Hey guys, Yangzera here, and super happy to be back! This time, with a deck guide for a personal favorite – Karma Viktor! I'm glad to be back at full force after the Kai'Sa season, so let's dive right into the deck!
But Karma? In 2022?
Yes! With the addition of strong cards to Ionia, Karma is, in my opinion, in the best position she's been in for a long while, even regularly being featured in our best LoR decks articles. And since Ionia is quite popular currently (with archetypes like Ezreal Kennen or Nami TF Ionia being meta staples), Karma will completely take over Ionia mirrors, since her level up is extremely powerful. With that out of the way, let's look at the actual cards, shall we?
This is for sure almost as greedy as the deck can be, and so far my best performing version. We choose to not play the Improvise package of Ionian Hookmaster and Momentous Choice, and rely on our Eye of the Dragon-managing skills to deal with more aggressive matchups.
Best LoR Decks: Viktor Karma – Card Breakdown
Poro Cannon is a pretty good zero-mana spell that lets you discard Ignitions or Karma-generated spells you don't want. It's also a way of triggering our Eye of the Dragon without spending mana, which is crucial. The small Daring Poros will not only trigger Augment, but can act as nice Elusive blockers, or even run-of-the-mill chump blockers for matchups that don't run many Elusive cards. And sometimes the Poros can do some chip damage that definitely helps you count to 20 whenever Karma hits the board and starts burning down the enemy's face.
As much as it is a nice card, the discard cost is simply too high for us to be running more copies – we want to actually cast our Ignitions most of the time, and Karma won't generate early spells on a lot of matchups. Also, having multiple Poro Cannons will decrease the value of our Deep Meditations, as they're not great pulls.
My relationship of love and hate with Thermo Beam makes me always use only one copy – no more, no less. You generally want to cast it early on, because our deck really does not want to tap out as the rounds pass, and having two Beams in hand is an awful experience: the second copy will eventually be used as discard fodder. As WhatAmI says in "The 1-2-3 of Deckbuilding", one copy is nice – you'll find use for it, but you absolutely do not want to have more than one in hand.
One of Karma's favorite friends, our saving grace and the reason this deck is competitive at all – three-mana heal 12. Dropping Karma on round ten and then casting two Health Potions on our Nexus can be all the stabilization we need to completely turn the corner on any matchup. Aside from that, this is the Tellstone that we can find good use for every single card it provides, and (since they are Created cards) they don't have the extra mana cost associated with them once our Viktor is leveled up.
Homecoming can be save one of our key units, as well as acting as pseudo-removal for an opposing threat, and Stand United can either save a unit or even push lethal with one of our Augment units if we get an unblocked attack.
Stand United also has an interesting use where you can turn any unit into a Fearsome or Elusive blocker, granted you have something to place on the blocking position beforehand. For example: if you desperately need to block two Elusive units and only have one Daring Poro, you can place the Daring Poro on the first blocking lane, swap it with another unit, and place the Daring Poro on the second blocking lane. Keep in mind this trick will not work if you're trying to Challenge something and swap the challenger with another unit before locking in combat!
Piltovan Tellstones is a pretty good card that is generally used as spot removal, plus Eye of the Dragon triggering. We want Aftershock against Kindred Nasus, and Miss Fortune decks, as it's our best way of dealing with three-Health key targets outside of Get Excited! and Thermogenic Beam. It can be used in a pinch for card draw as Progress Day! and it can also be used as pseudo-removal with Hextech Transmogulator, as well as being able to transform one of our attackers into a juiced-up Ballistic Bot for a sneaky lethal, but the main usage is for Aftershock as removal option. It's a great option with karma since it'll always be a "deal 6 twice", and even better with Viktor on the board.
I think Vastayan Disciple is probably the best card printed in this expansion, and an auto-include three-of in this build. Monke's just too good and too synergistic of an engine for our build. Starting on the second Shimon Wind cast, they're all created cards, helping our Augment triggers and getting a discount from leveled Viktor, and leveled Karma will summon twice as many Shimon Winds, enabling infinite units granted one of them connects with the opponent Nexus. Aside from that, Monke has great synergy with Eye of the Dragon, acting as an enabler that also draws us into our win conditions – overall this card is just perfectly made for our deck.
Probably the one card people hate the most but I've become pretty fond of Ballistic Bot, especially for this build. Ignitions are really good to passively trigger our Eye of the Dragon, and the deck needs just that: free spells to turn into Dragonling. One Ballistic Bot and one Viktor are enough to generate Dragonlings every turn, and allow us to not use our actual cards in a proactive way just to trigger Eye of the Dragon.
