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Mastering Karma – A Master Yi Karma LoR Deck Guide

Summoned from the Realm of Karma Enjoyers, Yangzera details the ins and outs of 4LW's latest masterpiece: Master Yi Karma.

Hey guys, Yangzera here with a guide about one of my all-time favorite decks, Spooky Karma! This new blend of Spooky Karma features none other than Master Yi, the new Ionian Champion from the Awakening expansion – it was created by my teammate 4LW, who piloted it to take down the Mastering Runeterra Anniversary Tournament last Saturday…

… and is probably the only good Yi deck we’ve seen so far. I was summoned from the Karma Enjoyers’ Realm to teach you how to win with it. 

Let’s start by saying that average stats lie. They’re made for you to be scared of queueing with Karma Yi, but with a little help and understanding, we can pull up great individual stats on the deck.

Anyway, let’s go over the current list:

Regions
Ionia
29 cards
Shadow Isles
11 cards
Rarities
36 500
champion
6
epic
11
rare
15
common
8
Mana cost
0
0
9
1
9
2
3
3
6
4
6
5
6
6
1
7+
Champions
6
3
Master Yi
3
Master Yi
5
Karma
3
Karma
Landmarks
1
4
Catalogue of Regrets
1
Catalogue of Regrets
Followers
9
1
Vastayan Disciple
3
Vastayan Disciple
2
Eye of the Dragon
3
Eye of the Dragon
6
Scattered Pod
3
Scattered Pod
Spells
24
1
Go Hard
3
Go Hard
1
Ionian Tellstones
3
Ionian Tellstones
2
Nopeify!
1
Nopeify!
2
Twin Disciplines
2
Twin Disciplines
2
Vile Feast
3
Vile Feast
4
Concussive Palm
3
Concussive Palm
4
Deny
2
Deny
5
Deep Meditation
3
Deep Meditation
6
Vengeance
3
Vengeance
9
The Ruination
1
The Ruination
Open deck in builder

This build was curated and approved by 4LW himself, who also had the courtesy to go over this guide with me, so let’s go over card choices, one by one.


Best LoR Decks: Master Yi Karma – Card Breakdown

3x Go Hard

Go Hard is our main win condition, and the card we need to think the most about when to play. Yes, this is your win condition – but, no, you don’t want to cast it early!

Casting a lot of Go Hards early is detrimental, since it will shuffle more and more copies in – we don’t need to do the shuffling so early since we already have a tutor, and we most likely won’t be able to capitalize on the first Pack Your Bags. Keep in mind that we only want to cast Go Hard before the late game if the situation really demands it, or if we are against aggro (where we don’t care about polluting our deck, and actually want to keep drawing a one-mana drain-one spell).


3x Ionian Tellstones

Great card, especially in combination with Karma (level 2): for three mana, we can cast the Tellstone (one mana), which Karma will duplicate (thus giving us two Health Potions), then when we cast each Potion (one mana each) Karma will again duplicate them… in total, healing our Nexus by twelve, after spending only three mana all told.

On top of that, Master Yi will potentially remove the downside of paying an extra mana for whatever effect we pick. If you are using it for Health Potion, first consider if you can hold the game until you drop a leveled Karma, since she will get a lot more value off of this, and if you are using the Tellstone for Homecoming, look for ways to target your Tail of the Dragon: when recalled, Tail will turn into a Concussive Palm, which is a great stall tool.


2x Twin Disciplines

The reason you want Twin Disciplines over Momentous Choice in most Karma builds is that we can’t really afford to play Ionian Hookmasters, thus we won’t be enabling Momentous Choice. On top of it, we’re mostly using Twin Disciplines for Health (rather than Power), and three is a bigger number then two. Bigger number gooder, amirite?


3x Vile Feast

Great stalling tool against a lot of decks, and superb in combination with an early Catalogue of Regrets, Vile Feast is one of the few auto-include cards in an Shadow Isles deck that wants to reach the late game. The ping is really important, and you should look to play Vile Feasts early instead of Go Hards, unless you want to save your Vile for a Fast-speed stack play.


1x Nopeify!

