Hey everyone, Jasensational here. This Mastering LoR article is part of a six-part series geared towards newer players to teach them about the fundamentals of Legends of Runeterra (and card games in general). Each article is aimed to build on each other and teach you how to think deeper behind your plays and how you pilot the game.
If you missed the second article on Win Conditions, I highly advise you to check that out first since we are going to build off of the fundamentals discussed there. In that previous article we discussed what Win Conditions are and how to identify alternate ones as well – today we’re tying them into the big picture: How to beat our opponent.
Know Thyself. Know Thy Enemy
But Jasensational, I now know my Win Condition, is that not enough to win games? Maybe if we were playing solitaire, but unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Even if we know which Win Condition to go for and how to execute it, we still have to take into account what our opponent is doing. To do so, we will cover three main topics to widen your thinking and understanding of the game.
These three topics are: knowing your opponent’s win condition, the clock, and how to play from behind.
Know Your Opponent’s Deck
This point mostly reflects your knowledge of your opponent’s deck. For the reasons we want to learn about the Win Conditions of our deck, we want to know the ins and outs of what our opponent’s deck can do as well. As a beginner, you for sure want to focus on learning the deck you are playing in depth. But as you strive to improve at the game, the next step is to start learning about the core components of other decks too. It starts pretty simply, with the key turns/threats your opponent can have. Let’s say you are playing against Sivir Akshan.
The key turns for this deck are the even turns, especially turn two and turn four. This is where they want to play their quick attackers: Akshan and Sivir. Leveling Akshan gives them a lot of value through Warlord's Hoard and a leveled Sivir will often close games in conjunction with The Absolver or Golden Aegis.
While the champions are the main Win Conditions in the deck, it’s not necessary to deal with them on sight, but know that we need to save an answer for them so that they don’t run away with the game. Ideal times to kill both champions are Akshan before he levels to prevent the hoard from spawning, and Sivir in combat on the defensive to prevent a second Sivir to come down with Spellshield.
Once we have the main idea of their Win Conditions, the next step is to get a sense of what we need to play around. This can mostly be broken down into two main categories. What do I get punished by if I develop, and what do I get punished by if I open attack? While most of their units are relatively poor at blocking, Brightsteel Protector alone can completely stop an attack. If it’s that critical turn where you have a challenger and need to kill Sivir, then Brightsteel Protector is a really big consideration in whether or not you want to develop into an attack.
But if we decide to open attack, or attack really at any point in the game, we have to be conscious of the opponent’s mana and what available combat tricks their deck runs.
For example, we don’t want to blindly attack into a Sharpsight or a Shaped Stone if we don’t have a response of our own. In terms of removal, the deck only includes unit-based removal such as Single Combat, Concerted Strike, Akshan's Grappling Hook and Cataclysm, two of them which are slow speed and can only be cast outside of combat. Now, you may not know every card you will need to play around with at first, but eventually, you’ll notice a trend that there is only a small pool of played cards. Having a general idea of what each region plays is a great way to improve your understanding of any matchup.
What is the Clock in terms of a game of Legends of Runeterra? I don’t mean literal time in terms of minutes or seconds but terms of turns. Once a game starts, each player is put on a Clock so to speak, where each player will race to see who can win the game faster than the other. Now, why is the concept of a Clock important?
To win I need to beat my opponent before they beat me. It almost sounds stupid and obvious to say out loud, but it is hard to overstress the importance of the underlying message. Despite having a good idea of what your deck’s Win Condition is, we have to adjust our game plan based on the Clock our opponent puts us on. It’s a completely different story to play when you expect your opponent to win on turn five compared to turn eight.
This concept also ties very strongly to knowing who the Beatdown is, as well as alternative Win Conditions. How can I slow down my opponent’s Clock to advance towards my Win Condition? Or how can I close the game earlier than I normally do? As you’re reading these articles, hopefully, you can start to draw the dots between the core fundamentals.
One deck that shows the concept of the Clock well is Plunder.
This deck uniquely shows the concept, as the deck doesn’t reach its strongest potential until the champions, Gangplank and Sejuani level up. Now, to level up the champions, you need to damage the enemy nexus across five different turns.
Now, you can level up Gangplank as early as turn five and threaten to close games, but sometimes your opponent goes wide to stop your attacks from connecting, or you don’t draw a Make it Rain or Warning Shot to trigger your champion progression on your non-attack turns. There are situations where you will have a hard time leveling your champions until turns five through eight, which will drastically affect the Clock you put onto your opponent.
At the same time, this deck is a good example of how you can delay your opponent’s Clock. If you’re playing against a plunder deck, maybe you use your removal aggressively and remove all their early game units. Or you trade down your board so that you take no damage. For each turn that the Plunder deck doesn’t get a trigger, that’s essentially an extra turn you slow down your opponent’s Clock and get to advance your Win Condition.
Like knowing your opponent’s deck, knowing what Clock your opponent puts you on largely comes from having the experience playing particular matchups. Especially with the Clock, it can vary game to game depending on draws from both players. It won’t be a concept that you will know right away, but with each game, start thinking about these fundamentals and you will slowly get the idea.
Playing From Behind
The last point I want to make is the idea of playing from behind. It’s the mentality you need to adapt when things don’t go your way or you’re playing an unfavorable matchup. At the beginning of learning to play around with your opponent’s cards, it's easy to fall into the trap of trying to play around with everything. It’s the “if he has this card we get blown out” trap that makes you fall behind in a bad matchup. You have to take risks and compromise.
This also ties into the Clock. If you expect the opponent to be able to end the game the following turn with Commander Ledros, then we can’t afford to dilly dally and play around Vengeance or a The Ruination. Or if Lee Sin is going to kick our Nexus in, we’re going to pray that our opponent doesn’t have the Deny. We need to put ourselves in a winning position and hedge our bets, or at the very least delay our opponent’s Clock by a turn or two. This not only takes a good understanding of what our opponent plays but also knowing what Clock our opponent puts us on, which makes it quite an advanced concept. It’s not a clear idea to grasp and not an easy one to explain, but I think it’s an important one to consider while playing.
If Level One is knowing our wincons, then Level Two would be knowing how to play around our opponent’s wincons.
We took three different concepts: knowing your opponent’s deck, the Clock, and playing from behind, and created a framework to help you best navigate around your opponent’s cards. I hope that these three points help to identify where we can focus our attention after we get comfortable with the ins and outs of our deck.
In the next article we will be transitioning out of win conditions and into the strongest mechanic: Passing. Stay tuned, and peace out.
Let me know if you have any questions! You can find me here:
Discord: Jasinsane #0246Twitter: https://twitter.com/Jasensational