Legends of Runeterra’s second Preview Patch week is in full swing, and everybody is out on their Expeditions. The new game mode – Runeterra’s answer to Hearthstone’s Arena drafts – follows Riot’s tendencies to iterate wildly upon a game or mode’s basic premises.
Much as how League of Legends plays differently from Dota 2, and even Teamfight Tactics deviates from Auto Chess with its champions carousel and items-focused balance, Legends of Runeterra and its Expeditions draft mode is going to be only superficially familiar to what you’ve played before – and where it differs is where the heart of its strategy kicks in.
Don’t get lost on your Expedition. Here’s a few tips and tricks to help guide your journey to victory.
Unlike MTG Arena or Hearthstone, your initial drafts will constitute picking more than one card at a time. Rather, cards will come at you in sets of three and two, pre-selected for obvious synergies and with hints for what the developers intended with them in the names above each set.
You are also guaranteed two champions in your first draft session, and they will do a lot to determine what strategy you’ll pursue for the entire expedition. But perhaps more important is your chance to grab potentially devastating duplicates.
Unlike in standard Legends of Runeterra, Expedition decks are able to field more than the usual three maximum copies of any one card. This is especially potent when you’re drafting Shadow Isles or Noxus – Mistwraith and Legion Marauder both gain and add combat bonuses to all of their copies, which is already a potent effect in the vanilla game, and can get outright degenerate when their fifth and sixth copies start clogging up the field.
Getting a horde of Legion Marauders is nice, but having RNG dictate how you get to deal with them… isn’t so much. While the card sets you draft are generally mixed up well enough that you’re not going to be short of either Followers or spells, specific cards may nonetheless elude you – such as direct damage, combat tricks, kill spells, and the various other ways to remove threats before they actually hit you.
Since you’re not guaranteed to actually get Mystic Shots or Get Excited! when drafting Zaun & Piltover, or any of their equivalents in other factions, it becomes critical that you grab them when they actually are on the docket. This is especially true with multi-target or area-of-effect spells, as they tend to be rarer.
It’s not just set-drafting that sets Runeterra’s Expeditions apart from other card games’ draft modes. You won’t just be drafting at the start of your run – you’ll also have draft options in between each round, win or lose. While these can take the form of a single-option set draft as well, many of your between-round options take the form of a 1:1 trade to replace one of your current cards with another option. You’ll always have a choice of three new cards to replace three current cards – but you can only switch one card per Shopkeeper round.
While not as impacting as grabbing two or three kill spells in a single move, these Shopkeeper rounds can be critically important in improving the overall efficiency of your deck, letting you trade out poorly performing options for something either more synergistic, or simply more impacting. Sometimes, you might even want to trade out an otherwise powerful card simply because it’s too expensive – and a cheaper, more flexible card will let you survive the early stages of the game better than waiting for a seven-mana bomb.
That said, because it ultimately still is a draft mode, making all decks less optimal at least starting out, you can expect Expeditions games to run on a longer clock than their vanilla counterparts. Your deck-tuning can’t wholly make up for the randomness of your card selections either, so the individual power of each card can often override possible synergies.
Between the mid-session card drafting and tuning options, and the fact that each Expedition access gives you two runs and rewards you based on the most successful of the two, Riot really, really, really wants you to win and get massive piles of rewards. They literally went out of their way to make any currency you put into Expeditions as profitable as possible – meaning it’s really on you (and your opponent) to dictate how successful you get to be. You can’t even end a run without losing twice in a row – and since you still get to draft in between rounds, it’s likely that your deck will be marginally stronger the next game.
That is unique among online collectible card games. All of its peers currently only allow one run to the top with a hard limit on how often you can lose. It is absolutely to your benefit to not end the run early in Legends of Runeterra.