Pantheon/Taric is a board-centered deck that capitalizes on the novel keyword Fated. Each round, the first time you target a unit with this keyword, they are granted a permanent +1|+1 stat boost.
This means that once we deploy our Fated units, we aim to target them each round to exploit the free stat boosts as much as possible.
Taric is a great unit for that matter, as he copies a spell you play on him on his supported ally. This means that you are granted a free spell that progresses the Fated game plan!
Additionally, Pantheon is a strong finisher with his Overwhelm keyword. On top of that, once you’ve targeted allies in 5 rounds, he levels up and gains at least 5 random keywords. Oftentimes, these include Lifesteal, Elusive, or Spellshield, which can be a huge game-changer.
The units we run with the Fated keyword are Saga Seeker, Wounded Whiteflame, and Pantheon. These are all the units in the game that have that keyword!
Saga Seeker is an obvious pick, as he is cheap to play and thus leaves us with enough mana early to cast spells on him.
Wounded Whiteflame is the big brother of Saga Seeker. He has a great statline for value trading and his Fury keyword means that he has additional inbuilt survivability.
While Pantheon is a great game finisher, he also wears the Fated keyword, so don’t be afraid to drop him in the mid-game to buff him up before he levels. Because of his Barrier keyword, he can be a great punish if your opponent doesn’t open an attack on their turn 4/5.
All other cards in this deck are aimed at either buffing your units, removal, or both.
Zenith Blade is probably the most prominent engine in your deck, due to the Daybreak keyword. When played as the first card in your round, you draw another copy of it from your deck, resulting in card advantage. Additionally, the Overwhelm keyword allows your growing units to not get chump blocked to eternity.
Brightsteel Protector allows you to not only punish your opponent for not open attacking but also activates Fated (since it targets the unit that it gives Barrier to). These facts along with its solid statline to trade with most 2 and 3 drops make it an auto-include in the deck.
Mountain Goat’s statline is just the same and its ability to generate Gems - 1 mana spells that activate Fated at Focus speed - makes this a valuable unit in the deck.
Guiding Touch and Pale Cascade fit into the same category as Gem - they are cheap burst-speed spells that advance Fated. They also draw you a card and give your units additional survivability.
Sharpsight is the strongest combat spell in the game, that - you guessed it - also activates Fated. While its 2/2 buff is powerful enough on its own, it is especially valuable in the current meta with elusive Archetypes around.
Single Combat and Cataclysm are cheap removal spells that target your units at the same time. Oftentimes, our opponent will play around these cards even if we don’t have them in hand.
If Single Combat is a knife aiming for your opponent’s throat, Concerted Strike is the tank blasting your opponent off their feet. For its extra mana cost, we are targeting two of our units, as well as removing our opponent’s threats more reliably.
Blinded Mystic is a unit that can be hit or miss. If your opponent plays a follower that is susceptible to silence effects, like Curious Shellfolk or Monkey Idol, it can be stupidly powerful. In other matchups though, this unit can feel underwhelming and a tempo-losing play.
Hush falls in the same hit-or-miss category, either temporarily silencing a powerful champion, creating advantageous trades, or being a dead card. We will never keep this card in the mulligan phase.
For the hit-or-miss character of these silence cards, we are only playing them as a 1-of.
Golden Aegis is a powerful one-for-all care package that provides a Rally effect, advances your unit’s Fated keyword, and protects them with Barrier. You must know about the game-breaking synergy with Taric: If you cast Golden Aegis on him and he supports a unit, the spell is cast again and you are allowed to attack yet another time.
There are a lot of different decklists running around, most only differing in only 1 or 2 cards. In the following, we will discuss some of these tech choices.
Screeching Dragon is a powerful 5-drop that helps you to remove enemy units with its Challenger keyword. It is a little costly though and makes it difficult to target one of your units in the same turn you’re playing this card.
Depending on which format you are playing this deck, if you are targeting decks that are susceptible to silences, you can think about adding a second or even third copy of Blinded Mystic, replacing for example Mountain Goat or Cataclysm.
Shield Vault can be an efficient card at slowing down your opponent while activating Fated. It’s at best a 1-of though since it is slow speed and your Barrier effects fall in the same category of punishing your opponent for not open attacking. Replace a Cataclysm with this card.
Chain Vest can be a more defensive Gem... just that you have to maindeck it. This card is extremely low value and makes our hand more likely to brick with no units to play spells on. Replace one or two 2-cost cards of your choice with this one.
Some decks have been cutting Taric all together from their list. Sometimes, Taric can feel like a win-more card that doesn’t do much if you’re behind on board or have no unit to support.
If you feel the same, feel free to replace Taric with any combination of the above-mentioned cards.
Don’t be afraid to use your low-cost spells actively
The same goes for Brightsteel Protector. The free stat gains through Fated and level progression for Pantheon oftentimes outweigh the benefits of using these cards reactively.
