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Expeditions: Advanced Resources

Welcome to our third iteration of card ratings & Expedition Tier List! Combining Balco's winrate data and ratings from five expert drafters, here's a by-the-numbers Tier List for every card in Expeditions.

Welcome to our third iteration of an Expedition Tier List for all Champs and cards!

We will go through three different sources that rate every card in Expeditions, and explain how to use them during the drafting phase.

If you already have a good grasp of how Expeditions work, and you're here for the data and not a long-winded explanations, here you go:


Toeofdoom's website (link), with all Expedition Archetypes, and winrates for all cards in said Archetypes (winrate's source: Balco, see below). WEBSITE STILL UNDER CONSTRUCTION, so if you find any glitches, do poke me on twitter (@HerkoKerghans) and let me know, or jump onto the Draft Club Discord (link) where you can chat with Toeofdoom's directly.

Balco's live Expedition Data (link), which he tracks from Constructed Master players. Toeofdoom's website uses Balco's data.

Expert ratings, with rankings for all cards (link) from five expert drafters (three of them in the Top 15 of most 7-win runs)


If you're new to Expeditions, and/or would like to know more about these resources, read on!

Expeditions - A Quick Overview/Refresher

Expeditions is the most skill-intensive format in Legends of Runeterra -- since deck-building is always a big part of the equation -- and the drafting phase is very, very nuanced. If you don't know what a Token is, you may want to check this Introduction to Expeditions article (link), which covers the basics. 

The gist of drafting phase is:

  • Cards in Expeditions are grouped in buckets, called Archetypes (you can check those on Toeofdoom's website)
  • Each pick, we get to choose cards from between three different buckets/Archetypes as we build a deck,
  • The more we choose one specific bucket during the drafting phase, the more likely it is to be offered again in later picks.

So, for example:

… if we were to choose "Raiding Party" here, the algorithm is more likely to offer us "Raiding Party" in later picks, and more likely to offer us Bilgewater buckets in general.

And, as it happens, some buckets and Regions are stronger than others (sometimes much stronger), so here is where the plot thickens.

There are (veeery broadly speaking) two "Schools", if you will, among expert drafters. Let's call them the Path of Here and Now, and The Way of Looking Forward.

Those following the Path of Here and Now usually focus on the current pick and tend to grab the best cards presented to them right now, without trying to nudge the algorithm into what it may offer later. In other words, if they have to choose between a good card from a bad bucket, and a bad card from a good bucket, they'll pick the good card.

A bird in hand is worth two in the bush, so to speak!

Those following the Way of Looking Forward believe it's optimal to try to nudge the algorithm into the stronger buckets. In other words, they are willing to pick (depending the context, of course) a bad card from a good bucket early on, so they get more cards from the good bucket down the line.

Obviously, at the last pick in a draft the Way and the Path coincide (since there are no later picks to influence, therefore what only matters is "now"), while they diverge the most during early picks (since the "future" still holds many picks that may be influenced by the "present").


Toeofdoom's Work-In-Progress Website

TOD's website (link) is probably the best resource to grasp the idea of what buckets are about.

Let's take the same example as before; notice that, at the bottom of each bucket, you can see their region (so, for example Total Recall's Region in this case is Ionia, and Relentless's Region in this case is Noxus)…

… when searching this pick on TOD's site, by choosing first a region, then the buckets in that region (as in, if you click on the Ionia icon, the site will list all the buckets that belong to that Region, and among those you'll find Total Recall)...

… you will get all cards with that bucket/region combination, and their expected winrates.

As we'll explain in detail below, those stats are in-deck winrates (that is to say, the stats track wins for the whole deck, regardless if a card was drawn or played in each specific game).

At a quick glance, this should be an easy pick: all cards on the Relentless bucket have higher winrates than any of the other options, so if you go by this number alone, that's the pick.

Remember, though, that winrate has its limitations (as we'll see in detail below) --  as noted on TOD's website, "raw winrate statistics just show the chance a deck containing each card will win -- sometimes a weak card has a high rating, because it's only available with good cards, or vice versa. Deck composition is also critical. Interpret with a critical eye!"

In other words: sometimes a card has good winrate just because it's in a good bucket (even if the card itself is weak), whereas a bad bucket can contain a strong card -- as we'll see below, learning to discern those cases will improve your deck quality overall.

Or, as we mentioned above: in-deck winrates could be said to include a bit of the wisdom of the Way of Looking Forward in them: more often than not, a card will be in a deck with cards from the same bucket and Region.

From the example above, notice how Relentless' winrate as a whole is 54.1%, while Total Recall is 44.9%. If you want the fastest, crudest, most nuance-free way to use this data, then in your early pick (picks 1 through 6, roughly speaking), try to aim for the bucket with the highest winrate, since you'll be telling the algorithm "Hey, I want more of these, please."

Do remember that crude, nuance-free methods are fast, but certainly not optimal if you're trying to craft a good deck!


