How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Burn
I know I’ve been beating this old drum for more than a year now, but I thought maybe if I put some more detailed thought into it then maybe the rhythm will finally get through.
Welcome everyone, I’m Jordan “WhatAmI” Abronson, and today I want to talk about Runeterra’s, and perhaps card games, in general, most controversial topic, aggro decks.
Let’s dive in.
The Debate Begins
This all starts at the beginning where someone plays against a deck that simply wants to kill them and successfully executes that strategy.
Then they say, “Wow, what a braindead game that was, my five-year-old could have beat me there.” After that everyone piles on so quickly that all we need to do is shoot Franz Ferdinand and we could kick off World War Two all over again.
But why this reaction to something that is clearly operating under one of the most important tenants of the game?
It’s right there in the loading screen hints, reduce your opponent’s Nexus to zero. Boom, did it, victory.
Well, to explain, and hopefully to prove that if I am taking a side here it is the side of “This is quite silly and you should all quit it,” let me reveal the other side of the coin.
A little-known but important secret I’ll share, there are plenty of people who think control decks are way worse than aggro.
Wait, do we hate everyone now?
Well, kind of. Does anybody remember the patches when Braum, Lissandra, Anivia, or Trundle were at the height of their power?
How absolutely soul-crushing it could feel to realize that no matter what you did you were always running into something or other and there was no hope?
How about all those angered cries of “How easy is it to play these zero-head control decks, just remove everything in play and bother to find a win condition later?”
Because for all y’all out there who are new to Runeterra, or have short memories, I remember those days.
So if depending on what is strong the community has turned the flame of hate on aggro or control then what can you play and not be called names for it? Midrange or combo perhaps?
Those definitely have high skill caps and everyone has to recognize that right? Nah, that would be almost illegally reasonable.
At the heights of their domination, Nasus, and more recently Nami, have been railed as being moronic decks where all you need to do is slam your cards down one after the other and watch your opponent fold under the oppressive power.
Is it just power level then?
That is definitely the pattern that we are starting to see, but we’re not quite to the meat of the issue just yet.
I think if we say something as simple as “people hate whatever decks are the strongest and will insult those who play them,” we won’t necessarily be wrong but we will be addressing a symptom rather than the problem.
Because if it were just that then we would see all types of deck suffer lambasting equally based on whoever was at the top just now.
And this clearly isn’t so, no matter who else is crushing the competition, aggro will always also get its share of hate.
We saw this during the TF/Fizz meta where the only real answer to the juggernaut was to embrace the burning spidery goodness.
Even at that moment, the players who accepted this and adapted were still targeted by the slings and arrows of their fellow Runeterrans.
So then what is it?
Where is the fun?
It sounds so simple but it gets overlooked. This game we all love and enjoy playing together? It’s a game.
As in it is primarily there for people to have fun with. And win or lose people have more fun when they get to do what they built their deck to do.
Then when their opponent won’t let them do that, whether by shutting it down at every moment or simply killing them on turn five, that triggers an emotional response and they want to think badly of that opponent.
Then the name-calling and deck shaming begins and it’s all downhill from there.
So if what’s really going on here is a subjective emotional response to being denied access to what we want, and the data does seem to bear that out, then maybe trying to hurt people who are just playing their fun version of the game might not be the answer.
A controversial opinion I know, but there it is.
“But wait Jordan,” you might say, “What data? All we’ve talked about so far is some history of the game and your subjective takes on why said history has occurred. That’s not data.”
Well, I think that’s arguable, it’s just qualitative data rather than quantitative. But if you want to drill in to the hard math of it, I can prove my point there too. The base argument here is “Aggro decks take less skill to pilot than other types of decks.” That gets expanded to attacking aggro players, but maybe if I can dismantle the beginning, we can stop the end.
How would we do that though? What could you do to prove what decks have higher skill caps than others? Isn’t that all just subjective too? Luckily for me, my points, and this article, the answer to that question is no, not in the least.
The best way I’ve found to determine deck play skills is as follows.
Compare the average win rate of the deck when piloted by masters players, to the average win rate of the deck when piloted by its top players with sufficient sample size. The difference between those two percentages is what I like to call the skill gap.
Luckily for me, someone did a whole bunch of comparisons on the top meta decks in the last month or two.
They focused in specifically on identifying those win percentages and skill gaps using all the ladder data they could find. And at the end of all that, you know what the numbers say the highest skill gap deck is?
It’s not the Lee Sin combo, with all its intricate spells and interactions.
Not Feel the Rush control, trying to find the optimal passes and lines to lock down the game. It’s not even Sion midrange, making every synergy point work in its favor till it overwhelms you with value and power.
Nope, the deck with the highest skill gap is good old Lulu Zed, dropping their units onto the board one at a time. Throwing those buffs down, rallying away, and destroying their opponent’s nexus. It kind of makes you think, huh?
I know that no matter what I say there will always be toxicity out in the world. People are going to find whatever reasons they want to champion their pet causes or hate what they want to hate.
All I can really hope for is that if I debunk some of the more commonly held toxic beliefs that the community I love can try to come together just a little bit more instead of tearing each other down.
And hey, for all y’all who come to these articles for competitive tips and don’t really care about the moral aspect or any of that silliness, here’s a parting thought for you too.
There are plenty of metagames where aggro is an extremely powerful call and gets overlooked by otherwise top-level players because they feel they would be lowering themselves to design to play it.
That’s a huge hole in any player’s competitive ability if swaths of the game are barred to them but not their opponent’s, eh?
Thanks for reading! If you have any questions, feel free to ask WhatAmI during his streams (around 10AM PST basically every day).