What’s up, gamers? Monte here, back to bring you guys another RubinZoo stream recap! This week’s recap won’t be quite as long as the previous one and I’ve attempted to put sub-header’s with timestamps for every major point. There was a lot of discussion surrounding the changes to Targon in the last patch so I’ve clustered those into their own section. I’m hoping all these changes make for a better reading experience. Let me know what you think in the comments below!
Rubin kicks off the stream by troubleshooting his twitch commands; he too was affected by the twitch leaks!
2:45 Rubin answers KenanKuzgun’s question, “Why are there no new cards with the launch of this season?”
Stating he’s not sure that they can always have content every two months. They did a balance patch and they have an event coming up in November, and this is the one section of the year where they don’t have anything slated. While I was also a bit disappointed to find that we weren’t getting any new cards with the advent of this season I think it’s unreasonable to expect something new EVERY time. I AM however very excited for this upcoming event, I think it’s going to tie in with Arcane and I’m holding out hope that we will be getting some new cards then!
7:45 FloppyMudkip asks Rubin, “Are you happy with how the patch impacted the meta?”
In response, Rubin says that he hasn’t looked at the data yet but that the team had a pretty good idea of what would happen with this patch and things are going as expected. He goes on to state that the team can lean on the fact that they’re now checking in more regularly and willing to do emergency balance patches.
10:26 Alift asks, “Why is Lux laser still fleeting?”
Rubin explains that Lux shouldn’t be able to stockpile lasers, especially not in her current state with them being able to target the nexus directly.
12:52 FenrirUnleashed asks, “Can we make The Undying a 2 mana 1/1?”
This sparks an interesting conversation on the power level of fodder cards. Initially, Rubin muses that they might be able to make a change like that but after contemplating it for a bit he changes his stance. Undying, and infinite value style cards like it, are difficult to make powerful as they can be frustrating to play against and even oppressive when they are, Twinblade Revenant is the perfect example of this. Rubin also talks about how making The Undying a 2 mana card would impact all the other sacrifice payoff cards like Glimpse Beyond, or Spirit Leech , potentially making them too easy to tap into.
19:05 azure_sparrow asks, “Any chance more foundations champs will get real follower sets like Teemo/Fizz did?”
The follower reinforcement that Teemo and Fizz saw, with the “Beyond the Bandlewood” expansion, was unique to them. In design champions often get pairings, Rubin once again uses the example of Viego and Shyvana, they use these new champion expansions (and pairings) as a way to reinforce old archetypes by giving new pools of playable cards that take the deck in new directions. Adding Dragon’s to Shadow Isles’ slice of the region pie is the sort of ever-expanding deck design we’re more likely to see from the team. We may get one-off cards like Crimson Bloodletter that directly reinforce old archetypes but it’s unlikely that there will be so much of an expansion dedicated to reinforcing old archetypes like there was with Beyond the Bandlewood. If this style of reinforcement works out they may do it again in the future!
23:38 I asked Rubin if he was excited for Arcane, Riot’s new Netflix show.
Rubin’s exact response was, “Yeah, I’m actually really excited for Arcane, should be fun. Should be fun.” I will take this opportunity to don my *tinfoil hat* My theory this time is that November’s event will be directly related to Arcane! I believe the new PvE content we’re expecting will involve clearing your way through Zaun and up to Piltover where you take out the new boss, maybe Jinx? Maybe Vi? Maybe somebody new? I don’t know anything more than the rest of you but I do love to speculate, maybe we’ll see Dr. Mundo (who Rubin did mention in last week’s stream) come to LoR!
29:13 landstormned asks, “What do you, or the team, think of the existence of Curious Shellfolk as it’s used right now? Is it working as intended, and do you feel it’s overpowered or in the right spot currently?”
Curious Shellfolk is working as intended. It is a brewers card and it lets you turn your Manifest and Prank cards into a real advantage. It helps to empower Bandle City as a region by giving them a way to do something powerful within their theme. Rubin goes on to talk a little bit about designing and empowering regions, and synergies within a region, in ways that feel thematic. Bandle City, for example, is good at swarming, their ability to swarm is something that’s very core to their region identity but its not super powerful all on it’s own. Without cards like Poppy, Tristana, or Yordles in Arms to enable, or empower, the swarm, your swarm units will just get traded down and you’ll have no way to end the game. Curious Shellfolk is that same sort of powerful, payoff, effect for Manifest and Prank cards.
