Ever since I placed top 16 in the first ever Seasonal Tournament with Yasuo Katarina (there’s a fun fact for you), I’d never thought I’d see the day that another Yasuo deck would become meta.
After almost two whole years of waiting patiently for a little extra support to boost Yasuo into the spotlight, we finally have been blessed with Windswept Hillock.
By the end of this article, I will share with you all my Yasuo knowledge, so that you too can do your best Hazagi impression.
Let’s jump into it.
Breaking Down the Deck
This archetype has pretty much existed since the beginning of the game, so if you’re no stranger to this concept you’ll probably find many familiar cards. So let’s introduce some of the newer cards, starting with Windswept Hillock
Windswept Hillock checks off everything I want a good Yasuo card to do. It tutors Yasuo to our hand, it stuns on play, acts as an engine, and it progresses Yasuo’s level-up. Once you have both a level-two Yasuo and a Windswept Hillock in play, you can start to take control of the board very quickly.
There is a slight catch to the card however, in that it stuns the strongest unit only when you gain the attack token. This means that in order to get the most value out of Hillock as soon as possible, you typically want to play this card on your opponent’s attack round, so that you can immediately get two stuns from it.
However, this condition also introduces a fantastic upside to the card with a leveled Katarina.
Since Katarina rallies on summon – thus giving you the Attack token – she triggers the Windswept Hillock, gaining an additional stun (and at burst speed technically!), even if it's your opponent’s attack round. This makes leveling Katarina a very potent threat as well as a strong finisher, as we can consistently pressure our opponent while stunning their blockers and removing them from combat this round.
Another thing to consider with Hillock is that it also draws us another copy of Yasuo even if we have one in play, which means that the second copy will turn into a Yasuo's Steel Tempest, giving us access to two stuns on round five so long as we have two mana banked.
Ever since Katarina got buffed to create a zero-cost Blade's Edge in hand when she is summoned after leveling, a lot of different Noxus decks have experimented with one or two copies of her.
However, Katarina absolutely shines in our deck, and I think it would be a mistake to run any less than three copies.
Oftentimes, leveling Katarina will directly be responsible for winning us the game. She provides a lot of pressure with her Rallies in combination with her Blade's Edge, the stuns from Windswept Hillock, and the scaling of Fae Bladetwirler.
Make no mistake. Even though this may seem like a deck centered around Yasuo, Katarina will be your priority to protect and level in most cases. We will talk about her in depth a little further on in the article.
Out of all the stun in our list, Steel Tempest and Will of Ionia are probably the ones that are debated as to their value in the deck.
Generally speaking, I have been an adversary of running Steel Tempest in a Yasuo deck because the card loses a lot of value if you do not have Yasuo on board.
However, this deck is very tight on mana, as you want to be spending five mana on Windswept Hillock or four mana on replaying Katarina, and having a Fast-speed Stun that only costs two can often be the deciding factor for having enough mana to make your plays while also slowing down your opponent.
Therefore, in this deck I think Steel Tempest makes a lot of sense.
Will of Ionia is a bit more flexible. Having more Fast-speed options is great for our consistency, and bouncing opposing units can be very powerful against midrange decks that spend five to eight mana playing said units, gaining us a lot of mana advantage.
I have seen options like Strategic Execution that can act as a multi-stunner in one action, which can lock our opponent out of some key units if they choose to develop. It also has the flexibility to turn on itself and summon a Legion General to beat down on your opponent. If Yasuo is leveled, this thing will come down as a 9/9 Fearsome. and can really help pressure down the opponent’s board, especially if you have a leveled Katarina.
I have also seen Intimidating Roar in this slot to act as a board clear or an instant level for Yasuo. Or I’ve seen this slot replaced by another unit or conditional spell. At some point I was tempted to throw in Culling Strike just to remove Illaoi or Azir, but that might be too niche.
Feel free to play around with this one.
Not all of our games will go according to plan.
Maybe we don’t draw Katarina or Windswept Hillock, or maybe we need to grind our opponent for a few more turns – Sai'nen Thousand-Tailed gives us a little bit more value to sustain our general lack of draw.
Since our curve is relatively low, opting for cards like Nopeify! and Steel Tempest, we can play Sai'nen Thousand-Tailed without completely tapping ourselves out of options for the turn.
For example, House Spider can build us a wide board, but it's not very good once we get to the mid-game – Sai'nen's buff allows us to push a bit more damage through.
