As the season ramps up and we enter another, 1024 spots open up once again for players of every region to battle for the title of Seasonal Champion. Every season, you’ve tuned into the Legends of RuneTerra stream to watch the players deck it out, but you’ve never been on the opposite side of the screen. Have you ever wanted to? It might not be as far away as it seems.
Chapter 0 - I’m Just a For Fun Player
Hey guys Jasensational here. Some of you may know me as a member of the Mastering RuneTerra Pro Team, a high ladder player, or that one guy who brought Yasuo to the first Seasonal Tournament. To this day, I’ve played in every Seasonal tournament and my fair share of community events, but would it surprise you to hear that I had no intention of playing this game competitively? It was an interesting journey for me to step into this competitive space, and I wanted to share my story with those on the edge of diving into it.
Let’s rewind a little bit. Regarding my card game background before getting into RuneTerra, I had played Hearthstone on and off pretty casually for four years, with the main goal to hit Legend (the equivalent to Masters in LoR) every month. Even though I had a relatively high ranking to the mass of players, I had no interest or knowledge in trying to qualify for competitive play, whether that be playing in tours or trying to top ladder placements at the end of each season. So when I started playing Legends of RuneTerra, I had the same mindset going in.
When my friend introduced me to Legends of RuneTerra, the competitive play was months away from existing. I treated the game as a fun side game to play, unlike many of my teammates that started playing around the time Seasonals were announced and had their sights on the top. I didn’t come into Legends of RuneTerra intending to compete at the highest levels. Heck, I hadn’t even played any card game competitively before coming to RuneTerra. So what changed? What was different about me, or Legends of RuneTerra as a competitive game? How did I go from the casual for a fun player to who I am now?
Chapter 1 - My First Tournament. Ever
For the first few months of my RuneTerra experience, I spent my time playing Mogwai decks, running Expeditions or Singleton Gauntlets, and building 40% win rate decks. So when they announced their plans for the Monuments of Power Seasonal tournament, needless to say, I thought that it wasn’t going to be the thing for me. Top 700 masters players? I was still sitting comfortably in the depths of Diamond 3, having only hit masters one or two times in the past and never getting more than 50 LP; this didn’t seem like something I could achieve. As I continued reading through the qualification methods, my eyes lit up when I read that 324 players could qualify through the Last Chance Gauntlet.
“Legends of RuneTerra has one of the most straightforward, clear-cut ways to qualify for competitive play. With constant date reminders, a tournament tab showing your progress, and glowing yellow buttons on the play screen, it’s hard to miss. All of this can be done from the comfort of your phone; no tour stops or travels are needed. No going out of your way to research upcoming events. Most importantly, it provided an option for casual players to get a taste of the competitive format and a chance at something more.”
At the time, Gauntlet rotated between a Singleton tri-region and a bo1 pick ban format. It wasn’t built to be super competitive, which allowed for players like me to enjoy the game mode as something different while still playing in a constructed format. Since I was already playing Gauntlets, I continued, this time trying my best to achieve a Prime Glory each week. When the Last Chance Gauntlet arrived, I only needed to win two games and qualify to play in Seasonals. Two games later, I was qualified for the biggest tournament in LoR’s history. If I went 5-0 in the qualifier round the coming week, I would be playing in the top 32 for a chance at $10,000.
“In card games, there are the meta decks, but the format is open and matchups are flexible. Legends of RuneTerra was and still is no different, allowing players to bring decks that they know in and out, even if they aren’t the top of the meta, and excel with them.”
As I mentioned before, I was a casual player, spending most of my time playing Mogwai decks. Most days, I switched decks after two or three games just to spice things up. Needless to say, I was clueless about what three decks I should play, especially when this would be the first tournament I was going to be playing and not watching. An hour before deck submissions, I was messing around with a Yasuo Katerina deck and won three games in a row. That was a good enough sign for me, and I walked into the qualifiers with an absolute mess: Feel the Rush, Yasuo Katerina, and Veimer Targon. Each round was exhilarating, with some rounds being nail biters against meta decks such as Go Hard (with one-mana Pack Your Bags). If I even dropped one bo3 set, then I was going to be out of it. As a casual player, I entered the qualifier round with no expectations. Sure, it would be cool to go 5-0. Sure it would be cool to play in the top 32s, but did I expect to win five rounds in a row? Of course not. So you can imagine my surprise when I walked out to the other side on top. I just happened to get lucky, I told myself. It’s the nature of CCGs to have RNG after all.
