How to Deckbuild in Expeditions
When we look at the family of Runeterra modes, Ranked-Ladder is the precocious eldest child expected to do great things while Labs are the quirky youngins who gets the most attention.
This leaves Gauntlet and Normals as the two middle children who are really just doing their best.
However, there is one oft-forgotten mode that I think deserves a bit more spotlight.
I’m Jordan “WhatAmI” Abronson and today I’m here to talk about the crazy uncle to all of the rest of Runeterra, the Expedition.
The Four Expedition Deckbuilding Themes
When you brave the world of the Expedition you don’t get to bring your deck with you. Instead, you are building the thing from the ground up as you go.
While playing correctly and finding lines is certainly still an important part of the process, I would argue that deck construction is by the far the more challenging issue. This is for one simple reason. You have to play fair.
In every other game mode in Legends of Runeterra, the goal in making a deck generally is to do something as powerful and unfair as possible.
You know, calling in giant space dragons, obliterating opponent’s decks, attacking four times in the same turn, making boards full of hungry sea monsters, throwing gods of death at people’s heads, that sort of thing.
For all of those strategies to work reasonably consistently though you need lots of copies of the key cards and synergy cards that bring it all together. Here, you’re going to have to make do with what you get.
That means if you try to hyper-focus on one thing happening, you’ll end up with an inconsistent pile of nonsense.
What that means is that if you can’t have one thing happen all the time, you’re going to have to try to be better at the more general themes of Runeterra than your opponent. Effectively, almost everyone is a midrange deck.
For ease of use let’s call these themes tempo, card advantage, interactivity, and haymakers.
Every time you make a deck-selection choice you want to be trying to improve one of those themes while minimizing damage to the rest of them.
The synergies that fall outside those themes will generally not lead to increasing your winning chances due to the inconsistency of the format.
The most basic part of tempo is going to be your mana curve.
What mana curve means is that you generally want to have a small amount of very early game plays, a solid amount of mid-game plays, and then a smaller amount of very large cards to shake up late games.
When you plot the numbers of each mana-point play on a graph they will often make a pleasing curve.
Because your opponents won’t generally be able to be consistently aggressive, starting the curve on two is just fine. Don’t take this too far though.
If you miss your turn two or Azir-forbid your turn three play, it becomes very hard to claw back the tempo hole you will put yourself in.
For that reason, I would suggest trying to find at least six or so solid plays that you can make on turn two or earlier when making an Expedition deck.
After that tempo is about being ahead in terms of onboard mana and power against your opponent.
Cards that force good trades like Troll Chant or Brittle Steel are at a premium here.
Other good options include simply large-bodied units or Challenger/Vulnerable creatures.
2. Card Advantage
This one seems like a simple enough concept but it often gets overlooked because of how plentiful it is in constructed formats. Here even going plus one against your opponent is something to be happy about. Card advantage will not show up often and so is at an absolute premium.
Even someone unassuming like a Vanguard Redeemer can put in work when everything is about trading one for one and seeing who comes out on top.
Don’t go too overboard as it is still more important to make sure the cards you are advantaging-in-to are as powerful as possible, but given that you generally won’t even have that option default to taking any source of this theme you can find.
This is how you stop your opponent from doing whatever they want to do. In a constructed format interactivity is all over the place. Concerted Strikes, Avalanches, and Mystic shots are a dime a dozen. Here each one is precious.
Games in Expedition can easily turn on one unanswered value generation engine. When everything is grindy mirrors even an Arena Bookie can be enough to tip the scales. Grab these in creation when you can and be careful in-game when you use them, you probably won’t have many.
Conversely, if you have a few powerful threats then protection spells also fit here. Whether it’s an Elixir of Iron protecting an Ashe or a Twin Disciplines keeping that Zed alive if you’re the one with the pressure then interacting with your opponent’s interaction is even more powerful than interacting with their board.
These are the large lads that will end games on their own. Generally, they cost seven or more mana and you really don’t want more than one to three of them in a deck. If you can get a couple though they will make you much more confident as the game progresses.
I know that when everything is grinding to a halt having a spare Ledros or Howling Abyss somewhere in my back pocket makes me pretty happy to sit and wait. Take these very sparingly once you already have them to not clog your draws, but try to get at least one or two if you can.
Final Tips + Outliers
Anything that doesn’t look like it will help you in one of these four categories should generally be avoided. This is true to the point that I will often choose to take two mediocre cards over one good card and one bad card.
Sometimes a card can be so deck-warpingly powerful on its own that you have to take that Sejuani along with a Yeti-yearling. But most of the time I would rather just grab a Whirling Death and an Arena Bookie and call it a day.
All the advice I have given today is for the most statistically likely of scenarios. Of course, there will be some Expeditions where you are able to pick up nine one drops and just accidentally win on turn four or five for most of your games, or where you can find nothing but the removal and play a hardcore control deck.
The issue is that for each of those that actually exist there will be far more where you get halfway to that point and stop getting offered what you need. In those spots you will end up forced back onto the main path, only your deck will be crippled from the attempted deviation and victory will be much more difficult.
For those reasons, and because I am a being that likes to play by the numbers as much as possible when seeking victory, I would advise generally keeping to the theories I have outlined here today when setting forth. Whatever you do though I wish you the best of luck, and may the seventh match be ever in your favor.
Thanks for reading! If you have any questions, feel free to ask WhatAmI during his streams (around 10AM PST basically every day).