Card Battling 101

Legends of Runeterra.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Legends of Runeterra.



Riot Games


Riot Games


Card stragety


PC, Android, iOS


Single, Multi

Picture this: it’s a bright and sunny Saturday morning, and you’ve just finished another League of Legends match with a satisfying 9/0/3 KDA ra-tio on Jinx. You’re well on your way to hitting Challenger this season, but your pals have all gone offline and you don’t want to risk breaking your win.

But you still want to play Jinx.

Well, you could al-ways boot up a custom AI match and toss your chompers at the bots, but then again, you could ALSO build a Jinx deck in Legends of Runeterra and go full ham there too. And that’s why we’re here - to explain why the latter is an excellent idea.

LoR, as we’ll be calling it, is one of Riot Games’ new and up-coming titles, along-side the team-based shooter Valorant that’s set for a Summer 2020 release. It’s their take on a tactical card battler, blend-ing diverse battlefield strategies, interactive gameplay, and most importantly easy card acquisition. The end result is a title that’s simple to learn, decep-tively addictive and all clothed in the familiar-ity of characters from Runeterran lore.

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In terms of the over-all aesthetic, the game takes several pages out of LoL’s book (naturally), featuring the usual formula of magical runes, power-ful beings, evil specters and even a few steam-punk-inspired bits here and there. 

The game is largely based on characters and lore from League of Legends. For example, if you’ve dabbled in LoL be-fore, you’ll probably know that Braum isn’t exactly the pinnacle of offensive power. He’s ridiculously good at defense though, and Riot has kept his LoR adaptation that way. Essentially, the developers are riding on the Champion-ex-clusive mechanic called Level Up, and it’s achieved by having each of them per-form specific actions based on what they’re known for being good at.

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Unfortunately, there are ways to ‘cheese’ in the game to tick off other players.

So, a tanky guy like Braum would probably Level Up by tanking X number of hits, while a sleek, lithe assassin like Katarina would proba-bly do so by perform-ing some hit-and-run interaction. 

The gameplay itself is also marvelously interactive, and that’s mainly because of the game’s unique “at-tacker versus defend-er” system, which is conceptually simple yet probes the ques-tion of why no one has thought of this before. Of course, Riot has also adopted and tweaked quirkier me-chanics from other card games and tied them together to con-coct their own unique flavour.

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Free-to-play, and they mean it. All the cards you need/want can be collected one way or another.

The best example is probably the Spell Speeds system, which is a page taken out of Yu-Gi-Oh!’s book. This assigns different “priority” levels to your spell cards, meaning some of them can be played to counter oth-er spells if they have a higher “speed”. 

With all that in place (plus loads of other mechanics) and coming togeth-er like a well-oiled machine, LoR’s overall gameplay experience is rather lightweight and crisp, while still retaining the tactical edge that’s a quintes-sential part of any card battler.

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Unlike most other card games, it’s actu-ally reasonably easy to get the cards that you need (or want) just by playing LoR. From weekly (and daily) Vaults that award tons of freebies to the various Wildcards (I LOVE this) that let you craft ANY card of the corresponding rarity for free, LoR’s card ac-quisition system works in a way that allows players to get most of the cards just by enjoy-ing the game.

Unlike Hearth-stone and Shad-owverse, where you have the option of just “farming” cards and waiting for the decisive moment to unleash a barrage of minions or spells, LoR features an inherent “card for card” rule of sorts.

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Essentially, this means that for each opportunity you get to play a card, your opponent gets to play one as well, so you can’t just toss seven damaging spells at your opponent without them getting a chance to do anything. 

Still, for all its good points, LoR’s system has flaws. For exam-ple, if your opponent brought nothing but Elusive units, which can only be blocked by other Elusive units, you’d eventually run out of your own Elu-sive units and it would literally be a one-sided game from there. 

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Sadly, there’s not re-ally a definite solution for these situations, and we can only count on Riot to nerf or adjust these “cheese” strategies. 

Of course, that’s just us playing the pessi-mist. Between their easier card acquisition and generally refresh-ing gameplay, there’s still quite a lot that Riot seems to have gotten right on the first try, and I’d say they’ve done a pretty good job for a studio that’s just jumped over from working on a MOBA.