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Xilean – A Zilean Xerath Deck Guide

PakiInPyjamas showcases the destructive power of Landmarks in his first MaRu article on Zilean Xerath.

Zilean Xerath was a deck that became prominent in the “Beyond the Bandlewood” expansion, providing the landmark control archetype key tools from Bandle City needed to be viable in competitive play. Cards like Pokey StickPokey Stick and The ArsenalThe Arsenal provided a new value card and finisher that helped close out games. 

With the “Forces from Beyond” expansion, Riot has introduced some new tools for this to mess around with. And hopefully make it shine once more.

Regions
Bandlecity
7 cards
Shurima
33 cards
Rarities
26 800
champion
6
epic
2
rare
16
common
16
Mana cost
0
0
3
1
17
2
12
3
6
4
0
5
0
6
2
7+
Champions
6
2
Zilean
3
Zilean
4
Xerath
3
Xerath
Landmarks
6
1
Ancient Preparations
3
Ancient Preparations
2
Preservarium
3
Preservarium
Followers
11
2
Rock Hopper
3
Rock Hopper
3
Endless Devout
3
Endless Devout
4
Desert Naturalist
3
Desert Naturalist
8
The Arsenal
2
The Arsenal
Spells
17
2
Drop the Bomb
3
Drop the Bomb
2
Pokey Stick
2
Pokey Stick
2
Rite of Passage
3
Rite of Passage
3
Ancient Hourglass
2
Ancient Hourglass
3
Quicksand
2
Quicksand
3
Rite of the Arcane
3
Rite of the Arcane
3
Unraveled Earth
2
Unraveled Earth
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Deck Breakdown

ZileanZilean is a card that is difficult to evaluate due to how matchup-dependent he can be in the role he plays. His Time BombTime Bombs drastically change the way the game is played, and his ability to predict is extremely powerful. Allow me to help you see into the future and discover the power of Time BombTime Bombs.


The Time Bombas

Zilean Rite of Passage 

ZileanZilean is the only card in the game that can shuffle Time BombTime Bombs, and for good reason. The two-mana landmark pings the entire enemy board and Nexus, while providing us a draw. We want to play ZileanZilean as early as possible, ideally on round two so that we have Time BombTime Bombs shuffled in the deck and ready to go.

After that, we have multiple ways to play out our ZileanZilean gameplan. If we have another ZileanZilean in hand, we want to kill off our first in order to play the second and double the amount of time bombs in deck. However, if we are able to find two timebombs or a Rite of PassageRite of Passage, we want to threaten the ZileanZilean levelup and begin generating infinite value.

Rite of Passage 

Rite of PassageRite of Passage is the newest addition to the deck, allowing for some extremely potent plays. As soon as we are able to activate a single Time BombTime BombRite of PassageRite of Passage comes online and allows us to summon a Time BombTime Bomb at Focus speed, giving us the ability to gain access to Zilean (level 2)Zilean (level 2) very early in the game and potentially with spell mana. Rite of PassageRite of Passage also has the flexibility to summon any of our other destroyed landmarks, meaning that we can choose the most appropriate landmark for the situation we are in.

It is important to note, however, that once enough landmarks are destroyed, Time BombTime Bomb are no longer a guaranteed choice, which is something to keep in mind when choosing what round of the game to play this card. With ZileanZilean and Rite of PassageRite of Passage, we are able to stall the game long enough to play for The ArsenalThe Arsenal and XerathXerath win conditions.

Still, you may be wondering how we are able to draw our Time BombTime Bomb so consistently.

Ancient Preparations

Ancient PreparationsAncient Preparations is one of the best one-mana plays in the game, giving us the ability to choose our next draw and summoning a 2-2 blocker for defense. In this deck especially, it also has the added benefit of contributing to XerathXerath’s level-up and level 2 effect, alongside The ArsenalThe Arsenal’s keywords.

Once we play ZileanZilean, playing Ancient PreparationsAncient Preparations helps us look for Time BombTime Bombs. We can also use Ancient PreparationsAncient Preparations and a Time BombTime Bomb in hand to predict for another bomb and use the bomb in hand to tutor the second Time BombTime Bomb. Ancient PreparationsAncient Preparations also helps us look for our key pieces such as XerathXerath or for our defensive tools such as Rite of NegationRite of Negation.

