Kat Gwen, sometimes called Red Gwen, is currently one of the best Legends of Runeterra decks, and one we could classify as a Tempo that seeks to finish off the opponent with one of its many combos. Tempo is essentially the momentum of a match, and a Tempo deck aims to use its mana to develop its gameplan, or disrupt the opponent’s gameplan, in an efficient manner. This is like the opposite of playing for Card Advantage, which is aiming to stay alive and disrupting your opponent’s game plan, while utilizing less cards in order to gain momentum later in the game with the amount of cards you have.
Since this deck has a plethora of combos it can use to win the game, it has a high amount of agency – the decisions you make with this deck have a high impact on the result of the game, rather than low-agency decks that often rely on matchups, getting lucky with draws, or are so good (or bad) that the player’s decisions often will not impact the outcome.
The finishers in this deck can often result in multiple Rallies or render many of the opponent’s units unable to block a big attack.
Kat Gwen has a relatively high playrate and winrate in the ladder, and as mentioned above it is currently one of the best LoR decks to climb with. It's also arguably one of three best decks for Tournaments and Gauntlets right now.
Katarina Gwen – Quick Mulligan Guide
This section is for people who are in game while reading the guide or just want a quick breakdown of the Mulligan. Details about each card will be explained in the Card Breakdown section later.
Usually Keep – one-mana and two-mana units, Katarina
Situational Keep – Gwen if you have other Hallowed units in hand and are not against Aggro.
Removal spells – If they are good in the current matchup, or have the the required combo pieces. For example, Vile Feast or Glimpse Beyond with Burgeoning Sentinel to Activate her Passive effect, or Ravenous Flock with Arachnoid Sentry.
Katarina Gwen – Card Breakdown
This section will explain why each card is in the deck individually, and while some synergies will be pointed out, more in-depth combos that the cards have will be mentioned in the next section.
Early Game Units
These cards are great for applying pressure and establishing Tempo, and are generally a keep in the mulligan.
Boisterous Host and Phantom Butler not only apply pressure in the early, but upon death they also provide value for the rest of the game. These units are also important because the Hallowed keyword combos well with many cards of our cards, such as Eternal Dancers, Gwen, and Katarina.
House Spider is a great Noxus card that provides early pressure and has the potential to level-up Elise, which can be game-winning. Also, the generated Spiderling can force the opponent to block or take a lot of damage, depending on the amount of Hallowed units that have died.
These spells are used to remove threats and potential blockers from your opponent’s board.
These cards help get rid of the opponent’s blockers, allowing us to attack for a lot of potential damage. Since both Fallen Reckoner and Risen Reckoner have Overwhelm, they are great units to receive the Hallowed buff on attack. Arachnoid Sentry can also be used on defense, or in combination with Ravenous Flock for removal and generating more Tempo for an open-attack.
Attack attack attack!
These cards allow you to attack multiple times per round, triggering Hallowed each time.
These cards can also allow you to attack with a Risen Reckoner played on a defensive turn – since it is Ephemeral, it would die before you obtain the attack token.
Gwen is a great payoff card for the early-game Hallowed units, and she can level up easily in this list, as attacking with her twice in a round – with the help of Ruined Reckoner or Katarina – will oftentimes be enough for Gwen to deal 10+ damage. She also threatens an insane amount of damage on attack, which usually forces out one of the opponent’s blockers.
Eternal Dancers and The Harrowing have many units that are great to revive. These cards are great finishers, and oftentimes force your opponent to have mana up to deal with these, and if they tap under their answers (for example Vengeance, to deal with Eternal Dancers), they can lose the game on the spot.
As there are many combos with these cards, I'll mention them in depth in the next section.
Also, as it is hard to keep track of everything in the game, especially when you are playing the deck for the first few games, a good tip is to put The Harrowing on the stack and hover over the Oracle Eye in order to see what units you will be reviving.
The round before using The Harrowing, try to make sure you set up your board and trade units, especially ones that are weak, as you do not want a Spiderling taking board space in your attack, if possible.
Shadow Isles Tellstones is a flexible option, as all three spells that it generates are useful in this list.
For example, Mark of the Isles on Katarina is great, as it can save her, and she recalls herself before the Ephemeral effect from striking is activated. Spirit Journey can be used on Katarina, Ruined Reckoner or Fallen Reckoner, to gain an extra attack or remove a blocker, while generating a Risen Reckoner in hand.
