The Benefits Of Card Rotation and How It Fixes Legends of Runeterra’s Issues
Hey there, Raphterra here again! Today, I will be talking about my views and opinions on card rotation in Legends of Runeterra! This article will cover the following topics:
- What rotation means and what we know so far about rotation.
- Legends of Runeterra’s weak points and how rotation can solve them.
- The arguments against rotation and why I’m not worried about its potential problems.
Let’s start right away!
What Rotation Means and What We Know So Far
For those of you who are unfamiliar with “Rotation”, this is simply the process of taking a set of cards away from a game’s standard mode of play. Rotation is very common in card games (Hearthstone, Magic: The Gathering) and it also happens in other game genres e.g. Teamfight Tactics.
For Legends of Runeterra, the plan is to divide the game into two formats:
- Standard – Most cards in the game are legal, but some will not be playable in this format.
- This will be the format where new cards can shine and guide the meta.
- For Standard, there’s always a ranked queue (and accompanying ranked season) available.
- Most balance patches will focus on Standard, but not to the exclusion of considering changes to Eternal.
- Eternal – All cards in the game are legal (just like they are now).
- This will be the format where the greatest hits and the new contenders have epic confrontations.
- For Eternal, regularly there will be a spotlight on the format and alongside it, a ranked queue and season. The current plan is to run the spotlight at the end of every expansion. For clarity, this is right before the new expansion is released.
- Eternal spotlights will have an equivalent high-level competitive support.
- Prior to an Eternal spotlight, there will be a balance patch focused on Eternal.
“Rotation means that at regular intervals (right now, about once a year), we will move cards into and out of both formats while mostly keeping Standard the same size.“ – From Riot’s first official blogpost about Rotations.
Here are other important details that Riot gave us about rotation in Legends of Runeterra:
- Rotations will happen alongside the first expansion of each year.
- Cards won’t be rotated out forever. Cards can be rotated back in on the next cycle.
- Three champions have been confirmed for rotation: Irelia, Twisted Fate, and Vladimir.
Legends of Runeterra’s Rotation-Related Weaknesses
Legends of Runeterra is an amazing game. The developers have done a great job on several aspects of LOR e.g. aesthetics, artwork, lore, balance patches, competitive tournaments, etc. I have been playing the game since Rising Tides, and I can see myself still playing for the years to come.
That being said, it’s very hard for any game to be perfect. There will always be room for improvement, and Legends of Runeterra has some weaknesses that I believe could be solved with card rotation:
(1) The Post-Expansion Meta
Despite having a great 2022, the year still had some patches where ranked ladder felt less fun to play (but still fun, for the most part). Most of them were post-expansion patches where new, overtuned cards dominate the meta for about ~4 weeks. These issues are usually solved in the immediate balance patch, but even just 4 weeks of a deck dominating the meta can feel like months for players.
Some examples would be Frozen Thralls / Bard in Worldwalker, Kai’sa in Forces From Beyond, and Seraphine / Vayne in The Darkin Saga: Domination. World Ender had Ruinous Acolytes and Champions’ Strength, but thankfully a quick hotfix prevented these decks from dominating for too long.
(2) Multiple Non-Competitive “Balanced Champions”
Legends of Runeterra has multiple champions that feel very “balanced”, or “fair” like Ashe, Ornn, Shen, and Master Yi. Despite being decent cards, these champions don’t see any relevant competitive play because of the increasing overall power level of the top meta decks a.k.a. power creep. You can technically buff these cards until they become competitive, but they’ll probably end up being too strong or polarizing.
(3) Multiple “Overpowered or Unplayable” Cards
Several champions and cards needed to be nerfed into unplayability since they would just keep dominating the meta without heavy nerfs. Some recent examples would be Bard, Nami, Legion Deserter and Golden Aegis. These cards were controversial, but I found some of them very fun to play. These cards being irrelevant now probably feels bad for players who loved playing them.
The Pros of Card Rotation and How They Can Help Mend Legends of Runeterra’s Weaknesses
Now, I will be listing down the advantages of card rotation, starting with the ones that could address the weaknesses I discussed in the previous section:
(1) Power creep from new expansions will be reduced
The following quote is from Riot’s official articles on rotation, which I think would best explain this point:
“When we add new exciting mechanics or allow new cards to compete with old ones, we power creep the format, which makes it less and less possible to play anything BUT the top cards.”
“With the overall power in the Standard format reduced, we don’t have to keep making the strongest things ever with each new release.”
(2) “Balanced” champions may finally see more competitive play
“Balanced” and “fair” champions like Ashe, Jax, Ornn, and many others would see more competitive play in a format that isn’t dominated by power creep from new expansions. Ashe is a great example of this issue; Frostbite has been receiving continuous buffs in almost every patch, yet the archetype still can’t compete in today’s meta.
(3) Specific cards can stay playable without being nerfed hard
Several cards in LOR have been nerfed hard to keep the meta game fresh. With Rotations, these cards can be unnerfed (fully or partially) and then rotated into the Eternal format.
- High-power, meta-defining cards – these are the cards that needed to be nerfed into unplayability because of their high power level e.g. Bard, Nami.
- Above-average “balanced” cards – these are cards that aren’t necessarily overpowered, but were nerfed regardless because they remained above average and meta-dominant for too long. Examples would be Viego, Tri-beam Improbulator, Golden Aegis, and Decimate.
- Cards that limit future design – these are the cards that will always benefit from future card releases. Their existence in the standard format make the developers’ design space more narrow e.g. Ezreal/Nami with spells, Twisted Fate with card draw, Fizz with buffs.
(4) Every rotation will feel like a big expansion / big balance patch
In my opinion, the game is most fun to play right after a new expansion or a big balance patch. These updates make it feel like we’re playing a new game, and I think the upcoming rotation will feel like an extra large version of the updates that we usually get.
