Riot Games has launched a beta for its new online collectible card game (CCG), Legends of Runeterra. Players are flocking to try it for themselves, and some are wondering how best to play the game since it offers some large innovative designs over similar games.
At its core, the game is based on the League of Legends universe, and players can expect see familiar characters and abilities. The basics, like mana, units, and spells will look familiar to anyone who plays a game like Magic: The Gathering or Hearthstone, but from there it's a whole new world to explore.
Creating A Deck
Decks are made by selecting cards from up to two Regions, which include Demacia, Frejord, Ionia, Noxux, Piltover & Zuan, and Shadow Isles. There are two card types that will be used to fill out a deck, consisting of units and spells, varying in rarity from common, rare, epic, and champion.
To get a feel for the different types of decks, check out the three pre-made decks gifted to you following the tutorial. Here we see all of the familiar archetypes that are common to CCGs, including elements that relate to buffing characters in a deck or held in hand, zoo strategies of overwhelming the board with units, with Spiders in the premade deck's case, or of mixing up units with spells.
How you choose to construct a deck is in your hands entirely. However, in the earliest stages of beta, a simple tempo-oriented zoo deck will be one of the strongest options simply because players are learning what exactly is going on, and zoo ensures that there is always a focus on having and maintaining board control in the early and mid game. For the unfamiliar with the concept of zoo, check out Trump's video below. It is four years old, but the concept remains unchanged in virtually all CCGs.
Playing The Game
The goal of each match is simple and draws from core idea of League of Legends, where two players face off to take the opposing Nexus down to zero from 20 health. Each player has an initial drawing of cards and a single mulligan phase like Hearthstone, and like that game, the mana pool grows each turn so there is no need to worry about mana or land management.
In fact, the way that mana is handled in Legends of Runeterra is distinct from most other games. Up to three unspent mana in a turn is carried over as spell mana in the next turn, allowing for the potential to make complex plays. Normally other card games do not allow for this kind of mana banking and players want to be as efficient as possible with their tempo plays, and not spending all or most of one’s resources in a turn is often problematic. By allowing a portion of that unspent mana to be banked each turn, strategies around tempo shift considerably.
Cards are played out an alternating fashion, which is a unique twist on the standard card game formula. Turns are split into rounds, and players alternate between their attacking and defending rounds. During these points, marked clearly by a Sword to Attack or a Shield to defend, each player can play cards, either spells or units. Attack rounds play out like Magic, where a player commits their units to a general advance, and the defending player chooses blockers.
Finally, a turn only ends when each player has passed on playing a card, which may be done voluntarily, or because they have exhausted their hand or supply of mana.
And What Of Champions?
League of Legends is rooted in its many Champions, and they are ever present as powerful cards in this game. These look similar to normal units with a powerful exception, and is that they have clear goals written in their text that when completed transform the card into a leveled-up version of the Champion, complete with new abilities and often an increase to their stats. These goals range from doing a certain amount of damage to the enemy core, healing a certain amount, casting spells, and more.
This means that players will have a great deal of customization when it comes to creating a deck that suits their playstyle, and much like Magic, feels similar to creating decks around certain powerful Planeswalker cards. Braum for example is an excellent Champion in the early game as he acts as a wall to prevent Nexus damage, and eventually begins to provide an endless supply of addition units at no extra cost. Like other Champions, the effect of his ability will snowball in power if left unchecked.
Spells Are Fast And Slow
Spells come with one of three different tags, Slow, Fast, and Burst. These can be used at different times and the opponent will either have a chance to react, or not. Slow spells can be cast outside of combat, but the opponent has time to respond with a spell of their own which can counter the spell you have cast either by cancelling it, or adding conditions that waste its effect.
Fast spells also allow for an opponent to respond, but they can be cast at anytime. Finally, Burst spells resolve the moment they are played and there is no opportunity for an opponent to respond.
The greediest of decks and play styles will opt for powerful but slow spells, while more strategic planning will make use of Fast and Burst to quickly shift the dynamics of a board state.
How To Learn It All? Practice, Practice, Practice
These points sum up the basic components of the game, and the rest will come with actually playing it. If you’re lucky enough to get into the beta, spam games against the AI opponents to gain easy experience which in turn will unlock an initial bounty of cards to expand your collection.
From there, simply make a deck that fits your playstyle and start challenging real opponents. Seeing how others have created their decks will be the best experience, and there is no doubt some manner of meta forming already. Best of luck in your venture into Legends of Runeterra!