Eye of the Dragon is being cut from decks like Nami TF Ionia because these decks can't generate free resources to pump into Dragonlings, and that's exactly what Ballistic Bot is here for.
Besides, if you're on the version with the Improvise package, Ballistic bot can become an actual threat with Fishawhack, and even though this is generally a waste of mana, you can keep cycling weapons between the same unit to trigger its Augment keyword and ramp up those numbers before an Overwhelm swing.
One of our best tools to stall until Karma can take over the game. I say 'tool' because in my opinion people mistakenly think Eye of the Dragon is an 'engine', but you have to actually feed a lot of resources into her to get the Dragonlings. As people are coming back to Ionia with the new expansion, it's funny to see Eye of the Dragon take so long to start seeing cuts from decks that can't reliably generate these resources for her. This is not a problem for us, though, since between Ballistic Bots and Viktor, sometimes it's actually hard to not use a bunch of cards every round because we need to be careful not to burn our top decks due to hand overflow.
The quintessential Piltover and Zaun card. It's almost impossible to not run a full set of Mystic Shots, especially when pairing Piltover with Ionia. Since Ionia lacks actual removal, we slot in P&Z's efficient jack-of-all-trades, be it to control the board or burn our opponent down with Karma.
You can run any number of Nopeify! that isn't three. I personally choose to run two as a way to deal with cheap spells like Vile Feast, Pokey Stick, Black Spear, Mystic Shot and most importantly, Noxian Fervor. Nopeifying Noxian Fervor will almost always net you extra health because our opponent is trying to use it to deny Dragonling heals, and we absolutely need those to have game into decks like Pirates without Improvise package. Also, if you're not as unlucky as I am and your opponent does not play Concurrent Timelines on round one every time (they always freaking have it!), you take those free wins.
We run three Twin Disciplines because of how important it is to protect our Champions, and with both at virtually seven Health from Twin, it becomes super easy to do so. We need a way to counter Riptide Sermon that doesn't involve Denying it, and sometimes we will be using Twin to pump our Eye of the Dragon outside of removal range.
Keep in mind that we pretty much never use Twin for attack outside of fringe scenarios where we pump an attacker for lethal, blocking Fearsomes with a dragonling, or healing more with them and saving specifically Viktor from Quietus when it's the only way to do it. Be very careful with those uses, and with thinking you can block with your champions because of Twin, since we don't ever want to use negate spells on damage-based removal.
One of our win cons once Karma is leveled up, Get Excited! will burn through our opponent's health with ease with the help of Ignition chip damage. Be very mindful of using Get Excited as a removal tool, since we need to actually close the game out once our Karma hits the board, but don't just spam them once you drop Karma unless you're very certain of what you're doing, be efficient with your mana and always have a trick up your sleeve.
One of our best stall tools since it can shut down a strong open-attack, and harshly punish development. Always threaten a Concussive Palm even if you don't have it in your hand, as it will make your opponents open-attack more and give even more value to your Dragonlings.
One of the biggest mistake that Eye of the Dragon players do is not recognizing you can threaten a 1/2 Eye with a Concussive Palm in hand – if your foe is waiting for you to trigger Flow to try and deal with your Eye, simply finish the round and either Palm their open-attack or punish their further development with it.
Remember that all you want to do is to reach 10 mana, and sometimes by doing nothing you're actually doing everything you need.
The protection for our champions to big spells and effects. In slower metas, Deny would definitely be an easy three-of, but two is a nice place to be in this meta filled with Riptide Sermon. Since most removal spells are damage-based, only use Deny for problems that Twin Disciplines can't solve.
Assess the situations and evaluate what you need to Deny. Against Pirates and you didn't draw Eye yet? Deny Sermon and let Decimate go. Have Eye? Twin the Sermon and save Deny for decimate – the Dragonling can chump-block the Tentacle. Don't be afraid to Deny Twisted Fate's Red Card.
MISTER PRESIDENT. Viktor is a menace and will win games on his own if left unchecked, or if protected properly. He will carry some matchups more then others, but a few good rolls on keywords and Viktor can quickly either take over the game with Challenger plus Regeneration or Challenger plus Quick Attack, or outright end it with Elusive or Overwhelm.
Be very mindful of his statline when dropping him into Quietus or Riptide Sermon, though, and try to have a plan to protect him before he comes down on the board. I would say that, generally, try to not proactively use Viktor Death's Ray - MK 1 unless you're against Pirates and have a plan for the late game, since by planting a Viktor Death's Ray - MK 2 among you top three cards you will actually dilute the card quality of your following draws.
