10 Balance Changes Bandle City Still Needs
Hi everyone, Kuvira here.
I’ll be talking about game design/balance today featuring the annoying Yordles region Bandle City (BC).
People complain about Bandle City because it does everything and it does it well, it is very frustrating to play against.
In this article, I’ll be covering ten different cards along with my proposed balance changes to them.
General Problems with Bandle City
Doing multiple things as a region identity is okay but doing them all better than multiple other regions can be quite unhealthy.
One of the most overpowered thing BC does is card generation, Targon had a similar history but they’re very different actually, generated cards from Targon are within a much smaller pool of cards than the ones generated by BC units making them much easier to play around.
The units that generate celestials are also quite understated which makes them hard to trade with and easy to remove.
Bandle City has cheap pings like Pokey Stick, Group Shot, Poison Dart to deal with small units but also has ways to stop big problematic units with spells like Minimorph, Wallop, and Stress Defence, etc…
They also have good cheap units and many ways to discount their cost which gives them the ability to go wide very fast without losing any kind of tempo, combined with amazing wide board payoff cards like Poppy and Yordles in Arms, they can set up super early wide board lethals.
BC does many other good things but today I decided to only go through 10 changes that would in my opinion lower Bandle City’s overall power level without losing any of its main archetypes. Even though Patch 3.4.0 had many nerfs to Bandle City cards, it did not solve the main issue with any of them.
It would be good to note that the changes I’m suggesting are not only geared towards competitive and high level of play, to balance/redesign these cards I’m considering the casual players as well as the flavor and many other metrics.
Gnar is the most played champion last patch and that’s not just because it’s a new champion, in comparison, Udyr, another new champion is only the 17th most played champ last patch.
Gnar is seeing play in 48% of Bandle City decks with a winrate of 53.6% in all ranks.
It is very obvious why Gnar is overpowered, new cards should be strong balance-wise but making them unfair isn’t a very wise decision.
What Makes Gnar Strong
Gnar’s overall value floor is very high, meaning that the opponent is always losing on card advantage, mana advantage, or tempo when trying to remove Gnar or slow him down.
His base stats are quite high, a 4 mana 3|3 Quick Attack, somewhat like a Kindred with 0 deckbuilding cost and in better regions.
His level 1 effect is very powerful, he generates a Pokey Stick whenever he strikes, even on defense, so even when you fight hard to kill him in combat, he always comes out on top in terms of value with the draw from Pokey Stick and potentially killing something with 1 health.
He has the easiest champion level-up condition in the whole game. He transforms into Mega Gnar after damaging the nexus once which is very easy to do since he generates Pokey Sticks and most current decks that play Gnar have enough early aggression to push damage on a turn 4 or 5 attack. Most of them also already run 3 copies of Pokey Stick.
His Mega Gnar form is terrifying, a 5|5 Overwhelm + Quick Attack that GRANTS vulnerable to the strongest unit. He represents removal and pushes lots of damage, the strongest unit usually has more health so pulling it with another ally to push more damage with Gnar is a common line, which makes Gnar a win condition on his own.
He could lose the Quick Attack keyword on level up (which wouldn’t make sense in terms of consistency since no champion in the games loses keywords after leveling) or make the Pokey Stick generation only when he strikes while attacking.
The best change and the most simple one however is to make him 5 mana, that would lower the amount of pressure he can put out, especially when attacking on 4 and 6, now that he’s attacking on 5|7 or 6|8 that gives the opponent time to deal with him without losing too much value/tempo. At 5 mana he’d still be playable in most Bandle City decks without being as obnoxious as he is right now, which is what a balance change should do.
Another change to his effect that I would like to see is to change his level 2 form text to
“Round end if you’ve started the round with the attack token, transform me back into Gnar” instead of “ round end If I’ve seen you start with the attack token, transform me back…”.
Currently, A second Mega Gnar can be played from hand (after the first one has been killed) and attack that same turn. For example, Gnar was played on turn 4, turns into Mega Gnar on turn 5 start and gets removed that turn, on turn 6 another Mega Gnar can be played from hand and attack, at the end of turn 6 he does not transform back into Gnar he stays as Mega Gnar for 2 more turns, turn 7 AND attacks again on 8.
Attacking TWICE with Mega Gnar and pushing Overwhelm damage without needing to level him up the second time isn’t intuitive and can be game-winning.
It would also make more sense flavor-wise, when Mega Gnar dies in League he comes back as Gnar, it’s not that big of a deal but it’s a nice bonus to an already good logical change.
I’ve been saying this for a while now, I believe that Conchologist is one of if not the strongest and most TOXIC card in Bandle City. It is the third most-played Bandle City card last patch with a 52.6% WR.
