With the official release of Legends of Runeterra fast approaching, and spoiler season already in full swing, Riot has rolled out one final balance patch for the beta, giving us the last round of card changes that we’ll get before the game fully launches.
As usual, I’ll be doing my best to forecast what these changes mean for the competitive meta, but this is a pretty unique situation, compared to my previous Meta Analysis posts. We’re only a few short weeks away from the official release of the game, and if that wasn’t enough of a reason to celebrate, we’re getting a stockpile of 120+ cards added to the card pool, which means that everything is going to radically change. It’s impossible to say for sure how the meta will shake out in the wake of this upcoming “expansion”, so my predictions here will only be attempting to forecast things as they currently are, without factoring in any of the new cards that we already know we’ll soon be getting our virtual hands on.
If you’re just looking for a transcript of the official patch notes, we’ve got you covered on that end too, but without further ado, let’s dive into these changes!
Draven: This is an interesting little tweak that Draven is receiving, where now you can stack two of his Spinning Axes onto one strike, and that’ll still be enough to level him up. Previously, the way that Draven’s text read, you needed to strike two separate times with a Spinning Axe before he would level up, so this gives you a greater deal of flexibility in reaching that goal. It’s not a huge buff by any means – and with Draven already being a very strong Champion in aggro decks, he didn’t need one – but it does make him just the tiniest bit better, in the margins.
Kalista: After receiving a near-complete rework in the previous balance-adjustment patch, a lot of people took Kalista for a spin to see just how viable she could be on the ladder. Unfortunately, even with her new design, she just wasn’t quite up to snuff; especially in Shadow Isles, where the Champions have a reputation for being quite powerful. This buff reduces her level-up requirement from seeing four allies die, to now only needing to see three, which I think could turn out to be a pretty meaningful difference. Now, you can level her up with just a single Haunted Relic, or even a Used Cask Salesman, and it makes it much easier to accomplish on the same turn when you play her, too.
Does it make her good enough to see competitive play? Ehhhh, it’s tough to say. Ephemeral as an archetype has consistently paled in power-level when compared to the other builds you can pull off with Shadow Isles, which means that Kalista sort of has to be strong enough to make the deck good by herself. While I think that this change goes a long way toward making that a possibility in the future, as things stand right now, my guess is that Kalista will still be searching for a home. If you do ever encounter her on the ladder though, you’ll probably want to make sure you remove her as soon as you can, before your opponent can get the chance to boost her up.
Katarina: Like her Noxian compatriot up above, Katarina also gets a small buff in this patch, giving you a Fleeting copy of a Blade’s Edge when you play her. It’s worth noting that this ability only seems to apply to her base form, so after you level her up and recall her, you won’t get another Blade’s Edge when you play her again. That’s a bit of a shame, as Katarina is a champ who could probably use a little bit of an extra boost, but this is still something that makes her a little more viable. You can use the copy of Blade’s Edge that she generates to pop a barrier, if your opponent is trying to block another one of your units, as discard fodder for spells like Get Excited! or Rummage, or even just as an extra point of damage if you need to finish off something pesky.
Yasuo: Last among our Champion changes, but certainly not the least, Yasuo is seeing a simple uptick in health, going from 3 to 4. Now, in Legends of Runeterra, I like to refer to “4” as the magic number. Why? Because that’s the cutoff point for almost every single removal spell currently in the game. Only two removal spells currently deal more than three damage to a unit: Shatter, which requires a unit to be frostbitten, or for it to have zero power, and Thermogenic Beam, which can deal as much damage as you have mana to sink into it. This means that whenever a unit goes from 3 health to 4 health, it’s a pretty big deal, and that’s especially true for an already strong Champion like Yasuo.
On the surface, this… probably makes Yasuo one of the best four-cost units in the game? A 4/4 body with quick attack, that also has the upside of dealing damage whenever you stun or recall enemy units? Uhh, yeah, sign me up for that. The problem still remains, however, that he needs more support to truly make him a difference-maker. If this upcoming set of new cards provides some additional tools for Yasuo decks to make use of, then I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him make a real impact on the meta.
