Global warming is upon us. Temperatures are rising, glaciers are melting, and Frozen Thralls have never been so hot, hot, hot!
While the heroes of the world are trying their best to reverse, or at least stagger the impending apocalypse, I, the villain of this story, will do my best to advance the melting of the ice and crush my enemies in the resulting chaos.
Will you be the hero to stop me, or will you join me, and together we can take over the world? In any case, you best listen carefully as I monologue in this detailed guide to world domination featuring Turbo Thralls.
This guide will cover some advanced concepts, so if you are completely new to this archetype, you may want to read a more general Turbo Thralls guide we already have available right here on masteringruneterra.com. It covers the basic combos and the general gameplan of the archetype very well.
But since then, Riot has equipped us with some powerful new weapons in the form of Harbinger of Thralls and Sands of Time, so the list has received some updates and the gameplan has shifted somewhat.
Setting the Stage – Gameplan Basics
You might think that as a villain, my job is to utterly destroy the hero (in this case my opponent). This, however, could not be further from the truth.
The most important thing is to set the stage, create a focus point, like a ticking time bomb, and send the hero scrambling for answers while I twirl my mustaches…
… and, just as the hero is about to win, I reveal the full scope of my villainy and cheat by advancing the clock.
The resulting explosion leaves no space for the hero to maneuver, forcing them to surrender.
In practical terms, I set the stage by summoning Frozen Thralls using the one mana landmarks themselves or by generating them through Harbinger of Thralls or Lissandra.
These cards are the bombs we will be tampering with, and generally should be summoned as soon as possible.
When summoned, Frozen Thralls have a Countdown of 8. It is crucial for your success with the deck that you know when the Countdown will finish. I use this helpful trick to calculate the rounds:
Add the current Countdown number to the current round number to get the “go off” round when the Frostguard Thrall is going to spawn out of the landmark. Subtract any number of Advance cards you plan to play on that Frozen Thrall, and you should get a good indication of when to plan the “go off” round.
What is a good villain without a plan? It is imperative, and I cannot stress this enough, that you plan when the “go off” round will happen, preferably working towards that plan from round one onwards.
But playing by yourself is no fun for a villain! What is a plan without a victim's futile struggles at escaping?
As you get more experienced with the deck, you will be able to predict the hero's feeble attempts and include stalling cards, such as Blighted Ravine, into your calculations, which may delay your “go off” round because of mana constraints, but will allow you to get there with a healthy life total.
On the “go off” round, which should normally happen on rounds 6-8, the explosion should be instant and overwhelming. That often means setting up your Frozen Thralls in a way that you get multiple 8/8 Frostguard Thralls spawned onto the board at focus speed, then swinging with your entire army.
What you need to keep in mind is that an 8/8 Overwhelm unit, or even multiple of them, is not some game-ending threat by itself, if it can be interacted with over a few rounds.
The power of the Thralls deck comes from squeezing the opponent on both mana and priorities – by summoning multiple Frostguard Thrall at the same time and open-attacking, the opponent is gated with the mana of a single round to deal with them, cannot summon units in response and cannot use slow speed spells.
Since the force of the attack is often presenting lethal damage, the good guys are forced into committing multiple answers on stack, giving you free reign with regards to combat tricks (Lissandra's Entomb and Three Sisters) as well as exposing themselves to Rite of Negation blowouts, muahahahaha!!
I got a bit too excited there. Let us take a stroll through our armory first and introduce you to all the weapons we have at our disposal.
Our Weapons – Card Breakdown
Frozen Thrall (3x): A Thrall generator that we play on round 1 in 99.9% of possible cases.
Lissandra (3x): Frozen Thrall generator and a great tool, especially when leveled, against sneaky heroes that might try to beat the clock by going fast and aggressive.
In some cases it might be worth preserving her at the cost of some HP, as she will save more HP in the long run when leveled, since she will give Tough to our Nexus.
