This Friday, April 7th, 2023, Legends of Runeterra devs Frank Skarren and David Smith gave an interview in which they talked more about the game's recent Rotation, which has been met with much criticism by the community. In the interview, certain subjects such as why specific cards were rotated, plus details about what was the criteria for the choices were revealed, alongside news about what we can expect to see coming for the Eternal format both competitively and casually in the future.
The goal of these recent interviews and Rotation talks by Riot has been to ease the transition for players experiencing such a big chunk of cards being removed, and also ease some of the community's concern regarding balance and future patches. The questions asked were taken from social media.
Without further ado, let's take a look at a full recap of the interview:
Some packages for champions such as Kennen and Leblanc have had most of their supporting package rotated, however, the champions remain in Standard. Could you explain the reasoning for keeping the champion but not their package?
For this question, Smith and Skarren mentioned that certain packages such as Reputation and Recall were carefully inspected to determine which cards would be kept and which would be rotated. In numerous instances, they found the champion wasn't completely reliant on their original package, as in, the cards which were released alongside them, and they felt they could hold their own without being too dependent on the cards that were rotated. Some of the cards were also not being played anywhere, not even with their own support champion.
"Leblanc, as we can see now, has been a big success case" said Skarren.
Besides that, they also aimed at creating a better region pie and keeping region identities when they rotated those cards, particularly for Bandlecity, which was getting a bit of everything and needed to be reigned in.
But, they confirmed leaving the champion "alone" definitely wasn't the goal for these changes.
It feels like there has been a shift in approach to region identities with the introduction of rotation. Could you go into detail about some of the changes to region identities?
A point of discussion in the community recently, region identity was a key focus point with Rotation, the duo said. As the years went on, many region identities were beginning to blur with the release of champions, and though champions can bend identities to a point, some regions needed to be corrected and have their identities emphasized.
A few of these cases were Shadow Isles and Piltover&Zaun. Shadow Isles, according to Smith, was a bit too powerful within the Aggro archetype, particularly in its base package from Foundations, and they found the best option was to remove Fearsome units to draw back some of the raw power this region represented for an Aggro option.
"We had to pull back as hard as we could on that Aggro package, so we could leave Aggro to other regions which were better for it."
Caustic Riff was also cited as one of the identities they wanted to keep for Piltover&Zaun. Though the card has been facing severe criticism lately due to its popularity as a board clear option, it was always meant to be a Piltover&Zaun identity, they affirm, and cards such as Rocket Barrage, released several months ago, reflect that.
Ceaseless Sentry is another example given for this correction in region identity. Most of Freljord's early tools for value hoarding have been taken out, and, in this case, the shift was made to give this sort of tool to Shadow Isles.
This way, they hope to incentivize a "mix and match" approach to deckbuilding regarding regions, so that it becomes a much more varied experience for players.
Why were the early-game Invoke cards in Targon moved to Eternal?
"Targon as a region was intended to have a generically weaker early game to set up for their big explosive late game.", Skarren mentioned.
But, that wasn't the case with the smaller Invoke package, as cards like The Serpent could dominate early turns and overpower that game phase. They went on to say Targon was supposed to have a solid "strong buff" identity, but that this was overshadowed by the Equipment package.
Champions like Kayle and Pantheon definitely have that "snowbally" feel, but much of this region's identity has been minimized to being another blunt Midrange option, with champions like Leona becoming beatdown options in decks like Samira Leona or Kayle Leona.
There's also some concern about rotating these small Invoke cards as other Celestial cards that have the Behold mechanic could be hurt by this move. Finally, they went on to acknowledge that big Celestial units shouldn't be all there is to Targon's late game either.
There's still hope for Targon, however, as the duo mentioned they are keeping a close eye on the region for future balance to adjust it better to fit its region identity, plus new cards being in the works to achieve that goal as well in the future.
Was it an intended decision from a balance perspective to only release 3 champions for 3 regions? Because right now it feels like the other 7 regions don't have much going for them with so many cards removed and only 2 cards added per region.
Even though only Noxus, Ionia and Bilgewater had new releases for the Glory In Navori set, recently released on March 31st, Legends of Runeterra devs answered that they tried giving each region "meta-impactful" cards such as Blocking Badgerbear, Form Up! and Flashbomb Peddler to mitigate region dominance with new releases and also fill in some spots left by rotation.
"These aren't as flashy or exciting as champions, but, hopefully, they're nuts and bolts, super-solid cards that can give these regions tools they need to compete.", said Skarren.
