LoR Beginner Tips from Master Player
Whether you’re a brand new player or an experienced climber looking to refine your skills, it’s important to have the fundamentals nailed down to get better in Legends of Runeterra.
When you’re competing (especially in a card game), the little things add up and the most subtle shifts in mentality and decisionmaking can give you an edge over your opponents.
In this article, we’ll give you 5 tips from our meta expert and Master player, EG Swim. By the time you finish reading, you’ll understand how to:
- Identify the aggressor
- Use the board as your engine
- Plan around your win/lose conditions
- Balance your deck
- Know what you can (and can’t) play around
Throughout the article, you’ll see purple quotes from Swim that are from the video below that these tips are based on. Be sure to watch it as well!
1. Identify the aggressor
At the beginning of a match, you should be trying to understand who is the aggressor between you and your opponent.
By doing so, you’ll be able to adjust your win conditions and be able to seal more victories.
To identify the aggressor, you need to understand the three fundamental deck speeds: aggro, control, and midrange.
In general, here’s how these three deck types work:
- Aggro = wants to play fast and blitz, typically with lower cost cards, to win within the early rounds before their opponent can react or stabilize
- Control = wants to slow the game down and defeat their opponent by outlasting them by neutralizing their threats and maintaining superior resource management
- Midrange = decks that land in between the speed of aggro and control with options that can lean toward either side
Once you understand where your deck falls on the spectrum in comparison to your opponent, you should be adapting your gameplay accordingly.
For those of you that are League of Legends players (guessing a lot of y’all), it’s a similar concept to champion and team comp powerspikes in relation to the game phases of early, mid, and late game.
LoL champions like Draven are designed to win the game by dominating the laning phase to snowball the match to an early end.
If he doesn’t have a strong strong start, he’ll likely fizzle out in power compared to other champions. It’s not surprising that Draven has found a home in many aggro decks in LoR.
In comparison, champions like Nasus want to stretch out the game for as long as possible to scale for the late game. The longer a match goes, the more Nasus becomes unstoppable, like a control deck.
Finally, champs like Twisted Fate thrive in the mid game, which occurs during the transition between laning phase and late game teamfighting phase. The TF player looks to keep the game in check against a Draven by roaming to prevent a snowball but looks to speed up a game against a Nasus.
How to recognize deck speed
There are a few ways to try to identify the relation between your deck speed versus your opponent’s.
The first thing should know your own deck and its win conditions. If you’re playing a deck like Spider Aggro, it’s pretty straightforward, you’re going to be the aggressor in most matches.
Take a look at the mana cost curve above and you’ll be able to see that most of the cards fall between one to three cost. There are a few late game finishing options, but for the most part, this deck wants to overrun opponents with spiders early on.
Once you understand your deck’s speed, you’ll be able to adjust accordingly when you’re matched up with your opponent. Let’s say you run into Discard Aggro as a Spider Aggro player.
Since Discard Aggro indexes even more into a faster early game plan (as projected when you see the Jinx + Draven champion combination) with even more lower costed units than Spider Aggro, the Discard Aggro becomes the more aggressive deck.
In this matchup, you may want to consider playing a bit slower and fight to maintain board control (will talk about this more in tip #2) and save your removal like Black Spear specifically for when Draven and Jinx drop.
It may be possible to still play aggro and race against them, but it could be risky since Discard Aggro has more direct damage options with cards like Mystic Shot and Get Excited! The crazy combo of Jinx and Draven wants this chaotic pace.
Knowing this, it’s usually better to maintain control and draw the game out until your bigger threats of Darius and Rhasa are able to stabilize the game into your favor.
Consider how your strategy changes in comparison when you see that you’re matched up against the player below:
With Braum and Anivia as the champions, it’s very likely that your opponent will be playing a slower, more controlled style of play. You should immediately realize that you are the aggressor and you only have a limited time to win the game before they build up an icy wall of defenses.
As such, you’ll have to race against the clock and try to finish the match in the early to mid rounds because the longer the match goes, the slimmer your chances of winning become.
Do note however that although the champions you see in someone’s deck can act as guidelines, sometimes they can be misleading. For example, Mogwai’s Teemo + Shadow Isles deck plays as control but only has Teemo as its single champion card.
So although champions can act as hints in many cases, it may not be true in every case.
The better read you have on your matchup, the faster you’ll be able to identify the aggressor!
2. Use the board as your engine
Managing the board efficiently will allow you to get more value out of your cards and is especially important in the early game.
In the video, Swim explains:Ownership of the board will represent control over the outcome of the game in a lot of situations. Click To Tweet
The better you’re able to use the board as an engine, the more options and versatility you’ll have.
Depending on circumstances, units on your board represent being able to:
- Use as an activator for combat tricks (ex. Brothers’ Bond)
- Enable Support abilities (ex. Herald of Spring)
- Enable removal abilities (ex. Single Combat)
- Enable Last Breath abilities (ex.
- Draw cards (ex. Glimpse Beyond or Rivershaper)
- Summon other units (ex. having a Yeti for Tall Tales)
- Generate spells (ex. Karma)
- The list goes on!
Every turn your units on board stay alive, the more actions from the list above they’ll be able to potentially provide.
Keep in mind that this also makes life harder on your opponent. When you have a hand full of cards with a healthy board, it makes it much harder for them to predict what you’ll do next since you have more options.
If you’re in a position where you have a healthy Nexus, you’ll likely want to consider prioritizing keeping your units on your board alive rather than sacrificing them as blockers.
To simplify things, the concept of board control is very much related to the concept we discussed in tip #1, which is identifying the aggressor.
If you aren’t in danger of facing lethal within the next round or two, you’ll likely want to try to use your Nexus health as a resource and keep your units alive.
If you are indeed facing lethal, you have no choice but to sacrifice your board presence in order to buy more time for you to draw the answers you need.
As always in a card game however, using your board as an engine and building up your unit presence is more of a rule of thumb but is highly contextual to your matchup.
For example, don’t blindly build up your board with a ton of low-health units if your enemy is likely to play AoE removal like Avalanche unless you’ll be able to protect them with combat tricks or a spell like Deny.
Sometimes, however, you have to realize that your best chance to win is to stack up your board despite the possibility of getting AoE cleared. This sort of risk assessment will be covered in our next tip.
3. Plan around your win/lose conditions
In every matchup, you’ll have a set of win and lose conditions – throughout your game, you should focus on planning for and playing around these conditions to maximize your chances of winning.Think about what turn you plan to kill your opponent by depending on whether you're attacking on even or odds. Click To Tweet
Depending on this win condition timing, you should be facilitating a hand and board state for you to enable and execute your plan.
Let’s say you’re running a deck that has the Commander Ledros + Atrocity combo as a central win condition.
Since Commander Ledros is an 8-mana unit, you would play around this win condition by trying to get your opponent to 16 Nexus health or below by turn 8.
This health threshold will put your opponent in lethal range on turn 9 if you have Atrocity since Ledros has 8 power and Atrocity can deal damage directly to your opponent’s Nexus.
With this turn 8 + turn 9 timing in mind, here are the sort of goals that should be in the back of your mind:
- Survive until turn 8
- Make sure that your opponent has 16 health or below
- Use Glimpse Beyond and other card draw mechanics to find Ledros + Atrocity by turn 8
If you’re able to fulfill these conditions, you have a very good chance of winning so you should be focusing on accomplishing these smaller goals to enable your main one.
As you’re playing toward your win condition plans, you should also keep in mind your risk/reward in relation to the game state.When you're in a dominant position, with maybe an 80% chance to win, ask yourself, what would have to happen for you to not win this game? What could go wrong? Click To Tweet
In the case of the Ledros + Atrocity win condition, there are a few cards that could stifle your plan.
For example, your opponent can use Deny on either Ledros’s ability or on Atrocity.
Since you’re ahead, it’s better to play with the assumption that your opponent has the counter card to limit your risk.Play around your lose condition and make your plays around that assumption even if they are weaker plays because you can afford to lower your win rate when they don't have that card so you can increase your win rate when they do. Click To Tweet
In the case of the Ledros + Atrocity example, the way this would apply would depend on your board state and your hand, but one example would be choosing to just keep up the pressure with Ledros himself and by using your mana to develop your board with more creatures.
By playing around Deny, you force your opponent to inefficiently hold on to 3 mana for a Deny they’ll never use or to use Deny on a lesser effect out of desperation. This method will be slower than your usual burst kill but will decrease your opponent’s odds of having a big swing turn back into their favor.
When you’re on the losing end of a matchup (say with around a 20% or so chance of winning) you’ll want to reverse this mentality so that you take risks and assume that your opponent does not have the answer. Swim explains:When you feel really behind, you do the opposite. You assume that things are gonna go very well for you. You take risks because risks will fundamentally gravitate your win rate towards 50% from either direction. Click To Tweet
Sometimes you just have to make that Hail Mary play when you have the tiniest windows because it really is the only chance you have left before your opponent seals the deal.
Even if they have a decent-sized hand, anything can happen in a card game and they can have a hand full of cards that don’t have answers to your desperation play. Also, don’t forget that you’re playing against a human – mistakes and misplays happen at all skill levels.
Recognizing when and why to change your risk level is something that takes time and practice but will pay off in the long run.
