Hail, Champions! And welcome to In The Frame, the format for all card art enthusiasts!
Legends of Runeterra's newest expansion, Empires of the Ascended, has launched about a week ago. Not only did it bring new cards, but also a whole new region: Shurima! A giant desert that's full of nomads, scavengers, mercenaries, ... and a couple of immortal God-Warriors here and there!
With all of the new and exciting content added to the game, players all over the world are busy with testing out new mechanics, figuring out the meta, or just straight up enjoying the flavourful fantasy of a harsh and desolate, yet ancient land. No matter what you're messing around with, there's so much to explore while scouring through the seemingly endless dunes and mighty ruins of Shurima.
We already looked at some new deck lists, and we also delved deeper into the lore of Shurima and its champions. This time around, we're gonna take a peek at the art behind Empires of the Ascended, and highlight the concept art that shaped the character of this expansion!
Let's get started!
Adventurers of Shurima
We begin our little journey with the inhabitants of this region. Like mentioned, the people of Shurima consist of various nomadic tribes, that scavenge the landscape, and adapted to the many challenges that a life in such a hostile environment presents. But, of course, there's more than just danger that such a lifestyle has to offer...
When looking at these early concepts, I can feel a certain lust for adventure coming from these characters.
It's as if they downright enjoy the thrill of living in the sands.
The first character we have here is Sai Scout.
A young girl that's always on the lookout for adventure, but also keeps an eye out for her friends.
Maybe she's the leader of this little group of youngsters.
Looks like she found something ... What could it be?
Someone's gotta do the job, right?
I like the composition of the last panel. The scout in the foreground, with her determined look, and her two goofball friends in the back.
"We had trouble earlier! A great storm threatened from the west, and Taliyah passed xer'sai tunnels to the south. I spotted a temple to the north, and we are now safe inside its terracotta walls. The others are all asleep, and my flame, like me, is ebbing. I hope I dream well." - Zaifa's diary
Next up, we have the Rock Hopper.
A sandboarding-loving boy, with a ... let's call it "a more carefree" attitude, accompanied by his trusty pet fox.
I guess the other kids don't think that surfing on old ruins is a good idea...
...Well, bad luck for them. Seems to be a lot of fun!
Do you feel the wind blowing through your hair and the sand on your skin?
Here we have the final comp with different lighting.
It looks like they're taking place during different times of day.
"Today, we began our journey to Nashramae! Samir is determined to cross the Great Sai before the next full moon, and is making SUCH a mess of things! I did not know a simple sandboard could collapse a whole dune. Neither did Sami. He's fine." - Zaifa's diary
Last in the group, we have the Desert Naturalist.
A big burly girl, who seems to be more brawn than brains.
Pulling on that thing is apparently a bigger challenge than expected. But, with the right cheers, anything is possible.
Seems like she's about to win this Tug of War. Let's hope she doesn't win a stupid prize!
Here's the final comp with different light temperatures.
The first pic is very bright and warm, while the second one has a colder tone. Perhaps it's because of the reflections from the blue crystals?
In this pic, we can see the artist going through many different expressions to find the perfect one.
I like how subtle changes can do so much. From "Hmhm...", to "He He...", to "HAHA!".
"Kadira broke something today! Again! It was just a stone wall this time, but it looked old and was probably important to someone's ancestor. Her excuse is that walls are built better in Tereshni, but still! I am very cross." - Zaifa's diary
Oh oh... looks like someone didn't have as much fun as the others!
I wonder if a Grumpy Rockbear wouldn't be more used to this behaviour from the "local wildlife".
You can change the color all you want, he still sees red!
"Ogh today was fun! We stopped for lunch (skallashi cheese - BLEUGH!) when Kadira spotted a poor rockdoubb asleep in the shade. Of course, she had to tug on its tail, and of course, it got mad. I hope it likes the cheese we left behind!" - Zaifa's diary
"MY NAME IS ZAIFA AND I LIKE WRITING STUPID THINGS IN MY STUPID BOOK WHEN I THINK EVERYONE ELSE IS ASLEEP.
