How to play Legends of Runeterra

Legends of Runeterra is a League of Legends card game with more than a passing resemblance to Hearthstone and Artifact—but it isn’t just a simple clone. During its surprise announcement, Riot Games made it clear that Legends of Runeterra is an attempt to solve some of the bigger gripes people have with digital card games, especially when it comes to microtransactions. It’s also a lot of fun to play.

But getting used to the slightly different pace and structure of slinging spells and summoning monsters is challenging. In this guide I’ll teach you how to play Legends of Runeterra while also explaining how turn order works, what keywords do, and how to level up champions.


How to play Legends of Runeterra 

If you’ve played Hearthstone or Artifact, you’ll immediately get the gist of Legends of Runeterra. The goal is to use your mana each turn to cast spell cards and summon allies to deal damage to an opponent’s nexus. Each player starts with 20 health points and when that’s reduced to zero, they lose.

At the start of a match you draw four cards with the option to second chance any number of them. Each round you draw a new card. To play cards you have to spend mana, and each player only has a set amount each turn. As the game goes on, mana increases, allowing players to use more powerful cards or cast multiple cards in a turn.

Allies are like minions in Hearthstone or creatures in Magic: The Gathering. They have attack and health values and can be used to attack one another or your opponent’s nexus. Spells have effects like buffing allies with more health, dealing damage to enemy allies, or using special keywords like stun.

Below: A video showing the entire length of a LoR match.


So what’s different about Legends of Runeterra? 

The biggest difference with Legends of Runeterra is how rounds play out. Each round, players alternate between being the attacker and the defender, but every time an action is taken the opposing player almost always has a chance to respond. This means you cannot quickly cast a series of spells and allies like you can in Hearthstone. Here’s an example of how turn priority works: 

  1. Each player draws a card. The defender goes first and can play any spells or allies in their hand assuming they have the necessary mana. If that player plays an ally, the turn priority goes to the attacker.
  2. The attacker can then play any of their spells or allies. Let’s say, in this case, the attacker plays a spell to deal damage to the defender’s newly summoned ally and destroy it.
  3. The turn priority goes back to the defender who now has a chance to save their new ally from destruction. It just so happens they have a spell to buff that ally with more health. They play that spell.
  4. The turn priority returns to the attacker who has no further options. Because the defender’s spell was played last it resolves first, giving their ally more health. The attackers spell then does damage to that ally. Now, if the attacker has any summoned allies, they can move onto combat.

And here’s how an entire round could play out:

  1. A round begins and the defender and attacker take turns playing cards.
  2. The attacker can choose to initiate combat by dragging allies into the center arena.
  3. The defender assigns blockers and both sides have an opportunity to cast additional spells.
  4. Combat resolves.
  5. Both sides have another opportunity to play more cards until both sides have passed.
  6. The round ends and the attacker and defender switch.

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