Welcome to TLG’s latest Legends of Runeterra article. As we usually do after a significant patch, we’re offering some new decks for you to try out, as the game needs time to settle into its new form.
Aphelios and his associated Celestials are headline additions to the scene in this patch. He’s a complex champion, which means he will offer a lot to those dedicated enough to learn his intricacies. We hope you enjoy this insight into the patch, and we will see you next week for our meta snapshot once we’ve had some time to see how this all shakes out.
If you have any questions, feel free to drop by our Discord. Best of luck on your climb!
Editing: Wusubi, Sebodunum
Writing: CastMin, Crixuz, Den, Pespscola, Ultraman, Zenaton, Zezetel
Table of Contents
Relevance: Somewhat competitive
Before Aphelios, there wasn’t a lot of reason to splash Targon when playing Tri-beam Improbulator. Hush was at 2 mana and Soraka was your only Targon champion that cost 3 mana (and she’s antithetical to a Tri-beam deck). There weren’t many strong 3 mana spells or units from Targon that made it more appealing than Noxus.
A secondary problem with Tri-beam is that when you’re so incentivized to play 3 mana cards, your threats end up being quite lacklustre in the mid game. Ezreal-Draven navigated this problem with endless draws. So, sure the mid game was “weak” for Ezreal-Draven. But when your opponent has no board and you have 3+ units on yours, does it really matter if their attacks are 2 or 4?
Enter Aphelios. This champ is a one man Ezreal-Draven. He summons, he kills, he overwhelms, he stuns and he lifesteals. Best of all, he costs 3 mana and levels Tri-beam. In a way, Aphelios-Ezreal promises to do what Ezreal-Draven can, which is to play cheap 3 mana cards, level Tri-beam and feel stronger than the sum of its associated mana cost.
Assuming Aphelios-Ezreal succeeds in making an impact on the meta, the biggest difference between Ezreal-Draven and Aphelios-Ezreal is that the latter is so dependent on Aphelios to generate value. If you kill Draven, no sweat, he already did what you wanted him to do.
If Aphelios succumbs to a Culling Strike or a Challenger pull, your deck suddenly feels a lot more helpless. So unless you’re unkillable, which Aphelios isn’t, putting all your eggs in one basket might not be ideal. (Write-up by Crixuz)
Relevance: Somewhat competitive
Previously, we played Targon Karma decks using Zoe as our second champion and she did well mostly because she was just that good of a card. The problem was that sometimes Zoe would die too quickly to generate value due to her small statline, or her Invoke pool couldn’t give us what we needed when we needed it.
However, now Targon Karma decks have access to Aphelios, who smooths out our mid game with his weapons that can help us in similar ways to Zoe and her Supercool Starchart, all without the RNG. Whether you need more board presence, more life, a way to stall your opponent or to kill something, Aphelios can help you out.
With a flipped Karma, Aphelios gets even better. If he wasn’t already leveled-up, the double Moon Weapons will level him quickly and you will usually be able to get another Moon Weapon due to Karma’s 2x spell casting once Enlightened.
Another point to note is the Homecoming buff from 5 to 4 mana makes the card playable and that can give you a lot of value by letting you recall and then replay cards like The Fangs, Solari Priestess, or even saving a Karma herself.
The win condition of this deck is similar to most Karma decks - you’re looking to outvalue your opponent in the late game with all of Karma’s spell generation. We can also stabilize and close out the game quickly with a doubled-up Starshaping giving two Celestial cards and healing for 10, all for 5 mana. (Write-up by Zenaton)
Twisted Fate has been widely regarded as the best champion in the game for some time now. He was the key piece in the dominant Go Hard deck during November through January and quickly found a new home alongside Fizz when Go Hard was nerfed, immediately returning to Tier 1 without skipping a beat.
Aphelios is the new kid in town, whose release has finally injected some life into Runeterra. We can see tons of decks that are able to utilize him for various purposes, as his Moon Weapons are the most versatile tool in the game. We don’t know how good this deck will be in the future, but it’s impossible to ignore the incredible 28-1 win-loss record J01 had with his new creation.
