This deck is another one of Drisoth’s monstrosities! You may remember his last abomination, Nami Twisted Fate Shellfolk - a deck so powerful that Riot ended up nerfing multiple cards that were in the list. I don’t believe this list is quite as obnoxious but it is just as fun and very powerful!
This deck is another deck you might look at and wonder, how does it win?
The answer to that is going to change almost every single game. The biggest challenge you’ll likely face when trying to learn Afaelios is figuring out how to close. In my experience, the deck comes out of the gates swinging and, like all Fae decks, is capable of setting up a six-wide board with very little effort. Using the constant board pressure you’ll have no trouble chipping away at your opponent and getting them low.
The issues arise when you’re looking to make that final push, like Macgyver you’ll have to patch together whatever you happen to have on hand and figure out how you’re going to make it win. Usually, the actual winning occurs off the back of Aphelios’s Infernum coupled with Papercraft Dragon or Fizz. Other times, you’ll just have to keep your board wider to go around your opponent’s units. Occasionally you’ll have double drawn Fizz and gained access to Playful Trickster, while this rally can be clunky to use at times there are definitely moments where it’s your best option.
This deck is a tempo deck, as such, it’s really going to test your ability to think in the moment and adapt on the fly. Players who want to train these skills should definitely consider picking this deck up as it will constantly challenge you. Players who’ve mastered these skills will find themselves insanely rewarded by this deck and should look to abuse it for free LP while they still can!
A cheap spell that synergizes with the rest of the deck. Use this to activate Aphelios, protect Fizz, advance your board state, or look for a win condition. This is one of the cards in the deck that will test your skill every time you cast it, picking the best option for your current hand state isn’t always straightforward. Consider not only the current board and hand state but what it may look like in the next turn or two. Contemplate whether you need a unit for right now or something to help you close out later.
Knowing when to use the card proactively is yet another skill that you will need to train up. Activating your champs is great but there’s no point holding on to this if we don’t have any champs! With a Gleaming Lantern on board you’ll often want to take a look at what’s hiding inside - try to limit yourself in this. Unless you’re looking for a unit to play immediately because your hand has nothing else, there’s likely a higher tempo play that you could make.
Our first champion and, if I understand the MTG boomers, the reason this deck has been called ‘Delver’ on Twitter. Fizz is crucial to our game plan, enabling us to get early chip damage in, and acting as an excellent base unit to attach a Papercraft Dragon to.
Fizz’s champ spell is actually quite good in this deck, I have seen several screenshots from Drisoth where it won him the game and I’ve also had my fair share of wins because of it. That said, don’t overvalue Fizz just to retain access to his spell. At the end of the day, Fizz is just a one-drop and you should feel comfortable trading him off in many situations.
Cheap removal, just a fourth ping spell that will often deal two damage. As I mentioned in the intro, we’re often going to be six-wide on board.
If you’re playing a deck centered around Fizz you need to be on some number of this card. Since Bandle City’s release I’ve had a fondness for Trinket Trade and would often jam three copies of the card into every Bandle deck I played - that was a mistake. While the card is strong, it’s not blatantly overpowered and is only incidental to how our deck wants to play (there’s no Curious Shellfolk in our deck to convert these into major value).
As such, we’re only on two copies currently. I did try three, it was ok but I felt I was drawing it just a bit too often and I didn’t like double or triple Trinket Trade hands.
While we do want some early game board presence, banking mana on one is not a bad thing for this list (enables you to generate a Moon Weapon with Aphelios on turn three) and the card’s ineffectiveness in the late game makes Yordle Squire a good two-of.
I’ve actually been a bit underwhelmed by this card on the whole. When it was revealed many people called it the Rivershaper of Bandle City but they failed to realize just how hard it would be to get it to connect with the Nexus.
Aphelios really helps solve this problem, ready access to Overwhelm (and Lifesteal) means your Librarian will be able to connect and begin to grow rather quickly. Librarian also synergizes with Rainbowfish to allow you to draw.
Don’t overthink or overvalue this card but do TRY to get some value out of it.
Conchologist is still an incredibly strong card. The nerf to the HP did affect its power level a good bit but not significantly enough that we won’t still be playing it. Free card generation that allows you to ‘spot check’ situations is just too powerful in LoR.
As with all of our other manifest cards, when considering the correct pick, think a turn or two ahead and consider what you’ll need then as well as what you need right now.
An essential part of the Fae package, it is probably your best-unpressured play on turn two.
The sooner Grandfather Fae hits the board, the sooner he can start giving you value.
This is another card you shouldn’t overvalue, once you’ve gotten your buffs out of it feel free to include Grandfather Fae in your swing.
A burst speed spell that cycles, Guiding is right at home in a list looking to play for tempo. It activates or protects your champions, can give you a bit of extra HP to keep you in the game, or even just activate Fated on your Assistant Librarian
Yet another burst speed spell that cycles! Just like Guiding Touch, Pale fits perfectly into this list. It can be used as cheap protection, a bit of extra damage, or even just burned for the draw in a pinch. It’s a staple spell in most Targon decks, and one you should probably not cut down on.