However, I often attack with her early on to chip in damage or trade her off to play another one, or even just make board space for more Thralls.
The Watcher is rarely your win condition but is relevant in mirror matches.
Harbinger of Thralls (3x): The newest weapon in our arsenal.
This card, in addition to Lissandra and the one-mana landmarks, makes difficulties with early Frozen Thrall generation an issue of the past.
It also gives us an option to count down all Frozen Thralls on board by 1.
If you play Frozen Thrall on round one and have Harbinger of Thralls on round two, you should take time and decide if you need to go wide or go fast.
Will the hero be able to diffuse some of the bombs, or should you stake it all on one? This is where the game can already be won or lost.
The Basis of our Deckbuilding Strategy
As these nine cards form the base of our strategy – since, without a Frozen Thrall on the board, we have nothing to build towards – let us take stock and evaluate our chances of drawing these tools to put our dastardly plans into motion.
With the inclusion of Harbinger of Thralls, the odds to draw a way to develop a Frozen Thrall by round 3 are 96.3% (*calculated using hypergeometric calculator, if you mulligan only for those).
For comparison, until last patch, if we played 1x Succumb to the Cold for a total of 7 early Frozen Thrall generators, the odds were 91.6%.
Okay... so not that much better?
First of all, we cut the number of essentially non-games in half.
Secondly, and most importantly, let's look at the odds of drawing 2 or more of these cards.
Last patch, those odds were 63.6%, but now, they are as high as 79.1%.
That is a significant difference, and in my opinion allows for a big shift in strategy. No longer can we only rely on one early Frozen Thrall – now but we can strategize around having two of them.
This is why I shifted from what previously was considered optimal – focusing on Promising Future and Taliyah combo to make the best use of a single Frozen Thrall – to a triple Draklorn Inquisitor "go wide" strategy.
And before you point that out, yes, drawing 2x Lissandra should not be counted…
… every evil masterplan needs to have a miniscule but fatal flaw. I mean, it is common courtesy!
Let us move onward with weapon inspection already.
Putting Obstacles in the Hero’s Path - Our Defenses
First let us take a look at our control cards, the intricate defense system that stalls the hero from beating the clock.
Ice Shard (1x): Makes aggro cry.
Also often pushes 1 + number of attacking Frostguard Thrall to the enemy nexus.
Avalanche (1x): Only 1x!
As I main-deck 16 units, Avalanche gets awkward quickly. Also, in closed decklists, representing Avalanche with your mana is often as good as having it in hand.
And I personally find that, even when I actually do have it in hand, both me and my opponent play around it so well that I never get to cast it.
Never underestimate the villain’s bravado; it is one of their most powerful weapons.
Blighted Ravine (3x): As I main-deck 16 units, Ravine feels a bit worse to play. While clearing your 2 health followers sometimes doesn’t feel great, this Freljord powerhouse of a card remains one of the best cards in the list.
This is the card that takes aggro matchups from unfavored to super easy. Some tricks you might not think of at first:
- Advance the landmark on the round it is played to clear the board. Often useful in aggro matchups when the opponent wants to continue developing and push for a lethal swing.
- Play Promising Future on Blighted Ravine to burn for 4.
- Injure your opponent’s blockers before your Frostguard Thrall spawn to push more Overwhelm damage.
- If Blighted Ravine and Frozen Thrall count down at the same time, any [[Frostguard Thralls] that cannot be placed on the 6 slots of your board immediately (before the landmarks that counted down to 0 are removed from the board) are not damaged by Ravine.
Kindly Tavernkeeper (2x): Improves the aggro matchup, heals Frostguard Thralls in non-aggro matchups (so they can go for another positive trade).
Stalls the game when the draws don't line up for you, but with the deck's consistency after the expansion, this almost never happens.
Along with a leveled Lissandra generating free Ice Shards every round, and giving Tough to our Nexus, these cards should be a solid enough defense line to prevent any self-righteous assasination attempts by the hero before our plan comes to fruition.