Rubin goes on to say that he thinks the bigger issue isn’t the Shellfolk/Prank interaction but the way Shellfolk interacts with Otterpus and Trinket Trade allowing you to get free mana alongside cards like Glorious Evolution.
During this discussion, Rubin admits that Bandle may be a bit too strong, stating the region is “lacking weaknesses”. Their only notable weakness is their lack of healing; the region feels as powerful as Bilgewater did upon its release, but Bilgewater was released with all it’s cards.
56:15 kendoll769 asks, “Do you guys look at seasonal stats when balancing?”
The team is data-informed, not data-driven. Everything is an indicator to them but usually, their changes are based on ladder statistics. Riot will be very unlikely to adjust a deck if it does not show up on the ladder whatsoever.
The Serpent is unlikely to be reverted anytime soon as it’s incredibly strong and Targon having access to strong early game tools like that is somewhat toxic. Rubin and the team want Targon’s strength to be more in their mid to late game potential and that was one of the goals of this patch, giving Targon better pay-offs for building their deck around the mid to late game celestial cards. The team was very much making a statement in buffing the midrange Targon cards (Aurelion Sol and the Daybreak package). Rubin talks about the decision to give Targon power by buffing something like Solari Priestess, by making it less tempo negative and therefore easier to play, over something like The Serpent. They don’t want to rebuff something like The Serpent because they know what Targon looks like when those cards are strong and they don’t want the region to go back to its previous, overly dominant, state.
The discussion around Targon continues and Rubin goes on to say he thinks the team did a really good job with the four through six cost Celestial cards and they all feel good to use and have moments… except maybe for The Warrior, perhaps we’ll see the card adjusted in the future!
Rubin takes this opportunity to talk about how the team doesn’t like the strength of Moon Weapons at two mana. At that price, they are simply far too effective, and Aphelios is too easy to level! During development, the team considered making the weapons different costs but ultimately decided that it was important for clarity and player experience that they all cost the same. Rubin did say they may be able to buff Aphelios’ level-up condition to three weapons cast as it would be the same overall mana as before his nerf.
1:26:43 Morppadorpp asks, “can you comment on why Sparklefly was changed, but not Eye of the Dragon as a 2 cost anti-aggro tool for Ionia/Targon Lee Sin? Is that on the slate for a future patch and/or something you guys are looking into or keeping an eye on?”
Sparklefly is super problematic even internally and limits design space, Rubin doesn’t believe that Eye of the Dragon is the same sort of problem. Eye doesn’t limit design space in the same way as Sparklefly as it requires more investment, has a smaller pay-off and there are ways of getting around it. Rubin did say that Eye of the Dragon continuing to have Attune may be a problem as it is “so cheap”. While I personally hate Eye of the Dragon and believe it to be a rather strong card I agree with Rubin when he says, “it doesn’t take over the game the same way”. Eye of the Dragon can definitely wall you out some games but it is a far more fair card to play against than Sparklefly was with all of its combo potential.
1:03:52 – Design Philosophy/Card Updates
Rubin wants everyone to read the team’s “Update on Card Updates” blurb from the last patch notes. The gist of it is that they will be patching every month after card releases; Rubin calls these patches in the cycle, ‘variety patches’. One of the goals of these variety patches is to shake up the metagame by adjusting champs that have been around and in the meta for extended periods. The obvious example from patch 2.18 is Draven, but this goes back to the Fiora nerf as well. The team is also committed to emergency patches like the one before worlds if it is deemed necessary! The team has more resources to dedicate to patches and design work which is exciting as they have always wanted to do live updates and now they can formalize the way they are approaching that philosophy.
I am excited about the future of LoR, this redoubled commitment to live design and balance gives me faith that the developers consider our feedback and truly care about making the best game they can! My faith is reaffirmed by Rubin acknowledging that they went through a rough patch with live updates and they could’ve done more to hold themselves accountable and bring us patches in the past. He goes on to say that the team’s mentality and philosophy have never changed, from the beginning they have wanted to bring us regular patches and live design but only now has the process been formalized and resources have been allocated to regular patches. Rubin asks that we hold them accountable to this new schedule in the future.