Furthermore, they mentioned that new sets would always create spotlights for the regions that received new cards, but that if the disparity in region dominance was ever to reach a boiling point, they would address it in balance patches or future expansions.
Why did you Rotate Lux, Braum and Zilean?
Lux's case had much to do with region identity, once more, the duo stated.
"Lux is a spell champion in a non spell region., Smith affirmed.
As such, she was also frustrating to play against as a region that could have powerful combat tools could also have, with her, a spell-based removal and finisher. Players might have felt they couldn't do anything to stop this champion.
Regions were said to be allowed to bend their region pie, but they should "never be the best option for that strategy", so cards like Sunk Cost exist to force players to go outside that region when they're looking for different strategies, once more incentivizing the "mix and match" aspect of Legends of Runeterra.
Braum is a bit of a sad case.
"It's difficult to find a proper balance point for Braum in Standard, honestly.", said Smith.
Veteran players will remember the menace created by a 1/6 Braum back in the first year of Legends of Runeterra, which was properly cut down via a Hotfix in the same month he was buffed.
They also added that he might be experimented on in Eternal to try and find that balance, but maybe he will be "living his best life" there for a long time before he reaches maturity enough for Standard.
The main reason for this champion to rotate was limiting design space.
"Many times we were designing cards that would pull landmarks or tutor specific cards in your deck, and we would have to look at Zilean to see how it would impact him." Skarren mentioned.
Additionally to this reason, they've found one of the most common Zilean pairings, Ekko could do well without him, and the only real deck played in Standard with Zilean was Time Bomb printer, so they didn't feel they were removing a core strategy by rotating out this champion.
Are there any plans for future Eternal content such as friend matchmaking and Eternal-specific gauntlets to be released in the near future?
The short answer is: yes.
Julian "Zeronena" Harris Johnson made a surprise appearance in the interview to say that they are working on features for the Eternal format and that they should come soon, if not in the next patch, 4.4, then the next one.
Regarding the month in which there will be an Eternal Open tournament, he also confirmed there should be Eternal Gauntlets in that month as well to help prepare players for the competitive circuit, and these Gauntlets should also return for the third month of the Legends of Runeterra Set Cycle, which will have an Eternal ranked ladder.
Is there a possibility of problematic cards getting rotated during balance patches?
The short answer is: no.
Smith went on to say that this is a decision based on player frustration as well as their design philosophy, in which they try to balance before rotating. Having the possibility of any card being rotated at any time is not something they plan to inflict on players.
With the removal of most Allegiance cards, are there plans to revisit this type of strategy, or is it something that was deemed too frustrating for players, or limiting in design?
The reason for rotating most Allegiance cards was to incentivize players to mix and match more, said the duo. There is also the frustration of hitting/missing Allegiance both for the players that play Allegiance and for the ones playing against it, as the mechanic would often swing games.
"One of the best things about LoR is that it's a multiregion game and you get to mix and match.", stated Skarren.
So, overall, it doesn't seem like this is an archetype that is interesting for them at the moment.
What were some challenges the team faced with the decision-making process regarding specific cards?
One of the main challenges when choosing cards to rotate was the Plunder package because of how it worked with Samira, stated Smith. Warning Shot at one point was rotated, because most 0-cost spells were, and then was brought back because of the new Noxian champion.
Other decisions were emotionally painful as well:
In this answer, they also gave a bit of insight regarding newer cards, such as the Darkin, as in they stated most of the recent package from a year until now wasn't rotated because it wasn't originally in the plan. They wanted to make sure recent cards acquired weren't touched unless absolutely necessary, as they preferred to balance before rotating in these cases.
Why does Yuumi Stay, yet Attach is rotated? Was Equipment an iteration on Attach?
When faced with the choice of rotating a design that had been particularly problematic in the past, the Legends of Runeterra dev team didn't hesitate to chop the Attach mechanic. Certain keywords these cards granted, such as Elusive and Double Attack turned out to be increasingly problematic in a way they would need more time and thought to balance, which is something only Eternal could provide.
As for the comparison to Equipment, the team doesn't deny Attach taught them a lot about that type of mechanic when they went on to design Equipment:
"Attach was wrapping up when we were getting into the weeds of Equipment, and we just applied that directly."
It also felt "weird" to have both mechanics in Standard as it could create confusion regarding how they worked with each other and because of their similarities.
You can check out the full interview here: