Hey there folks, I’m FaeGamerBoi and in this article I’m going to run through a beginner-intermediate card game concept that I’m calling ‘The Four Resources’. These include: Nexus health; Card advantage; Board state; and Tempo. By changing the way you view a game of Runeterra through these concepts, you can open yourself to smarter and less obvious lines of play.
The Four Resources
To understand Legends of Runeterra on a more baseline level than just what cards are being played, imagine Runeterra as less of a card game, and more of a resource management game. This will put you into a different headspace than the one that comes naturally with playing a card game. Instead of how your cards affect the game directly, ask questions like: What resources do I have? What am I using them to build? How are the things I’m spending my resources on going to help me win the game? Now that you’re thinking about the game in terms of resources, let me show you how to use them!
1. Nexus Health
Your first resource is the most basic one and the most important – your Nexus health. Managing the Nexus health is vital to any gameplan and in any match-up because it’s the main way you’ll be winning and losing games. Don’t be scared if you’re losing health though, as winning with 1 Nexus health is as much of a win as with 20. In fact, overcommitting to Nexus protection is sometimes a waste of other resources and can even increase the chance that you’ll lose.
Now, if you’re newer to the game, you may be wondering how you should manage your Nexus health. Well, imagine your opponent attacks you with a Chump Whump – then your choice of how to respond to this influences your resources! If you block with a creature, you’re trading away your units on the board to preserve Nexus and mana; if you cast a Get Excited to kill Chump Whump, you’re spending your cards and mana to preserve Nexus and board; or if you let it hit you, you’re spending Nexus heath to preserve your cards, board and mana.
To improve the efficiency of your Nexus management, remember that your Nexus health is a resource that can be exchanged for other different resources and advantages in a game.
2. Card Advantage
The cards you have in your hand are the second most important resource, as running out of cards can be almost as damning as running out of health. Your average game of Runeterra will last between 7 and 12 rounds, for simplicities sake let’s just take the middle point of 10. Over 10 rounds, you will have access to at least 14 cards. Thinking about your cards in this manner, you begin to understand how important each card will be, after all, if you use more than one card a turn without supplementing your draws, you’ll be running through those 14 very quickly!
Card advantage specifically refers to plays which leave you with a greater number of cards than your opponent. It is from this concept that the phrases two-for-one, three-for-one etc. arise. If you hear someone describe a play as a two-for-one or sometimes two-for-oneing, what they mean is that one player has traded two of their cards for one of their opponent’s cards. Making a play like this puts your opponent at a card advantage over you, and means that you will be running out of cards before they do, which could be a game losing disaster! So from here on you’ve got three options: find a way to pull ahead on cards by drawing more cards, force your opponent to make bad two-for-one trades; or win quickly before you run out of cards.
As a general rule: slower, more controlling decks will want to play for card advantage more than faster, aggressive decks. A good card to illustrate managing the resource of cards is Progress Day. If you play it, it puts you at a two-card advantage over your opponent, so now you have two more cards to deal with whatever your opponent can do. However, by doing so you’ve spent a lot of mana, which prevents you from building up your board to defend your Nexus. But if you’re able to make this play without having your Nexus destroyed or your opponent overwhelming you with their board, it’s still a very good play. But again, if you don’t consider these consequences, you may just lose on the spot and never get a chance to play your two extra cards.
Remember that card-drawing only matters if you can use those cards. Card advantage is a number which shows you have more cards, but not necessarily more of usable cards. Some of the times you don’t have mana to realise your card advantage, other times cards are “dead” draws, because you cannot use them in the current game state and thus they sit in your hand gathering dust. That being said, mana limitations and drawing dead cards is just a part of the game, and it shouldn’t weigh too heavily on your mind when playing for card advantage.
3. Board State
Board state refers to the quantity and quality of the units you have on your board and it goes hand in hand with Nexus health resource. If you have units on the board, for the most part, you will be able to block attacks on your Nexus, and if your board is much better than your opponent’s board, they will not be able to apply as much pressure to put you on the back foot. Board state matters a lot in Legends of Runeterra right now, because the majority of the games you will play will be won (or lost) off the back of units.
Efficient usage of the board comes in two forms: If you’re proactive (on the offensive and playing to overwhelm your opponent’s board), you’ll want to spend your resources putting your board in a better state than your opponent’s board and then utilize it to destroy their Nexus; if you’re reactive (defensive and playing to prevent your opponent’s board from pulling too far ahead), you’ll want to commit just enough resources to stop your enemy from overwhelming your board, while conserving the rest to preserve control of the game in the later stages.
The speed and efficiency at which you can turn cards in your hand into units and spells is commonly referred to as tempo. If you are playing a more aggressive game plan, try to increase the tempo by playing lower mana cost cards to maximize your board state advantage over your opponent earlier in the game. Be wary of recklessness though, and preserve some resources to mitigate any attempts from your opponent to blow you out (think Avalanche or The Ruination). If you are playing a more controlling game plan, you want to reduce the speed at which your opponent is playing (think Will of Ionia on a strong unit) to give yourself some time and overtake the game with higher mana cost cards.
Every game will have a faster player (higher tempo) and a slower player (lower tempo). The fast player is expending their resources more quickly to try and kill their opponent as soon as possible. If they’re not able to do so before their resources run out, they are going to be heavily disadvantaged in the late game, where the slower player will begin to take control.
So as you can see, the “plan” of your deck heavily ties into tempo. Game plans are normally divided along the lines of: Aggro (fastest), Midrange (medium) and Control (slowest). There are also some unique Combo archetypes – but those deck can operate at different speeds so they are not so easily classified in terms of tempo. I could write an entire guide just based on how each of these concepts interacts with The Four Resources differently, but for now, you really only need to understand that whether you’re trying to go faster or make your opponent go slower, spend your mana accordingly and stick to that goal.
Hopefully this article was useful to helping you understand the plays and cards of Runeterra on a deeper level. If you’d like to chat with me and go into these topics on a deeper level, feel free to contact me on Facebook and Twitter and if you’d like to see me apply these concepts to the game, I regularly stream on Twitch. You can also check out my content and guides on YouTube. Thank you for reading, and enjoy the rest of your day!