Jax, one of the two new Runeterran champions released in the Awakening expansion, has leapt into battle in LoR to fight for a place in the meta. While Jax’s decks have generally been panned, his followers have quickly made a fearsome impact with Concurrent Timelines, and have left the ladder reeling, as the tempo that Improvise creates is overwhelming; you just can’t block the deck from raking in the wins.
As per the most recent Monday Meta Report, Jax’s most popular deck, Concurrent Timelines and Vi, sits at a 50.5% win rate, while Trundle and Vi have been punching a bit harder at 55.2% – the latest LoR Best Decks article shows a similar performance. I would say that things aren’t looking so good for our lamp pole pugilist, but Bman recently took his list to Rank 1 on the AM server!
As a new Runeterran champion, Jax’s card pool is unique and it seems that the optimal Timelines variant hasn’t quite been solved yet. The followers are almost standardized at this point; most of the experimentation is in the spells.
Some decklists are leaning into burn finishes with triple Mystic Shot and Get Excited!, while others employ Blades of the Fallen or Catch! to stabilize the board through more aggressive trading. The list that Bman has been using is currently at a 60% win rate on AM and EU Master’s ladder, and seems to be the best Jax deck we have at the moment.
For the purposes of this guide, we will be referring to Bman’s list, as the way that you play the deck can change significantly with which spells you choose to include.
A central theme of this deck is Equipment, which we get through the Improvise keyword. Improvise allows you to choose one of two weapons randomly selected from a depleting pool that will then be automatically attached to the summoned unit. There are eight total pieces of Equipment, and the pool will refill when there is only one option left.
Each Improvised weapon provides a different keyword and mix of stats, with weapons functioning in many ways like Attach units. This means that cards like Hush and Quicksand cannot remove your keywords! Each weapon can be situationally good, but there are a few that we are always happy to see.
The Fix-Em 5000, Fishawhack, and Upcycled Rake are almost always a snap choice for me, but there are times where the extra points of health from Pot O' Pain, Sandworn Amulet, or Combat Reel may be needed to trade more efficiently with the enemy board on defense. The Fearsome keyword from Sandworn Amulet can also push a ton of damage if our opponent runs mostly low-Power units.
It’s important to note that the Equipment will return to our hand if the unit is recalled or killed (working again like Attach units), which allows us to put it on another unit (usually Vi). However, if our unit is Obliterated, or if our hand is full, we will lose the equipment.
Time Value of Stats
But why is Concurrent Timelines so good with Improvise?
It’s the same story as it has always been with Timelines. Improvise units are under-statted for their cost, as a trade-off for their incredible on-play effect. The equipment that the cards generate already provides good value, and Concurrent Timelines allows for us to sidestep the stat penalty that comes with Improvise followers and slap that weapon on a (hopefully) better one! Being able to immediately swap out to a beefier body makes it borderline broken, especially when it comes to this guy…
Combat Cook is at baseline a solid card: at worst it is a four-mana 4/3 with a keyword that gives a permanent +1/+1 buff to the Equipment card you choose. Toss Concurrent Timelines into the mix, and this card is absolutely busted – to the point that Monte, a big fan of the Trundle Timelines version, thinks the cook is the best card this Expansion. Combat Cook has some of the lowest stats for a vanilla unit at four mana, meaning that almost anything else that you choose will provide an additional keyword, a stat improvement, or both! A 9/8 Ancient Crocolith with Scout on Round 4 is a nightmare for our opponent to deal with.
To put it another way, we are able to consistently play over-statted units with good keywords, and bury our opponent in value. If we are able to curve out Concurrent Timelines into Improvise units on Round 2, 3, and 4, our board can become impossible to deal with.
It is important to note that units that we play are Transformed by Timelines, and the chosen new unit is not summoned. This means that Summon and Play effects will NOT be activated for the chosen unit. This allows us to bypass the play costs or negative effects for Camavoran Dragon, Hunting Fleet, and Ancient Crocolith, but also means that Crowd Favorite will not gain any stats, Silverwing Vanguard will not summon a copy, and so on.
Our deck is pretty strong when we find Concurrent Timelines... stress on 'when', since we are left with an underwhelming pile of cards without our MVP. If we full-mulligan our starting hand, we have a 60% chance of finding Timelines by the start of Round 3. I’m not a gambling man, but 40/60 odds of our deck being terrible don’t seem great.
Time Trick, Zaunite Urchin, Parts Made Whole, and Entrancing Lure all stack the odds in our favor by letting us rummage through our pile to find our win condition. Time Trick can curve out nicely into Concurrent Timelines and a unit on Round three if we banked spell mana on Round two.
