Hey all, Raphterra here. If you missed it, Legends of Runeterra held a livestream earlier today showcasing all the changes in Patch 4.1. In this article, I’ll provide my thoughts and evaluations on the balance changes covered in the stream.
Author’s note: Huge credits to The Runeterra Report for the great visuals!
Meta Champion Nerfs
Katarina‘s power was reduced from 3 to 2. I’m classifying this nerf as a medium-impact change. Despite the reduction in power, Katarina still has Quick Attack, allowing her to level up consistently. And, her synergy with Mark of the Isles remains intact. However, her reduced power makes her more vulnerable to counter spells like Troll Chant or Scrying Sands. Additionally, her ability to apply board and Nexus pressure has diminished, as more units can now block her and still survive.
Despite these changes, Katarina should still be a formidable champion, as her utility as a Rally activator remains unchanged. Her main decks, Gwen Katarina and Ravenbloom Katarina, will likely remain strong options for ranked ladder play.
Where is Opulent Foyer?
It’s worth mentioning that Gwen or Opulent Foyer weren’t nerfed in this patch, but the balance team indicated that they are keeping a close eye on the Hallowed cards for potential nerfs in the near future.
Kayn‘s The Shadow Reaper draw effect now requires 4 Cultists instead of 3 Cultists. Aatrox‘s The World Ender draw effect now requires 3 different Darkins. These are meta-defining changes. A significant portion of Kayn‘s and Aatrox‘s power comes from the ability to draw them early enough to play them on curve.
In particular, Kayn will be much less impactful if summoned after turn 5. It was previously very easy and common to play three Cultists before turn 5, but playing four Cultists consistently is much more difficult. Aatrox decks will now need to incorporate a variety of weapon choices, as cycling the same weapon on different units will no longer be an option for drawing Aatrox immediately.
Super Mega Death Rocket!‘s damage was reduced from 4 to 3. This is a high-impact change. This was the only change that I correctly predicted in my article on nerf candidates for Patch 4.1. It was a no-brainer that Jinx needed to be slightly nerfed after her rework in Patch 3.19. Despite the nerf, she’ll likely still be played in Discard-synergistic burn decks.
Meta Spell Nerfs
This is a meta-defining change. Quietus is now restricted to removing only small units, and can no longer trade evenly against high-cost champions like Braum, Veigar, or Illaoi. If you want to eliminate these champions with Quietus, you’ll need to reduce their stats first through damage or debuffs.
This will significantly reduce Quietus‘s play rate. It’s likely to be removed from non-control Shadow Isles decks, such as Gwen Katarina, and even decks like Feel The Rush control may only run two copies at most.
This is a high-impact change. This change will eliminate Eye of Nagakabouros‘ utility in providing a burst blocker for defense. It will also remove the card’s ability to quickly search for spells, affecting the reaction capability of several decks to attacks, skills, and spells. Some meta decks that will be impacted include Gangplank Sejuani Plunder, Bilgewater Ravenbloom Conservatory, and Swain Twisted Fate.
This is a meta-defining change. Mana cost increases are substantial changes in Legends of Runeterra, especially for cheap cards. Requiring 3 mana and a discard target is a significant cost to play two Daring Poros, particularly for a combo piece used in fast, aggressive strategies.
This nerf will likely keep several discard decks, such as Lulu Jinx and Draven Jinx, from reaching high-tier status. Elusive combo decks, like Seraphine Twisted Fate, will also be significantly impacted. This change may be a preemptive measure in preparation for the rumored upcoming LOR-exclusive champion, Poro King.
Illaoi‘s Spawn Package
The improvements to Illaoi‘s card package are expected to be high-impact, potentially meta-defining for the Spawn archetype. Illaoi received a boost in power, going from 1 to 2, enhancing her trading capabilities and ability to apply pressure. Additionally, she will no longer be removed by Quietus!
Nagakabouros now Spawns upon summon, providing a much-needed quality-of-life change for Tentacle-focused decks. Whether Nagakabouros will be strong enough to be used in competitive decks remains to be seen, and its effectiveness can only be accurately assessed once the live patch is available for testing.
The most impactful buff for Spawn is the decreased cost of Tentacle Smash. It’s now back to being a powerful tempo-swing tool for the archetype, especially in builds that focus on building high-stat Tentacles.
Ornn‘s Forge Package
I anticipate that the changes to Ornn‘s Forge will be high-impact. I’ve played numerous games with Ornn and I already consider him a strong finisher for Freljord. However, the archetype’s main challenge has been the shortage of strong units to play in the early turns. The improved stats for Weaponsmith’s Apprentice and Favored Artisan will greatly address this issue. Additionally, Hearthblood Mender will aid in stabilizing board states during the mid-game with his Forge and healing capabilities.
Jax‘s Weaponmaster Package
The Weaponmaster changes should be high-impact, potentially even meta-defining. Level 2 Jax now has Overwhelm as his base keyword. This is a nice quality-of-life improvement. The inclusion of Fish Fight and Roar of Icathia as Weaponmaster cards is the major change, increasing the flexibility in deckbuilding for Jax. The availability of a reliable Strike spell will be beneficial for any region combination.
