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Greetings, my friend – welcome to the Broken Church of Chimes and Tentacles!
I jest, of course, I jest! We still place our faith only in data and numbers…
… yet, as we shall soon see, it does seem like this is the dawn of the Age of Illaoi Bard.
But come, please, step inside, and do not let me get ahead of myself! We have for today twenty-two blends from among the best LoR decks, curated from admirable APIarists Balco and Legna's findings, along with our own observations, and insights gathered from prominent pilots at the Blue Bird Inn.
Best LoR Decks: Welcome our New Tentacled Overlords
These are turbulent times, my friend: after several patches in which our Meta has been beautifully variegated and balance, the time has come to, leaving flowery wording aside, call a spade a spade: we have, for the first time this year, a deck that approaches the "broken" threshold.
Not two weeks have passed since this patch began, and one may feel tempted to pepper such assertion with caveats like, "It's perhaps a bit too early to tell…"
… but Illaoi Bard's impressive numbers are indeed heading towards what Riot itself would deem unacceptable: a play rate over 15% (the Priestess and the Caretaker currently sit at 11%, in an upwards trend that shows no sign of stopping), and WR above 55%.
We did have this year a Meta ruler – namely Ahri Kennen Shurima – with similar WR, but player preference makes today's Illaoi Bard very different from Ahri Kennen in its heyday.
For whatever reason, when several versions of Ahri Kennen reigned supreme, players never felt compelled to push its play rate above 6% – the playerbase at large, we'll never know why, simply shunned the best blend in the format.
What's more: even when Ahri Kennen Shurima was the best-performing version, players insisted in playing other variants (Ahri Kennen Shadow Isles being the main example), and Ahri Kennen Shurima's play rate remained in the single digit, even if its WR was similar to what Illaoi Bard shows now.
Our current case is markedly different.
Again for unfathomable reasons (the need of a speedy Master climb, one would imagine, this being a very short Season?), pilots are flocking to the Broken Church of Chimes and Tentacles in droves – this the first time this year that we witness, early-days fads aside, an archetype punching past a 10% play rate and with performance to match.
The Broken Blend: Illaoi Bard
Again we shall leave words aside and rely on the powerful potency of imagery to showcase why this broken blend reigns supreme:
Simply put, my friend, Illaoi Bard beats pretty much everything that is currently popular, with only Kai'Sa's mutations presenting a semblance of opposition.
Such blatant dominance is also apparent when checking for different formulas: the most popular variant, which we recommend below, has nearly TEN thousand games in the last three days – making this single list more popular than whole archetypes – and punches above 56%...
… yet other popular versions like this one, or this one (all well over 1,000 games, and therefore firmly in the "tried-and-true" category) perform even better.
This time, my friend, this is not a recommendation, but just plain facts: if performance and speedy climbing are your goals, you take this list and never look back.
Is there, then, no opposition to the reign of Chimes and Tentacles?
Not all blends are unhappy with the rise of Illaoi Bard…
… and a few of them, as we'll see below, may truly welcome our new tentacled overlords.
The Rugged Resistance – Best LoR Decks to Beat Illaoi Bard
These are all well-performing blends – some Meta staples, other Off-Meta medleys – that do well, and sometimes very well, against the Chimed Tentacles, while also doing well against the rest of the field.
Evolve or Die: Sivir Kai'Sa Demacia
One of the strongest Meta medleys by its own rights, and with a slight edge over the Broken Blend – probably the best recommendation if solid performance against both Illaoi Bard and the rest of the field is your goal.
Strong Against: Annie TF, Heimer Jayce, Gwennie, Jinx Bard – slight edge against Illaoi Bard, also a slight edge over other Kai'Sa Demacia mutations
Struggles Against: Azirelia, Spider-Gwen, Thralls
Chimes Beware – Akshan Kai'Sa Demacia
Another Kai'Sa blend with a very small edge against the Broken Blend, and great performance overall.
From conversations with top pilots it would appear that, in high-skill scenarios, the Akshan mutation is inferior to Sivir's – ladder data, though, tends to disagree and, when looking at the best decklist for each, both blends perform similarly.
Strong Against: Annie TF, Gwennie, Lux Illaoi, Zilean Xerath, Thralls
Struggles Against: Azirelia, Yasuo Katarina
(NOTE: thanks to Transidental for noting the poor wording when comparing variants -- on average, Sivir's does better than Akshan's; it's when you compare the best decklists that both do similarly)
Fight Chimes with Chimes – Ahri Bard
Now, if you wish to make Illaoi Bard's life truly miserable – and, perhaps even better, make them taste their own medicine – then Ahri Bard is probably the first place you should look, my friend.
This blend is fairly well-positioned overall, with the list below reaching 53% – its odds against Illaoi Bard, though, go as high as past 65%.
It has several truly bad matchups though, so it's not without its drawbacks.
Strong Against: Wrecks Illaoi Bard
Struggles Against: Annie TF, Jhinnie, Spider-Gwen, Azirelia
Freeze 'em Up – Ashe LeBlanc
This medley, my friend, may fall a tad too close to "Cut your own nose to spit at your adversary…"
… but when it is about ruining a Broken Blend's day, it may be worth it, so I shall leave that consideration to you.
