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Luck 101: How to Turn Luck into Skill

Woke shares tips about managing the factor we card gamers love to hate: RNG.

Sup, I’m Woke, the current (and only) champion of the America’s Monday Madness tournament (Random deck tournament) and a caster for the Mystic Shot Podcast tournaments, here to explain the function of RNG and how to use it to your advantage. 

A lot of players complain when they lose to the factor they call Luck or RNG, but often do not call out their own use of this mechanism. In Legends of Runeterra, RNG effects can make or break the game, depending on the decisions that the players make based upon it. The most important part of RNG in LoR is to understand it as a possibility of what could happen in a game at any given moment.

There is almost always a chance that you will not be able to follow your deck’s optimal gameplan and, therefore, you must be flexible and adapt to different possible win conditions and lose conditions. The difference between those who don’t embrace the factor known as RNG, versus those who do, is partially what separates those players who are able to pilot a deck and those who are able to gain full mastery of it. 


Types of RNG Effects

RNG effects in LoR are mainly an increase in hand advantage, or in the form of traps (like Teemo’s puffcaps, or Caitlyn’s flashbombs) that attach to cards drawn either by you or the opponent.

In most cases, the RNG effects that people complain about is hand advantage, which are seen primarily in Manifest effects (like Ferros Financier’s, letting players choose from three choices from a specific pool), Invoke (a similar effect from Targon, as seen in Solari Priestess), and effects such as Back Alley Barkeep that creates card at random with no choices involved.

These effects are sometimes frustrating to the person who has to play against them because they are an additional mental load, on top of the cards they already have to play around in their opponent’s deck. I will be only talking specifically about Manifest, Invoke, and effects such as Back Alley Barkeep during the course of this article.

These RNG effects (that’s to say Invoke, Manifest, random cards created) can be differentiated into two types of RNG, which I will call controlled RNG, and uncontrolled RNG.


Controlled vs Uncontrolled, and Consistent vs Inconsistent

Controlled RNG are Manifest and Invoke effects, in which as said above the player has some agency in choosing the cards they can get. On the contrary, uncontrolled RNG are cards where players don’t have any agency in choosing the card they get.

Both of these types of RNG can be further broken down into what I will call inconsistent and consistent RNG, depending on the pool of cards they draw from.

Some cards, for example Ferros Financier in Shadow Isles Piltover & Zaun decks, is fairly consistent in Manifesting some form of removal, since Financier offers us three choices from a pool of nineteen cards in this region pairing, of which eight are some form or removal such as Vengeance, The Ruination, Shock Blast, Trueshot Barrage, and Utter Devastation (and a couple of others, like Hextech Transmogulator, can in some scenarios serve a similar role). In other words, Ferros Financier is both consistent, and furthermore gives us some sort of control.

Crimson Curator is an example of consistent, yet uncontrolled, RNG: 

Crimson Curator’s pool consists of only five options, and all of them are units with some form of effect related to self-damage, therefore making him very consistent – but, on the other hand, we have no agency in the outcome, making the Curator uncontrollable.

In general, consistency is about generating cards that have similar effects, and a small pool – in other words, the outcome is fairly predictable, even if random.

On the contrary, inconsistent RNG are cards that don’t have a consistent effect in the cards they generate – Moondreamer, for example, draws from a pool of 26 different options, and the effects are extremely varied: from The Great Beyond, to Cosmic Rays, to Crescent Strike, The Charger, or Moonglow. We do have a bit of control in the outcome, but the choices presented to us will be fairly inconsistent.

Lastly, uncontrolled and inconsistent RNG are cards that basically have such a large and varied pool that it is basically impossible to predict what cards will come from them, such as Back Alley Barkeep. If you manage to guess what card Back Alley Barkeep will generate, then also consider winning the lottery since you have around a 0.07% chance of getting it right.

As a rule of thumb, I’d consider consistent RNG anything that draws from a pool of less than 20 cards (cards like Supercool Starchart or Ferros Financier), and inconsistent RNG when drawing from a larger pool (cards such as Moondreamer, Back Alley Barkeep, or Loping Telescope).

It goes without saying that, in most situations, players prefer controlled, consistent RNG such as Ferros Financier or Supercool Starchart.


RNG and Gameplans

Controlled, consistent RNG is an essential factor when it comes to deckbuilding, as it is used to increase the consistency of our gameplan.

For example, Ferros Financier in a PNZ/SI deck increases the amount of removal the deck has access to, giving it an advantage against other control decks because they now have more removal tools at their disposal. Controlled RNG cards are cards that do not deviate from the deck’s original gameplan, therefore it tests the ability of the player to make small decisions that increase their chances of making a certain win condition work.


Predictable vs Unpredictable Situations

Usage of controlled RNG can be split into two situations, which are predictable and unpredictable situations.

Predictable situations occur when you are facing decks such as Trundle Tryndamere, where you may pick a Vengeance from Ferros Financier over Shock Blast because you know that you would prefer killing the champions over dealing only three damage to your opponent. In these situations, controlled RNG is used to counter specific cards that you know your foe will have, and therefore you’ll be likely looking for these answers before the opposing threat is made present.

On the other hand, unpredictable situations are situations that occur when your opponent’s game plan has a large variance in how they are played out. Against such unpredictable decks, pre-committing a Manifest card is fairly risky: the card we’ve just Manifested may have no use during the rest of the game if our foe goes for a different plan than what we had anticipated. 

