Patch 0.9.0 Meta Analysis
Earlier this week, we had the first balance-adjustment patch hit the open beta for Legends of Runeterra. If you’re just looking for a transcript of Riot’s official notes for the patch, we’ve got that covered for you right here! What I’m going to be attempting to do, is forecast how each of the individual changes will impact the current metagame, and the new power-level of each affected card, as well. So without any further ado, let’s dive in and take a look at how the game is going to be changing!
Lux: We saw changes made to two of the game’s twenty-four current champions, the first of whom being Lux, of Demacia. It’s a straight buff across the board for her, going from a 3/4 to a 4/5 in her default form, and from a 4/5 to a 5/6 once she’s leveled up.
Lux has struggled to see much play in the meta so far, for the same reasons, in large part, that most of the units who care about spells have struggled to make an impact. The game’s current pool of spells is limited, and most of the decks that have been on the higher end of the competitive spectrum haven’t been utilizing them all that much. Now, if this patch changes that second part, then maybe you might start to see Lux finding a spot for herself in competitive decks. Otherwise, she’s probably going to stick to being viable in Expeditions mode only.
Much like with Lux, the impact of this buff will be entirely dependent on how the meta changes in response to the patch at large. Yasuo has been tough to fit into decks thanks to the speedy nature of the meta, but if we see a slower competitive environment, then maybe meeting the requirements for leveling him up won’t be so daunting.
Arena Battlecaster: Generally speaking, going from one of something, to two of something, is pretty impactful. It may not seem like a whole lot of difference, but whether it’s attack power, health, mana cost, or whatever, that’s a 50% swing in value. So Arena Battlecaster getting buffed from 1 health to 2 health? That’s a big change that makes it a lot more viable as an aggressive unit in Noxus decks, since now it won’t just die to basic Spiderlings and Omen Hawks.
Commander Ledros: Despite the increase in power from 8 to 9, make no mistake that this is a nerf for Commander Ledros of the Shadow Isles. Ledros has been a powerful finisher at the top end of Shadow Isles decks, and the increase in casting cost from 8 mana to 9 means that players now have to wait an entire extra turn before they can slam him down; an entire extra turn that opponents can use to prepare and stabilize. That being said, if we do see a significant slowdown in the meta, Ledros’s self-recursion will still come in handy late-game against control decks.
Crimson Curator: Playing a 3/3 for 3 mana feels a lot less bad than playing a 3/2 for 3 mana, but I doubt that we’ll see much of an uptick in play for Crimson Curator, until a deck comes together that fully takes advantage of the unique Crimson mechanic of doing things whenever they survive damage. That being said, this does become a much better card in Expeditions, where it was already worth a look for the extra card generation.
Inspiring Mentor: Here we get our first pure nerf of the patch, and it’s not an insignificant one, with Inspiring Mentor’s ability no longer increasing the health of the targeted unit in your hand. Elusive has proven to be a very powerful mechanic in the early stages of the open beta, and Inspiring Mentor has been a staple in those decks for its ability to buff those Elusive units in your hand. Curving an Inspiring Mentor on turn one, into a buffed Navori Conspirator on turn two, has been one of the most powerful openings you could pull off, and that now takes a significant hit. The increase in health on Mentor itself is okay, but largely irrelevant, outside of maybe being able to chump block for an extra turn.
Jeweled Protector: Ionia is getting one of their other tools for handbuffing, well, buffed, with Jeweled Protector getting an extra point of both attack and health, making it a more palatable 4/4 body for the price of 5 mana. There’s no question that its ability – giving a buff of +3/+3 to a card in hand – is powerful, but Elusive decks have been too aggressive so far to bother with running a buffer that costs so much mana. If these decks are forced to become a little slower, maybe Jeweled Protector will slot in as a one-or-two-of.
Kinkou Lifeblade: Another nerf, and no surprise, it’s another powerful card from the Elusive decks. It goes from being a 2/3 to a 2/2, which is pretty significant, since now the card is hit far more easily by Mystic Shot, and it can’t survive a block from non-buffed Elusives, such as Greenglade Duo and Shadow Assassin. It’ll probably still see play, but only because the lifegain it provides is worth something.
Rhasa The Sunderer: Ledros isn’t the only Shadow Isles epic seeing an increase in his mana cost, with Rhasa likewise getting bumped up from 7 mana to 8. I don’t think Rhasa gets hit from it as hard as Ledros does, but it is another case of giving your opponent that extra turn they might need to turn the tide, or just win the game outright, if you really needed that removal.
Scuttlegeist: We see a pretty interesting buff here, where Scuttlegeist still retains the exact same mana cost, attack, and health, but instead gets an entire keyword added on, in the form of Fearsome. As I said, it’s an interesting path to take, and also something of a strange one. To get Scuttlegeist down early enough for that Fearsome ability to truly have an effect, you’ll need to get a whole lot of your units killed off in the first few turns. It’s not impossible, but more often than not, I get the feeling Scuttlegeist will only wind up hitting the board when your opponent is already able to adequately block it.
Tortured Prodigy: A simple uptick in power for Tortured Prodigy takes it from a 3/4 to a 4/4, which is certainly better, but not enough of a change on its own to get the card into the meta. Again, it’s another one of those cards that cares a lot about spells, and so far, spells just haven’t factored into the meta enough for units like Tortured Prodigy to shine. It’s worth keeping in the back of your mind, but only if we see the meta take a substantive shift toward spells mattering.
Wraithcaller: We’ve seen a handful of nerfs to the Elusive archetype already, and now we’re seeing one of the big blows that Fearsome Aggro/Midrange are taking. Wraithcaller is losing its Fearsome ability completely, handing it over to Scuttlegeist and becoming a 4/3 body that sometimes summons a Mistwraith (which, it’s worth noting, does still retain Fearsome). Honestly, this has the potential to be the most damaging nerf, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Wraithcaller get cut completely from these decks.
Back to Back: I’ve talked a good bit in this article about how spells have mostly struggled to make as much of an impact in the meta, and I think that’s reflected in there only being two nerfs to spells, compared to more than twice that many for followers.
Regardless, Back to Back has been perhaps the most prominent combat trick in competitive constructed, with the potential to blow your opponent out of the water completely by costing them two units while you lose nothing from your side of the board. Getting bumped up from 5 mana to 6 makes it tougher to pull off, though it’s still strong enough that I’d expect it to stay in most of the decks that are already running it.
Deny: As the only form of true counter-magic in Legends of Runeterra, Deny has seen huge swaths of play, especially with Ionia already being such a powerful region thanks to its abundance of Elusive units and handbuffs. This is a hugely impactful nerf, too, as upping it from 3 to 4 mana means that you can no longer cast it solely off of banked spell mana. If there’s any one singular change that might lead to a shift in the role that spells have in the metagame, it’s probably this one, since now it will be much more difficult for those impactful, high-mana-cost spells to be countered, and as such, might make them a lot more playable in your decks.
So there you have it! We’ll have to see how this patch shakes things up over the next few days, but my prediction is that we’ll end up seeing a slightly slower meta that maybe focuses more on midrange decks, as opposed to aggro. I don’t think it’ll be quite slow enough for the “spells matter” cards like Lux and Tortured Prodigy to break out just yet, but if additional changes like these come, or if we see an expansion sometime in the future that brings us slower, more powerful cards, that might be just the thing they’re waiting for.
Until then, stay tuned right here, where we’ll be bringing you all the best decklists to come out of this patch, that you can take right into the new meta to try out for yourselves!