In Legends of Runeterra you build a deck using a variety of factions, picking and choosing cards as well as champions to build a cross-faction synergy. In this sense, Runeterra is quite an adept deck builder, but despite the huge quantity of cards, it’s easy to understand because most of the synergies are based around your champions. It’s the name of the game: these ‘Legends’ of Runeterra are what make this a champion-led deck builder, and gives it a powerful flavour.
Once you have your deck, you’ll face off against an opponent, with alternating turns of attack and defence, drawing another card every turn. The goal is to reduce the enemy nexus to zero, which you can accomplish in a variety of ways, the best being attack. Any attack can be blocked (except Elusive units) but the long and the short of the game is to break through your opponent’s defence via spells, unit abilities, and downright trickery. But what makes Legends of Runeterra most special is its twist on the mana system.
Hearthstone popularised the mana-based system on mobile, where you play cards based on their cost, using a gradually increasing pool of mana. But in Hearthstone, mana often went to waste, you simply didn’t have a cost-appropriate card to play. Legends of Runeterra has found an elegant solution to this problem: instead of excess mana going in the trash, a limited amount goes into your spell pool, recycling the wasted potential into a new resource.
Spell mana is used to cast spells! powerful spells of all different varieties and casting speeds. Your spell mana accumulates up to three, allowing you to cast more potential magic per round without it eating in your base mana pool for playing units. But why would I want magic when I can play a unit, you ask? Magic can completely turn the tide in Legends of Runeterra.
You can cast spells can while you’re blocking, or when you’re attacking, allowing you to flip engagements entirely on their heads. At the same time, the opposing player can also cast spells, either denying yours or adding another effect to the mix. It’s a little like poker, in that you are bluffing what you have, but also raising the stakes with each spell you add.
With Runeterra’s attack and defence phases, and the fact you can keep playing units until you run out of mana, raising becomes a huge aspect of the game. Just like poker, most Runeterra matches I’ve played end with a single decisive face-off, where one player bets everything and is either proven right or wrong.
Some of the spell effects and card abilities are absurd in terms of their power, but every faction in Runeterra has crazy powerful abilities and spells like this. It’s all a consideration of cost. You may play a powerful spell with all of your mana, but if your opponent blocks it with another, cheaper spell, then you’re really in a bad spot. Legends of Runeterra is all about the mutual assurance that everyone is OP, and I kind of love that.
There are rewards, but in comparison to, say, Gwent, the experience gaps between them are massive. On top of this, you can’t scrap cards for currency, there is only one daily XP mission, and you earn nothing for ranking up competitively. The new weekly reward box can give you quite a lot, but mainly in terms of other cards, standard Riot.
You can, of course, buy champions, there are 35 champions altogether, that’s a lot of money for characters that you aren’t able to try before you buy them. I think that the least Legends of Runeterra could do, is adopt some kind of system that lets you try champions properly before you buy them, or even a subscription where you get a few new champions per week, that’s not a crazy concept, is it Riot?
It wouldn’t matter so much in any other deck-builder, but this is ‘Legends’ of Runeterra; the entire concept centres around using champions. You do get a set starting crop of champions, but they quickly wear out in terms of their effectiveness.
Legends of Runeterra is a great deck-builder, and I think as a play experience it is probably the best on mobile, whether in terms of production value, concept, variety, or the mind-boggling quantity of incredible concept art the game has. But you’re here for the long-haul, even for a deck-builder, and champions are hard to get, and the champions have always been the backbone of League of Legends.
Riot pls, where’s Skarner?