Why You Play Nami Zoe Wrong
Nami Zoe is undoubtedly one of the strongest breakout decks of the new set. Boasting a rather high win rate in all ranks it’s certainly a force to be reckoned with. But what if I told you that it should be winning much, much more? The deck is deceptively difficult to play correctly even though the skill floor is quite high. Anyone can win the game by drawing Nami and pumping a Sparklefly big enough to make the Watcher stop watching and start running. The real masters are adept at winning even when things don’t go quite that well. But before we jump straight to becoming super spectacular starfish slingers, let’s talk a bit about the deck.
Nami Zoe, or starfish as some call it, is a “spells matter” deck with an elusive style win-con. Having Nami enables you to go tall on a couple of units while Fleet Admiral Shelly continues to have the cutest voice lines in the game and allows you to go wide with the help of Double Trouble and Wiggly Burblefish.
When the set first came out that introduced this archetype it originally was good, but not great. Everybody was on a different version and a lot of them had the same problems. You had to play dinky one drop units like Lunari Duskbringer and that awful guy that makes the gem (you know which one I'm talking about) to block early to survive a Nami turn and to give you spells to cast. Putting these waste of space cards in your deck caused multiple problems;
1: The cards are bad, they suck to both draw, and to play.
2: If you’re playing a one drop before turn four, you cannot level Nami until turn five.
3: While they create spells, the spells also suck.
The obvious solution is to cut these horrible cards but doing that posed multiple OTHER problems;
1: Not playing units on curve means you die and dying makes it really hard to win.
2: Not having these units in the deck made your deck very spell heavy and unit light, meaning you're likely to flood out on spells that can’t affect your non-existent board and THEN you die.
Eventually, we found a solution. Enter, Double Trouble. The list that was played in worlds is almost identical to one brewed up by Enaimor and Darkodius, only a few cards were changed, and they were mostly tech for worlds meta anyway. Double Trouble was the obvious standout from the other lists though. Traditionally not a competitive powerhouse, Double Trouble did EXACTLY what Zoe Nami needed.
It provides you units on curve to block while actively helping you level Nami instead of hindering you AND it’s a spell that triggers Nami and Fleet Admiral Shelly. Zap Sprayfin was a notable cut and an important one. The card was slowing the deck down and not allowing it to do what it wanted to really do, which is level Nami on turn four every single game and then cast more spells than a Karma mirror.
Ok so now that I typed out way too many words, setting the stage, and showing you how the deck was formed, let’s get into how to play it. After some deliberation, I decided to assume you already know the basics of the deck and how it plays from this point in the article forward otherwise this would end up being an entire essay. If you do not, go to youtube and watch my video on the deck. Or anyone else's. But preferably mine.
Let’s get into what everybody does wrong:
Mistake #1: You mulligan horribly
This is a Nami deck. If you keep anything other than Nami in your opening hand you better have a damn good reason. Most of the spells are filler anyway, and who even cares what spells are in your hand? Not me, I just want to slam my busted champion, and laugh all the way to the bank. You’re going to full mulligan with this deck more than you ever have in your life. Get used to it.
Now that I've drilled into your head that Nami is important, let's talk about what else you can keep.
Double Trouble is probably the second most important card in the deck. If your opponent is anything but a control/combo deck you probably want to keep it. It’s one of only two cards that I MIGHT keep even if I don’t have a Nami in hand.
You can keep Zoe but we will talk about that more in a bit.
If you already have a Nami in hand then your options start to open up quite a bit. You’re going to want to start building a plan for your turns and it should look something like this;
Turn 1-2: pass
Turn 3: Somehow spend three spell mana (Line`Em Up, Double Trouble, Gifts From Beyond + Guiding Touch, etc)
Turn 4: Spend one spell mana, play Nami (IF SHE’S SAFE TO PLAY), do busted ass things
The tricky part is turn three, because spending less than three spell mana is really bad, and so keeping a card likeLine `Em Up becomes so much better if you already have Nami in hand.
Mistake #2: You prioritize Zoe too much
Listen, Zoe is my favorite champion. I would play her in every deck if I could. This is NOT a Zoe deck. This is a Nami deck. Your number one priority is to level Nami on turn four and it’s often correct to make sure she levels as fast as possible EVEN WHEN YOU DIDN’T DRAW HER YET. Play like you’re going to draw her, because if you do, and she's already leveled most decks just fold on the spot.
Now back to Zoe. It is instinctual to play Zoe on turn one, I get it. The people who think they are clever wait until they are attacking on turn two so they can keep up Pale Cascade and Sunblessed Vigor to keep her alive. By playing her on turn one you ALREADY delay your Nami level up by an entire turn, and as I have said so many times already, leveling Nami as soon as possible is priority number one. But what if I shoot your Zoe with a poke stick? You gonna save her? Cast that Pale Cascade, please, because if you use your mana to save Zoe on turn two then you are NEVER leveling Nami, and I am probably going to run you over with some Poppy nonsense.
I’m not saying playing Zoe on turn one is wrong by any stretch, it’s the right play rather often. You just need to have a good reason to do so besides “space girl go brrrr”. Usually, that reason is something along the lines of, “Equinox will basically win me this game”, “I don't have any spells in hand and I need the starchart so I can spend mana on turn three”, or “I have no Nami or Fleet Admiral Shellyin hand so a flipped Zoe might be my only win-con”. Basically, while there are good reasons to play her turn one, I find that saving her to play on four after Nami is usually way better.
Mistake #3: You play the mirror matchup wrong
Remember when I said Zoe on turn one is bad? I lied, it’s incredible in the mirror. The deck has basically no way to remove her and as long as you don't yolo her straight into a Hush she will probably level. Fleet Admiral Shelly is also the most important card in the mirror and an Equinox shuts that or any other gigantic elusive nonsense down real fast. Because of this, the non-Zoe starchart goes way up in value as well.
Some quick tips on the mirror;
1: Big non-elusive units are almost as good as big elusive units because your opponent only has three cards that make chump blockers, usually forcing them to block with their elusive units anyway.
2: Fleet Admiral Shelly is the card that will actually win you the board when you both inevitably go wide. Protect him at all costs.
3: Attacking in with your units risks getting them hushed and eaten. Obviously, this doesn’t mean you should stop attacking, just be smart about it.
4: Wait for your opponent to cast the first Spell Thief. The player who casts it second gets the chance to loop them, gaining insane amounts of pumps from Nami or Fleet Admiral Shelly.
5: Gravitum + Crescent Strike can usually set up an alpha strike if you can stun enough elusive units.
Honestly, I could go on about this deck for a very very long time but I am going to cut it off here. Hopefully, you learned something from this incredibly long-winded rant, and kudos to you for actually making it this far. I think that Nami Zoe is a pillar of the format and will shape how the competitive scene looks for quite some time unless something is changed balance-wise making this as good of a time to pick it up as any. Even if you aren’t interested in playing the deck yourself it usually helps to get some reps in with what you expect to see on the ladder and in tournaments so that you understand how the deck functions.
Good luck and may you always draw Nami on turn four.