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Zed Poppy Deck Guide

Zed Poppy Rally is a difficult, tricky, relentless, ancient, ice-cold, punchy-yet-patient, sort-of-elusive, fully-on-board archetype.

Where do you hide a deadly secret? Where your foe won’t look for it: in broad daylight, in plain sight.

 

Elusives Rally is a difficult, tricky, relentless, ancient, ice-cold, punchy-yet-patient, sort-of-elusive, fully-on-board archetype.

 

Regions
Demacia
22 cards
Ionia
18 cards
Rarities
23 400
champion
6
epic
0
rare
10
common
24
Mana cost
0
0
7
1
17
2
7
3
9
4
0
5
0
6
0
7+
Champions
6
3
Zed
3
4
Poppy
3
Followers
18
1
Fleetfeather Tracker
3
1
Navori Bladescout
2
2
Brightsteel Protector
3
2
Greenglade Duo
3
2
Young Witch
3
3
Laurent Protege
2
3
Shadow Assassin
2
Spells
16
1
Ranger's Resolve
2
2
Nopeify!
2
2
Sharpsight
3
2
Twin Disciplines
3
4
Golden Aegis
3
4
Relentless Pursuit
3

Difficult: Certainly not rocket science, but Elusive Rally is not the easiest deck to pick.

To begin with, we depend on huge attack turns to achieve lethal. Sometimes we deal enough damage to kill our foe twice, but in tight games, we often reduce our opponent’s health to exactly zero. And since there’s quite a bit of buffing going around, the math does get messy.

On top of that, the deck greatly relies on combat tricks and counterspells. As we’ll see, our spells are our highest win rate cards. This in turn requires an intimate knowledge of the meta, if we are to correctly gauge our foe’s capacity to harm us.

Tricky: As said above, some of our highest-win rate cards are defensive (and sometimes offensive) combat tricks. This deck is less about power than it is about timing.

Ancient and resilient: Rally Elusives, as a concept, is one of LoR’s oldest archetypes.

It’s also among the most hated.

Some even say, in hushed whispers, that it was the Spawner of Wretchedly Infernal Monstrosities himself who summoned this archetype from the twisted Void and unleashed salty, not interactive strife among players.

Yet, like a recurring nightmare, it never goes away, which is a testament to how resilient its game plan is.

Ice-cold, punchy-yet-patient: Ours is not an archetype for the hot-blooded. All-out aggro is not this deck’s thing. Quite the contrary: this deck begs us to bide our time, build our board, and bring our rival from healthy to zero in a single turn.

Fully on board: All of what we do happens on the board. We’re the most combative deck, bar none. We live and die in the combat phase, and we remain ice-cold to the bitter end: there’s no burn damage of any kind in our arsenal. There’s only one way we deliver pain: by connecting a fist to the face.

Every other top meta deck right now has some form of interaction via spells either through direct damage like Mystic Shot or Noxian Fervor or Darkness or by neutralizing units with stuns or freezes.

Not us. Our only two interactive cards (which provides a ton of interaction, mind you!) are units: Fleetfeather Tracker (in all versions of this deck) and Laurent Protege (included in a few).

Sort-of-elusive: We hide our threats in plain sight, even in our nickname. Three of our best units, and specifically both our champions, are not elusive. Knowing when to deal chip damage (for which the elusives that we do have are excellent) and when to go all-in with everything is key with this deck.

 

Performance & Matchups

According to Legna’s Meta Report (n°26) – Patch 2.16 – Week 2 (Wed 6), from among meta decks (those with a play rate above 1%) at Masters, Rally Elusives’s win rate is second only to undead monstrosity and ladder Big Boss Draven Sion.

According to Dr. LoR‘s tweet (Friday 8), Zed & Poppy are actually the scariest thing in Masters, and misses by a hair’s breadth the first spot in Plat+ to Yordle Burn.

(Dr. LoR groups all versions of Rally Elusives together, hence the larger playrate)

Alright, so our overall win rate is great; let’s check now what our matchups look like.

According to Legna’s Meta Report#26, these are our winrates against the top three most common opponents:

Here we have good news, bad news, and take-it-with-a-bit-of-salt news

Really bad news first: We have an unfavorable (although not horrible) matchup against Ladder Monster Número Uno, Draven Sion. Our defensive spells can hold their own against interaction-heavy decks, and we can race board-heavy decks, but we have trouble with decks that can do both. If you find a ton of Dronies in your pocket meta, you may want to give our relentless friend a rest and pilot something else.

Then again, there’s good news: We steal Nami Zoe’s lunch more often than not. They have a slow start, little interaction, and their main gimmick (elusives) is similar to ours.

And this is the take-with-salt part: We have a really easy time against Darkness, which is arguably an overplayed deck: its win rate is much lower than its play rate. In other words, people are playing Darkness because it’s cool/fun/(another subjective reason), not because it’s winning.

