This guide describes strategies for upgrading your Runeterra starter decks. It is intended for players who have just started playing and have an extremely limited card collection. It assumes you have completed the "Prologue" rewards path but don't have many cards beyond that and are adopting a F2P approach (i.e., not spending any real-world cash). If you have significantly progressed your collection beyond this state and/or are willing to pay cash for wildcards, you might prefer to look at some budget-friendly decks instead. 

To be clear: these aren't great decks, they are just better decks than the starting 3 (4 if you count the daily login reward). Their purpose is to be competitive enough to unlock wildcards so you can gradually upgrade them until they are at their Day3 "final form", then use them to farm crafting resources for your first "real" decks. Each deck in this guide will be broken into the following phases:

  • Day1 will be what the deck looks like with no additional cards beyond the bare-minimum starting collection
  • Day2 will upgrade the deck with 8 Commons and 4 Rares (i.e., your rewards for getting 2 Region Rewards to Level 4+)
  • Day3 will further upgrade the deck with an additional 8 Commons and 4 Rares (i.e., 4 Region Rewards to Level 4+)

The "days" are just a reference point; you may find your own progression faster or slower. Also, each decklist assumes worst-case luck in terms of random card rewards -- if you've unlocked a particular card (Champions in particular) which you think would be an improvement to your deck, feel free to swap it in. Once you've build the final Day3 iteration, you'll be milking these starter decks for all they're really worth -- at that point, you'll want to start conserving your resources for building your next deck. 


For reference: here are the 4 starter decks you should find in your collection. "Buff and Tuff" (Demacia/Freljord) and "Death and Spiders" (Noxus/SI) should be available immediately; "Spells and Stealth" (P&Z/Ionia) should be unlocked at Prologue Level 1 and "Freeze and Decay" (Freljord/SI) is awarded on Day 7 of the daily login rewards. 

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Table of Contents

    SI + Noxus Spider Aggro

    This is an SI + Noxus aggro burn deck with the mantra "win quickly or lose quickly". Do not be afraid to attack aggressively and only block if you expect your unit will survive or it's a very good trade. The idea is that you are in a mad sprint to deal as much nexus damage as possible with little consideration to sparing your own nexus. Fearsome units will do a lot of this work as they can only be blocked by units with 3 attack or greater.

    Frenzied Skitterer can be an amazing card -- he'll lower the attack of all enemies -1/-0, so if you play it on your attack turn it will mean that any 3-attack enemies who normally would able to block your fearsome units will now be unable to at 2.

    Elise Card Image Darius Card Image Frenzied Skitterer Card Image

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    If you're interested in this archetype, look to this deck when you're ready to invest a 3rd Elise.

    P&Z + Noxus Discard

    This is a budget version of a very popular aggro deck. The bad news is that we have to substitute in Darius for Draven, and he only has indirect synergy with the rest of the deck. The good news is that due to the card-cycle nature of this archetype, we can draw a lot of cards and the shortcomings of any individual card aren't as significant. This deck can be tricky to properly pilot as there are so many choices to make. Ideally you can use your cards that require discarding (e.g., Rummage, Get Excited!) for cards that trigger even when discarding (e.g., Jury-Rig, Vision), but sometimes you need to make due with what you have. Don't be overzealous in throwing away cards to level up Jinx -- while her L2 form is extremely powerful, if she is removed you'll find yourself wishing you had all those cards back in your hand. 

    Jinx Card Image Zaunite Urchin Card Image Crowd Favorite Card Image

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    If you're interested in this archetype, look to this deck when you're ready to invest some more wildcards.

    Noxus + Freljord Overwhelm

    There have been multiple decks that make use of the combo potential of Decisive Maneuver and attacking units with overwhelm: the stun will remove the blocker from combat entirely, so if the attacker has overwhelm then it will deal its entire attack power to the nexus. (The same trick applies to using Whirling Death to either weaken or even kill a blocker before combat damage is assigned.) When playing this deck: play defensively the first few rounds and try to avoid trades as the more units that are alive when you play Decisive Maneuver, the more value you'll receive -- especially if they have Overwhelm. Also: if Darius is still at Level 1, always attack with him on the far right as he will often level up mid-combat. 

