One year ago, two decks ruled the meta – Plunder, aka Gangplank Sejuani, and Rally Elusives, aka Poppy Zed. Both held play- and winrates well above average, so they decided what decks could and could not see play on ladder.
Vayne Zed is the latest reincarnation of this Rally Elusives monster.
Best LoR Decks: Zed Vayne – Card Breakdown
Since we Tumble now as much as we Rally, let’s call this new iteration Tumble Elusives. True to its name, Tumble Elusives runs several Rally effects to attack as often as possible with Zed. Vayne in particular is an upgrade to this mechanic, letting us do a Zed-only Rally for cheap, while also equipping the Master of Shadows with a weapon!
As this first paragraph implies, Zed is crucial to our game plan. In round three there are very few units that can, by themselves, block a three-Power Quick Attack strike (and, ironically, Vayne is one of those few units that can =). This means that it’s expensive for our foe to block Zed and keep him from leveling.
This is the entire idea behind Rally Elusives – exploit Zed as much as possible. Note that this means that we will full-mulligan for him most of the time!
These cards put the “Elusives” in Rally Elusives.
If we should miss Zed, Greenglade Duo is a backup target for our Rallies. As an added bonus, Greenglade synergizes with the Living Shadow Zed spawns!
Unlike Zed and Greenglade Duo, Young Witch is not pushing much damage on its own – but it can buff our strong Demacia units to get Quick Attack, making it difficult for our opponent to block that ally. Add a capital “R” to that ally, and we Rally, so we can attack with the same unit, which of course still has Quick Attack from the previous attack of the same round!
Ghost is a sneaky one-of that allows us to get through chump-blockers. While it works best with Zed (level 2) – since Zed's Living Shadow will share Zed's keywords if he is leveled – Ghost can also go on any high-Power unit that we want to Rally with, e.g. an equipped Vayne.
What would a Demacia tempo deck be without its chickens?
Fleetfeather Tracker is a prime target to be supported by Young Witch, almost always guaranteeing a free kill on round two or three. On the other hand, Petricite Broadwing is simply a strong unit that can Challenge and kill almost all enemies on rounds two and three!
An added benefit of those Challenger units is that they can drag blockers away from Zed, making him more likely to strike the Nexus and level up.
So far, we have mainly discussed old cards that were available to Poppy Zed one year ago. But with the arrival of Equipment, Tumble Elusives got a huge boost in strength.
Ionian Hookmaster is a card well-known to everyone that played last season. If you can, you include this card in your deck, full stop.
Combat Cook, on the other hand, is a less-obvious choice. Its strong stats allow him to strike several times, while the Forged Improvised weapon can be efficiently reequipped with Tumble. In particular, hitting Upcycled Rake off of Improvise is game-changing, since casting Tumble on a Scout unit when we don't have the attack token means that we get a free Rally!
Since we run several Improvise units in our deck, Momentous Choice is a natural inclusion. But what other cards do we have to facilitate Zed?
As previously mentioned, Momentous Choice is a natural inclusion. It works as protection for both Zed and our frail Elusive units, as well as an offensive spell for Zed, copying the attack buff to his Living Shadow.
This duality of seeking both attack and health buffs means that we also run Wuju Style, which can give us exactly what we want, for a little more mana than Momentous Choice! (We would totally run six copies of Momentous Choice if we could; Wuju Style is the second-best choice for the job.)
Twin Disciplines is a premium protection spell for two mana, that will save your Zed from any two-cost removal spell. Most play patterns will involve passing until round three and then playing Zed, so that we have two spell mana open to protect him from any removal coming his way.
Why am I not grouping Twin Disciplines with the other two flexible spells? That’s because Twin Disciplines’s offensive side is too expensive to be worth choosing. Since the introduction of Momentous Choice and Wuju Style, I almost never find myself casting Twin Discipliness for the attack boost, unless I have lethal.
Memory's Cloak is a different protection spell for Zed that can stop any spell directly targeting him. This means that it is an efficient way to deal with Thermogenic Beam or Disintegrate.