Maokai receives a power increase from 1 to 2, which is a high-impact change for the Deep archetype. With this boost in stats, Maokai‘s trading potential has significantly improved. Additionally, his ability to generate Saplings each turn makes him a less significant tempo loss to play on turn 4. I believe that Deep is already a decent, yet underutilized archetype in the current patch, and this change will likely encourage players to further explore the archetype.
Tristana gains Impact as her base keyword. I’m expecting this to be a low-impact change. Her competitiveness is linked to the Bandle City‘s Fae and Yordle archetype, which haven’t been thoroughly explored yet. This buff may serve more as a means to encourage players to experiment with Tristana‘s archetype.
Ryze‘s Shard of Reverence now replenishes all spell mana. It’s difficult to accurately gauge the strength of Ryze decks without actual testing, but I predict that this change will have a medium impact. However, it is important to note that even minor enhancements to Ryze‘s card package have the potential to drastically alter the meta. Of all the buffs in Patch 4.1, this is undoubtedly the most unpredictable and potentially concerning one.
The decrease in cost for Shadowshift is a welcome change, but is unlikely to have any impact on the meta. The majority of the effects of this change will be felt in Zed decks, as Shadowshift is Zed‘s champion spell. Even in these decks, it remains uncertain if casting Shadowshift will be more advantageous than simply re-playing a second copy of Zed.
Lissandra now advances her summoned landmark by 2. Frozen Thralls definitely needed changes, but this buff is still likely to have low impact for the archetype. This change will only come into effect when Lissandra is drawn early in the game. The recent nerf to Frozen Thrall‘s countdown will still continue to hinder the archetype’s gameplay patterns.
Shyvana can now level up from the deck! This will be a high-impact change, possibly even meta-defining. With this change, Shyvana becomes a valuable late-game unit for Dragon-focused decks. It is likely that she will always come down leveled up in the later stages of the game. Level 2 Shyvana‘s Strafing Strike also gets a decreased mana cost, which will greatly benefit Dragon decks as they tend to spend a lot of mana on playing units.
Master Yi receives similar treatment as Shyvana, as he can now level up from the deck. This is also a high-impact change. Previously, Master Yi was used more as a utility support champion, but this buff may result in decks focusing on him as the main win condition.
I wrote a guide on Master Yi Ornn a few months ago. It may be time to revisit this archetype once Patch 4.1 goes live!
With several champions receiving buffs in Patch 4.1, there was no way that our developers would forget about Kayle. Kayle receives a cost decrease from 6 to 5, which will have a high-impact on Kayle decks. Coming down a turn earlier is very important for mid-game win conditions like Kayle. I remain skeptical if this change is enough to push Kayle decks into high-tier status, but we can expect to see many Kayle builds in the mid-tier.
I would classify the increase of Hate Spike‘s damage from 2 to 3 as a medium-impact change. I hesitate to classify it as high-impact since Evelynn does not currently have clear champion pairings. The competitive Evelynn deck used to be Evelynn Viego, but this deck is unlikely to return without any buffs to Viego.
The decrease in Dragoncaller‘s mana cost is a noteworthy change! With Attune, it effectively becomes a unit that costs 4 mana. I predict this buff to be a medium-impact change. In my opinion, Dragoncaller is a cool, impressive card design-wise. Even if it proves to be underwhelming, the new version of Dragoncaller should bring excitement to Ionia decks that focus on activating Flow.
I’m still uncertain about Lucian‘s change in Patch 4.1. Being at 1-cost makes him easier to pair with equipment, attachments, and permanent buffs, but also makes him more susceptible to cheap removals such as Vile Feast and Pokey Stick. At this time, I predict this buff to be a low-impact change. There have been no competitive Lucian decks recently, so it’s challenging to accurately evaluate his power level.
Albus Ferros receives a base damage increase from 1 to 3. This is likely a high-impact change, potentially meta defining. Jayce decks already have the alternative route of winning through Nexus burn with Shock Blast and Mystic Shot. Increasing Albus Ferros‘ damage output further enhances the deck’s late-game burn options.
In my opinion, the change to Weight of Judgement is the most underwhelming one in this patch. I cannot think of any Shurima decks that would include this card in their main deck.
Two New Cards!
Alongside the numerous balance changes, two new cards are introduced in Patch 4.1: Soul Cleave and Castigate.
Soul Cleave has potential to be a meta-defining card. It offers numerous deck-building opportunities by synergizing with units that have on-summon or Last Breath effects. Synergies can be found in Shadow Isles with Anivia, The Rekindler, and Camavoran Soldier. Combos in other regions would include Sion for consecutive rallies and Tybaulk for massive damage buffs. The potential for this card seems limitless and I expect to see it frequently in the ranked ladder!
Castigate, on the other hand, is underwhelming in my opinion. I don’t anticipate it to see much play as it only counters specific decks. If there are high-tier decks that run multiple followers, Castigate may be included as a tech card in Shurima control decks.
That concludes my analysis of Patch 4.1! This patch appears to be one of the best in terms of champion and card buffs. Do you agree with my evaluation of the changes in this patch? Which cards or decks are you most eager to try once the update goes live?