Patch 5.1. is here, and, as usual, I bring you my complete review of each of the changes.
As Riot will no longer support the competitive scene from March 2024 onward, today's analysis will be a bit different from the other ones. We'll focus on the changes a bit more broadly, and we won't discuss the cards that were changed under a competitive lens.
My analysis will focus on the ranked queue, both in Standard and Eternal, considering these modes will still be available and will probably be popular.
All these analyses were based on my 4-year experience casting and playing Legends of Runeterra professionally.
I want to go ahead and say that my first impressions of this patch were that the team brought relevant changes with nerfs that didn't kill these cards entirely, besides buffs that make sense, unlike other patchs, which had nerfs that were ridiculously heavy and buffs that didn't change the game one bit.
Nerf: Dragon Boons on longer grant health. Buff: 10/10 > 12/12.
Even though level 1 Elder Dragon got a +2/+2 buff, I'm going to add it to the "nerf" section of this article because this buff is irrelevant for this champion, considering this card barely goes on the board in the current meta.
These nerfs to the Dragon Boons are significant to slower Elder Dragon lists that depend on the extra health their units get from them to dominate the enemy board.
Cards like Wiggly Burblefish and Windsinger, from Elder Dragon Norra lists, will struggle a lot after these changes because these followers need the health buff from the Boons to remain alive in certain matchups.
Historically, in Runeterra, effects that grant health to units are usually too strong. So these changes will probably weaken Elder Dragon decks significantly, in general.
In any case, these lists might still be playable and strong because Elder Dragon's origin allows us to build several different decks.
Nerf: Sai'nen Thousand-Tailed - 6 mana > 7 mana.
This card has been a great problem in Elder Dragon lists, and this nerf might slow down the value that these decks could create.
Sai'nen Thousand-Tailed's issue is that it was fast enough to be an aggressive card that can declare lethal attacks, instead of just renewing the value in your hand and protecting your units on the board.
Therefore, this nerf is sensational because now Elder Dragon decks no longer will have this incredibly strong effect on curve, and will need to make do without the value created by Sai'nen when it draws you cards.
This card will still be popular because of its extremely strong effect, but we'll likely use fewer copies of it in our decks.
Nerf: Enraged Firespitter - 8 power > 6 power.
8 power for a 6 cost unit with Challenger was a bit too much,
This card might disappear from players' radars a bit for a while, at least until we build a list that isn't severely impacted by this change. Until then, we might not see that many Enraged Firespitter around.
Nerf: Morgana - target 8 units > target 10 units.
Curses became a mechanic that was a bit annoying for those who played against it throughout the last patch. Because Morgana was the main force driving this interaction forward in the game, she really did deserve a nerf.
Now, she takes a bit longer to level up, which can significantly delay decks that don't level up Morgana with Dragon Boons, and like so delay their final turns.
This change encourages us to build Control decks, considering it will be much harder to use Morgana aggressively and abuse her level 2 Burn effect.
Suppression and Mageseeker Inquisitor
Nerf: Mageseeker Inquisitor - No Tough and -1 power.
Nerf: Now, Suppression doesn't prevent the cursed player from playing other Curses.
Suppression was the most frustrating mechanic in the game for at least two months. Its combination with other Curses would lock down most decks in the meta, and even prevent some lists from being played in the ranked queue.
This, added to Mageseeker Inquisitor's incredibly strong stats, made Suppression a Curse that was almost impossible to deal with. Even more so in Mordekaiser metas, considering he can re-summon this follower effortlessly several times during a single match.
This nerf might even kill these two cards for good, and they might be out of the meta for a while until we find another list for Inquisitor.
Nerf: Hate Spike now only summons a Husk if Evelynn started in your deck.
This spell is essential in almost all Shadow Isles decks. Its issue is that Husks are units that can save your deck in a few unwinnable matches rather unfairly by generating Husks with Spellshield or Elusive, for instance.
Now, we can only access Husks if we have Evelynn in our starting deck. This nerf delays the game's issues with Husks without really solving them. However, we won't struggle right now against this unfair interaction because Evelynn isn't very popular in the meta, at least for now.
