Getting a massive payoff for a set of cards, that don't necessarily match up to their cost (thank you Seku!) – the sum of the whole is greater than the parts.
The payoff for completing the combo is worth more mana than you spent to play it.
Glorious Evolution Curious Shellfolk is an example of a combo deck.
Scouts was originally a combo deck, looking to aggressively flip Miss Fortune as early as possible – until people realized Vanguard Sergeant was really good and it evolved into a more standard midrange list.
Aggro decks want to win the game FAST. So fast in fact you’ll often find 12-15 one-drops in the deck, this is so they can swarm the board in the early game and get damage in by virtue of being wider than the opponent.
Often their early units will also have skills that deal direct damage to the Nexus.
In the later stages of the game, as Midrange decks start to outgrown them and take over the board, Aggro gives up on board-based damage and transitions into burn finish with cards like Decimate.
A midrange deck has flexibility in the speed at which it wishes to play, and usually employs a balanced mixture of units.
Against Aggro decks it will want to play to control the board and go bigger (and over!) them.
Against Control or Combo decks, Midrange will want to play as the beatdown and go after nexus hp aggressively.
Midrange decks are usually unit-based with some combat tricks – most Demacian archetypes can fall into this category.
This style of deck looks flood the board with cheap units, go six-wide, and stay that way while taking advantage of cards like Yordles in Arms or For Demacia! to close out the game.
Decks can be both a swarm/flood deck and another archetype.
Most Aggro Burn decks start off as a swarm deck before transitioning into a Burn lethal.
Control decks look to win the game by removing their opponent’s threats and keeping the board state in their favor.
Eventually, they will drop a big “bomb” of a card like Feel The Rush to let them end the game. This has also been done with cards like Atrocity in the past.
Moving your units from the backline bench onto the field, so that they may attempt to strike the enemy Nexus.
Normally you can only attack every other round (when you have the Attack Token), unless you use effects like Rally or Free Attack.
Similar to skills, attack effects are skills that happen when a unit attacks or when other units attack while the unit with the effect is on the board.
For example, Boomcrew Rookie deals damage when he attacks, and the same happens with Legion Saboteur. Crackshot Corsair or Miss Fortune, on the other hand, deal damage whenever an ally (either themselves or others) attack.
The backline is your ‘bench’, or where the units go after being summoned.
Your frontline is your attack/defend zone, where you can set your attackers or blockers.
Sometimes you will hear units referred to as backline or frontline units and that refers to where they usually want to sit.
As an example of a backline unit: Miss Fortune in Scouts – you don’t want to attack with her unless you’re absolutely certain she cannot be killed in the attack. She still provides value through Love Tap while on the backline.
An example of a frontline unit: Fizz, he almost always wants to attack as there are few ways to interact with him outside of an elusive blocker or a Hush.
Being rude to your opponent by spamming emotes (instead of brief pleasantries like GL HF or GG before/after a match).
While this is a matter of interpretation, the majority of the playerbase tends to find Braum's emote to be BM.
The act of passing your turn with the intent of storing excess mana in your Spell Mana bank.
The aggressor in a matchup.
Identifying “who’s the beatdown” is a good way to know whether you should be playing to control the flow of the game, or to kill your opponent before they can. Typically the more aggressive deck is the beatdown, but in control versus combo matchups (FTR vs Ezreal) this changes and the control player becomes the beatdown.
The concept was popularized by one of the most famous Magic articles, Who's The Beatdown by Mike Flores.
Look at your game at any given moment (while in a PvP or PvE game), which and how many units you have compared to your foe – that is your current board state.
Understanding the board state will let you decide whether an attack is a good idea or not, what cards you wish to draw, what cards you should keep in your hand until later, etc.
Spells that deal direct Nexus damage, or have the option to directly target the Nexus.
Examples include Decimate, Mystic Shot, Get Excited!
The act of taking a pass and ending the round while your opponent has more mana than you (when both Unit mana and Spell mana are added together) so that you force them to leave their mana unspent.
(Notice that, although it's about getting an advantage over your opponent, it has no connection to "Burn" as used in the previous explanation).