EVEN SAMI." - Zaifa's diary
Cute Little Fellas
Alright, enough adventure for now! Time for something that's more cuddlier than sand. Here are the concepts for two of EotA's cutest little critters.
These sketches nicely capture a Poro's playful character, which can be anything from being curious to being downright mischievous.
Not as dangerous as a Rockbear, but certainly not any less of a troublemaker.
She didn't know what she had found, precisely... but it was shiny, and looked like a good snack.
Here's an adorable little guy, enjoying the mostly peaceful life on a farm.
Man, what a beautiful day!
The birds are chirping, the sun is beaming, the ground is shaking,...
Hmm... Now that I think about it... Why do they call him "Dragon Chow"?
Alright, jokes aside: I'm starting to worry for our little friend.
Ah, well. At least he won't see it coming.
"That shriek you hear from way up high? That's no bird, my boy. That's the cry of a hunting dragon." - Demacian farmer
Shurima might be the main focus of this expansion, but that doesn't mean the other regions won't get some attention as well. Here are some character concepts that get the honor to represent their respective homes!
The Freljord is an unforgiving Tundra of neverending winter storms.
Its people are fierce warriors from birth on.
Here we see a group of Draklorn Inquisitors.
I wonder who - or what - they're hunting.
The Inquisitors are formidable warriors, prepared and experienced enough to withstand the cold and barren lands.
Unlike these other unfortunate souls, who were not up to the challenge.
Looks like they found their prey.
Anyway - here's a badass group shot!
Pretty cool, right?
"My lady appears to me in dreams, her voice near a whisper. 'Follow,' she bids me. This command I dare not disobey."
The Shadow Isles are a realm that is shrouded in the darkness of malevolent sorcery.
Its Black Mist corrupts anyone it touches, and turns them into spirits.
Beings, that got their life-force drained by this magic, are doomed to haunt these lands for eternity, losing themselves, piece by piece.
However, not every soul seems to have succumbed to this fate...
They say the Mask Mother created Kindred, just as she created all the incarnations of death.
But from whom did she receive her mask, if she didn't craft it herself?
A few managed to retain aspects of their former selves.
Some of them even took up the duty of guiding fallen spirits to a safe haven, sparing them from eternal agony after death.
A Prey spirit, flying through the dark woods.
Is it fleeing from someone? Or is it looking for something?
A change in the light source's color can have such a big influence on the mood.
To me, the first one looks like Autumn, and the last one like Spring. I also like the added particles. Gives the piece a mysterious touch!
"They flicker through the dark forest, dotting the treeline like stars in the night sky, unaware of their pursuers." - Lamb
The last region we'll take a look at is Ionia, represented by the Shadow Apprentice.
As one might guess, he's part of the Shadow Order, one of Ionias many groups that fight for power over the land.
Even though his training just begun, he seems to be a promising protege.
Is that mysterious lady Silent Shadowseer?
"You are smoke - a whisper on the wind. Your fists must join with the dark like shade to shadow. Now... again!" - Mistress Shi
Finishing off our little journey through the art of EotA, we're gonna go back to where it all began! Remember when Riot released that awesome trailer? It features Omari, a character unique to Legends of Runeterra, as he explores Shurima's ruins to recover an ancient artifact.
A couple of color palettes for his clothing.
Is it just me, or does the first one's colors make him look like McCree from Overwatch?
Front and side view of the model.
Look deep into his eyes...
Final character model used for the trailer.
The chest plate looks a bit like a beak, could that be intentional?
Early concepts for his sandboard. Back than, he had a different name!
A more refined version of the board.
I really like how much thought the artist put into the little details.
Even though this version didn't make the cut, it's still a good example of how much effort is put into character design.
For those who missed Omari's debut, you can check it out here! (Psst! There's also a couple of guest stars!)
These are the artists that were featured in this article. Check out their ArtStation to see even more concepts!
And that's about it! I hope you had fun while we went through the official artwork!
Phew, that was a lot. One might say it was quite a sandful...
What did you like the most? Who are your favourites? Make sure to tell us in the comments!