Ranger's Resolve is a situational one-of. Sometimes, we have several units in combat, and Ranger's Resolve can give us the upper hand. Otherwise, casting Ranger's Resolve means that we are immune to ping effects like Pokey Stick or Blade's Edge.
Last but not least, The Darkin Aegis is the second new addition of the Domination expansion to this deck. It effectively gives a target unit two extra health and the aforementioned immunity to ping effects.
What’s more, Joraal is a strong unit that fits well with our other Challenger units, and benefitting from the same synergies (like giving Joraal Quick Attack with Young Witch). Of course, Joraal also makes your opponent’s spells cost more when attacking. While this effect is not the easiest to use – since our foe can just cast their removal beforehand – it can set up some powerful open attacks!
Vayne Zed – Gameplay Advice
There are two main uses for Vayne and Tumble:
- Use Vayne for value:
This means Tumbling as often as possible, since we create a Tumble every round this way.
- Use Vayne for late-game tempo:
This means passing when Vayne is on the board. Our Tumble will become cheaper each round in which both we and our opponent pass without doing anything – this way, we will have a round where Tumble is cheap and we can play more cards than our opponent.
So, when do we use Vayne for value, and when for tempo?
We want to utilize Vayne for value when we are low on threats, or need to get through chump blockers with Greenglade Duo. It can also be a nasty way to force our opponent's hand.
If we cast Tumble on Greenglade Duo, our foe has to decide if they want to invest a removal spell on this unit, or take e.g. three Nexus damage every round. If they decide to spend the removal, though, they won’t have that spell for killing Zed.
On the contrary, if we have enough cards in hand, we can just pass on our opponent. They either play a card first and have less mana to react to our threats, or pass back, making our Tumble cheaper. If our Tumble is cheap, we can set up a big round with Zed + Tumble + Rally, while still holding enough mana open to protect our units.
Twin Disciplines + Petricite Broadwing can threaten to kill any six-health unit as early as round three. This is an especially useful strategy against Seraphine (if we happen to see this combo in the mulligan – do not actively try to mulligan for this combo, focus on locating Zed and Vayne!)
Pass early on, even if you have units in hand. We are a "shields-up" sort of deck – most of our units are frail and need protection to cash in on their potential, so we play units but don't have the spell mana to protect them, our foe will know they can remove them with impunity. It is nice to play Petricite Broadwing on round two, but then we won't be able to play Zed on round three because we'll lack the mana to save him from a Mystic Shot. Plan ahead when your important units want to hit the board, and make sure you have enough spell mana open to protect them.
Vayne Zed – Mulligan Advice
Here is all the Mulligan advice you will ever need for Vayne Zed: Keep Zed and Vayne, and kick everything else.
If we see Zed already, we can keep protection spells like Twin Disciplines. Otherwise, never hold pump spells. We run so many in our deck, that they will come back eventually anyways.
Vayne Zed – Matchups
Vayne Gwen – Favored
Mulligan: Zed, Vayne, Petricite Broadwing + Twin/Momentous if you see them together
We are the better Vayne deck. We get our wincon (Zed) online one round earlier than theirs (Gwen), and they don't have the time to develop Opulent Foyer. This is also one of those matchups where keeping Broadwing + any health buff can win us the game by Challenging Gwen. In some cases, we can even block Gwen with a Twin Disciplines buff, since they don’t run many damage spells. Their lack of removal also means that Zed is fairly safe, though some lists run Single Combat or Concerted Strike.
(By the way: if you want a glimpse on the other side of the matchup, Scissorsbox just published his Gwen Vayne deck guide.)
Ezreal Seraphine – Tragic
Concede Zed, Vayne, Memory's Cloak if you have a champion
Ezreal Seraphine is the perfect counter deck for Vayne Zed, since we rely on single, frail units, and their removal is really good at stopping this game plan. They have more removal than we have protection, and while we are struggling to keep our units alive, they level their champions.
If you want to check the other side of the matchup, here's Card Gamer in-depth Seraphine Ezreal Deck Guide.
