you have to do some work to make these champions really good. Such is the case with the majority of the heroes who ended up in Tier B.
But first let’s talk about Darius and Elise – the last statement is not necessarily true for them. They are both intended to be ‘stat-stick’ aggro champions, but fall a little bit behind their existing alternatives. Darius often feels like a worse version of Tryndamere – he is a big overwhelming threat, but nowhere near the levels of the Frejlord king’s stickiness. Elise is great when played on curve – but struggles with long-term value while Jinx players just giggle maniacally. So, Tier B for Darius and Elise.
Braum and Shen are the two beloved supports from League of Legends – and they are staying true to their strengths in Legends of Runeterra. Shen is at his best when used alongside another champion – or any decent attacker really. You will also need 1-2 combat tricks at the ready for the warden himself. If these conditions are met, the game snowballs quickly. As for Braum – he becomes really good only if you buff him to repeatedly challenge and kill opposing units. Without buffs though, his level up progress will often be too slow and clunky.
Anivia and Karma are the ultimate pay-offs for ‘Enlightened’ archetype that exists in Expeditions. The goal of the deck is to get to 10 mana and then smash the opponent with Karma value spells and devastating board wipes from Anivia. Both champions are potentially very powerful, but a bit too slow in general.
Lux got some love from League of Runeterra design team in 0.9.0 patch. She is now a 4/5 unit for 6 mana with Barrier keyword. You now feel pretty good playing her on curve as she can hold her own in the combat phase. You add a sweet buildaround potential into the equation and it makes her a pretty exciting champion to first-pick.
Ashe is an interesting hero. I would say she is a build-around card, as you need to have enough frostbite effects in the deck for her to level up fast and truly shine. And yet she works alright as a supportive card in almost any region combination due to her utility alone.
Tier C – Ezreal, Kalista, Katarina, Lucian, Vladimir
These champions are all quite fun but only occasionally feel powerful.
Vladimir is a weird one. His ability to damage your own units needs to be heavily built around. Otherwise, its effect can be even detrimental. However, at 5/5 for 5 mana, Vlad is a very decent midrange threat and the fact that he also gets regeneration once leveled up adds to that. You can include him in any deck and be okay with that, but remember that Vladimir needs a vast support cast to really unleash his power.
Katarina is a unique champion and she is very hard to use correctly. Her true calling is to serve as a finisher – build up your board, level her up and then use Kata as attack reset to devastate your opponent.
Ezreal is powerful on paper, but in the elusive-infested meta of Expeditions he struggles to make a difference. Target enemy units 8 times to level him up or even connect with Nexus at all – those are both not very trivial tasks for Ez in draft.
Lucian is a 2 mana 3/2 quick-attacker, which by itself is not very impressive. 4-toughness creatures defeat him in combat. Draven would just use a Spinning Axe in a similar situation and completely got away with everything. Leveling Lucian up is often unrealistic unless you have Senna on the board. At 2 health, Luc is usually the first one to die to Mystic Shot or Black Spear.
For a long time now, Kalista has been one of the weakest champions in League of Legends. The story remains the same for LoR as well – she is quite meh. Meant as an aggro champion, she often doesn’t get good attacks due to a lack of quick attack keyword. The only redemption for her is that she is a Shadow Isles hero – and that region has some really good cards. I like Kalista’s friends, but I definitely wouldn’t hang out with her if it was just her.
Tier D – Teemo, Yasuo
These two outcasts feel quite lost in the Expeditions mode. They require a heavy buildaround commitment just like Heimerdinger. However, Yasuo and Teemo dreams are very hard to achieve in the draft format. I wouldn’t first pick any of these two champions unless I’m going for the memes.
Teemo‘s ‘Shroom and Boom’ archetype can get some wins – especially when supported by either Heimerdinger or Karma. But truth be told, these two Expedition titans do not require any help from the little yordle at all. Filling your opponents deck with mushrooms is fun and all, but Teemo gets easily overrun by decks that rely on a brute force. By himself, Teemo offers very little when it comes to controlling the board before the mushrooms really kick in.
Yasuo is a powerful unit just by looking at his base stats. However, first-picking him forces you into an awkward ‘Disruption’ archetype, where you play a lot of stun and recall effects just because you have Yasuo in your deck. But what if he never shows up in a game? Here’s where lies the key limitation of this plan – as compared to, let’s say, Heimerdinger’s deck. The latter can win without the champion. But Yasuo’s builds – they are filled with cards that are simply useless without him.
This concludes our overview of Runeterra champions in a draft environment. Expeditions are a great way to learn the game and build up your collection, so hopefully our tier list will help with your trials. Please, feel free to share your thoughts on the tier list and good luck in your next Expedition!