(5) Occasional Eternal spotlights will be an exciting change of scenery from Standard
Personally, I will be playing whichever mode is currently being spotlighted by the developers. I think Eternal spotlights will feel like special events (similar in a way to a new expansion or a new balance patch) where we can see the best decks in LOR face off against each other in a competitive setting. This will be a nice change of pace from standard metagame, and I think not having spotlights on Eternal all the time will make them feel more special.
(6) The Devs can focus on making the game fun to play with new cool concepts
Without Rotation, it will eventually become impossible to design and balance around the infinitely increasing card pool. Instead of losing all dev power on this task, I think it will be beneficial if the developers can just focus on creating cool new cards/concepts and making the game fun to play.
The Arguments Against Rotation
In this section, I will list down the common arguments against card rotation and why I’m personally not too worried about them.
“My Favorite Champion/Card Will Get Rotated”
Personally, I have multiple favorite decks, champions, and cards. I think the mentality of having only one favorite deck/champion is a huge waste of Legends of Runeterra’s potential. If you’re one of these players, I highly recommend for you to have an open mind in exploring and finding fun in other champions. There’s no reason to find more champions to love, given how free to play the game is.
However, let’s say that you’re really stubborn and you really enjoy playing only one champion/deck. Let’s look at the possible scenarios for your favorite cards if the developers don’t push though with card rotation.
- Your favorite champion/card is too strong e.g. pre-nerf Aphelios, pre-nerf Kai’sa.
Chances are, Riot will eventually (1) nerf them slightly and they’ll remain strong, or (2) nerf them hard and they’ll become way weaker, maybe even unplayable. Obviously getting nerfed into unplayability is worse, and I’ve already discussed how card rotation can prevent this. If your favorite champion is only nerfed slightly and still remains a strong, dominant force, see the next bullet point.
- Your favorite champion/card is above average and always meta-present e.g. pre-nerf Viego, pre-nerf Golden Aegis, pre-nerf Tri-beam Improbulator.
There will come a time where these types of cards eventually get nerfed into unplayability or mediocrity. This is what happened to Viego, Golden Aegis, and many others. With Rotations, these cards can remain playable in Eternal.
- Your favorite champion is mediocre or weak e.g. Ornn, Ashe, Jax.
Your champion will likely just remain weak or mediocre until Riot overbuffs them. If they’re overbuffed, the devs will eventually need to nerf them back into mediocrity. With Rotations, these cards are more likely to see play in a standard format not dominated by power creep.
“Eternal Format Will Be Impossible To Balance”
Will Eternal end up becoming an unbalanced mess of overpowered cards? Probably! And to be honest, I think that will be the charm of the format.
“For Eternal, we want to provide a place where the greatest hits and the new contenders have epic confrontations.”
Have you ever wondered which would come out on top if Azir Irelia, Twisted Fate Fizz, Veiled Temple Aphelios, and Kai’sa Demacia faced off against each other? I think that eternal will be a very fun change of pace from standard, and in my opinion it’s beneficial that we only have spotlights on it from time to time. An overpowered format would get stale quickly if played continuously.
“Why Won’t There Always Be A Ranked Ladder for Eternal?”
The following is another quote from Riot’s blogpost about Rotations:
“So, you may be wondering, “Dave, when do we get this Eternal spotlight?” REALLY often! The current plan is to run the spotlight at the end of every expansion. Or, another way to think about it is that before a new expansion releases, we’ll put the spotlight on Eternal: that means an Eternal-focused balance patch, cleanup of the top technical issues with the format, and its own ranked season.“
We will be having eternal spotlights ~every two months, unless there’s a change in the duration of expansions in 2023. This seems to be often enough for players who only want to play Eternal. We may need to wait for more information regarding eternal spotlights before making final conclusions e.g. the duration of Eternal ranked seasons, seasonal tournaments for Eternal, etc.
“Why Is Vladimir Getting Rotated?”
For this one, I’m just as confused as you are. The developers rotating Vladimir is really weird, since he’s never been competitive in any meta. For the possible reasons on this, here’s another quote from Riot’s blogpost on rotations:
“We’d love to totally rework/change Vlad, but it’s such a radical departure from his existing design and his existing design doesn’t fit cleanly into his region’s strengths, so it’ll take time to find the right design for him. Rather than keep him in the Standard environment, we can rotate him into Eternal, potentially buff him up, and plan for his triumphant return in 2.0 form!”
From this, we can speculate that they’re planning to give Vladimir huge buffs to the point where he could break the standard meta. If we take them for their word, this is very good news for Vladimir fans. Maybe he will be one of the stars in the first eternal spotlight?
Closing Thoughts and Why Rotation Doesn’t Worry Me
To close this piece, I’m going to reference the following paragraphs from the developer blogpost:
“Finally, how are we going to measure the success (or areas for improvement) with Rotation? We’ll be watching some key metrics:
- How much Eternal vs. Standard play there is in non-spotlight vs. spotlight times,
- Purchase of Eternal-only cards and champ skins, and
- Health of the Standard and Eternal metagame (play%, win%, other key meta variety factors)
…alongside some internal metrics for team health in maintaining the game. And then regularly for the first few months, we’ll communicate with you all about what we’re seeing and any changes we’re thinking about making.”
The developers have shown time and time again that they learn from mistakes and try to improve where they can. Will something go wrong with card rotations? Possibly! If something does, I’m confident that the team will do everything in their power to fix it quickly. They love Legends of Runeterra and they will do what’s best for the game.
What’s your opinion on rotations? Are you excited for it, or are you against it?
If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me on YouTube, Discord, or Twitter!