A common example is on round three against an opponent playing Feel The Rush. Often the FTR player will pass turns one and two with the intent of playing Catalyst of Aeons on turn three, but they will often start their turn with an open pass if they have the token or they will respond to your development with a pass if you have the token. This is so that they can gain value out of the healing – by taking the pass when it’s offered you can force them to burn their three mana and prevent them from ramping.
Champs and Followers – Unit Targeting rules / descriptors
A ‘Champion’ is a unit that your deck is usually built around. You’re limited to a maximum of six champions in your deck, and three of any one champ, just like any other card. Examples of champions are Miss Fortune, Fizz, Garen – Champions have a gold border around them, and a special rarity gem
A ‘Follower’ is a unit that is not a champion. You are also limited to three copies of any one follower in your deck (although you are allowed to generate more during the game; for example, your deck could have three Flame Chompers!, and during the game generate three more when you play Boom Baboon.)
A ‘Unit’ refers to either a champion or a follower; an 'Ally' is one of your champions or followers.
A few spells or effects can only target followers – Shady Character, for example, can only impersonate followers, not Champions.
Copy versus Exact Copy
Iterative Improvement and Blood for Blood will create a copy of a card in hand. This card will be the base card (plus the stat buff from Iterative) and have none of the bonus stats or keywords you’ve given the unit on the board.
Mirror Image will summon an EXACT copy – this means the unit being summoned will be identical to the one you cast the spell on.
This means a copied Udyr (or any other unit) that has had Stances played on him will retain all the buffs from the stances.
Your curve is how you plan to spend your mana across several rounds. This can be on units, spells, or a combination of the two. Your curve can also include banking spell mana for a future turn.
An example of a normal Demacian Scouts curve is:
- Fleetfeather Tracker on round one,
- Brightsteel Protector on round two,
- Miss Fortune on round three.
If your opponent has removal for Miss Fortune – her being one of your keys to victory as a Scouts player – your curve would adjust so that you may represent Sharpsight on turn three when you play her.
This adjusted curve would look like:
- Fleetfeather Tracker on round one,
- Pass, to bank two Spell Mana on round two,
- Miss Fortune on round three.
‘Churning’ through your deck is the act of playing cards that draw more cards to get through your deck faster – for example Augmented Experimenter is a card that could be considered to churn your deck.
Cycle cards are cards that replace themselves with another draw, for example Pale Cascade, Pokey Stick, Guiding Touch.
Some cards have a condition of play or an effect that is conditional on discarding.
Discarding means throwing away a card in your hand. Examples: Zaunite Urchin, Vision, Stress Testing, Sump Dredger.
One Champion in particular, Jinx, needs to see your hand empty to level-up.
"The field" refers to what you can expect people to bring to a Tournament or to the Ladder. The term is fairly synonymous with Metagame.
(Notice that Tournament & Ladder tend to have very different fields!)
Fizz will “fizzle” spells cast on him if his player casts a spell in response.
You can also fizzle spells by denying one of its triggering conditions – for example you can make Glimpse Beyond fizzle by killing its target, or can make Ravenous Flock fizzle by fully healing its target.
A subcategory of trading, a ‘free trade’ is taking a block that removes the opponent’s unit but leaves your own alive and well, to attack or block again.
You can initiate a ghost block by killing your own unit while it is set as a blocker. This can be done with cards like Glimpse Beyond.
You can and should do this when you want to prevent strikes from occurring – also useful for denying Lifesteal effects (since the attacker won't strike).
NOTE: Overwhelm units cannot be ghost-blocked – all the damage will connect with the Nexus.
Give versus Grant
Give effects are temporary, whereas Grant effects are permanent.
Nami will grant a unit stats permanently.
Lulu will give (grow) a unit stats for this current round.
Going face means hitting the Nexus. This also comes from Hearthstone where the “nexus” is the opponent’s character portrait, and where there is no blocking – in HS, you can choose whether to attack your foe's units, or go face directly (unlike LoR, in which all attacks go face by default, and it's the defender who chooses how to block).
The act of flooding your board with units so you have more attackers than your opponent has blockers. This is a common strategy for Bandle City and we saw it very frequently in the past with Demacia Yordles in Arms , it continues to exist in the current meta with Afaelios and other Fae decks.