Even though I had a place in the top 32, I didn’t feel like I belonged. I was inexperienced, and not one of the 32 best players in my region. But now that I was on the big stage, I had something to prove, to myself and the watching world. Honestly, the next week following the qualifiers was a blur. I spent hours a day grinding the ladder with my three decks, refining them, and making sure I knew the matchups so I could make my bans correctly. I watched Swimstrims’s video on how to build a proper lineup five times, and the moment in his video where my Yasuo deck was featured ten times. I got butterflies days before I even was scheduled to play, but I felt the adrenaline pumping in my veins. I ended up with a top 16 finish, with my final match being broadcasted to 30k people on twitch. And that was the end of my first ever tournament experience.
Chapter 2 - Going Hard with the Ladder Climb
For the next week I was in a state of bliss, rewatching my match that got streamed and laughing at twitch chat hyping up my Yasuo deck, or when they saw me draw Subpurrsible. I was proud that I was able to place so high for having no experience coming in.
“Very few people wake up the next morning and think to themselves, I am going to pursue this game competitively from this day forward. Like how every hero receives their call to action, this was the perfect catalyst for me to realize I had something greater within me. If I put the effort and concentration into it, perhaps I could make something more of myself.”
To be honest, it didn’t hit me that I placed in the top 16 and what it meant for a while. Did I believe only 15 people were better than me? No. Did I now realize that I had it in me to play at a higher level than I thought? Yes. A spark brighter than Lux’s ability lit up in me, and I wanted to shine. Master’s ladder had felt like the cool kid’s playground, where the best players clashed heads with one another. For so long, I hadn’t dared to dip my toes in fear of sharks in the water, but now I wanted to breakthrough. In my week of prepping for the Top 32s, I went from Diamond 3 to about 200 LP in Masters, so I knew I could do it again.
This season around, I was able to hit Masters early on, but I wanted to climb the ladder and see where I could end up. I still experimented with decks that I wanted to play and found some success, opting for decks like Riven Vi and bringing back Miss Fortune Sejuani. At this time, I found myself around rank 100 in the Americas. I’ll be honest, when it comes to the ladder, I’m a little bit of a weirdo. I never really liked to play the most popular decks at their peak. So… when Pack Your Bags gets nerfed from one mana to five mana, I wanted to give Go Hard a try. Now that no one wanted to play with their favorite toy anymore, it was the perfect time to give it a go and see what the fuss was about. But at the same time, I also predicted that the nerf wouldn’t be as impactful as expected and that it might be really good if no one expects to play into it. And I was right. I won the first five games, and then the next five games, and then the next five games. I soon found myself sitting at rank three, having gone 21-2 with a supposedly nerfed Go Hard deck. Now, this was a big moment for me. It was one thing to randomly spike a tournament, but it was another thing to pilot a deck to a 90% win rate at the top of the master’s ladder. It was great to reinforce the idea that I had the skill to pursue the game competitively.
Chapter 3 - A Sea Creature, a Beardo, and a Blind Monk
Why do I share my laddering story? It isn’t to flaunt my sudden success at the game, or to brag about my off-meta tendencies. While I think any competitive player’s journey will eventually lead them to perform well on the ladder, I believe that there is more value to laddering for a fresh player than simply as a means to qualify for Seasonals. It’s about getting your name out there, and Masters is a great place to do so.
“As individualistic as card games are, a 1v1 versus an opponent, playing at a competitive level is rarely a solo sport. I was by myself this whole time, and I realized I would need help to grow and get better. I had to break out and find some travelers to assist me on my journey ahead. Enter a Sea Creature, a Beardo, and a Blind Monk.”
Unlike in Plat or Diamond, you will find a very small group of competitive players sitting at Master’s Ladder. This means that the more you play in that bracket on the ladder, the more you’ll run into said players, over and over again. Just by playing at this level, you are sharpening your blade with some of the best players in the region. But with repetition, your name also starts to get recognized slowly. It’s no longer just another random person on the ladder, but it turns into “hey this guy beat me two times today with Go Hard, he’s pretty good” or “what a mad lad, playing this jank at this LP”.
With this recognition, we can start to build relationships. This requires more effort from your side, as it’s not something you can do in-game, but it is so worth it. A lot of players are very active on twitch, whether they’re streaming their games themselves, or sitting in the chats of others. Now, up to this point, I never really watched many twitch streams myself, so I started to browse the LoR section. The day I hit rank three, I found a player by the name of CephalopodLoR (probably one of the most prolific LoR community tournament players ever) streaming his climb. His name was familiar to me, as I had played him a couple of times on my ladder grind, and so I hopped into his stream and introduced myself. To my surprise, he recognized my name as well through the ladder. He was right behind me at rank four, needing only one more win to surpass me. I told him I’d concede a game so he could “claim” rank three as well, and the rest of history. Later that day, I asked if I could add him in-game, got his discord, and he became the first person I got lineup advice and scrims with.
“Thinking back, it’s weird how important it was for me to sit in those twitch chats at the beginning of my journey. Even though I was watching mainly for fun, the streamers I befriended became some of my closest LoR buddies to this day. And all I did was watch their streams and enjoy their conversations.”
