5 Balance Changes We’d Like to See in January

January 5th is when we're getting a big balance patch - Den is here to share his personal wishlist and offer his take on the current meta.

Before leaving for their traditional Christmas break, the developers at Riot teased the LoR community that on January 5th we will be getting a big balance patch.

Obviously with us card gamers, whenever you tell us things are about to happen, we will eagerly wait for it and come up with theories and guesses. Well, today, we are doing exactly that, as I’m going to present my own wishlist for the upcoming patch, discussing the current state of the game in the process.


Currently, we are in a metagame dominated by tempo, where Bandle and Ionia are the highest-profile regions.

Both are featuring great tempo tools and refill mechanics, which help them pressure their opponent for long periods of time and develop their synergies along the way. With several decks in Tier 1 relying on these regions, there are feelings that Bandle and Ionia need to be put back in line, and they are expected to be the focus of potential nerfs on January 5th.

Targon and Bilgewater are looking good as well, with Pantheon and Twisted Fate being decently represented in the metagame. Pantheon Demacia is one of the best midrange pressure decks, and in the control category, Lee Sin remains powerful as always.

Demacia, Piltover & Zaun, and Shurima are viable as a support to some of the Tier 1 synergies, but Noxus, a very popular region in previous metagames, is suffering a clear downfall.

Freljord and Shadow Isles are seen as the two weakest regions currently, both being featured only in a few decks and either acting as the support region (Darkness) or falling short of a Tier 1 power level (Thralls).

Below I’m going to dive deeper into the issues of the current metagame (which, by the way, is still one of the most diverse environments we’ve ever had), and what I think the upcoming balance patch can do to address them.

Note that the opinions below are my own, and the main goal of making a ‘wishlist’ is not to ‘predict’ or ‘demand’ the exact changes listed, but to illustrate my thoughts on the state of the meta and start a discussion as we are bracing ourselves for January 5th.


1. Reign in the Tempo Output of Ionia

Elusives, Lifesteal, Stun, Recall and draw engines – Ionia is a very good region when it comes to generating tempo.

Although it doesn’t have access to hard removal, this weakness can be easily covered by the second region of the deck. And the Recall mechanic, which is Ionia’s form of removal – is so strong that it is currently making any 5+ mana unit in the game almost unplayable.

In order to reign Ionia in a bit, I think it’s the time to adjust the two most problematic cards – ones that everyone has been talking about for several weeks now.

  • Eye of the Dragon -> no Attune.
    With Gifts from Beyond, the reliability with which you can get Eye of the Dragon is too high for it to also be effectively only costing 1 mana. At 2 mana with no Attune, the card falls in line – and most impotrantly, it doesn’t allow the player to have a 2-mana spell to protect it immediately on turn 2.
  • Twin Disciplines -> Grant +3/+0 or+ 0/+2.
    Survivability is too high in Ionia, especially since the Elusive keyword is by itself already a form of ‘protection’ when going into combat. With Kennen and Ahri now in the mix, Twin Disciplines has become the best protection spell in the game and is making Ionia way better in that regard than Targon – with their Sunblessed Vigor, or Freljord – with their Troll Chant.

2. Shellfolk Should Not Reduce the Cost of Cards

Curious Shellfolk is slowly overtaking Bandle City deckbuilding as a whole. The card is finding its way in more and more Bandle-based decks and there is a simple package alongside it that makes the Shellfolk shine: Conchologist, Trinket Trade, and Otterpus.

While I do believe this card design is good for the game and brings much-welcomed variety – we don’t want to simply be playing for stats all the time – it is undeniable that Curious Shellfolk being both a tempo and a value engine in the late-game has made the card a little bit overpowered.

  • Curious Shellfolk -> Remove the ‘cost reduced by 1’ clause.
    Bandle City is a region that is well-versed in a resource war. It dominates its opponents through constant tempo output supported with card generation along the way. However, Shellfolk generating both cards and mana takes it a little too far, and its synergy with Trinket Trade is being abused at all levels of the game. Removing the cost reduction clause feels fair while not limiting the card in its capacity to dominate an opponent through sheer value.

3. Update Statlines of Some Older Off-Meta Champs

Newer champions tend to have not only strong abilities but also solid statlines and keywords. Kennen, Ahri, and even Jayce kicked in the door with undeniable power creep, making some of the older champs look like followers.

And even if those old champions were perfect in their time, they are clearly lagging behind judging by today’s standards. Adding 1 point of health will be a meaningful upgrade to a lot of them.