The inverse of going wide, going tall means buffing one or two units so they are impossible to remove without hard removal like Vengeance. Some common examples of this are Pantheon decks, Fae decks with Attach units, and Udyr decks utilizing Stance Swap.
Grow effects can be given (for example by Lulu), and be temporary, or granted (for example by Suit Up!) and become a permanent effect.
Growing a unit will increase its current stats to those listed on the grow card but will not overwrite the unit’s base stats. This means an 0/2 unit that was damaged by a block and is now a 0/1 unit will become a 4/4 with a maximum of 5hp if Suit Up! is cast on it.
Units cannot be shrunk with a Grow effect.
A high-hroll is when you get an above-average draw (throughout the game), Manifest option, or another randomly generated card (for example, Double Trouble spawns Chip and Inventive Chemist).
A low-roll is the opposite: you draw worse than average, your manifest presents three dead cards, or your randomly generated card is unplayable.
Some cards have an additional effect or a ‘keyword’ on them. All the keywords in LoR can be found here.
Keywords are usually worth a few points of mana and, therefore, you’ll often see that cards with keywords have lesser stats, or cost more than similarly-statted cards without keywords.
Cards with last breath effects will do something when the unit dies. Examples: Hapless Aristocrat, Mageseeker Conservator
When you can kill your opponent.
There’s also “Hearthstone lethal”, which means you can kill your opponent barring any interaction from them, sometimes referred to as “dead on board”.
Everything can be translated into mana tempo. Simply put, everything has a mana cost associated with it and some cards give you more “bang for your buck” so to speak. High mana tempo plays are cards like Ravenous Flock, because it has a requirement of being cast on a damaged or stunned unit, but deals four damage for a single mana point.
Deck X versus Deck Y constitutes a matchup.
Understanding how matchups play out (which deck has an edge on average, which are each deck's key rounds, what your foe's deck can do to stop yours, etc.) is one of the keys to taking your play to the next level.
Typically, aggro beats combo which beats control which beats aggro. This is what’s known as the ‘matchup triangle’. Midrange archetypes lie somewhere between control and aggro and as such have game into both.
'Beatdown' is a key concept related to this.
The meta-game refers to part of the game that is played outside of the PvP environment.
In CCGs specifically, it refers to which decks are the best in the game at the moment. You may hear someone say “that deck is a meta staple” or “that deck is a really strong meta counter”. In these statements, the ‘meta’ refers to the environment that currently exists on the ladder, and which decks are good at the moment.
Understanding the meta lets you play decks more suited for it and therefore increase your win rate. An ‘off-meta’ deck refers to a deck that sees very little play in the current metagame (sometimes being played by a single player) and is not a staple deck of the patch.
The opening phase of the game where you are presented with your initial hand and given the opportunity to re-draw. It is important to know that the mulligan in LoR works differently from most games, and the cards you throw back cannot be redrawn.
Net-Deck / Netdecking
The act of copying a decklist from the internet (either searching for them yourself in data sites like Balco's or Legna's, or checking what's currently hot on articles like our Meta Report or Warrior Weapons), to use in your play session.
There is a lot of stigma around net-decking for some reason, but it is wholly unfounded. There is nothing wrong with playing a refined decklist that someone else has curated – in fact, it’s what 99% of top players do. Not everyone is capable of building a great deck and that’s ok, you can save your brainpower for actually playing the game. Net-decking is one of the keys to success on the ladder.
Obliterate versus Kill
While both of these result in the same effect – a unit leaves the field of play – a unit that is obliterated will not enter the graveyard and thus cannot be revived by effects like The Harrowing.
Obliterated units will not have any of their effects like Last Breath activated.
The act of starting your turn with a pass. This is an important skill to understand – using an Open Pass effectively can give you a mana tempo advantage or just force your opponent to make awkward plays.
The act of giving up the action to your opponent by pressing the confirm/resolve/commit button.
Dealing one damage to something. “Ping spells” include Group Shot, Pokey Stick, Blade's Edge, etc.
This doesn’t always mean dealing exactly one damage. For example “We’ll just block it then ping it off” – in this context the “ping” could even be a Mystic Shot or some other spell, and “ping” simply means firing removal at the unit.