The formula recommended below does perform very well currently – punching above the 53% WR mark in more than 300 games – even if the archetype as a whole is close to 49%.
Strong Against: Murders Illaoi Bard – good odds against Sivir Kai'Sa
Struggles Against: All Annie blends (TF, Jhin, Gwen), Heimer Jayce
The Sea's my Playground – Fizz Riven
The Trickster Yordle seems to have the upper hand when facing tentacles – not too lopsided a matchup (56% in Fizz Riven's favor) but enough of an edge to call it fairly favored.
This blend is not doing too great against the rest of the field, though, so I would recommend it only if you have previous Papercraft experience.
Strong Against: Illaoi Bard
Struggles Against: Annie TF, Azirelia
Balance Restored? – Shen Bard
And, for last, this section's pièce de résistance, my friend – not only an extremely efficient Illaoi Bard counter, but a brand new blend with potent performance…
… and Shen!
Which, goes without saying, would truly be a victory for lore and flavor is it happens to be the one champ that can restore balance against the Broken Blend.
The below list truly looks like the real deal: nearly 900 games in the last three days, and an impressive performance nearing 54% – that's to say, a medley we would unreservedly recommend regardless of who rules the meta – but which, in this case, comes with a flavorful fruit on top: boots Illaoi Bard's butt most brutally.
Strong Against: Bashes Illaoi Bard – solid against Heimer Jayce and Gwennie
Struggles Against: Kai'Sa's mutations, Jhinnie
Other Strong Meta Staples
These are all blends that currently perform excellently, and all with play rates high enough to be considered tried-and-true.
Odds against the Broken Blend go from even to discouraging but, at least by current data, their odds against the rest of the field are good enough to make up for that.
Little room for changes – if there is one blend that we can call 'solved', it would be this one – and dismal odds against the Broken Blend (around 35% for Jhinnie) are not too auspicious for this medley's fate.
The usual formula still performs solidly enough, though, with a 52% overall.
Strong Against: Azirelia, Yasuo Katarina
Struggles Against: Illaoi Bard (horribly!)
Tides indeed twist and turn: this blend started out strong in the first few days after the patch, then lost steam earlier this week, now seems to have regained momentum – the below-recommended list, which is the most popular, performs above 52% in nearly 1,500 games.
Dies horribly to the Broken Blend, though.
Learned scholar Scissorsbox recently penned a treatise on spidery matters, in case you would like to learn about this archetype in detail.
Strong Against: Kai'Sa mutations, Jhinnie, Azirelia (very!)
Struggles Against: Illaoi Bard (horribly!), Yasuo Katarina
Dethroned by Illaoi Bard in brutal fashion, Azirelia has quickly lost popularity this week…
… which, as tends to happen, increased its performance, as hardship often does when it culls chaff from wheat.
True Azir believers have kept its most popular formula, recommended below, punching above 53%, while a host of truly enfranchised followers have pushed the second most popular (which is a bit more reactive) past 54%.
Strong Against: Kai'Sa mutations (AkKai in particular), Yasuo Katarina, Thralls
Struggles Against: Illaoi Bard (horribly!), Annie blends (TF, Jhin, Gwen), Elise Gwen, Jinx Bard
Chompers and Chimes, aka Jinx Bard
Surely the best blend you can take to ladder when all factors are considered – you get to play Jinx! – and a fairly potent brew when only performance is concerned, punching past 53% across well over 2,000 games.
A blend that our very own MonteXristo pioneered in the early Worldwalker days, by the way, and that recently fist-bumped Master Brewer TealRed later refined with ruthless proficiency.
As a note of caution, do not Jinx Bard is weak both against the Broken Blend, and its most popular counter, Kai'Sa.
Strong Against: Annie TF, Azirelia, Yasuo Katarina, Jhinnie
Struggles Against: Illaoi Bard, Kai'Sa mutations, Heimer Jayce
Yet another Worldwalker powerhouse that, now the Forces of Beyond meta is settling, finds its WR decrease into a reasonable range – the list recommended below sits at nearly 53% in 1,300 games, with some less-played versions doing a bit better.
This medley is only slightly disadvantaged against Illaoi Bard, but like Jinx Bard above, it's also the underdog against the Broken Blend's main counter, Kai'Sa – should the ladder become a tug-of-war between those two medleys, one would suspect Annie TF's fate shall suffer.
Strong Against: Azirelia, Yasuo Katarina, Jhinnie, Heimer Jayce
Struggles Against: Illaoi Bard, Kai'Sa mutations, Jinx Bard, Thralls
Thralls, aka Lissandra Taliyah
Worldwalker's Frozen Menace is slowly regaining popularity, although its current performance leaves some doubts about whether or not it will return to the forefront.
In particular, its matchups are in an odd spot: Thralls are slight underdogs to the Broken Blend, and also underdogs to two Kai'Sa mutations, but very strong against the third, namely the Sivir variant.