One Nopeify! has proven itself to always have use, as opposed to if it was a two-of. You can negate Ravenous Flock, Death's Hand, Make it Rain, Pokey Stick, Single Combat, Grappling Hook... the list goes on and on. As much as Nopeify can hit sweet spots, we don’t want to clog our hand (and deck – looking at you, Deep Meditation) too much with it, but a single copy will always find use.


2x Deny

Two Deny has been the go-to for any Ionia blend, and is not unwarranted. There aren’t as many big spells in the current meta, but you want to counter things that point at your Champions, be it with health buffs or with negate spells, and Deny will always have more use cases then Nopeify!.

Something to note against other Ionian decks, though: keep in mind that Master Yi reduces the cost of our spells, and if you go into a Deny war, beware of your three- or two-mana Deny being Nopeified! You need to play around your spell cost reductions as much as your opponent does.


3x Concussive Palm

Ionia’s premium stall tool, Concussive Palm will always find good use in any matchup, since the main way to win is, well, attacking. Be mindful that you can use Homecoming on the generated Tail of the Dragon and transform it into another Concussive Palm, but also be mindful of its weak two-Health breakpoint. Assess the situation and figure out the safest way to reach round ten.


3x Deep Meditation

This card is insane with Master Yi, as he will eventually allow you to draw two cards for less than three mana. It’s not hard to trigger Flow with our deck, but don’t bait yourself into triggering it every round – there’s no reason to trigger the cost reduction if you don’t actively plan on using the card on the following round.

A good rule of thumb for Flow is that you will mostly activate it on your defensive round, since you’re trying to stall your opponent out, and then have it activated on your token round, allowing your Dragonlings and Deep Meditation to regain some gas for the opponent’s next token.


3x Vengeance

Point at a thing and kill it. This card is a necessary evil when you are playing Shadow Isles control. It costs a lot of mana, but we need the effect. It can go through Spellshield if your Karma is leveled, and it can be played for less than six mana sometimes because of Master Yi.

One key thing about SI control, and why it’s generally not good, is that your opponent can hold your mana hostage – you are mostly responding, so if they don’t need to go all-in to keep pressuring you, you will eventually have to waste more mana than them. This is where Master Yi steps in to say, “Yeah, I tapped below six, but do you really think I won’t kill your Swain or The Leviathan on sight?”


1x The Ruination

This is a pretty good one-of, since The Ruination can reset a completely lost board, and there is a chance you tutor it when you feel like you’ll need it with Scattered Pod. For Tournament play, the one-of Ruination is there to force your opponent to always play around it, since it is a back-breaking card whenever you play into it. The pressure of “Maybe they have Ruination in hand” is enough to make opponents not go all-out every round, which could allow you to reach round ten in a more safer way, maybe with more banked mana to get more value off of Karma.


3x Vastayan Disciple

Monke is really good. Like, really good. Like, the best Awakening card. Vastayan Disciple will allow us to dig into our deck and be a menace if unchecked, especially if you manage to play Catalogue of Regrets. It gets really wild sometimes, and you may end with too many cards in your hand – be mindful of overdrawing, since you really don’t want to burn your own cards.

Sometimes you will feel inclined to pump Monke with Twin Disciplines in order to save him from an early Pokey Stick, Death's Hand or another ping, and it is generally correct to do so – even though you’re not using Twin to save a Champion, you are using a card in order to draw another, so it’s an even trade.


3x Eye of the Dragon

The queen of stalling, Eye of the Dragon can be a menace if we manage to draw Catalogue of Regrets, or Vastayan Disciple is rolling. Just like explained in the Karma Viktor deck guide, remember that Eye is a tool, not an engine – you need to feed resources into her to pump Dragonlings out, so only proactively activate her Flow effect when you are getting a lot of value out of it, like chump-blocking opponent attacks, and use her value wisely. A well-managed Eye of the Dragon can win a game by herself, but a poorly-managed Eye of the Dragon will make you lose the game.


