Patch 2.11.0 marks a significant turning point in the history of Legends of Runeterra. The game’s latest update introduces 43 new cards as part of the Rise of the Underworlds expansion, as well as 47 balance changes to existing cards — by far the largest amount of card updates in a single patch.
Since the meta will undoubtedly shake-up as a result of new cards to experiment with and the plethora of adjustments to existing cards, let us examine the losers and winners of LoR’s most recent patch and make some predictions about what the early 2.11.0 metagame will look like.
The 2.10.0 Meta Titans: TLC, Thresh/Nasus, Draven/Ezreal, and Azir/Irelia
As stated in the patch notes, one of the goals of Patch 2.11.0’s balance changes was to reduce the power level of the most dominant decks in the game. Trundle/Lissandra Control (also known as “TLC”) was essentially removed from the game, as its primary win condition, Watcher, no longer Obliterates the enemy deck when it attacks. Thresh/Nasus is in a similar boat, with Nasus losing Fearsome on his Level 1 form and Escaped Abomination being changed to a 4|2 from a 4|3. These two decks are by far the biggest losers of the patch, and I expect their playrates to be significantly reduced on the ladder, if not straight-up non-existent.
Draven/Ezreal and Azir/Irelia are also losers of the patch, though not to the same degree as TLC and Thresh/Nasus. Draven/Ezreal received nerfs to two key cards:
- Rummage now costs 2 mana instead of 1
- Tri-Beam Improbulator now costs 5 instead of 4.
Azir/Irelia, on the other hand, received four nerfs:
- Dunekeeper being changed to a 1|2 from a 2|1
- Dancing Droplet losing the Attune keyword
- Both Azir and Irelia’s level-up conditions being harder to achieve
However, both decks also received some new tools from the Rise of the Underworlds expansion: Draven/Ezreal received Time Trick and Timewinder, and Azir/Irelia received Defiant Dance. I expect these two decks to survive in some form because of these new cards; additionally, the nerfs they received do not affect their primary play patterns that much. Both decks may be a tad slower now as a result of the mana taxes to some of their core cards, but they will likely stick around as relatively strong meta contenders.
The region of Ionia received numerous buffs in Patch 2.11.0. most notably Will of Ionia being changed back to 4 mana down from 5. Will of Ionia was nerfed to 5 mana in Patch 1.6 because the tempo gained by Recalling expensive enemy units for 4 mana, such as Nautilus and Cithria the Bold, was deemed to be too polarizing and restrictive on the meta. However, since the time of this change, Ionia has consistently been regarded as one of the worst regions in the game despite the success of Lee Sin and Irelia decks. Reverting this nerf will undoubtedly help Ionia decks of all archetypes return to prominence.
Another noticeable buff to Ionia is Twin Disciplines going down to 2 mana. Twin Disciplines is a card that was commonly seen in Elusive decks from Open Beta, but fell off over time because it simply cost too much. Times have changed, however, and Ionia’s struggle to establish a sense of region identity, as well as general power creep, has led to the Live Design team choosing to provide the region with a cheap combat trick that rivals the likes of Demacia’s Sharpsight and Freljord’s Troll Chant. Expect to see the card make the cut in Azir/Irelia and Lee Sin decks, along with some other non-control Ionia concepts.
Finally, Karma’s cost was reduced from 6 mana to 5 mana, reverting a nerf to her from Patch 1.2. This is a relatively minor, yet noticeable buff that makes her easier to protect on the turn you play her and also allows her to generate Spells earlier if you need a way to refill your hand in the mid game. With Piltover and Zaun’s new tools in Ekko, Fallen Feline, and the aforementioned Time Trick and Timewinder, the old-school Ionia/PnZ pairing utilizing Karma as a form of top-end may be a force to be reckoned with once again.
Speaking of reversions to old nerfs, Make it Rain is another card that got restored to its former glory, going back to 2 mana. Make it Rain was first nerfed in Patch 1.13 because its near-universal presence in all Bilgewater decks, regardless of archetype, restricted the viability of 1-health units that would otherwise be solid cards.
This reversion will likely result in the return of some classic Bilgewater decks into the meta, most notably Swain/Twisted Fate and Pirate Aggro. Swain/Twisted Fate is especially interesting as a deck right now given how the nerf to The Fangs means that a blowout Equinox on a Leviathan will happen less frequently. It also received an interesting new tool in Line ‘Em Up, which may compete for slots in the deck with the previously staple Dreadway Deckhand.
Miss Fortune’s nerf from Patch 2.1.0 has also been reverted, and she now gains Overwhelm when she levels up. This nerf was originally applied in order to reduce the power of Scout decks, but that concept has largely been power crept by Azir concepts that possess similar matchup tables, such as Azir/Irelia and Lucian/Azir.
With this reversion, we may see the return of Scouts once again, especially with the various nerfs to Azir/Irelia that will slow the deck down considerably and make it less powerful overall. Furthermore, Pirates may also make a resurgence, despite the fact that Miss Fortune rarely leveled up in that deck; however, this is mainly due to a nerf to Dunekeeper making the Noxus/Shurima region combination less appealing compared to the Noxus/Bilgewater pairing of the past.
