9 ways Legends of Runeterra is built for the casual free-to-play market
Legends of Runeterra’s open beta has just gone live, and it’s catching like wildfire. It’s a very interesting game with unique takes on classic collectible card game mechanics, and don’t you worry, we will have a ton of strategy articles coming out in the future. However, before we get into champion choice, meta breaking decks, optimal turn and attack order, and the most effective way to earn cards in your collection, we need to cover perhaps the most innovative thing about this game: how accessible it is.
It’s not a big secret that collectible card games have always been a way to get people to spend a lot of money on cardboard, or in this case, digital cardboard. This can make them pretty inaccessible to new players, considering they need to drop a bunch of money upfront to be competitive. It also means that anyone with less time or money than the average player will be at a disadvantage.
But Legends of Runeterra does quite a bit to prevent this. Of course, they are still looking to make money, so there will still always be a way to convert money into cards. However, there are a lot of measures in place to make sure that players with lots of time or money don’t suddenly steamroll new players. This will help new players uptake and retention, which in turn should translate into profits while simultaneously preventing players from feeling like they are being taken advantage of.
This is all really abstract, though. So let’s take a look at some concrete ways that Legends of Runeterra is explicitly designed to keep casual free-to-play players happy.
The champion limit
Legends of Runeterra has four card rarities: common, rare, epic, and champion. Champion cards, as you might expect, are powerful complex cards that you can build a deck around, much like legendary cards in Hearthstone or mythic rares in Magic: The Gathering. As anyone who has played these games before knows, decks can skyrocket in cost the more “legendary” level cards they require.
However, Legends of Runeterra explicitly takes measures to prevent deck cost from ballooning this way, and the first is the champion limit. In Legends of Runeterra you have to make 40 card decks, but you are limited to six champions per deck. That’s it. A hard limit on the most expensive cards in the game. Even if you have to purchase six new Champion cards for a deck, that’s going to run you somewhere between $15-$20, which is much less than you’d be spending on decks in other games. Not to mention it is unlikely that you will ever have to do this because you earn champions simply by playing the game, AND many decks don’t run the full complement of six champions in the first place.
The wildcard system
In Hearthstone or Magic: The Gathering you might dump a ton of money buying card pack after card pack in the hopes of randomly opening the card you want. Legends of Runeterra does away with all that. You cannot purchase packs with real money in this game. Period. All you can do is purchase “wild cards” a blank card of a particular rarity that can be converted into a card of your choice. This means that the most powerful cards in your deck will only ever cost about $3 (less if you buy bundles,) as opposed to major rare cards in current top tier Magic decks, which can cost as much as $25 a piece, AND you have to run four of them, or certain legendaries in Hearthstone which will require you to burn $40 worth of packs just to get the dust needed to craft them.
The wildcard purchase limit
Keeping a game cheap and affordable is one way to make it accessible to casual players. However, moderating the power that you can buy is another, and Legends of Runeterra limits your purchasing power significantly. You can only buy three champion wildcards, three epic wild cards, six rare wild cards, and six common wild cards a week. This is nowhere near enough to build an entire deck from scratch. You HAVE to actually play the game to earn your collection.
This extends the period of experimentation and makes solid meta decks form less quickly. This gives new players a chance to climb the ladder without immediately getting curb stomped by decks made by pros who simply buy whatever deck they want to play. It also means that everyone’s rate of earning cards is more normalized, and while you can give your collection a boost with real world money, there’s no substitute for simply playing.
The choice of alliance
How many times have you opened up a Hearthstone or Magic pack and found that you got a ton of cards for a class or color that you don’t even play. Feels horrible right?
Well this will never happen in Legends of Runeterra. After you complete the game’s tutorials, you get to choose which faction you want to receive rewards for. From that point on, when you receive XP to get packs and rewards, you will always receive rewards for the factions you play. Earn enough XP and gain enough rewards and you’ll very quickly flesh out your entire collection for your faction of choice.
But what happens if you get more cards than you’ll ever be able to play. Don’t worry. You can only ever put a max of three copies of a card in a Runeterra deck. If you get more copies than that, you get “shards” a generic currency that will once again get you wild cards. Shards are actually converted at a pretty decent rate, and you can open shards in packs. So even if you obtain a card you have paid real world money for, your purchase never goes to waste.
Remember opening up pack after pack in Hearthstone without ever receiving a legendary card? Nothing feels worse. Luckily, you won’t ever have to worry about this with Legends of Runeterra. You actually get to see the rarities of cards in packs you open BEFORE you open them. Packs with more rare rewards are simply rewarded toward the end of your XP curve. Still, this means you are guaranteed several champions simply by playing the game. You’ll never have to purchase random packs over and over again in the hopes of getting the one card you want.
The second chance draft
Let’s talk about drafts. Like most collectible card games, Legends of Runeterra has a draft mode. You have to spend one draft token (which you can buy or earn weekly) to participate. However, one token doesn’t get you one draft. It gets you TWO drafts, and your rewards are based on the BETTER of your two drafts. This gives you an extra chance to come out on top, even if you get crappy luck in your drafts.
The draft loss condition
Speaking of drafts, normally in drafts you have a certain number of losses you can get before your run is over. Legends of Runeterra makes this much easier on you. You can lose as many times as you want and still keep going. The only thing you can’t do is lose twice IN-A-ROW. As soon as you lose back to back, your run is over. However, you can lose every other game and still have a real chance of topping the draft and getting maximum rewards. What other game lets you profit on a 50 percent win rate?
The draft limit
One of the common strategies in collectible card games is to draft all the time and if you are at least decent at the game you can “go infinite.” This allows people with a ton of free time to amass a ton of packs and currency as long as they keep drafting.
But Legends of Runeterra caps this as well. You can only do three drafts for awards each week. After that, you can continue drafting but you won’t get any awards from it. On the upside, rewardless drafts are free!
You DO still get credit toward daily quests from free drafts, though. So if you have a quest for a faction that you have no cards for and that you’d never be able to complete with your constructed decks, hop into a draft and specifically draft the faction you need. You might not be able to win, but you will certainly have a chance to complete your quests, and since all drafts get you a second chance you can use that to try and win instead.
Finally, we have one simple but welcome policy. If you ever purchase a pack with real money or shards and you already have some of the items in that pack, you don’t pay for those items. That’s it. You never pay for redundant cards. You only pay for things you are actually obtaining now.
There are lots of other tiny adjustments that Legends of Runeterra has made to the CCG formula that are specifically catering to a more casual audience, yet there’s still a lot of deep fun here to be had by a hardcore audience as well. We have a ton of articles coming up that will talk about how Runeterra handles variance and player interactivity. For now though, just know that Legends of Runeterra is one of the best values in the collectible CCG world and if you are looking for a new card game to play, you should give it a look.