Hey all, Sirturmund here bringing you a guide on one of the best decks to come out of the new expansion: Viego Legion Deserter.
This deck was my choice to reach Masters with this season, getting me there with an impressive 68% win rate from low Diamond to Masters. I would recommend checking out the Closing Words section by the end, which includes VODs of my full run to Masters.
While the idea of the deck might seem simple at first – just buffing your Legion Deserter – the deck actually has a lot more intricacies to it than meets the eye. It is what I call a jack of all trades, and can switch the tempo and speed in a heartbeat.
So what is the main concept of the deck?
Simply put, it is all about putting pressure on your opponent with your high-value units, and this deck has a lot of them.
Viego, Invasive Hydravine, Legion Deserter, Katarina and Elise can easily win games if left unchecked, and that is where the strength of the deck lies – there is only so much removal the opponent can have.
So let us go through what my preferred list looks like:
While Viego and Legion Deserter steal most of the spotlight in this deck, our other two champions should not be forgotten. Elise is a key card to this archetype because she does multiple things for us.
First, she can push a decent amount of early damage against most decks. Her hitting for 2-4 damage might not seem that relevant, but when we combine it with our potential for an Atrocity to end the game, you start to see how every small amount of health matters for the opponent.
Second, she provides us with fodder for our draw engines. Both Glimpse Beyond and Spirit Leech require a unit to sacrifice, and her free spiders are the perfect targets for those spells. Best thing about it is that the opponent will think twice about blocking those small spiders, as they then become vulnerable to your Ravenous Flock or Disintegrate.
Lastly, her level-up can be a sneaky way to push damage through fearsome attackers. It might not seem like it, but because we ran triple House Spider and Arachnoid Sentry, there were many games where I won through leveling-up Elise and applying that pressure. Keep this in mind depending on the game state.
Most people stick to triple Elise in this archetype, but I prefer playing at least one Katarina. Due to your main units being Fearsome, it is very possible to set up a great counter-attack during your opponent’s attacking turn. This card alone has over-performed for me in more games than I can count, due to utility and pressure she adds to a match.
The Ruined King himself. Interestingly enough, the games where I won due to Viego's level-up were minimal.
This is not Mono Viego Shurima, where we have multiple ways to save our King – he's very vulnerable in this deck, and as such you should never put all your eggs in the Viego basket unless you know the opponent has no way to remove him.
Viego’s main purpose is to create more Encroaching Mists and eat up the opponent’s removal. The first effect will get our Legion Deserter bigger and bigger, and the second is mandatory for the opponent because, although we are not focused on leveling-up Viego, he WILL level-up if left unchecked, and take over the game.
Ideally, you want to play Viego when you already have other units on the field. That way even if the opponent tries to remove Viego right away, you can Glimpse Beyond one of your own units to at least get the Encroaching Mist value – more often than not, it is worth it to grow our for Legion Deserters.
3x House Spider
Our deck includes some very big and expensive units, so it needs to survive long enough to play said cards. This is where House Spider shines bright, serving as the perfect chump-blocker when necessary.
Except that the little spiders are even more dangerous now – combined with Disintegrate, even the smallest spider can take down the strongest of titans.
I would usually recommend keeping this card in the mulligan against decks with early aggression, it will buy you the time needed to stabilize and flip the game around.
At the core of this deck we have a whole disruption archetype going on, and Sentry is one of the best cards out there to completely negate your opponent’s game plan.
Did the opponent just develop into you? Sentry will save you.
Do you need to level up Elise to then push lethal damage next turn? Sentry will save you.
The versatility of this card is one of the reasons it will always be a staple in every Noxus control deck out there. This deck is no different.
This card, similar to Arachnoid Sentry, is a huge development punishment against any aggro or midrange deck, stopping their planned attack in its track. This card is one of the must-keep in your mulligan, as it enables a lot of value for the rest of your deck.
3x Spirit Leech
This unit will be a controversial choice to many, but I have my reasons why I like this card.
This deck NEEDS to draw its big threats to finish the game, whether it's Legion Deserter or Atrocity. Spirit Leech adds much-needed consistency to ensure you’re drawing at least one of them every single game.
The downside of having to sacrifice one of your units usually does not matter as you tend to have plenty of sacrifice fodder through a Spiderling or an Encroaching Mist. Might as well get some value from those units before they die to something else!
It can also be combined later on in the game with Viego to level him as needed, as it can let you sacrifice one of your big units. It is not a play I condone doing lightly, but it is a possible line of play.
We get to the main guy of the show, Deserter himself.
