The Season of Moustache? Breaking Down Braum Rework and other Big Changes in LoR Balance Patch 1.4

Patch 1.4 contains a ton of balance changes and even a few complete reworks among them. Some of those changed cards suddenly seem to be really promising, while it looks like others are bound to remain as ‘fun options’ mostly being ignored in competitive use. In this article, we will break down buffs, nerfs and reworks coming in 1.4 update that have the highest chance to impact the meta.

Braum

This change is very exciting and also kinda scary, which, honestly, signals a quality rework attempt in my book. To get a feel of how good the new Braum might be, let’s compare him to Maokai.

At Level 1, Shadow Isles’s treant is a 4-mana 1|4 that has the ability to generate an Ephemeral 2|1 Challenger Sapling once a round. This ability of his is quite easy to trigger and requires no deckbuilding cost whatsoever – all you essentially need is to run other followers. Importantly though, you can’t take advantage of the ability on turn 4.

Now, Braum is a 4-mana 1|5 with Regeneration and Challenger that can summon a 3|3 Overwhelm Poro once before his level-up. His ability can be mundanely triggered on the turn he is played – either with spells or with him challenging an enemy unit.

As you can see, Braum and Maokai are reminiscent of each other in their Level 1 forms, and the Freljord champion even feels superior in some metrics. He has better stats, better keywords and the value he generates will provide a more immediate board presence. The comparison mostly ends when we consider Level 2, but that’s beside the point. The bottom line is that Maokai has always felt like a decent utility champion – and Braum is that, maybe even a tier above.

The moustache man is now a threat that should be dealt with ASAP. As we’ve mentioned, Braum will generate a Mighty Poro on the turn he is deployed almost every time – even without much build-around effort. Placed in a Freljord/Noxus self-damage shell, this champion can easily provide consistent value turn after turn upon levelling up. We all know those tools that can enable Braum quite effectively – Transfusion, Noxian Fervor, Imperial Demolitionist, Vladimir, Crimson Aristocrat, Crimson Awakener… This is an unstoppable Poro train. And it is very nice that after rework, he now gets one of those Mighty Poros upfront to help with Tempo.

The best thing is, with this new Braum incarnation you do not even need to be all-in on his dream as much as you were before. Previously, it was all about either buffing him up and rushing a level-up, praying that he doesn’t get hard-countered by Will of Ionia or what have you. Now, you’d feel satisfied even with a single trigger of his Level 1 ability – if he’d also pick off a 1-health unit in the process the value is great. If Braum to stick on the battlefield beyond that to Level Up, the snowballing effect will really, really hurt.

Let me tell you, brace yourselves for The Season of Moustache – it looks like the new Braum will kick the door into the meta in a splashy way.

Anivia

Behold, hereby is another champion from Freljord to get a buff in Patch 1.4. In Rising Tides, there was no real reason to play Anivia as she tends to come online just a bit too late into the game. She has underperformed both in the Burn meta and in the They Who Endure meta as a result, falling prey to more efficient strategies.

Another issue is that her attack effect has lost its previous appeal and originality since Miss Fortune and Gangplank have entered the fray. If you want to mess with your opponent’s blocks and push some residual face damage, you’d rather play Bilgewater nowadays – triggering Plunder and setting up for pilfer effects in the process.

None of those concerns have been really alleviated by this new Anivia buff, so I’m unsure if she will suddenly emerge in a new light. Going to 6 mana is a big discount, but Sejuani is tough competition in Freljord in that slot. Given that, Anivia probably needs her own self-tailored archetype to shine – and ideally, the one not involving Dawn and Dusk memes.

Before moving on to other balance changes, I’d like to briefly discuss the overall direction of Patch 1.4 in its intent to rise Freljord’s power level. Commenting on the patch notes, many LoR influencers have already expressed their worries if this region, that has been quite weak initially after the Rising Tides release, is now overbuffed after balance changes in 1.2 and 1.4. It definitely can feel like it, given that Freljord has established itself as a part of several top meta decks over the course of the last month. And now, look, even more buffs are coming with 1.4 update! Isn’t that a delayed reaction from the dev team to the game state from two months ago?