While the deck looks as if Aphelios-Zoe and Fizz-TF had a baby, the sheer flexibility it offers is second to none. The Invoke mechanic, the new high tempo landmark (The Veiled Temple), Elusive units with Mind Meld and all the Targon support package, this might be the most complete deck that the game has seen.
Now, being complete doesn’t mean it’s perfect, and the various synergies can collide and create awkward hands, as there are so many possible directions for the pilot to take this deck. As such, play this deck with an open mind and always aim to stay in control of the game. It’s up to you to choose to be aggressive with Zap Sprayfin, Wiggly Burblefish and Mind Meld, or accept a longer game and fight with big Celestial units.
Basic fundamentals like keeping initiative, sequencing our cards correctly and controlling hand space are most important to this deck’s success, as well as protecting TF and Aphelios. (Write-up by Den)
The latest trend in town is cheating the mana system and please, hold my Temple. Aphelios’ ability synergizes well with the idea of playing two cards per turn, which feels nothing like a condition, as it will never interfere with your usual turn.
And, if playing The Veiled Temple for 4 mana is a leap in tempo that might be expensive, the healing ability of Aphelios, coupled with the potential damage output thanks to Calibrum, will greatly improve your chances of surviving said turn. Once you start gaining 2 mana and a +1/1 buff every single turn, your opponent will struggle to keep up with your tempo and board presence.
Make use of Severum and the buff of a buffed minion to get back to full health, then close out the game with Invokes and their terrifying big boys and spells. If the game drags on for too long, just add Overwhelm to your biggest minion and cut your opponent’s life force into pieces!
If you ever feel desperate enough, or if your opponent forgets to respect your win conditions, Atrocity goes a long way into breaking apart their Nexus. Especially onto something significantly buffed by The Veiled Temple. (Write-up by Ultraman)
Aphelios-Zoe (No Temple)
This version of Aphelios-Zoe closely resembles the Zoe-Diana deck. The main difference is that a full set of The Fangs is played instead of Solari Sunforger. The lifesteal and the value it generates justifies the replacement. Pale Cascade has been cut after its nerf, as it just doesn’t seem useful anymore in this archetype.
Mountain Goat has been chosen over Solari Shieldbearer, as Gems are awesome with Aphelios, getting a Moon Weapon for 1 mana is great, and the nerf to Pale Cascade makes smaller units more impactful.
With the inclusion of Aphelios comes the cutting of Diana, who had previously acted as a useful and cheap removal tool. To remedy this loss, 2x Black Spear was added, which should help you remove cards like TF, Zoe and Aphelios.
These are big threats but also ones that cause you to lose too much tempo if you use Celestial means of removal on them. Black Spear also makes the deaths of your chump blockers more worthwhile. Finally, Spell Thief is a decent one-off in the Targon Allegiance archetype to give you some flexibility and diversity in your response options. (Write-up by Pespscola)
Anivia Control has a new toy; Gluttony. The main reason the card is powerful here is because it increases your consistency. The archetype’s weakness is in the early game before Anivia enters on Turn 6. The game plan is heavily reliant on drawing Anivia by Turn 6 and not getting Obliterated (Plaza Targon decks seeing a dip in popularity after the Aphelios patch helps).
From there, Anivia hits her power spike. The opponent isn’t incentivised to kill her, as they have to respect The Rekindler. Yet, if they don’t have the finishing power, they will find themselves slowly losing their grip on the game.
Interestingly, Anivia often loses in the matchups that feel in-between the extremes of terrible and great. In such scenarios, you survive long enough to summon Anivia, but don’t do well enough to truly stabilize the board.
SI control cards are expensive, meaning you’re forced into one of two places: healing and removal or building your board. Sometimes, the removal portion isn’t effective because Withering Wail deals 1 damage AoE, and the Grasp of the Undying deals 3. In many cases, the opponent’s units might very well be a lot higher in health.