Remember, every Encroaching Mist is buffing your Deserter by +2 power and health – that's because each Encroaching Mist buffs other Mists, and also buffs Viego, so Deserter gets the buff twice.
With just a single Mist from Camavoran Soldier, your Deserter becomes a 7|6 5-cost unit with Overwhelm. That is already better than most Overwhelm units in the whole game, and has the potential to continuously grow from there.
Drop this guy on the field after one or two Mists, and put pressure on the opponent right away.
Or, keep Deserter in hand and only play him when you have enough to kill your opponent with a cheeky Atrocity. The unit costs only 5, so by turn 9 you could potentially go Deserter plus Atrocity in a single turn.
It wouldn’t be a Viego deck without its Hydravine close behind. Except this time around, it has another friend with it.
Invasive Hydravine is the surefire way in this deck to buff up your Legion Deserter. Every turn a Hydravine stays in the field is another huge stat buff for your big finishers. I have won games where I play Hydravine on 7, and wait for Deserter to be 20 power to one-turn kill an opponent from full health. Remember to keep such scenarios in mind when considering how to pair these cards together.
At worst, the Hydravine will bait out a Vengeance or other removal, allowing you more freedom for summoning Viego or Deserter. After all, even if our Hydravine dies, it still buffed all your units.
Now we get to the part where this deck can cosplay as a control deck. Flock is the start of that line, allowing you to quickly deal with a lot of units in the game. It becomes very difficult for your opponent to block, when even chump-blocking a small Spiderling opens itself up for Ravenous Flock. Sometimes just the fear that the card instills on your opponent, by them knowing it's in your deck, will cause them to overthink and make misplays.
To pair with Ravenous Flock, we have its near cousin Disintegrate, sort of doing the opposite of what flock does. While Flock is usually used after a combat phase, Disintegrate serves the purpose of killing a big threat during combat or pre-combat. It can feel as strong as a Vengeance in most game states.
I would be careful when using this card, though – remember Rite of Negation can negate both the Disintegrate and whatever other spell you’re using after it.
It is also a tool best used mid- to late-game to stop an actual big unit from your opponent or a champion close to leveling. Do not waste it on weaker units because, once again, just the threat of it being in your hand is enough to change the way the opponent plays.
We need our big units and spells to end games, and Glimpse is one way to increase the consistency of us getting those tools. We are not short on sacrificial targets, being able to Glimpse a Spiderling or Encroaching Mist when needed.
Glimpse Beyond's additional benefit is its flexibility to deny the opponent lifesteal or drain. Using Glimpse to phantom-block a lifesteal unit can completely flip a game around. Similarly, you can use it with Viego on the field to allow the creation of an Encroaching Mist.
3x Vile Feast
We still need to survive against early and mid range decks, and Vile Feast is probably the best tool in the game to do just that. Removes an X/1 unit, or pings them for the Ravenous Flock or Disintegrate, all while giving us an additional blocker.
Vile Feast is the main way to trigger Disintegrate outside of the combat phase, so if you know the opponent plays some big units such as Thralls, I would save the Vile Feast to combo with Disintegrate and remove of those big pesky units.
Again be mindful of when to use it and when not to use it, as the opponent will be carefully counting every single Vengeance you use before unleashing their combos on you.
Sometimes Overwhelm and Fearsome are not enough to end games – this is where Atrocity comes in.
The biggest counter to an Atrocity finish is having your unit removed. So don’t commit this card against Shadow Isles, for example, unless the opponent taps out of Vengeance mana. And against Noxus decks, I avoid taking damage on my potential Atrocity target to not get countered by Scorched Earth.
Patience is key when setting up a good Atrocity play!
I have mostly stuck with the same deck list from start to finish of my climb. However, I do see other people experimenting with other options so here are my thoughts on them:
- Blade's Edge – As good as this card can be when combined with Disintegrate, it is rather low-value in this deck. We don’t play Ezreal, Tybaulk or Riptide Rex, which get a lot of value from cheap pings like this one. It feels too clunky in this specific deck.
- Spell Slinger – The stat line of 1|1 makes me feel that this card is not very good except for very specific Ezreal decks that enjoy the extra target progress towards their level-up. We have plenty of development punishers already, that this would feel like too much on top of them.
- Haunted Tomb – As fun as this new landmark might seem, it is not very good IMO. It is only useful later in the game, after you have lost a Viego, Legion Deserter or Invasive Hydravine, meaning that it will sit on your hand doing nothing if drawn early. That could be the difference between winning and losing.