And they remain, as usual, very weak to Azirelia
Strong Against: Annie TF, Sivir Kai'Sa, Gwennie,
Struggles Against: Illaoi Bard, Akshan Kai'Sa, Jhinnie, Azirelia (horribly!)
Worldwalker's earliest powerhouse, later forgotten in lieu of other Demacian Tentacle blends, is making a return.
Interestingly, the most popular formula is not doing too well – but alternative versions, like the one recommended below, are thriving.
It's unclear what makes these less-popular variations better (our recommended formula goes for a heavier top-end in its spell composition, while another blend with nearly identical results chooses to increase the unit count), but at first glance one or two copies of Vanguard Sergeant seem like a must.
Strong Against: Azirelia, Yasuo Katarina
Struggles Against: Illaoi Bard, Annie TF, Heimer Jayce
This may be the one situation that Professor and Student have no solution for: they are quite the underdogs both to the Broken Blend, its most popular counter (Kai'Sa mutations), and a couple of other popular medleys, too.
They still pack a punch, with the formula recommended below performing above 54% in nearly 500 games, but we shall see if they can survive being attacked from so many fronts.
Strong Against: Jhinnie, Yasuo Katarina, Jinx Bard
Struggles Against: Illaoi Bard, Kai'Sa mutations, Annie TF, Azirelia,
Sneezin' Lulu's back!
In what is a bit of a common trend today, this blend packed quite a punch last week, then lost steam as LP donors left the stage, then – as it dropped in play rate quite a bit – regained momentum, probably pushed by proficient pilots.
It's yet another medley that suffers horribly in front of the Broken Blend while also being an underdog to Kai'Sa, so time will tell if Lulu's momentum holds.
Strong Against: Azirelia, Jhinnie, Yasuo Katarina
Struggles Against: Illaoi Bard (horribly!), Annie TF, Gwennie
Strong blends with the optimal balance between tried-and-true and rare enough that you are almost guaranteed to never find yourself in a mirror match.
Katarina Ziggs Annie Shurima
A few days ago we pondered how a new Noxurimaggro version (this one, featuring Sivir) could be gaining traction while its Worldwalker variant, namely Kat Ziggs Annie, was nowhere to be found.
Well… time to ponder no more, my friend: while the Sivir version linked above does pack a punch, Worldwalker's foremost aggro deck seems superior: our recommended Kat Annie Zigges version reaches a 55% WR in more than 400 games in the last few days.
It's a slight underdog to the Broken Blend, while seemingly even or favored against most of the rest of the field.
Katarina Twisted Fate
Many a Noxian connoisseur will no doubt spit bilious bile at this blasphemous blend, yet numbers do suggest it is the real deal: a Ravenbloom Conservatory, but without Annie.
In fact, this is arguably Annie TF with Kat instead of Annie, and performs at 55%+ WR in nearly 400 games (with foes probably wondering what the hell they are up against, during the mulligan phase).
A Walk on the Wild Side
Tired of fighting the Meta tides?
Looking for a bit of off-meta spice?
Welcome to the Wild Side, my friend: all these blends perform at 52% or above, but the sample size – between 100 and 300 games in all cases – let us make no assertion about how these will fare in your hands.
In other words…
… no way to know if they work until you try!
One of the oldest concepts: throw cheap Noxian and Piltovian units at your foe, finish off the job with direct-damage skills and spells.
Another very old concept, and ideal for newcomers short on shards, since this is without a doubt the cheapest blend to craft and jump to the Ladder with.
And, as cherry on top, as soon as you can spare the funds you can switch to Spider-Gwen, if you so wish.
Another blend that die-hard fans – of Nami TF in this case – may consider blasphemous, yet performance is quite encouraging: 52% in around 200 games.
Poppy Jarvan Bard
Bard wanders everywhere, of course, but while most Bard Demacia medleys have left the meta, this Bannerman Bard medley still packs quite the punch.
As some pilots pointed out after Evelynn's rather disappointing entrance, she and her followers perhaps should have been all in Shadow Isles, which may have increased her deck-building options.
This Viego Evelynn blend gives that idea some sustenance: it's working quite well – albeit across a very small sample – and it's not hard to imagine it could be stronger still, if it had full access to a second region.
And so the Age of Tentacles commences, my friend!
Of the new champs, Kai'Sa has firmly carved a place for herself in the meta, while Gwen proved both fairly popular and playable – Eve, sadly, has only found a very fringe pairing with the Viego blend showcased above.
But, as we have seen, the real news is that, arguable for the first time this year, the Meta has produced a blend that can correctly be labeled as "broken": should its playrate reach 15% (which its growth rate this week suggest it will, it being 11% right now), and keep its WR above 55% (it being nearly 57% currently), it will firmly fall into what Riot themselves have defined as requiring their intervention.
Will Kai'Sa, Ahri and Shen's rugged resistance revert this trend?
We shall soon see!
Any questions or comments, or more data you may need, please feel free to:
Poke me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/HerkoKerghans,
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And good luck out there!