For the second time in these early days of Legends of Runeterra’s open beta, we’ve received a new balance-adjustment patch that aims to diversify the meta and bring it to a more healthy place. The team at Riot has had time to monitor and review the effects that the previous balance-adjustment patch had, and with competitive tournaments also starting to take place, Riot has the added ability to look at which decks and archetypes are most prevalent in a whole new metagame. If you want to read a transcript of Riot’s official patch notes, we’ve got you covered on that end, and now I’m going to peer into my crystal ball and attempt to predict what changes, if any, you can expect to see in the Ranked environment as a result of these adjustments.
Hecarim: As perhaps the most-played Champion in all of Runeterra, as well as being a staple in some of the meta’s most powerful decks, such as Fearsome Rally and Ephemeral Midrange, it was somewhat inevitable that Hecarim was going to wind up seeing some changes. Not only does Hecarim get docked a point of health, going from 6 to 5 (and 7 to 6, when leveled-up), but the Spectral Riders that he summons when he attacks also lose out on a point of power, going from 3/2s to 2/2s. All in all, the combined stats of a Hecarim attack decrease from 10 power and 10 health, to now being 8 power and 9 health.
In addition, his static ability when leveled-up has changed, now buffing other Ephemeral allies by +3 attack instead of only +2. The idea behind these changes is that it will pull Hecarim more in line with his intended role of being a strong Champion in Ephemeral decks, rather than being an auto-include in just about any aggressive, Shadow Isles deck, but I’m not sure if it’s enough of a decrease in power that we won’t still see Hecarim clomping his spooky hooves all over the meta.
Kalista: On the opposite end of the spectrum, Kalista was the Champion who saw the least amount of play in the time since the last patch dropped, and it’s not hard to see why. She was just too fragile a body, and the benefit she provided wasn’t enough to make her worth a spot in decks, especially with the overall power-level of Shadow Isles being so high.
Now, she’s been bumped up from 2 health to 3, her level-up requirement has been increased from needing to see 3+ allies die to needing to see 4+ allies die, and her “bond” effect when she enters play has been removed entirely from her default form. When she does level up, she’s now a 5/4 body, and the first time she attacks in a round, she’ll resurrect an Ephemeral copy of the strongest Follower you’ve had die so far this game. Not only that, but the Ephemeral ally she brings back also absorbs any damage that Kalista would otherwise take.
This is a huuuuge boost for Kalista in terms of viability. Her new leveled-up ability offers her loads of protection, which was probably her biggest weakness pre-patch, and her resurrection ability comes in handy in both aggressive decks and more grindy ones. I think it’s likely that we’ll at least see people experimenting with Kalista, to see if the juice is worth the squeeze.
Border Lookout: Vanguard Lookout: Hey, nice to see that there’s always room for career advancement in the Demacian army! Vangaurd Lookout, promoted from his title before of a mere Border Lookout, now carries the Elite tag. Sadly, this doesn’t make the Lookout any more likely to see play in current Elites decks, as just a vanilla 1/4 body.
Chump Whump: As a healthy 4/4 body at a reasonable price of four mana, and providing one of the best abilities you could ask for in most Piltover & Zaun decks, Chump Whump was a unit that was probably stronger than he might have first appeared. Now, he drops from 4 health to 3, which puts him in range of removal spells like Get Excited! and Black Spear. That one point of health matters a lot, but because of the power of his summon ability, his playrate likely won’t see much of a change.
Crowd Favorite: It’s pretty easy to see why this big lug ended up being a crowd favorite among aggro players, eh? He found a cozy home in Spider decks that wanted to splash Noxus, in particular, where he could get crazy-big, even just when played on-curve. Now, with his base health being reduced down to 1, he does become easier to kill or remove, but should still see play in those specific Noxus/Isles aggro decks.
Mageseeker Inciter: A pretty drastic change for Mageseeker Inciter, as it goes from being a 1/4 to a 4/3, and has also had its ability completely reworked. Now, instead of forcing you to discard a spell to play it, and granting it an increase in power equal to the discarded spell’s mana cost, it instead gets a +2/+2 buff when you’ve cast a spell this game that costs six or more mana.
All that said, I’m still not sure that all these changes will result in more play for the Inciter. Playing three-health units that cost four mana feels pretty bad, and the odds of him surviving to see the buff aren’t super high, if you’re trying to play on curve.
Mageseeker Investigator: No stat changes for the Investigator of the Mageseeker trio, but another reworked ability. Previously, she came as a Purify on a stick, with the condition of you needing to have cast a spell already in the turn. Now, she creates a Detain in hand for you, once you cast a 6+ cost spell. I feel like this change actually makes her slightly worse than she was before? It’s hard to say, but I don’t believe she’ll see much play either way.
Mageseeker Persuader: The last of the Mageseeker trio of cards is more similar to his Inciter companion, in that the Persuader is also undergoing a massive overhaul in this patch. His mana cost has shrunk from 6, all the way down to 2, he no longer has Challenger, and he’s now a 3/2 body instead of a 4/1 body. Like the Inciter, he previously required you to discard a spell to play him, buffing his health by the card’s mana cost. Instead, he now gets a +1/+1 buff after you’ve cast a 6+ cost spell, and he regains his Challenger ability.
This one probably has the most potential, of the newly-reworked Mageseeker trio. You can do worse than a 3/2 body on turn two, and as a 4/3 with Challenger later on in the game, that’s great value for just two mana.