- Mist's Call – Definitely tempting, as a way to make your bigger unit stay in the field even longer. It is just very risky to play with this deck, as more often than not you also have an Encroaching Mist or two that have died with your big unit. So it's all a matter of how comfortable you feel with the 50-50.
- Scorched Earth – We run Disintegrate in our deck, so we have a way to remove big units that is not counterable by healing. The decks that Scorched Earth would be good against are not currently meta, Thralls being the exception – and in the Thrall matchup, it is very easy to outvalue them instead through growing our main units bigger than their Thralls.
- Undergrowth – I have seen a lot of folks use this in their Viego lists, and while the drain is great at helping us survive early on, it is also revealing information to our opponent through the toss mechanic.
- Withering Wail and Withering Mist – While both cards are great at dealing with aggression, I don’t think they are needed in this deck. Between House Spider and Vile Feast, we win most matchups versus aggro anyways.
Relevant Gameplay Info
So how do games with this deck usually go?
As I touched on earlier, this deck can quickly go from aggro to midrange to control to late-game all in the span of a single game. It will depend on your opponent’s deck which speed you want to play at.
Ideally on rounds one through three, you’re pushing early damage with Elise and even House Spider, allowing you to also generate sacrifice fodder for your draw engines. However, even if you don’t get your early curve, you probably drew into cards like Vile Feast or Vengeance, which means it’s not a big deal if you bank mana too.
A typical first three rounds might look like this:
Pass -> Elise -> Camavoran Soldier
Pass -> Pass -> Vengeance or Vile Feast + Disintegrate a threat
By far the best thing that can happen to us during that game is having the Camavoran Soldiers early. Whether it’s on round three or four, or even better both those rounds, it means our Viego and Legion Deserter are now further and further away from the opponent's damage-based removal.
As we transition to rounds 4 through 7, this is where we start either drawing into our big threats or dropping them down the field. Or, if our opponent has a big Pantheon or similar big threat, we have enough mana to remove them with our control tools.
Typical rounds 4 through 7 might look like this:
Camavoran Soldier -> Viego -> Removal vs Opponent -> Invasive Hydravine or Legion Deserter
It’s really all dependent on how much pressure our opponent is putting on us. If they aren’t, playing Viego is fine on round 5 even if just to bait out removal. Remember that you’re usually finishing most games through Legion Deserter or Atrocity, not through a Viego level-up.
As we move on to the late game, we should be considering how we are going to close out the game. This is where you are looking for your Legion Deserter to push enough lethal damage, or to combine one of your high-power units with Atrocity.
Typical round 8+ might look like this:
Summon Legion Deserter -> Attack if possible -> Atrocity on Deserter
If you have drawn enough through Glimpse Beyond or Spirit Leech , it is very likely you have multiple Legion Deserters or Viego. This allows you to spam them even through the opponent’s direct removal.
There are a few other things of note that I would consider through the game.
First, let's talk about Katarina.
We have no way to protect her in this deck, so don’t be afraid to jam her regardless of whether she will actually level up or not. At the very least, you should be looking to play her in a turn where you will get value from her Blade's Edge through either Ravenous Flock or Disintegrate.
Second, Arachnoid Sentry is not only a great development punishment, but also can allow you to have an amazing attack. Stunning a Fearsome blocker or a high-health unit will allow your Fearsome or Overwhelm units to get more damage than they would otherwise. Don’t be afraid to hold him exactly for this reason.
Lastly, be patient!
Remember your Legion Deserter becomes bigger and bigger as time goes by. This means that there are times where the best strategy is to just wait for him to become so big that your opponent has no counterplay when you do play him.
I have won too many games where I wait until my Deserter is 20 power, and can combine Atrocity with him.
Basic Mulligan Guide
Mulligan for this deck is very matchup-dependent, especially because this deck is so flexible in what it can do. At the very least, I recommend always keeping Elise and Camavoran Soldier. These two units will enable the rest of your deck, regardless of matchup.
Against midrange decks, especially Demacia decks, I would consider keeping Ravenous Flock and Disintegrate. These decks need to attack to win the games, enabling both of your spells to remove their units.
Against combo-oriented decks, keeping disruption like Vengeance to deal with their big combo pieces, such as Curious Shellfolk, is very important. You don’t want those key units to stay in the field too long.
Our deck's flexibility allows us to tailor our hands and our strategy depending on the matchup we are up against: this is where this deck shines.
