This deck is somewhat reminiscent of Kinkou Elusives, from the early days of LoR, combined with Kennen Ahri, the Queen of a more recent era.
You combine an Ionian stall/recall game plan with Elusive units in an effort to extend the game long enough for your Chimes to grow your units to wondrous sizes.
Believe me, you haven’t lived until you’ve played an 11/11 Ahri.
The deck is particularly powerful on ladder where it cleans up a lot of the random non-sense you may encounter. It does struggle somewhat into Aphelios PnZ but is statistically favored against Nami.
Ahri Bard plays for Elusive chip damage through the early game before looking to close out with a buffed Ahri or Sai’nen on a six-wide board.
As such, you’re rarely looking to do anything on your opponent’s turn unless your hand is forced. Get comfortable with being mana inefficient: because our deck wants to play reactively, there will be many points where your opponent offers you a pass you’re happy to take.
You’ll want to look for cards like Byrd, The Bellringer, Ahri, and Dancing Droplet in your mulligan.
In matchups when you’re looking to race your opponent, The Mourned is also quite good.
It can sometimes be okay to keep interaction cards like Homecoming and Ionian Tellstones but the situations when you would do so should be few and far between on patch 3.10. We play five (or six) copies of Homecoming, so you're bound to draw a copy in the matchups you need it without having to keep it in the mulligan, and the matchups where it was really good (Thralls and Viego Noxus) have disappeared from the metagame almost entirely.
Card Breakdown & Choices
Ahri is the deck's primary win-condition and engine. Her ability to attack twice, and recall the unit to her right, lets you push damage every turn while also cycling or buffing your units in hand.
Buff her up a few times with Esmus, Breath of the World or just bounce Chime generators until she’s stacked up in hand. Once she has some extra stats your opponent will be suffering at the ends of her tails.
Sometimes in the end game, it may actually be correct to attack in a way that Ahri does not sweep through the full board. This is because your units can get bigger than her, and/or your hand might be too full to recall things! Be smart when setting up your attacks in the later stages of the game.
These cards are your primary way of generating chimes: while we will be passively adding three boons to the deck each turn it’s not going to be enough to actually matter. That’s where your boon generators come in!
You might think it’s odd to recall buffed cards, and you’d be right (when you recall your units to hand, they do lose their buffs). However, the synergy of recalling Byrd to stack chimes on the top card is something often overlooked: this is one of the key play patterns to our early game when we miss our Droplet anyway.
In a pinch, you can also bounce Esmus but it’s more expensive and better used as a way to buff an Ahri (or an elusive) on board.
Bard is actually a champion you almost never want to see in this deck. In a Bard mirror, it can be okay to put him down on round four if you have the attack token but it’s usually best to just continue advancing your Elusive gameplan.
Though it’s rarely worth the mana early, in the late game you can use a second Bard in hand as a Traveler's Call to draw a unit and beef up your board.
While the majority of the deck is Elusive units, this section is reserved for those which are primarily used for beating down your opponent.
The Mourned is your main way of pushing damage while also having the added benefit of progressing Ahri’s level-up condition. In the later stages of the game, The Mourned becomes quite nice as well as it lets you play out all your units on an attack token and still reap the benefits from your boons (so long as it connects with the Nexus and activates its effect).
Navori Conspirator is another great card for pushing damage in the early stages of the game. Get a Chime or two on it and use it to bounce a Byrd or Dancing Droplet, and you’ll have set yourself up nicely for success. If Conspirator gets even one Chime on it, it becomes very difficult for your opponent to remove. You can even use this to bounce a Navori Highwayman if you’re in a matchup where you want additional blockers.
Elusives, With a Side of Draw
These Elusive units are also our deck’s main way of drawing.
When combined with Ahri, Dancing Droplet lets you cycle efficiently while also pushing damage. You’re not even sad if it soaks up a buff because it just means your draws are more guaranteed!
A tip for playing against Ahri Bard, by the way – don’t target the Droplet, it’s what we want you to do!
Don’t use too many resources trying to keep your Droplets alive, but do value them as a unit and a draw engine.
Shadow Assassin is fantastic in this list as it is a unit that you don’t mind holding in your hand to collect buffs. When you do eventually play it out, it’ll help you advance your win-condition by drawing you further into your deck, letting you get more units and more boons out on the field.
If you need to use Assassin as the unit Ahri swaps with, that's fine – you can replay her to draw more and that’s not the worst thing in the world.
There’s not a whole lot to say about your denies: bluff them constantly, and use them sparingly. Keeping them in your back pocket to answer your opponent’s highest impact cards is the best way to use these cards. Just the threat of them will often be enough to change your opponent’s lines and force them to play differently.
Recall and Homecoming act as protection in this deck, letting you keep your units alive through a strike or kill spell.
Or, by letting you save HP through ghost-blocking (recalling on the stack while your opponent has an attack set). Homecoming can also give you some much-needed interaction with Landmarks, something that was very valuable last patch when Thralls were running amok!
You want to be reactive with these! That means you’re waiting until you’re forced to answer with one of these spells.
Is that attack going to kill you?
Hold your Homecoming. Remember that Homecoming can also act as a response to some targeted spells and skills like Noxian Fervor, or Imperial Demolitionist.
Always try to keep a Recall in your back pocket to protect your Ahri in a pinch.
