Understanding Basic Resource Management: Your Health, Mana and Cards
Hi everyone, den at the writing desk. Since the release of Bandle City, Legends of Runeterra has entered a new cycle many card games have experienced in the past: Card generating tools. Targon already had card generating tools through the celestial pool, but the pool was small enough that players had a reasonable enough idea of what to pick and what to expect from their opponent.
With Bandle City widening the pool of cards we have access to, and opening the possibilities to a vast amount of cards in the game with Conchologist, Loping Telescope or Bandle City Mayor for example, while also generating new cards with Prank, or the Poison Dart. All those possibilities are playing with our resource management skills, as we have to juggle with our mana and cards while also managing our and the opponent’s health.
In most card games, there are 4 kinds of information that are crucial to making good choices. The 3 resources that are health, mana and cards, and the other being what we know about the opponent’s deck to plan ahead on what they might want to do.
In this piece, I’d like to share the way I conceive the basics of resource management and how to use the 3 resources in order to orient our choices according to the state of the game.
First, we’ll go to the grocery store, as this is an analogy that has helped me and many of my students have a clear image of how the 3 resources in the game interact with each other. After that, we’ll explore how to use each resource to limit what our opponent can do, in order to build a more precise scenario as to what is about to happen in the near future of the match.
While geared towards beginners or intermediate players, this piece can also serve as a side note when playing in a new metagame or even trying out another game. As long as the resources you have to play with are the same, these concepts will stand.
The Grocery Store Analogy
A lot of times when someone is asked about the various resources in the game, they don’t really know what you’re talking about. In reality, we all know them and use them without even realising it. The goal of this analogy is to put a name on what you’re doing, most of the time without even noticing. So what we’re going to do is transform the situation we see in front of us in the game into a grocery store.
The first thing we need to figure out when going to the store is our budget, how much are we allowed to spend. In the game, this is our mana. Legends of Runeterra has 2 rules when it comes to your budget. You will have 1 more mana next turn than you had during the previous one, and you get to keep a maximum of three mana from a turn to another, and no refunds past that.
Logically, if a store would tell you all the money you aren’t spending is lost, you would most likely try to buy things to get to the closest possible of the no refund limit. Well, even though there are exceptions to it in the game, using our mana up to the limit of no refunds usually is a good idea, as it is one of the keys to creating tempo.
Once we have an idea of our budget, our second question is: What do we buy? The items available in the store mostly are the cards in our hand. All these potential purchases have a price tag and we have to arrange them based on our current budget. Once feeling good about this, you’ll see that it is better to start figuring out our budget over several turns so we make sure to always spend the correct amount of resources over time.
Another part of the card resource is our deck, which isn’t apparent when looking at our hand but can play a key role. This represents the orders we can make at the store, and that they will receive in the future. Generally speaking, the shorter we expect the game to last, the more heavy we’ll build our plan around the “solid” information that our hand represents. On the other hand, if we expect the game to go long, we might want to imagine what we could order as we will definitely need more than the sole resources we have in hand.
If cards and mana have a direct connection to them, as one serves to pay the cost of the other, health points kind of have a different way of impacting the game. In the store, your nexus health is the store manager. They dictates the rules of what you can and cannot do. Basically, they put limitations on what you are allowed to do with your budget or which items you might be able to purchase depending on your health level.
If your health is low, the store manager will be all over you, reminding you everything you are not allowed to do because you are close to defeat, you will feel pressured to limit yourself to only defensive cards and have limited options because of it. If you have a good amount of health points though, the manager can be pretty chill, and you will be able to go after more items as you aren’t limited in your choices.
The reason why I like this analogy is because it puts the way resources function in a very practical manner of a daily example. The first thing to look at always is your mana, as a simple yet primordial information. Then we are trying to make combinations in our hand based on the mana we have available and future turns. Lastly we check ours and the opponent’s health to see if any of the two players would be restricted in the way they play and are forced into a certain direction.
This concept of a player being forced into something is one of the keys to maximising the way you can play with the 3 resources. Whether it is you or your opponent being limited, recognizing those clues will skyrocket your winrate at all ranks of the ladder.
How to Use the Resources to Your Advantage
Now that we know the role of each resource and what they mean, let’s explore how we can use all the information they are giving us.
