‘United Front’ Lab: Review and Strategy Tips
As we know from the announcements of the Season 2021 Livestream, one of the goals set by the developers for this year was to add more ‘social’ modes and features to the Legends of Runeterra. Brand new ‘United Front’ cooperative lab was introduced in Patch 2.0.0 – and it is the first step leading down that road.
In this mode, you and your friends can team-up, choose pre-built decks centered around certain champions, and face-off against a never-ending army of Noxus soldiers led by one of the three different Commanders: Swain, Darius, or Draven.
In this article, I will break down some of the strategies and options you have going into United Front, and then give an overall review of the mode and where I would like this co-op idea to go in the future.
Rules and Special Cards
First of all, we have to talk about how the mode actually functions. Initially, you and your ally will get 3 champions to choose from, and each player will pick one. This choice will give you a pre-constructed deck built around that champion.
Co-op players share the same board, Nexus health, mana, and spell mana which if used correctly can set up well-timed powerful turns. Players have each their own hand of cards though and they act on alternate rounds, which means one player will always be on offense and one always on defense.
The biggest way that you affect each other is by using the unique 0-cost Fleeting spells that are randomly created in your hand at the beginning of each round:
- Innervating Gift – Give a card in your hand to your partner. Gain 2 spell mana.
- Hastening Gift – Give a card in your hand to your partner. It costs 1 less.
- Nourishing Gift – Give a card in your hand to your partner. It has +2/+2.
The defending player also gets one random unique 0-mana combat trick on his turn to help with the onslaught of the Noxian army:
- Embolden – Give an Ally +2/+2 this round.
- Restoration – Grant an Ally Lifesteal this round.
- Protection – Give an Ally Barrier this round.
One of the keys to success in this format is maximizing the value of these cards every single turn. You have to not only think about your turn but also plan out your partner’s next turn since you are be passing them cards from your hand.
There is a limited pool of champions that you get to pick from in this mode. Like I previously stated, these champions have premade decks that are mostly made up of their own region’s cards.
Some of these champions and their respective decks seem a lot more reliable than the others. Essentially in this mode, you need to survive. You are not going to rush this Noxus army down, so you really need to play a control/value role. You will need a lot of blockers and a lot of healing in order to stabilize the board.
Below I will list all the champions, talk about their decks, and sort them based on their relative strength in this mode. However, I do suggest playing all of them at some point because every one of them has its own fun playstyle, and the various pairings are really fun to experiment with.
Zoe is one of the best options for this mode. There isn’t much removal you need to worry about, so you can keep Zoe alive pretty easily. Her deck also has a lot of the Invoke effects that provide you with a ton of really solid units and spells, especially The Sisters. You should easily be able to level Zoe, especially with those 0-cost special Fleeting cards you get each turn. She pairs best with Lee Sin and Riven – but honestly, can work with any other deck.
- Lee Sin
In a mode where you have access to 0-cost spells every turn, Lee Sin is pretty absurd. He levels very fast and you can give him all the powerful keywords he needs. On top of that, his deck is packed with valuable stalling and healing cards from Ionia, which makes him one of the best options for this mode. He pairs well with anyone but really excels with Riven and Zoe.
The deck that comes with Riven runs Ionia and Noxus cards, which is different from other decks that are mostly mono-colored. Cheap Ionia cards add a ton of flexibility here, Riven also provides a lot of value with her Reforge mechanic. The cheap spells work perfectly to level Zoe or Lee Sin.
- Miss Fortune
This deck brings a ton of offensive power. There are some solid Challenger units early that you can really abuse with Miss Fortune on the board. It also has some solid draw options and a few Scout units that help level Miss Fortune, which can be absolutely game-changing. Since leveling Miss Fortune is really critical to winning, she pairs best with other Scout units that Quinn brings.
If you like playing beefy midrange lists, Garen is your go-to for this mode. He brings with him the heart of Demacia: solid units, and solid combat tricks. Radiant Guardian is one of the most powerful cards in the deck, along with Judgment. Both of these can really help you defensively. Garen pairs great with almost anyone, but I really enjoy his synergy with Thresh.
Out of all of the champions, Vi provides the most meme-like deck. She has a lot of weird Piltover and Zaun tools, including Assembly Bot and Plaza Guardian. They both can be really solid with the 0-cost spells you constantly get. There are other pretty bad cards in this deck, however, that don’t really do much. She pairs well with Riven for even more cheap cost spells and the ability to give Vi Overwhelm.
Her deck offers some solid midrange dragons that pair well with other decks on the same page, like Garen, Trundle, or Miss Fortune. There are a few ‘dead’ cards in this deck that don’t help a ton, so I am rating Shyvana pretty low.
Scouts are extremely useful in this mode when paired with Miss Fortune. Leveling Quinn can be done consistently and you can use their offensive power with Challengers to weaken your opponent’s damage output.
Shadow Isles has a lot of useful tools in this mode – a ton of chump blockers with Hapless Aristocrat and Haunted Relic, and some solid Drain spells like Grasp of the Undying or Vile Feast. Sometimes there are clunky moments where you lack board space and can’t maximize the value of some of the ‘go-wide’ cards. Thresh can be alright when he levels, but he lacks the value that other champions have and makes it so you want your partner to have a champion worth pulling out.