Play Barrier effects on your opponent’s turn
When you are attacking with Barrier units, your opponent can simply ignore them and tank the face damage. On the other hand, if one of your units has Barrier on your opponent’s turn, they either can’t attack or will trade down.
Don’t play units on curve
This is a counterintuitive one. If you are playing your units every turn on curve, you are left with no mana to cast spells and activate Fated. Instead, try to think one or two turns ahead of how you will be able to navigate playing units and activating Fated in the same turn.
Basic Mulligan Guide
Since we only have 6 early units with the Fated keyword, we are almost always looking for them in the Mulligan phase. The worst thing that can happen is that we don’t find a unit to play in the first three turns and we want to prevent that by all means.
For this reason, we usually full mulligan for these Fated units, though Mountain Goat is also a solid keep. If we have at least one early Fated unit in hand, we can think about keeping Zenith Blade since it is the strongest engine card in our deck.
If you have Saga Seeker in hand, consider also keeping Brightsteel Protector or even Pale Cascade in hand and play them on your Saga Seeker turn 2. You might fear losing value from their effects, but think about it this way: Every turn you do not target at least one Fated unit, you lose free +1|+1 stats and a keyword on Pantheon. As a result, you lose around 1.5 mana every turn you don’t target a Fated unit.
One important thing to keep in mind is planning out how your early turns will play out and how you will be able to activate Fated as much as possible. For this reason, we don’t want more than 2 units in our starting hand. Otherwise, we will lack the resources to buff them up. Mountain Goat and Brightsteel Protector are an exception to this rule because they advance the Fated keyword at the same time.
We never keep removal in our starting hand, because we run so much of it in our deck and will draw them eventually anyway. Focus on growing your units early on.
We also don’t keep Rally effects or Taric in our starting hand, since they don’t advance our goal of activating Fated in the early turns.
When talking about matchups, I like to think about timing. What are your opponent’s key turns? What tools do we have to react to them? What is their underlying game plan and how can we use that knowledge to our advantage?
Ahri/Kennen - unfavoured
Mulligan: Saga Seeker, Mountain Goat, Wounded Whiteflame
This is a rough one. Their game plan is to make you not play your deck and they are pretty good at that. Especially since our deck is board-centered and can’t react to their combat tricks.
Their key turn in 4 is where they want to play Kinkou Wayfinder and we can’t prevent them from winning the game afterward. Because of spells like Concussive Palm and Homecoming we want to spread out our buffs as much as we can, their units actually aren’t threatening on their own and usually do not trade well on board.
It’s a good idea to keep 2 mana open on their attack turn to bluff Sharpsight or Single Combat, making them think twice to attack with their elusive units and potentially forcing them to keep Nopeify / Deny mana up.
One of the few ways of winning this matchup is by leveling up our Pantheon and getting the Lifesteal and Spellshield keyword.
Thralls - even
Mulligan: Saga Seeker, Whiteflame
Mountain Goat and Zenith Blade if you have a Fated follower
It’s difficult to make out a fixed key turn for this deck, but their general gameplan revolves around summoning a Frozen Thrall (either alone or through Lissandra) and advancing the countdown. It gets scary when they cast Promising Future on one of their Thralls and copy it with Taliyah.
Our best answer to their gameplan of summing a hoard of Frostguard Thralls is buffing up one of our units to match their power, 8|8. It’s also of advantage to have Zenith Blade at hand to not get chump blocked, though it is difficult for you to rush the opponent down before they can summon their big units.
Pantheon/Taric - mirror match
Mulligan for: Saga Seeker, Wounded Whiteflame, Blinded Mystic
Zenith Blade and Mountain Goat if you have an early Fated unit and Blinded Mystic
You should know by now what their game plan is - if you don’t, go read the above section again.
This matchup can be - like most mirror matchups - heavily draw-dependent, so don’t beat yourself up if you lose it. You both try to build up a big board as quickly as possible.
Blinded Mystic is an absolute gamechanger in this matchup. If you permanently silence their big unit you win the game most of the time.
Keep in mind that Hush can also shut down a unit for one turn, though it is most of the time a one-off, hence not worth playing around.
Because of the possible silence effect, try to spread your buffs to 2 units if you can afford to.
Lee/Zoe - unfavoured
Mulligan: Saga Seeker, Mountain Goat, Blinded Mystic,
Their key turns are turn one (Zoe), turn 3 (Gifts From Beyond -> Crescendum -> Eye of the Dragon) and any turn they have 9+ mana to drop Lee and protect him with Deny.
Lee/Zoe is great at drawing out the game and infinitely blocking your units with Dragonlings. We have tools like Single Combat and Cataclysm to kill their Eye of the Dragons, but they can deny your attempts with the likes of Nopeify! and Twin Disciplines.
The most effective way of disabling Eye of the Dragon is through Blinded Mystic.
When they have an Eye of the Dragon on board, wait for them to use two spells before attempting to kill it. This makes their spell usage inefficient and more difficult to consistently spawn Dragonlings.
