Legends of Runeterra Budget Decks: Starter Deck Upgrade Guide - Beyond the Bandlewood

Legends of Runeterra Budget Decks: Starter Deck Upgrade Guide – Beyond the Bandlewood

Hello newcomers! So I heard you just got into Legends of Runeterra and are starting your adventure towards building your first deck.

The game is rather friendly when you start, and you should be able to collect cards through the reward tracks, the weekly vaults or working your skills in Expeditions. But before spending all those wildcards you are collecting, you might want to use the Starter Decks you are being offered.

They will help you get a feel of what playstyle you might be into, while also getting a better grasp of the game before spending more resources into a competitive deck.

In this article, I want to offer you a way to improve your free starter decks for as cheap as possible as we will only use common cards!
This will serve 2 purposes: The first being to help you get started without needing any investment into the game, and also showing you the basics of deckbuilding in the process.

There are 4 starter decks that push for different play styles, so anyone should be able to find something for their liking. Let’s dive into the details of each of them and see how we can turn them into playable ladder decks, at least for the first leagues.

Keep in mind that deckbuilding has a lot to do with each player’s comfort and vision of the game. These builds are what I consider good ways to adapt the deck and get started with basic strategies. If you feel confident, I encourage you to try and make your own decks as it is a core part of developing as a player!

  1. Heals and Shields
  2. Scouts and Scallywags
  3. Sun and Wind
  4. Mages and Mechanics

TargonFreljord Heals and Shields

Targon and Frejlord are the two defensive regions currently in the game. Targon aims to drag the game to develop its value while Frejlord uses spells to control opposing threats. As the game develops and the board is under control, this kind of deck is able to grow the units it plays, slowly transforming from the defensive role to a more aggressive one.

Once they reach the late game, both regions can count on their big threats to take over the game. The champions in the deck, Braum and Soraka, both are geared towards supporting that late game plan, acting as midrange enforcers to slow down the opponent while generating board or cards.

Because our champions aren’t really capable of closing the game, we have to invest in that aspect of our deck, looking for impactful units we can use as bruisers. Most of the time, a bruiser is a unit that is aimed at dealing damage and surviving several combats, either thanks to buffing spells like we have in the basic build (Astral Protection, Troll Chant…), thanks to their keywords (Regeneration) or simply because of beefy stat lines (Alpha Wildclaw).

Needed: 13 Commons

In our quest to improve the deck, we will try to make the late game as good as possible working on 2 main aspects of the deck: Stabilising the board state, and developing units to close the game afterwards.

Our turning point in this new build will be turn 5, where we start playing more pressure oriented units instead of stalling ones. As you’ll notice, once in the later turns, our units feature the Overwhelm keyword, which we will use to get damage through even though our opponent might try to block us.

In all fairness, Targon is one of the most expensive regions to explore, with a lot of Rare and Epic cards being key to several strategies. Therefore, this deck will lean on the Frejlord region more in order to adapt its build. The positive of Targon though is that we have another starter deck featuring the region, meaning we can use some of the rarer cards from the Sun and Wind deck to upgrade this one.

Be careful though as to respect the various synergies, and try to include standalone cards in this deck like The Infinite Mindsplitter for example, who can serve as a late game threat.

DemaciaBligewater Scouts and Scallywags

Pressuring your opponent aggressively is usually the easier position to play when learning Legends of Runeterra. You need less information in order to make choices, can play proactively, and overall have an easier time developing a strategy that involves understanding your deck rather than the opponent’s one.

The Scout mechanic is one that can develop an absurd amount of pressure on the board, and the opponent will feel pressed to remove our units as they can attack twice per turn.

In this kind of deck, what we are mainly looking for is consistency, as the overall goal is to develop pressure game after game. In order to do that, we are looking to get as many three full copies of our cards in the deck. That way, we ensure to draw the same cards consistently and have a reliable way to build pressure.

The problem with starter decks is that they give us a lot of different cards, which reduces that consistency aspect a lot. We will focus on restoring that key part of the deck first and foremost when adapting our build.

Needed: 11 Commons

The main problem we have to upgrade this build is that the best cards obviously are the champions and The Grand Plaza, which we don’t have access to more copies in this exercise.

Instead, we will work on multiplying the early game units to stabilize that crucial part of an aggressive deck game plan. Because we are a snowball deck (i.e. a deck looking to create a situation and abuse it to widen the gap between them and their opponent), it is crucial to get going early and make sure we won’t run out of gas too early.

Our big pressure phase is from turn 1 to turn 5, where we can see we have various units at all mana costs. Once we feel we have established a strong enough pressure, we can use the Relentless Pursuit to attack several times and close the game.

