Spider-Gwen, currently one of the best Gwen decks in the game, is much like mono-Elise Spider aggro, which is a deck that has been around since beta, and while not always a high-tier deck for tournament play, usually represents a high win-rate on ladder.
Our deck tries to go wide in the early game with low-cost units – many with Fearsome – in order to get the opponent’s Nexus as low as possible, before giving up board control and transitioning to finishing the opponent off with burn (that's to say, cards that can deal direct damage to the opponent’s Nexus, such as Mystic Shot, Get Excited!, and Decimate).
In the mulligan, you usually want to look for cards like Elise, Precious Pet, and Boisterous Host.
You usually keep Fearsome units that you can play in the early game, while throwing away burn cards like Gwen and Doombeast in hopes to draw them later in the game as finishers.
In hands where you have Elise and House Spider, it is usually worth it to mulligan aggressively for the third spider to go for an early Elise level-up, especially if you are attacking on evens, as you can oftentimes level Elise by round four.
Spider Queen Elise is one of this deck’s win conditions.
The opponent will have to invest a lot of resources in order to deal with a level-twoElise, or will take enough damage for you to finish them off with burn.
Spider Queen Elise with a Frenzied Skitterer on round four can sometimes have the opponent conceding on the spot.
With Spider Queen Elise, since all your Spiders have Fearsome and Challenger, it is usually good to drag away all three-attack blockers with Spiderlings and your other lowest attack Spiders, and leave the blockers with less than three Attack behind, but depending on the opponent’s deck, it can sometimes be better to drag all of the units to play around buff spells and ensure your higher attack Fearsomes get their damage in.
Some might wonder why we are running Hallowed units, instead of units like Legion Saboteur or Legion Rearguard, that can deal more damage.
Boisterous Host may deal less damage initially, but he puts the opponent in a predicament of whether to take two damage or kill the Hallowed card, which offers one extra potential damage each turn.
Being able to put the Hallowed buff on Fearsome units, along with Phantom Butler being a Fearsome unit himself, allows for more potential damage than the one-drops commonly used in this deck before.
You can also put the buff on a summoned Spiderling if all the opponent’s blockers have two or less HP, but have the attack necessary to block Fearsomes, since this will force the opponent to take more awkward blocks than they would like.
As mentioned before, this deck runs a plethora of Spiders in order to work for the Elise level-up, as well as pressure the opponent’s Nexus.
Precious Pet and Arachnoid Horror are useful in almost any hand, as Fearsome units that the opponent often struggles to block, while House Spider is more useful in hands with Elise or Frenzied Skitterer, as a Spider Queen Elise will allow House Spider and the Spiderling it generates to have both Fearsome and Challenger.
And House Spider with Elise and another spider, or [Elise's Crawling Sensation]][ will almost guarantee Elise’s level up.
These units are not very useful by themselves, but allow for terrifying boards when paired with other cards.
Stygian Onlooker is often not played on round two in this deck, since with only nine one-drops in the deck, you will often not have three one-drops on the first two rounds, and it is often better to play a one-drop plus a two-drop in these cases.
This means Stygian Onlooker will often be played on round three or later, as playing two or more of them in a round can threaten 8 or more damage, without including the card played before Stygian Onlooker to activate Nightfall.
Frenzied Skitterer is a card that is often used as a finisher when you have a board full of Spiders. While it is correct most of the time to play this card on a round you have the attack token, if the opponent is low enough on health, it can sometimes be worth it to play this card on a defensive turn in order to stall and wait to draw your burn.
These two cards can also be fantastic targets for Stalking Shadows. As we've already mentioned, playing multiple Stygian Onlooker in one round can prove to be deadly, and playing two Frenzied Skitterer on rounds 6 or 7 can not only buff up an entire board of spiders, but also lower the attack of the opponent’s board making some of them unable to block Fearsome units.
As your only form of draw in this deck, this card is crucial in order to finish off games where you would otherwise run out of gas too quickly to finish off the opponent’s Nexus.
