Hello everyone, and welcome to another deck guide by me, MonteXristo! Today we’ll be taking a look at one of my favorite decks, Nightfall!
Since its development, Nightfall has floated in and out of the meta several times. Back when it was new, not many players believed in its strength and as such did not dedicate the time required to learn the deck's ins and outs. Nightfall is not an archetype for the faint of heart -- it requires you to plan several turns ahead and think outside of the box if you want to be successful with it.
There is a reason that masters (and believers) of the deck like “Doombeast” Dyna, Jamesf, and Shadawx have seen continued success with it, even long after others had written it off.
With the recent buff to Diana in patch 3.0.0, the deck has once again been shoved into the moonlight!
Though some people initially thought the change to Diana would not be particularly impactful as she levels very quickly, they overlooked the fact that the new change allows her to be played as a Nightfall enabler! This one simple fact allows for more options in your lines of play and results in fewer clunked-up hands.
Disclaimer: the ladder meta has pivoted quite significantly over the course of the past week. While this deck is an excellent choice for dealing with Ahri Kennen, it does struggle quite a bit against control (especially PnZ Kindred). Keep that in mind when deciding to queue the deck on the Ranked ladder.
Fading Memories is an absolutely crucial piece of the Nightfall puzzle. It’s a FREE activator for your Nightfall cards that also enables you to double down on important Nightfall effects like Doombeast.
Another excellent target for this card is The Flight, enabling you to increase your ability to cycle cards. The Ephemeral tag does not affect The Flight; due to its Nexus strike effect, it will just reshuffle into your deck as normal.
A newer addition to the deck, Heavens Aligned is a focus speed Nightfall enabler that will also generate you a Nightfall card!
It can also be used for its Nightfall effect, activating Diana’s newly buffed ability and giving you a Daybreak unit to potentially start your next turn. Don’t overthink this one too much, use it as necessary.
Lunari Duskbringer is one of the best Nightfall activators available to you. It also generates a Duskpetal Dust which allows you to convert your spell mana into unit mana as it discounts the next Nightfall unit you play. There are some cute tricks you can do with this to catch weaker players off guard.
Pass turn 1,
Solari Soldier >> Lunari Duskbringer >> Duskpetal Dust >> Stygian Onlooker
Another excellent way to use this card is to bait your opponent into playing a key unit by dropping down to three mana so they will no longer play around Nocturne. Once they’ve put their important unit down (like Ahri) you can then play out your Duskpetal Dust with spell mana and drop Nocturne
While this card was once a staple 3 of in the list, Solari Soldier is no longer significantly more powerful than the other one-drops in the game. As such, it is a good place to start cutting so we can fit other cards that are more important for this metagame.
Stygian Onlooker is the reason why people call Nightfall an aggro deck: you want to abuse this early against decks that have no early Fearsome blockers or pings (like Ahri).
If your opponent does have Fearsome blockers or pings, you’ll want to keep these in hand until you’re ready to flood the board for a Nocturne swing turn or you have more Fearsome attackers than they have blockers.
The last way you can use the Stygians is alongside Diana, with her newly buffed ability you can open with Diana, then play a Stygian Onlooker to give her challenger, allowing you to pull the Fearsome blocker out of the way and push four damage to the Nexus.
I used to find that three copies of The Flight was often clunky and would end up bricking hands more often than it helped you. This changed with the current iteration of the deck, as The Flight is now your primary source of cycle and card draw as the deck has cut Stalking Shadows.
Elusive units and blockers are also particularly good in this meta-game making The Flight a valuable inclusion.
Remember that the Ephemeral tag does not affect The Flight; due to its Nexus strike effect, it will just reshuffle into your deck as normal.
Recently buffed and stronger than ever, Diana single-handedly revived the archetype.
While some people thought the change would not matter, as she levels very quickly, what they failed to realize is that Diana can now be played as a Nightfall enabler. This small change makes the archetype fit together much better and drastically reduces the number of clunky turns that the deck encounters.