Preservarium Pokey Stick Unraveled Earth

PreservariumPreservarium fulfills a similar role, providing two draws for two mana, cycling our deck and contributing to our landmark win conditions. Pokey StickPokey Stick also allows us to do this by cycling a card and helping us finish off a weakened unit on the opponent’s side. Unraveled EarthUnraveled Earth gives us another way to cycle our hand while making our opponent’s units vulnerable, giving us the flexibility of interaction and cycling in just one card.

To make sure that the opponent does not run us over before we execute our gameplan, we need to interact with the enemy board. With Zilean Xerath this is achieved once again with…

… wait for it…

… landmarks!

Rock Hopper Unraveled Earth  

Rock HopperRock Hopper is a power play for two mana, giving us a body that can block Fearsome units while summoning a Roiling SandsRoiling Sands that grants Vulnerable to the next enemy unit summoned. As a result, if we play Rock HopperRock Hopper we are able to force the opponent to make awkward plays, or force them to play a key unit such as IreliaIrelia on the next turn and make them removable through combat.

This also means that we can delay our Rock HopperRock Hopper round to try and grant Vulnerable to a key midgame unit. For instance, playing Rock HopperRock Hopper at the end of round four may allow us to grant Vulnerable to an enemy Kai'Sa that an opponent desperately needed to play.

Our other Vulnerable-granting card is Unraveled EarthUnraveled Earth, summoning two Roiling SandsRoiling Sands at Burst speed. Similar to Rock HopperRock Hopper, we want to choose the appropriate time to play Unraveled EarthUnraveled Earth so that we can threaten key enemy units and attempt to speed-level XerathXerath, or give The ArsenalThe Arsenal the extra keywords he needs to close out the game.

However, it is also important that we are able to interact with enemy units even when we do not have our landmarks. Let’s talk about some of the best interaction the Bandle City Shurima region combination offers.

Pokey Stick Quicksand Drop the Bomb 

I have mentioned Pokey StickPokey Stick more than once already, but that only shows how flexible this card is, and how well it synergises with our gameplan. The ability to ping a unit allows us to kill any one-health unit in the game, including troublesome Husks, or ValorValor from Blinding AssaultBlinding Assault

Drop the BombDrop the Bomb is the other new addition to our deck, dealing two damage and summoning a Scrappy BombScrappy Bomb. Being able to deal two damage for two mana allows us to kill many enemy threats, including Twisted FateTwisted Fate and KatarinaKatarina. Summoning a Scrappy BombScrappy Bomb contributes to our landmark synergies by being a destroyable landmark with the added benefit of pinging the enemy Nexus for one damage.  

QuicksandQuicksand is undoubtedly one of the best defensive tools that Shurima has to offer. This card is extremely potent against all the keyword-based decks running around, giving us the ability to completely deny Kai'Sa (level 2)’s ability Icathian RainIcathian Rain. It also helps us deal with Elusives or Overwhelms that would otherwise be game-ending. QuicksandQuicksand can also help us potentially stall for one extra round so that we can get The ArsenalThe Arsenal down and close out the game.

Rite of Negation Ancient Hourglass

Rite of NegationRite of Negation and Ancient HourglassAncient Hourglass are two of Shurima’s most inexpensive and powerful defensive tools, allowing us to stop our opponent’s interaction, often at a minimal cost. We can Rite of NegationRite of Negation opponent rallies or kill effects while keeping our board intact and our champions alive. We can also save one of our champions using the Ancient HourglassAncient Hourglass spending less mana than our opponent, with the Stasis StatueStasis Statue destroying itself at the start of the next round and adding on to our landmark and destruction payoff.


The One True Ascended (and Friends)

Xerath Rite of the Arcane

The Arsenal Endless Devout Desert Naturalist

The payoff for all the landmarks we play and destroy is the One True Ascended-XerathXerath. When XerathXerath is Level 1, he simply pings the weakest enemy unit helping us weaken or take out early-game enemy units. Once Xerath (level 2)Xerath (level 2) levels up, he starts dealing three to the weakest unit for every landmark he sees destroyed. This level-up is very easy to achieve due to the high concentration of destroyable and countdown landmarks we play, meaning that Xerath is often leveled-up by round four or five. This allows us to control the enemy board by simply playing landmarks and letting Xerath do all the work. 