IoniaTargon Sun and Wind

While the first two decks were pushing for an overall game plan where the various cards would need to take on a role to get to the finish line, this starter deck works around the concept of “power cards”.

A power card is a particularly important card which has a huge impact on the deck’s success depending on how good we can use and protect it. In this deck, our two power cards are Leona and Yasuo, both helping the Daybreak or the Stun mechanic reach new heights as long as they are on the playing field.

Obviously, getting a third copy of each champion would help with consistently finding our power cards in the deck. But because this archetype is not competitive at higher ranks of the game, we are going to invest into utility cards that would cost you much less resources while making our deck better in the process.

Needed: 16 Commons

The Daybreak and Stun synergies are great at stalling the enemy, but the deck needed a finishing punch to feel good. This is exactly what Starshaping is helping with in the deck as it provides us with some big unit possibility to reward us for holding the fort for many turns.

The deck is tilted towards the Daybreak synergy as it features more units, making it easier to keep up on the board with the opponent. The early curve can serve to establish tempo early on and still have some great utility later on as units like Solari Sunhawk can be helpful at any point in the game.

The Stun synergy is taking on a supportive role, mostly being used to draw (Shadow Assassin), slowing down opposing threats (Concussive Palm, Will of Ionia) or helping with keeping our important pieces alive (Twin Disciplines).

NoxusPiltover & Zaun Mages and Mechanics

The last starter deck is a great example of what not to do with an aggressive deck: Try to do a lot of different things.

For example in this deck, we can see damage oriented cards, removal, some draw or some build up cards with the 2 champions. While it might be appealing to feel you can have a lot of different options, when trying to apply pressure and force the opponent on the back foot, all that flexibility can be a weakness.

If you don’t draw your cards in the right order, the lack of synergy and a clear direction to work towards will hurt you and make it much harder to control the pace of the game.

In order to fix this, we need to decide on what the focus of our deck will be, how we will create tempo. While Noxus and PnZ can be a great pairing for a burn deck, the champions in the deck are pushing for a more midrange game plan, culminating in Vi or Swain being too much to handle for our opponent.

As a result, we will use the damage we can deal in the early game as a distraction and have the opponent on the backfoot because of that. This should buy us time in order to set up our bigger threats and help Swain, Vi, Armored Tuskrider and Captain Farron to close the match.

A tempo deck can take 2 directions: The one we have in the Scouts and Scallywags deck, aiming at snowballing a good early game and never letting go. We can also have what we call a two-speed deck, one that establishes a situation and then decides how we want to take advantage of it.

Up until turn 3, our curve is aimed at dealing damage and chipping away at our opponent’s Nexus. On turn 3 and 4 though, we can see that our units don’t have damage attached to them, but instead can draw or stun an enemy,

This switch marks the point in the curve where we can explore switching towards building our late game threats or looking to burn our opponent and exploiting the damage we had in the early game.

What allows us to make this choice is our spells, as they all are damage based, we can decide to use them to remove opposing units, buying time and leveling Swain in the process. Alternatively, we can use them for burn damage, supporting the work our units did previously and trying to get the opposing Nexus to 0.

In the first scenario, our flexible units will serve to find our threats while disrupting the opponent’s hand and tempo. The goal being to reliably be able to develop Swain, Vi or the Armored Tuskrider in a position where it can represent a major problem for our opponent.
In the second scenario, the draw and disruption will be used as immediate tempo, refilling our hand and making sure we never stop the damage flow we started earlier on.

Closing Words

Starting the adventure of investing into a card game can be daunting at first as there are a ton of possibilities and the online content can be geared towards higher levels of competitive play. The best advice I could give to a newcomer to Legends of Runeterra from a coaching standpoint would be to know why you’re playing the game and allow yourself to make stupid mistakes.

If you are looking to compete, work on your fundamentals in the Expedition mode and save your resources before investing into a meta deck you will be able to grind the ladder with. If you are looking to have fun and enjoy the game, then focus on your ideas and make your decks work around them when building your brews.

No matter how good you are at first, it will take a bit of time to get used to the mechanics, and knowing what are the popular decks and how they operate. During this time, mistakes are natural and are part of the learning process, so don’t try to fight them, instead explore what the game offers you and build an opinion as to what you feel comfortable at or not in Legends of Runeterra.

Once you feel ready and want to invest serious time into the game, this learning process will help you not repeat the same mistakes and you will already have an idea of what direction you want to work towards.

I hope this guide has been helpful to some of you joining us on Legends of Runeterra. There are plenty more advice you can find in the various guides on the website, or discussing with the community on Discord. There is even a “New Player Questions” channel entirely dedicated to help you!

As for myself, you can find me on Twitter or coaching on various platforms like Metafy.

Good game everyone!


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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