Lunari Shadestalker has been moved in and out of the list in different metagames. Currently, elusive units are very valuable as blockers and the three HP make it difficult for Freljord/Shadow Isles control to remove them. As such you’ll want all 3 copies.
While I still reminisce about the days of +2/+1 Pale Cascade, the card is still your best and only combat trick.
In a pinch, you can use it to activate a more important Nightfall effect but ideally, you want to hold this to punish attempted removal or just use it to cycle and push a bit of extra damage when you’re getting towards the end of the game.
Ping effects are very important right now as Ahri Kennen is the most prominent deck in the meta and it has a lot of units with only one HP. Unspeakable Horror also doubles as extra burn and sometimes the generated unit will be a win-condition of its own (Ex. Lunari Priestess can solo-win games against SI/Freljord).
This is the Nightfall card I play activated the least, as it’s not always super important to generate another card and you may find yourself desperately needing a Nightfall activator.
You can go up to three copies if you’d like!
Unto Dusk is one of the most versatile cards in the deck and knowing how to use it effectively in any given hand is critical to your success.
This card can:
- help your Stygian Onlookers or Crescent Guardians make unexpected trades,
- be used on Nocturne to save damage and enable good trades on defense,
- most commonly, you’ll want to save this for your Doombeasts for that sweet, sweet drain two!
Like with Pale Cascade and Unspeakable Horror, you will sometimes need to use this as a Nightfall activator -- that is ok!
I have seen some people swapping Crescent Guardian out with The Sky Shadows but I’m not a fan. Crescent Guardian is one of your best units against SI/Freljord because it has three HP. If you wanted to run a third copy you could find a way to fit it.
BURN BABY, BURN! Doombeast drains for two whenever it’s played with its Nightfall effect active. You will often find yourself playing multiple copies of this card and casting multiple Unto Dusk as a way to finish off your opponent.
This is one Nightfall card you should NEVER play without activating.
Doombeast is the PREMIUM target for Unto Dusk, and you should aim to play them together whenever possible.
Our second champion, Nocturne is how you end games outside of Doombeast burn. He was also recently buffed to maintain his Nightfall effect once he levels up.
Nocturne’s level-two ability is undoubtedly one of the strongest in the game. Granting all your units Fearsome may not sound too impactful, but it is absolutely devastating when combined with his secondary effect: Whenever you play a unit, Nocturne will give the whole enemy board -1/-0.
You will usually want to hold Nocturne back until you’re in a position to use him as a finisher but it is also acceptable to use him as removal if you need to!
Your finisher and best answer to Pantheon or other problematic/hard to remove cards: Moonlight Affliction is rarely played around and can enable some really silly lethals without having to pass priority.
You’ll want to use this with Nocturne on the board to remove Fearsome blockers when you go for the throat. If they have only one or two units, it can also allow you to sneak in some wins with Diana (you can get her level two quite large at burst speed!).
Some other cards you may choose to include are Atrocity, Cygnus the Moonstalker, Lunari Priestess, The Sky Shadows, Stalking Shadows, Mountain Goat, and Spacey Sketcher.
Atrocity and Cygnus the Moonstalker are two alternate finisher options available to the deck. Since the Atrocity nerf I feel it’s too expensive for the list and while Cygnus the Moonstalker has been relevant in the past there are currently too many elusive units running around for it to be a powerful game-ender. If you opt to include these cards, I would not recommend playing more than one copy, two MAX.
Lunari Priestess is an interesting choice that can improve your worst matchups (control decks) by giving you access to the celestials pool. Again, I would not recommend including more than one copy.
The Sky Shadows is a card that a lot of other people have been experimenting with this season. I don’t think this card does enough for the archetype to warrant including but people are having success with it.
Stalking Shadows and Mountain Goat are two cards that were staples in previous iterations of the deck. However Stalking Shadows has since been nerfed to three mana and as a result, it’s a bit too taxing to include in the current build. Putting Mountain Goat in your Nightfall deck is akin to putting training wheels on a bike. It gives you more activators in the form of Gems as well as being a solid early unit to put down.
