The Beginner’s Guide to F2P Legends of Runeterra
As expansions launch and patches release, we’re all at the edge of our seats just ready to jump in!
Our card pool grows deeper as we dive in to explore the new possibilities that await us. But what about the players who are just getting their feet wet?
It’s Trevor “Shugo” Yung here and today we’re going back to the beginning. While many of us have been around since the Beta days, we can’t forget those who are just starting their first chapter.
My goal is to make the first few pages as easy as possible, so if you know anyone who’s about to begin (especially with the launch of Arcane), allow me to be their guide.
If you’re the newbie yourself, welcome!
Before we set foot into the game itself, we need to establish some guidelines. I am writing under the assumption of a free-to-play player. Legends of Runeterra is a game where this is extremely feasible.
Over time you will be able to earn a complete collection, and this guide is intended to create a fun and balanced experience.
Note: If you’d like to spend some money to support the game, go for it! Just know that part of this guide will be less relevant to you.
The key question to ask yourself is what type of experience you’re looking to receive.
- Do you want to experience the card pool as a whole, or are you most interested in a specific deck or two?
- Are you more focused on climbing the ladder or building a diverse collection?
- Which do you value more, easier progression or immediate discovery?
There are no right or wrong answers here. As you’d expect, since we have limited starting resources, we need to be mindful of how we use them.
While it can be fun to quickly spend our shards and wildcards on new deck ideas, if your goal is to play competitively and progress faster, that may not be the right decision.
On the other hand, if you love experimenting with wacky concepts and having fun regardless of whether you win or lose, craft to your heart’s content!
As we open the game for the first time and play through the Prologue, we immediately begin to unlock a ton of free cards.
Within these pre-constructed starter decks pack a whopping 27 champions for our collection!
The majority of these are duplicates which makes us only one copy short of a complete playset.
If you’re ever looking at decklists to get you started, finding ones that include these champions can be a great shortcut, though not a necessity.
Here’s a list of all the starter champions.
2 copies of Braum
2 copies of Darius
2 copies of Elise
1 copy of Garen
2 copies of Jinx
2 copies of Leona
2 copies of Lucian
1 copy of Lux
2 copies of Miss Fortune
2 copies of Soraka
2 copies of Swain
1 copy of Tryndamere
2 copies of Vi
2 copies of Yasuo
2 copies of Zed
Getting Started & Region Rewards
Once you’ve completed the Prologue you’re free to queue up any game mode. In the beginning, you can play anything. Whether you choose one of the preconstructed decks or put together something from scratch, you’ll typically meet others doing the same.
This can change as you approach further into Ranked, but overall the goal is to simply play the game. The more games we get in, the more experience we earn. Then soon after we’ll unlock more cards and can quickly upgrade.
A good strategy is to progress a region road until you reach level four, then switch to another region and repeat. Upon reaching this milestone you’ll unlock a Wild Capsule that gives you five wildcards; four commons and one rare.
There’s always a chance for an upgrade too, but even without, the five wildcards provide an incredible boost to your collection. This is the best way to work towards crafting your first budget deck as most of what you’ll need is just commons and rares.
Once you’ve progressed every region to level four, feel free to return to whichever region most interests you.
The path of progression is a smooth process, but when it comes to Constructed, you will have to make do with what you got during the beginning. Thankfully there are some other game modes that even the playing field.
Labs & Challenges
Challenges are a good way to grab some quick easy experience while learning the mechanics of the game. These are aimed at new players and can especially benefit those without prior card game experience.
Labs are an exciting mode that takes the player on a whole new venture. Throw the rules out the window because just about anything goes when it comes to Labs. It’s a great way to experience the game through a new lens, and there’s so much replayability when it comes to the PvE modes. Labs are also a great way to complete daily quests, as some can be difficult with a small collection.
As of November 10th, Riot has launched a major PvE expansion called The Path of Champions! This is a fully-fledged PvE experience beyond everything we’ve seen thus far. You’ll be able to choose a champion and their premade deck to journey through an expansive map with wild encounters!
It’s also absolutely free, and readily available during or after the tutorial! While the encounters won’t exactly match a PvP standard, it’s a fantastic way to learn the game uniquely and familiarize yourself with the mechanics.
Do note that you’re required to own at least two copies of the champion you wish to play. Although for starters, we’ve already got Jinx, Vi, Yasuo, Zed, and Miss Fortune! Don’t underestimate the amount of content that is. Each champion can be selected multiple times to progress and advance its reputation level. By the time you’ve experienced it all, you’ll likely be able to start crafting the others!