Tellstones are also a recall (the can create a fleeting Homecoming) but they have some other uses too. Health Potion can buy you another turn, for example, or save a unit from a Ravenous Flock or Scorched Earth.
Stand United can be used to save a unit from a Challenger (when you don’t want to use Homecoming), let you trade down, swap your attacker order, and it has some other niche use cases that you may dig up but aren’t worth getting into.
Twin Disciplines is the same straightforward but strong combat trick it’s been for a while now. It can count for four or more damage when played on Ahri, it can protect your units from removal or combat-based trades, or it can be used to make efficient combat trades.
These are the only tech cards I would consider for the ladder environment.
They each serve their own purpose, and change the deck slightly:
- Highwayman helps you stick on board,
- Sai'nen pushes you to the utmost extremes of a tempo deck, and
- Concussive Palm is an option if you don’t want to be on six Homecomings.
I am currently playing a copy of Navori Highwayman as a way to help me stall board-based matchups: he is very good at that, and you should include him in your own list if you’re seeing a lot of unit-based decks. It is a good unit to recall with Ahri or to use as a ghost-blocker in these matchups, too. It helps you extend the game and draw into your win-con by allowing you to continually flood the board and chump-block.
Sai'nen is a card that I’m not a huge fan of but I do think it’s good in the list (just not to my preference). When you play Sai'nen you’re pushing the deck away from the tempo gameplan and your playstyle changes. You’re almost forced into playing more aggressively and proactively, and the turn you drop Sai'nen you leave yourself somewhat vulnerable as he’s quite expensive. In my experience, he just sucked up chimes and was a bit too slow so I let him go.
MajiinBae, however, found great success with the card and I can’t argue his results with my anecdotes – feel free to give Sai’nen a shot and let me know what you think of him!
To be frank, Concussive Palm is a sub-par option but it is the best one left remaining to us. You could play this over some number of Homecoming or Ionian Tellstones but it’s not really doing anything for the deck apart from, maybe, letting you stall an attack.
I’ve seen some other cards experimented with, like Greenglade Elder or Mystic Vortex, and I don’t really think they’re worth it. They just don’t do anything to progress the deck’s win condition while also not being powerful individual cards. I have considered Kinkou's Call but I didn’t have the audacity to try it myself – if you decide to go for it, I’m curious to hear your thoughts.
We already briefly discussed the deck’s general gameplan earlier in this guide but we’ll go a bit more in-depth here.
You’ll want to open up your early game with either Byrd + Navori Conspirator or Ahri + Droplet, these are the ideal scenarios for this deck. If you fail to open with one of these two hands, worry not – get through the early game dealing what damage you can, and generally disregarding your own HP total.
When forced – or presented with an opportunity that’s too good to pass up – make use of your combat tricks and recalls to set your opponent behind on tempo.
Convert your tempo advantage into big swings with a buffed-up Ahri (or six-wide elusive board) to close out the game.
Remember to keep your proactive plays to a minimum, take as many passes as you can, and act last. If you can do these three things, you should have no trouble finding success with this deck.
Annie Twisted Fate - Unfavored
This is not a particularly good matchup, it’s not unwinnable but you’re going to struggle.
You don’t have a good way to deal with either of their champs, and have to hope that they will attack with them and let you block with a Stand United. You’ll want to try and play this matchup a bit slower, banking mana, collecting Chimes and letting your units grow out of removal range. This has the added benefit of slowing down their own gameplan by preventing them from using spells to countdown their landmark, Ravenbloom Conservatory.
Nami Shadow Isles - Stats Say Favored, Monte Says TF is scary
There are a few things to consider when looking at the stats for this matchup – Nami is still relatively new, has a very steep learning curve and pilots are still figuring it out.
The other thing is that we actually have no good way of interacting with Twisted Fate, and his flip is a very real threat.
You’ll have to play the beatdown in this matchup, going fast with an Elusive aggro gameplan is the way to come out ahead. Force them into blocking with their champs and push damage before they can stabilize with Wiggly Burblefish.
Aphelios Zoe PnZ - Very Unfavored
This is an unfortunately poor matchup for us, which is a shame because Aphelios PnZ is looking to be the current Meta King.
This matchup is one that you really don’t want to see. Us having no good way to interact with Aphelios, and us being naturally weak to The Winding Light means we have to hope to race…
… something that is no easy feat when we’re being bogged down by Gravitum and Calibrum.
Get aggressive and try to put them on the backfoot. If you can set the gamestate up so your HP is high and theirs is low in time for their Winding Light turn, you may be able to actually close out before they can get you with burn.
Sun Disc - Very Favored
This is a matchup you probably won’t see too much on the ladder, but it’s good to know that you’re very happy to see this in a tournament. So long as you have a Deny or a combat trick to stop a Rite of the Arcane from killing your Ahri, they really can’t deal with her.
Quicksand might prove to be problematic, but you have a lot of units that need to have their keywords removed and they only have so many Quicksands.
Viego Shurima - Very Favored
This matchup is somewhat similar to Sun Disc, and again one you’re happy to see.
You can just bounce their threats with Homecoming as a tempo-positive play and continually pressure them with Elusives. Like Sun Disc, they only have so many Quicksands and you’ll be forcing them to have answers every single turn, a demand they simply cannot keep 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!