The possibilities of mana and cards
As stated before, mana and cards are very connected to each other, meaning each resource also helds information about the other one in addition to their own. The reason why we talk about “possibilities” when it comes to mana and cards is because they both represent our spending for the turn and one needs to match the other.
Not much mana means that we will only be able to play one, maybe two cheap cards this turn. While this is normal in the first few turns of the game, this information can become much more relevant later on. Imagine you start turn 8 with no stored mana. You have a 6 mana card and a 2 mana card that you both intend to play. If you play the 6 mana card first, you only have 2 mana left, telling your opponent you very likely won’t be able to do much more this turn. From their perspective, they gained a lot of information about what you can do with the rest of your turn.
If you play the 2 mana card first though, you still have 6 mana open and that represents a huge amount of cards that could be available, as well as a combination of cards depending on how big your hand is. By playing your big card first, you made your opponent’s decisions much easier as he now has a reasonable idea of what you could do with only 2 mana left. Simply ordering your use of mana correctly will make a big difference in how your opponent reads into the cards that are left in your hand for the turn.
A similar logic applies with the information cards can give to our opponent. If there is a specific card you want to play, and it is crucial your opponent can’t react to it, try to delay it during the turn to get more information before playing it. For example, let’s say we want to play Poppy so we can attack with it and buff our units. If your first action of the turn is Poppy, your opponent immediately is aware of what he needs to react to, and has full mana available to do so. In addition to that, you also have to attack on your next action so you don’t give another action that might remove Poppy to your opponent.
If your mana allows it, bluffing some soft pass actions (i.e. an action we don’t really care about mostly done to not pass the turn) gives the opportunity to your opponent to use mana or cards that he’d like to have when Poppy hits the board. When pairing your cards and mana for the turn, try to assess the importance of each card to your game plan. Knowing what is important to protect to what is expandable will make it much easier to sequence your actions properly when using your mana.
Health points and freedom
Depending on the deck you are playing or is facing you, health will either be the most important resource or barely a consideration until late in the game. Health basically represents your freedom in a game like Legends of Runeterra. Depending on how much you feel you need to preserve it, it will impact your choices greatly or not at all.
Against the first deck, you will adopt a defensive stance from the start of the game, which will change your whole vision on how to use your resources. Suddenly, cards won’t be so important and saving mana might be too much of a risk, immediate tempo feeling safer.
Against Anivia, you will feel more pressed to value your cards instead of your health, and might think twice about tapping out of mana in case of a board clear from your opponent.
The matchup and our anticipation of how important our health is will play a key in how we use our resources through the game, with some decks pushing for a different priority between health or cards and mana.
Let’s explore how the situation can impact our use of resources based on health: You are on 4 health against a Noxus deck. Obviously you’re thinking “well Decimate ends it”. Fortunately enough you have a Deny in hand to counter it.
From this point on, you are basically playing with 4 mana and 1 card less than what your opponent actually sees. This is due to the fact that whenever you would go under 4 mana, your opponent sees it as a green light to use decimate and kill you. Reversing it, that also means every turn your opponent goes below 5 mana, you can develop and use the entirety of your mana, as Deny won’t be needed this turn.
All of this gymnastics on how to act based on how scared you are of losing health is key in understanding how we can leverage health to our advantage and gain information from it.
First, lowering our opponent’s health will put him on the backfoot, making him doubt how free he is when using his mana, and favoring defensive options over the other ones. Second, some cards in their hand will have a different value, as the pressure they are feeling might make them think twice before investing into cards that would not be of immediate help in the current situation.
Understanding basic resource management isn’t something difficult in essence as most of it can be compared to daily situations like handling budget for example. It can become a struggle though if one tries to skip these important steps of development as they will be normal knowledge at higher levels of the game.
As a coach, these are fundamentals I work on a ton with my students, because they represent the base of the game. They also help a lot to be a more flexible player as these concepts exist in every single deck in the game.
Most of the learning process for these concepts is about making habits and making sure we collect the maximum amount of information every turn. Once this has become a natural process to pick up those details, you should notice that reasoning and constructing game plans becomes much easier to do.
I hope this introduction to resource management has helped some of you out there, and that soon, you’ll be able to construct a more elaborated game plan thanks to it. If you need anything, feel free to join us on Discord and ping me there, or join me directly on Twitter.
Good game everyone!