One of the nicest ways to regain gas, as this will pretty much always cost three mana. A Karma (level 2) into Deep Meditation can completely flip a game resource-wise, and it will also draw into your burn spells, negations and heals.
Be careful not to use it very aggressively, though, since you have the inevitability of your Karma, but don't be afraid of using it to dig deeper into your deck or to simply use your extra mana on slower matchups. Be mindful that Deep Meditation will draw from anywhere in the deck, so don't rely on it pulling MK-2 or MK-3 if you use Viktor's champion spell, and don't expect your next natural draw to be a unit since it won't actually filter the top cards of your deck.
The star of our deck and our main win condition!
She will bring insane value and take over any game once leveled, so be careful not to lose her, and abuse the extra spell casts as much as possible. Don't forget that Stand United will not work as intended with a leveled-up Karma and her second spell will trigger Augment, so your Viktor will grow super fast once she hits the board. With the buff to her Health, she will survive most damage-based removal, but Flock and Riptide Sermon will still kill her, so try and save protection for those when you drop Karma before round ten.
LoR Deck Viktor Karma: General Gameplan
In pretty much every game, our main goal is, "Survive until round ten." While this can be not true for some matchups (which we will cover later), keep in mind that our gameplan follows an easy flowchart of:
- Survive until round 10
- Drop Karma
- Win the game
Now this is much much easier said than done, but the main goal here is to get through step one. Anyone can do steps two and three, because it's really easy to point Get Exciteds at the enemy Nexus, so I'm here to teach you how to reach that point.
If you haven't, feel free to take a look at my Priority and Tempo guides, as they provide a nice basis of theory that will help you assess various in-game situations, but the gist is to mainly focus on that one goal: survive, survive, survive.
You're more than happy to keep passing while the opposing threat is low, and your deck is really good at enabling this once you assemble some pieces on the board – this is mostly done through risk management and knowing how you can use your resources to keep "control" of the game as much as possible. I say "control" between quotes here because we're not actually trying to control the board, keep it clean or anything similar: we're just trying to reach round ten in some way. Sure, there will be times when Viktor will simply take over the game, but you must always be prepared to stall the game if you need to.
To do this, you generally want to know what your opponent is wants to do – their win conditions, namely in which ways they can try attacking you, what's the best way to disrupt them, what's the best answer to their disruption, etc., in order to increase your chances to stabilize the game and make you reach that crucial round ten. Now let's try to break these down and give a few practical examples.
Realizing what's your opponent's actual win condition
This analysis goes beyond cookie-cutter deck tech explanation, because each deck has a general win condition, but those vary once you dive deeper into matchup-specific analysis.
For example: Freljord Timelines – what's their win condition?
"Cast Concurrent Timelines as soon as possible and extract value out of big units with play effects, especially Ice Pillar."
This is a rough explanation of how the deck plays the game out, but it's not really how they win the matchup against our deck specifically. Since we're an Ionia deck, we have easy access to Recalls, Stuns, and chump blockers with Dragonlings, so their base plan won't work here. Let's assume the first quote as Timelines' general plan against us and establish a simpler quote as their new win condition.
"Resolve Buried in Ice."
Now this has more layers of thought to it, but the gist of it is that on the majority of matches, the Freljord Timelines player will depend on a good Buried in Ice round to beat us, since we are already so good at delaying threats until our finishing rounds that they have to apply enough pressure to force us to tap out of mana for Deny so they can cast Buried in Ice, or force our Deny before going for the Buried in Ice play.
Therefore, our own win condition shifts from "Reach round 10" to "Reach round 10 and have Deny ready for Buried in Ice."
It can be a strange concept for some people to have an ever-changing win condition, but this can apply to multiple decks and, for Ionia in particular, the stalling part becomes trivial – it's almost a given that stalling is what you're looking to do, so you can extrapolate your gameplan and adapt it to your opponents' adaptations, creating a dynamic back and forth that can shift your playstyle during a game based on your assessment of the themes going around.
LoR Deck Karma Viktor – Mulligan Strategy
Mulligans with this deck are extremely tricky. Since you have to be very adaptive to your opponent's deck and win condition, I will be covering general mulligan thoughts and showing a few examples, but it's important that you can assess which cards you're really looking for on each matchup. Of course, there are cards that you will keep or throw away in the vast majority of cases, so let's look at a few mulligans and leave the specific go-to cards for each individual matchup section.
All 4 of those cards are ones that we can always consider keeping in the opening hand. Disciple and Viktor are pretty much always-keep in every matchup, but Mystic Shot and Piltovan Tellstones are super matchup-dependent. You're looking to keep Shot for matchups against the likes of Norra, Akshan, Darkness and Kennen.