Patch Thoughts – Card Changes
The change to her level up, making her require 8 mana, was needed as leveled Nami on turn four was just too strong. This change initially started with a nerf to 9 mana but that felt like too much in playtesting.
The team has attempted to nerf him in the past but it’s hard to make changes to a champ without breaking or ruining them. In testing, they tried making axes cost 1 mana and removing axe creation on summon but that felt awful! Draven ultimately is a champ that hasn’t leveled up THAT often in the past, though this expansion has changed that some. One mana axes made it so he never leveled and that isn’t a change the team was willing to make. By changing his hp to two, Draven is more vulnerable to removal AND aggro! Without that third point of hp, Draven can no longer chump block, which makes sense for a character that’s supposed to be a squishy marksman. Rubin doesn’t necessarily believe Draven was overpowered but he does feel the change was necessary as Draven has been omnipresent throughout every meta game. His core play pattern has remained the same after the change and Rubin feels this is important. The change has been a long time coming.
Her level two now gives her impact as well! This is a great change, at some point in development Tristana was more similar to this version. She was changed during the final design phase but Rubin likes that this buffed version of Tristana is more thematic and has a bigger payoff for her level up. He hopes that this will let her show up in the meta. Overall this was a modest change but very thematic and it increased her synergy power level.
Rubin talked a bit about this last week, Nocturne should’ve had this to begin with, and it was very weird that he didn’t. It was very strange that a high synergy nightfall card didn’t have a nightfall effect. Should’ve been done a while ago but has been made now as a result of an increased focus on live design
This was a pseudo health change as he’s now more likely to come down leveled up. Stats are worrying to adjust for Ekko but this makes him stronger by hopefully enabling his Chronobreak chain to start sooner. Rubin thinks it’s a good direction
The game has gotten faster, and slow targon decks have been pushed out. The team wants the slower midrange-endgame Targon decks to be viable and powerful as they feel it’s a far healthier play patter for the region
Needed some help as a lot of his cards were nerfed as a by-product of Sivir/Akshan being too strong. Helping him out with his level-up condition should let him be more powerful and effective. Not sure if this will bring him completely into the meta but he should feel better to play.
Fundamentally hard to make adjustments to Lux because Demacia is actively bad at spells so she has a bit of an identity crisis. It’s difficult to make her powerful because it’s hard to make her work in her region. Cost isn’t something they usually look at for champs because their package is designed in a specific way and cost changes are more volatile than stat changes as a result of that interwoven design. In this case Lux lost some attack power to compensate for the mana reduction which Rubin felt was important due to her natural barrier. The change to Final Spark was to help Lux players not feel sad when there was no unit to kill with a laser.
Rubin thinks Quinn is better than people expect but recognizes that there’s a lot of competition in Demacia. He thinks the extra hp is important because it makes her able to attack and therefore level up more often.
Freljord champs needed some love, and Braum was hard to make work as he died too often to all sorts of stuff. This should make him more viable but he might even need to go to 7 hp
This has been a change that they wanted to do badly, and the team knew this change was going to happen before they even started working on the patch. Sparklefly has been problematic with every set, even future ones being tested in development. Rubin feels this is a more appropriate mana cost for the card and that a “Sparklefly deck” is still playable because Elusive Lifesteal is just so powerful. This change was good for long term-health while also letting Nami still exist as a champion.
One of the problems with Twinblade Revenant having Challenger is that you could easily trade it off allowing you to get the recurring value while simultaneously eating your opponent’s resources. This play pattern was both toxic and unhealthy for the game as it kept a lot of champions and strategies from fulfilling their power fantasy and being viable. When it has the Fearsome keyword instead, your opponent has at least a bit more agency deciding whether to trade it off or chump it and deny you from getting discard fodder.
Rubin feels that Fearsome is more reasonable and the power level of Twinblade Revenant as a Challenger was far too high to be healthy for the game. Removing challenger reduces one of the more frustrating aspects of the card but interestingly, making Twinblade Revenant a Fearsome unit is a buff in some ways; Rubin likes this because it makes for a more interesting change and lets the card continue to exist. They do feel that it is a bit unfortunate that the card was supposed to be a cool midrange unit with Challenger that now has a more aggressively slanted keyword, Fearsome.