This card is often played later in the game, when you would usually pick your units that provide burn: Doombeast and Imperial Demolitionist – your opponent’s Nexus health will often be low by the time you play Stalking Shadows.
If their Nexus health is not low enough, or you do not hit the burn units off of Stalking Shadows, Stygian Onlooker and Frenzied Skitterer are also great targets.
House Spider is a great target if it helps you level-up Elise, but the other units in your deck are not amazing and should only be taken if necessary.
An important aspect to note about Stalking Shadows is the Ephemeral copy of the card that it creates should usually be played on a turn that you have the attack token. However, it can be played on a defensive turn if it significantly reduces the damage you would take from the opponent’s attack.
These units all have skills that can deal direct damage to your foe's Nexus, and therefore they are all used to close off the game when you are giving up board control to your opponent, and their Nexus health is low.
Imperial Demolitionist should be used on high-health targets in order to lessen the risk of this skill getting canceled by your opponent removing the target unit. However, beware of Noxus Control, as using Demolitionist on one of your high-impact units, like Elise, can lead to her getting killed by cards like Ravenous Flock or Scorched Earth.
Unfortunately for Gwen fans, in this list she does not play for the Hallowed buffs or her level-up, but she is simply a Doombeast every attack token that forces the opponent to chump-block her. This is great though, as a drain-two effect every turn can often force the opponent to remove her or take two damage every turn.
While oftentimes you should not play Gwen on round four – it's often better to go wider with units and swing – with clunky hands it may be necessary. Gwen having the Hallowed keyword also means that if the opponent spends the resources to remove her, she is able to buff up Fearsome units and is not just a waste of four mana.
Another important aspect about Doombeast and Gwen is that when they cast their skill, the skill does not get canceled if they die. This means that unlike Imperial Demolitionist, whose skill can be interrupted if the target is removed, Doombeast's and Gwen's skills can only be canceled with Deny or Rite of Negation.
These spells are meant to hit the opponent’s Nexus when they are low on health, and end the game.
While Decimate is fairly straightforward, it is important to note the opponent’s deck and make sure they are tapped under Deny, Rite of Negation, and if possible, any way to Heal past the Lethal range of Decimate.
Noxian Fervor is burn that can be canceled if the target dies, so it is important that you keep in mind the opponent’s removal spells. Noxian Fervor is not only great for hitting the opponent’s Nexus, but can also be used to deny the lifedrain from an opponent’s spell, or combat from an opponent’s Lifesteal unit.
Legion Saboteur and Legion Rearguard are sometimes run so the deck has twelve one-drops. With twelve one-drops, one can often have thre one-drops on round two and have more aggressive openers, in exchange for Elise’s level up potential or more consistent finishers from burn.
Might can be used as an extra finisher card: with Hallowed counters, Gwen and some Fearsome units can become big enough to threaten lethal when chump-blocked.
This is added to the fact that most people will be inclined to block Gwen with cheap one-health units because of her quick attack.
This is an aggressive deck. This deck's main priority is establishing a wide board with Spiders and Fearsome units in the early game, in order to get the opponent’s health as low as possible.
At a certain point, most decks will be able to block and trade with your early game units and you will find it difficult to push damage through attacking.
This is when you:
a) Transition to burn
This will be one of the most common ways you close out games. Using your burn units, spells, and Stalking Shadows to find more burn units, you should be able to use the Fearsome units you do not care about anymore to block and survive while finding the last bit of burn you need to finish your foe off.
b) Spider Queen Elise
Use Challenger Spiders to pull away the Fearsome blockers, in order to deal enough damage to hopefully finish the game.
When trying to close the game with this method, if you ensure your Spider Queen Elise will not be removed, it is okay to draw House Spider and other Spider cards with Stalking Shadows, instead of burn units.
c) Play double Frenzied Skitterer
Often found through Stalking Shadows, playing two Frenzied Skitterers with a large Spider board on rounds six or seven has the potential to win the game. This is due to the large attack boost to your units, as well as the attack decrease to your opponent's blockers, making many of the latter unable to block your Fearsome board.
