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Leer & Wamuu Test-piloting: Three decks from Balco’s Single-Shard Stash

In LoR, decks come in and out of the meta in the blink of an eye. But some decks are found almost exclusively on one shard. Our heroes team up with Balco to test-pilot three of the most promising ones: Darius Ziggs, Heimer Kindred, and Jinx Poppy.

In LoR, decks come in and out of the meta in the blink of an eye. But some decks are seen exclusively on one shard. In this report, our heroes teamed up with Balco to find out what these decks are and select the most promising ones.

A week ago, we asked Balco a specific question: are there decks, with positive winrates at Masters, that are only (or mostly) played only in a single shard?

As in, some spicy brews that have thus far not traveled from, say, Asia to Europe, or from Americas to Asia?

And indeed there were.

After rummaging through Balco's stash of single-shard lists, Wamuu and Leer decided to take for a spin:

  • An aggressive Darius Ziggs list that has some late-game options, mostly found on the Americas shard,
  • An hyper Control Heimerdinger Kindred deck, also played (until last week) almost exclusively in the Americas shard,
  • And, as their third deck, they investigated Jinx Poppy, the new discard archetype from the APAC shard.

Here are their finds!

Americas: Darius Ziggs

Regions
Noxus
22 cards
Shurima
18 cards
Rarities
24 300
champion
6
epic
1
rare
9
common
24
Mana cost
1
0
11
1
9
2
9
3
0
4
6
5
3
6
1
7+
Champions
6
3
Ziggs
3
6
Darius
3
Followers
24
1
Baccai Reaper
3
1
Legion Saboteur
3
1
Precious Pet
3
1
Treasure Seeker
2
2
Imperial Demolitionist
3
2
Legion Grenadier
3
3
Merciless Hunter
3
5
Ruin Runner
3
8
Captain Farron
1
Spells
10
0
Rite of Calling
1
2
Ruinous Path
3
3
Noxian Fervor
3
5
Decimate
3

Darius Ziggs is an old aggro archetype that utilizes the best one-drops from both Noxus and Shurima, which are pretty strong, including Baccai Reaper, Legion Saboteur, Precious Pet, and Treasure Seeker.

Two of these one-drops are Fearsome units, meaning they usually connect on turn one which guarantees damage. Legion Saboteur on the other hand guarantees one damage through her skill (and can deal three damage on turn one if not blocked), while Treasure Seeker is a good one drop all around as it generates a Waking Sands which helps us convert our spell mana into a 5/2 Ephemeral unit to push damage in future turns.

The other units on the deck such as Ziggs, Imperial Demolitionist and Legion Grenadier are utilized mostly for burn.

This deck’s strength lies mostly on its finishers: we have a good number of hard-to-deal-with finishers like Ruin Runner, Captain Farron and Darius.

The Spellshield keyword on Ruin Runner helps us guarantee the Overwhelm damage, because it makes her very hard to remove -- she can be a very good finisher against some control or combo decks for this reason.

Darius is almost always leveled in this deck, and a 10/7 Overwhelm unit on turn six can be extremely hard to deal with. If he connects it is usually game over with this deck. Finally, Captain Farron is a one-off late-game finisher when the game drags out for too long and you need a couple of Decimate for inevitability.

The spells in this deck are all basically burn spells. Ruinous Path is almost always active so you can use it to cycle while dealing damage to the opponent and healing for a bit -- notice it triggers anytime you kill any unit, not just an enemy unit. Noxian Fervor is an aggro staple as it can be used in response to removal to deal even more Nexus damage (and trigger Ruinous Path), and Decimate is the main spell finisher as in almost all aggro decks.

Wamuu’s thoughts on the deck

This deck can be extremely strong against slow midrange decks such as Shyvana Pantheon that run almost no healing, or combo decks such as Ahri Kennen Shurima. It can be used to climb quickly if you are not facing a lot of control, but there are honestly better aggro options out there currently such as Draven Rumble, Poppy Jinx, Spider Aggro, Pirate Aggro.

The weakness of this deck, as most aggro decks, is Control decks, especially Shadow Isles control decks as they run a lot of healing. This deck is a bit less susceptible to board wipes than Spider Aggro for example because the units in this deck have more health, but Control decks still give it a hard time.

The one place where I can see this deck working is in a competitive setting where you are looking to target Ahri Kennen or Shyvana Pantheon with a triple aggro lineup and you need a third deck that does not repeat champions or regions.

Leer’s thoughts on the deck

I got really excited when I looked at the decklist because it runs Baccai Reaper and Ruinous Path. Aggro is definitely on the bench when it comes to the ladder, which makes sense because a ladder can’t be a bench, right? I had high hopes for the decks, especially since Darius and Ruin Runner haven’t seen any play in competitive LoR for a long time now.

The first thing I noticed while piloting the deck was that my hand could be cluttered with too many reactive spells and costly finishers. While it’s great to not run out of cards quickly, it’s not so great if you can’t play any card from turns 3 to 5 as an aggro deck. The trade-off is that you will have big threats like Darius and Captain Farron that your opponent has to answer.