We'll definitely see a drastic change in Control lists in the ranked queue due to this interaction. Hate Spike, besides acting as a removal, was also an engine that allowed Shadow Isles decks to always have units on the board to sacrifice.
Nerf: Yuumi - 2/2 > 2/1.
As we mentioned before, granting a unit health is quite strong in LoR, so removing one health point from Yuumi is quite significant to strategies that use her.
Now, key-units this cat wants to protect will no longer have as much health as they once did, and can be removed by spells that deal damage directly.
Alatis the Gallant
Buff: Alatis the Gallant - 7/6 > 7/7.
Buff: Adroit Artificer - 5/3 > 5/4.
This buff makes more sense after we see the Samira changes, which reworked her.
The idea behind this buff is to make it a key piece in Plunder decks and center her effect, which reactivates the Plunder effects of units on the board.
It is a welcome change, but it is difficult to say whether it is relevant to the meta. Historically, Plunder lists had never had space for this card because it is too slow, so, for now, it is fair to say that this card will still be unpopular in Samira decks.
Buff: Blimp-Pack Poacher now Captures any unit during combat.
This change is incredibly relevant. Poacher always had issues fitting into Shurima decks because its effect was too specific. Now that it can Capture any enemy unit, it will certainly have space in mono Shurima decks, which have been rising in popularity lately.
Buff: Kai’Sa - 4/4 > 5/5.
Kai'Sa was incredibly unpopular and needed help to get back to the meta. This change is solid, but it is a bit timid.
Maybe Riot's team was afraid of her turning into the monster she once was again, and decided not to buff her too much: she just got a simple +1/+1. Many players suggested "buffing" her to 6 mana on social media so she could get Dragon Boons if she was included in an Elder Dragon deck.
Tell us what you think about this Kai'Sa change in the comment section. What do you think about "buffing" her to 6 mana?
Buff: Tomb-Raider Barbara - 3/2 > 3/3.
After Hate Spike is nerfed, we might be more motivated to test out Evelynn, considering we need to play with her in our starting deck to activate Hate Spike's full effect. To give us a little push, Riot gave Barbara this buff, which makes a lot of sense.
This unit has a lot of potential, and has never been properly explored because Evelynn's archetype has been weak for some time now. Maybe with this change, we might finally see Barbara in action!
Buff: Nilah - 16 cards drawn > 15 cards drawn.
This was the only change in the entire patch that I didn't like. Nilah is no longer comfortable with Janna after the back-to-back nerfs to their archetype. But, even then, she still plays with Twisted Fate in Eternal and with Miss Fortune in Standard, in the new pirates list.
This champion is quite relevant and strong, and didn't need any buffs. In any way, this buff isn't strong enough to impact Standard that heavily. But, in Standard, Nilah Twisted Fate might become a deck that is far too strong.
Buff: Udyr - 5/4 > 5/5.
Udyr has always gone through highs and lows in the meta, and has always been a champion that only pops up when everything in the game aligns to welcome him.
As his main idea is to dominate the board with the stats and keywords that come from his Stances, it makes a lot of sense for him to get a bit more health so he can do all of that.
This change seems minimal, but it is essential to Udyr decks, which will have better trades now because he'll survive for longer on the board.
Buff: Bushwhack Trap previously only gave Vulnerable to an enemy unit during one turn, but now it grants Vulnerable to an enemy unit forever.
This change is not that relevant because Bushwhack Trap is still tied to Transform effects quite strictly.
Transform decks don't use Bushwhack Trap because they focus on playing units on curve and prefer cards like Exhaust or Ruthless Predator, which have practically the same effect as Bushwhack Trap, but are better.
In any case, now this card will be considered by players who play these lists, considering we can grant Vulnerable to units that aren't necessarily the weakest units on our opponent's board.
Even then, the other cards we already have in the game with similar effects will likely keep this card out of these Transform decks. It will be a tough competition.
General of the Dunes
Buff: General of the Dunes - 4/4 > 5/4.
General of the Dunes got one power, and became a reasonably strong support card for the Mono Shurima archetype that has become popular in the last few days.