Sometimes, when we have the attack token on round six without much to do, some people are tempted to play Windswept Hillock. Sai'nen Thousand-Tailed gives us a proactive late-game play to help us out.
While we have the ability to out-grind our opponent with Yasuo, Windswept Hillock, and a combination of Stuns, we’re generally just trying to beat our opponent down as fast as we can.
Unlike other Noxus Tempo decks like Twisted Fate Annie, we don’t have nearly the same amount of control tools outside of three copies of Ravenous Flock, so we rely on forcing our opponent to block as our main way of controlling the board.
The best combo we have in our arsenal to accomplish this is Fae Bladetwirler with Katarina.
Every time Katarina strikes and recalls, Fae Bladetwirler will gain two more Attack. Fae Bladetwirler can quickly scale up to five or seven Attack, and with the Quick Attack keyword, she will trade up with almost any blocker.
Just make sure to position your Fae Bladetwirlers to Katarina's right when attacking.
With Yasuo, our Stuns can act as a form of removal, but we also want to use our Stuns aggressively to push damage. Cards like Arachnoid Sentry and Concussive Palm allow us to go wide while locking out enemy blockers, and Thorn of the Rose also creates a Guile which we can use to the same effect, but for only one mana. This can be extremely effective against board-based decks that only play one or two units a turn, by stunning their only blocker and pushing in for damage.
Once we get to the midgame, Windswept Hillock starts to change the game.
Depending on our hand and board state, this card can branch our game plan in two different ways. We can start to incrementally gain a little bit of value through Yasuo, by stunning and removing units from play turn after turn, but the second and strongest use of Hillock is in conjunction with Katarina.
As previously mentioned, the Rally from level-two Katarina allows you to get a free stun off of Windswept Hillock, which drastically enhances your beatdown plan. You can Rally on your defensive turns to force your opponent into poor development plays. Or you can get a stun from Hillock on the start of your attack round, open-attack, then develop and Rally again for an additional stun.
Even if this beatdown doesn’t get you there quite yet, all the stunning and recalling you’ve done will leave you with a leveled Yasuo...
… and oh boy does he smack when he is leveled.
Every stun now deals five damage. Five. In this meta that’s easily enough to kill the majority of units that our opponents play. Especially with the “burst” speed stun effect from Windswept Hillock, this can be a good way to remove key threats.
During the game, it's important to be careful with your resources. If you’ve indulged yourself with decks of late, you’ll feel the strain that our deck has in its limited removal. It’s easy to get out-resourced or spend all of your Ravenous Flocks and leave you with not much left.
Remember, you need them to last until you can level Yasuo, so only use your removal on what you need and make sure it counts. Prioritize trading down your board and us your Katarina for those extra Blade's Edge.
Let’s talk about the biggest traps most players find themselves in.
The first is overvaluing Yasuo at the wrong times. As big of a Yasuo fan that I am, he’s sometimes just a four mana 4/4 with Quick Attack.
If you don’t have any Stuns in your hand, there will be little value that you can get out of spending your resources to protect Yasuo. With limited draw and protection tools, we need to conserve them for when we have a Windswept Hillock set up to protect the next Yasuo we play, or to guarantee that we can help Katarina to level up.
Even with a couple of Stuns in hand, you should avoid treating them as if they were Mystic Shots.
It’s okay to land a cheeky Stun on stack of a Vengeance to remove a two-health unit, but don’t get too attached to the idea that you can make your Stuns deal two damage.
If you depend too hard on a Stun to deal two and then Yasuo gets removed, or you don’t have enough protection on stack, you waste a stun AND don’t get to remove a unit. If you ever find yourself in a similar position, just remember that Stuns have the potential to act as extremely high tempo plays to push damage instead.
On the flip side, a lot of opponent’s I’ve faced will over-prioritize removing Yasuo from the board. I just let it happen and continue to develop more pressing threats.
Leveling and Playing Katarina
The second biggest mistake that I think is very easy to make is playing and leveling Katarina at the wrong time. I don’t necessarily mean playing Katarina without adequate protection to ensure she levels, but simply choosing the wrong timing or wrong board state to do so. Let’s go deeper.
The main component to Katarina’s level up is the fact that she will recall back to your hand. This is sometimes an upside when you pair it with Fae Bladetwirler to help scale its attack, and it progresses your Yasuo’s level up condition as well.
However, you are essentially losing Tempo when it recalls to your hand, as you spent three unit mana to essentially do nothing, where you could’ve developed another unit instead.