When you make a change like this it’s hard because you’re adjusting the functionality of the card, which in turn changes the play patterns. This means players have to learn how to use the card all over again and that can make for a bad player experience. The team is careful when making changes like these as they are, in essence, redesigning the card.
Poppy Ziggs needed to get hit, and it didn’t make sense to adjust Sparklefly for game health but not Poppy Ziggs. The last time Rubin looked at internal data Poppy Ziggs had a 59% win rate across all ranks, the win rate does drop drastically as you go up in ranks but overall it was a bit too high for their metrics. Tenor of Terror is also a key card in Ping City (Gangplank/Twisted Fate Bandle City) which was a deck they’re watching so Rubin thinks that this was a good change. He’s happy that they got to it early and likes that it has the unintentional but beneficial side effect of making Bandle City Mayor slightly weaker.
3 mana rally fundamentally causes problems, there’s no counterplay to it because you just pinch your opponent out. Demacia’s cheap combat tricks combined with Poppy was going to make for a very large long-term problem so this is a change that had to be made for future game health. Rubin likes that you no longer find Rally off of a Conchologist but that’s not something they actively thought about when deciding on the change. At the end of the day, it’s healthier for rally to be at a baseline 4 mana and it didn’t make sense for Relentless Pursuit to be the only outlier.
Removing Tough makes the card less interesting but Tough is a powerful keyword that was giving the card too much resiliency and made Stone Stackers the best two drop in the game. Again it was adjusted in part because of Poppy / Ziggs and Rubin likes the change despite it making the card less interesting
Did too much. The effect is interesting, super cool gameplay, the timing decision, and play patterns are all awesome BUT the body was simply too good to be attached to such a powerful disruption effect. Aloof Travelers being weaker also indirectly nerfs Bandle City Mayor, another card that the community has been very critical of.
It’s cool that The Scourge is a bit of a risk but the pay-off for taking that risk wasn’t large enough to incentivize picking it over the other big Celestial options. Such a big invoke should be able to end the game consistently as a pay-off.
Targon and dragons had trouble winning games; this change was introduced as a way to help give them a finisher. Rubin likes that it potentially lets you build different dragon decks.
Demacia has always been the stats region, so the buffs to these cards were aimed at letting them continue to compete with some of the newer cards in the current metagame.
The card was too risky and the power level of ramping dragons was unclear, with the existence of Bandle City Mayor it made sense to let this card exist as a 1/2 as well.
This change lets the card survive removal and Challenger units a bit more consistently. Rubin finds this card more interesting than Wyrding Stones because of the Behold mechanic and he feels it’s a healthier ramp card to exist in the meta.
The team kind of always wanted it to work this way but it was complicated to implement as it changes the way a card resolves. Rubin feels its reasonable that it works this way now and he likes that it plays further into the fantasy of Darkness
The unwritten rule that cards could not create copies of themselves became inconsistent with the release of Bandle City and the team is happy to have put things back in proper order. Rubin also comments that this change should help with the Bandle City Mayor problem of Loping Telescope loops.
Closing Thoughts on the Patch
They play-tested nerfs to Sion, Poppy, and Bandle City Mayor but none felt good enough to push to live. Rubin and the team want to give the meta some “soak time” to see how it adapts before rushing to make further changes. The team is ok to nerf things so long as they do it tastefully, they don’t want cards to become completely obsolete once nerfed.
Rubin thinks that this patch had relatively light-handed changes and he likes that this is the approach they took this time. The team wanted to be light-handed to avoid killing any archetypes.
Finally, Rubin stated that he likes that they’re reverting nerfs as needed and he goes on to say that cards that have been nerfed are statistically more likely to be buffed down the line.
It’s difficult to move the win rate percentage on a deck, more difficult than you’d believe. In the case of Poppy Ziggs, it’s difficult to balance because the deck is a “zoo” deck. By calling it a ‘zoo’ deck, Rubin means that it doesn’t rely on any specific synergies, it’s just a deck that plays the best 40 cards to kill you. This means that the deck can be particularly hard to nerf as there are lots of replacement options for any one card. When nerfing a deck like this it’s important to identify ‘load-bearing cards’, cards that push the deck up and carry it to victory. When asked about Bandle City Mayor being problematic in the deck, Rubin said that he doesn’t believe Mayor to be a “load-bearing card” in this style of deck. Mayor doesn’t carry the deck to victory and that he’d be shocked to see Poppy Ziggs’ win rate drop more than .5-1% if Mayor was nerfed. There’s a lot of awesome design talk during this part of the stream, I would highly recommend you look at the VoD if that’s up your alley!
