LoR’s Current Issues with a Dominating Meta

LoR’s Current Issues with a Dominating Meta

My Thoughts on Domination’s Meta and Its Problems

Hey everyone, Kuvi here to talk a bit about the most recent expansion, Domination, why it has some problems, discuss some solutions, and what can be done moving forward.

To begin, it’s important to understand exactly what Riot is trying to do with new expansions: create a new wave of hype and interest around Legends of Runeterra, make the game feel fresh and exciting, and create new puzzles to solve in the forms of a new meta, new decks, and new things to do.

Creeping Power

In order to do this, the average power level of the new cards must be higher than that of the existing cards. After all, only the best existing cards see play, so if the new cards should see play they have to be as good or better. This is the age-old problem of power creep in card games, which is the concept that as more new cards are released old cards get pushed out because they’re slightly weaker.

Power creep is a controversial topic because engaging in it too frequently causes old and existing cards to become useless in comparison to new cards.

Card games fundamentally revolve around player choice; the ability for players to play and build how they want. Because of this people often become attached to certain cards and decks, and when those decks become old and fall to power creep some friction is created between the game and the player.

level 2 seraphine splash

In Legends of Runeterra people are attached to Champions even more than normal cards or decks, so when certain Champions become especially weak the people that love them are even more upset, which makes the power creep balance even more tenuous.

To some extent, power creep is necessary because new expansions are meant to shake the game up and cards have to be on the stronger side to do that. However, when too many cards are too strong or certain cards are so much stronger than existing ones, the gap between the old and the new grows and causes problems.

Old cards and decks become obsolete, and new cards and decks feel less like new options and more like new requirements. This creates the feeling that you’re making a mistake or are wrong for not playing them, taking something that’s supposed to be fresh and fun and making it a chore, and going against player choice.

True Domination

Looking at how the Domination expansion has impacted Legends of Runeterra, the power creep has gone too far. Much of the PnZ Seraphine package and Vayne specifically have dominated the game and pushed out existing cards and decks since their release.

The game has been warped around the power of these cards to an unhealthy degree, to the point where playing PnZ or Demacia without them feels wrong as if one is purposefully giving yourself a disadvantage if you do so.

This is clearly reflected in the metadata, as the most popular PnZ decks in the expansion are Ezreal Seraphine, Viktor Seraphine with SI, Viktor Seraphine with Ionia, Karma Seraphine, and Akshan Seraphine.

Since Domination’s release, there hasn’t been a PnZ deck with over a 1% playrate that doesn’t have Seraphine, Drum Solo, and Fanclub President in it!

seraphine level 1

Vayne is a bit different than Seraphine, as her power level alone is pushed rather than her entire archetype. However, just like with Seraphine, playing Demacia without Vayne feels wrong to do and the data reflects as much.

vayne level 1

The most popular Demacia decks since the expansion release have been Rumble Vayne, Gwen Vayne, Zed Vayne, Pantheon Vayne, and now Jax Vayne. Even beyond that, there’s Kayn Vayne, Kai’Sa Vayne, Fiora Vayne and even Ornn Vayne. To see a Demacia deck without Vayne you have to go to the 11th most popular Demacia deck of the expansion!

This extent of power creep doesn’t only just push out existing cards and decks, it also pushes out new cards that aren’t on the same level, such as Varus or even Kayn, who isn’t new to this expansion, but has received a plethora of new Cultist support regardless.

varus level 1 lor card

Vayne and Seraphine are overshadowing these new Champions and permanently stifling their growth. A Champion’s release brings with it a spotlight where it receives more attention and experimentation, but if a Champion is overshadowed during this time it misses this opportunity for growth.

In the future, if these Champions are no longer outclassed, players will not be as excited to try new things with them because they’ve lost their new appeal, something that can never be regained.

Equipment Required

Equipment is a perfect example of further removing player choice. As new cards are released, existing decks are often forced to adapt by removing some old cards and adding some new.

When new cards are too powerful, this doesn’t feel like a choice, but only the correct decision. Forcing some amount of change isn’t necessarily bad, but it can feel bad when the changes move a deck away from it’s synergy with cards that are just generally better. Every time this happens to a deck it loses some of its identity.

For example, building a deck in Ionia or Noxus can feel like it has 37 deck slots rather than 40 because every deck in those regions should play 3 Ionian Hookmasters for no other reason than it’s a good card.

If you were to make a deck in these regions without it that deck would almost certainly be worse than if it was included. In order for a player to maintain their agency and play how they want not only do they have to play worse decks, but they also have to play worse cards in those decks.

Moving Forward

There have been attempts at alleviating these problems through balance patches that have contained more nerfs, slowing the pace of the game down and giving weaker, outdated decks a chance. However, this can’t work if new expansions release with even stronger, faster cards than the ones that were just nerfed!

New cards should be powerful, but they should feel like an option the player has to have fun with, not a toy they have to play with or they lose. When these choices become requirements they betray the player and the attachment each has to decks, cards, and Champions.

Managing the necessity for power creep with an existing card pool is a balancing act, literally. It needs to be addressed when it gets out of hand. How things will land in a live environment can never truly be predicted, so it’s up to the devs to make up for it when they inevitably get it wrong.

We need a healthy balance of new and old, where players feel empowered to play the decks and Champions they love rather than only the ones Riot releases. This is not an easy problem to solve, I have no doubt Riot is trying its best, and I hope they manage to find the best solution for everyone.