Here we're really digging for better cards, especially Eye of the Dragon due to her synergy with Vastayan Disciple. We may consider keeping Twin Disciplines for some matchups as protection for our Disciple, since keeping him alive will help us reach further into our deck.
We're throwing this hand since it's extremely slow and we really want to get our early cards. There would be a consideration to keeping one Deep Meditation for matchups like Targon's Peak or Feel The Rush, but we're throwing it all back most of the time.
Here we're keeping our Eye and looking for enablers like Ballistic Bot, Viktor and Vastayan Disciple. Against heavy-control matchups like Feel The Rush and Targon's Peak, we would throw Eye away and keep the Deep Meditation.
This is an okay start and a fair double-keep, since Mystic Shot is generally good to either protect our Eye or deal with an early threat. There can be a consideration to throw it away if you really want to hit Viktor and Ballistic Bots.
This is a little bit tricky. For matchups where we need Aftershock early – like against Miss Fortune decks, and Kindred Nasus – we want our Tellstones to deal with Fortune and Kindred as soon as they hit the board. Especially Kindred, since our deck can't really deal with a Kindred that's buffed up by The Darkin Halberd.
This is one of the few instances we're keeping most of our cards as they're key pieces for most matchups. Viktor is an always-keep and along with Ballistic Bot, we have free Eye of the Dragon fuel, so as long as we hit some form of protection in the first few draws, we're pretty much set for a very strong early- to mid-game.
Here we're keeping Viktor and a Mystic Shot just to guarantee we have an early play and not have to burn mana on round three. For some matchups that run Vengeance, we can consider keeping Deny and delaying our Viktor slam for round five.
It is very rare that we actually keep Karma in the opening hand and as much as she's a lot safer at four health now, we really need better cards that help us survive until the later stages – with a bare minimum of ten natural draws before round ten, it is very likely we bump into Karma again.
This opener is interesting – we have Viktor with some form of protection in Twin Disciplines, and since we're already double-keeping, there can be a consideration to keep Tellstones as a way to use our mana on curve. If you look at the matchup and don't think you need the Tellstones, or assess that you need to be more proactive, throw it away and dig for an earlier curve.
LoR Deck Viktor Karma – Matchups
In this section I will be covering matchup-specific ideas that I've gathered from either from experience, or from comparing my list with my opponents'.
It is very important that you know what you are facing and what you are expecting to play around, to know how you're managing your resources and doing your mulligan, so I recommend checking your opponent's match history to have an idea of what cards they might be playing based on their past data. This will prove very helpful if you're not familiar with some of the decks you see on ladder, but as you get more experienced with decklists and more comfortable with knowing what each player needs to do, you can start doing this analysis on your own.
With that being said, let's talk about some matchups and what you're looking to do to beat them.
Ezreal Kennen - Even/Favored, skill-intensive
Perma-pass. Pass, pass, pass and pass, then pass some more. If you don't play many units, they can't level up Ezreal, and if they can't level up Ezreal, they will absolutely never kill you.
You are mostly free to slam Champions on curve since Homecoming isn't really a removal spell, and at four Health your Champs are safe from Kennen's Mark of the Storms. Be careful to not be too reckless against them, and as long as you reach round ten with Karma, you're not only never dead because of Health Potions, but you are threatening to burn them down super quickly.
Look for Champions and Monke, and skip on Ballistic Bots and Eyes – you don't want to waste protection spells on them. Don't try a Stack war with them unless you have at least two responses and they're the ones opening with a Recall – it's better to let them recall Kennen and use Twin Disciplines on a Mark of the Storm, than it is to waste Mystic Shots trying to kill that stupid rat.
Pirates – Even, super skill-intensive
As much as we are an Eye of the Dragon deck, Pirates has evolved into this abomination of a deck that can just go late-game on you, so be very careful. You need to take the most care about Riptide Sermon, and not open yourself up to a back-breaking Red Card.
If you have Eye down, use Twin Disciplines to get out of Sermon, and save Deny for Decimate or even Noxian Fervor. If you don't have Eye down, Deny the Sermon, tank the Decimate and look for Health Potion plays. ALWAYS open-attack with Dragonlings if Twisted Fate is not on the board yet. Try your absolute best to reach round ten with Karma and one Tellstone – if you do that, game over.
Timelines – Even, entirely RNG based
Pray to RNGsus they don't have it on round one, but plan your game as if they do, because they will full-mulligan for it. Play for Eye and Concussive palms. If it's Jax Timelines, don't be afraid to trade your champions one for one with Vi, since that's their only real threat. If it's Freljord Timelines, try to survive while always holding four mana and a Deny in hand, since we instantly lose the game if Buried in Ice resolves.