If an opponent plays a must-answer threat, we can respond with XerathXerath’s best friend, Rite of the ArcaneRite of the Arcane. We can blow up one of our landmarks by killing a weaker unit while pointing four damage at the unit we really want to kill. This card is very good even without a Xerath (level 2)Xerath (level 2) on board, as we can still deal with key threats by blowing up a landmark, or sacrifice a mana gem if the opposing unit is life-threatening.  However, I recommend that you generally do not do this, as putting yourself a mana gem behind in this fast-paced meta is generally game-losing.

If we are unable to achieve a complete board-lock, we can deploy The ArsenalThe Arsenal and giggle maniacally as we present our cooler Void AbominationVoid Abomination with an absurd amount of keywords to close out the game. If our opponent is able to get through the Spellshield this bad boy likely has and threatens to kill him, we can simply use Ancient HourglassAncient Hourglass to protect The ArsenalThe Arsenal to double his keywords when he resummons and reapply Spellshield.

To be able to get The ArsenalThe Arsenal pumped up, we need our mid-game units to help us out. We can use Desert NaturalistDesert Naturalist to destroy a SarcophagusSarcophagus from the Endless DevoutEndless Devout’s Last Breath effect and summon a 5/3 Fearsome. We can also interact with our opponent’s landmarks such as Ravenbloom ConservatoryRavenbloom Conservatory, which would otherwise give all the opponent’s cards a powerful boost.

We want to play out the Endless DevoutEndless Devout as quickly as possible due to it being an efficiently-statted three-drop with a powerful Last Breath effect. We can destroy the summoned landmark early to reap its benefits immediately, or wait until we have a Xerath (level 2)Xerath (level 2) on board to kill an enemy unit while summoning our own.


Tech Choices

Hexplosive Minefield

Hexplosive MinefieldHexplosive Minefield is a card that has fallen out of favor for this archetype, as it no longer seems to do enough for one mana to deserve a main deck slot. However it is still considerable as a one-off to be able to stop single-unit threats like Kai'Sa or IllaoiIllaoi that are often the strongest on board.

Inventive Chemist

Inventive ChemistInventive Chemist is a one-drop unit, which this deck lacks as our only one-mana play is Ancient PreparationsAncient Preparations. We could add her to our deck if we need to be able to block on rounds one or two in more aggro-centric metas.

Merciless Hunter

This is another one of Shurima’s powerful three-drops. We may wish to play this card if we need to target certain units such as Kai'Sa even more, or to grant Vulnerable to a unit such that the Endless DevoutEndless Devout is able to trade cleanly and give us a SarcophagusSarcophagus.


Mulligan

Zilean Ancient Preparations Xerath

We want to keep ZileanZilean in our starting hand as much as possible, due to how flexible he is in all matchups, and because we want to sacrifice him anyway in order to play a second ZileanZilean unless he is very close to leveling up.

Ancient PreparationsAncient Preparations is another good keep as it allows us to use our mana on round one and choose a key card for our next draw, all while giving us board presence on round three. If we are unable to find our champions in our starting hand, or are looking for key defensive tools like Rite of NegationRite of Negation, we can use Preparations on round one to help us search for that card.

XerathXerath is also an important card to keep due to how pivotal he is to this deck. His ability to control the enemy board and force the opponent to make bad plays makes him invaluable and helps us accelerate our game plan that much faster.

Rite of the ArcaneRite of the Arcane can be kept if we desperately need to deal with a unit, although Drop the BombDrop the Bomb can fulfil a similar role. Endless DevoutEndless Devout can be another good keep as it synergises extremely well with our game plan by giving us up to two units and a landmark that we can choose to destroy.


Matchups

Kai'Sa archetypes – slightly unfavored

Valor Void Abomination

Mulligan: Rite of the ArcaneRite of the Arcane ZileanZilean XerathXerath Ancient PreparationsAncient Preparations

This matchup usually ends in two ways. We are either able to get a leveled Xerath on board to wipe out the enemy, or we are unable to establish board presence and have the removal to deal with enemy threats.

Removal like Rite of the ArcaneRite of the Arcane is essential as it helps us deal with an unlevelled Kai'Sa immediately. Using Ancient PreparationsAncient Preparations to find Drop the BombDrop the Bomb or Pokey StickPokey Stick can help us deal with ValorValor and remove Spellshields from Void AbominationVoid Abominations so we can QuicksandQuicksand them, or deal with them otherwise. 

We want to try and limit the enemy board as much as possible with XerathXerath and our other removal as their game plan is very board-centric, and they are unable to interact with our units without having any units of their own. If we handle the enemy board, Xerath and our landmarks are able to deal with Void AbominationVoid Abomination through Spellshield.


