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.
Of the many forms of disruption and crowd control in Legends of Runeterra, Stuns might be among the weakest – though it’s otherwise a solid way to disrupt the pace that an opponent’s strongest units are beating down your Nexus’s health points, it doesn’t actually help you reduce the overall threat of their army. Yasuo, of course, doesn’t have this problem, turning every Stun on an enemy character into free damage so long as he’s on the board.
Of course, given that he needs to see a whopping six Stuns or Recalls land to trigger his level-up and really get to smacking around goons, his best bet is to ally with folks that can help him get to that point faster. He might not have many kind words to say for Noxians, but they do happen to have the best support suite for Yasuo: Legion General and Minotaur Reckoner to give him late-game synergies to play with, and a plethora of damage-dealing effects to keep the enemy forces at a manageable size.
Like a true support, Karma’s less of a central focus of a deck and more of an enabler for others. Though a decent mid-ranged unit by herself, her ability to generate a random free spell every turn doesn’t lead directly to any clear win condition. It does, however, enable others to meet theirs – Heimerdinger, in particular, welcomes any excuse to churn out more Turrets, while cards like Puffcap Peddler or Starlit Seer will also take any help they can get.
Though Demacia might take some exception at the more magical side of Ionia’s craft, their love for shields and barriers works quite naturally well with Shen. His ability to gift or refresh a character’s damage-resistant Barrier every attack is complementary to both Fiora’s win condition and Garen’s more generalized offense – but, really, it works with just about everybody that wants to swing in and deal damage.
He doesn’t need to go very far from home to be effective, though. The otherwise weak-looking Greenglade Caretaker gets a permanent attack bonus every time an ally gets a Barrier, including herself. With Shen’s help, this quickly becomes a big problem for the opposing player.
It’s probably only natural that a champion with the epithet “Master of Shadows” happens to find his most natural allies with the Shadow Isles, rather than closer to home. While there are some purely Ionian tools at his disposal, like Ghost or Death Mark, Zed is undoubtedly strongest when he can enlist the aid of the wailing undead. Cards like Rhasa the Sunderer, Phantom Prankster, or even the relatively humble Black Spear are all eager to take advantage of Zed’s Living Shadow, as it counts as an allied unit that died after it resolves combat.
Averosa’s Queen won’t stand for opposition. Just having her attack at all guarantees that the opponent’s strongest character is too cold and stiff to mount a proper defense. Frostbite in general is a powerful effect with a lot of fun synergies – whether in-faction with Rimefang Wolf’s ability to turn event the most gargantuan beasts into dogfood if they’ve been frostbitten, or with out-of-faction cards like Culling Strike and Reckoning, who will accept a frostbitten 0-power target as well as naturally weak ones.
Her indirect synergies with Noxus are also the stuff of envy. Cards like Trifarian Gloryseeker aren’t meant to last very long, taking out the beefiest obstacle for a mutual KO so that other cards can get through. But with Ashe around, the Gloryseeker gets to live to see another day or three.
You’ve got problems, then you’re looking for Braum. In fact, anybody who’s piloting a deck that wants a slower pace of the game can’t do all that much wrong with Braum around to get in the enemy’s way. Some folks definitely party harder than others with him, though – Vladimir’s gang loves anybody with Regeneration, of course, and given how much faster Braum levels up with them around, he seems to enjoy their company too.
Then there’s the matter of the Shadow Isles. Though it doesn’t seem at first blush like Braum would get along with such a cold and cynical crowd, Kalista in particular has an ample supply of work for him. And on their end, Shadow Isles decks would greatly appreciate Braum enlisting the aid of They Who Endure, as all of their sacrificial effects and Ephemeral followers quickly inflates the iceborn beast’s overall strength.
Braum isn’t the only Freljordian champion with a taste for the dark stuff, of course. Tryndamere is already menacing enough as a Darius-lite with his starting stats, but at least Darius actually dies if you hit him hard enough with a kill spell. Death is only the beginning for Tryndamere, who picks up a whole pile of extra stats and keywords upon initial expiration, making him one of the most powerful allies Kalista can enlist.
Anivia’s Legends of Runeterra design probably makes the least amount of sense of all of the champions currently in the game, as the “Can’t Block” drawback keyword doesn’t seem to fit a champion whose kit includes the ability to literally create passage-blocking walls. Even so, the storm she brings to bear is a force to be reckoned with. Board presence counts for a lot in Legends of Runeterra, but it’s hard to keep a healthy army up and ready when they’re all taking one to two damage every turn – an especially worrisome problem for inherently weak characters like Teemo and others, who are more reliant on noncombat effects and tricks than they are on straight-up combat resilience.
There are definitely a handful of problem strategies for Anivia to plan against, however. Though it’s hard to kill her outright, thanks to Eggnivia protecting her against any of the usual boardwipes and kill spells, Demacia’s armored warriors and Noxus’s pain-loving triggers can turn her own storm against her. Ironically, the best ways to beat them is to join them: Noxian Guillotine will chew through anybody with the least amount of damage, while Judgment from Demacia multiplies the effectiveness of Anivia’s storm.