That’s where a card like Gluttony is very helpful. A 3 mana spell frees you up from deciding if you want to do this or that. Now, you can do two actions! And for 3 mana, Gluttony does A LOT. It turns one of your Birds into an 0/1 Egg, a 2/4 Bird, and a 4/4 body. This “unfair” card is exactly what Anivia needs to be competitive in the new meta.
The rest of the deck remains the same, as are its tricks. You want to set-up for a good The Harrowing, set-up for a favored The Ruination, use Entreat to fetch Harsh Winds, pass cleverly, stall, know when to let the 0/1 Egg block, ensure that your control tools go onto the right targets, and bait a good AoE by using your health as a resource. (Write-up by Crixuz)
Long ago, the Aggro nation lived with the other archetypes together in harmony. But everything changed when Targon attacked. Fear not, though, because there remains a glimmer of hope for Aggro to become strong again, that hope being Mistwraith Burn.
“But this looks like normal Mistwraiths with a Mystic Shot. What are you smoking?!” While that might be true at first sight, there’s actually a shift in the general game plan. Why? Being able to push the damage earlier is more important with this version of the deck - you aren’t playing for a board that can tag along until the later stages of the game, if things go south.
You want pure pressure that helps you build towards an early finisher like an unanswerable board, The Harrowing, Atrocity or even Mystic Shot/Doombeast lethal. The things to keep in mind in order to make Aggro great again are:
- Stygian Onlooker on Turn 1 isn’t a liability.
Most decks don’t have a 1-drop or are going to feel bad giving up on Fizz, Zoe or Teemo. You can see it as a 2-stepped Mystic Shot: 2 damage face and 2 to a blocker or face again.
- Hold onto your Fading Memories if there’s no pressing need to use it.
You don’t want to give your opponent additional information on your hand. Keep them fearful.
- Your unit-copying spells have 2 primary targets: Wraithcaller and Frenzied Skitterer.
Why? Because they build up more pressure and demand answers right away and because you want them the most for a finishing blow with The Harrowing.
When low on unit mana and attacking, you can switch the priority to Stygian Onlooker.
When close to finishing your opponent on a defensive turn or on a turn where you don’t want to interact with their board, that priority can also shift towards Doombeast.
- Mystic Shot is great both offensively and defensively.
It’s great for the last bit of damage. It can be used to deny unit healing on both phases (finishing a healer or using it on an ally blocking a Lifesteal unit), since most of your units have less than 2 HP.
It can enable valuable trades or pop barriers.
- Sometimes all you need is love… and The Harrowing.
With enough pressure built early, you will want to finish the game swiftly with a potential The Harrowing on Turn 6-7. I’m telling you this because you might want to consider still going for the building a board plan when all you need is to just finish the game. Happy hunting (and haunting) with your wraiths. (Write-up by CastMin)
Relevance: Not competitive
This is a creation of madness, a fever dream that could burn to ashes in a mere week. But who cares, you get to play Viktor in a deck that holds its ground against... Well, compared to other Viktor decks, it does wonders!
Aphelios is about to carry this game, just hop in the backpack, dear Viktor. That being said, it’s not entirely true: Viktor is a real win condition, with his faster level-up both from the recent buff and the addition of Aphelios’ created cards, he helps as a body with tremendous destructive power (Augment raising his attack through the roof) and as a way to play cheap Moon Weapons. These weapons are strong at 2 mana, so imagine playing them for 1 mana with a flipped Viktor!
The rest of the set is a mix between Targon’s “unfair” cards and Piltover’s amazing ones, so what would you expect other than a surprisingly synergistic deck with great potential. Cycle those created cards with Rummage for almost free draws, get those Augments in with Ballistic Bot and appreciate the curve of Ballistic Bot into Aphelios into Viktor, pressuring the poor opponent into choosing which one is the biggest threat. (Write-up by Ultraman)
Relevance: Not competitive
After Yasuo fled from Ionia, he no longer had a home. But our swordsman might have found a new home with Aphelios. The new cards brought some tools that Yasuo can definitely utilize. Not least Aphelios himself, whose Gravitum can stun opponents two times. Aphelios can also be used as a win condition, making the deck less reliant on Yasuo.