Well, I’d argue this latest set of changes should not be read as ones that raise ‘the power level’ of Freljord necessarily – they are rather buffs intended to make a region more diverse. Up until Patch 1.4, there were only three big reasons to play Freljord – Sejuani, They Who Endure and Fury of the North. That’s it. With They Who Endure being brought down, and Braum emerging as a fully competitive option I’d argue that Freljord’s overall power remains the same, but the number of viable deckbuilding routes increases.

Darius, Super Mega Death Rocket!

If you’ve had some experience with League of Legends, you’ve probably also used to read some of their patch notes. The devs go in great detail explaining every single change they introduce (the approach that has translated to LoR and is very welcome). Some buffs are big and impactful, but now an then, suddenly there’s that ability power-focused champion who gets their base attack stat change from 56 to 58, or some other nonsense. Like, the smallest possible change, nitpicky fine-tuning in a nutshell.

Well, this Darius buff feels exactly like that – it’s just that there are really not that many scenarios where the health buff on his Level 2 would actually come through for you. The Hand of Noxus is not really meant to be sticky – he lives for that single moment of smashing his axe onto the opponent’s head as hard as he can. And it is often enough, given that the enemy has to be at 10 health for Darius to level up in the first place.

Jinx’s Super Mega Death Rocket buff is also narrow, but at least it works better with champion’s overall design and play patterns. Twisted Fate/Jinx Slotbot deck (popularized by MegaMogwai, this archetype has become the go-to shell for Jinx) will enjoy the manacost reduction as it likes to cast a ton of spells in a single turn.

Unyielding Spirit

RIP Unyielding Spirit 2020-2020. Can’t say I have too many fond memories of this card – and at this point, I’m done talking about it as well. Everything has been said already, and massive props to the devs team for listening to the community. At Fast Speed, the Unyielding is not a competitive card in Constructed anymore. Good riddance, honestly – it joins the Hall of Infamy, where Stand Alone has been awaiting since Patch 1.2.

If you enjoy playing Expeditions don’t let your guard down though. Unyielding Spirit will still appear from time to time in the Limited mode, and will steal games if not properly played around. Don’t go out of your way about it, since the card being of Epic rarity and all – but the knowledge of archetypes will help your when facing Demacia decks in Expeditions. The Spirit is more likely to appear in conjunction with particular champions, so adjust your lines accordingly.

Black Market Merchant, Pilfered Goods, Yordle Grifter

Just as Unyielding Spirit, these cards were called out in the official Watchlist of Patch 1.2, and it’s quite expected they were to be addressed soon. The card-stealing mechanic has been a controversial topic over the past month. In the community’s perception, pilfering appeared to be fun initially but got old quickly. Right now, there are just too many of those negative experiences accumulated around the mechanic, merging into a single loud cry of outrage. It doesn’t matter on which side of the argument you are, this big of a controversy is an unhealthy thing in and of itself.

By adjusting the card-stealing mechanic in 1.4, the devs are applying the soft treatment first. They are not eliminating the thing completely, for now, they are simply toning down on the frequency with which the negative experiences that surround the pilfering occur.

So what exactly are those ‘negative experiences’ that are being addressed now? First, the top-deck interaction that hoses Freljord effects such as Omen Hawk, Shared Spoils and Avarosan Trapper. ‘Nab’ draws a card from the bottom of the deck, and I’m really happy to see this change I’ve been rooting for. Also, the devs mention the psychological aspect of ‘stealing the card opponent is about to draw’, which it might matter for some people to not be a thing anymore as well.

Another one of those really oppressive interactions that happened way, way too frequently is Black Market Merchant into Pilfered Goods combo. Cost reduction on the Merchant makes Goods effectively a 0-mana ‘draw two’ card. By nerfing the health stat on Black Market Merchant, the team didn’t change the interaction – but they did adjust the frequency with which a player is able to pop off with the combo.