  • Diana -> 2/3.
    Ahri is showing us that a 2/3 for 2 mana champion with Quick Attack is now on the table, and in order to help the Nightfall archetype, Diana’s stats should be adjusted accordingly.
  • Jinx -> 4/4.
    At 3 health, Jinx is barely playable and only serves in gimmicky decks who need to have a lot of things go right for them to work. With Jayce being a 4/4 – and being able to choose his keyword on top of that, – I don’t see why Jinx can’t get her due.
  • Fiora -> 2/3.
    Ever since she got nerfed, Fiora disappeared entirely from everyone’s radar. Bringing her back to a 3/3 might be too much, but balancing her stats in favor of survivability instead of damage output should still help the champion.
  • Karma -> 4/4.
    The game is becoming faster and faster over time, and it’s harder and harder for Karma to reach her level up, even in decks designed for it. As a 4/4, Karma will be a more relevant on-curve play without risking a huge tempo loss if she gets answered.
  • Kindred -> 4/5.
    Feared upon their reveal, Kindred never made it as a playable champion. Giving them an extra health point should help its survivability, and it will strengthen the region that is struggling.
  • Aphelios -> 3/4.
    Since the change to Moon Weapons, Aphelios has been forgotten in terms of competitive use. We all remember how crazy Aphelios is with his weapons at 2 mana, but increasing his survivability instead could be a step in the right direction.
  • Ashe -> 5/4.
    Ashe is a champion that needs to attack in order to be truly effective. In an era where the average 2-drop could block her, and with battlefields filled with chump-blockers, Ashe’s power level is suffering. Adding a health point is a way to support her identity while bringing her more in line with a champion like Sivir, for example.

4. Non-Bandle Swarm Needs Some Help

While I am not pushing for a return of Poppy and a Yordle Rally kind of deck, I still believe archetypes like Scouts, Fearsome, or Nightfall can have some more explosive early game possibilities.

Right now, because we don’t see many decks that threaten to overpower you on the board early in the game, highly synergistic archetypes flourish and dominate the play as they have all the time to set up.

  • Grizzled Ranger -> 3/2.
    With how easy it is currently to deal 1 damage, an extra health would go a long way to restore the power of a former staple unit in the Scouts archetype.
  • Greenfang Warden -> 3/2.
    It has never seen play in the past, and is long due for a little help. An extra attack woud make the Barrier keyword much more meaningful, either as a blocker or to punish an opponent who would decide to let it through.
  • Stalking Shadows -> 2 mana.
    A lot of people in the community have been asking for this one, and it only feels logical at this point. Shadow Isles’ only use right now is to provide healing cards.
  • Blighted Caretaker -> 2/1.
    Just like the Stalking Shadows, it feels like reverting this nerf would only make sense in order to restore the variety and diversity of Shadow Isles.
  • Brood Awakening -> 5 mana.
    Spiders as a tribe rely on the Fearsome keyword to get in as much damage in as possible before switching to a burn plan provided by Noxus. Giving them a real board-based win condition might help push the archetype towards a more synergestic approach.

5. Promote the Overwhelm Identity of Freljord

What makes Bandle City so good is that it’s great at chump-blocking, buying a lot of time in order to set up their synergies. Elusive and Overwhelm are some of the best keywords in the game to beat that approach.

While Elusive is fairly well-represented thanks to Ahri and Ionia in general, Overwhelm is mostly tied to Targon and Pantheon right now. Meanwhile, Freljord is the original Overwhelm region, but many of its units with this keyword lack efficiency.

I believe granting the Yeti tribe Overwhelm keyword makes a lot of sense in terms of flavor (Ancient Yeti already has it) and could do wonders for this archetype that never has been considered competitive.


Closing Words

As you might have noticed, I’m a believer in buffing cards rather than nerfing them. Good thing this is exactly what the January 5th patch will be focused on, at least judging by what we’ve heard from the developers!

The newest champions do look stronger than the older ones, but that is in the very nature of card games. However, I believe nerfing Ahri or Kennen would only hurt the game – and buffing older champions, on the other hand, is what promotes diversity.

As for Ionia and Bandle, they do require some intervention – but with only slight nerfs to their key cards, we could get to an environment where players will have all the tools effective enough to mount strong counter-strategies.

Are you also waiting for the new year’s patch to dive headfirst into the renewed meta and the end-of-season race? What are your views on the changes that could be good for the current environment? Feel free to join us on Discord and share those with RuneterraCCG community.

As for myself, you can find me on Twitter for anything card games, or on Metafy, helping aspiring competitive players to reach their goals.

Good game everyone!

den
den

Den has been in love with strategy games for as long as he can remember, starting with the Heroes of Might and Magic series as a kid. Card games came around the middle school - Yugioh and then Magic. Hearthstone has been his real breakthrough and he has been a coach, writer, and caster on the French scene for many years now. Although it took him a bit to get into Legends or Runeterra, his EU Seasonal Tournament win was the perfect start to get involved in the community. He now coaches aspiring pro players and writes various articles on the game. Find him on Twitter at @den_CCG!

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