Legends of Runeterra Fundamentals: Tempo vs Card Advantage
Hey everyone, Rattlingbones here!
If you’re ever on my stream, you’ll likely hear me ramble on about how I like flexibility in a deck. By flexibility, I’m referring to the depth of the deck.
Can it push for damage when it needs to? Can it generate value by trading effectively? Does it have multiple win conditions? And, ultimately, does it let you play for tempo or card advantage effectively?
Understanding and capitalizing on these two key concepts is what separates the good players from the great ones. So let’s just dive right in!
- Playing for tempo means you’re utilizing your mana to develop or disrupt your opponent efficiently.
- Playing for card advantage means that you’re looking for a lot of 2 (or more) for 1 cards/spots.
In good CCG design, players will often have to sacrifice tempo to gain card advantage. A good example of a card that gains you card advantage would be Salvage; a 4 mana spell that lets you draw 2.
Playing the card essentially means that you have 4 mana less than your opponent to develop the board.
Utilizing the card incorrectly would allow your opponent to out-tempo you and slowly squeeze a win.
Playing it in the correct spot, however, gives you 2 extra cards to find what you need to finish the game!
Identifying the ideal spot of the game to play cards like Salvage will often be the difference between a win and a loss.
First and foremost, in Runeterra, we can’t simply play every single card we have in our hand on the first turn. You have to keep in mind that:
- Units and spells cost mana
- We have a limited amount of mana that can be utilized each turn
- Mana will continuously increase by 1 per turn until we have 10
- We can store up to 3 mana for future spells
Context is everything so in the case of Salvage, let’s assume we’re playing it in a Swain/TF deck.
Deck code: CEBQIAQDAEDQQCIFAIDAICA2DUWQEAIDFY3QEAICAMBQEAQGDQTACAIBAMLA
The earliest that we could play this card is on turn 3. We can save 1 or more mana from the previous two turns to do so but at cost.
We’re allowing our opponent to develop their board in the earlier stages of the game and in turn, out-tempo us. So naturally, playing a card like Salvage isn’t ideal on turn 3.
During the mid stages of the game (turn 4-7) is where we have the possibility of squeezing it in:
1. We play House Spiders and Petty Officers. Both of these cards enable us to play for tempo while gaining card advantage!
2. We have great stabilizers; cards like Flock which are super-efficient at removing threats after we chump block or TF Red/Gold cards.
3. We also have cards like Arachnoid Sentry that can swing tempo in our favor.
4. Lastly, we also have big threats like Swain and alongside the early tempo which we could have gained.
This is where it gets difficult. We have several lines (plays) we can take and each one can have a positive or negative impact.
Identifying the exact timing or turn to play Salvage during the mid-stages of the game can close you the game. It’s the difference between finding and playing a Leviathan or Rex on 8.
In the later stages of the game (turns 8-10), identifying exact timings matters less. Given that we’re often on 8+ mana, a card like Salvage that can give you card advantage has GREAT value.
You really can’t go wrong playing this card in the later stages of the game once you’ve exhausted your late game plays.
This concept is really difficult to discuss and explain because it’s often situational. That being said, we can come up with a quick and easy cheat sheet!
If you and your opponent are playing fast decks…
Playing for tempo is the correct play 99% of the time.
If you and your opponent playing control decks…
While early tempo plays can help transition to a smoother late game, playing for card advantage is the correct play 90% of the time.
If you’re playing control against a fast deck…
You have to squeeze out card advantage while preventing your opponent from gaining too much tempo.
If you’re playing a fast deck against a control deck…
You will need to play for tempo and force the control player to play at the same pace. Given that their deck isn’t built to do this, they’ll often have situations where they have to play off-tempo giving the faster deck an edge.
At the highest level of play where optimal card choices/plays are determined during the mulligans, players will know exactly when they can play for tempo and card advantage in order to squeeze out a win. It really is a fundamental skill and one that’s imperative to the greatest of players.
Thanks for reading! If you have any questions, feel free to ask Rattlingbones during his streams (every weeknight @9PM EST).