FOLLOWERS & SPELLS
Avarosan Trapper: This probably won’t be the most exciting change that anyone talks about, but I think Trapper might actually be decent now! Before, playing a under-statted body for 3-mana that does nothing at all to impact the board was a real tough sell. Now, at a very fair 3/3 stat line, Trapper can actually provide some meaningful board presence while you’re waiting to draw that Enraged Yeti friend that he brings with him. I think you can actually get away with playing this guy to fend off early aggression and generate some additional value.
Frenzied Skitterer: This was a card that had been previously named as one that they were keeping an eye on for potential changes down the line, and sure enough, here we are. It retains Fearsome tagging, which means that the decrease in health won’t mean anything when you’re on the attack, but Skitterer now loses a lot of value as a blocker, which means that you might not see it populating control decks the way it has been up until now. Plus, it’s now much more vulnerable to removal spells, of course, so even getting to attack with it is far from a guarantee. It’ll likely still have a place in aggro and midrange decks, but control decks will likely be searching for a different unit to help protect against early-to-midgame aggression.
Kato the Arm: Oh hey, remember what I said just a little earlier about that magic number? I can’t stress enough how huge of a difference that single point of health makes, and now Kato also gets to reap the benefits of not dying to every removal spell under the sun. Now, you might actually get the chance to attack with him, and his ability can be a real difference-maker against boards that want to keep constantly chump blocking you out. Maybe he’ll start strong arming his way into Noxus aggro decks. Get it? Because he’s–oh, nevermind.
Laurent Duelist: A 4/2 for three mana certainly doesn’t feel as bad as a 3/2 for three mana, but it still doesn’t feel very good, and Laurent Duelist still doesn’t come close to being good enough to compete with other units that provide similar effects. There’s a reason that other guy got picked to be the Laurent Protege, after all. Protege is just a better card that doesn’t require you to have another unit in play, keeps Challenger for more than just one round, and can trade with multiple units thanks to its larger health pool.
Shady Character: There’s been a bit of a theme in this patch to make it so that things don’t die so easily to removal, but I wasn’t expecting Shady Character to get that treatment. Look, it’s a total meme card, and it’s going to remain that way, in all likelihood, but the fact that it no longer dies to literally everything when its ability goes on the stack at least gives it a glimmer of hope. I suppose there is some appeal to the idea of copying a big ol’ They Who Endure with this guy though…
Starlit Seer: Starlit Seer has been a bit of a paradox. You want to run a lot of cheap spells with him so that you can get multiple buffs off his ability, but you also want to run a good number of early-game units that care a lot more about those incremental buffs, so where’s the compromise? Nobody seems to have found it yet, and a small uptick in health isn’t likely to bring about any change in that. Maybe the extra point of health gives him some viability in Crimson decks? Could be worth a shot.
Vanguard Bannerman: Possibly the nerf that everyone knew was coming, and certainly the one that everyone was clamoring for, but how much of an impact will it really have? At the very least, this probably now means that you need to have at least two other units on the board before you slam down a Bannerman, which means that you can really slow these decks down if you can prevent them from going wide. Bannerman still seems solid to me, but it’s no longer the value machine that it was previously, which is probably the right call.
Wyrding Stones: Maybe in a world where Fearsome doesn’t exist as an archetype, a card like Wyrding Stones could see more play. As things currently stand, this extra point of health doesn’t do enough to make it worthwhile to lean all the way into the ramp strategy. If you really want to ramp, stick to Catalyst of Aeons.
Blood for Blood: Open your ears and listen to the cries of ecstasy from all of the Crimson players! Blood for Blood can now function as something of a poor man’s Glimpse Beyond, sucking some juicy drops of value out of a unit right before it’s about to meet with an untimely demise. Also, apparently its art is purple now, so that’s neat!
It bears repeating that all of this will be thrown out the window in a few weeks’ time, once Legends of Runeterra officially launches and we see a huge influx of new cards enter the game, but until that point, hopefully you can make the most of these balance changes and dominate the meta! And make sure that you stay tuned to RuneterraCCG.com for all the latest spoilers and breakdowns as we get closer and closer to release date!