When reveal season starts in Legends of Runeterra, you can always count on one thing: people wildly misevaluating the new cards. You will see people calling a card "unplayable" at the exact same time when others are calling it "obviously broken". Zoe is my favorite example here: the general consensus was that she was bad, and basically unplayable in the Go Hard meta at that time. Yet it didn’t take long for the community at large to realize that Zoe was not only playable, but one of the best LoR Champions.
In this article, I'm going to walk you through the general way in which I approach new LoR cards. I tend to be low on new releases because it takes a lot for a card to really upset the current meta, and most cards will find a supporting role at best.
Step 1: Find a comparison
The first and easiest way to get an immediate grasp of a card’s potential is to look at what similar cards at the same-ish mana cost do.
An easy example of this is when Golden Aegis was released. The other rally effect, Relentless Pursuit, cost three mana at the time. Aegis gave you the same effect plus a barrier for only one additional mana. It clearly couldn't be too much worse than Pursuit, and Barrier provides extra defensive power (especially in Demacia mirrors) making it a pretty obvious winner.
On the contrary, High Note is more often than not a Mystic Shot that can’t go face. Mystic Shot is a really good card, but I don’t want to play five of them in my deck; therefore, High Note is a clear miss. The only reason it sees play at all is because it counts as a new card for Seraphine and Back Alley Bar decks.
Things get a little difficult when assessing cards that are wildly different from anything we have seen before in Legends of Runeterra, like one of the new World Ender Champions, Ryze. In that case, I like to break the card down and try to assess each individual piece of what it does, and that usually requires different steps, such as Step 2.
Step 2: How bad can it be? (Find the Floor)
It’s just too easy to look at a card and see how good it can be in the perfect scenario – it's much more difficult (and more important) to see how good or bad it can be when you are behind.
A hallmark of a truly great, meta-defining card is that it tends to be good when you are behind, and also when you are ahead.
Take Feel The Rush, for example. Are you ahead and looking to close out the game? Here’s 20+ Power of Champions.
You're behind, and in need to throw a big haymaker to catch up? 10/10 Tryndamere plus Atrocity can get you out of a lot of really tough spots. The only time that FTR is truly bad is when you can’t cast it yet, or when Deny is meta.
So let’s talk about Zoe again. The absolute worst thing that can happen when you play her is that she dies to a one-mana spell, putting you even on cards, mana and tempo. And it only gets better from there: if your opponent can’t kill her, then you get free cards and a game-ending effect if she levels.
Compare that to a card like Judgment. It obviously has insane swing power, flipping the script on your opponent in a second – but what happens when it isn’t at its best?
What happens when your units aren’t as big as your opponent's, when they have removal or, God forbid, you don’t even have a unit on board? Casting Judgment loses you the game almost on the spot. Its floor is simply too low to justify putting it into your deck.
Step 3: Does it require additional synergies?
Some cards only see their potential unlocked when combined with other cards or effects.
Let's take a look at Bloodcursed Harpy for our example. When just by itself, it is still a 6/4 Scout unit for six mana – not bad, but definitely not great.
Add in a two-mana (or less) Equipment, and you got yourself an insane beater, but the most important part of this is that you already want to have Equipment. The decks that you would like to play the Harpy in already want to be running Equipment that fulfills this requirement, making it basically a free roll.
On the flip side, The Violent Dischord is a pretty mediocre card when the extra condition is not fulfilled. It also requires the same condition as Bloodcursed Harpy, so why is the Harpy one of the best cards in a region, and the other just a bad ping effect? The biggest problem with Dischord is that the decks running it really don’t want to be running Equipment. The synergy and deck-building requirement is very detrimental to the spell-based Piltover & Zaun decks that would like to run this card.
Also, it is much, much easier to fulfill a condition like Harpy and Dischord have when you are in round six (which is when you'd like to play Harpy) rather than in round two.
Final Step: Which LoR deck wants this?
The final, and possibly most important step, is to figure out whether a card actually fits into existing decks or not. Sometimes cards are very powerful but have no home, or the decks that want to run them simply aren’t strong enough…
… on the other hand, even if a card doesn’t have a specific archetype to fit in when it arrives, sometimes the card is just so powerful that it makes its own, new home. Good examples for this are pre-nerfed Yordles in Arms and Ravenbloom Conservatory.
I believe that a lot of this advice can be helpful to players looking to get a headstart on a new LoR meta by theorizing, but the actual, final, most important step is to not post your takes on Twitter.
You’re always gonna be wrong sometimes, and I will flame you.