In general, we do well versus almost everything in the game except for hard-control decks – they tend to have too much removal for ALL of our big threats. Stun-based decks could also present a challenge to us, as our Legion Deserter will have a hard time pushing enough damage through.
vs Thralls (Favored)
The beauty in this matchup is that our units can actually grow bigger than their Thralls. All it takes is three Encroaching Mists to four your Legion Deserter to have 10 health, enough to favorably trade into their Thralls. In this matchup I will place down Viego early on almost every time I have him.
The way I approach this matchup is twofold.
Second, is Katarina. The one thing Freljord decks are vulnerable to, including Thralls, is Rallies. Katarina is really key in this matchup and is one of the reasons I prefer her over triple Elise. The threat of her rally will prevent the opponent from being able to use their combo pieces and tap out of mana like they usually want to.
Aside from that, another fun thing to do is to remove their Thrall with Disintegrate and Vile Feast, so keep that in the back of your toolbox together with Vengeance if you find yourself running into trouble.
vs Annie Jhin (Favored)
However, we have to remember that this deck is not a traditional aggro deck. If the opponent is playing the good version, then they are playing a lot of stuns. The key is to play around that by saving your Camavoran Soldier for key rounds, after they commit their The Stagehand.
Once you manage to stabilize from the early game, the rest is pretty straightforward. They tend to not have a lot of high-health units, meaning even an early Legion Deserter can be enough to finish up the game by turn 7 or 8.
vs Ezreal Annie (Unfavored)
Unfortunately this deck has too much removal, and we have no way to stop their Tybaulk from hitting the field. At best our only hope is that we draw into 3-4 of Viego and Legion Deserter and the opponent uses their Disintegrates on the first couple.
So how can we win this matchup then?
Early pressure will be key. Elise and Katarina can at the very least bait out early removal, allowing your bigger units to be actual threats in the future. They don’t have a ton of Fearsome blockers, so Elise can quickly get out of control.
Another option is to not play Legion Deserter until you have enough mana for Legion Deserter plus Atrocity in a single turn. Just be mindful that this play is still vulnerable to Disintegrate, but most times it's better to take that risk right away instead of letting your Legion Deserter get damaged and be vulnerable to Ravenous Flock or Scorched Earth.
vs Deep (Slightly Favored)
This one can go either way and really depends on the decklist the Deep player is playing.
We should also not try to put a lot of early pressure on them, as they play enough cards that heal to fill their health back up. Instead, in this match we want to play for buffing our Legion Deserter and Viego as much as possible. We keep Camavoran Soldier and go from there. Vengeance and Disintegrate are also really good ways to deal with their Nautilus or Abyssal Eye, both of which are big threats against us.
vs Zed Bard (Favored)
While Elusives are usually a problem for us, their deck is a bit more inconsistent than other elusive decks as it relies on the Chimes hitting just the right targets. We have access to chump-blockers for Zed in the form of House Spider and Camavoran Soldier, allowing us to stop Zed from leveling.
We then also have disruption through our stuns and removal to stop or remove key units before they attack.
The biggest counters we have to worry about are Will of Ionia and Deny. Fortunately for Will of Ionia, it will not reset the stats for Legion Deserter, meaning we can just play him again next turn. Deny makes our Atrocity combo turn awkward, so if possible try to wait until they tap out of Deny before using it.
vs Lurk (Favored)
The key to beating Lurk is to trade as many units as early as possible. The less units they have on the field, the less of a threat their big finishers – like Jaull-fish and their new rally Blood in the Water – will become.
If you get Arachnoid Sentry in your mulligan, keep one of it. We will save it the whole game until the opponent gets ready to do their Rek'Sai turn, and then punish them with the stun. That is usually enough to turn the matchup around and ruin any tempo they might have had.
Lastly, just like versus Thralls, it is likely our Legion Deserter will be big enough to block some of the Lurk big units. Do not be afraid to drop him down once he has 8+ HP to block Overwhelm attacks.
vs Galio Bard (Even)
This one is an interesting matchup, because while we have early blockers and removal for the opponent’s key units, they have enough challengers to pull our blockers away.
Without Broadwing on the field, though, Elise can push a lot of damage early on.
Later in the game, if we can get an Invasive Hydravine down on the field then we will be in a good spot. If we cannot, then we won't be able to match the amount of units that the opponent can summon.
vs Yuumi Pantheon (Favorable)
One of the best matchups for this deck – we play everything that a Pantheon player hates.
Disintegrate will be enough to kill their Wounded Whiteflame no matter how big it gets. Arachnoid Sentry will stun their unit when they try to set up a big attack. Vengeance will remove their Pantheon just as easily as it comes down on the field.
