In a long blog post from Wednesday, Legends of Runeterra Design Director Andrew “Umbrage” Yip shared what his team has been working on and future plans for Runeterra.
A highlight list of Umbrage’s post includes:
- Runeterra’s interactive nature is one of its best assets, with slow, fast, and burst spells making for intricate exchanges for board control
- Clarity of card texts and effects can be improved a bit, and so can the UI and the deckbuilder.
- The Runeterra team is looking to deliver monthly card updates, following the “live service” mentality that Riot are applying to League of Legends. This also leads to “slow and steady progression, so the meta isn’t solved day one.”
But by far the most important part of Umbrage’s “State of the Beta” address is the strong strategies his team is looking to balance.
Freeze Ezreal combo decks are being monitored
The Freeze Ezreal combo deck is one of the strongest deck in the current meta, but it’s also one of the least interactive ones, going against Runeterra’s core philosophy. The deck is not only popular on the ladder, but is also played a lot in the few invitational tournaments that have been held so far.
This powerful archetype has a win condition many of its victims will find annoying. The main part of the deck are spells and units designed to freeze or clear the board, leveling up Ezreal in the process. The combo of Troop of Elnuks and Bull Elnuk provide “free” blockers and board pressure in the meanwhile, earning the deck even more time.
Once Ezreal levels up and hits the board, the deck starts casting cheap spells, directly targeting the enemy Nexus. In the late game, the Ezreal combo can easily one-turn-kill (OTK) players from 12-14 health, using a combination of Mystic Shot (2 mana, 4 damage with a leveled up Ezreal) and Mushroom Clouds. Since all these effects are on Fast speed, the OTK is possible before any final counter-offensive takes place.
Most of the time, opponents don’t have the time to interact with Ezreal and stop this win condition, which is why the Runeterra team is paying attention to them.
Shadow Isles region likely getting nerfed
Shadow Isles (SI) has consistently been the best region in Runeterra since day 1 of closed beta. The weakness of SI is supposed to be its weak units and many spells who come with a drawback (like sacrificing a unit or giving it Ephemeral), but those drawbacks haven’t really mattered at all in the top SI decks.
Cards like Glimpse From Beyond, Mark of the Isles, and Black Spear are some of the most powerful spells in their class. Glimpse requires a sacrifice, but it can be done once you’ve blocked a big attacker with a 1/1, resulting in 0 damage and 2 cards drawn. Mark of the Isles gives Ephemeral, but the +3/+3 bonus enables favorable up-trades, killing big enemy threats by buffing an already expendable unit. Black Spear, on the other hand, is the most cost-effective single target removal and has a requirement that will almost always trigger.
On top of that, SI has one of the best early game (Elise) and late game (Hecarim) champions in the game, who don’t really have a counter, especially with cards like The Rekindler, which can bring them right back in.
Umbrage admits all this:
“Shadow Isles has been performing as the best region holistically by a decent margin. This is partially due to Shadow Isles having a ton of outright power, but also because it’s incredibly strong at doing what it’s good at compared to other regions and their respective strengths. And on the flipside, Shadow Isles’ intended weaknesses—such as frail units and the inability to protect its units—are too easily mitigated by cards like Mark of the Isles and Frenzied Skitterer. While we’re making adjustments over time to address these issues, the biggest change is from a development standpoint: we’re going to focus on ensuring regions have clear, distinct weaknesses (and therefore challenges for you to build around) earlier in the design process.”
The next Legends of Runeterra open beta patch should come somewhere this month.