There are a lot of solid Freljord combat tricks in this deck that can really help your early game sustainability. Some examples of these are Troll Chant and Brittle Steel. The major problem with the Trundle deck is it has too many heavy units that can clog your hand early. If this does happen, you will struggle to get back into the game. Trundle pairs well with other decks that have a solid midrange curve so you can make the best use of the early combat tricks while building toward large trolls. Pair him with Garen, Quinn, or Miss Fortune for the best results!
Braum is a blocker with Regeneration which seems solid for this mode. The main problem is the deck that he comes with. He has a lot of the units from the self-damage package that don’t do a whole lot in this mode. Some of the Regeneration units we have here are the most valuable pieces, but overall the deck lacks versatility. The best pairings would be anything with offensive power since Braum’s deck does not have much in that department.
- Aurelion Sol
A 10-drop champion in a mode where your opponent is getting a leveled champion on turn 4 is just too slow. On top of that, this deck is packed with a lot of Dragons that also are very heavily costed. The best pairings would be Shyvana for – Dragon synergy; or Thresh – for pulling Aurelion Sol out as soon as possible.
The Power of Noxus
The Noxus army is never-ending. With reckless abandon, they will send wave after wave of soldiers created by their signature spell Warband Recruit (1-cost Slow spell – “Summon a random Noxian Soldier”). Those followers are commanded by either one of three Noxian champions: Darius, Draven, or Swain.
These guys do not play by the rules. No matter what, they will come out onto the board on turn 4 already leveled up. On top of that, they also have unique spells, all with insanely powerful effects, and you need to be prepared for them. Here they are:
- Got Axes?: 1-cost Slow spell – Create 4 Whirling deaths in your deck. Whirling Deaths everywhere cost 1 less. Draw 1.
- Double-Edged: 5-cost Slow spell – Discard your hand. Give all allies +1|+0 for each card discarded. Draw 4.
- League of Draven: 8-cost Slow spell – If Draven isn’t in play, summon him. Draven strikes all enemies.
- Carve a Path: 1-cost Slow spell – Create 4 Decimates in your deck. Decimates everywhere cost 2 less. Draw 1.
- The Hand of Noxus: 8-cost Slow spell – Raise all allies’ Power to the highest Power among allies. Grant all allies Overwhelm.
- Treacherous Flock: 0-cost Slow spell – Create 4 Ravenous Flocks in your deck. Ravenous Flocks everywhere deal 2 more damage. Draw 1.
- Artillery Fire: 5-cost Slow spell – Deal 2 to the enemy Nexus 3 times.
- Tactical Prowess: 9-cost Slow spell – Stun all Enemies. Rally.
AI always plays to build up their board as much as they can before they attack. Most of the time this means you don’t need to worry about them using going for an open attack before you have the chance to play blockers. Use this to predict their actions and plan out each turn perfectly with your ally. One key to victory is using your offensive turns to also help your defensive turns. Take good trades, and make sure to have enough gas left to defend.
In my opinion, Legends of Runeterra knocks it out of the park when they introduce new features. The in-game tournament and Gauntlet system functioned perfectly upon launch. Labs in general have opened our eyes to more possibilities with this game.
And now after having played the first cooperative experience Legends of Runeterra has to offer, I am ready for more. Luckily we don’t have to wait very long because there are more social labs planned on the 2021 Roadmap. There are various improvements that could be made this kind of social mode even more interesting, as well as some bigger changes that could really push the boundaries.
Firstly, let’s talk about some improvements they could make. Overall, the teamwork aspect could be improved upon. The idea of getting to pass cards between each hand is interesting, but after a few playthroughs, it just leaves me wanting more ways to operate as a team. Expanding on the idea of passing cards between players even more often would lead to more interesting situations. For example, having a Landmark that does something along those lines would be really cool.
One player being the defensive player and the other being offensive is a nice touch, but I do wish we could design our decks for this type of situation. Knowing which side we’re on would allow us to make some very interesting deck building choices and experments.
The last idea of mine would be to give the opponent more interactive spells, so they become less predictable. These changes would make the next 2 players-versus-environment labs a lot more interesting.
Another direction they could go with this cooperative mode is to pit 2 teams of players versus each other, for a total of 4 players in the same game. I do believe this is what is being teased on the Roadmap as an unnamed ‘Social Lab’. I do enjoy the idea of keeping 1 player on offense and 1 on defense, and if this is the case my main hope for this mode would be to allow us to bring our own decks, even if there are limits placed on the deck building process. I for one love a new Challenge in deck building and believe this would allow you and your partner to craft two original decks that flow together very well. Beyond this, adding some competition to this mode would be very rewarding. It is normally a lot more fun to play against and beat real players than bots.
Regardless of what comes next, I have very high hopes. Every single feature that has been added to this game has felt incredibly polished, and the development team has my complete trust at this point.
So what do you think is coming next? Are we going to be getting a 2v2 mode soon? Or perhaps another co-operative lab but this time, maybe, versus the Ruined King? Whatever it is, I will be there!