Heimer Norra – Easy
If you Deny their Vengeance and don't let them kill your Eye, you win the game. They don't put too much pressure, and you have an easy way of killing Norra with Mystic Shot. Just survive and out-value them once Karma levels up.
Kai'sa – Unfavored, depends on Opponent's draws
As long as Kai'Sa doesn't get Scout, you have a shot. Be careful with Spellshield since Ionia doesn't have an easy time dealing with that. Be mindful that Stuns and Recalls will fizzle her skill, Icathian Rain, if it's on the stack, and always have a backup plan for Cataclysm. Sometimes she will just run you over like the (literal) abomination of a deck that she is.
Kindred Nasus – Favored, skill-intensive
Draw removal for Kindred. You need to kill her as soon as she hits the board, no questions asked. Save mana for Piltovan Tellstones > Aftershock, find a way to safely Thermo Beam her, or you can even use a Get Excited – whatever you do, don't let them equip Kindred with The Darkin Halberd.
After that, between Homecoming and Concussive Palm, Ionia has a nice time with Nasus. Be mindful of Rite of Negation, and remember you have the opportunity to fill the spell stack with Karma – if you can't beat Atrocity + Rite with your own answers, you can beat one while filling the stack so they can't play the other!
Katarina Gwen – Unfavored
You can navigate this matchup with enough experience, but any minor misplay will cost you the whole game.
Things to remember: Don't let Katarina level up, Gwen (level 2)'s ability will fizzle if she's removed or stunned, don't let Katarina level up, always question yourself about Ruined Reckoner plays, don't let Katarina level up.
With all that being said, please do not let Katarina level up.
Advice for any matchup
Always remember that: Viktor can carry. Viktor can and will carry any game where he goes unchecked, or you have enough ways to protect him – but don't always make him your only win condition! Karma Viktor is all about having ways to get out of bad situations you might see yourself in, so navigate them as you see fit.
There are a few different cards you can have in your build, and some people actually prefer to have them. I personally don't, but I will be covering reasons why you might want to change up your Viktor Karma build.
First off, the hot talk of the town – Back Alley Bar. This is a really interesting card with lots of potential to be gained in Karma builds because it is so easy to see 'new' cards. The current bug the card has – where it won't properly reduce the cost of "choose one" followers – doesn't really affect our deck unless we choose to run Ionian Hookmaster, another very good Ionia card released in this new expansion.
I personally choose not to include Back Alley Bar because our deck wants to commit as little mana as possible before round ten. Back Alley Bar will indeed allow you to regain the spent mana in cost reductions down the road, but my little experimentation with the card made me not like it too much. Perhaps my view on it was tainted from its bug? Maybe. If you want to run a full set of three copies of Back Alley Bar, my suggestion would be to trim down on not super important cards, like one Nopeify!, one Deep Meditation and one Ballistic Bot.
As much as I like Ionian Hookmaster as a card, I don't think it fits our build. We'd have to cut our Ballistic Bots for them, and as much as I'm inclined to agree that Hookmaster is a better card in a vacuum, Ballistic Bot just fits our deck in a much nicer way, especially when you factor in how important it is to generate free resources to feed our Eye of the Dragon. If you want a more low-to-the-ground build, though, you can look at them to have an easier time impacting the board early on in the game.
Momentous Choice is a "better" Twin Disciplines, but sadly didn't end up making the cut. It has a steep deck-building restriction, namely locking us to those Hookmasters we originally decided on not running, and have the issue of possibly not ever being active. It's a much better card at triggering Eye of the Dragon because of its double cast interaction, but lacks that important third point of Health as premium protection for damage-based removal. Since we really want to always use this effect for protection (and never aggressively), Twin Disciplines looks like the better choice.
All in all, you can make some adjustments to the build as you see fit, and to quote a great friend and big role-model for me, 4LW, build your decks in ways you can win with them. It doesn't matter if someone says their build is better if you can't make the cards work. Settle on something that fits your playstyle and adapt your techs towards it – but don't go too wild in one go! My personal suggestion is to change a maximum of 5 to 6 cards of a build (if you do decide on changing something) into something that looks more "you", otherwise it will be an entirely different build.
Alright and that's the guide. If you made it to the end, thank you very much, and stay tuned for more content I will be putting out here at Mastering Runeterra. Have any ideas for a future strategy guide? Send them over via Discord (Yangzera#4481) or Twitter @yangzera!