The Runeterra Archives: The Five Heaviest Nerfs in Runeterra History
Hey there, Raphterra here! Today, I’m sharing the second article of The Runeterra Archives, a series where I present the most notable changes in Legends of Runeterra‘s patch history.
In the previous article of this series, I wrote about ten cards / archetypes that Riot had to nerf quickly due to their power level. This time, I’m going to give my picks for the five heaviest nerfs in the history of Legends of Runeterra, including three honorable mentions.
Please take note that I only included balance changes from post-beta ( Patch 1.0 onwards ). I decided not to include any changes made in beta because it’s usually expected to have overpowered cards for games that have not yet launched. With that out of the way, let’s start with the meat of this article!
Bard – Patch 3.13 (Honorable Mention)
I’m starting my picks with a recent nerf to Bard‘s The Wandering Caretaker in Patch 3.13. Here’s what I wrote about this nerf on my article assessing of all the nerfs in Patch 3.13:
“The nerf potentially kills most aggressive and midrange Bard decks: Bard Illaoi, Shen Bard, Ahri Bard, etc.”
It turns out that this assessment was on point! All three archetypes are performing very poorly in the current patch: Ahri Bard – 45.4% Winrate, Shen Bard – 42.7% Winrate, and Illaoi Bard – 42.4% Winrate.
I decided to list this nerf as an honorable mention because it might still be too early to make final conclusions about Bard. Patch 3.13 has been quite short, and it might just be the case of not having enough time for players to brew the next meta Bard deck. In my opinion, we may need to see some buffs to Bard‘s champion card before he becomes meta-relevant again.
Twinblade Revenant – Patch 2.18 (Honorable Mention)
Coming second in my honoroble mentions is the keyword change to Twinblade Revenant in Patch 2.18.
Lost Soul and Twinblade Revenant with Challenger are arguably some of the best support cards that Noxus has received. Noxus discard archetypes are generally known for aggression and burn, but Twinblade Revenant‘s Challenger allowed these decks play a grindy, board-control strategy.
Caitlyn Draven Tribeam was the most notable deck that ran Lost Soul. Tri-beam Improbulator decks specialize in making tempo plays with efficient removals. Adding Twinblade Revenant‘s infinite value potential allowed them to outgrind most decks over a long game. Riot decided to replace Twinblade Revenant‘s keyword from Challenger to Fearsome. This change retained the discard archetype’s identity of focusing on aggression instead of value.
This is only an honorable mention because after this nerf, Lost Soul / Twinblade Revenant still sees play as a 1-of or 2-of in Discard Aggro or Rumble Mecha Yordles.
The Veiled Temple – Patch 2.5 ( Honorable Mention )
The Veiled Temple was a key landmark way back when Aphelios decks were dominating the meta game. Despite this landmark technically being a tempo loss at 4 mana, you can often get your mana’s worth back in a few turns.
Targon makes it is very easy to activate The Veiled Temple‘s effect with Moon Weapons from Aphelios, Gems from Mountain Goat, or cheap invokes from Zoe or Spacey Sketcher. Most non-Targon decks could not keep up with the mana and stat advantage that the The Veiled Temple provided. Stats buffs on key units can snowball games just through pure board presence. Great units to buff up included Aphelios himself, Fiora, Viktor, or late-game celestials: The Destroyer, The Immortal Fire, The Great Beyond.
Riot nerfed The Veiled Temple in Patch 2.5 by removing it’s health grants. This small change completely removed The Veiled Temple‘s ability to give board advantage. It became too much of a tempo loss to justify playing it at 4 mana. The previously-powerful landmark has not seen any relevant competitive play since then.
5. Pack Your Bags – Patch 2.0
Let’s start with the actual list! Taking up the fifth spot in my list is the heaviest nerf in LOR history, numbers-wise. In Patch 2.0, Pack Your Bags‘ cost increased from 1 to 5.
It was very difficult to play around a 1-mana card that dealt 5 damage to the whole board. Once Pack Your Bags is enabled, Go Hard players could just float one spell mana to threaten this powerful game-winning board wipe.
Twisted Fate Elise Go Hard was the most notable Go Hard deck back then. The deck used several draw cards to enable Go Hard, and ran cheap units to gain board advantage early. The deck’s board pressure forced opponents to develop units and defend their Nexus. This leaves them vulnerable to be hard punished by Pack Your Bags.
Today, post-nerf Go Hard still sees competitive play in several meta decks. This just goes to show how powerful the board wipe was when it was first released. This is the reason why this nerf only took the fifth spot in my list despite it being the biggest nerf numbers-wise.