4:28:37 Kunall_102 asks, “Why do you balance the game in such way that aggro decks are always dominant?”
Rubin answers this question by saying he feels they “nerf the crap out of aggro all the time”. He thinks the game is systematically good for control but cards counter that by being strong for aggro, the game is designed in this way. He feels they overcompensate for midrange and control a lot but also that they could do more to make control feel strong in the game. He thinks Darkness is a great control deck to exist in the game and he’s happy that it does as it’s good to see a control deck being strong. Hard removal has to be more expensive in the game as a result of spell mana but, in practice, you can’t use control tools, like a Vengeance, every single turn otherwise you’ll eventually get killed by a 2/2! Rubin continues to talk about the systems design of the game and how it’s cool that an aggro deck can survive until turn 10 and go a bit bigger, in other card games it’s somewhat unusual for an aggro deck to play cards above three mana (for example). In LoR the lines between deck archetypes get kind of blurry, the aggro decks can look kind of like midrange decks when they stack their top-end with cards like Gangplank and Jack, the Winner and midrange decks can look kind of like aggro decks. Click here to see what Rubin has to say about people calling his decks ‘piles’.
Deck of the Stream
Rubin played a few different decks during this stream but this super spicy Miss Fortune Hecarim list is the one I wanted to showcase. This deck is NOT the most competitive and it is NOT refined at all, but it IS LOTS OF FUN! One interesting note from this portion of the stream is that Rubin has often wished for an ‘Ephemeral’ card indicator as it can be confusing to remember which card was granted the status when pulled off of Stalking Shadows. Perhaps we’ll see more visual indicators in the future!
We had a slight hiccup in the newsroom and failed to get last week’s recap up in time for you guys; this week Rubin spent most of his stream climbing the ladder so we decided to merge the articles. We’ll be sure to get you the recap on time in the future!
Going forward if you want to catch Rubin’s streams live, you’ll have to go to https://twitch.tv/rubinzoo. Rubin changed his name on twitch to clarify that his streams are not official Riot streams. Riot also has a policy that Rioters cannot use their ‘Riot’ tag as a self-promotion tool, Rubin had initially put Riot in his twitch name so he could be recognized as an LoR developer when the game was in its infancy. Now that the game has been out a while and most people know who he is, he felt it was best to go back to just ‘RubinZoo’.
Rubin answers hollow by saying Rex probably could be reverted especially since, at the time, he felt strongly that Make it Rain and Twisted Fate were a larger problem than Rex, it was a change that Rubin feels was short term healthy but maybe not so great in the long term.
Rubin spent the majority of this stream climbing the ladder, around 1:12:40, he talks a little bit about his Poppy Taric list. If you wanted to play around with the list, Rubin says, Telescope and Vanguard Sergeant are the two cuttable cards. You could potentially swap Riposte as well but having a mix of combat tricks is valuable in LoR as it makes it difficult for your opponent to play around all your options. Riposte is also a really good meta call, as barrier is quite strong into Demacia and there’s a fair bit of Poppy running around.
Rubin thinks this is a good question as he’s unsure which is better. He says he thinks Mountain Goat is probably better but oddly the Gems are bad because, unless you’re leveling up a Taric, they’re not worth the mana investment. Goat is better into Make it Rain, Bandle City, and aggro decks looking to abuse the Fearsome Keyword.
Unfortunately, yes. You never actually want to end the Mountain Sojourners chain with Ibex because you want a challenger unit at the end. Rubin also notes that the payoff for supporting a unit is already good enough without the Frightened Ibex
Rubin then goes on to talk a bit about other ways to build Demacia Taric, if you’re interested in seeing his thoughts on Jarvan IV Taric, a more mid-range approach check out the vod at 1:47:28. Note that he does not play the deck.
The future of these articles. Hey guys, thanks for making it to the end! I hope you enjoyed the summary, I know it was quite long this time! Going forward, these articles will be released every Tuesday at 11am Eastern time. I feel it’s important to get these recaps out to you guys in a timely fashion and I apologize for dropping the ball this time. As always if you have any suggestions or questions regarding my content feel free to message me on Twitter