I continued to hop around on twitch, looking for names that I knew, and that’s where I met Majiinbae, the beardo, and Kevor24, rank one Lee Sin player. You might know them as other MasteringRuneTerra Pro Team members, but at the time they were just people I bumped into occasionally on the ladder. I got into their streams, started chatting with them, talking about the games we played earlier against each other, and getting their in-game IDs so I could add them to a slowly growing list of players. Even just sitting and talking in their chats, I bumped into other players in chat that I had played against as well, and my network was able to branch out from there.
If twitch isn’t your thing, lack a good connection to watch streams, or are in a time zone where there aren’t many streams going on, another great place to meet RuneTerra players is Twitter. It’s easy to create an account, search up some players you recognize, and start interacting with their posts and introducing yourself. It’s even a great place for people to find you. One thing that I love to do on Twitter is to share a super spicy deck that I’ve been performing well with and drop a screenshot with a deck link. You might even find people copying your list, asking for help piloting, or about card choices, which grows your presence as well.
Meeting people will be something that you have to go out of your way to do. Whether it be on social media platforms or through the depths of twitch chat, the effort you put in will be worthwhile to find players that can help you improve.
Chapter 4 - Team Up and Bunker Down
Once you get to know players within the competitive community, we can leverage our relationships. I’ve found it very helpful to ladder with a friend, have someone to talk through plays with, or scrim against someone that I know is very good with a particular deck. The best way to improve quickly is with the support of others, and it’s important to have a group you can go to.
“I think when you’re the noobie, it's almost embarrassing to ask for help from others that you see as better than you, thinking getting help is a one-way street. But a lot of the time, your insights and play patterns can help allow your partner to look at the matchup differently or see a new line to take. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, because you might have something they need too.”
Fortunately for me, JasonFleurant reached out to me to join the Mastering RuneTerra Pro Team, and I got my work cut out for me. Alongside a couple of other amazing players, this team has helped me with lineups and matchup advice for every seasonals since. We would share decklists, tech choices, decks to watch out for, and pass along hot ideas. We cover each other with our different tastes in decks and playstyles and help each other learn and progress. I remember for the week leading up to worlds where we had two of the boys playing in the top 16, we would all band together in a call, and work through our opponent’s lineups. Turn by turn, we would play out both sides, looking for what the best play would be, and identify which turns or combos to watch out for. For example, it could be as minuscule as not playing Fleetfeather Tracker on turn one on the attack token for the fear of getting punished by an opponent’s Fleetfeather Tracker into Yordle Smith or Brightsteel Protector to something like if we put Aloof Travelers into our Sion decks, does it make the Bandle Tree matchup favorable? Even though most of us weren’t playing, I felt invested and wanted to do my best to help my teammates out and was still able to sit in and learn from the conversations.
As smooth as things seemingly went, I’ll be honest. At the start of getting to know the group, I was kinda intimidated by everyone else. They had come from years of playing MtG or Hearthstone or other card games, and I only had one seasonal performance to show for. It took me a bit of time to get adjusted, so don’t feel discouraged if you feel the same way too. And don’t feel pressured like this has to be some super formal thing. You don’t need your podcast, or your discord, or your website, but if you can have a group of friends to practice and discuss with, you’ll go a long way.
Where Do You Go From Here?
Chances are if you stumbled into this little story, you’re already in a better spot than most. Just being on this site, you have access to content to help you get better at the game, such as deck guides from other competitive players and hours of podcasts from the Jae and Bae Duo (not sponsored). But it’s also a sign that you’re willing to go out of your way to do something extra and improve your game.
I recommend every player wanting to get a taste or aim to play competitively to try and qualify for a Seasonals, whichever way it takes, being gauntlet or ladder. You don’t have to go out of your way to find and join some of the community tournaments if you don’t want to. And if you qualify, you don’t have to feel like you need to succeed on your first time either. Whether you get six wins or three wins, or even if you lose every round, there’s a lot to be gained and learned from just trying.
A whole ten months after my appearance into competitive LoR, a lot has changed so far. There are more streamers, more players, more websites, more data, and more discords for a player interested in jumping into the competitive scene to use. Mastering RuneTerra was merely a concept but has now also grown out to be a full-fledged podcast/masterclass/website/resource for helping players of all skill levels to improve. The best part is you don’t have to do this alone either. Mastering Runeterra has a growing discord channel of hundreds of players across all ranks that are aiming to improve at the game one step at a time (still not sponsored). You too can join through this link: https://discord.gg/8dpVT2AwEQ
Feel free to reach out to me as well if you’re looking for any tips or advice with your journey. This is Jasensational signing out; I’ll see you next time on the ladder.