Legends of Runeterra quietly continues to be one of my favourite CCGs going around, not least of all because its expeditions mode is exceedingly generous. But something fans have been begging Riot to introduce for ages has been a co-op mode, and finally Empires of the Ascended, Runeterra‘s Egyptian-themed expansion, is doing just that.
It’ll be introduced in the Labs mode, Runeterra’s hub for experimental game types (including its intriguing Slay the Spire-esque offering). Press and content creators were given a quick hands on with Empires of the Ascended‘s United Front, the name for the new 2v2 mode.
How it works is this. After queuing up with a friend or entering a matchmaking queue, you’ll enter into a battle against another team of 2 players. You’ll then be given one of three “champions” that come with their own pre-made decks, and you’ll learn at the same time whether you’ll be playing attack or defence.
From there, United Front plays out a lot like a regular match of Runeterra would, but slower. Since you’re only taking half as many actions as before, you’re naturally going to spend a bit more time waiting for people to take their turn.
And while you can’t take your own premade decks into the 2v2 mode, there’s plenty of interesting interactions. Players will have a series of cards called Hastening Gift, which lets you transfer cards in your hand to your partner while reducing its cost by 1. That brings champions out onto the board a little bit quicker. But it also means both players — whether you’re chatting regularly, or just silently paired up like I was during the media session — will have more impact on the board state, as higher cost removal cards become easier to play when swapped between hands.
Of course, sometimes you can’t work your way around a bomb. That was the situation my partner and I found ourselves in trying to deal with Nasus, which just continued to get absurdly tanky as the game went on.
Nasus is going to be utterly disgusting if you don’t have access to any direct removal. Nasus levels up after the Sun Disc — a landmark card that levels up after 25 turns. It can level up way quicker, provided you can level up two other heroes in your deck.
With some quick back of the table math, you could probably get the sun disc levelled up within the first seven turns with some good draws and the right conditions. And once the sun disc is restored, all of your level 2 champions will be level three — provided your opponent doesn’t bombard the landmark from orbit.
And the level 3 champions are proper bullshit. Azir, pictured above, just swaps out your deck for a … better one. And whenever any allies attack, you get a handy Sandstone Charger to boot.
Nasus is even more cooked. Apart from already getting +1/+1 for every unit you kill (whether you’re holding Nasus in hand or its on the board), the Egyptian fighter also reduces the damage of all enemies by 3. And hitting level 3 just gives him an extra +7/+7, even though by the time that happens you’ve probably already won.
And hell, even in its level 2 form Nasus is a massive pain in the arse. That’s perfectly fitting if you’ve ever played Nasus in normal League of Legends: spend the entire game farming and then just lolstomp your way through the enemy base. In Runeterra, Nasus practically does the same thing. Its main weakness is the ability to for the enemy to continually stonewall Nasus with worthless blockers, and I can imagine certain decks will just try to silence Nasus outright.
There’s other mechanics being introduced in Empires of the Ascended, although there wasn’t a huge amount of time to get to grips with them within a 45 minute session. One of those was Predict, which lets you draw the top three cards of your deck and put one into your hand. That’ll be super useful for lots of decks, especially midrange or control builds.
Empires of the Ascended is launching in Legends of Runeterra across all platforms as a free update March 3 internationally.