4. Balance your deck
This next tip is more for you deck builders out there. However, even if you like to netdeck it’s important to understand how to properly tweak and tech your deck to increase your odds of climbing.
The meta can shift very quickly so if you know which cards you’re able to cut and which you absolutely need to keep, you can gain LP faster than players that are less adaptable.
In regards to deck building fundamentals, Swim explains:A good deck is like a tree with branches. You need a solid foundation for a strategy, which is like a trunk, but you also need some peripheries (branches) that will help you beat certain situations. Click To Tweet
In other words, you want to have a core theme that the deck is built around but also have a portion of your deck dedicated to help against particular matchups.
When you see a well-crafted deck, in most cases, a key tell of that deck’s stable trunk is the cards that are 3x (can be 2x for higher cost cards). The periphery branches usually only have 1x or 2x.
If your deck doesn’t have a solid theme and goes in too many directions (a lot of 1x and 2x), you’ll often lose against more cohesive decks since they’ll have more consistency in their draws.
However, if your deck doesn’t have tech cards, you may have a rough time against your countermatchups since you don’t have an answer for them.
Let’s take a look at Fearsome Midrange, one of the most powerful decks so far in LoR’s lifespan:
By looking at the 3x cards, we can see that the core trunk revolves around using a mix of Fearsome units and spiders to overwhelm your opponent in the early game to end the game by mid game with Hecarim.
At the periphery branches, we can see some tech cards that will help in otherwise sticky situations. For matchups that are able to survive and stretch out the match until late game, you have late game finishers in Rhasa the Sunderer and Commander Ledros.
Even Vengeance is a nice tech card to get rid of a big blocker (ex. Garen) or healer (ex. a buffed Kinkou Lifeblade). These cards aren’t necessary for the core identity of the deck to work and in many cases, matches will end before these options are needed.
However, when the game does make it to late game, they can give the last bit of oomph to help the deck win in situations that it wouldn’t have without them.
In general, you want to understand the situations that you’re strong in and the ones that you’re weak in (in terms of hand and board states).
Based on these situations and the popular matchups you’re facing, you should be adjusting your deck accordingly.If your deck is really strong against matchup A and really weak against matchup B, consider removing some cards that are good against A to improve your matchup against B. Click To Tweet
To sort of tie it back to some of our earlier tips, if you’re having trouble against aggro but doing well against control, consider adjusting your mana curve away from the late game and toward the early game.
If you’re doing well against aggro but poorly against control, do the opposite.
You can apply this problem-solving mentality when you’re having trouble against most things – having trouble against elusives? Add some challenger units.
Running into a lot of fearsomes? Try some low-cost early game units with 3 power like Freljords’s Icevale Archer and Stalking Wolf.
The decks you face will change over time and based on the ranked bracket you’re playing in so be sure to take note of the matchups you’re facing and how your specific cards are performing.
This is another skill that takes time and deliberate practice to hone but will help you optimize your decks in the long run – balance is key!
5. Know what you can (and can’t) play around
In the previous tip, we discussed how to balance your deck according to situations you’re strong and weak in.
For this last fundamental tip, we’ll discuss how to recognize what you can and can’t play around when you’re in game.
Swim explains that many newer players fall victim to being worried about combat tricks like Radiant Strike and Back to Back.
However, since these cards are burst speed, they’re incredibly hard to play around since you can’t respond to them like you could against a card that’s slow or fast.
Sometimes, by being too afraid and trying to play around these cards, you can give your opponent even more value than they would have gained if you would have just played into them.
In many cases, however, especially against non-burst cards, you will have the ability to build or play around them. Let’s use Detain as an example.
If Detain becomes a popular threat in meta options, you have a few options.
When it comes to deck building, you can tune your decks against Detain by leaning your curve more toward having low cost units.
This will force your opponent to have to lose value by using 5-mana card in order to remove a unit of lesser value and overwhelm them with numbers rather than big hitters.
Another way to play around Detain is to avoid using combat trick buffs on cards that are already big. By spreading around your power, it prevents your opponent from getting a ton of value from removing a single unit.Think about the game from the perspective of the opponent's hand. This is super imperative. Make sure you are trying to build a deck or play in a way that bricks the opponent's value. Click To Tweet
Similar to laning in League of Legends or playing a fighting game, the more you understand about what your opponent is capable of doing and wants to do, the better you’ll be able to counter them.
Although it can be difficult since card acquisition is limited by time in LoR, consider practicing the decks that you yourself have trouble against or watching a streamer that plays that deck.
By seeing the game from the eyes of your opponent, you’ll have a better feel of what makes that deck thrive and what destroys its plans.
Thanks for reading! We hope you found these Master tips helpful. Let us know in the comments below if you found these tips helpful and if you’d like to see more guides that cover these sort of gameplay concepts.