It seems that every patch there is a deck that causes player outcry. It has happened with TF/Fizz, Lee Sin, and countless other "top decks in the past", but with this patch, it’s Azir/Irelia. Game design is largely an exercise in psychology. So, why does this happen and what can we do to stop player outcry? This article will explore the relationship between the game developer and the player.
If the same thing continues to happen every patch maybe that’s by design and the problem isn’t the game, maybe the problem is you. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result. I’m not asking you NOT to feel. I’m saying that in order to fix this problem, you as a player must understand how and why you play Legends of Runeterra.
There are three main types of players as identified by Mark Rosewater in his 2002 article. “Timmy, Johnny, and Spike''. These profiles, also known as psychographs, simply look into a player’s attitude and aspirations in relation to card games in particular. However, to summarize, Timmy wants to show everyone how much fun they can have. He loves big units and building to big moments. He would likely be an Anivia player and would love Cithria, Lady of the Clouds. Johnny, is the creative player, he likes to innovate and while winning is important he wants to do it his own way. For him, the game he chooses to play is a form of self-expression. He likes combos and the flashiness of the game. Finally, there’s Spike, he’s the tournament player. He wants to be the best. He’ll take a refined list before crafting something from scratch because winning is his primary goal.
These broad definitions have many variations, but by and large, explain how people play the game in a general sense. However, why is where we get into specifics and that is the real key to this loop that we find ourselves in every patch. I would call myself a spike with slight Johnny tendencies. I play the game not to make friends, though I have made a few during my time within the community. I want to win because winning is how I find my fun in card games, but I play the game for one other reason. That being to rest my body while still using my analytical skills.
As someone with a background of more than 15 years and having assumed the roles of both fighter and coach I enjoy analyzing people and their fighting habits and crafting plans to shut them down when the time comes. I want each one of my fights to be as boring and systematic as possible. I want to win before the fight starts. I approach card games the exact same way, I want to win in the deckbuilding screen. There’s nothing more gratifying than putting my opponent in a position that makes the game completely unwinnable no matter what they do. It’s why Karma, Ezreal, and Fiora are three of my top five favorite champions. They allow me to create situations where my opponent cannot win. It’s also why Fiora/Shen, Karma Ezreal and TLC are among my favorite decks, needless to say, I’m a control player. Finding your preferred playstyle will go a long way in adjusting easier and allow us to have discourse with developers and actually express ourselves in a meaningful way while doing it.
So, what is the role of the developer in this relationship? A developer needs to communicate for the purposes of feedback and the health of their game. The concept of balance is a fallacy in card games simply because developers cannot test every card in as many ways as millions of players can. Something is going to get exploited and become “broken”, it’s an inevitable part of card games, so instead developers create metrics and follow them. I’ve heard many people say they just want more variety on ladder, but that they don’t want polarized matchups. Variety means more matchups which by default creates polarization. This is simply a function of the ladder system because you never know what you’ll queue into and you can't tech your deck for everything. If you’re not enjoying ladder play expeditions or labs. There are other things to do within the game. If you want to play with friends, then the 2v2 lab is a phenomenal option. Developers have to make the game fun for everyone as a result buffs and nerfs can’t and won’t fix every problem and in my opinion they shouldn’t because then exploration and innovation die.
Ladder will always feel toxic but that’s because there will always be a “best” deck. That’s just the way card games work. People on ladder will play to win, so odds are you will run into the best deck a lot. This is another reason to know your psychograph. If your playstyle doesn’t fit the current meta and you don’t want to brew around the meta then maybe avoid ladder until things change to suit you more.
Legends of Runeterra is a highly interactive game with a focus on combat. Therefore, the best decks in the game’s history are always the non-interactive decks. Fiora/Shen uses challenger and barrier to make the defender irrelevant in combat, TF/Fizz spammed elusive units, so you never had the option to block, TLC forces a deck out with an attack trigger, so blocking doesn’t matter, Karma/Ezreal and Lee Sin both kill in one turn they also use elusive and challenger, respectively. If you’re looking for balance to fix this, you’re asking for a long shot as they’d have to rework all the champions I’ve mentioned, as well many others, like Lissandra and that creates a completely different game. Be careful what you wish for.