We asked half a dozen Seasonal Top Cut pilots for their lineups, their thoughts behind their strategy, and how they navigated the Open Rounds to reach Top 32.
For context about this Seasonal's field, here is Legna's superb Seasonal Report: https://www.llorr-stats.com/report/seasonal-005/
SantaTCG – member of The Squad (MaRu); member of Space Poggers in the Aegis League
I built this lineup to target the abundance of midrange decks I expected to see in the
Tournament. I also had the added benefit of not being forced to ban Aphelios Fizz; in fact I would say I was slightly favored in the matchup.
Gangplank Sejuani, aka Plunder
The decks were also teched to play better into aggro if I was unlucky enough to encounter the triple aggro boogeyman:
- Two [Gifts from Beyond]] in Pantheon for some much needed lifesteal,
- Double [Withering Wail] in Viego, and
- I sawed off the usual top-end in Plunder to fit three copies of both [Make it Rain] and [Parrrley], while making the deck more consistent (A shout-out to James, my Space Poggers teammate on the Aegis league, for this deck tech!).
The lineup's only major weakness are control matchups versus our Plunder, so my first ban were decks like [Feel the Rush] whenever they popped up, then aggro decks like
Spiders or Pirates, then lastly a general comfort ban against triple midrange lineups.
As expected, every person I queued into had at least one midrange deck I could target – I didn't run into triple aggro at all, not a single time.
My Pantheon was banned in all rounds except one, leaving Plunder and Viego to battle it out. Both decks performed well, stalling and beating up the midrange decks they were designed to beat. Aside from a few dud draws over the nine rounds (it’ll happen), I felt pretty comfortable in most of my matches and was very happy with my lineup choice.
Kevor – member of the MaRu Pro team
I went with a "Ban Pantheon" lineup that tries to be "okay enough" into everything else.
The gamble was that there's a couple of decks that are strong against us – like for example Ekko Zilean, P&Z-based removal decks, other Scouts – but those really don't fit very well with a Pantheon lineup. So, in those cases, my ban was free to target those problematic decks.
This in turn makes the lineup very solid, with very few actual weaknesses.
As this was Open Rounds, I also wanted decks that were all decent into aggressive strategies. A pretty nice bonus was having favorable matchups into the most popular control deck – [Feel the Rush] – and, all in all, decent matchups into the most popular Pantheon buddy deck, namely Taliyah Ziggs.
You finally swapped Sion for Tristana, right? You mentioned last week that you were aiming for an Afaelios + Scouts + X deck, with X being a comfort choice.
Ah, yes! That was thanks to mtuck017 from The Squad, who by the night-off convinced me to change my third deck to Tristana Fae, so shoutouts to him.
So, how did it work?
Pretty much exactly as expected! =)
I banned Pantheon every time I saw it, and tried to bully the Taliyah Ziggs that was very often its wingman. I beat a couple aggro lineups, and I felt solid into random, unexpected stuff.
In particular, I faced a lot of Feel the Rush plus unexpected stuff, which was lucky for me since I had a nice fallback plan and I could just 2-0 FtR if all else failed – which I did twice, if I recall correctly.
By the way, I did not face an A-Fae-lios counter lineup (assuming such a thing even exists).
The full run VoD is also available on my Twitch channel for those that are interested to see the gameplay (without camera or mic) – just skp the first couple of minutes, as I got 2 byes at the start.
Smooth Swoleoist – member of team TKG (currently known as Trash Katarina Gaming)
My strat for this Seasonal wasn't overly "strat-y" – I just went with insanely powerful decks. I decided to bring A-Fae-lios instead of Ziggs Taliyah as third deck last minute, mainly because of this tweet from Team Hydra.
Pantheon Yuumi Taric
Draven Rumble Sion
As said above, there was no real targeting – these decks beat most of the meta, which is generally what you want if you're playing Seasonals from a very high rank, because predicting what low Master and potentially Gauntlet players may bring is not reliable strategy in my opinion.
My ban strategy was also straightforward – I mostly banned Pantheon and A-Fae-lios for the same reasons I ran them in my lineup: they are insanely powerful.
All in all, my strategy was just "I expect to beat most decks," – and, when put it practice, it turned out as "I was favored into most lineups, and beat most decks," so I guess it worked! =)
WhatAmI – member of the MaRu Pro team
My lineup's idea was to ban enemy Pantheons, soft-target Taliyah Ziggs, and mostly just play the three best decks in the format.
Yuumi Pantheon Taric
I teched my Pantheon against aggro – I expected that any foe willing to let me play Pantheon, would in turn target my Pantheon with aggro decks. My birds saved me twice during the tournament, and definitely mattered for reaching the top.
A huge number of people also figured out what the two or three best-decks lineup looked like. I ended up playing WAY more effective mirror matches than I expected – I had some solid luck and was able to get some solid outplays, but I am definitely not comfortable with the amount of RnG that most mirrors create.
I would probably bring the same lineup again to Open Rounds, but this was my first time playing a three-best-decks idea (as opposed to targeting the best decks) and it was definitely nerve wracking.
friendlynihilist – member of team TKG (currently known as Trash Katarina Gaming)
My targets were pretty simple: Pantheon Yuumi, Viego and Pirates. I felt quite confident that most people would bring at least one of these, and all three fall prey to the efficient removal that Noxus brings to the table.