Balco's Winrate Data

Balco is the source of Toeofdoom's data.

If you want the raw numbers, here's where you go: https://balco-lor.com/expeditions/

Balco's data is taken directly from Riot, via Riot's API. The data is from all players that were Master in Constructed last season, or are Master this season -- if you're interested in learning how Balco collects his numbers via Riot's API, he explains the process in this interview (link).

The filters provided are:

  • Player Rank: you can filter by "All", only Master players, or Plat+ players.
  • You can include or exclude games versus bots (while playing Expeditions, if you don't find an opponent in around two minutes, you get paired with an AI opponent).
  • You can check all cards, or only champions.

The way to use Balco's data is pretty straightforward: search the card(s), compare the winrates. It does not provide any of the visual aids TOD's site has (above all, it does not mention buckets), but if you're just looking for card performance, this is probably the fastest tool, and also "from the horse's mouth", so to speak.

Balco does allow you to "cut through the chase", though, when looking at how different regions compare to each other: if you filter by Champions, some broad patterns (like Demacia's dominance in Expeditions) start to become evident.

This is because, as said in the previous section, a card's winrate (and above all a Champion's winrate) depends mostly on the rest of the deck, and Champions have a huge influence on how your deck will shape up.

Take Jarvan IV, for example: not only he's an Expedition powerhouse in his own right (in the sense that he is a card you'd love to draw, and if you manage to play him your foe is in big trouble), but he also will make the algorithm offer you cards from a good Region/bucket pairing later on.

There's another bit of interesting pattern: if you check Balco's data, you'll notice that winrates when filtering for All players:

… and when filtering only for Master players…

… numbers are strikingly different: notice how winrates jump by a whopping 10%+, and how even the composition of the top WR champs changes.

For example, looking at All Players, you'd lean towards Jarvan VI rather than Senna (who's not even in the Top 8 in that case)...

… whereas, if you look at Master players, then Senna seems a bit better than Jarvan.

If performance changes between an average player, and a top player… what do we do to gain further insights about what cards we should choose?

We check with the experts, of course!


Expert Ratings

Here you have the ratings, for each Expedition card, from five top drafters (link)

The ratings go from 1 (weakest) to 10 (strongest) -- blank cells indicate when an expert was not confident enough with the card to provide an opinion.

If we compare Senna and Jarvan VI, we'll see that the experts rate them:

  • Senna 8.4
  • Jarvan 9.4

... and, if you want even more nuance, you can check each rater's rating -- as you'll notice, not all experts rate a card the same way, due to their different approaches to drafting & playing.

Unlike Balco's winrates (which are also found on Toeofdoom's website), these ratings focus on the card's strength without taking its bucket into consideration (in other words, the card's strength "in a vacuum", so to speak).

Or, if you will, how somebody drafting according to the Path of Here and Now would see these cards.

As Myzrael, one of the rating experts, explains: "Balco's winrates are in-deck winrates, which means that wins are accounted for if the card was in the deck (no matter if it was drawn or not).

"This in turn means that if the card is in a powerful region with strong cards, it will get a higher winrate than the card in a weaker region, even if the card in the powerful region is itself worse than the card in the weaker region, which in turn may lead to bias.

"For example: Vanguard Lookout's winrate is around 52.6% in Balco's, while Chum the Waters is only about 48.2%. Yet there's no doubt that Chum is better than Lookout -- the only reason it has a lower WR is because Bilgewater is a worse region than Demacia."

That's why, in the expert ratings, you'll find Vanguard Lookout with a 2.6 average, while Chum the Waters is rated with a 7.0. In other words: even though, early on in the draft, it may make sense to choose Vanguard over Chum (since it will give you access to Demacia, and therefore a higher chance for the algorithm to offer you stronger cards later on in the draft), there's little doubt that, when playing, you'd rather draw Chum instead of Vanguard.

"Therefore," says Myzrael, "this leads us to the conclusion that it's better to compare cards within one region, and sometimes even within one bucket, to really find the correct answers about which cards are the most powerful.

"On the other hand, since Champions [in picks #1 and #2] influence, by the buckets and regions they belong to, what cards are shown or not later in the draft, we can use in-deck winrates to estimate how powerful your average deck with certain champion will be, after your 1st and 2nd pick."

In short:

  • Winrates lose value as a factor the later in the draft you are (they are a solid parameter for the early picks, not really a good factor in the latest picks), since they look at the whole context (including how a card you pick now can influence what cards you get offered later) -- they are very useful early on in the draft, and they are probably the easiest to use (above all if you base your choice by the bucket's overall winrate, as you'll find in TOD's website),
  • Expert ratings are the best tool when you have close picks (as in, cases in which two choices offered have similar winrates), or when you want to check how happy you'll be if you draw a particular card during a game (something the data does not track accurately).

Meet the Experts:

Here are the five experts who rated the cards -- three of them at the top of LoR Guardian's Expeditions Leaderboard.