    Darius Card Image Alpha Wildclaw Card Image Decisive Maneuver Card Image

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    If you're interested in this archetype, look to this deck when you're ready to invest some more wildcards.

    SI + P&Z Prankster Burn

    This is a fun and effective archetype that combines the special abilities of Phantom Prankster and/or Neverglade Collector with spells that can deal direct damage to anything including the enemy nexus. If you can, play a little conservatively early game so that your units don't start dying until you have a Prankster and/or Collector on board. Once Prankster/Collector are on the board, protect them dearly as they will be dealing most of your damage. You'll also want to save your removal spells like Mystic Shot and Get Excited! for finishing off your opponent's nexus, but you can use them to remove enemy units in an emergency. Note that Jinx is really just here to fill a slot -- you'll be able to flip her occasionally, but most games she'll just be a 4 mana 4|3 with quick attack.

    Elise Card Image Phantom Prankster Card Image Neverglade Collector Card Image

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    If you're interested in this archetype, look to this deck when you're ready to invest a 3rd Elise.

    Demacia Bannerman

    "Bannerman" refers to a Demacia allegiance deck that seeks to gain a wide board early and then buff everyone +1|+1 with Vanguard Bannerman. There have been many variants of this deck, but all seek to take advantage of Demacia's higher-than-normal stats and unit-saving combat tricks. This particular variant is a midrange deck that wants to build up a superior board and overwhelm your opponent around Rounds 4-7 -- be aware that it's a very linear deck without any value generation or "comeback" tricks, so if you have a superior board state make sure to take the best advantage that you can.   

    Garen Card Image Cithria the Bold Card Image Vanguard Bannerman Card Image

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    The reason for the big change on Day3 is that we want this deck to use Demacia's allegiance card, Vanguard Bannerman, which will apply a powerful bonus but only if the next card in the deck is from the same region -- therefore, when we add Bannerman we want to also stuff the deck with as many Demacia cards as possible to make this bonus more frequent. Until we have enough Demacia cards to justify including him, though, we'd prefer to leverage strong Ionia cards like Greenglade Duo, Deny, and Twin Disciplines.

    If you're interested in this archetype, look to this deck when you're ready to invest some epic and champion wildcards.

    Ionia Kinkou Elusives

    This is a standard Ionia elusive deck looking to take advantage of the fact most decks are unable to block elusive attackers. Multiple nerfs over the months have made this archetype a pale shadow of what it use to be, but it should still be competitive enough for a starter deck. Try to use buffs like Laurent Bladekeeper on either Zed or an elusive unit, and save your Relentless Pursuit until you have a nice squad of elusives so they can get in lots of free damage.

    Zed Card Image Greenglade Duo Card Image Kinkou Wayfinder Card Image

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    • Our Day2 upgrades are mostly replacing non-elusives units with elusive staples like Greenglade Duo and Navori Bladescout plus the utilitarian Concussive Palm.
    • Like with the above Bannerman deck, Day3 marks when we make the big shift to an allegiance deck -- in this case, pulling all our Demacia cards to become almost entirely Ionia with just a few Freljord. Notable additions include Kinkou Wayfinder, Keeper of Masks, and Omen Hawk.

    Like the Bannerman deck above, we're shifting into an allegiance deck on Day3. Kinkou Wayfinder's special ability is to pull two 1-cost units from your deck, which will always be either Omen Hawk (+1|+1 to the top two cards of your deck) or Navori Bladescout (2|1 attacker with temporary elusive), both of which can have a big impact on the game.

    SI + Freljord Endure Spiders

    The They Who Endure archetype has found many different variations, but they all share a common game plan: use Shadow Isles to produce (and kill off) a lot of token units, then play a large They Who Endure who either attacks for lethal overwhelm damage or who can be sacrificed to an Atrocity to attack the nexus directly. 

    They Who Endure Card Image Atrocity Card Image

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    This starter path can be a little more challenging than the others due to it relying more on synergy with the Day1 cards struggle to provide, but it's also worth investment as its final form is a competitive meta deck in its own right.

    If you're interested in this archetype, look to this deck guide when you're ready to invest more.