Azir Irelia – even

Azir Sparring Student

Irelia Domination

Mulligan: ZileanZilean Rock HopperRock Hopper Drop the BombDrop the Bomb XerathXerath

This matchup is fairly even

On the one hand, we have the tools to deal with the enemy champions and units. Drop the BombDrop the Bomb is able to kill IreliaIrelia cleanly and Time BombTime Bombs can deal with the myriad of one-health units at round start, including DominationDomination, Greenglade DuoGreenglade Duo and  Sparring StudentSparring Student. We are also able to deal with blade dance attacks by using Rite of PassageRite of Passage to trigger a Time BombTime Bomb on board with another Time BombTime Bomb.

On the other hand, most of our units are low health and will succumb to the waves of free attacks Azir Irelia can represent. AzirAzir has high health for his mana cost and is able to generate insane value for the opponent – he can make the game snowball very quickly in the opponent’s favor without the fear of Azir being removed. Irelia (level 2)Irelia (level 2) being able to swap with other units once leveled-up allows her to dodge Rite of the ArcaneRite of the Arcanes, and move to safety when QuicksandQuicksanded when she is blocked by a high-health unit.

If they attempt to bounce XerathXerath using HomecomingHomecoming or Defiant DanceDefiant Dance, we can use Rite of NegationRite of Negation to deny the recall and keep our champion on board, or use an Ancient HourglassAncient Hourglass to keep our XerathXerath on board and kill an enemy unit on next round start. 

Like with the Kai'Sa matchups, we want to ensure that the Azir Irelia deck does not snowball as it is very difficult for us to come back and win when the opponent has a lead.


Twisted Katarina – favored

Ravenous Flock Disintegrate Ravenbloom Conservatory

Mulligan: ZileanZilean Ancient HourglassAncient Hourglass Endless DevoutEndless Devout Drop the BombDrop the Bomb

This is a very favored matchup for our deck as we are able to deal with all of our opponent’s threats very efficiently. Both Twisted FateTwisted Fate and KatarinaKatarina die to Drop the BombDrop the Bomb, and Time BombTime Bombs are generally able to clear most other units with the help of XerathXerath. And while their deck does feature a wealth of removal, a single Hourglass or Rite can mitigate their DisintegrateDisintegrate and ping combos. It is often better to Hourglass a champion as soon as the opponent tries to damage or disintegrate, simply because they will need to try to damage it or disintegrate it again to pull off their two-card combo.

We can deal with Ravenbloom ConservatoryRavenbloom Conservatory just by using Desert NaturalistDesert Naturalist, or allowing XerathXerath and Rite of the ArcaneRite of the Arcane to erase TybaulkTybaulk from existence. We should have no problem achieving a board-lock in this matchup and The ArsenalThe Arsenal can push the final damage we need to win the game.


Illaoi Bard – unfavored

Illaoi Tentacle Smash

Mulligan: Endless DevoutEndless Devout XerathXerath QuicksandQuicksand Ancient HourglassAncient Hourglass

This is one of the few matchups that is difficult for our deck to deal with. Illaoi Bard’s units tend to be bigger than we can deal with, allowing them to snowball and kill us using Overwhelm.

Having Endless DevoutEndless Devout and XerathXerath in our opening hand allows us to establish board presence to block and deal with TentacleTentacles, while Xerath can hopefully start weakening the enemy board. Endless DevoutEndless Devout is also able to trade cleanly with The Sea's Voice making it an important keep. QuicksandQuicksand can be useful to deal with large Elusives and Overwhelm on TentacleTentacles or IllaoiIllaoi.

Ancient HourglassAncient Hourglass is pivotal in allowing our champions to bypass any Tentacle SmashTentacle Smashs. In this matchup in particular, it is almost impossible to win without XerathXerath on board, as we rely on his ability to damage units in order to deal with enemy threats. We need to stall in this matchup for as long as possible, and use The ArsenalThe Arsenal to close out the game as we cannot hope to achieve a board-lock – we can only slow our opponent down, especially since the number  of ChimeChimes increases every turn.


Conclusion

Zilean Xerath is one of the few landmark-centric decks in the game, and a control deck at that. With the new cards printed and The ArsenalThe Arsenal of removal (get it?) available, we are able to deal with most threats while executing our own gameplan. 

It is a great deck for laddering due to its ability to play into almost any matchup and being able to utilize Shurima defensive tools to their full potential. 



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