Don’t get me wrong – leveling Katarina is a huge component to our deck’s success, but leveling her without the right boardstate or hand to back it up can prove fatal, as your opponent can go wide and swing in for a lot of damage.
At the very least, I would want a Fae Bladetwirler or a House Spider on board and a Fast-speed Stun in hand before I attempt to level Katarina.
Another aspect of Katarina that is easy to forget is the fact that she can level-up when she survives while blocking (as long as she survives, she will still be recalled to your hand). Instead of attacking with her, you can simply leave her around as a blocker, and take the Tempo loss on your opponent’s attack instead. With a Twin Disciplines, you can protect her to make a block, or you can simply block a one-attack unit.
Another upside to keeping Katarina on board is the fact that you get access to her champion spell, if you have a second copy of her in hand. Death Lotus is a one-of-a-kind card in our deck that we don’t have access to by any other means.
Most aggressive go-wide decks in the meta right now utiliza a variety of one-health units, and Katarina's spell can be a huge way to shut down an attack and give you enough time to gain control of the board.
Of course, against slower decks that won’t pressure you, leveling Katarina will be your top priority. Just be sure that you have a Twin Disciplines, Deny or Nopeify! handy with the mana up so that you can ensure that it happens.
(60/40) Kai’Sa Demacia - Favored
Generally speaking, midrange decks that aim to play one unit a turn like Kai'Sa or Radiant Guardian are good matchups for a Stunning deck like ours.
Even though they can create units with Spellshield, Windswept Hillock can stun straight through it, making it a potent weapon against their deck. Yasuo with Windswept Hillock is a great way to remove threats, especially with a leveled Katarina to help you stun on your opponent’s attack round.
Make sure you are able to protect Yasuo on key turns when you are trying to get value out of the Windswept Hillock.
(55/45) Thralls - Favored
Initially, I thought Thralls would be a tough matchup, but with Katarina we have the ability to race down our opponent before they are able to get their Thralls out.
Katarina and Fae Bladetwirler are your friends, as they will outpace and pressure your opponent into making poor blocks, or force resources out, so that their main gameplan gets slowed down.
As Thrall decks are cutting Avalanche from their deck, Katarina can come down largely uncontested. If they try to freeze her, a Twin Disciplines can force a level-up through.
And Fae Bladetwirler, having three health, survives one Blighted Ravine, which is a huge deal.
Aim to set up Stuns aggressively and rush down the opponent.
(45/55) Bard Illaoi - Close to Even
Bard Illaoi is a tough matchup, as all of its units will outscale us quickly.
However, most of their removal, apart from Tentacle Smash and the occasional Riptide Sermon, are combat-based, like Ye Been Warned. So, we have access to stuns to delay their gameplan and deny most of their in-combat removal, and Will of Ionia allows you to reset the stats on Tentacle which can be key.
Once Yasuo levels up, you can actually chip away at the opponent’s units. Just make sure you can remove Bard off the table so that the breakpoints stay consistent. The deck has no real way of saving their units apart from drawing chimes when Bard is down.
(35/65) Azir Irelia - Quite Unfavored
This can be quite a difficult matchup, as our units do not block Sand Soldiers very well.
The key here is to line up your removal into their threats. If they play Domination, a Blade's Edge from Katarina can clean her up. Blade's Edge with Ravenous Flock can deal with Azir, and Guile with Yasuo will threaten Irelia.
If we can maintain advantage, and pressure their champions, we can slow down their game plan and make Defiant Dance or any other Blade Dance card less of a threat.
(30/70) Annie TF - Also Quite Unfavored
While we’re good against tall, narrow boards, foes that go for wide, spread-out boards are a nightmare to deal with.
Especially when they come with removal in every size.
It becomes especially hard for us to stick any sort of threat, and a lot of our units are small and squishy.
Prioritize your protection tools for where they matter the most. You will have much fewer protection tools than they have removal tools, so make sure whatever you are protecting is worth it.
This concludes my writeup of Yasuo Katarina!
Unfortunately, at time of writing, the winrate of the deck has dropped, as the meta has shifted to targeting it. While the deck itself is representing a ~51% WR, I was still able to pilot it to Diamond with a 78% WR over 37 games.
The deck has great potential, but has a decent learning curve of its own. Hopefully this article helped you to realize common mistakes and identify play patterns.
Let me know if you have any questions!
You can find me here:
Discord: Jasinsane #0246