Sequencing your plays in a manner that avoids giving your opponent a good opportunity to use their cards.
For example, you can play around something like a Concerted Strike by waiting until the opponent no longer has five mana, and only then play your unit. Or, wait until you have a Deny in hand and mana to play both your unit and the Deny.
Play versus Summon
A unit that is played comes out of the hand (ie it's a card you pay mana to place on the board) – played units are considered to be summoned, but a summoned unit can arrive on the board as an effect of a played unit (Marai Warden or Petty Officer are great examples), by coming out of a landmark (Frozen Thrall or Sarcophagus), or from a spell (like Double Trouble).
Slang term for dragging a blocker into combat using either one of your Challenger units (such as Fiora or Laurent Protege), or using a Vulnerable effect (such as granted by Merciless Hunter or Razorscale Hunter).
You 'pull' a unit out of the way so that your other attackers can get in and damage the Nexus.
Accelerating your mana curve by playing cards that give you an empty mana crystal. Ramp cards include Catalyst of Aeons, Voices of the Old Ones, Faces of the Old Ones, and even Blue Sentinel which is temporary, but ramp nonetheless.
How much mana a stat point or effect is worth. Loyal Badgerbear is an “on rate” unit, meaning it’s worth exactly as much mana as it costs.
Rate is calculated by adding the HP and Atk points together and dividing by 2 to get the effective mana cost.
In the case of spells you take the most expensive spell for an effect, in the case of damage, this is Decimate, and you divide the mana cost by the damage - 1 damage is worth 1.25 mana at slow speed. This can be important when analyzing cards and trying to determine if they are worth playing.
Hard removal are “kill spells” like Vengeance, The Ruination, or even Disintegrate (when used in combat or in conjunction with another spell).
Simply put, they'll take down the target regardless of its size – the only protection a unit can have against these spells is either Spellshield (but not Barrier), or Denying the spell proper.
Soft removal is damage-dealing spells used to remove an opponent’s unit, these spells can also act as burn in some cases. Ex. Mystic Shot, Sump Fumes, Concerted Strike.
The target can survive simply by having more health than the damage dealt (for example receiving a buff like Sharpsight or Elixir of Iron, or if it was damaged then being healed by a spell like Guiding Touch).
Clicking Resolve on your pass button allows the current board state/attack/spell stack to play out and come to the conclusion the Oracle Eye shows.
The act of running out the timer for your turn. A terms that comes from Hearthstone, where the turn timer is indicated by a rope burning down.
Typically used to refer to bad-manners play, when your opponent has nothing to do with their action (no mana and/or cards left to play) but still spends every last second of the timer, as if wasting your time on purpose.
This is not always obvious, though: some players prefer to spend that time thinking about their options for the next round (for example, how to respond in the next round if you open-attack).
The order in which you play your cards, or set your units to attack.
Sequencing can matter a lot – for example with a keg on the board, the rightmost unit with an attack skill will trigger the keg as its skill locks into the stack first.
Sometimes you will want to sequence your plays in a specific manner to get your opponent to tap under certain mana thresholds making it safe to play your card.
Some cards have a Skill Icon. Check Imperial Demolitionist below:
These cards will have an active effect, similar to a spell, on play or on attack – skill go to the stack, and our foe can react to them.
Champions can also have a skill, like for example Anivia.
Other examples are Augmented Experimenter, Crackshot Corsair, Lord Broadmane, etc.
Not killing your opponent immediately when you have uncontested lethal (and instead spend time playing other cards), this is considered bad-mannered when done intentionally.
A comical or memey way of saying "Ignore everything and kill them." Origin information
Slow-speed spells can’t be cast during combat or added to the stack – they initiate the spell stack, and pass priority once cast.
Fast-speed spells can be cast both during and outside combat – they initiate or get added to the stack, and pass priority once cast.
Burst-speed spells can be cast at any time you have the initiative – they resolve immediately (they do not get added to the stack) and do not pass priority.
Similar to Burst-speed spells, but can only be cast outside combat, and when there's no stack going on.
