(sharon) #1
to regain the upper hand as slower decks
come online, your base’s relative fragility
means that matches often don’t require a
particularly long-term strategy.

While you’re calling the shots, it’s the
characters on the field that are the ones
actually duking it out. Legends of
Runeterra splits its units into two main
camps: Champions, chosen from among
the warriors and spell-slingers that League
of Legends players will know and love, and
followers—background characters and
minions who fill up the rest of Runeterra.
As well as their famous names,
champions have qualities that set them
apart from their lowly followers. Boosted
stats are accompanied by some powerful
extra effects: The tanky Braum can
regenerate, returning him to full health
after combat, while the stealthy Zed
spawns a shadow clone of himself every
time he attacks, automatically bolstering
his offensive capabilities.
Often threatening even in the early
stages of the game, champions can also
be levelled up through the completion of
in-game goals, increasing their stats and
improving their abilities, before entering
their final form in showy cutscenes
reminiscent of fighting game finishers. In
many cases champions need to be in play
to work towards their improved state, but
rare exceptions such as Yasuo can be
improved without setting foot on the
field—as long as the air-bending Ronin is in
hand, he can watch enemy units being
stunned or recalled by his allies. Once six
cards have been incapacitated in this
manner, an enhanced Yasuo can take the
field in time to deal bonus damage every
time another stun lands.
Followers can’t level up, but their
abilities can still be crucial to a winning
strategy. ‘Sturdy’ units take reduced
damage from attacks, making them
especially useful in the early game, while
‘Challengers’ can choose which enemy
unit will block them, and some particularly
nimble characters will land their attacks
before their opponents, allowing for more
control over each clash. Elsewhere,
followers contribute to Runeterra’s wider
narrative—Demacia’s Tianna Crownguard


Legends of Runeterra


Yep, seems like it ’s
all going on here.

Draven is one
double-hard bastard.

is the aunt of champions Lux and Garen,
and the veteran of several backstories,
including the recent team-up between
Riot and Marvel Comics, while a lowly
Poro Herder illustrates the difficulty of life
in the Freljordian tundra.
It’s interactions between champions
and their followers that drive Legends of
Runeterra’s deckbuilding. Decks consist of
40 cards, can draw from either one or two
of the game’s six factions, and feature up
to six champions, with as many as three
copies of each card permitted within a
deck. That allows for depth as you drill into
a specific strategy, or relative breadth,
drawing on the combined abilities of
multiple champions and regions to
multiply your strengths and cover as
many defensive bases as possible.

Announced as part of League of Legends’
tenth anniversary celebrations, the
elephant in the room during my Legends
of Runeterra preview event was Artifact.
Valve’s ill-fated card game shares more
than cursory similarities with Legends of
Runeterra, but Riot is taking steps to
ensure that its effort carves out its own
space in what’s already considered a
near-saturated genre.
Legends of Runeterra’s design director,
Andrew Yip, says that his team wants “to
innovate the CCG”. As a result, random
gameplay elements are out, replaced by
deeper deckbuilding and the
conversational tone of round-based
combat. The rotation system popularized
by Hearthstone has been removed in
favor of monthly balance changes and
new expansions every four months. And
random card packs are no more, replaced
by gameplay rewards based around each
region, and ‘Wildcards’ that can be
swapped for the specific cards that you
actually want in your deck. These will be
available for purchase with real money.
Riot hasn’t exactly kept its desire to
start rolling out new games quiet, and Yip
tells me that Legends of Runeterra is
simply the first of many upcoming
projects that’s ready to be unveiled.
It’s certainly an accomplished starting
point, presenting a well-crafted
experience that promises to open a wider
avenue for League of Legends’ narrative
and ask serious questions of the
collectible card game genre, but the true
test is likely to lie in the community’s
response to Riot’s first new offering in
more than ten years.
Alistair Jones
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