3x Scattered Pod

Our big whale boy, the Go Hard tutor, the Scattered Pog. It serves the same purpose of Zap Sprayfin in previous Go Hard decks, and it will tutor Pack Your Bags too, but don’t tunnel-vision into the Slow-spell draw. The odds of you drawing “a card that deals with an attacker” from the Fast-speed options is high, and the odds of you drawing “protection for allied units” from the Burst-speed options is also high. If you need more gas, go for Burst speed and try hitting a Deep Meditation. Sure, you’ll use Pod mostly for tutoring out Go Hards, but be aware of scenarios where different choices are correct.


1x Catalogue of Regrets

This is the most cheeky one-of you can have in the build. It was a Withering Wail first, then became an Undergrowth, was The Box at some point and eventually became Catalogue of Regrets. You only want one Catalogue since the double draw is extremely bad, and we are mulliganing away most of our cards anyway, so the chance we eventually see it in the game isn’t low.

Vastayan Disciple will take over a game with Catalogue, since the fleeting Shimon Wind will generate a normal Disciple, that will become a non-fleeting Shimon Wind, which will generate another fleeting Shimon Wind next round – you get the loop. Catalogue is also really nice for enabling Eye of the Dragon since it allows you to trigger Flow much easier, not having to waste hand resources to do so.

Catalogue of Regrets of Regrets is also a great target for Homecoming when you are in a pinch, since your opponent will most likely not be able to remove it at Fast speed, so you have better odds to pull the Recall off that way.


3x Master Yi

This deck would not exist without Master Yi, at least not in a “strong” state. He does a lot for us: discounts spells, gets some chip damage in, puts a lot of pressure when he value-blocks. It is not uncommon to level up Master Yi, but that isn’t our goal – he is mainly an acceptable body, that will grow over time, that discounts spells in our hand. His level up is really strong, though, as you’re allowed to remove something from the opposing board at Burst speed.


3x Karma

Our star! Karma (level 2) will take over the game, and allow us to close out with Go Hards. Generally, you want to count how many Go Hards away you are from Pack Your Bags, and preferably drop Karma when that count is on an even number (that's to say, either zero or two casts away). This will make it so you never have to pay the full five mana for Pack Your Bags: when Karma duplicates the spell, Go Hard will turn into Pack your Bags (if you have casted enough) while on the stack, at no extra cost.

Only slam an early Karma in matchups that have a hard time dealing with her, since you don’t want to lose your first Karma. Unlike Karma Viktor, Spooky Karma is slower to finish the game once you reach round ten, so you generally want to have more than one Karma in hand to maybe use her Champion spell and shuffle more Karmas in, or just to generate more value.


Karma Master Yi: Gameplay

The name of our game is stall. Stall, stall, stall as much as possible until we can reach “The Karma round” and “do the thing”. For this, first I recommend you read my Priority and Tempo strategy guides, as well as my Karma Viktor Deck Guide, since most Karma decks have very similar pre-round-ten gameplay, and they will provide the theory needed to look at various game states and think about what comes next, what will happen, and what you will need to do in order to keep up with the opponent.

You’re not trying to outpace your opponent; sometimes you are not even trying to match their pace – you’re looking for ways to survive until Karma comes down and shoots you miles ahead of them in terms of value, board presence and level of threats.

We are very happy to pass a lot into our opponent, and our deck enables this with tools like Eye of the Dragon, Concussive Palm, Vengeance and Vile Feast. Sticking Master Yi on the board is key to advancing our plan, since he’ll start getting out of control very fast if he goes unchecked, or if you can protect him properly. He’s not as wild of a threat as Viktor, but he sure as hell can take over the game once leveled up.


The Go Hard Self-bait

Many people say they can’t win with Master Yi Karma, and unsurprisingly, when I look at their games for review, it is really common that they do the very basic misplay of casting early Go Hards. This could be a difficult thing to grasp since Go Hard is indeed our main win condition, but that win condition comes with the downside of polluting our deck with copies of a one-mana spell that doesn’t really contest anything later on. Once Karma is leveled, though, you’ll be firing a Pack Your Bags on every second Go Hard you play, so realistically you only need two natural Go Hard draws, or one natural plus one generated. Casting too many Go Hards early will pollute your deck, and the flowchart goes like this:

  1. Early Go Hard is cast multiple times,
  2. Deck gets very polluted,
  3. We draw a lot of Go Hards,
  4. We buy time after our first natural Pack Your Bags and feel like we are ahead,
  5. Our deck is still polluted,
  6. Our opponent starts pressuring again,
  7. We need to use all the cards in our hand to survive,
  8. Our top decks are extremely bad since our deck is polluted,
  9. We end up losing the late game.