Another thing I learned was that Merciless Hunter can be quite awkward. My inner Akshan Sivir senses tell me to open pass on turn three for my opponent to play their juicers that we then target and kill with Merciless Hunter. But this deck cannot afford to do that. You have to actively develop your cards and just pray your opponent didn’t draw all the answers to your threats.

My final verdict is, similar to Wamuu’s, that this deck can fit well into a Bo3 lineup alongside Spider Aggro and Draven Rumble for example. For ladder, I think there are better options if you want to play aggro, but this deck can definitely fill the third spot for your aggro lineup. 

This unique archetype was quite fun to test and I can only recommend trying it out yourself!

Americas: Heimerdinger Kindred Control

Regions
Shadow Isles
19 cards
Piltover & Zaun
21 cards
Rarities
31 600
champion
6
epic
8
rare
7
common
19
Mana cost
2
0
3
1
9
2
3
3
10
4
5
5
3
6
5
7+
Champions
6
4
Kindred
3
5
Heimerdinger
3
Followers
13
2
Ferros Financier
3
3
Station Archivist
3
4
Aloof Travelers
3
9
Commander Ledros
2
9
Corina Veraza
2
Spells
21
0
Thermogenic Beam
2
1
Go Hard
3
2
Mystic Shot
3
2
Vile Feast
3
4
Aftershock
2
4
The Box
2
5
Withering Wail
2
6
Vengeance
3
9
The Ruination
1

Heimerdinger Kindred is very similar to Kindred Sentinels but instead of the Sentinel package we play a more value-oriented control game plan. We run cards like Go Hard, Ferros Financier, and Aloof Travelers to help us out in the early game while giving us late-game options. Aloof Travelers is a great card in control mirrors as you get to discard their wincon, buying us time to reach our late-game finishers like Commander Ledros and Corina Veraza.

Kindred has the same function as in the Sentinel deck where she is constant removal if not dealt with, especially with cheap cards like Go Hard, Mystic Shot, and Vile Feast to ping off small units in order to mark bigger ones.

Heimerdinger is the big addition to this deck and he serves basically as another threat the opponent HAS to remove outside of Kindred or he can snowball out of control. Once he is on the field and he sticks, each time you remove one of your opponent’s units you will gain a unit yourself so Heimerdinger helps you get a massive board advantage on your opponent if not dealt with in this deck.

The main finishers in this deck are the same as in the Sentinels deck: Corina Veraza and Commander Ledros. Usually when you drop them the opponent’s health drops low enough to finish him off with burn spells such as Aftershock, Mystic Shot or Pack Your Bags. Even though Atrocity is not on the list, I think it would be a great addition to the deck just to finish the games faster once you drop one of these two units.

Wamuu’s thoughts on the deck

Currently, there are a lot of midrange decks on ladder like Scouts or Pantheon archetypes. These tend to be really strong against us so I think it is not a good time to be running it on ladder. 

However, this deck can be really good in a competitive environment because it counters Ahri Kennen decks and is kind of the bigger control deck in most control mirrors. This means that if this deck is run in a triple control lineup and you end up facing: Aggro, triple Control, or an Ahri Kennen lineup you should be favored. So, this deck is definitely a powerhouse in that scenario.

This deck’s weakness however are midrange archetypes with big units such as Pantheon Shyvana Dragons and Sivir Akshan. These decks are very hard to beat and a lineup containing three similar decks to those can target this deck quite nicely so be careful.

Leer’s thoughts on the deck

It’s surprising how well Heimerdinger and Kindred fit together in this archetype. One playing with adorable robots and the other with innocent lives - pick your favorite =)

In the 15 games that I played with this deck, I’ve only lost a single one of them. That deck included Warmother's Call and thus obviously doesn’t count! Jokes aside, this deck is similar to Jayce Heimerdinger, a reemerging deck that’s starting to gain some traction again.

The most important thing with this deck is to open pass. You will almost always be better off in the late game, so no reason to show your hand first. Keep them guessing if they should develop more into your The Box or The Ruination. Can they really develop their Pantheon if you have 6 mana up to play Kindred and kill your own unit with Vile Feast?

Aloof Traveler works very well and makes this deck with all its removal the perfect anti-control list. The only points in the game where we struggle are turns 6-8 when we didn’t draw our champions or they got removed immediately. It can become difficult to hold out till turn 9 for our big boy and girl to come down if they play more than one unit a turn we can remove with Vengeance.

This leads us to the second most important point of the deck. Since we aren’t running any protection for our champions, we have to be extra smart on when to play them. This goes hand in hand with open passing and waiting for your opponent to tap out of mana for their removal. If you master these two points, you will find a lot of success with the deck!

Lastly, I’m not a fan of Go Hard in this deck at all. We’re not drawing enough cards to ever get to Pack Your Bags. We are also decreasing the quality of cards we draw, making it even worse. The only upside is that it’s a cheap ping effect, so it’s essentially a worse Group Shot... You could say it’s time for Go Hard to pack its bags!