We’re a Bandle City deck that wants good spells and what better spell than Pokey Stick? Arguably the most powerful card in the game, you’d be remiss to not include some number in your deck.
Our second champion and the deck’s main ‘engine’. Aphelios provides you with everything you need and more. Be it HP, board presence, removal, or a way to push lethal, that you’re looking for, Aphelios has you covered.
It’s important that you familiarize yourself with the way Moon Weapons cycle, the last thing you want is to be stuck with a weapon you can’t use, locking you out of creating one you NEED.
While Aphelios is important to finding victory with this list, don’t treat him exclusively as a backline champion. With this deck, pushing early damage is quite important and if it makes sense to (ex. You’re six-wide and your opponent has few blockers) you should definitely be sending Aphelios into the Nexus alongside the rest of your units.
A lynchpin card in the Fae archetype, without Lantern we wouldn’t be able to cheat so much mana and play for tempo the way we do. This card will probably see some nerfs in the future, a two-mana discount each turn is quite substantial, so let’s make good use of it while we still can!
This is one of the ways you’ll seek to win the game. Throwing a Rainbowfish onto Aphelios, Gleaming Lantern, Assistant Librarian, or even Fizz will hopefully let you push that last little bit of damage you need.
Remember that while it may feel bad or wrong, you CAN play this as a standalone unit and that can be a very powerful thing. It’s sometimes better to present many small attackers instead of fewer large ones. Doing so will also let you attach a Papercraft Dragon for even cheesier lethal options.
This is a one-of because it’s harder to use than Rainbowfish and it’s also more expensive. Dragon doesn’t have as many alternate use cases as Rainbowfish either. Unless you’re combining it with an Infernum and an Assistant Librarian (too complex a combo to be reliable, and one that should win the game) your only good unit to place this on is Bandle Commando
The Fortieth Card and Other Options
You may have noticed that’s only a thirty-nine card list, what’s up with that? As it turns out there are a lot of potential options in that last card slot. You could just round out any one of your cards that lacks the third copy or you could do some experimentation.
Some cards that I have tested or seen others test
Drisoth tested this and advised me it was OK, but not great. I can see a reason to add this in if you feel you’re not consistently activating Aphelios enough, or just want more early game units that work towards your game plan.
I actually liked this tech a lot and it’s probably what I will end up on in my tournament lists. This feels like a very versatile card, it works very well with Fizz and it’s AMAZING in any sort of Aphelios mirror. I don’t think I would ever play more than one copy though, I did test two and it felt quite bad.
Just another, different protection option. Not a whole lot to say about this card.
Hush is a little more nuanced in this deck, it’s not straight protection because there will be times when you can use it to help push for lethal (removing the elusive keyword from their only elusive blocker for example). It’s also particularly good into Viktor who’s currently quite popular.
This is a card that is found in every other version of the list that I’ve seen. I think it’s just too niche, it only feels good with Fizz and Bandle Commando - it’s mediocre and unlikely to give you more than three damage if played on any other unit.
Nonetheless, it is a decent card in the list and you can choose to play it if you like! (It makes closing a bit easier, think of it as training wheels)
Cards I think may have potential but didn’t get around to trying:
This makes sense to me, it gives you a decent buff onto an elusive unit like Fizz or Bandle Commando or can even follow up an Assistant Librarian on curve to make it a larger threat.
While this card has been nerfed it’s still pretty good. It might be too awkward but we’re already playing a ton of Manifest cards to get value out of. Definitely worth consideration!!
Paddle Star got buffed to 5 damage so it will pretty reliably take out a Viktor, Vi, or any other threat. We already have on-demand stuns with Gravitum so we’re not struggling to find an activator for it.
General Game Plan
This is a TEMPO deck, which means you’re trying to make the opponent dance to the beat of your tune. You control the pace of the game and put pressure on the opponent to keep up.
Your turns one through three should be setting up your board. It has been my experience that Fae openers (Grandfather into Lantern) are the strongest start this deck can present. You will ideally want to shoot for those but when you miss, still focus on trying to get in some early chip damage however you can.
In the mid-game you’ll want to stabilize your board and ensure it stays as wide as possible while picking off or removing the opponent’s threats with Calibrum and Gravitum. In these stages of the game Fae Sprout will become crucial to helping you figure out your win condition - I have picked up Furious Faefolk, extra Rainbowfish, and extra Papercraft Dragons when I did not already have something to help me close. I’ve also picked things like Tasty Faefolk when I was low and didn’t have access to Severum for lifesteal. Survive through this stage and try to get a leveled Aphelios online.
