Riot Games Wants Legends of Runeterra Balanced for All Modes


by in League of Legends | Dec, 3rd 2019

Card game balance isn’t a new thing, but it’s always an exciting thing. Take Hearthstone, for example. It’s balanced around a competitive mode. Wild Format is a wasteland of chaotic, overpowered combos that run rampant with little to no supervision, it seems.

Then you have Artifact. Or, you had Artifact before it bombed out. It’s still there, but nobody plays or cares about it anymore. Part of it is the ridiculous balance; part of it is the heartless monetization. The rest is that it was just one-on-one DOTA, and who has time for that? Not this writer, that’s for sure.

Legends of Runeterra Balance

I had a tough time typing that subheading. I have years of experience playing League of Legends, and it’s never felt balanced. Maybe that’s because I’m a support main, perhaps not. But Legends of Runeterra’s lead designer Steve Rubin wants it all.

His goal is to balance every competitive play format in Legends of Runeterra. That means both constructed and limited will be held to a higher standard than what you see in other card games. This goes for any future formats as well. They aren’t ruling those out at all.

Rubin went on the record to say this: “We’re committed to balancing both constructed and limited (and any future formats) to a high standard. Many other CCGs don’t balance limited or alternate game modes to the same degree as constructed, or even particularly consider those formats when nerfing or banning cards. We want any of our competitive formats to be fair and regulated to the same degree.”

One exciting thing is that Riot is setting up Legends of Runeterra to be competitive, without pushing it towards esports. They want the move to be natural, like League of Legends was. That’s well and good, but I am always worried about card game balance.

Digital-Only Has Its Advantages

Games like Hearthstone, GWENT and Legends of Runeterra have one significant advantage over MTG Arena. MTG Arena can only ban or restrict cards. It can’t retool or balance cards. That’s because it’s based on the physical card game, and you can’t re-release those physical cards. Asking players to re-purchase cards they already owned would not go over well at all.

So, Hearthstone and other digital-only CCGs can re-balance when they need to. Simply banning cards can be heartbreaking, though. Sure, the recent Oko nerfs were necessary, but there were a lot of people who invested in it, only to see it go away.

There needs to be more time to adjust and balance before release, instead of throwing that garbage out into wild and being shocked when people eat it up.

Rubin went on to say: “We aim to change cards in ways that don’t over nerf them or leave them obsolete. We think one of the worst experiences in card games is when a card gets over-nerfed or banned—which can leave an entire deck no longer functional.”

Now, this is something I’d like to see. When you remove or nerf a few cards, whole decks can become useless. Of course, that’s why a deck’s lynchpin should not be built around one card, but that’s just the way CCGs turns out, I suppose.

Rubin points out that the design team can only do so much, which is a lesson MTG Arena could learn from (and Wizards at large). Rubin’s going to want input from players on the Legends of Runeterra balance, much like the way they take input on League of Legends.

The Balance on the Edge of a Knife

If Riot keeps to this, I will be both impressed and happy. I love a well-balanced card game. The possibility of having a deck still work after a card is adjusted is something I will have to see to believe.

I have played more than my share of digital card games that dole out nerfs. Hundreds of dollars down the drain because two or three cards have been rendered worthless is soul wrenching. Especially when they’re control decks. I think control decks are always way more expensive.

It takes a lot of players working together, trying their best to break a card game to see what doesn’t work in it. In 2020, Legends of Runeterra enters the next beta stage. More players will able to get their hands on it then.

“We’re going to listen closely players to help us learn what the right level and frequency of change is,” Rubin said.

I don’t want to be a Negative Nancy, but I’ll believe it when I see it. I’ve seen way too many things stay busted in League of Legends without regard to balance or positive change. That said, I want this to be a reality. So instead of saying “Oh, this will never happen,” I’d instead think that it’s a serious declaration of intent.

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