Legends of Runeterra was the first of Riot Games’ new announcements to make it out to the public, though its Preview Patch period lasted only long enough to generate a ton of hype and access envy before disappearing. It will be back, of course – its roadmap promises a late November return to include our first glimpse of how its Hearthstone-esque Arena equivalent will work.
But long before then, it will be a good idea for the lucky few that got into the game’s first Preview Patch, and the many others soon to join them, to reacquaint themselves with the six factions and over 24 champions represented in the brand-new game.
It’s hard to imagine anything more brutal than 10 points of raw bone-breaking damage punching through a Follower barely hanging on with just one point of health left. Granted, getting there takes some work. A 6/5 Darius is hardly game-changing for the cost required to get him on the field, so your early game should involve doing as much damage to the enemy Nexus as possible.
Noxian cards like Legion Rearguard and Crimson Disciple are already good at establishing a fast early tempo, though you might also want to ally yourself with Piltover & Zaun or Ionian cards with Elusive. Both factions also have spells that can give Darius the Elusive perk as well, making it so that only other Elusive characters can block him (and most of them only have 2-3 points of health to contend against his Overwhelm).
Though not as overwhelmingly brutal as his brother, Draven’s Quick Attack and Spinning Axes makes mincemeat of most of the opposition… so long as he’s the one attacking, of course. But with Spinning Axes also demanding another card from hand, it’s apparent that most of Draven’s shows are actually meant for a Zaunite audience, where cards like Jury-Rig and Flame Chompers can turn a setback into more threats on the board.
If it’s assassinations you need, Katarina’s your go-to girl. Her Quick Attack ability helps trigger her level up mechanic before she can take any damage, making it hard to counter or punish her for showing up. Once evolved, she forcefully takes control of the tempo too, allowing you to take two attack phases back to back.
Naturally, assassins and ninjas overlap, and Katarina finds a lot of worthwhile allies in Ionia as well. Fae Bladetwirler, in particular, gains a lot from a partnership with the Noxus assassin.
Strictly speaking, the Hemomancer isn’t a classical vampire, in that he doesn’t have Lifesteal or gain any strength from sapping the health of others. He does, however, delight in seeing others bleed – and a good chunk of Noxus cards deal with his erstwhile followers, all of whom gain some sort of ability by taking on wounds or causing others to do so.
Interestingly, this means Vladimir should pretty much always be played with Freljordian allies. The warrior-clans of the frozen north dig scars, and gain incredible strength from taking a love-tap even from allies. And though their demeanor might seem like platonic opposites, Vladimir and other such cards make it easier to turn Braum into a giant slab of Poro-summoning beef.
The nice thing about Lux’s leveling requirement is that big spells are fairly easy to play in Legends of Runeterra. Thanks to the game’s spells-only mana reservoir mechanic, you can get a beefy six-mana spell as early as turn three just by playing it slow for a bit and letting it charge up. You might not be able to play Lux that soon, of course, but spellslinging is implicitly encouraged by the game’s fundamental mechanics.
Of course, it then matters what spells you’re pulling out to trigger her evolution into a Final Spark-blasting siege cannon. And the answer to that’s probably Ionia. No regions are short on spells, but a lot of regions are short on ways to keep Lux alive long enough to reap her Sparks after her initial Barrier fades. Ionia, on the other hand, offers complementary Barrier spells to support the ones she gets from her native region – and, importantly, has the only true counterspell in the game in Deny, stifling your opponent’s targeted kill spells.
If Darius is one brutal swing to end the game, Garen is the jackhammer that repeatedly pulverizes any attempts at defending. His Regeneration passive makes him incredibly resilient in combat, and the ability to just keep hammering away turn after turn with multiple attack-readying cards is incredibly hard for the opposing player to recover from.
As befitting lore, Garen is pretty well-sustained just by staying within his own Demacian faction. But he does have potential alliances. Ionian support cards are good in general, and being able to outright counter kill spells, or blunt them with heals, makes a Garen-centric strategy that much more reliable. But he also does well with Noxus cards – either with a Katarina alliance to keep attack phases going, or with Vladimir’s Crimson cronies to take full advantage of his Regeneration.
As the only card so far with an alternate win condition, Fiora draws in the sort of player more intrigued by opportunities to break the game than to play it in a straightforward manner. And true, there is at least one instant-win combo with Fiora: if you can land Judgment on her while there are four weakened targets on the field, there’s little else to do but pick up your winnings for the round.
You’re hardly guaranteed to get there just by having the relevant cards in deck, of course. But as a standalone champion, Fiora doesn’t make it especially challenging for her player to set up wins anyhow. Her Challenger keyword is deceptively powerful, letting you pick only the best outcomes for her, while her own Demacian faction already has a ton of ways to keep her safe with Barriers. You can further augment this with either Ionian support spells (and more barriers), or go Freljord instead with Frostbite effects to cheat her way through the toughest opponents – and, amusingly, feed her rabbits via Stalking Wolf. Those count towards her win condition too!
You don’t play Lucian without Senna, and you definitely don’t play Senna without Lucian. The husband/wife duo have unique triggers in Legends of Runeterra that apply if the other one dies – punishing the opponent with superpowered avenger versions of themselves in the aftermath.
Of course, by themselves, they’re “just” relatively expensive 3/2 Quick Attack offensive units. While a strong enough tool in the midgame, there are better cards for their mana costs in pretty much all factions – unless, of course, you take control of their demise into your own hands. The greatest irony, then, is that Lucian and Senna are both strongest when paired with the Shadow Isle faction – the same ones they hunt down in the lore. Resurrective and ally-sacrificing abilities maximize their combat potential, including their exclusive Double Attack keyword, and the Shadow Isles are the only faction that allows the player to deliberately chain sacrifices and revivals in such a way that both of them are empowered.