This card sees play in every archetype, aggro decks like Ziggs Gnar, combo decks like Riven/Fizz, all Yordles in Arms decks, and even control decks like Darkness. The only Bandle City deck that doesn’t run Conchologist is Bandle Tree because it’s not a multi-region follower.
Conchologist’s effect is pretty simple he creates in hand 1 out of 3 randomly generated spells from your regions that cost 3 or less. It doesn’t seem too problematic on paper but let’s break it down.
- The pool of 3 or fewer spells is too big, 39 spells in Bandle City + Demacia for example, 44 in Noxus + BC. it is almost impossible to play around with that many cards that have different effects and can be held in hand for multiple turns. Invoke was a pretty toxic mechanic at first but the pool of celestial cards is much smaller for cards like Spacey Sketcher or Solari Priestess and playing around 1,2,3 cost spells vs 4,5,6 cost spells for example is different.
- The quality of the generated spells is too high, most of them can swing combat trades, protect units or even finish games. Wallop, Stress Defence, Pokey Stick in BC, Single combat, Sharpsight, Shield of Durand in Demacia, Scorched Earth, Might and Sharpened Resolve in Noxus, Thermogenic Beam, Mystic Shot and Sumpworks Map in Pnz, etc… These are all premium spells that the opponent can’t play around with and will always provide insane amounts of value or even finish games (Might / Sumpworks Map for example). A 2 mana follower should NOT be single-handedly winning games.
- Spells are great but playing too many of them can lead to bricked hands and that’s game losing, Conchologist provides decks the ability to cut down on spells which greatly improves consistency and therefore leads to a much higher win rate.
I decided to make Conchologist manifest spells that cost 1 or less instead of 3 or less. The goal with this change is to make the card pool smaller, from 39 to 11 in BC+ Demacia which makes it easier to play against in a competitive setting. 1 or fewer mana spells also have a lower chance of swinging games or being game-winning compared to 3 or 2 mana, which is normal for a 2 mana follower.
What’s fun about Conchologists is generating cards so I’m keeping the casual aspect of it intact.
It’s important to note this version of Conchologists has a much higher chance of generating trinket trades, which is more flavorful lore-wise as you can see in this pic example from the Otterpus art.
3. Loping Telescope
Loping Telescope is the fourth most played BC card, it sees play in every Yordles in Arms deck, Bandle Tree, Swain Gnar, Fae deck, etc…
Telescope is very similar to Conchologist, it’s a 3 mana follower that manifests a random 3 or less cost celestial, epic, or multi-region follower. I actually like Telescope’s design, it’s a fun unique card that fits in different deck archetypes, It can be played in Faes, Multi-region decks like Tristana, Tree or Yordles in Arms, in Targon decks for the Celestial Card, etc… the choosing process makes games unique and fun.
I do not dislike randomness, it is worse for competitive settings but for casual play and fun value, having cards that generate random different units or spells is okay. Something I love about LoR and that is very unique compared to other card games *cough* hearthstone *cough* is that there’s always a condition in cards that have random effects, they found a way to limit it so that it doesn’t hinder the competitive side of the game without removing all the fun associated with randomness.
What bothers me with Telescope though is the Epic cards pool specifically. The celestial pool is limited to 3 or fewer and I believe that the Epic cards pool should have some sort of limitation as well.
Getting Warmother’s call, Feel the Rush, The Ruination, Commander Ledros, Captain Farron, etc… from a 3 mana follower is just objectively not okay. The frustration and unfairness of single-handedly losing because Telescope generated one of these cards is not worth the slight increase in fun associated with it.
I’m suggesting the change to add “a 5 or less cost epic card” condition to Telescope, why 5? 6 cost + epic cards is where strong game-winning cards start to appear, Cithria the Bold, Arena Mechacaster, Sai’Nen Thousand Tailed, The Howling Abyss, etc… whereas most of the 5 or less epic cards are still strong but not as game-winning.
I also wanted to keep the flavor of getting Bandle Tree from Loping Telescope.
4. Yordles in Arms
This one is a pretty simple change, Yordles in Arms was already a very strong card in Bandle City decks that want to go wide before the last set, it is now one of the best wide-board payoffs and finishers in the game.
The addition of the Fae package aka Grandfather Fae, Gleaming Lantern, and Fae Sprout allows Bandle City to populate the board even faster with units that are harder to remove especially when combined with Sharpsight and Ranger’s Resolve.
The +3|+3 instead of +4|+4 stats should allow the opponent to trade units easier and take less overall damage.
I am aware that people can start cutting YIA for Vanguard Sergeant and have For Demacia generated without having to put Yordles in Arms in the deck, but the difference is that the deckbuilding cost of having to play Demacia is enough to allow some sort of healthy counterplay to wide board Bandle City deck.
5. Twisted Catalyzer
This is by far my favorite change of all the ones I’m showcasing in this article.