An example of an unpredictable situation may be if your opponent is playing a Concurrent Timelines deck, and you play a Conchologist on round two without the attack token, and you are given three options:

… Wallop, Might, and Cloud Stance. If we want to push for maximum damage, then we should probably take Might here, knowing that the Overwhelm could help us get some extra damage…

… but if our opponent gets a Tasty Faefolk after transforming their Piltover Castaway on round three, then suddenly they have this huge Lifesteal unit that we don’t want to attack into. In this scenario, choosing Wallop from the previous choices may now seem a lot better in hindsight, given that we could prevent the Lifesteal and wait for a Noxian Fervor.

There was no way for us to predict that our opponent was going to transform their Piltover Castaway into a Tasty Faefolk – therefore, in unpredictable situations like this, Manifest cards are used to flexibly react and generate a card that can be used in this specific scenario.

This flexibility has a price, though: in the case of Ferros Financier, we have to pay two mana for the option to choose from among the three RNG options that the Financier will Manifest – and that’s two mana we could have used to play another card.


The Other Side of the RNG Fence

I’ve talked mostly from the side of the person who is using RNG, so it’s time for me to make the shift to the person who has to play against RNG. 

Playing against RNG is about understanding how your opponent obstructs your gameplan, and how they win off of RNG. After you have considered that, the question becomes whether or not you are able to win in the next attack token, or next round. If you are not able to, then you must be able to put pressure onto your opponent, to prevent them from using the card advantage that they generated from RNG mechanics (Manifest, Invoke, etc).

One of the most important parts of combating these mechanics is to understand that, as noted above, there is an additional mana cost to playing a randomly generated card. When an opponent needs to search for a card that they want in order to counter your gameplan, they are paying an extra cost to play the unit that generates said card, versus them having the card needed and being able to use that mana towards something else. An example of this is using a Loping Telescope to try and find Crescent Strike, over having  Crescent Strike in hand. Your foe had to spend six mana trying to find and cast the spell. 

And they also had to spend more of another resource: actions. An important takeaway from this example is that there was an increased amount of actions needed in order to play the Crescent Strike in this hypothetical scenario – meaning that our foe is giving us more time to develop. They are also giving us more information about the cards they may have (since we’ve seen them play Telescope).

For example, imagine a situation where you have Tryndamere and an unleveled Trundle on your attack token, and you play an Ice Pillar to level Trundle since you need the Overwhelm keyword in order to win. Even if they have enough mana, they don’t have enough actions to play Loping Telescope and then Crescent Strike (even if they find it).

Taxing your opponent’s mana, and putting pressure on them by being efficient with your actions is how you beat decks that try to utilize the hand advantage they gain from mechanics such as Manifest, Invoke, and other RNG cards. 


You’re Bluffing

Controlled RNG can also be used as a bluff, although these are niche cases where your opponent needs to know what can be generated from controlled RNG – for example, Spacey Sketcher has a 37.5% chance of generating a Crescent Strike.

In this scenario, we can play Spacey Sketcher at the end of our round, before our opponent has the attack token, and keep in hand whatever card we Manifest – our foe will now be more likely to open-attack to get whatever value they can (by damaging our Nexus), rather than risking us stunning their board if they choose to develop.

Bluffs are not something I use often, and I don’t recommend using them too often, but they are something you have to consider using when you are backed into a corner and need to buy some time for an extra round.

Controlled, inconsistent RNG (such as Loping Telescope) is not really useful for bluffing (the pool of cards we can get is too broad for us to meaningfully represent a specific card), but is quite useful for us controlling the maximum amount of value we can extract from surprising the opponent off of their original gameplan.

These larger card pools are factored into deckbuilding by considering their ability to be used in any situation possible, and their ability to impact said situation. Generally speaking, the larger the card pool, the more it can affect the game plan and even the win condition of the game. These cards are great for players who know how to remain flexible and switch from one game plan to another, and usually in decks that can deviate from their normal game plan (with the RNG cards sometimes becoming a separate win condition on their own). These broad-pool cards often come in handy in cases where card advantage is more important than pursuing a certain win condition – basically, having two win conditions, and one of them highly unpredictable is better than having just one win condition that your opponent is prepared against

Inconsistent, uncontrolled RNG in the form of cards such as Back Alley Barkeep are cards that have a hidden cost affixed to them. Barkeep is a four-mana 3/3 that gives you a random card: in most cases, Barkeep is not a card that you can play for stats, but rather for the additional card that you get from him.

So, essentially, you are in fact paying an extra four mana for whatever card you get out of Barkeep, which may or may not progress your win condition.

To put it in purely mathematical terms, most games end around rounds seven to ten, meaning usually 28-55 mana will be used throughout the entire game. If you spend an additional four mana, the range of spent mana becomes 32-59 mana. So, in terms of deckbuilding and the overall flow of the game, these are cards that can be considered when having more cards is more important than being mana-efficient (since your mana budget is higher).

A clear example of this is Treasured Trash, which is played because three extra cards are important in the later rounds, where both players are starting to run out of resources and may be at a stalemate in terms of wanting to play their win conditions.

Uncontrolled RNG can also be seen in decks where you need to compensate for the use of extra cards to trigger other cards, for example, having to use Blade's Edge and Disintegrate to kill one unit. A deck that runs out of cards easily may want extra cards which usually are from completely uncontrolled RNG.


Wrapping Up

Thanks for reading this long explanation of RNG; I hope this was a good read for you, and maybe you will look at RNG in a new light!


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