The first real Runeterra Open happened this past weekend and it was not without its trials and tribulations. As with any new major competition, there are aspects that can be celebrated, criticised, or debated. In this article, we will delve into the good, the bad, and the ugly of the Runeterra Open, providing a comprehensive analysis of the event's strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement.
I had already written most of this article when Riot dropped their announcement covering a lot of this so if you haven’t already read it give it a read here. I’ll be going over this announcement and the things that I think are still in need of fixing.
There is still a lot of discourse in the community on how a lot of things need to be fixed and this is true to a point. But what the competitive LoR landscape has looked like in the first two years of its life and what it looks like now are night and day in my opinion. Making an organised play system that is inclusive, entertaining and sustainable is Extremely difficult and most card games have never come close. I always knew that this would be a work in progress and that we needed to throw some things against the wall, see what works and what doesn’t and keep iterating and that we would never get it all right out of the gate.
I think intent is extremely important. If someone steals just because they want something or if someone steals to feed their starving family these are not the same thing. Intent matters. It’s very obvious to me that the team currently in charge is trying their very best to make a great organised play system for us. Because this is the case I think they deserve a decently large amount of slack. They are listening to the community and making changes as quickly as they can. On top of that they are even trying their best to make it up to us when they make a mistake. A second open!? FUCK YA! You know what Kevor got when he was dropped out of worlds for no reason? A couple IRL trinkets. Thoughtful yes, helpful and impactful not so much.
Let’s start with..
One thing that we take somewhat for granted is the fact that as far as I know the tournament ran smoothly from a technical point of view. Yes there was the issue with being able to manipulate the clock to start early, but this is very easy to catch anyone abusing. Other than that though I didn’t hear much in the way of games not loading or rounds being skipped or any of the other issues that had plagued past Seasonal tournaments. The team was rushing to get the day 2 feature working as it wasn’t even ready a month ago during Beta. So from a technical standpoint I think the tournament was mostly a success. Given that technical issues have been a major hurdle for us to get new features, this is a big win.
We will talk more about MMR pairings below and why they need to be fixed BUT! There is also a silver lining here. Theoretically players that would not normally make day two of this tournament did. I know this isn’t ideal in the long run but having more players potentially get bitten by the LoR competitive bug or watching someone like GrappLr go on to 9 wins live on stream wearing nothing but his boxers sure does some amount of good for the game at large.
Despite some potentially unfair pairings for players the cream still rose to the top. Floppymudkip was once again in the finals and was once again joined by a deserving teammate CardGamer who took down the whole event and will represent the community well at Riot’s Special Event. Many of their teammates that put in time and effort also made day two joined by Mastering Runeterra Pros and others alike.
The event was a lot of fun. I ended up going a deserving 4-3 after putting in a subpar performance and I had an absolute blast doing it. I’m sad that I will have to wait a month to play again and yet at the same time happy that I don’t have to wait 2-3 months like in the old system. I’m very excited for the patch to come out and start prepping for the Worlds qualifier in May followed quickly by a whole new format in Eternal and TWO opens to play right after!
Alright let’s get to the tea shall we….
The client indicated that the tournament would start at 3am PST and not actually starting until 7am PST. This was up for a whole month, why wasn’t it changed or communicated to be wrong? This was an easy fix and just an obvious oversight. Not the end of the world, but a very low bar to say the least. Despite communication misses, I still think that it’s improved a lot since the dark days of last year so I am perhaps more forgiving to things. This is also an easy fix and was addressed in Rubin’s Article.
Having hidden MMR was a huge issue during the tournament with many players facing relatively easy competition because of it and top players having to slog it out against one another. Davetron tweeted out that this will be fixed one way or another. It seems like their hope is that with similar record match making this will make it so that players are playing players with higher records as they progress thus not making it such a cake walk. However if there are multiple players at or around the same record and those with the same MMR are being paired against each other this is still unfair and needs to be fixed. My hope is that they are somehow able to get rid of the MMR pairing completely but we have no way of knowing how difficult that is from a technical perspective.
Players playing on multiple accounts was also addressed as being against the terms of service and it was once again mentioned that before players are given any prize they need to submit Identification and be vetted. I think the trouble that someone would have to go through to play on multiple servers and then do well and then fake an identity will dissuade most people from attempting this. If we were playing for larger amounts of money though I think there would need to be a better system in place.
No official coverage. This wasn’t addressed prior to the event and while we did have some unofficial coverage it would have been nice to know so that more of us in the community could have pitched in. I am told that Riot is currently having talks around how to do coverage so this should be rectified in the future either with official coverage or helping the community to do it themselves. Based on how well the community has done at making Twitter content to the point that Riot teamed up with them I think it makes sense to farm it out to those in the community that are passionate about doing this work.