Next, let’s look at the way we can rig our bombs to detonate them faster and with more effect.
A Faster Clock
Promising Future (3x): Spawn two (or even three if cast twice) Frostguard Thralls from the same Frozen Thrall.
For four mana, we can essentially double the value of everything we have been trying to do up to this point.
In this list, we are a bit less reliant on this card, as with 2x Taliyah, we rarely play for the full high-roll combo of Taliyah doubling the doubled landmark, and the board is often too cramped as is.
Still, the inclusion of a full set of this staple Thralls card in the list is more than worth it.
Taliyah (2x): Another way to double the payoff of our work. Taliyah doubling the Frozen Thrall augmented by Promising Future for quadruple the value used to be this archetype's main gameplan, allowing us to create a board full of Frostguard Thrall from a single Frozen Thrall. This ensures a quick and decisive “go off” round.
But, with the increase in Thrall generators and my 3x Draklorn gameplan, Taliyah is often awkward to play, as there is simply not enough boardspace.
0x Preservarium also means that it is harder to level her than in previous lists. Leveled Taliyah is very rarely a win condition in this list.
Clockwork Curator (3x): A Countdown accelerator; one of our fairest cheating tools.
If played on the “go off” round, the priority is given over to the opponent, allowing them to play a Slow-speed spell or a unit in response. Therefore, often try to play it before the “go off” round.
Be careful it doesn't prevent any Frostguard Thrall spawns by taking up board space though – trade it away early enough, or clear with Blighted Ravine / Avalanche if needed.
Time in a Bottle (3x): A focus speed accelerator that predicts – one of the most skill intensive cards!
Play early, if you can get away with it, as the predict can get you your combo pieces.
Against top players, predicting and then holding back the predicted card can induce cautious plays, as they are more likely to play around Three Sisters or Avalanche.
On the other hand, Time in a Bottle does nothing to develop an early board, so playing it too early can put you too far behind in tempo.
Even if you have nothing, representing Blighted Ravine or Avalanche can save you more hp vs aggro than tapping out and predicting.
Imagined Possibilities (2x): 95% of the time used to advance all landmarks by 1.
Best case, you copy a Countdown 1 Frozen Thrall with Taliyah during your attack token round, and instantly spawn 2-4 Frostguard Thralls with Imagined Possibilities.
It used to be a brick if you started with Frozen Thrall on round one and attacked on odds, as the minus-one to Countdown would only allow you to get the Thrall out a round earlier on your defense, but not open swing any sooner. With the addition of Harbinger of Thralls, this has changed slightly – now you can do minus-one with this spell and minus-one with the two-drop.
Also, summoning your first Frozen Thrall on round two is now much more common. Overall not a very good card, but sometimes forces opponents to play around your one mana.
Draklorn Inquisitor (3x): Villain’s best henchmen!
Henchmen often go unnoticed in a successful villainous organization, and I myself have been known not to have the Inquisitors in the highest of graces at times.
But times have changed, and a need for these loyal minions is back – with the new two-drop, going wide with Thralls has never been easier. At the end of the round, our favorite henchmen will reduce to zero any countdown that equals four or less – this payoff is at first glance not that amazing, but scales with the number of Frozen Thrall we are able to concurrently put on the board.
Most currently popular decks have a hard way of removing Draklorn Inquisitor on five – and playing him on six with Rite of Negation mana as backup is also a very solid, and often better option. And against control decks that actually can remove Draklorn, the additional Frozen Thrall he leaves behind is also relevant.
Draklorn Inquisitor went from a card I never played, to a pillar of my strategy after the last expansion. Now, let us saunter over to our newest and hottest weapon, a heatwave that both stimies the hero’s progress and melts the ice at an alarming rate, massively accelerating our gameplan.
Sands of Time (3x): This card is amazing.
So good, even, that I keep it in my mulligan sometimes.