Asia: Jinx Poppy

Regions
Piltover & Zaun
29 cards
Bandlecity
11 cards
Rarities
26 500
champion
6
epic
3
rare
9
common
22
Mana cost
0
0
11
1
14
2
3
3
9
4
0
5
3
6
0
7+
Champions
6
4
Jinx
3
4
Poppy
3
Followers
18
1
Forge Chief
3
1
Yordle Squire
3
1
Zaunite Urchin
3
2
Boom Baboon
3
2
Flame Chompers!
3
6
Augmented Experimenter
3
Spells
16
1
Purpleberry Shake
2
2
Electro Harpoon
3
2
Mystic Shot
3
2
Rummage
2
3
Get Excited!
3
4
Suit Up!
3

This deck is basically an updated version of Discard Aggro. It runs nine one drops and a bunch of card generation to help the Discard synergy. All nine of them generate value in some way while having a 2/1 statline for early pressure. Forge Chief gives us free spell mana if she connects, Yordle Squire generates a Tiny Spear or Tiny Shield which can be used as discard fodder or to buff a unit and finally, Zaunite Urchin helps us cycle cards like Flame Chompers! to get board advantage while preserving the number of cards in hand.

The way this deck plays out is to play a bunch of one drops early on while maximizing your discard synergy. We can also value trade with Flame Chompers! with different combos like Flame Chompers! plus Purpleberry Shake or Tiny Spear, Suit Up!, Poppy, etc… We do this in order to maintain board advantage at all stages of the game to then close out the game with burn or a wide board attack.

Your main finishers in this deck are Jinx, Poppy, and burn spells like Get Excited!, Mystic Shot, or Electro Harpoon.

Some people might argue that Poppy doesn’t seem like a good fit in this deck but cards like Tiny Spear and Purpleberry Shake can help her buff all units in this deck outside of Jinx which doesn’t need it.

Wamuu’s thoughts on the deck

This is by far my favorite deck out of the three and I think it is the most powerful out of them as well. It is a great ladder deck as I personally used it to climb from 0 LP Masters to 150 LP Masters in a single day. It can basically beat anything on ladder currently except for control decks, but even then, you can get some wins out of nowhere as there is a lot of high roll potential with cards like Suit Up!.

I am not quite sure how this deck could perform competitively but it can be used in both a Pantheon target lineup or a Ahri Kennen target lineup. It can also be a third deck in a triple aggro lineup if needed, but it does take the spot of Fizz Lulu due to its Region combination, so you have to ask yourself in which scenario this deck is better than Fizz Lulu.

Overall it is a very strong deck that I would recommend you guys to try out on ladder.

Leer’s thoughts on the deck

Jinx deciding to play with cute little Yorldes instead of her special toys, what a world to live in. Just like Wamuu, I’m a fan of this deck!

I think Forge Chief works surprisingly well in this archetype and I’ve considered starting to hard-mulligan for it. It’s doing so well because our deck runs a lot of cheap spells we want to play early, like Suit Up or even Electro Harpoon. 

With this deck, I’ve found myself a lot of the time with 2-3 Flame Chompers on the board and Poppy comes in very handy in these spots. There is a ginourmous difference between a 0/2 and a 1/3 Challenger unit, because the latter one can kill chump blockers. Since we have so many discard tools in the deck, I also keep Flame Chompers and Boom Baboon in the mulligan.

It took me way too long to figure out what great strength lies in our adorable little Yordle Squire. While I first took its generated weapon merely for discard fodder, it has another important role: Buffing Poppy. If you don’t have several Flame Chompers on board Poppy can feel underwhelming because she only buffs 2 attack units. With Tiny Spear though, she also buffs 3 attack ones like Boom Baboon or Purpleberry Shake-buffed units.

I think the deck can definitely be a bit high rolly due to cards like Suit Up or top-decking a Jinx, which can make it win any matchup. There are ways to influence this RNG though - like only drawing cards if you have at least 2 mana up to play a top-decked Suit Up for example.

This deck kind of auto loses to Control decks, especially ones with AoE cards like Withering Wail or Avalanche. It also sucks into Shurima decks with Xerath or Zilean. But since these are not very popular on ladder at the moment, I can only recommend you to try this deck out yourself. It's definitely a powerhouse that stands its ground, even on ladder!

Closing Words

And there you go: three (until last week at least) decks rarely played outside their regions, that we hope may catch your interest in case you want to try something a bit off the beaten path.

As described above, we tested the builds exactly like Balco dug them for us, but (except perhaps for Jinx Poppy, which is a really tight list), there's room for tweaks and improvements -- which hopefully should be part of the fun!

By the way, if you'd like to support Balco in his endless data gathering quest, here (link) is how you can buy him a Ko-Fi.

Hope you find these single-shard brews interesting, and let us know if you'd like us to test-pilot more of them in the future!

Wamuu & Leer