Will all of that that be enough to change the perception of Nab within LoR community? We’ll see. Anyway, Comms Lead Dillon Buckner adds in the patch notes:

“We’ll be keeping a close eye on the impact of these changes, and are open to making further adjustments as necessary.”

So I’m confident they’ll eventually find the right balance.

They Who Endure, Cursed Abomination

Elise/Kalista TWE archetype was one of the defining decks of the meta in June. According to Mobalytics data, its winrate was hovering around 60% mark. Thankfully, Elusives (both Freljord and Ionia builds) were the natural predators of They Who Endure, otherwise the stats would have been even more worrisome.

Hence, the cost increase on the marquee card of the archetype comes at no real surprise. However, it’s hard to believe this particular change will hit that hard. It’s likely that Elusive matchup will become even more skewed, and Endure will also lose some equity against other midrange decks that are able to go faster (like Tempo Sejuani). But in the grand scheme of things, TWE is still good as long as it’s enabled by the efficient early plan of Blight Caretakers and Cursed Keepers.

Speaking of which – as of this patch, Cursed Keepers are now spawning 4|3 Cursed Abominations instead of 4|4. With sacrifice support added in Rising Tides, the synergy has become incredibly easy to exploit. Keepers will only become even more oppressive as Shadow Isles’s card pool grows. It is a welcome change short-term – and almost unavoidable one speaking long-term.

Dreg Dredgers, Petty Officer

It almost feels like the devs forced this nerf to Dreg Dredgers because they didn’t want to once again give Deep a pass. The Nautilus deck was left untouched in Patch 1.2 while all other archetypes in Tier 1 and Tier 2 were catching heavy fire. It then left a distinct sense of trepidation that Deep will dominate the meta – but it never actually rose to the heights predicted. Instead, Sea Monsters remained as a solid ladder choice – Tier 2 all around with 55% winrate.

And yet there’s still a lingering perception – especially among more casual players – that the Deep deck is too oppressive. I believe it is born from pure cognitive bias – Nautilus looks very powerful when it gets to do his thing. He boasts an unbeatable late game and induces some occasional mental trauma. But in the bigger picture, Naut doesn’t get there all that often, as stats across all levels of play clearly demonstrate. And yet, Dreg Dredgers nerf is being deployed. It will probably cut another per cent off of that deck’s winrate, but still won’t change the perception of Deep.

Moving on to Petty Officer, I like this buff a lot and I believe Bilgewater now have the ‘Shadow Assassin’ of their own. It might look like a weird comparison, but bear with me – it’s all about the utility and universal nature of the card. Just as Assassin goes so exceptionally well with what Ionia wants to do is a region, Officer represents a perfect Bilgewater 3-drop. It can go into tempo decks, it can go into control decks. It provides options depending on the game state. And with two health, he now trades quite well, never feels underwhelming and doesn’t get exploited ping effects existing in the game.

Conclusion

There were many more card reworks and adjustments implemented in 1.4 update. There are a few interesting ones, especially among Epics – as was promised, the devs team redesigned some (Jae Medarda, Ren Shadowblade, Captain Farron), and buffed values on other ones (Genevieve Elmheart, Mind Meld, The Harrowing, etc.). Though it’s hard to predict their long-term effect, it’s still safe to say these changes are unlikely to impact the meta rightaway. We will monitor how those previously underplayed cards perform and will report if any sweet and promising brews appear on our radar.

Looking over the changes discussed in the article, I have to admit it is unlikely to see the meta change in the same big way it did after Patch 1.2, when several top-tier decks crumbled (Karma Ezreal or Corina Control, do these speak to you?). Braum rework is the hottest change and we’re excited to see the rise of The Heart of the Freljord.

Send us your decks and results with Braum archetypes at (tag us on Twitter @runeterraccg), we’ll be sure to include the most interesting ideas in our upcoming piece specifically dedicated to this champion’s early impact on the meta!

Rainmaker

Rainmaker’s love for Legends of Runeterra was born from his passion for Magic: The Gathering and League of Legends. His aspiration is to enjoy and improve in all the aspects of LoR - be it brewing, tuning, piloting, or drafting - and report all of his experiences along the way!

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