Just six days after Legends of Runeterra's Open Beta went live, introducing a ranked mode, the first player reached the highest achievable rank. Czech card game professional Mikuláš "Pokrovac" Dio reached the summit of Master rank in lightning speed and grabbed the gold medal last Tuesday. We spoke to Pokrovac about the aspects of Legends of Runeterra he loves, and which one card he thinks could use some tweaking.
Congratulations on being the first player to reach the Masters rank in Legends of Runeterra! How many hours did you play per day to reach this?
I actually didn't play that much. I played around 170 games to get Master rank. I don't know exactly how many hours I spent in Legends of Runeterra—it's probably around eight or ten hours—but I know how many games it took me.
Why were you so committed to being the first to reach Master?
I'm trying to be the best in this game, because I really like it. I always try to be at the top when I play card games, so that's why I wanted to achieve this. To be the first to get to [Master] is quite a big achievement, I think.
Before Legends of Runeterra, you mainly played Hearthstone. Have you made a full transition?
For like, three years I played Hearthstone professionally. But when they created the Grandmasters system, I was super disappointed. I don't think it's the best way to do esports in a game, invite-only. I don't like it. I liked it when we had Preliminaries, and you could qualify four tournaments by playing ladder. But now I've kind of given up on Hearthstone. I've played some TFT and hit double Challenger there, but there is also no esports there yet. So now I'll see if there will be esports here. I'd love to play Legends of Runeterra professionally. I don't know if there will be something of an esport or not, but I think there will be something.
To get to Master, you used several decks that helped you get there. You posted an aggressive Elise/Darius deck, a slow Braum/Tryndamere build, and a couple of others. Which one was your favorite to climb with?
I used my Jinx/Draven deck to climb from Iron to Silver—that was the first deck I built. Then I built some Control decks because I started facing many heavy-minions decks, and I wanted to destroy them. It actually worked, and it got me from Silver to Platinum rank super fast. I think it was one day. Then I played an Elusive deck, but the meta shifted and there were many Challenger and aggro decks, so I played my own aggro deck which turned out to be a super good counter to the Elusive decks.
I like playing whatever is the best against what I'm facing. I don't have a favorite deck, or something like that. I think the best deck of all of them is the aggro Elise/Darius deck, but it's not my favorite. I don't have favorite decks. I favor winning.
Now that you've played a lot of Legends of Runeterra, what aspects of the game do you like in particular?
I think that Legends of Runeterra has the best gameplay mechanics. In Magic: The Gathering the mana system is based on lands, which you have to draw from your deck. Sometimes you draw a lot of them, and sometimes you draw too little of them. The mana system is one of the worst parts of MTG, but it's something Hearthstone does really well. The spell mana is something I really like as well, where you save unspent mana from your last turn. Even if you miss the early game, you can still come back.
What I also like is that in Runeterra you can play spells in your opponent's turn. Hearthstone doesn't have that. Legends of Runeterra takes the best parts from all the card games I have played, like Magic and Hearthstone, and combines them.
Are there aspects of the game you're not completely happy with yet? What do the developers need to address, in your opinion?
I think the deck builder looks a lot like it's in beta. There are some bugs in it. But as a player, I don't care much about the looks of it. I'm looking for the best gameplay as possible. And there I think the developers did a really good job. There's not much I would change.
One card that's maybe slightly too strong is Elise. She's played a lot now. Especially in mirror matches, if you draw your Elise first, the game is very one-sided. But I don't have a problem with Elusive, and stuff like that.
It's good that you mention Elusives, because it is something the community has repeatedly complained about. The developers have said that they're aware of it—what is your stance on the mechanic?
I don't think it's a problem for the game, actually. Elusives can be countered with Challengers, or you can play fast removal spells and stuff. Or you can play aggro decks, and Elusives just can't catch up with you.
Another topic of debate is the card Deny. It's an incredibly powerful card from Ionia. How do you feel about it?
I think it's good that a card like Deny is in the game. It costs three, and you can have three spell mana saved up at max. So you can kind of cast it for free, and that's a good thing. Cards like Ruination would be too overpowered if a card like Deny wouldn't be in the game. I think the way to balance Deny properly is making some other cards in Ionia less powerful, so your deck is less powerful overall if you want to play Deny. But it's not a big problem, I think. I think a bigger problem is Elise, like I said before.
Something Riot Games has promoted a lot about Legends of Runeterra is the card acquisition model. What's your perspective on that system?
The economics in Legends of Runeterra are the best way to approach a card game, I think. You can't buy that much in this game. You can buy, like, three champion wildcards every few days or something, right? The same goes for epic wildcards, rares, and commons. If I compare it to Hearthstone, Legends of Runeterra has a much better system.
Still, if you want to be competitive and a new set releases, you're going to want the best cards as soon as possible. Is the purchase limit is going to hinder that then, right?
I don't thin it will be much of a problem. Right now I'm playing on a second account, on the NA server. I didn't buy anything and I already have a competitive deck, with just one day of playing. You just need to know what region you have to get XP for, and understand which cards you can get et cetera. If you create an account you already have double Elise and double Darius, so you can play the Elise/Darius aggro deck really quickly.
You get cards so fast in this game. Expeditions are also a really, really good way to earn cards. I definitely recommend everyone to play Expeditions, if they don't have the right cards to play on ladder.
Obviously the game only just became accessible. But given your experience in card games, what type of competitive format would you like to see being explored for Legends of Runeterra?
For me it's really hard to choose. It could be Conquest, like it was in Hearthstone, but I didn't like it that much. Another format could be a Best of 3 format, where you bring one deck but you have a sideboard, like in Magic: The Gathering. I think it's much better to play lots of rounds of Best of 3's with a sideboard. If I had to choose, I think that's what I would pick.
Understandably you're speaking from a player perspective, but wouldn't it get a bit too boring for viewers to see the same deck played three times? It was one of the complaints Hearthstone viewers had when the game tried their 'Specialist' format.
Yeah, of course you have to look at it from more perspectives than just that of the player. I enjoy the sideboard, but that's just me. I don't know what the casual viewer wants. Maybe you can bring three decks, and play a Last Hero Standing format. That works for me as well. The only thing I care about, is whether or not there will be an esport.
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Header image via Riot Games / Activision Blizzard.
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