Darkness is one of the strongest control decks in the history of LoR, if they get ahead and set up without being challenged it becomes almost impossible to beat them.
Darkness manages to have tier 1 win rates in a very high level of play (high masters) in a meta environment where it’s competing with unfair cards like Yordles in Arms, Patricide Broadwing, Gnar, etc… This goes to show how strong the deck is and how it stayed at the top of the meta for multiple months now.
Nothing’s wrong with strong decks, my goal isn’t to hit Darkness with hard nerfs or make it unplayable, with these changes I’m trying to lower the unhealthy
Twisted Catalyzer is the most important follower in the deck and the third-best card after both Veigar and Senna.
The difference between a 2 or 3 damage darkness is huge, the deck needs to grow the darkness damage through Twisted Catalyzer or Veigar, Catalyzer is very hard to stop on turn 2, apart from Mystic Shot and Thermogenic beam in PnZ, it is generally guaranteed to hit at least once when played on turn 2.
The thing is, the opponent NEEDS to trade it or remove it to stop its second hit, making darkness go from 3 to 4 damage. We can all agree that in most matchups if Twisted Catalyzer manages to strike twice in the early game and get the +2 damage on darkness the game becomes unlosable for Veigar/Senna. They start generating way too much value and don’t lose tempo on mana trades.
Let’s take a look at Assistant Librarian and Chempunk Pickpocket.
Like Catalyzer, they’re both 2 mana followers that the opponent needs to chump block/remove because of the value they can generate but if they can’t block them (no units on turn 2 for example or they don’t want to trade a valuable card like Zoe, Ahri, Lucian, etc) and they manage to get the effect off once, the game isn’t in an unwinnable spot for the defender.
The issue with Twisted Catalyzer is that it gives you no choice, you have to not let it hit twice or you lose the game, and I find those spots very unhealthy and frustrating to play against.
The new effect I’m suggesting is that Twisted Catalyzer gets silenced after the first strike. Striking once early already puts the Darkness player in a very good spot, this change only targets the spots where the game is decided on turn 2 if Catalyzer isn’t blocked.
This way the opponent can let it hit without needing to trade early without getting hyper-punished while still putting the Darkness player ahead.
The stat change from 2|2 to 2|3 is aimed to allow double trading with Catalyzer into common 2 attack 1 and 2 drops like Treasure Seeker, Conchologist, Loping Telescope, Fleetfeather Tracker, Legion Saboteur, etc…
I don’t consider this change to be a nerf, the 2|3 statline will allow Veigar/Senna players to survive early aggression better while getting the +1 on their darkness.
This also allows the double-draw Twisted Catalyzer hands to STILL feel strong and high rolly which is a feeling I didn’t want to remove from how this card is designed.
Flavor-wise, I also feel like silencing itself fits quite well with the “Twisted” aspect of Catalyzer.
6. Stilted Robemaker
I don’t expect the Twisted Catalyzer change to lower Darkness’s winrate at all, I do feel that the deck needs a slight nerf to some other cards though, Stilted Robemaker is a good example of that.
Have you ever gotten smorked by a control deck? Well, it happens quite often in Darkness games where Twisted Catalyzer + Stilted Robemaker’s premium stats allow them to push too much damage.
Stilted Robemaker’s role is to reduce the cost of Darkness everywhere by 1 which helps you lose much less tempo and value on trades in the mid/late game after you Robemaker. It is a necessary card for the deck especially with Senna since she generates multiple Darkness.
Stilted Robemaker’s 3 points of attack allow it to trade way too efficiently on turn 4 and with the tempo gain from the cost reductions, it guarantees no tempo loss on later turns + the same turn it is played.
Making it 2 attack should help weaken Veigar/Senna’s midgame and lower the amount of aggression they can put out with multiple copies of Robemaker.
7. Aloof Travelers
Aloof is a pretty interesting card, it’s a draw 1 card that makes the opponent lose their highest cost card, it was a 4 mana 3|3 in the past but has been nerfed due to people complaining too much about how strong it was especially when combined with the discount effect of Bandle City Mayor that makes it a 3 mana 3|3.
Even after the nerf, it has still seen play in multiple decks; in PnZ/BC combo lists, Bandle Tree, and recently in Lulu Ahri and Trundle Timelines.
Aloof Traverlers’ is quite balanced at the moment, the problem that I have with it is how it is designed, I believe that it is quite unhealthy for the game right now and will come in the way of some future card designs.
Champions are important in LoR, some might argue that the whole game is in fact about Champions and that wouldn’t be wrong.
Spending hours building a whole deck around your favorite champion Aurelion Sol, Galio, Lee sin, or Malphite to have them discarded multiple times by a 4 mana Yordle follower does not feel good or fulfill any purpose.