ReddMan:

Currently #2 at LoRGuardian's Expeditions Leaderboard (link), with a whooping 347 seven-win runs across 4800+ matches.

arthurmauk:

Currently #7 at LoRG's Leaderboard, Arthur is a long-time fan of Limited formats in card games like Magic the Gathering, Hearthstone, and Legends of Runeterra.

For his personal ratings of Expedition cards, he takes a data-first approach and starts with global winrate statistics from the LoR Guardian tracker, and then adjusts upon the cards with low sample sizes based on his own experience. He has intentionally forced his ratings distribution into a symmetrical bell curve.

Conansson:

Conansson produces educational content and Expedition content on YouTube (link) while also helping newer players understand the game with Discord coachings, and is currently #11 according to LoRG's Leaderboard.

His rating approach comes from many years of limited experience and thousands of Expedition games (he plays in different accounts on different servers, so only a portion of his games are tracked by LoR Guardian). He looks at the cards themselves instead of the buckets or the current meta in order for the ratings to be usable for a long time and for different levels of play.

He is also a Master player in Constructed, with a 7-2 record in last Seasonal's Open Rounds after classifying via both Ladder and Last Chance Gauntlet.

ShadesRealm:

A prolific Expeditions-only YouTuber and Twitch streamer who plays around three Trials per day, ShadesRealm has uploaded more than one hundred 7-wins runs on his channel.

He tends to pay little attention to buckets and Archetypes, focusing instead on a “good cards” strategy. Has a soft spot for shiny Epics.

Myzrael:

Myzrael has accrued twenty-five 7-win runs across 238 games. He plays Hearthstone competitively as part of the ILH Esports Team. For rating cards in Expeditions, he adapted the rating system from Vicious Syndicate, one of Hearthstone's biggest number-crunching sites.

LoR Constructed is something that Myzrael dabbles into only casually (his current ladder rank is Silver), but he competed in last Seasonal after classifying via the Last Chance Gauntlet.


Additional Tips

As noted above, this article does not attempt to be a detailed guide on how to draft -- that being said, here are two tips about the drafting mechanics that are not well-known.

Guaranteed 2nd Pick region:

The majority (although not all) buckets have a pairing from another region. For example:

… the "Challenger" Archetype has two buckets, with cards from both Demacia and Shurima.

If you choose "Challenger" in your first pick, then in your second pick you are guaranteed to see at least one bucket from the region of your pairing.

That's probably a bit of a mouthful, so let's break it down:

  • Say that for our first pick, we see the Demacian side of Challenger, with Jarvan IV, and we choose it,
  • The pairing region, in this case, would be Shurima (since that's the other region the Challenger bucket has cards from),
  • In our second pick, we are guaranteed to see a bucket from Shurima -- it can be any bucket from Shurima, though (and not Challenger in particular).

Since some regions are stronger than others, you can still use this knowledge to your advantage. For example, if we see the Shurima Challenger bucket in our first pick, we should keep in mind that it will guarantee we get a Demacian bucket in our second pick (usually a good thing, since Demacia is the strongest region).

No Extra Region After the Sixth Pick:

Expedition decks can have one, two, or three regions. As a rule (and backed by Balco's data), it's not ideal to branch into three regions, and stay in just two (or one).

After your sixth pick, you won't be offered cards from regions you don't already have in your deck.

That's to say, if you choose Demacia in your first pick, and Shurima in your second pick, you'll probably see a third region being offered in picks 3,4, 5, and/or 6 -- but if you stick to Shurima and Demacia up to that point, the algorithm will take a hint and won't offer any other region afterwards.


First and foremost, if you've found Balco's data useful, then perhaps consider supporting his work. In other words: somebody, please (link), get that man a Ko-fi! =)

For a more nuanced take on Balco's data, here's the 50 Shades of Draft podcast (link) with Conansson, arthurmauk and Myzrael, where they talk about Balco's data, and how it matches to their own experience.

Useful Links:


Conansson's YT Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMMKdMoPe9ykBbs0kmlWb-Q


ShadesRealm YT Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5mmrNRWcYIylIM2lK8RU_g


Toeofdoom's Buckets' Website: https://runeterra-limited.herokuapp.com/


Balco's Winrate Data: https://balco-lor.com/expeditions/


Draft Club Expert Ratings: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1u1pCRbry66Q66q3Rd5FZ5pekdWcAbIChxl_NqHXhJVw/edit#gid=0


Draft Club Discord: https://discord.gg/Q4Pcuw47eC


I hope the above was both interesting and useful -- Expeditions is perhaps a bit of a hard mode to get into (drafting adds a thick layer of complexity, it's more time-consuming, and the fact that it has an entry fee certainly doesn't help), but once you get the hang of it, it's the game mode with the most variety, and arguably the most skill-intensive (since you cannot separate deck-building from piloting).

Any questions, comments or feedback you have, feel free to poke me on Twitter (@HerkoKerghans), or let me know in the reddit thread (link).

Cheers, and good luck in your Trials! =)