The Clock and being able to abuse it has been noted as against Riot’s TOS and anyone found timing out their opponent or stream sniping will be punished accordingly. The problem here is that sometimes this is hard to prove. In one of the first Seasonals my opponent did this to me and I was unaware at the time, I simply thought they had a lot of possible decisions and were thinking them through. This is an easy fix. FIX THE CLOCK. Why we have this insane shared timer instead of a chess clock makes absolutely no sense and as far as I know the only reason it hasn’t been fixed is that it would require developer manpower and time to do so and it hasn’t been a huge priority. Well I think enough is enough and this just needs to be fixed. The current system makes no sense and also starts to make your turns go faster when you are below a certain amount of time leading to players losing games because they didn’t expect to run out of time so quickly. Please Riot just fix this.
Players going 9-1 and not making day 2, I’m not surprised by how popular the opens were and that this happened. Again I think they are waiting to see if match making helps so that you don’t have 8-0 players playing against 1-2 players. And this might indeed make a big difference. The one thing I haven’t heard enough people talk about is byes. During the last Open most players didn't have any byes. Going into the next one many players will have 2 byes and a lot will have 1 bye. By the time we get into the last Open (now Opens) of the season a LOT of players will have 2 byes and this throws off the math by a massive factor. If anyone played in MTG GPs if you didn’t have 2 byes going in. After 16 rounds of swiss it would be very hard to make the top 8 without a 14-1-1 record. If you had 2 byes you had a good shot of making it at 14-2.
Again though this is one of the things that we needed to see before adjustments could be made. Noone knew just how large these events would be as the beta was not a good indicator with many players sitting out. If we get to a point where the majority of 9-1 records aren’t making day 2 then I think this will need to be changed. By the last Opens when players will really only need to go 7-0 with 2 byes I wouldn’t be surprised to see day 2 filled with a majority of 9-0 records. It seems like we should also be ending players' runs after 2 losses. What’s the point of playing if 9-2 doesn’t get anything. We are just setting up situations where players with 8-1 records are getting an extra win off of players with 7-2 or 8-2 records.
We are running into the classic example of what happens when you make a tournament inclusive and open to everyone. It becomes a lot harder to manage at the end without players having to put up ridiculous records to top cut. While I like that this is the route Riot took as I think it’s pivotal to growing the game, I think we still need qualifiers for the Opens. On MTGA you can play on two different days to qualify for the main event by getting 4 wins in B03 or 6 wins in B01 on days before the main event. With their model it costs money to enter, but you get solid prizes from them and they let you enter as many times as you want. You can also qualify from being top 300 on the ladder or doing well in the previous months qualifier. So it’s relatively easy to qualify but it does cut down on the number of entrants to the main event as well as being a cash cow for them.
Apparently players are still waiting upwards of six plus months to get paid their prize money. I am not sure how widespread this is, but if it’s still true as it was in Season one than this really needs to get cleared up. It shouldn’t be hard for a company the size of Riot to get these payments out in a timely fashion. Majiin and I cashed the Battle Spirits Saga event in Las Vegas and we were sent our prize within a couple weeks. MTG has also always paid out quickly if memory serves. Just figure it out.
Lastly we have what I think is the biggest dagger in that the client said the tournament ended at 9PM PST but it didn’t happen to mention that you couldn’t start a new match after 8PM PST. This was a massive oversight and one that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Let players start matches until a certain time and allow those matches to finish. There doesn’t need to be a hard stop time, just let them conclude. This was also a big communications plunder. But once again this is a very easy fix and one that was addressed in Rubin's article.
One last thing that isn’t tied to the Open but the MMR issue with ladder needs to be fixed. Seeing players go up 500LP with a 46% win rate is wild. I’m not sure what the fix is but so far the cure has been worse than the disease. With all of the systems and ladders that have been made for so many different games I would assume this should be fixable but so far it’s been a constant issue. I have never been a fan of having the ladder matter for competitive because it requires players to often play more than they want to increase burn out. I will say that I prefer when the ladder actually matters because otherwise it’s a joke and the games aren’t fun when no one is trying.
So yes the first Open was messy. But as we have gone over a large amount of these issues are easy fixes and the team has noted them and either has changes already coming for the next Open or is monitoring them going forward for future changes. I think giving points to all the 9-1s that didn’t make day 2 and also players that didn’t finish their run because of the time miscommunication instead of just cancelling the points like they did last year makes a lot of sense. Now instead of a bunch of bad feelings there is good will and players' hard work isn’t being cancelled. On top of that, adding in an extra Open is just fantastic! More money for the players and more opportunities to play Eternal is great.
I have pointed out a lot of the issues Riot has had over the years, but I want to say that I think the team really is on the right track and is doing a great job of trying to make things better for the competitive community. So I implore everyone to try and have some patience while this new system is being fleshed out. They have shown their willingness to make necessary changes and they also are bound by certain time, money, manpower constraints. So I believe they are doing the best they can and that hard work will ultimately lead us to a thriving competitive scene for all of us.