The same logic applies to expensive followers that usually have a deckbuilding cost like The Leviathan, Invasive Hydravin, The Arsenal, etc…
From a competitive perspective, this change also reduces Aloof Travelers’ ability to give accurate hand information which is very valuable in the high levels of play.
This still allows Aloof to keep its flavor and discard important spells like Feel The Rush, The Ruination, Concerted Strike, etc… and still be used in the same decks it’s seeing play in currently.
Mecha-Yordles is a fun archetype that has been introduced in the second Bandle City Set alongside Rumble. It’s a similar archetype to invoke but instead of celestials, you choose between cool Mecha-Yordle followers. They are multi-region yordles that cannot be main decked and there’s one from each region with a unique effect related to that region’s flavor.
Unfortunately, this archetype has not seen much play, especially in the competitive scene because of the overall weak power level of the Mecha Yordle generators. I do however have a sneaking suspicion that Mecha Yordles aren’t as bad as people think, I feel like they’ve been quite underrated and will see play in a future meta for sure, especially after the recent multiple buffs they’ve gotten in patch 3.4.0.
Squeaker is a 2 mana 1|1 follower with Augment that discards 1 card to let you choose between 3 random Mecha-Yordles. The effect is okay for the cost but the stats are not. A 2 mana unit with 1 health AND Augment is very strange to me, you don’t have time to see the attack growth because 1 hp is very weak to any kind of removal like Pokey Stick, vile feast, Group Shot, etc…
Squeaker doesn’t compete with the other Mecha-Yordles generators so making it a 1|2 will allow it to see play in the Mecha-Yordles archetype or even in other discard archetypes with PnZ or more likely Noxus. This change will allow players to experiment with this card and find a way to fit it in different decks without it being too strong or unhealthy, which is exactly the goal.
9. Gleaming Lantern
This card was revealed in the last set with the new Fae archetype. It’s a 3 mana 3|3 with an effect that reduces the cost of the first Fae unit by 2 each turn. This effect is very similar to Bandle City Mayor that discounts multi-region followers.
Gleaming Lanternn’s effect is very powerful since most Fae units are also great cards that become even better when discounted by 2 mana, Loping Telescope, Grandfather Fae, Assistant Librarian, Blastcone Seedling, AND all the new Fae Attach units like Quick Quill, Rainbowfish, Yuumi, etc…
If you thought Bandle City decks swarm the board pretty fast, wait till you witness the crazy Gleaming Lantern combos where they play their whole hand for free with multiple copies of Lantern and all that on turn 4-5. Spellshield on the Hungry Owlcats and the ability to have a guaranteed 6 wide attack + Yordles in Arms mid game is obnoxious.
Now the problem isn’t just Gleaming Lanternn’s effect but a 3 mana 3|3 is just too good of a statline for a follower with that effect. Lantern is a backrow unit that can safely attack and block to take value trades thanks to its premium early body.
Gleaming Lantern is mostly played in fast decks with Demacia Yordles in Arms or PnZ so reducing the attack of Lantern to 2 makes it a lot less able to take good trades and sometimes even not be able to attack which is what you’d expect from a backrow value unit.
10. Yordle Contraption
Yordle Contraption is the other buff to Bandle City that I decided to feature in this list. It’s a 5 mana slow landmark destruction card that can also generate 2 random multi-region followers.
5 mana is very expensive for landmark removal, compare this card to Scorched Earth in Noxus or Aftershock in PnZ both do a great job at being good cards already with the option of being landmark removal which is great design.
This card however doesn’t seem very balanced, there’s no reason to run this 5 mana Slow spell in any deck, if you’re looking to get 2 cards, Hidden Pathways is 4 mana Burst speed draw 2 in the same region already, and paying 5 mana to remove 1 Landmark is never worth it even against Landmark decks.
Most of the playable good Landmarks are around 2 to 3 mana anyway and trading down 2 mana on them isn’t ideal.
The interesting part is that even at 4 mana this card wouldn’t see play in any sort of deck at the moment. At 3 mana, however, it becomes a consideration in some slow Bandle City archetypes or even Bandle Tree.
3 mana get 2 cards seems strong on paper but when compared with 4 mana Whispered Words, 4 mana Salvage, and 4 mana Hidden Pathways, it being slow matters in combat spots where you’re looking for an answer like during open attacks. But apart from that, getting 2 random cards from the multi-region followers pool is very different from 2 cards from your deck. The multi-region pool isn’t that strong and can be easily played around.
This is why I believe 3 mana would be the perfect way to balance Yordle Contraption.
I hope you guys enjoyed this list of changes/redesigns. It’s much longer than my usual article lengths but I loved thinking about game design, figuring out what would work best, and the whole process behind it.
I’m planning to have at least 10 changes for every single other region in the game with some spicy reworks to popular champs like Katarina and Leblanc!
Feel free to DM me on Twitter if you have any questions or just want to talk about LoR stuff!