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Countering the Runeterra Meta

Seasonal Champion and seasoned brewer 4LW shares four (aggressive!) decks to challenge the current top dogs of the Runeterra ladder.

Hey, everyone! 4LW here, and today we are kicking off a brand-new article series. In Countering the Runeterra Meta I’ll be dialoguing with Leer’s Monday LoR Meta Report and Herko’s By the Numbers as I assess the state of the LoR meta, and provide my own perspective and experience in order to discuss good strategies to fight the top dogs of ladder and tournaments. The series is initially supposed to go out on a biweekly cadence, but we will evaluate the need to speed it up or slow it down depending on how well the first few issues do.

In this series, I’ll mostly look into off-meta decks. I don’t think we need too rigorous a definition for what counts as an off-meta deck in Runeterra (and I believe that my picks won’t be too controversial in meeting the requirements), but for the sake of categorization let's say that an off-meta deck can be approximately thought of as a deck outside of the ten most-played decks in the Runeterra ladder in a given week.

In other words, off-meta decks are those that we won't find in the top ten spots of MaRu’s Meta Tier List when ordered by play rate, or in Leer's Meta Report.

With the goal of countering the most played decks, I’ll usually talk about specific cards, or combinations of cards, that are expected to do well when facing the current LoR meta, and that theory talk will come intertwined with deck suggestions. Sometimes I’ll cover trending underdog decks, and sometimes I’ll present nearly unseen archetypes. Being so, expect some experimental action along the way.

With the introduction done, let’s get to the real thing!


The Legends of Runeterra Meta

From Leer’s Monday LoR Meta Report, this is how the meta looks like:

LoR Meta Report: Legends of Runeterra Tier List, sorted by play rate

As expected, we see Aatrox decks and Seraphine decks at the top. These two are currently the meta-defining Champions, and are considered by many outstanding players to be one step above the rest of the champion pool. This can be exemplified by the MaRu’s $1000 Tournament of last weekend. When we check the decklists brought to the tournament, we see that every player in the top 8 had either a SeraphineSeraphine deck or an AatroxAatrox deck, and almost every player had them both, myself included. 

Below Aatrox and Seraphine, we have KatarinaKatarina GwenGwen, a deck that by now has been a major piece of the LoR meta for quite some time.

Below the top 3, we have a mix of different decks, with emphasis on aggressive strategies, the most popular ones being Draven Jinx and Annie Jhin.

By the way: if rather than counter the meta decks, you'd rather learn to pilot them (or learn how your foes may pilot them when facing you…), you may want to check Card Gamer's Aatrox Vayne Quinn Deck Guide, and Yangzera's Bandle City Ezreal Seraphine Deck Guide.


Aim and Counter

Trundle/Elise

The first deck I want to highlight is TrundleTrundle EliseElise – I’ve been getting good results with it for some days now, both on ladder and in tournaments.

Regions
Freljord
24 cards
Shadow Isles
16 cards
Rarities
30 400
champion
6
epic
6
rare
12
common
16
Mana cost
0
0
4
1
13
2
2
3
1
4
10
5
3
6
7
7+
Champions
6
2
Elise
3
Elise
5
Trundle
3
Trundle
Followers
11
2
Avarosan Sentry
3
Avarosan Sentry
2
Icevale Archer
2
Icevale Archer
3
Kindly Tavernkeeper
2
Kindly Tavernkeeper
4
Babbling Bjerg
1
Babbling Bjerg
8
It That Stares
2
It That Stares
9
Commander Ledros
1
Commander Ledros
Spells
23
1
Quietus
3
Quietus
1
Three Sisters
1
Three Sisters
2
Glimpse Beyond
2
Glimpse Beyond
2
Vile Feast
3
Vile Feast
5
Harsh Winds
1
Harsh Winds
5
Spirits Unleashed
3
Spirits Unleashed
5
Wild Mysticism
3
Wild Mysticism
6
Vengeance
3
Vengeance
7
Atrocity
1
Atrocity
8
Battle Fury
1
Battle Fury
9
Buried in Ice
2
Buried in Ice
Open deck in builder

The deck is a modernized version of the Freljord Spiders deck that became popular when Iceborn LegacyIceborn Legacy had its Speed buffed from Slow to Focus. The combination of SIShadow Isles and FRFreljord allows us to use two spells that I regard as two of the most important tools to fight the meta, around which I will focus today: QuietusQuietus and Buried in IceBuried in Ice.