Quite possibly the best way to build a collection is by playing through Expeditions. Expeditions are Runeterra’s version of “limited” and are a great way to play since the cards you use don’t come from your collection. Each Expedition costs either one token or 2000 shards, but the good news is each entry grants you two attempts at reaching the seven-win reward.
The rewards you receive will vary greatly depending on your performance. At a baseline, every Expedition will give you at least one Epic Capsule or better, even with zero losses. To craft an Epic card costs 1200 shards, so we’re not too far off the value here. However, we want to be averaging at least five wins to truly get our money’s worth.
The amount of experience we earn is also dependent on our win record, and this is the true benefit to progressing with Expeditions. While our wildcard and shard rewards only count our highest score, we do get the full EXP benefit of each run.
Only the first three full Expeditions each week will contain card rewards. On the flipside, after those three we can play more Expeditions without entry cost, and still gain experience!
If you find yourself struggling with Expeditions it may be worth only using tokens for entry. While the “card for shard” value is worth the gamble, what could be more wise is using the 2000 shards to craft the cards you need. You’re only ever fully refunded if you reach seven wins, and the other rewards received will be randomized. So sometimes it’s best to just put them towards Constructed.
Note: If you’d like to see a direct draft breakdown, you can check out my recent guide, How to Build Your Expedition Deck!
One amazing thing about Runeterra is that every week we have something to look forward to. The Vault is a system that graciously rewards you just for playing the game. If you complete most of your daily quests each week you’ll end up with at least a level 10 vault, which is the precise way to earn a guaranteed champion wildcard!
Within your first week of playing you’ll also have access to bonus login rewards. You’ll acquire a bunch of free cards and chests along the way, but more importantly a random free champion on Day 5, and two copies of Ashe on Day 7!
By this point, if you’ve been playing regularly your collection will start to open up a lot more. After a handful of Expeditions and further region reward progress, it’s even possible to create a 100% complete competitive deck; champions and all! While you may not have the freedom to build absolutely everything, you should see more doors opening up around you.
Crafting for Constructed
When it comes to crafting for Constructed we often wonder what’s worth investing in? After all, we’ve earned those shards and wildcards. If we’re gonna spend them, we don’t want to regret it later.
Prioritize crafting the cheap core cards for each region. Here’s a really good list of staple cards that regularly see play.
As you can see, the majority of these are commons and rares. These are the building blocks of the game. You can also focus on the particular regions you’re aiming towards and skip the rest. This is a fantastic way to get the essentials without breaking the bank. Then you can fill in the gaps as you craft and put together the rest of the deck you want to build.
Honestly, Runeterra’s progression system is incredibly forgiving. If you want to dive into some crazy Meme concept, by all means, go for it! It doesn’t take long to earn more cards. However, I would generally advise working towards at least one reliable archetype first. It’ll be a lot easier to gain experience when you can win more reliably.
Lastly, here’s a way to build something reasonably competitive with little cost.
I know, I know, I’ve already gone all the way around and back talking about Bandle Burn. But hear me out because it makes for a good example.
Deck code: CEBQQBIKA4UTCRKJOSRQDJQBAMAQGAQMFABAEAYDAQAACAIBAM3Q
The common list is made up of 22 commons, 9 rares, 3 epics, and 6 champions. While Poppy is a key component, Ziggs is just a follower, and the rest of the deck is strong enough at its core to be a true threat. So let’s make some adjustments.
In exchange for Ziggs, we have Iron Ballista, and instead of Poppy, we can add Tenor of Terror. We can also trim 1-2 of these additions and add a surprise trick such as Elixir of Wrath or Brothers’ Bond. The surprise factor is real when it comes to Ranked, so having a few differences from the stock list can work to your benefit!
Overall we do lose the powerhouse that is Poppy but still retain an insanely consistent bunch of Yordles that’ll make quick work of an unprepared opponent. The cost? Mostly just some common and rare wildcards that are well spent on commonly played units.
We’ve seen similar examples in the past with decks like Spider Aggro or old PnZ/Noxus Burn, and even now we have new options that fit the bill.
Well, that about wraps up my introduction to Runeterra. When it comes to any game, the New Player Experience can often be the most enjoyable time of all.
However, sometimes it can feel overwhelming. If I’ve helped you through even the smallest of obstacles then I’m happy to have written this.
Shugo’s Productivity Thought of the Day
Do you act in alignment with the type of person you wish to be?
Oftentimes we’ll default to instinctive habits, even if such ways don’t match our intentions.
We can always be better. It all begins with awareness.
For more beginner guides, check out more articles designed for new players!