Firstly, the defensive use: we used to be vulnerable to open attacks from aggro, we couldn't deal well with offensive wide boards, especially if they had the potential to Rally, or were Elusives.
Sands of Time serves this defensive purpose. Against aggro, it is entirely doable to play Sands of Time in response to their attack on round three, Blighted Ravine on four and be at full health while killing a board with four or five units.
Secondly, it took me a while to adjust to this, but the Instant Century that Sands of Time creates is not fleeting. Playing Sands for a defensive purpose does not mean you need to cash in the advance-four instantly.
Thirdly, this card is amazing for getting one (or even two with Promising Future) additional Frostguard Thralls into an open attack.
This can be done at focus speed if we have any Frozen Thrall at Countdown 4 or less, or even by putting the Frozen Thrall created by Draklorn Inquisitor from Countdown 8 to 4 at the end of previous round, if our opponent has tapped out and our Inquisitor is likely to survive – spending six mana proactively for a strong open attack on the “go off” round is often justified.
As an added bonus, giving all enemies minus-two also almost always means that your Frostguard Thralls will survive the combat, even against combat tricks.
Playing to Our Outs
Being able to instantly countdown four by holding the created Instant Century in hand is obviously powerful. However, if something goes awry in our plan, it is good to know the power of the other half of the card as well: Instant Century gives us an option to summon a random landmark with Countdown.
At the time of writing, there are 19 Countdown landmarks in the game (if we exclude Buried Sun Disc, which you cannot hit, and God-Willow Seedling, which I am fairly certain is also excluded from the random pool). The random landmarks can be grouped by similar effects, giving us a good estimate of the odds that we hit a desired result:
- 7/19 (36% of the pool) will generate a unit after Countdown 3 or less
- 1/19 is Blighted Ravine: boardclear and burn in a pinch
- 2/19 will draw, Preservarium immediately and Mystic Vortex after Countdown 2
- 2/19 will buff
- 1/19 is Petricite Pillar to stop enemy spell lethals
- 1/19 will stun after Countdown 1
- 7/19 I consider to be bad or straight up terrible
This may seem niche, but this is where my intimate knowledge of the evil masterplan may foil an overconfident hero who believes that they have defeated me already.
Speaking of foiling plans, I may sometimes be nice and let the hero think they are winning, only to counter their key action and push my plan back into motion. I have two weapons prepared specifically for those times.
Three Sisters (2x): A Freljord staple that I could even be convinced to play 3x.
Every spell is super good for us – push lethals with buffs or by removing the blocker and dealing full overwhelm damage, trade up in combat, stop lethal attacks, "heal" your units by buffing them, even Entomb your own units to dodge hard removal, what's not to like?
Rite of Negation (2x): A counterspell in Thralls. After investing all our resources to get an overwhelming open attack, where we have almost all our mana open for plays, a Rite of Negation is exactly what we need to protect ourselves from the pesky “interaction” all the good guys are going on and on about.
3x might be bricky, as this deck does have to mulligan for Thrall generators pretty aggressively, but I think playing 2x is very worthwhile.
And that is it really!
A perfectly solid assortment of weapons for world domination…
Oh, you have counted, and I have only talked about 39 cards so far?
Good, good… counting rounds and cards is very important, counting is what you should be doing at all times while executing this plan.
NOW, BEHOLD MY SECRET WEAPON!
Buried in Ice (1x): Ha! You thought I was only good at melting the ice?
It was all a ruse, my dear opponent; a way to distract you from my FreezeYourEntireBoard-inator… I’m not that good at naming my tools of doom, I admit.
But I digress!
A perfect one-of that not many people know how to play around – abuse closed decklists until this is meta!
Buried in Ice turns midrange matchups from totally lost to instant wins. Use this card to both stall a round and push lethals. Note that this also levels Taliyah.