And, after we have found Timelines, these cards are still useful – Zaunite Urchin and Parts Made Whole can be used to discard additional copies of Timelines or Equipment while drawing us a card, though you will typically want to use Parts Made Whole on a piece of unwanted Equipment to summon an Icathian Mirage.
Our deck is fairly light on interaction, and Entrancing Lure gives us a way to remove key pieces from our enemy backline and capitalize on Quick Attack, Fearsome, or Overwhelm on our offensive turns.
Time Trick exists almost solely to find Concurrent Timelines, but can still be useful later in the game to find that last Mystic Shot we need, or a Vi to put Overwhelm on.
Vi Jax, at its heart, is a value-based midrange beatdown deck with our champs as top-end finishers. All of that to say that we’re going to make big dudes with good keywords for cheap, and crush our opponent under the weight of our value. We’ve also got Mystic Shots to give us a bit of extra reach when the Grandmaster can’t finish the job on his own.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is a simple deck, though – we’ve got a lot of agency and room for skill expression each round, based on the weapon and unit choices given. Taking a smaller unit that stacks better with the weapon we’ve chosen can often be more effective than just looking at which pile of numbers is the biggest.
Unit sequencing is also important as we only get one Concurrent Timelines proc each turn. You really don’t want to waste it on Zaunite Urchin, and get stuck with your Combat Cook in hand waiting to be played.
Jax, unfortunately, is not someone we want to see early. He is too susceptible to removal, and most of his utility comes when he is leveled. Jax does contribute to his own level-up condition, but your Improvise units will get you there faster and generate more useful Equipment.
If one is bad then two is worse; Jax’s champion spell can be helpful at times, but is often too narrow a use case for us to be happy to have it in hand. Sometimes it’s better for Jax to take a dive so he can come back swinging next round!
Once we have Jax leveled, it’s a whole different ball game, though. When we attack, he will gain +1/+1 for each Equipped ally on the board, and can easily swing in as a 7/6 with Quick Attack and Overwhelm. Depending on what else we have on our side, Jax will close out games quickly.
Another important part of Jax’s level-up is that The Light of Icathia gains Overwhelm, which can be a potent weapon if Jax has to pass on the torch.
Now to talk about our favorite Piltover enforcer, because what is a Grandmaster at Arms without a pair of fists to match?
Vi works hard and she certainly does a lot for us in this deck. She can remove enemy threats from the board with Challenger like she usually does, but requisition some special Equipment and Vi truly becomes a force to be reckoned with.
Vi with Overwhelm just ends games if the opponent doesn’t have a way to stop her. And our enforcer isn’t too picky with the equipment offered, should Overwhelm not be on the table: Quick Attack lets her trade up with high-power enemy threats, and Fearsome allows her to go straight to face. The extra Power from any of the equipment allows Vi to level faster, and the extra Health makes her very difficult to remove without a Vengeance or other hard removal.
And, unlike Jax, Vi's spell does come in handy – Vault Breaker can deliver the knockout blow by pumping up our Jax, a follower with Elusive or Fishawhack, or just whoever got by unblocked.
While we are waiting to set up our Jax or Vi, our goal is to maintain control of the board and push chip damage so that we can finish them off with Vi and Fishawhack or a souped-up Jax. We also have the potential for high-rolls from our Improvise units, especially Combat Cook, and may kill our opponent before our champs have a chance to swing in!
For every high-roll, though, there’s a low-roll (Newton’s 4th Law) and it’s important to not put ourselves in a position where we need a high-roll to live. Most of the time we’re going to get something in-between, and managing the board state effectively will allow us to push our advantage when we do land those big hits and can survive even when we get Mystifying Magician, Silverwing Vanguard or Tenor of Terror from Combat Cook.
While working to control the board, it is important that we take good care of our units so our Jax lands with maximum impact. His gains in power depend on having well-equipped friends on board with him and, depending on the opponent’s deck, sometimes it is better to skip a block and lose life than to lose a unit.
Blades of the Fallen allows us to trade units with the enemy without losing board advantage by replacing ours with an Icathian Mirage that has the Equipment our unit was holding.
Aloof Travelers is still a strong card as a number of decks, like Nasus Kindred, are reliant on high-cost cards to finish the game. We don’t have a lot of good answers for cards like Nasus or Feel The Rush, but we don’t have to worry about them if they’re discarded first! Doesn’t hurt to toss a Decimate or a Riptide Sermon from the pirate player’s hand, either.