4. Legion Deserter / Promising Future – Patch 3.10
I decided to clump together the nerfs to Legion Deserter and Promising Future in Patch 3.10 since I’ve already discussed these nerfs in the previous article of this series. Legion Deserter‘s keyword was changed from Overwhelm to Fearsome, and Promising Future‘s cost was increased from 4 to 6. Both cards are now too over-costed for their payoffs. It’s likely that these cards won’t see any relevant competitive play barring some drastic changes.
In my opinion, these cards were fine on their own, but died for the sins of an overpowered archetype. Legion Deserter was only oppressive when used with Viego‘s Encroaching Mists, and Promising Future was only relevant in Lissandra Thralls.
3. Fiora – Patch 2.5
The third spot in this list is taken by Fiora‘s health nerf in Patch 2.5. For the most part, the community has had a polarized view on cards with alternative win conditions like Fiora. Some players love these cards, but there are always community members who hated these concepts.
Pre-nerfed 3/3 Fiora was previously known as the aggro / swarm killer. Her most polarizing deck was Mono Fiora Freljord, a deck that essentially ran 6 copies of Fiora ( 3x Fiora + 3x Entreat ). This deck destroyed aggro / swarm strategies but lost hard to control strategies with hard removal. If you were facing Mono Fiora as an aggro player, you had to hope that your opponent doesn’t draw Fiora. On the other side, control decks just needed to draw Vengeance to kill Fiora and win the game.
The health nerf to Fiora in Patch 2.5 proved to be fatal to the champion. This nerf removed her ability to trade positively into most early units, and left her vulnerable to cheap removals like Mystic Shot. It’s now hard for decks consistently rely on her alternate win condition. You can technically still use her as a 3-mana challenger, but Demacia has better options for early challengers: Laurent Protege and Petricite Broadwing.
2. The Bandle Tree – Patch 3.6
Taking up the second spot in my list is The Bandle Tree‘s nerf in Patch 3.6. Similar to Fiora, The Bandle Tree is another card that has an alternative win condition. From what I remember, the community backlash towards this landmark was much greater compared to the backlash directed at Fiora.
The Bandle Tree was very notorious during the peak of the Bandle City expansions. Decks running The Bandle Tree didn’t even need to attack the Nexus or initiate combat with opposing units. They can just stall the game and play units as blockers while they wait to fulfill their alternate win condition. The Bandle Tree is difficult to interact with because it can progress without needing to be on board.
Riot nerfed the card by requiring the landmark to be on board before you can start progressing its condition. Their intention was to make the card more of a value-generator engine instead of an instant win button. Unfortunately, it wasn’t worth to build a deck around this extremely slow gameplan. You would need to draw The Bandle Tree early, play out units from multiple regions, and ensure that the landmark wouldn’t get removed. As expected, the card has not seen any competitive play since Patch 3.6.
1. Aphelios – Patch 2.5
Taking up the first spot in my list is the nerf to Aphelios‘ Moon Weapons in Patch 2.5. Upon his release, Aphelios was a very efficient, infinite-value engine. Back then, Crescendum summoned a two-cost follower from the deck, not from your regions. This made it possible to build Aphelios decks with the objective of cheating out powerful two-cost followers.
The most powerful pre-nerf Aphelios deck was Aphelios Twisted Fate. This deck paired up Aphelios and Bilgewater with the intention of cheating out Boxtopus. Boxtopus‘ self-damage effect did not activate when you summoned it from the deck. Aphelios decks could consistently control the board with Calibrum, Gravitum, and Boxtopus as a 3/4 challenger.
In Patch 2.5, the developers increased the cost of the Moon Weapons from 2 to 3. This change immediately made Aphelios insignificant in the meta. In some patches, Aphelios even became one of the champions with the lowest-winrates in the game. The cost-increase caused too much of a tempo loss for Aphelios decks, considering that you need to cast Moon Weapons multiple times in a game.
The nerf definitely had to happen to shake up the Aphelios-dominated meta. Crescendum‘s design was very hard to balance and it limited Riot’s design possibilities for two-cost units. Thankfully, Riot was able to figure out a way to bring Aphelios back in Patch 3.4. They brought the cost of the Moon Weapons back to 2, while also changing Crescendum to summon a random two-cost follower from the deck’s regions. Currently, Aphelios is in a more balanced state while still being one of the most powerful champions in the game.
That’s it for the list! Hopefully you found this article fun to read while waiting for the new expansion coming in a few days. Are there nerfs that I wasn’t able to include in my list? What topics do you want to see for future articles in The Runeterra Archives?
For any suggestions, feel free to reach out to me on YouTube, Discord, or Twitter!