The final stages of the game are going to come down to whether or not you can get in for that last bit of damage with a win condition that you’ve drawn or manifested. As I’ve mentioned several times already, Attach units paired with Infernum and/or Fizz are the most reliable way of getting there. When you don’t have those options available to you is when your skill and confidence with the deck will be tested, just be sure that you’re not playing to stall eternally - once you start playing this way it becomes increasingly more difficult to win with each turn that passes. While it’s important to know how to stall so you can buy yourself time to find your win condition, you need to remember to play to win.
Basic Mulligan Strategy
Drisoth put it better than I could have, keep cards that make you happy and kick those that don’t.
Cards that make me happy to see them are Fizz, Grandfather Fae, Gleaming Lantern, and Aphelios. Every other card in the deck might be worth keeping but only based on what you already have. This deck is really hard to write a mulligan guide for because of its Macgyver playstyle.
Think about how you want to play out the early stages of the game when deciding what to keep and what to kick.
Mono-Shurima – Favored
This matchup felt really good and it’s shown to be really good on the stats as well. They have a difficult time dealing with your early swarm strategy so you can get lots of damage in. Attach units are also not affected by Quicksand so you have ways of bypassing their safety net.
Know that you have at most two, maybe three turns after they’ve flipped the Buried Sun Disc to end the game or you WILL LOSE.
Pantheon Yuumi – Unfavored
Pantheon is somewhat weak to swarm strategies but we don’t have a big payoff card, like Yordles in Arms or Tristana, for our swarm and as such we’re not able to push the advantage it gives us in time to close out before Pantheon flips.
It is by no means an unwinnable matchup, you can definitely get there off the back of Fizz as long as you keep spell mana up to counter their combat tricks they can only block him by using a Sharpsight - something you can get out earlier in the game by forcing them to use it as a protection spell.
Scouts – Unfavored
Scouts has challengers and Miss Fortune to deal with our small Fae units, they also have Rally which will let them end the game faster than we can.
It doesn’t help that we lack proper interaction for backline champions and as a result, can’t actually threaten a Miss Fortune without pressuring her into blocking.
The key to this matchup is going to be playing aggressively to put them on the back foot and keeping their board clear of challengers, their only form of interaction, with Aphelios’s moon weapons. You may want to look for early and cheesy Infernum Papercraft Dragon outs as they don’t have a lot of defensive options.
Tribeam - Favored
Draw into and play through Fizz and this matchup feels quite easy. Miss on the Fizz draw and you may find yourself struggling.
Flashbomb Traps are quite annoying for our deck, they go through Spellshield so our Hungry Owlcat are not as effective as usual. This also means our Fizz is vulnerable, in this matchup we should be trying to prevent Caitlyn from attacking if at all possible - this can be tricky to achieve if they have the attack token on odds, but if they’re on evens you can set up your Aphelios and grab a Gravitum.
Viktor Piles – Unfavored
Both the Targon and Noxus versions are showing up as unfavoured matchups on the stats sights. Nox goes faster than you in most spots, whereas Targon just goes slower and bigger while not at risk of dying due to their healing (Starshaping).
The Noxus Viktor matchup is the easier of the two, in my opinion, you want to be playing the control in this matchup. Aphelios is fantastic here - Gravitum and Calibrum are going to be your best friends. If presented with the choice you’ll want to be stunning Nyandroid and killing Ballistic Bot. This is becasue Ballistic Bot will give continuous value and let them pump up all their units while Nyandroid will only be a threat when they have the attack token. If you can lock up their threats and survive long enough to get a good Severum attack, you’ll be just fine. Just be wary of cheesy wins with Viktor and Ruined Reckoner, they can and will (basically) OTK you with that combo.
Against the Targon list, you’ll want to be playing as aggressively as you can. You can’t give them time to spend their mana on their invoked cards. If you keep them spending it on removal, chump units, and healing you’ll be in a good spot to close out before they can wall you out. If you slow down and let your foot up off the gas, they’ll have the time to put up a wall.
The Ionia list doesn’t have enough stats to go off of, and I haven’t played it myself but I can make an educated guess based on the way the decks play out - it should be pretty even, maybe slightly favored. This is because the Ionia version plays slower than us but not quite as slow as the Targon list, it also doesn’t have massive elusive celestial units to lock us out from closing through Fizz. I would imagine this is another matchup you need to be playing through Fizz, if you can it should be much easier for you. This is because they do run PnZ removal spells and the rest of our units are weak to those.
Everything Else - Even?
Honestly, with this deck, most matchups are going to come down to player difference. You can find a way to win out in almost any situation. Get creative with it and see what winning lines you’re capable of coming up with!
About the author
MonteXristo has been playing the game since closed beta and has consistently made it to masters every season he’s been active. His accomplishments include having peaked in the top 20, taking first place in the “Streamer Sideboard Showdown” and LPP Riot Grand Prix. When he’s not writing for Mastering Runeterra he keeps his card-slinging skills sharp by playing in the Runeterra Academy tournament, with his team The Wobbly Wombats!