The game plan hasn’t changed. With Yasuo on board, your stuns count as removal. Stall until you have a leveled-up Yasuo ready to clear the board and win the game. However, the addition of Aphelios gives you the option to do some nice tricks.
Calibrum can clear the board without needing Yasuo. Crescendum tutors Mountain Goat or Fae Bladetwirler, giving you board presence while thinning your deck. Infernum can sometimes win you the game when combined with one of these Bladetwirlers. Gravitum needs no explanation, as stuns in a Yasuo deck are always appreciated.
Another important addition is Homecoming. Remember 4 mana Will of Ionia? Yeah, now you get to replay a unit with a play effect. Spacey Sketcher is the prime target, but all of your units are fine targets. Even Aphelios doesn’t hate getting played multiple times.
On top of that, we have The Cloven Way. This card is best used defensively. You stun a minion on a defense turn and since it’s stunned next round, you set-up for a good attack turn. Now the big question. Is Yasuo finally viable? Well, if I’m being honest, probably not... But that shouldn’t stop you from playing these 2 edgelords together. (Write-up by Zezetel)
Relevance: Not competitive
The new GP-Sejuani now sees Powder Pandemonium and Jagged Taskmaster within its ranks. Powder Pandemonium summons one Powder Monkey and applies Vulnerable on a random enemy for EACH time you have activated Plunder.
If you activated Jagged Butcher, Black Market Merchant, Pilfered Goods and Monkey Business, that’s 4 Powder Monkeys and 4 enemy units with Vulnerable for a 4 mana card.
Powder Pandemonium is hence both a very good board control tool, as well as Burn damage. Sometimes, you can even go face if you’re ahead, and that can be up to 12 Nexus damage. Playing the Butcher, Merchant and Goods are things you want to do anyway with a GP-Sejuani deck, so this card doesn’t force you to change your game plan.
Where this deck gets interesting is Powder Pandemonium’s synergy with Jagged Taskmaster. If you have activated his Plunder ability, it gives +1 attack to all 1-cost allies. That’s right, this applies to Powder Monkeys. So, an entire board filled with 3/1 that can pull any enemy unit you want is nothing to scoff at. And as we found out with WallStreetBets and GME, “Apes together strong.”
With too much synergy comes an associated weakness. Because everything depends on activating Plunder, if you cannot fulfill its requirement, the deck loses a lot of its bite. A good opponent would invest more resources than necessary just to deny your opportunities to activate Plunder, such as through Prowling Cutthroat. (Write-up by Crixuz)
Meta relevance: Not competitive
Fiora is a special champion in Legends of Runeterra, as she has her own win condition and can change the complexity of a game. This Solo Fiora deck is built specifically to exploit this win con and help her get her 4 kills. With Entreat as another way to find her, the deck is more stable than one might think, although failing to draw Fiora in the first few turns can be a real heartbreaker.
In a meta where the norm is a lot of synergistic minions with not-so-big stats, Fiora is capable of becoming a nightmare for your opponent that should lock them out of developing their board until they can deal with her. The Demacia region provides the combat tricks and helps Fiora get her kills in order to advance towards the win, while Freljord is in charge of defending Fiora, granting her health, regeneration and lowering the attack of opposing minions.
While this deck existed in the past alongside the Targon region, the release of Troll Gifts and Hush being nerfed has given new life to this archetype. Jamminzz, the originator of the deck, has climbed through the Diamond league very smoothly and claims to be heavily favored against Fizz-TF and the returning Anivia deck, which already could be enough to justify taking this deck for a ride. (Write-up by Den)