Of course, this is not going to be true for every game, but it is one of the main reasons people will underperform with Karma Yi. Be very careful when playing Go Hard early on, and only do it when it advances your game plan, or delays your opponent’s game plan a lot.


Master Yi Karma: Mulligan Strategy

Doing mulligans with Karma Yi is tricky, but kind of straight-forward. You need to assess what are your opponents' win conditions and plan your game around them, looking for cards that will help you stall the game against that particular opponent. Sometimes you really want Vengeance, sometimes you really want Deny, but most times, you are looking for Vastayan Disciple, Eye of the Dragon, and Master Yi.

Let’s look at a few examples, shall we?

This is a really nice double keep of Yi and Disciple. We can consider keeping the Palm against Swain, especially if it is TF Swain, as we want to stall Swain out and not allow him to strike our Nexus ever.

We could keep Deny against slower Shadow Isles decks like Norra/Veigar piles to counter their Vengeance, but I would particularly mull it away unless we are in a matchup where we absolutely have to deny a big spell, like Freljord’s Buried in Ice or Feel The Rush.


This is an iffy hand to start on. Double keeping Vile Feast is generally bad since we can run out of value pretty quickly, so we throw the second copy away. We could keep The Ruination if we are against a Demacian deck, or even Katarina Gwen in some cases.


An okay hand. We can consider keeping Concussive Palm and throwing Vile Feast away against Demacia, but we are looking for Vastayan Disciple to fuel our Eye of the Dragon.


Easy full-mull situation, we are looking for playable cards.


Here we are only keeping Master Yi, but we could keep Nopeify! as protection, especially if we are against a Quietus deck.


First time our Queen appears in the opener, but we sadly have to kick her out and search for protection for our Vastayan Disciple, and look for better early-game cards. We could keep Karma if against another Ionian deck, since she’s a very safe slam against Ionia in general.


Our first opener with Catalogue of Regrets! We’re always keeping it, and we keep only one Eye of the Dragon alongside. We're not keeping a second Eye because we want fuel for Catalogue, so we're looking for Vastayan Disciple and Vile Feast, or Master Yi.


We don’t want to cast too many Go Hards early, but keeping one is fine as long as you know you’ll find the best use for it.


Generally this would be a full mull, but I’m adding the possibility of keeping Vengeance when you look at decklists and assess that it’s a line of play you want to follow. For example, you want to keep Vengeance in your opener against Bandle Swain decks, since you really want to nuke Swain or The Leviathan on sight. 

Author’s Note: Doing the mulligan part took me way too long, because there are many hands that you just full-mulligan, and I was really terrible at opening with Vastayan Disciple that day. Sacrifices we do for our craft!


Karma Master Yi – Matchups

When writing this guide, I asked the man himself for some insight on how favored or unfavored he feels in most matchups, and here are 4LW's answers:

Now let’s try our best to make sense out of these.


Nami Ionia - Unfavored

The main issue with Nami decks is that even though we can Vengeance their enablers on sight, they can still spit out free Battle Furies and buff their board before our kill spells resolve. Not only that, they themselves have access to Deny, and Ionian Tellstones into Homecoming, which could mean a massive tempo loss for us that will result in instant defeat. It’s not an impossible matchup, but it is very unfavored (which is not really Karma Yi's fault: Nami Ionia is currently the best LoR deck, so being unfavored against it is a problem most decks have).

If you plan to bring Karma Yi to a tournament, Nami Ionia should be your first ban.


Akshan Lee Sin – Favored

Unlike Nami, Akshan Lee Sin can’t spit out buffs for their units before being gunned down by our spells. Our path to victory is to deny their first attempt at killing us with either a Recall or Deny on Lee’s kick, since we don’t want to waste a lot of resources popping his spellshield.