Nerf or no nerf, Ferros Financier can still RNGesus us out of a bad situation. We will only be pulling from the PnZ pool as Jax does not have any 6+ cost spells in his region, but honestly having a more limited pool makes it more likely we get something useful.
A word of warning when choosing from Reggie: Glorious Evolution is BAD for our deck as Concurrent Timelines does not care about the original cost of the card and your units will be worse on average. If you already have a full board you could consider it… but you’ve probably already won if you can afford to dump 10 mana on this.
Sizing Up the Opponent
As I said previously, the way we play from the mulligan depends a lot on the speed of our opponent’s gameplan. If our opponent is playing Pirates or a Jhin deck, we want to keep at least one early unit to make sure we live long enough to actually use Timelines.
Against midrange or slower decks, we want to mulligan aggressively for Concurrent Timelines. I will typically keep a copy Time Trick or Zaunite Urchin if I don’t have Timelines in hand.
Now onto more matchup specifics.
Pirates - 48.6%
Fairly even matchup. If you are able to find Timelines early, you can really seize control of the board and force them to trade down to stay alive. Save your Mystic Shots to kill a unit that they hit with Noxian Fervor, or to finish their Nexus if we aren’t in danger of dying to their Noxian Fervor or a Make it Rain in response.
The Other Timelines Deck (Trundle/Vi) - 47.4%
This is pretty straight forward – mulligan everything that doesn’t help us find Concurrent Timelines. The side that finds it first, or at all, is more likely to win. End of story.
Assuming both sides hit Timelines, we have a stronger early game but it’s hard to survive a round with a free eight-drop and a leveled Trundle. They don’t have any healing, so if we are able to get them low we can close the game out with Mystic Shot or a Shock Blast from Ferros Financier. Look to push early aggression, and pray that you hit Concurrent Timelines first.
Nasus/Kindred Slay - 47%
Their champions are the biggest threat to our board, so finding a way to deal with them is key. Kindred can quickly chew through our board with their Marks, and keeping a Trueshot Barrage, Shock Blast, or Hexbliterator from Ferros Financier can be a life-saver.
Nasus is best to just try and just Aloof away, otherwise our only hope of killing him is with Vi. Generally try to avoid trading one-for-one as they will benefit from each slay proc that they get over the course of the game. I will often keep an Aloof Travelers in hand to play on round five or six in hopes of hitting Nasus.
Ionia - Ezreal/Kennen or Nami/Twisted Fate - 39%
These matches are unpleasant, but not unwinnable. Going wide and tall is our go-to strategy as a lot of their removal is based on dealing one to three points of damage. They will struggle to deal with a wider board efficiently, especially with the extra Health from our equipment.
We cannot go all-in on Vi or Jax as they will get hit with either Concussive Palm or Homecoming. Knowing when to develop or to open-attack is key to winning this matchup, but is highly dependent on board state. Generally, my thought process is to seize what spells would punish me the most in the worst-case scenario, and what else would they be able to play this Round.
Scouts, Sivir, or any other Fair, Midrange Decks - 63% and above
For all the struggles he has with Ionia, Jax absolutely thrashes the standard Demacia decks. They want to play big dudes and smash, our dudes get bigger. Concerted Strike and other strike spells can be problematic, but we can always play more units cheaper than our opponent can, and can also use Aloof Travelers to get a Concerted Strike or Rally out of their hand. This is especially potent against Kai'Sa now, as she is typically the highest-cost card in their deck.
Deck Tech Options
As mentioned before, there are a number of different variations on this deck. I personally was running two copies of Get Excited! for extra burn and to give me a way to cleanly deal with an enemy Kindred.
There is also consideration for Catch! to Equip our Vi or one of our other units with Overwhelm at Burst speed, to improve an open-attack or salvage an awkward block.
Some variations I found were leaning harder into the discard package, with Boom Baboon and Rummage, but I don’t believe that it is worth cutting Fireth, Reaper of the Sands for them.
A spicier tech is cutting a copy of Jax to put in a Station Archivist, to ensure that we find Concurrent Timelines. Station Archivist is still a positive for our deck even if we have found Timelines already – I’m not one to say no to an extra Mystic Shot.
Jax Vi may still be trying to find the right formula, but this deck is a lot of fun to play. Every single game will be different, and it is a blast when you manage to hit a big unit off of Combat Cook. I think the deck has a solid chance of keeping a presence in the meta with a little more refinement.
Hope this guide was helpful with your ladder journey, meet you all in Masters!