Hey, guys. I wanted to start this series because we have many defined archetypes nowadays and I thought to take the role of a narrator on your journey of understanding how powerful top dogs in the meta or sneaky niche builds came out to be.
I have a few plans for this series, but if you have an archetype whose story you would want me to tell, feel free to drop it in the comments.
Taking into consideration the recent buffs to the Dragons archetype, I thought to lay back in my chair for a bit and meditate on how Demacia Targon evolved as an archetype up to the versions that we now see running.
As you already know, my name is Constantin “CastMin” Dumitru, caster for many community tournaments and peak Top 20 player on the EU server, known for popularizing Burn lists like Pirate Aggro utilizing Double Up in the Rising Tides season and Funsmith Burn.
Let’s not waste time and get this Time Capsule series started.
Monuments of Power and Lux-Sol
We owe the first glimpses of brilliance for this archetype to my fellow Romanian player, The CatAsUs, as he was the pioneer of it. It was Duels of Runeterra #17 when he first presented it to the world in a line-up focused on countering Scouts as the prevalent threat of the meta; the other two decks were Tahm-Raka and Fiora-Shen with three copies of Radiant Guardian.
The initial version was heavily focused on survivability and levelling Lux consistently, Aurelion Sol being your prized finisher heading into the late turns. What stood out in his brew were the three copies of Radiant Guardian, three copies of Blinding Assault and two copies of Judgment.
Why? As we mentioned, Scouts were the boogie man at that time. And what were they doing best? Chopping your health total very consistently while maintaining their board advantage, as their units are healthier than the usual Aggro ones we are used to.
In this case, it made perfect sense to have Radiant Guardian to stand your ground in the mid-game, on the turns your opponent could get really dangerous. Blinding Assault makes perfect sense, as well, since you wanted consistent ways to activate your Radiant Guardian and early blockers. To top it off, Judgment was your ultimate “Concede and go next” card; you were allowed to get considerably low against Scouts, as MF was the only over the top damage dealer, just to have a huge Radiant+Judgement turn, get back to full health, clear the whole board and make your opponent cry even more than Viego does for his Isolde.
A few final mentions for this chapter of the deck are:
Remembrance was mostly a “Give me more Radiant Guardians” card;
Starshaping used to heal 5 until very recently;
The deck has seen a few variations during that period, including: 1 Leona instead of Aurelion Sol and her package, so you could wider swings after her level up or swapping Lux for Garen, so you could get more attacks with better stated units than your opponent – this version ran a more Dragon-centered package, with cards like Dragonguard Lieutenant and Screeching Dragon.
Sharpsight became a staple of the archetype later on, usually replacing Pale Cascade, which got nerfed from +2/+1 to +1/+1, as we know it nowadays.
The Dark Ages before Patch 2.5
“Waaait a second. It took that long for the archetype to be popular again?”
Yes, it did, because many overpowered decks came into existence after:
Patch 1.11 saw Lee Sin rising, as Bastion received a buff which I cannot explain until today (later getting a cost increase of +1). Hush couldn’t keep up with this buff anymore, as you needed to pair it with Single Combat or Concerted Strike and hope your opponent doesn’t hold Nopeify! or Deny.
The addition of Zoe did not help at all, either, as you would gain another reason to worry. Some Demacia Targon variants used to run her themselves, but the archetype quickly ran out of favor.
The K/DA ALL OUT event brought into existence Twisted Fate Go Hard, against which all control decks used to fall because of Pack Your Bags costing one mana and having Commander Ledros as the top end against any Control deck that would hope to win against you; in addition, Feel The Rush decks would just run over you;
The Aphelios Champion Expansion and the Aphelios piles made it even harder for the archetype to strive, as this champion would be the ultimate value engine you want.
“But, sir. Couldn’t you just build a Demacia deck with Aphelios?”
Of course there have been attempts to, but it had the lowest power level among all the Aphelios piles and has never seen proper play.
The Bright Ages of Patch 2.5 and Guardians of the Ancient
After a failed attempt during the Dark Ages to somewhat make Shyvana more relevant in Patch 1.14 by buffing her stats to 4/4 from 3/4, it was Patch 2.5 that really made her shine, as she received her well-deserved Fury tag, as all Dragon should. This solely made people interested in brewing with her again. They realized that combining her on-attack effect, the Fury tag and the protective spells from Demacia and Targon, in addition to the combat tricks Demacia became well-known for, made her a menace.
The cherry on top was the introduction of the The Guardians of the Ancient expansion and namely the impact that Azir, Irelia and the Blade Dance mechanic had on the game. Against this powerful and easy to pick up deck, your best was the saving grace of the Dragon Package, so you could block Blades efficiently and not lose HP on your units. In addition the Challengers Package would make sure you can actively pick their champions apart and disrupt their game plan.
The version became more Midrange in nature and gave up more and more on the Invoke Package, you simply needed raw stats to overpower them, not units like Solari Priestess, which were extraordinary in terms of value but awful as blockers. Judgment was a bait people ran away from quite fast, as an eight mana card that could be countered by Homecoming was not necessarily ideal. The lists looked similar to the one below.
The return of Khaleesi
As time passed by and new creations from the Bandlewood set like Zoe-Nami, Darkness, Ping City and Poppy-Zigs emerged or old ones like Gangplank-Sejuani have been revived, Dragons faced yet another struggle to be relevant, as one big and mean Dragon could not keep up with the armies of Sparkle-Guns, the consistent removal of Darkness or the big amounts of burn that could be output by Ping City or Poppy-Ziggs.
But with the proper nerfs and a few artificial buffs on the archetype which you can see in the Patch 2.18 Notes, the archetype is getting interest once more and I would dare say outperforming its past variants.
I am not able to tell you if this is just the frenzy of the moment or if you should pick up any specific lists, since we are very early after the patch. People are trying to go for Lux-Leona variants again or just usual Midrange Dragons with Shyvana and Aurelion Sol, but we are still in an experimenting phase where we are trying to figure out what is good and why.
Just keep an eye on these specific decks, try building a version of your own and hope you are not hitting one of those Lurkers that emerged on the surface to battle against the Dragons.
From pure Control and late game advantage to Midrange dominance and battle for the board, Demacia Targon surely had an interesting journey worthy to follow. I am but a humble scribe, baring all these events and laying them down in writing, so future generations may learn about the past, live in the present and always hope for new changes in the future.
Whatever that future may hold, I hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful.
Don’t forget to check out my Twitter as I will keep you up to date there about my future articles and future interviews with top competitors that will also share from time to time their moments of nostalgia about their favorite decks from a specific season.
❗Don’t forget to mention in the comments which archetype you would to see a Time Capsule on for the next article❗