Caitlyn Ezreal Tribeam
Elise Kindred Sentinels
The Trash Pile (Ziggs Gnar Katarina)
Of my three targets, Pirates was the one that took the most fine-tuning of my lineup at the deckbuilding stage. I teched my Caitlyn Ezreal against it a little – I expected aggro lineups running Pirates to be the main lineup that would allow me to play Tri-beam, and that was not exactly a sure-fire matchup.
Opposing Ezreal Caitlyn decks were a bit of a softer target, too.
My bans were also fairly simple: any form of Shadow Isles & Freljord control (mainly [Feel the Rush]) was my fairly obvious boogeyman, followed by Landmark decks (such as Taliyah Ziggs and Mono Shurima), and the pile of annoyance known as A-Fae-lios.
The reads I made ultimately feel like they panned out:
- The single round I lost (round #1) was the only lineup which wasn’t running any of my three primary targets,
- In all other rounds, my decks were able to dish out a lot of handsome victories against said primary targets (with overall records of 4:0 against Pantheon Yuumi, 3:1 against Viego and 3:0 against Pirates).
- Ezreal Caitlyn was the one deck that I expected to see more of, and would’ve maybe liked to see more of, but overall wasn’t a major issue getting that individual bit off.
Alright, I just have to ask: [Katarina] and [Treasured Trash]? How's that even a thing?
Well… Ravenous Flock piles are my comfort zone – it’s what I play pretty much exclusively, and that is very much reflected in my lineup.
As such, ever since Gnar was initially revealed, I knew that he would be my way of bringing a Bandle City version of Flock to the Seasonal Tournament. And so, from the first hours of the Curious Journey season, I began my own curious journey in refining this deck.
It started out as just a boring ol' Ziggs Gnar deck, and doing very nicely off the generally bloated power of Bandle City at the time. The one issue I kept coming back to, though, was not having enough top-end to close out games, and for a while this puzzle kept perplexing me.
Outside of Captain Farron, there weren’t very many good finishers to slot in, but then I saw that Smooth Swoleoist (a fellow TKG player) was having some amazing success with Treasured Trash in their Gnar Swain deck, so decided to give it a try.
I very quickly realized quite how strong this card is as a top-end threat, with some amazing hig-hroll potential that also made it an incredibly enjoyable card to play…
… and so Ziggs Gnar became a Trash deck.
Fast-forward to much, much closer to the Seasonal (about two days before, in fact!) – another TKG player (woke) was talking about running a single copy of Katarina in Bandle Burn, and this got me thinking about whether that could be a good option here, in this ostensibly Bandle Slow Burn deck.
I went to test a couple of games with the Blade Lady and I was in love immediately – her recent buff makes her an amazing tool for enabling Ravenous Flocks, and so Trash Katarina was born.
My original plan was going with the Targon version of Ziggs Taliyah and scrimed with Apoxa (shoutouts to him!), where Pantheon kept smacking me, and he simply told me: "Your lineup should probably just ban Pantheon," and so I did and everything pieced together.
Afterwards my friend Dz (also big shoutouts to him!) said: "Prism, just go with the Bandle City version for Ziggs Taliyah," so I trusted him and did just that.
I expected a fair amount of [Feel the Rush] (and Viego to counter FTR) and A-Fae-lios, so one of my main goals was to be able to deal with some of them.
Ziggs Taliyah (BC)
Originally, I had an entirely separate and different lineup to cut through Pantheon abusers (which I expected a fair amount of) but the Play / Cast rule change elevated the deck to Omegabonkers Tier, and I had to adapt my strategy and switched to the decks you see above. I scrimmed a lot with this lineup, then I had last-minute doubts and had a couple of ideas on how to change it…
… but, ultimately, I decided to stick with it since I had a ton of experience and practice with all of the decks, and it looks like I got rewarded for staying faithful! =)
When it came to game day, I did see a good amount of FTR, as expected – the surprise was the return of Fizz Lulu YIA.
Why do you think that was? While you still find Fizz Lulu in the ladder, its play rate is low, and its winrate is good but not extraordinary.
I think the Lulu PnZ shell is still a really strong deck. One deck I considered bringing was Ahri Lulu (the same one I did for my Giantslayer Fight Night run). Being able to get so many free challengers (either from [Boom Baboon] or natural [Flame Chompers!]) can lead to heavy blowouts in certain matchups – especially in a meta like this one, which focuses heavily on board control.
And even though A-Fae-lios brought a strong Fizz deck into the spotlight, there are still hidden gems from older metas, even if the more recent decks have been putting in a ton of work and taking up a larger portion of the ladder/tourney lineups.
Case in point, Fizz Luly YiA hurt me in the middle round, and almost slain me in the final round. The final boss for Top 32 was also surprising because they didn't run Panth or FTR, either (similar to my final boss for top 32 back in EoAm who didn't have either TLC or Thresh Nasus when my lineup was efficient against both of them).
But, outside of these surprises, things went pretty much as expected, so all the practice paid off and helped me achieve victory. I was also able to get a ton of wins from bad matchups, which made me feel fairly lucky and it was vital to my success.
For those that may want specific clips of certain plays (or want to see some matches for specific highlights), my twitch VoD has all of the games. Also some of my recent twitter posts have twitch clips of some of the later round victories.