The early 2.11.0 metagame in Legends of Runeterra
While the meta is still incredibly new, expect the following decks to make a splash in the early days of 2.11.0. Keep in mind that given how new the meta is, the sample lists provided are likely unrefined; as a result, feel free to make adjustments at your own discretion. The list below is also far from a conclusive one; it is likely that other decks may rise up as meta contenders as well.
- Pirate Aggro: With the nerfs to Dunekeeper and Rummage, many players believe that Pirate Aggro will be the best and most commonly seen aggro deck in the early days of 2.11.0, taking that status away from Noxus/Shurima Burn and Discard Aggro. Apply pressure early by swarming the board with your one and two-drops, transitioning to burn in the form of Noxian Fervor (that you can tutor with Zap), and Decimate to finish.
- Overwhelm: One of the few meta decks that managed to dodge the nerf hammer, Overwhelm is a midrange deck that applies pressure by granting key enemy units Vulnerable and trampling them with large Overwhelm units. Look for ways to sneak in some chip damage during the early game, then slap a Battle Fury on an Overwhelm unit — ideally Ruin Runner (as it has SpellShield) — to finish the game.
- Zoe/Lee Sin: With Azir Irelia being toned down, Lee is once again in a prime position to establish itself as a meta titan. Fend off enemy aggression early on with Zoe’s Supercool Starcharts, Eye of the Dragon, and Gifts from Beyond (which can also summon Eye from your deck), then look for an opportunity to safely summon a Lee Sin. Once Lee is on the board, find ways to buff his Power and give him Overwhelm (Zenith Blade/Infernum) while protecting him with his self-barrier effect, counterspells (Nopeify/Deny/Bastion), and the deck’s plethora of combat tricks. If you can do all of that, challenging any enemy unit with a levelled-up Lee Sin will likely result in a one-turn kill.
- Azir/Irelia: Despite receiving six nerfs in two patches, Azir Irelia is not “dead” by any means. Hard mulligan for Azir, Emperor’s Dais, and Sparring Student, but feel free to keep Rite of Calling if you have a Dunekeeper or a Treasure Seeker. Once you have your Sand Soldier generators online, start Blade Dancing and watch as your opponent crumbles under the pressure of an army of Blades and Sand Soldiers.
- Scouts: Welcome back, Sarah. Hard mulligan for Miss Fortune if you do not have her in your opening hand. From there, play on curve, taking good trades with your Challenger units and keeping mana up for protection spells (Ranger’s Resolve/Sharpsight/Riposte) to ensure you maintain control of the board. Finish the game with a leveled-up Miss Fortune, a Rally effect (Relentless Pursuit/Golden Aegis) or by simply attacking with a wide enough board into your opponent’s narrow board.
- Swain Twisted Fate: A classic deck focused on applying early pressure with its low curve and using damage-based removal tools, such as the newly buffed Make it Rain, to clear the enemy’s board while leveling up Swain. Finish games by stunning enemy boards through the Swain + Leviathan lock. Keep in mind that Twisted Fate will rarely, if ever, level up in this deck; simply play him for one of his Destiny Cards, then feel free to use him as a blocker if you need to instead of keeping him safe from harm.
- Lurk: A deck that has received mixed opinions after the first few days of 2.11.0, Lurk is a deck that is centered around buffing your units with the new Lurk mechanic to create cheap, high-power units. Play on curve, using your plethora of Predict effects to ensure that you get your Lurk buffs when you attack. Close games out with Rek’Sai, Xerxa’reth, or in rare scenarios, a leveled Pyke clearing the board.
- Feel The Rush: With Watcher no longer being the win condition it once was, the Shadow Isles/Freljord control archetype will likely switch back to using Feel the Rush to close out games. Stall the game out with the deck’s plethora of removal options and healing while ramping with Catalyst of Aeons, then end the game by casting Feel the Rush to create two humongous Overwhelm units. Other win conditions include Atrocity, Commander Ledros (in tandem with Atrocity), and simply applying pressure with a leveled Trundle and/or Tryndamere - something that you will likely need to do if your opponent’s deck plays Deny or Rite of Negation. Make sure you have three spell mana banked by Turn 9 if Feel the Rush is your win condition in the matchup and you have it in hand.
- Elnuks: Wait, really? Yes, really: this is actually not a meme concept! The addition of Volunteer Elnuk to the card pool has made people curious about the viability of Elnuk decks once again, and as of time of writing, some players have found decent success with it. Hard mulligan for Troop of Elnuks, Volunteer Elnuk, Concurrent Timelines, and matchup-relevant removal. Fill your deck with Elnuks via Volunteer Elnuk and Practical Perfectionist, then pull them all out with a Troop to quickly assemble a massive board. Close the game out by maintaining the board presence you got from Troop, either of your leveled Champions, or if it comes down to it, Feel the Rush. Shoutout to ImpetuousPanda and xTacio for the sample decklist.
All images by: Riot Games
Angus "Morppadorp" Lam is a Canadian Legends of Runeterra player for Team Aretuza.