All these disruption tools put this matchup in our corner, allowing us to stabilize and later on bring out our big guns.
My suggestion is to just remove the opponent’s threats throughout the first 5-6 turns, then play Invasive Hydravine on 7, and THEN start summoning your Legion Deserter or Viego. This way if the opponent has a Concerted Strike, you will either have already removed their big-power units, or they will use it on Hydravine instead of your finishers.
vs Illaoi Demacia (Favored)
Regardless of the variant, Illaoi Demacia is favored for us for similar reasons as the Pantheon Yuumi matchup above. We just have too many tools to disrupt their usual game plan, and requiring them to attack us makes them really vulnerable to Disintegrate.
The biggest threat you have to worry about in this matchup are their strikes, mainly Tentacle Smash. Be careful, when summoning Viego, that you’re not putting yourself in a situation where you will die to a Tentacle Smash right away.
Another key point for this matchup is to not let the Tentacles get too big either. While we have removal for it, the earlier you dispatch of the Tentacle the better it will be for us in terms of playing around their potential strike spells.
Attacking with Illaoi will be awkward for them, but attacking with Jarvan IV will be really good, potentially allowing them to pick off our big units. Be mindful of this and of who has the attack token on which turn.
vs Trundle Caitlyn (Unfavored)
Both of these key spells are very big punishes for our gameplan, stopping our attack or completely clearing our board when combined with It That Stares. Unfortunately, the value they can get from Concurrent Timelines plus Ice Pillar might also be too much to overcome.
Our goal should shift to a potential Viego level-up plus early aggression. This will force the opponent to have to find a way to deal with our champion as soon as possible, potentially baiting them into using an early Buried In Ice.
The key is that we never overdelop more than we need to – if we already have a Viego on the field for example, then there's no reason to also summon Legion Deserter and make ourselves vulnerable to both our key threats being removed.
vs Fizz Aphelios (Even)
This matchup is as much of a coin flip as it can possibly get. It really will depend on whether they get the Fizz Papercraft Dragon combo or not as, aside from Fizz, you should be able to deal with the rest of their units.
The times I have had the most success in this matchup came from being very, very aggressive early on. Elise can push a lot of early damage while giving you blockers to keep your units healthy. Katarina becomes a great tool for putting pressure on the opponent and removing, with her Blade's Edge, the Spellshields from Hungry Owlcat for free. Remember, they don’t have a great way to deal with Katarina, so this is one of those matchups where she shines.
Be mindful of the potential Wallop or Stress Defense, both can be huge punishments to us. As such, plan to win the game through at least multiple attacks and not just one big swing from Legion Deserter.
vs Heimerdinger Jayce (Unfavored)
Simply put, there is just too much removal for us to get through in this matchup. It is perhaps one of our worst matchups, together with other Shadow Isles control variants.
It is also about Vengeance being such an efficient removal tool against our big units. Versus Jayce Heimerdinger, this removal becomes even more efficient as they are either getting free turrets every time they use it, or buffing up their Albus Ferros.
The way to win this matchup will be a patience play of Legion Deserter plus Atrocity in the same attack turn. You can summon your Deserter once he has 15+ power, and threaten a big lethal attack. When your opponent commits to the removal with Vengeance, that is when you strike and play an Atrocity.
Usually the risky play with this maneuver is that if you cannot finish the game in that spot, then the opponent likely has a lethal swing on their open attack.
I think this deck is one of the strongest decks in the current meta due to Control not being as popular as in metas past. It does well into the most popular decks, so it is my choice of deck to climb with. Hope this helps you pick it up yourself!
I know some of you also prefer to watch the deck in action, here are a few videos from us here in MasteringRuneterra:
Sirturmund’s Deck Breakdown for Viego Legion Deserter (same deck list as this guide):
MajiinBae’s Deck Breakdown
I also went ahead and uploaded my Twitch VOD from the stream where I went from Diamond 2 to Masters using this deck. Much longer gameplay video!
Thank you all for reading and please let me know if you have any questions or any suggestions. If you liked this guide, expect more like it in the future from me on this site. If you want to know where to find more of my content:
- My youtube channel where I post daily LoR videos: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCf6lfIa0XLUJGp4VGxuh49A
- My twitch channel where I stream 3-4 times a week: https://www.twitch.tv/sirturmund
- My twitter where I post whatever 🙂 https://twitter.com/SirturmundLOR
- My Discord where I actively answer questions https://discord.gg/QGSSd68dag
Thank you again and hope to see you all again next time!