Legends of Runeterra Fundamentals: Mana Advantage
Mana advantage and reactivity is an extremely important concept in Legends of Runeterra; so much so that they’re two of the most important things that new players learn.
But there’s a lot more depth to these topics than people are aware of, and mastering them is probably the single biggest step you can take towards mastery of the game.
So, today, we (Swim and Precipic) are going to be breaking down this concept, and how it is the underpinning of every single advantage and strategy in the game.
If you want to dive deeper into this topic, check out the companion video below!
The first principle here is the stack. When two spells or skills vie for dominance over the stack, the one that was cast later is the one that resolves first, giving a gigantic advantage to reactivity.
It truly cannot be understated how big of an advantage this is.
Take, for example, a very common scenario, a fight between Glimpse Beyond (the card), and Vile Feast.
If the Vile Feast is cast first, and Glimpse Beyond comes down as a counter to it, the vile feast player is down, not just a card, not just 2 mana, but even on top of that giving the Glimpse player the ability to get their draws safely (if Vile Feast is never cast there, Glimpse can’t be safely casted either).
And of course, if the Glimpse is cast first in this action, then the Vile Feast player gets all of those advantages when their counter comes down.
We’re not exaggerating when we say that the difference between 3 cards in hand and 2 mana (when Glimpse gets countered) will more often than not decide the entire outcome of the game.
This is just one of many examples of how reactivity is king in LoR, and how forcing the opponent to act first, in many different ways, is the single biggest key to winning any of your games.
In this article, we will go through the most powerful tools that exist to gain these powerful mana advantages on your opponent, and then at the end, we will go through various ways that you can capitalize on a mana advantage and come back from a mana disadvantage.
As a control deck with slow finishers we will go through what Open Passing does for you and why it provides you such a powerful advantage over your opponent.
As a midrange deck we will go through why you should utilize Mid Game Passing. We will go through why different types of finishers inform their ability to burn mana.
For an aggro deck, we will go through why you want to Open Attack and why you would want to Bank Spell Mana.
Lastly, we will go through the ways strategies have to capitalize on mana advantages and come back from mana disadvantages.
Open Pass with Avalanche/Ruination
By preserving the option of Ruination or Avalanche or any other scary tool to punish spending one’s mana you are effectively limiting how much mana is allowed to be spent on a turn.
Regardless of whether or not you have that option in hand, you are still making your opponents play much much worse because of this.
People tend to view “bluffing” as implying to your opponent a specific card, but it’s actually the opposite, it’s not about specificity, it’s about keeping your options (mana) as high as possible while showing the opponent that.
So don’t think about it like you’re intentionally bluffing Ruination per se, but you’re keeping enough mana that, regardless of your hand, your opponent has to play around everything. Which sucks for them.
Mid Game Passing with Multiple Control Options
In addition to concealing your own hand information from the opponent, with a deck with versatile control options like Ezreal Draven, letting them spend their mana first gives you maximum information to best spend your own for the turn.
This lets you decide whether you want to Mystic Shot, Thermo Beam, Statikk Shock, Tri-Beam, etc.
Some control decks need to spend more mana on earlier turns to enable their win conditions than others. Take Lee Sin combo as an example.
This deck actively NEEDS to utilize all of its spells to set up its win condition or the deck basically can’t function.
Deck code: CEBAMAYJBENSGKJTLQBQEAQDAYEQIAQDBEUFKAIDAIKACAQCAUAQCARRAIBAGCJKMIAQEAQI
However, a deck like Feel the Rush Control that has only 1 big bomb at the end doesn’t need to speed mana almost at all until it casts that 1 big spell that wins the game. So which deck is happier with both players burning equal mana?
The deck with 1 big finisher at the end is definitely happier. A term for this big finisher can be called setup-independent finisher because it requires almost 0 effort from you beforehand for it to win the game.
Examples of this setup-independent finisher include Feel The Rush or The Leviathan that isn’t conditional on anything that has happened prior in the game.
Compare this to a combo finisher like Lee Sin or even Twisted Fate Go Hard; in the matchup between Feel The Rush and Lee Sin, even though Lee Sin decks can normally play very reactively, the Lee Sin player will be forced to play first every single turn.
Why? Because Feel The Rush only requires 12 mana as a condition, whereas Lee Sin requires spending midgame mana to level up.
This is why with a hard control deck like Feel The Rush, almost every turn should start with a pass, forcing the opponent to play into you.