About What's Missing
Now, if you have spent some time in the business, you might be missing some popular weapons from my arsenal. I assure you, I keep my weaponry up to date, and some of the weapons you have been thinking of may have become obsolete since last you visited such a well-stocked lair:
The Clock Hand: A good card to play for the Watcher wincon. However, there are almost no matchups where you can afford to go this slow. You should be killing heroes on rounds 6-8 with open attacks consistently, and in those cases, The Clock Hand is a total brick.
Quicksand: Three Sisters > Quicksand.
If you really want to play Quicksand, don't and add the third copy of Three Sisters.
Quicksand is a reactive card, but to use it well, you need a well-developed board of your own. Early on into the match, we don't have the board, and late into the match, we can spare the additional mana to play Three Sisters.
The key difference is that Three Sisters is never a bad card, as you can use it defensively in any matchup or even proactively, while Quicksand is only ever not a brick if your opponent is playing Elusives, and even then it does nothing to a Rainbowfish.
Preservarium: While not a bad card per se, I don't have the deck space, the mana, or the boardspace to play this.
Preservarium was also used to get two more looks for Frozen Thrall generators in the early game. Now, however, the early Thrall generator draw is so consistent that there is no need to play this. The 3x Sands of Time also contributes to the fact that our draws don't lack in value.
Succumb to the Cold: This has always been one of the worst cards in Turbo Thralls.
A necessary evil, where only fun evil should exist!
You felt so bad playing it onto a one drop just to generate a Frozen Thrall on round 3. Now, with the inclusion of Harbinger of Thralls, there is no more need for that.
And thus concludes our tour of the armory. Knowing which weapons to keep, and which to look for in your opening hand is a skill you will need to develop over long practice sessions, dear villains.
And dear perspective heroes, I do have to keep some of the knowledge to myself. How else am I supposed to keep propping up my hubris and unfounded superiority complex?
My Playthings and my Nemeses - a Brief Matchup Overview
My favorite matchups are the ones where the hero comes in with a misguided plan and an overabundance of confidence.
Prime examples of this are decks running Scorched Earth, such as Tri-beam or Swain decks. They feel great when they destroy my first or even second Frozen Thrall, but by the time they realize that I can easily develop more threats that they have answers to, they are entirely out-tempo'd and I dump all the resources I have been saving into my last two or three remaining thralls. My patience is rewarded with a very high win-rate into those seemingly unfavored matchups.
Another slew of my easiest wins comes from the heroes who think they may be able to outlast me by removing my army of Frostguard Thralls.
Examples of this are essentially all Freljord/SI decks – I bide my time and create an overwhelming force of Thralls, preferably around four, that spawn on the same round and open-attack, to which my misguided foes rarely have enough mana to respond to in a single round.
Aggressive strategies that aim to overwhelm our defenses before Frostguard Thralls come into play are a bit of a better try. Scoundrels like Pirates or pesky Spiders can sometimes be too fast for us – our list should see some tweaks to better deal with them, if that is the opposition you are expecting to face. However, playing one early Thrall and stalling with Avalanche, Blighted Ravine and Sands of Time should buy you enough time to still be favored in the end.
The only ones that pose real threats to us are the true born heroes, such as Poppy, Akshan, Quinn or Pantheon. The armies they rally to their side often have HP totals that are too big for our defense system to dispatch, and their relentlessly wide attacks in the midgame may force us to abandon our well-laid plans and hope for a high-roll. Our secret weapon, Buried in Ice, may catch them by surprise, though, so plan around using it to turn the tides of battle in your favor.
So, will you join me on a path of Thrall-lead world domination?!
Or will you play the hero and fail miserably to stop me in my tracks?
I have conquered the EMEA server with this strategy already, securing the Rank #1 spot for myself.
The resistance is already brewing, and more and more people are gunning for my spot, so I will remain vigilant and gladly face you on the ladder.
But I need help to dominate the APAC and Americas servers as well. Together, we can make Thralls take over the entire Tri-Shard Area!