Once we can survive the first Lee kick, the match becomes pretty easy because we can drop Karma (level 2) and then any one spell that stops Lee Sin will pop the his Spellshield, and we’ll have enough time to finish the game with Go Hards or Generated spells.


Swain TF – Favored

What are they going to do if you point Vengeance at Swain? You’re goddamn right, nothing!

Between Concussive Palms, Vengeance, Homecoming, or even The Ruination, we have many ways of stalling the game until our Karma rounds. Look for Eye of the Dragon and manage the “Pirates” side of the deck well, and you’ll do fine. Be careful if they have multiple copies of Riptide Rex, though, as it’s a back-breaking card for us.


Norra Heimer or Veigar - Tech dependant

This matchup is based on how many Minimorphs they run. If they can Minimorph your first two Karmas, you might be in a rough spot. You’ll always win the game as long as you get to play Karma with another Karma in hand and start duplicating her. Pack Your Bags is often back-breaking for them, but keep in mind not baiting yourself into early Go Hards. Eye of the Dragon can carry this matchup pretty well if you dodge or negate a Quietus.


Taric Poppy - Even to Unfavored

Point Vengeances at their Champions – if you manage to kill them, Taric Poppy is a mediocre deck at best. Also be very careful of Mountain Sojourners, as she can make the opposing board grow very big very fast. You can stop their rally shenanigans with Concussive Palm or Deny, so as long as the board is somewhat controlled you can reach the late game.


Katarina Gwen – Favored

As long as you can kill Katarina on sight, Katarina Gwen is a nice matchup. They can only vomit units, attack, and hope for the best, which is good for you. If Katarina levels up, though, you instantly lose the matchup, so be careful.


Leona ASol – Favored

You can chump-block them down forever with Eye of the Dragon, and their removal is expensive while we have Deny. Try to have an answer to Morning Light ready. Whenever they drop Aurelion Sol, you drop Karma, point Vengeance at him and collect your victory.


Trundle Tryndamere – Favored

You need to draw your Deny, especially for She Who Wanders, or drop Karma down and buff her up with Twin Disciplines. Double Vengeance takes care of Tryndamere, while Concussive Palms will deal with Trundle for enough time for you to out-grind them. You also have Homecoming in that matchup, which is a big hit on their kill capabilities.


Fiora Pantheon - Apparently Favored

Stats say unfavored, but top pilots' experience from 4LW, mtucks and myself disagree. As long as you can properly stall out the game you will win, since they can’t really do anything about your Vengeances, The Ruination, Pack Your Bags, and going tall with Pantheon just won’t do the trick against Concussive Palm. Horazi can be a pain in the matchup, but so far, it has looked very manageable.


Pantheon Akshan - Apparently Favored

This matchup is more tricky than the Fiora version, since they have access to Shurima’s Rite of Negation, which renders our Karma double spells useless. It looks like they exert less pressure, though, with no access to efficient Challengers, so you probably have an easier time dealing with the board – you just need to have a plan for Pantheon and their denies.


Scouts - Even to unfavored

Miss Fortune really is a pain to deal with, and more often than not you’ll find yourself investing six mana to do so. Pack Your Bags will win you the game instantly, and Ruination will also do the trick most of the time, but it is difficult to find a spot to use them. You can just get rolled by a god hand, though, so don’t feel sad when it happens


Infinite Akshan - Very unfavored

Imagine trying to reach round ten against infinite Akshan, OMEGALUL. The deck will just eat you alive. You need to kill Akshan and then use Homecoming on the Warlord's Hoard if they get it, and then try to finish the game out ASAP. It’s a very difficult matchup to navigate, since saving denies for their Called Shot will most likely just not do the trick, as they will know it and have denies of their own.


Wrapping up

And that’s pretty much it for today! It was a blast to write about a deck made by a good friend and teammate who I look up to a lot.

As always, feel free to throw any feedback my way on twitter (@yangzera) or discord (Yangzera#4481) or check out my stream (/yangzera_) where you’ll most likely catch me playing this deck in a tournament lineup while practicing for Seasonals. If you made it this far, thanks a lot and see you next time!



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