If the opponent has no fast or burst speed ways of interacting in combat you are essentially burning the entirety of the opponent’s mana for that combat step while preserving any sort of fast or burst speed option that you might have.
This can create a massive mana advantage in a lot of spots that can turn into wins.
Against an archetype like Targon Control/Midrange this can be completely game-breaking because of how many of their control tools exist at slow speed.
Whereas vs an archetype like Ionia control open attacking can be game losing because you aren’t developing your mana into your attack but they have a ton of fast speed answers to spend their mana on.
Banking Spell Mana Aggro
One of the things that separates LoR from other card games is the implementation of spell mana.
The fact that mana can be saved between rounds leads to much more reactive gameplay, even sometimes for aggressive archetypes.
As an aggro player in LoR, you need to be able to think outside the normal mainframe of pure proactivity and spending mana and attacking every single turn no matter what.
If your opponent takes a pass that leaves them particularly vulnerable, sometimes an otherwise weak attack can be skipped.
Commonly, if you’re against Feel the Rush on turn 3, they’ll have 6 banked mana and will pass into you, waiting for your attack. This either means Avalanche or a greedy Catalyst of Aeons.
If your board state rules out an Avalanche and you don’t have a particularly strong attack anyway, consider passing and burning their mana for Catalyst here, slowing down their own gameplan by a lot.
Even aggro can play reactive in this way sometimes. Also once you have access to fast speed lethal in hand you can really constrict your opponents plays by passing.
Just holding up double Noxian Fervor or Get Excited! in hand can basically fully prevent your opponent from casting spells for the rest of the game for fear of dying if they go below Grasp of the Undying, Withering Wail, or whatever other life gain spell mana they have access to.
Now you’re ahead on mana, how do you capitalize?
At some point in the game, you need to make use of the various advantages that you’ve accrued in the game. One of the most obvious examples of this is Fiora OTK.
With Fiora, if you are able to keep your unit alive through any of your opponents disruption options, the game is simply won.
Deck code: CEBQMAYJBEJSQKJTKUAQGAAOAMAQAEI2FUBAIAIAAMGRKJIBAMESGAA
The deck is built to have as much optionality as you have mana advantage, so you’ll have complete inevitability that scales with mana advantage.
The deck works like this: wait to play your permanent threats Fiora, or her permanent buffs) until you can save enough mana to protect it on the same turn.
Then pass to replenish your mana and burn your opponent’s, develop another permanent buff, then pass again. These permanent buffs basically cheat mana into subsequent turns, while locking down the opponent’s gameplan, forcing them to burn even more mana.
Eventually, when your Fiora is big enough, they’ll have to act first, without a mana advantage, and your high mana and reactive hand will at that point turn into an immediate win.
So in summary, you get the game to a place where you have an answer to anything the opponent can do that would stop you from winning and you have all the mana to cast these answers and from there winning becomes trivial.
Strategies that catch you up on mana
There are quite a few ways to come back from very disadvantaged spots in the game.
It’s hard to go through exactly why each of them are so good at catching you up on mana but a good thought experiment for you is to think why each of these is a good catchup tool.
The first class is powerful combat tricks such as Troll Chant, Ranger’s Resolve, and Hush.
The next category is the most efficient removal, these include Ravenous Flock, Tri-beam Improbulator, board clears (Ruination/Avalanche/Pack Your Bags/ETC, and Challengers).
The next category is over the top win cons such as Feel the Rush, Harrowing, Decimate/other big burn spells, and Lee Sin,
After that are cards that negate subsets of cards like Big Blockers, Fiora, Lifegain, Elusives, and Fearsomes.
Last of all, the best way to catch up in a game that you are behind in is to hope your opponent is incredibly unlucky and has a bad hand. Try to think about ways that they can catch you up in a game and then think about it from the perspective of mana advantage why they are able to catch you up.
What advantages are you negating and how are these allowing you to trade up on resources?
Overall, the idea we’re trying to convey with all these examples is this: it’s all about shifting your mindset to think about the game from less of a value-based perspective, and more about the complex interweaving of actions, and how to force the opponent into limited options.
This article is less about showing a bunch of examples, and more about changing the way you see the game on a fundamental level.
Learn to see the game through the lens of mana exchanges and forced reactivity, and you’ll see results in your games skyrocket.
Thanks for reading! If you have any questions, feel free to ask Swim during his streams (10AM-6PM PDT).