Legends of Runeterra: a beginner’s guide for Hearthstone and MTG players
Key tips for LoR beginners with experience in other card games.
Legends of Runeterra (LoR) might be one of Riot’s latest games but it’s definitely not the first of its kind. In the past couple of weeks playing the game, we couldn’t help but pick up the similarities and differences between it and other card games - namely Hearthstone (HS) and Magic: The Gathering (MTG). While all three games have their own pros and cons, this article isn’t about which game is better. Instead, we’ve put together a beginner’s guide for people who may have experience in Hearthstone or MTG, and how they can translate that knowledge over to LoR. Pack your decks, and let's head on our journey to Runeterra!
Turns… and Rounds
Let's start off with the obvious: throw out all you know about turns, because LoR does things very differently. First of all, each player’s turn is called a round, and in each round, players take turns casting spells or summoning creatures. Yes, you read that right - both players can play spells or creatures in the same round, as though it was their own ‘turn’ in other card games. Casting a spell will allow your opponent to respond unless you’re casting an uninterruptible spell (more on that later).
Each round also refills the mana and increases it by one for both players, while giving them a card to draw. This unique round-based system makes LoR feel like a faster-paced game compared to HS or MTG.
The only difference between what players can do in a round is indicated by the Attack Token (the floating sword on the right side of the screen), which signifies if that player can attack. The Attack token alternates between both players, with the first player chosen at random. As usual, there are certain cards that grant players the attacking token even when it’s not their turn.
When both players pass their turns - by not performing any actions (due to lack of mana, not having cards to play, or just strategy), the current round ends and the next round begins.
Having these ‘simultaneous’ turn-based rounds means that players can prepare their boards in advance, such as summoning creatures the round before getting the Attack Token, and summoning even more creatures the next round to stack your damage output.
Also, unlike HS or MTG, creatures in this game don’t have ‘Summoning Sickness’ or ‘Exhaustion’ (the inability to attack the turn they are summoned). As long as you have the Attack Token, you can attack with all of your creatures on that round. In your head, you can think of all creatures having 'Charge' (HS) or 'Haste' (MTG).
Creatures and Combat
There are two types of creature cards in LoR - Followers and Champions. They function similarly in the game with the main differences being all Champions having the ability to ‘Level Up’ to become stronger creatures. Because Champions generally have more powerful effects on the game, you can only have one copy of a Champion in play at the same time - if you have another copy in your hand, it turns into that Champion’s spell instead, and you are limited to a maximum of 6 Champions per deck (and 3 per single Champion).
LoR is similar to MTG in the sense that you can only attack your opponent. It is up to defenders to decide on blockers, if any at all. However, unlike MTG, LoR doesn’t allow multiple units to block a single attacker.
Similar to HS, creatures don’t ‘Tap’ when attacking (unlike MTG). Creatures are always ready for combat even if they attacked previously (as though they had ‘Vigilance’) - you don’t have to hold creatures back from attacking if you need blockers the following round. This means you should always be attacking whenever it’s possible and favorable - to maximize the amount of damage you can inflict upon your opponent.
Like HS, damage to your creatures and creatures persist from round to round. They don’t heal unless they have the keyword - Regeneration or are affected by healing spells or abilities. However, returning them to their player’s hand resets the damage they’ve taken. The positioning of your creatures also matters in this game - for example, there are creatures that only buff other creatures to their right in combat.
One thing to note about combat: you can’t cast any spells (even if they are ‘fast’ or ‘burst’) if your opponent passes after declaring your attackers. This quirk caught us off guard during our first few LoR matches, and while it makes sense in terms of gameplay flow, it’s disappointing that you can’t buff your creatures to deal a killing blow when your opponent decides not to block.
Players also cannot respond to creatures being summoned - so if there are creatures already in play with powerful effects when other creatures are summoned, try to get rid of them as soon as possible.
Speaking of spells, there are three types of spells in Runeterra, each with different speeds: Slow spells are like ‘Sorcery’ spells in MTG - you can only cast them out of combat. Fast spells are similar to ‘Instant’ spells in MTG - they can be cast in and out of combat and can be responded to by other Fast spells. Burst spells are the equivalent of MTG’s ‘Split Second’ spells - they can be cast in and out of combat, and can not be responded to, so they will always resolve before your opponent can react. The spell system here is more complex than HS and simpler than MTG, but the on screen indicators do a good job of breaking things down for players.
You can store up to 3 unspent mana every round - this mana can only be used to cast spells and not summon creatures.
Since your mana replenishes every round, it makes sense to spend all of it before each round ends. You’ll even get a fresh pool of mana if you want to respond to spells the following round.
Similar to HS, LoR has a lot of unique elements not found in MTG. For example, the ability to put into your deck or hand cards not present in the deck, as well as the ability to affect cards that aren’t in play yet (i.e. lowering their mana cost or even buffing their stats). And because it is a digital card game, all this is done automatically, with all the changes shown on screen. It also has its fair share of luck in the game, like HS. Whether or not this is better than ‘mana screw’ or ‘mana flood’ in MTG, that’s for you to decide.
While this isn’t the most exhaustive beginner’s guide to LoR, we hope that it can help HS and MTG players with the transition to Riot’s card game. Stay tuned to eGG Network for more articles and coverage on Legends of Runeterra!