Quietus

QuietusQuietus is known to be a very strong spell, and has become a staple removal for Shadow Isles decks by now. It is cheap and does a lot against the current Runeterra meta: it kills both SeraphineSeraphine and EzrealEzreal, and slows down Aatrox decks by destroying weapons.

It is not particularly good against Katarina Gwen and Draven Jinx, but against those decks it can still remove a small follower. And, combined with Freljord's Frostbite effects, Quietus can take down an even bigger threat.

Buried in Ice

Buried in IceBuried in Ice, being mass removal, is a good response to opposing World EnderWorld Ender and The HarrowingThe Harrowing. It is often compared to The RuinationThe Ruination, but Buried In Ice is, in my opinion, currently stronger: Buried in IceBuried in Ice Obliterates units, meaning that it will destroy weapons and won’t leave leftovers like DarkinthrallDarkinthrall behind. Buried In Ice also fits way better in aggressive decks, like this Trundle Elise that I’m showcasing. 

The combination of Shadow Isles and Freljord isn’t something especially inventive, but this specific deck is probably the best one in that region combination to take advantage of another trick up our sleeve: Spirits UnleashedSpirits Unleashed.

Spirits Unleashed

Spirits UnleashedSpirits Unleashed is a good card in general, but it shines against Seraphine decks, given that these often rely on ping damage. After casting Spirits Unleashed just once, flooding the board with cheap units becomes much more threatening to that type of removal-heavy decks.


Zoe Braum Kayle

Our second deck today is the ZoeZoe BraumBraum KayleKayle deck that I used to climb to Masters this season.

Regions
Freljord
13 cards
Mount Targon
27 cards
Rarities
28 900
champion
6
epic
5
rare
10
common
19
Mana cost
0
0
11
1
12
2
6
3
3
4
3
5
1
6
4
7+
Champions
6
1
Zoe
3
Zoe
4
Braum
2
Braum
6
Kayle
1
Kayle
Equipments
4
2
The Darkin Lodestone
3
The Darkin Lodestone
4
Draconic Bands
1
Draconic Bands
Followers
19
1
Divine Clerk
1
Divine Clerk
1
Omen Hawk
3
Omen Hawk
1
The Flight
3
The Flight
2
Esmus, Breath of the World
3
Esmus, Breath of the World
2
Lunari Shadestalker
3
Lunari Shadestalker
3
Sparklefly
3
Sparklefly
3
Winged Messenger
3
Winged Messenger
Spells
11
1
Three Sisters
1
Three Sisters
2
Pale Cascade
3
Pale Cascade
5
Spirits Unleashed
3
Spirits Unleashed
8
Battle Fury
2
Battle Fury
9
Buried in Ice
2
Buried in Ice
Open deck in builder

Just like the Trundle Elise deck above, this Zoe deck uses Spirits UnleashedSpirits Unleashed and Buried in IceBuried in Ice. But here we combine the Freljord package (with the premium addition of Battle FuryBattle Fury) with an Elusive shell similar to the one extensively used recently by the Teemo Zoe deck.

Before the hotfix last week, this archetype would only struggle against KaynKayn AatroxAatrox (by then the most popular Aatrox variant) because the Aatrox player had Blooming CultistBlooming Cultist. Since its nerf, Blooming Cultist's play rate has dropped, giving us a larger window for Elusive strategies to have success against Aatrox decks.

Spirits Unleashed

As noted, Spirits UnleashedSpirits Unleashed makes our units bulkier and more prepared to face Seraphine decks. SparkleflySparklefly gives us much-needed healing against aggro decks. And both Buried in IceBuried in Ice and Three SistersThree Sisters help us to buy additional turns against Aatrox and Katarina Gwen.


Frozen Fizz Twisted Fate

In a very similar vein, we have this Freljord FizzFizz Twisted FateTwisted Fate deck.