This method is especially effective when combined with method b, as two Frenzied Skitterers along with Spider Queen Elise will usually be enough to end the game.
Azir Irelia - Very favored
Even in their prime, Azir Irelia was fairly weak to Spider Aggro, but back then they could high-roll their way out of it and beat Aggro decks with lucky draws.
Nowadays, their deck's potential is not nearly as threatening as before, and they will have a hard time racing your deck.
Firstly, they do not have any natural Fearsome blockers so you are usually able to get attacks in freely, and block their units if you need to survive. Exceptions to this are Sparring Student, Shadow Apprentice, Azir when leveled, and Waking Sands from Treasure Seeker. All of these can be avoided by open-attacking, not giving our foe the chance to play a unit or Blade spell.
Other Fearsome blockers they could have even if you open-attack are Irelia – but they usually will not block with her – or units buffed by Twin Disciplines or Shaped Stone.
Overall, play this matchup as stated above and you will win most of the time. Be aware of Defiant Dance on your Gwen, as that could be a big enough Tempo loss to lose the game.
Kai’sa Demacia - Favored
I think that these decks often do not have any Fearsome blockers that matter until turn five with Kai'Sa or Radiant Guardian.
It is very important to try and play around Radiant Guardian in this matchup, as they need to hold up five mana, and have a unit die in order to play her. Do not block and kill a unit on round five for free. I would even go as far as playing Noxian Fervor on my unit in order to prevent a single combat or Challenger if need be.
A very common way for them to win is getting Radiant Guardian down and giving Kai'Sa Lifesteal, and eventually Scout. Otherwise, you can often end the game before the Lifesteal comes online through burn.
If they are holding up five mana, you are able to develop as much as you want and set up a very large attack, so when Radiant Guardian comes down it does not matter as much.
Yasuo Katarina - Even
I can not believe the day has come to where this matchup is even!
A lot of their Stun cards are slow, so open-attacking is your friend in this matchup. Save Noxian Fervor for a possible Spirit's Refuge as it could be game-winning for them.
Force them to tap below Deny before using Decimate, or conversely bait their Deny with Decimate, so they do not have mana to Stun a large board threatening lethal on your attack token.
Aside from a buffed Fae Bladetwirler, they want to save their Fearsome blockers – such as Arachnoid Sentry and The Stagehand – for when you are either not open-attacking, or for when Yasuo is on board, which is even more of a reason for you to open-attack.
Since we want to open-attack against this deck, Frenzied Skitterer is hard to develop on attack tokens and can be used on defensive turns.
Annie TF - Even
Annie TF is even because they do not have any early Fearsome blockers aside from Arachnoid Sentry.
They do have a lot of AOE one-hp removal with Twisted Fate's Red Card and Make it Rain, which means that in the mulligan you should be careful about keeping too many one-hp units.
You should try to go as wide as possible, and avoid relying on Gwen or Elise too much in this matchup – they have many ways to remove single units, with cards like Disintegrate and Ravenous Flock.
You are on a clock in this matchup. If Tybaulk gets played it is fine, but if Riptide Rex comes down and you are not ending the game that round, you often lose the game.
Thralls - Unfavored
As a deck with Avalanche and Blighted Ravine, this matchup is hard. Your early game goal is to go as wide as possible, and these cards aim to prevent that. The fact that Ravine is also a 'heal 2' is very frustrating.
When in doubt, do not develop into Avalanche. Develop when they go under four-mana, and open-attack if possible.
It is important to recognize games when you can and can not play around these board sweeps. Sometimes it is best to develop and hope they do not have it, if it is your only way to win.
Remember: in a losing matchup it is often on you to take more risks than the opponent.
With this deck you’re looking to go wide, swing hard, and burn face to finish the game.
This was my first deck guide here, by the way, so I hope you guys enjoyed.
Thanks for reading, and good luck in your games!
Thanks to Alaexaender from the MaRu Discord for noting the hollow > hallow typo! =)