Navori Conspirator: One of the most polarizing nerfs from this patch, Navori Conspirator’s power is being reduced from 3 to 2, and some players don’t think Riot went far enough to weaken the Elusive archetype. I agree that this change on its own likely won’t do much to stem the Elusive tide, but this change isn’t an insignificant one. However much extra time you can get on the clock matters when your opponent is trying to race you down with Elusive units, so being on 18 instead of 17 after turn two, or 16 instead of 14 after turn four, is more relevant than it might seem at first glance.
The Rekindler: Another polarizing change with the increase in mana cost on The Rekindler, who now comes at a price of 7 mana instead of 6. Again, a lot of people are unhappy with this change for not going far enough to nerf a card with such a powerful ability, but the one-mana increases for cards such as Deny, Rhasa the Sunderer, and Commander Ledros have borne results, with each of those cards seeing substantially less play than they did pre-nerf. Time will tell if Rekindler meets the same fate, but I think you will see less of him, when also accounting for the nerf to Hecarim.
Troop of Elnuks: MOOOOOOOOO. Unfortunately, we’ll likely be saying goodbye to our Elnuk friends, as Ezreal Control players will probably be moooooving onto something new to fill their decks with, in the wake of this nerf. Instead of checking the top ten cards of your deck, Troop now only checks the top six, which cuts its consistency by nearly half. Expect to perhaps see more Ezreal/Karma decks, in the wake of this.
Unstable Voltician: A key change to the specific wording on Unstable Voltician now means that his ability is no longer checked on summon. Instead, he gets the same treatment as the Mageseeker trio, only caring about if you’ve cast a 6+ cost spell this game, not when you’ve cast it. You can play Voltician on turn five and follow it up with a big spell on turn six, and he still gets the power buff and Quick Attack now. Is it enough for him to see play? Probably not, but it’s a step in the right direction!
Black Spear: Previously one of the most efficient removal spells in the game, Black Spear now costs 3 mana, up from 2, in addition to maintaining the requirement of an allied unit needing to die before you can cast it in a turn, which is fairly easy in most Shadow Isles decks. With removal being at such a premium, I still expect Black Spear to see play, but the steeper price likely will result in some decks cutting copies of it.
Brood Awakening: Given the popularity of Spider-based decks, it was telling that Brood Awakening was hardly seeing much play. It now only costs 5 mana, down from its previous 6, but I’m skeptical that it’ll be enough of a change to make the spell too relevant. Spiders are pretty good already, so it’s tough to crack those lists.
Flash of Brilliance: While not explicitly a nerf, I’m more inclined to treat the change to Flash of Brilliance as such. It’s almost exclusively being played in Heimerdinger Control variants, as a combo tool for being able to generate multiple cheap spells in a turn. With the change making it so that Flash can only create a spell that costs six or more mana, it limits the overall combo potential of the card. The spell it generates will still be plenty powerful though, so watch out.
Iceborn Legacy: Riot is marketing this one as a buff, but I’m not so sure about that. For starters, its effect now grants the named ally/allies a buff of +2/+2, which is good! That part is indeed a buff. However, it now also costs 5 mana, up big from its previous cost of 3, and it’s now a slow spell, where previously it was a burst spell. These changes read more like they were trying to make a broken card more fair, honestly, which was not the case at all with Iceborn Legacy. Keep this card in the garbage bin where it belongs.
Mark of the Isles: A straight nerf for Mark of the Isles, with its buff getting reduced from +3/+3 to now giving +2/+2. For just one measly mana, Mark was a hugely powerful combat trick to either make big value trades, or just flat-out kill your opponent. I’d still expect Mark of the Isles to see good amounts of play, though it’s maybe no longer an automatic three-copy inclusion in every deck.
Onslaught of Shadows: In conjunction with the Hecarim nerf, Onslaught of Shadows is being reduced to 2 mana, now that the Spectral Riders it summons are only 2/2s instead of 3/2s. Onslaught saw limited amounts of play in certain Ephemeral decks prior to this, and likely will not see much of an increase in play from this reduction in cost.
Pack Mentality: Could Crimson decks be… good?? Pack Mentality was already seeing some play in Battle Scars lists before this change, and while its buff has been decreased to giving +2/+2, down from giving +3/+3, it now buffs all of your allies, instead of just the allies of a chosen tribe. Whether or not this helps make Crimson decks more viable, Pack Mentality should be a nice one-or-two-of at the top end of more aggressive Freljord decks.
Poro Snax: A very simple decrease in cost from 4 mana to 3, though it’s tough to see this being enough of a difference-maker that it makes Poro decks more viable.
Rummage: Rummage now allows you to play it when you only have one other card in hand, at the cost of only drawing one card instead of the usual two. This is a huge buff for the card, since you have to be so precise with your mana when piloting these aggro decks to get the most value out of them, and it now becomes much more playable in those decks, since it’s never at risk of sitting dead in your hand when you don’t have the cards to pitch to play it.
And that’s it! Those are all the cards and all the changes that Riot saw fit to enact in this patch, and we’ll soon be seeing what the effects of these changes are on the competitive metagame. In addition, they’re officially “keeping an eye on” Elise, Frenzied Skitterer, Glimpse Beyond, and Shadow Assassin, but have decided that none of these cards merit a change quite yet. Unsurprisingly, all four of these cards are major features in either the powerful Shadow Isles or Elusive decks at the moment, so if those archetypes continue to dominate, you can probably expect those cards to be next up on the chopping block.
In the meantime, stay tuned to RuneterraCCG for the top decklists, as well as all your news and updates on the state of the game!