Regions
Freljord
14 cards
Bilgewater
26 cards
Rarities
32 100
champion
6
epic
7
rare
15
common
12
Mana cost
3
0
7
1
9
2
0
3
5
4
9
5
3
6
4
7+
Champions
6
1
Fizz
3
Fizz
4
Twisted Fate
3
Twisted Fate
Followers
14
1
Prowling Cutthroat
2
Prowling Cutthroat
2
Marai Songstress
2
Marai Songstress
2
Starlit Seer
3
Starlit Seer
4
Zap Sprayfin
2
Zap Sprayfin
5
Slippery Waverider
2
Slippery Waverider
6
Wiggly Burblefish
3
Wiggly Burblefish
Spells
20
0
Warning Shot
3
Warning Shot
1
Elixir of Iron
1
Elixir of Iron
1
Three Sisters
1
Three Sisters
2
Heavy Metal
3
Heavy Metal
2
Troll Chant
1
Troll Chant
5
Eye of Nagakabouros
3
Eye of Nagakabouros
5
Harsh Winds
1
Harsh Winds
5
Spirits Unleashed
3
Spirits Unleashed
8
Battle Fury
2
Battle Fury
9
Buried in Ice
2
Buried in Ice
Open deck in builder

It also relies on an Elusive aggressive strategy. The biggest advantage over the Targon version above is the access to Eye of NagakabourosEye of Nagakabouros and Heavy MetalHeavy Metal.

Eye of Nagakabouros Heavy Metal

An additional and strong draw spell is more than welcome, as the Targon version sometimes lacks hand refill. Heavy MetalHeavy Metal, on the other hand, is currently the strongest answer in the entire game to a round-two, Equipped Steadfast ElkinSteadfast Elkin or Fleetfeather TrackerFleetfeather Tracker. On top of that, it also deals with Katarina and Draven, so switching to Bilgewater is definitely a reasonable choice.


Kindred Aatrox

The fourth highlighted deck is KindredKindred Aatrox, currently trending thanks to its creator, XxWhatAmIxX.

Regions
Runeterra
12 cards
Shadow Isles
28 cards
Rarities
35 400
champion
6
epic
12
rare
4
common
18
Mana cost
1
0
11
1
18
2
0
3
3
4
1
5
5
6
1
7+
Champions
6
4
Kindred
3
Kindred
6
Aatrox
3
Aatrox
Equipments
9
2
The Darkin Aegis
3
The Darkin Aegis
1
The Darkin Bloodletters
3
The Darkin Bloodletters
1
The Darkin Halberd
3
The Darkin Halberd
Followers
13
0
Ravenous Butcher
1
Ravenous Butcher
1
The Wings and The Wave
3
The Wings and The Wave
2
Cursed Keeper
3
Cursed Keeper
2
Fading Icon
3
Fading Icon
2
Mask Mother
3
Mask Mother
Spells
12
1
Quietus
2
Quietus
2
Glimpse Beyond
3
Glimpse Beyond
2
Vile Feast
3
Vile Feast
5
Possession
1
Possession
6
Vengeance
2
Vengeance
7
Atrocity
1
Atrocity
Open deck in builder

The main motivation for the archetype seems to me The Darkin HalberdThe Darkin Halberd, a neglected Darkin on the most popular Aatrox decks.

The Darkin Halberd

The deck gives us a novel way to play Aatrox, developing the World Ender game plan while we benefit from the SIShadow Isles self-sacrifice mechanics. We also reliably get TaaroshTaarosh (probably the strongest of the Darkin units) on the board, thanks to World Ender. And we get to play QuietusQuietus along the way, so it is a win all around.

Taarosh

It has to be said that the global stats to be found on Legna’s website for Kindred Aatrox against Seraphine decks and the most popular Aatrox variants are not too bright for the former. But current Aatrox Kindred hot pilots, like Kuako, seem to be countering the Runeterra meta with this deck just fine, so you might want to take a look at it.


Wrapping Up

With these four decks presented, it’s wise to mention that I've focused mostly on fairly aggressive decks. This is no coincidence – I've found that decks with faster game plans are way more successful than slower decks in beating the dominant Seraphine and Aatrox archetypes.

For example, I think that Shadow Isles Karma Control and Darkness are decent decks right now, and are well positioned against the majority of the ten most popular decks – but they struggle against the absolute top dogs. Seraphine and Aatrox decks have so much value, and their threats do so much for their mana costs, that it is especially hard to control them properly. The best defensive tools right now seem to be those that don't get too much in the way of your aggression.

And, as noted above, if you would prefer to join them, rather than try to beat them (or you'd like to learn how your foes may pilot them when facing your counter pick…), you may want to check Card Gamer's Aatrox Vayne Quinn Deck Guide, and Yangzera's Bandle City Ezreal Seraphine Deck Guide.

This will be it for the first Countering The Meta – hopefully it gets better and better over time! If you have any feedback, or if you have a spicy deck that can maybe be featured here next time, don’t hesitate in contacting me through Twitter, or through the 4LW #8126 Discord.

Thanks for reading, and ‘til next time!



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