This is where spells go once they’ve been cast, the stack resolves from left to right but is built up in the opposite direction. This means the last spell cast will occur first. It is important to know this in the case both you and your opponent have spells that can win the game, unlike Solo, you’ll have to shoot last.
The stack has a cap of 9 slow or fast speed spells, once that cap is reached you will only be able to cast burst spells.
In combat, a strike occurs when a unit hits another – attacking units with Quick Strike will strike first (then be struck in return by the defender, if it survived), whereas when the attacker doesn't have Quick Strike then both units hit each other simultaneously.
Strikes can also be initiated with certain spells, like Single Combat or Concerted Strike. Notice that the card text will let you know if Strikes are mutual (like with Single Combat), or just your units hitting with no riposte from the target (like with Concerted Strike).
Some keywords, like Impact, are reliant on strikes occurring.
Units with 0 power cannot strike and therefore will not trigger strike effects.
Some cards, like Rivershaper, will trigger an effect on strike.
Some units, like Midenstokke Henchmen, Chempunk Pickpocket and Swain, will trigger an effect when they strike the nexus specifically. This means they must go unblocked to enable their effect, or be given Overwhelm (so excess damage connects with the Nexus).
Adjusting and tweaking your decklist to do better in certain matchups.
This is more important for tournaments, particularly small ones, where you can anticipate what your opponent might be playing.
For ladder you’ll want to anti-tech your deck, making it better against the widest field possible.
The pace at which the game is played.
Tempo is a term originating in music theory, and if you understand tempo in music I feel it is easier to understand tempo in CCGs. The gist of it is the speed at which you play out the game, use your mana, and play for the board.
Tempo can be further broken down into some sub-categories.
Gaining advantage on the board, by enabling yourself to spend the same mana as your opponent on more units.
To illustrate this, think of any aggro deck. How many times have you been hit by a three-wide board on turn two while you could not develop equally? This is the fundamental concept of board tempo.
There are also cards that can help you cheat board tempo but they blur the line between board and action tempo and I will discuss them further in the next definition.
Each action has a cost: you give your opponent an opportunity to respond. By doing two things at once you can cheat out a “free action”.
For example, playing a card that summons a second unit, removing an opponent’s blocker while developing your own attacker, or casting a fast-speed spell in response to your opponent’s stack.
A few examples of high action tempo cards are Tri-beam Improbulator (removes and develops in a single action), Arachnoid Sentry (stuns and develops in a single action), Desert Naturalist (usually used on your own landmark, thus summoning two or even three units in a single action, depending on the landmark), and Marai Warden (develop two units in one action).
The Eye / Oracle Eye
On the left-hand side of the board, there is a little eye. Hovering over it will let you see how a combat or spell stack looks once everything is resolved.
Check it EVERY TIME!!
Tilt is a term originating in the poker world. It means entering a state of mental frustration or confusion that results in the player making suboptimal plays.
The term originated from pinball, where physically tilting the machine causes some games to flash the word "TILT" and freeze the flippers. The most extreme reaction is termed a "ragequit" – angrily leaving the match or quitting the game, physically turning off the device.
Knowing how to manage your tilt is important for success, as is knowing when to take advantage of your opponent’s tilt.
The most recently drawn card (which was literally at the top of your deck).
This is commonly used when both players have empty hands and have entered a “top deck war”. Playing the top-decked answer against an opponent who is hand-tracking can increase the mental damage they take and potentially put your opponent on tilt.
Slang for "surrendering" (the Surrender button is on the top right corner of the screen).
The act of taking blocks to exchange units on the board.
This may be used in one of two ways, the first being the in-game Toss mechanic. Some cards have a Toss keyword, these cards will throw away X number of cards from the bottom of your deck where X is listed on the card itself – for example, Undergrowth.
The second way is, “toss that back”. This phrase is often spoken during the mulligan phase of the game when you are selecting your opening hand. In this case, it means to select a card to go back into the deck, sometimes you’ll hear “kick that card” instead.
Cards that draw something specific. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a card like Albus Ferros (which draws you a Jayce on play), you can build your deck in such a way that Zap Sprayfin acts as a tutor for a specific card.
For example, in this Illaoi Demacia list, Zap will only draw Cataclysm and therefore is acting as a tutor.