In this matchup, it is particularly important to spread your buffs to two-three units. Otherwise, they infinitely deny your big unit from attacking with Concussive Palm or Gravitum.
It’s a good idea to block their Dragonlings even if they are Ephemeral. It’s important to stay high health, not allowing your opponent to OTK you with Lee Sin. This will give you an additional attack turn to close out the game.
Once Lee Sin is close to leveling, keep enough mana up to threaten killing Lee the same turn he is played. Example: Your opponent has only five mana left. Keep two mana open to bluff Single Combat killing Lee if he is played.
Bandle Tree - favored
Mulligan: Saga Seeker, Wounded Whiteflame
Zenith Blade if you have an early unit
Pantheon if you have an attack token on odd turns and an early unit
Their key turns are turn 3 and 4, where they aim to play Bandle City Mayor and Poppy, respectively. If they have the attack token on turn 4, it can be a good idea to keep Pantheon in hand to restrain Poppy from attacking.
We are generally favored in this matchup because Bandle Tree is a unit-centered deck. They try to flood the board with small units and finish the game with The Bandle Tree.
Their Yordles are perfect-sized meals for our Wounded Whiteflame and we can push through their chump-blockers with Zenith Blade.
We want to spread out our buffs in this matchup particularly because they play 2+ copies of Minimorph.
Gangplank/Sejuani - slightly favored
Mulligan: Saga Seeker, Wounded Whiteflame
Their power turns are turns 6 (Sejuani) and 7 (leveled Gangplank).
Be smart about Sejuani play effect on turn 6.
This deck is also known as Plunder, because of its unique playstyle around the Plunder ability: this effect only triggers if the opponent damaged your nexus before playing the card. Since their champions level-up also rely on damaging your nexus in 5 different rounds, they have to be efficient with their Plunder triggers.
For us, this means that we are playing a mini-game in this matchup: Try to make it as hard as possible for your opponent to trigger their Plunder effects. We can realize this game plan by blocking all their units or killing Monkey Idol with our removal spells.
One of their only reliable ways of winning is through Sejuani’s second level. Since we have to win the game through our units, repeated board freezes by Sejuani can be devastating. Their Sejuani is most vulnerable on the turn they drop her, so try having a Concerted Strike ready when you think they will play her.
Swain/Teemo - favored
Mulligan: Saga Seeker, Wounded Whiteflame
Mountain Goat and Zenith Blade if you have an early unit
Their key turns are turns 5 and 8, where they want to develop Swain and The Leviathan respectively. While these units might look scary, it is incredibly difficult for them to develop them safely without us a) removing them efficiently or b) killing them on the same turn they play them because they spend all their mana.
Pay attention to their removal spells like Ravenous Flock and Scorched Earth. Especially, refrain from trading early and thus damaging your Fated units. Once we get to turn 5+, we will have big enough units to survive a Ravenous Flock.
Guiding Touch can come in handy to counter one of the above spells, though they have other ways of damaging your units, so don’t rely on this card alone.
Don’t get baited by Arachnoid Sentry to open attack in your early turns. As mentioned above, we don’t want to trade early on anyway. If they spend 3 mana to develop a 3/2-unit, they won’t be developing any of their bigger threats. Don’t be afraid to let this matchup go the distance, you are also favored in the early late game!
Because of Scorched Earth and Minimorph, we want to spread our buffs to several units. Other than that, this matchup features why Pantheon/Taric can be such a strong deck. You shouldn’t have trouble building up your board and out-valuing your opponent in the mid-game.
Nami/Twisted Fate - favored
Mulligan: Saga Seeker, Wounded Whiteflame, Mountain Goat
Zenith Blade if you an early Fated unit
Blinded Mystic if you have an early Fated unit and Zenith Blade
Their power turns are turn 5 (leveled Nami) and 6 (Fleet Admiral Shelly or Curious Shellfolk). Notice that most lists don’t run Minimorph, so don’t bother playing around with it.
Since the nerf of Nami, she can only come down as late as turn 6 in a leveled state. This means that you can focus on building up your board swiftly and not keep mana open to threaten removal spells.
This matchup can get spicy if they get a Fleet Admiral Shelly on board that you can’t remove. With their lack of protection spells, it’s very unlikely though. Mind Meld is the only real danger, which is only a 1-of.
If we already have secured solid early turns, Blinded Mystic is a highly valuable card in this matchup countering their engine followers; Fleet Admiral Shelly and Curious Shellfolk.
Don’t overvalue this card though, we will draw enough removal to kill those cards anyway with their lack of protection spells. Blinded Mystic is only the cherry on top in this matchup!
Their ping effects have mostly no effect on you. In the finishing turns, be mindful of Twisted Fate’s Gold Card and consider open attacking.
Pantheon/Taric is a fun-to-play deck with a novel mechanic, making it the most-played deck in the current meta. While it has some bad matchups, it’s a solid Tier A deck sitting at a 52% winrate. It can be especially powerful in a tournament environment where you are able to ban Ahri or Lee Sin decks.
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