Tips, Tricks & Common Pitfalls:
I’ve noticed a lot of players tend to over-block with Nightfall.
You’ll have to get comfortable taking damage and assessing how few units you can reasonably give up. If you trade down too much you will not have a board to abuse with Nocturne -- when on defense anticipate that you will draw Nocturne before your next attack and block accordingly.
Don’t be afraid to use Nightfall cards as activators if you have to!
It’s ok to pass turns without doing anything if you’re capable of doing everything you want to do in the following turn.
Always remain conscious of how much damage you have left to do, how much damage your hand is capable of, and which cards you can draw into to finish off the enemy's Nexus.
Fading Memories and The Flight work really well together as the Nexus strike effect causes The Flight to shuffle into the deck before it dies to the Ephemeral tag.
When you have Duskpetal Dust and spell mana, bait your opponents into playing critical units and then cheat out an under-costed champion to remove them!
Basic Mulligan Guide:
The general strategy in the mulligan phase is to keep all your one-cost units and spells, and to keep Diana as well.
I believe the mulligan for Nightfall is more variable than any other deck. If you have a hand that looks good (you can plan out your first two to three turns) you’re fine to keep it. That said, there are obviously going to be hands that are more powerful than others, like for example opening hands with multiple copies of Stygian Onlooker against decks without pings or Fearsome blockers.
It’s important to be able to identify your matchups, and which cards are key to your success in those matchups. Below, I have done my best to outline the mulligan phase for the most common archetypes in the current meta.
Matchup Specific Tips:
Ahri Kennen - Favored
You really want to keep Nocturne in this matchup as well, he is very much your win-condition here and will make life incredibly difficult for your opponent.
Unspeakable Horror’s are also a good keep here as they can punish recall attempts on 1hp units.
Early (and late) Stygian Onlookers are very strong in this matchup.
Try to get them to use their Twin Disciplines as a defensive tool so you’re free to full attack with your Nocturne on the turn he’s going to level.
Shadow Isles Freljord Control - Unfavored
Against SI/Freljord in particular your three HP units (Crescent Guardian and Lunari Shadestalker) are your best friends as they will survive an Avalanche.
Sometimes you will be able to get there by pushing early damage into an early Nocturne. But mostly you’ll be relying on Moonlight Affliction and Doombeasts to help you close out the game.
You want to force them to use their Avalanche early and generally try to make it as awkward as possible for them to use their removal.
This matchup is generally quite rough, it is likely correct to take a chance in the early game and play double or triple Stygian Onlookers. However, I would not keep any copies in the mulligan as 1hp units in the early game are decimated by Ice Shard
Generating more Nightfall cards with Heavens Aligned and Unspeakable Horror is critical to finding success here. Eclipse Dragon and Lunari Priestess are both excellent finds but anything generated is going to be great as you’re not losing out on card advantage.
Aggro Mirrors - Favored
We have one thing most other aggro decks do not… healing!
Ensure you have Fearsome blockers for Fearsome aggro decks, and remember that Diana is one of the most important cards in these matchups as she will allow you to start picking off pesky units your opponent doesn’t want to offer as blockers.
Conserve your Nexus’ life total and play like you’re the control deck: you are not the beat down here.
Fading memories can be used on an opponent’s unit to generate blockers if needed. This is a particularly good option against scouts, selecting their Marai Warden as your unit to copy.
Unto Dusk on a Nocturne can save you a LOT of HP.
Pantheon - Slightly Unfavoured
Another mediocre matchup for our deck, but one that’s not doomed! If you come out of the gates swinging with multiple Stygian Onlookers you’ll be able to push enough early damage that you should have no trouble burning them out with Doombeast and Unto Dusk.
About the Author
MonteXristo has been playing the game since closed beta and has consistently made it to masters every season he’s been active. His accomplishments include having peaked in the top 20, taking first place in the “Streamer Sideboard Showdown” and LPP Riot Grand Prix. When he’s not writing for Mastering Runeterra he keeps his card-slinging skills sharp by playing in the Runeterra Academy tournament, with his team The Wobbly Wombats!