Buff: Nami - see 6 spells > see 5 spells.
Nami was struggling to find her space in the meta for a while, at least since she was reworked. This buff seems like a test to see if she is really too weak, or if she just needs a little push.
In my opinion, she might just need a little push, but her decks won't be that strong anyway. Bilgewater, currently, struggles to work with cards that aren't cards in Nilah archetype. So we can imagine that even if Nami ends up viable, she'll still be a mediocre champion.
Delve Into the Past
Buff: Delve Into the Past now costs 1 if you have all World Runes on the board.
To use Riot's own words: "This change shouldn't be impactful in most Ryze games."
This change will just lessen the frustration of Ryze players that can't end the game, even with all their landmarks on the board.
Samira got a slight rework that wants to direct her to decks focused on Plunder. Now, her spell, Flair, once again costs 1 mana, which is incredibly relevant, considering it is one of the best Plunder activators in the game.
She now creates a Flair when she enters the board while Plunder is active, and also when she Strikes.
Samira's greatest issue has always been that she is too versatile and fits into any type of deck and archetype, and that makes her challenging to balance. This adjustment ties her to the Plunder archetype, which, despite not being that strong, at least gives her a goal, instead of just making her irrelevant, as she was before.
Adjustment: Dashing Dandy - 4 mana, 2/4 with the following effect: Plunder: Double my power.
This unit now doubles its power when it activates Plunder. This change reinforces the idea that Riot wants these decks' main mechanic to center around reactivating Plunder.
Only time will tell whether this card will truly be good or not, but it is fair to say that this change really encourages us to use Samira again.
Buried Sun Disc
Adjustment: Now Buried Sun Disc advances its countdown for each Ascended ally that levelled up in the match.
Considering Shurima's buffs will encourage more players to create "Sun Disc" decks, Riot decided to change Buried Sun Disc in an extremely relevant way.
Now, Buried Sun Disc advances its countdown if any Ascended allies levelled up during the match, instead of only advancing its countdown if the Disc saw your Ascended champions level up. This means that, if your Disc is destroyed before it can pop, you can summon a second Disc on the board, and it will advance its countdown if you levelled up an Ascended champion before in the match.
Valley of Imitation
Adjustment: Valley of Imitation - 3 mana, and doesn't "retain buffs".
This card has been a bit problematic for the game for some time now, and its effect is quite confusing to newer players.
Riot removed from this landmark the effect that retains buffs both to end its comprehension issues and the issues this effect created in games.
Adjustment: Master Yi - 3 mana, 2/3 > 2 mana, 1/3.
Master Yi costs one mana less, and lost one power. This change is genius because it reinforces his identity as a bench unit.
Considering Master Yi goes on the board earlier now, Ionia's combo decks will have more coherent matches, and can play on curve better. The spells in these lists will also have an extra turn to be discounted, which can be quite relevant.
I wouldn't say this change is an adjustment because it looks more like a buff. Therefore, Master Yi will be much more impactful in his lists in general.
Adjustment: Divine Whirlwind once again deals 2 damage to the enemy Nexus, but it now costs 6 mana.
This change prevents this card from being playable early in the game, and like so forces the Divine Whirlwind player to Updraft it multiple times until it is playable.
This change is brilliant because it nerfs Janna lists' early game, but considerably buffs these deck's late game. Janna is having issues ending games after her nerfs, and this adjustment can reinforce the idea that her decks should be a slow, Control archetype, focused on value, instead of a Burn Aggro deck.
The Predict mechanic was reworked and now no longer shuffles the deck after it is activated.
This rework will help Norra players and make it possible for them to use Predict in their lists without shuffling their portals to the bottom of their decks. It is also useful to prevent Predict players from neutralizing Flashbomb lists entirely.
If you read this far, thank you! Recently, we had sad news for LoR and its community, and we're all going through a tough time. It has been difficult to write about the game itself as a result. But it is my duty as one of the game's content creators to keep giving you my best every day, and always try to be hopeful and create a pleasant environment.
So, I thank everyone who is still interested in Runeterra. These hard times will pass.
Don't forget to share this article on social media. See you next time!