Well, we made it through the hectic craziness of seasonals once more. Unless you’re one of the few frantically prepping for the top thirty-two this coming weekend the ladder right now is a bit of an odd place. With nothing to play for, all the crazy brews get to take center stage now more than ever. Today we’re going to focus on making reads and mulligans while playing in the wild west of Runeterra.
How do we make decisions when we don’t know exactly what our crazy opponent is doing? If you’re new, hit that first spoiler for me to find the rules of the mulligan show. If you’re a returning veteran then jump on down to stage one and we’ll check it out together.
Here’s how this is going to work. For each stage, I’ll be the one setting it. I’ll describe our deck, our opponent’s deck, our opening hand, and any other factors that I find relevant to the decision-making process. Then you try to decide what you would mulligan, and more importantly why you would do so.
After you’ve got that answer, or if you just want to watch instead of participating, go ahead and pop open the spoiler tag underneath and see if we agree. In the end, hit me up in the comments or drop by my stream later if we have conflicting opinions and you think I got it wrong. I am always down to learn new things.
Also, take note that these scenarios will often intentionally be designed to be at least a little bit tricky. Don’t just go with your gut reaction but take at least a few seconds to think through the ramifications before you decide. Ready? Let’s jump into it.
We’re going to go ahead and inhabit the role of one of my most played decks this season Lee Sin. The attack token is ours and our opponent has Freljord, Shadow Isles, and not a champion to be found. Our first four cards are Lee Sin, Zenith Blade, Deny, and Concussive Palm. What are we keeping and what needs some more meditation time?
The big decision here is how hard if at all, we are supposed to be mulliganing for one of our six eyes of the dragon. Zenith Blade is an easy kick, as we likely won’t want it until much later in the game. However, the rest are going to give us more of a puzzle.
Our opponent is likely on either a The Howling Abyss hard control deck, or some kind of extremely aggressive deck. The second variant is likely starring They Who Endure, an endless parade of fearsome units, or both.
Against the control list we might feel under not the most pressure and hold onto Lee Sin and quite possibly even the Deny to beat Vengeance later. Against a more aggressive opponent though, missing our early eye might be our undoing, so how to decide?
The biggest tell for me in this spot is the total lack of champions. While I have occasionally run into aggro decks that make this choice to be deceptive, eschewing even Elise it is much more often the control players who will all-in on The Howling Abyss.
Given these likelihoods when this happened to me on the ladder I decided to go with that logic and threw back only Zenith Blade and Concussive Palm, deciding that I would not be under that much pressure and would have time to get my engine’s running. It turned out I was right and needed both that Deny and another one I found later to slog through my opponent’s removal and clinch the win with a well-timed kick to the face.
For those of you who haven’t dealt with this nonsense in either ladder or tournament settings before, this deck can take two forms. It can either be an impressively aggressive deck whose champions close games, eschewing even leviathan, or it can be full of mass removal looking to drag the game out until it sets up one of multiple locks.
Against one we want to apply what pressure we can while not allowing them to get too far ahead in value. Against the other, we want to zealously protect our life total and set up a lock of our own. So how do we mulligan?
No matter what we are doing, without the attack token, tiny Teemo is going to be far from his best. In Swain control mirrors you generally want to be the first to drop [The [Leviathan]] either as it is often a large tempo loss. Those two I think are getting thrown back.
The other two get to stay as our deck is full of pings to turn on the flock, and Conchologist will be effective whichever strategy we are attempting. Hopefully, a Lecturing Yordle or a Swain makes a cameo appearance in our first couple draws if we are against control, or another few two drops or pings if the aggression is incoming.
So the biggest tell I want to touch on here is the Akshan. Any time you see that monster outside of his traditional place alongside Sivir warning bells should be flashing. To me, those warning bells go “I am a degenerate combo deck, kill me quickly before I make truly unreasonable things happen to you.”
That means we probably need to be moving too quickly for Sion to be an open keep. However, those decks often need to keep their signature champion alive. So, in that vein, I am a fan of keeping our Mystic Shot to try to foil them on that axis.
While two drops into three drops aren’t our most impressively aggressive start, it’s acceptable. In a matchup where we are likely to be some level of favor, I am a fan of keeping more widely than we otherwise might. That means the only card I would recommend mulliganing here is our signature champ, and the rest can stay and do their job against the combo menace.
So how did your decisions match up against mine through it all? You with me, learned something, maybe think I am crazier than Bandle City’s mayor?
I’m always interested to hear feedback in comments so hit me up here, or on my stream or Twitter at twitch.tv/xxwhatamixx or @xxwhatamixx respectively. And as always, I’ll see you out there on the ladder.