Elise can be an alternate win condition if she levels, but most of the time she is just an early-game Tempo card. She is also in the deck because Katarina is not a good champion to draw too many copies of, so we do not want to run three copies of her.
Other Options for Katarina Gwen
Katarina Gwen – Card Combos + Gameplan
As said above, our goal is to gain Tempo early game, and finish off the opponent with one or multiple of the many combos at our disposal.
Tempo is to be established with your early-game units listed above, while using removal efficiently to get rid of threats, threaten damage, or disrupt your opponent’s game plan in some way.
Here are some of the best combos to aim for.
Eternal Dancers + Ruined Reckoner/Katarina
If your opponent can not kill your Eternal Dancers or stop them from attacking while you have this combo online, it is an infinite rally and you win the game.
Katarina (level 2) is the better of the two combos, as she gives you a ping to kill potential blockers, as well as gives you an extra rally in hand for a future turn. Also, Midnight Raid from Ruined Reckoner can be interrupted with cards like Nopeify! or Rite of Negation.
Eternal Dancers + Gwen
This combo is especially strong if you have another Gwen on board or Gwen is leveled, as this allows you to attack with multiple Gwens in one round – combined with some Fallen Reckoners or Risen Reckoners, your opponent may not be able to block all these units (with a Hallowed buff on top) threatening massive damage.
Eternal Dancers + Fallen/Risen Reckoner
The Harrowing + Katarina
This combo is extremely strong, as it also gives you a Katarina (level 2) in hand to rally next turn. It also allows you to threaten a potential lethal attack while your opponent has the attack token, as this is when they are more likely to use their mana proactively, and they will oftentimes tap under a response to The Harrowing.
The Harrowing + Fallen/Risen Reckoners
This combo can remove multipleblockers, while threatening an extraordinary amount of damage that is hard to stop. If you have a dead Katarina (level 2) that is reviving, you can also pull this off on a defensive turn.
Katarina Gwen – Matchups
Pirate Aggro – Slightly favored
In this matchup, mulligan for your early-game units and Vile Feast. Arachnoid Sentry and Ravenous Flock is also a good combo to keep if you already have good plays for rounds one and two. Prevent as much damage as possible in this matchup, as your Health matters a lot and is the number one priority.
Gwen is good, as she can start draining two every attack, and if you level Gwen you often win this matchup.
Leveling Katarina can also be a good option to race your opponent down if you have a good board to rally with.
Kindred Nasus – Favored
They will often have answers to your finishers, such as Eternal Dancers or The Harrowing, as they have cards like Crumble and Rite of Negation, so oftentimes you will be trying to win the game with Katarina (level 2) and Fallen Reckoners.
The Undying is a very slow card that they run, and most importantly, it can’t block – most of the time you will be able to ignore it before it is able to threaten large amounts of damage.
The Mirror – Favored (if you've read this guide!😁)
In the mirror, Katarina is an amazing keep, as leveling her will give a big advantage because the opponent will always have to try to play around a four-mana rally.
Conversely, try to keep up a way to kill the opponent’s Katarina to prevent the level up.
Kennen Ezreal – Unfavored
Just remember that if you have to remove a certain threat, then you might just have to go for the risk – you cannot play around every card in their deck.
Jax Vi – Even
This matchup changes to Favored or Unfavored depending on whether or not they draw Concurrent Timelines.
As GeneralSchwartz writes in his Jax Vi deck guide, this deck is a lot better when they draw Timelines, while the matchup is actually really easy for us if they do not draw it. Just do a standard mulligan, and try to set up one of your combos for later in the game.
If they do draw Concurrent Timelines, their units will outstat yours, so try to set up a big Fallen Reckoner and Risen Reckoner combo with The Harrowing, that way they won’t be able to block your units. They often will have no good response to The Harrowing, although they can remove it from your hand with Aloof Travelers.
That ends my Katarina Gwen LoR Deck Guide!
This is a Tempo deck that has a lot of potential combos as finishers. As noted, this is one of the best LoR decks for climbing the ladder, and also a very strong option for Tournaments or Gauntlets. While I am not the best pilot, I played the deck a fair amount and even brought it to the last Seasonal Tournament, so I hope I was able to explain my thought process and help you understand the archetype better.
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