Rumble Vayne – Favored
Mulligan: Zed, Vayne
Similar to Gwen Vayne, we are the better Vayne deck. While Rumble Vayne is better at locating their wincon in Rumble, Rumble comes down one round later than Zed and needs more setup to work (since Rumble needs Blade Fragments to discard).
We don’t want to rely on a cheeky Petricite + pump spell combo to kill Rumble, though, since they run enough protection spells to punish us.
As long as we don’t let Zed die to a Rune Squire, and play around their spells like Whirling Death and Prismatic Barrier, this matchup should be quickly in our bag!
Further reading: for the other side of the matchup, you can check Card Gamer's Tumble on the Rumble – A Vayne Rumble LoR Deck Guide
Annie Jhin – even
Mulligan: Early units that aren’t Combat Cook; only keep Young Witch if you see a Fleetfeather Tracker in hand
This matchup is quite interesting, as it can go two ways – we try to aggro them down – punishing Legion Rearguard’s inability to block – or we play defensively with our early units and pump spells. Most of the games will follow the latter game plan.
A well-timed Ranger's Resolve can win us the game, but so can a well-timed Stun wave on their side. Don’t be afraid to take some damage early for favorable trades, so we have units left for when they switch to their stunning game plan.
Pantheon Vayne – slightly favored
This is one of those matchups where I think I’m hopelessly losing, until suddenly the enemy’s Nexus explodes.
In theory, Pantheon Vayne’s removal like Single Combat and Concerted Strike should make life hard for us, and their big Fated units should prevent attacks from Zed.
In praxis, these things can happen, but more often than not, they are happening too slow.
Pantheon Demacia has been slacking on the go-tall game plan, relying on Iula and Wandering Shepherd to go wide. What do these units not do? Right, block Zed!
This also means that Single Combat is not that scary, and oftentimes we’ll be able to block it with a Twin Disciplines or Memory's Cloak.
Of course, Pantheon is always looming in the dark – we are the beatdown in this matchup, and have to kill them before Pantheon levels!
Seraphine Viktor Ionia – Even
Mulligan: Zed, Vayne
While Seraphine Viktor also packs removal, they thankfully don’t run as much as Seraphine Ezreal Noxus. And the Ionian soft removal (i.e. Recalls) they play is not too big of a problem for us. After all, if they spend five mana on Ionian Tellstones + Homecoming, we can simply replay Zed and are up on tempo.
On the downside, Viktor can run away with the game and we can’t do anything about that. If Viktor rolls Challenger or Lifesteal, we will have a tough time setting Zed or dealing meaningful Nexus damage. One way of stopping Viktor is Joraal, so keep this possibility in mind when the foe’s time comes to develop Viktor.
On the upside, they are not playing Seraphine Viktor Shadow Isles, which is a much worse matchup for us. =)
Seraphine Viktor Shadow Isles – Unfavored
Mulligan: Zed, Vayne, Memory's Cloak if you have a champion
Just as with the Ionia version, Seraphine Viktor Shadow Isles variant packs removal and can snowball the game with Viktor – and this version replaces tempo-wise weak Recalls with more ping effects and Vengeance. This means that it is much more difficult to protect Zed and get a meaningful board to stick. After all, what’s the use of Tumble if there is no unit left to somersault?
For the opposite side of the matchup, here's Yangzera's Viktor Seraphine Shadow Isles Deck Guide.
If you intend on bringing Zed Vayne in a tournament lineup, pairing it with other tempo decks is a good idea: for example, Taric Poppy/Fiora Pantheon and Annie Jhin.
That being said, Vayne Zed is currently strong enough to fit into any lineup that plans on banning Seraphine!
I hope you learned something new about one of the most dominant decks on the LoR ladder right now.
Thanks go to Hash for discussing advanced concepts of Vayne Zed with me, and giving me unique insights into the deck!
As always, please throw any feedback my way on Twitter (@Leer97) or on Discord (Leer#2026) about how I can improve these guides for you.
Thanks for reading, and see ya' next time! =)