You can totally play Ahri Bard at Seasonals.
If you think it is going to give you the best chance of winning, you found a killer lineup, or you just really enjoy the play patterns, then by all means register it. Don’t let my clickbait title stop you – I’m not going to tell you not to! It’s one of the most powerful decks in the game currently, and got both Minasia and me to Top 5 on the ranked ladder.
So why am I writing an entire article on why I think you shouldn’t play it?
It has more to do with how tournaments in LoR work than anything else.
Tournament LoR is played in a best-of-three conquest. If you are reading this article then you probably know what this means, but just in case you don’t, in a conquest format:
- Your opponent and you bring three decks,
- Each of you ban one deck from the opposing lineup,
- The first player to win with their other two decks wins the match – you cannot play a deck that you already won with, or that was banned by the opposing player.
This is where lineup strategy comes into play; you could just bring your three best ladder decks and call it a day…
… then your opponent will ban their bad matchup and likely pick on one particular deck in your lineup.
This is because although your lineup is powerful, it lacks synergy.
Plans within plans
Lineups need plans.
They need to know what they are trying to accomplish, and what they need to ban in order to see that plan come to fruition.
For example, a lineup of Thralls, FTR and Nami TF looks to beat Aphelios Zoe (what many, myself included, believe to be the best deck in the format).
Feel The Rush
Twisted Fate Nami
While looking to counter Aphelios Zoe, this lineup also needs to protect itself: it’s rather weak to threats like Azir Irelia and some rally-based Demacia decks. Luckily, the weaknesses and strengths more or less line up (lol) across all three decks – this is what we mean by having a plan and synergy.
Theory versus Reality
Now, let’s get practical.
The best archetype in the format is Aphelios PnZ, this is not up for debate. The entire tournament format is completely warped around it, and the potential lineups that it will be featured in. You need to have a solid plan around Winding Light decks when considering your lineup – either bring, ban, or beat (or any combination of those), but you absolutely need to consider how your strategy interacts with this powerhouse.
(Side note: I think you should play Viktor Aphelios instead of Zoe Aphelios)
Currently the most popular pairing with Aphelios PnZ is Twisted Fate Nami. The decks have strong synergistic elements and the raw power can’t be denied. This leads a lot of players to plan on bringing (or beating) the shell of Aphelios PnZ + Twisted Fate Nami + X.
From now on I will refer to this as the Tier 0 shell.
Now, let’s say – hypothetically of course – that you are looking to bring Ahri Bard.
First of all, congratulations on being a Chad Ionia player!
Second, though… Ahri Bard suffers into Aphelios PnZ quite a bit, meaning that Winding Light decks are the main ban for our shell. Alright, no big deal.
But, what happens when we also want to play Aphelios PnZ ourselves?
Our matchups start to get a little funky in that case. As previously established, The Winding Light decks are really soft into Turbo Thralls. Ahri, however, would really like to play into Thralls. So, what if our opponent brings both? One of your decks is going to suffer big time.
This isn’t the only time that there is friction between possible decks. Ahri Bard has really weird matchup tables that makes it very difficult to pair it with almost any other top-tier archetype. Not impossible, mind you, by very hard.
The most synergistic Ahri Bard pairing, in my opinion, is actually Azir Irelia.
You prey very hard on a lot of the decks looking to counter the most popular deck (Aphelios), such as Turbo Thralls or Feel the Rush, and both decks want to ban some of the low-to-the-ground Demacia rally decks, such as Scouts or Bard Poppy.
Throw in Fizz Riven and we have ourselves a synergistic powerhouse.
There's a problem here: the ‘X’ in the Tier 0 shell we discussed above.
We already know that we need to ban Aphelios PnZ against our Ahri Bard centric lineup. We also know that we would very much like to ban Demacia against us, too. Unfortunately, Demacia is quickly becoming the go-to third deck for the Tier 0 shell.
Some other decks are fighting for that spot, like for example Heimerdinger Jayce Shadows and Akshan Renekton with Papercraft Dragon. None of these are bad for us, but they certainly aren’t great news – Azir Irelia quickly becomes a liability against a lot of these decks.
The easy solution is to just switch out Azir Irelia and try something else… but this leads to us losing synergy with Ahri Bard. This goes round and round until you either decide to just play something else instead of Ahri, or you consider that the lack of synergy is worth the power you receive in return.
Costs and Opportunities
Some of the players I know are looking to slot Ahri into their lineups anyway, and I definitely don’t blame them for it. This article’s purpose isn’t really to dissuade anyone from bringing the deck, but rather to bring the deck’s main issue to light so people understand the cost of putting it in your tournament strategy.
Perhaps there is a lineup that I missed, or the Seasonal meta won't be what I expect it to be. In that case Ahri might end up being a fantastic pick… but I’m not sure I want to give up playing the top deck in a synergistic lineup just to lose to people’s random third deck in what I expect to be the most popular shell in the tournament.
In spite of all that, if I had to register a lineup at this very moment I would likely still play Ahri Bard. Probably as the 'X' in the Tier 0 shell, to squeeze as much power into a lineup as I can, synergy be damned. It’s my favorite deck in the game right now, and that is reason enough for me to play it in Seasonals.
In the end, this article isn’t to stop people from playing the deck. But I am hoping to show you that there are costs to putting it in your lineup – you should include it if you are willing to accept these tradeoffs, or are like me and just want to play the deck despite them.
For me, Homecoming is just too fun of a card to give up. It has already won me one Seasonals, maybe it will win me another.