Should they change their mind and prefer winning, that could turn the meta against us. Doubly so if what they decide to pick is Draven Sion.

Let’s take a look at all matchups with more than 100 games played (always in Masters):

In this case, we have good news and great news.

The good news: We have a good chunk of blue matchups, going as far as 65% against Lurk (we race faster and more consistently, and Zed + Twin Disciplines gives Rek'Sai a spanking).

The great news: Half of our red matches are close to 50/50. We do have a tough time against P&Z when they also exert board pressure, but those decks are currently struggling. Here are Ezreal Vi’s and Draven Caitlyn’s win rates in Masters:

As you can see, it’s not overly optimistic to expect that our worst matchups in this batch will dwindle during the last stretch of the season, due to their bad ladder performance.

Finally, some results from among matchups with less than 100 games played:

When checking how we do against the less-played archetypes, there’s nothing but great news. It’s all blue:

As you can see, it’s not overly optimistic to expect that our worst matchups in this batch will dwindle during the last stretch of the season, due to their bad ladder performance.

Finally, some results from among matchups with less than 100 games played:

When checking how we do against the less-played archetypes, there’s nothing but great news. It’s all blue:

Do remember that the above table includes small (less than 100 games) samples, though. That being said, we seem to do very well into Lee Sin & Zoe, a deck that has been gaining popularity as of late in Masters: Dragon Boy and Star Girl have a very good matchup into Draven Sion and Poppy Ziggs, while also being slightly favored versus Nami Zoe.

Matchups in a nutshell:

  • On the one hand, we do poorly against the most popular deck (Draven Sion) and are not great against the premium aggro choice (Ziggs Poppy).
  • On the other, we do great against the current field (as shown by the deck’s stellar win rate), stomp over some other strong ladder choices that currently see a bit less play (like Gangplank Sejuani or Akshan Sivir), and we are even well-positioned against a potential meta-breaker (Zoe Lee Sin), should it gain popularity during this season’s last days.

Two Examples Top-performing Decks

Let’s check now the two most popular Poppy Zed builds at Masters.

We’ll take this information from Balco’s (@Balco21 on Twitter) report, here: https://lor-meta.com/tierlist/. Do notice that Balco’s data is dynamic – things may have changed by the time you read this article (and of course means you should consider the freshest batch of data! =)

Deck A: Most popular in Asia, 53.6% winrate:

Deck B: Most popular in Europe, 56,7% winrate:

Change of Server (from Asia to Europe) is not irrelevant, but the 3% win rate increase just by swapping Ghost for Ranger's Resolve is consistent with individual card data, as we’ll see in the next section.

If you’re considering laddering with Poppy Zed and prefer a “tried and true” build (as in, a build that we know performs excellently at Masters), then Deck B above is the deck for you.

If you want a build with a couple of extra tweaks based on the available data about card performance, and/or you want numbers to inspire your optimization, check the next section.

Our By-the-Numbers Tweaks

Alright, number time! =)

This is a detailed breakdown of card performance, again from Balco:

  • Overall indicates the % of decks running a specific card. For example, 15,5% of all decks run Laurent Protege.
  • The columns under Play rate indicate how many copies are run. 84,5% of all decks run 0 copies of Protege, and the 15,5% that do run it are spread as follows: 1,3% runs 1 copy, 4,6% runs 2, and 9,6% runs 3.
  • Under Winrate you can see how card choice affects deck performance. Data suggests that having 2 copies of Laurent Protégé is better than running 0, 1, or 3. For clarity, this is the win rate of the deck with this many copies of the card, not the win rate of the card itself; but with different builds being so similar we’ll use the deck’s win rate as an indicator of the card performance.

Cells highlighted with thick borders are my recommendation on how to optimize the deck.

  • We ditch Ghost since this data supports what we saw when comparing the two most popular builds. 1x could be a solid option since the card is not bad at all (above all, it has a huge comeback potential), but the evidence is too heavily against it for my taste.
  • There’s too little data to support adding Fae Guide or Inspiring Mentor (which many lists include). 
  • We stick to build B from the previous section in the remaining choices.

We arrive at:

Deck code & Link: CQDACAYABYAQGAQKAECAAAQBAUFCSAYBAAERKHIDAEBAMCIMAQAQCAALAEBAABYBAMBBIAQBAIITSAA

Further tweaks:

If you feel you want to tinker a bit more, then my main suggestions would be:

  • Consider trimming and extra Navori Bladescout and/or Shadow Assassin, since data suggest it’s okay (and perhaps ideal). I didn’t feel too comfortable doing so myself, although I may be focusing on salient anecdotes (the Assassin drawing me the exact card I need, for example).
  • Consider adding an extra Nopeify! and/or Ranger’s Resolve. I felt 3x to be too many (since these cards don’t stack), but our numbers don’t oppose such tweak.
  • Adding back 1x Ghost could certainly work. In particular at lower ranks, it makes the games faster, which may be something you want if you need to jam a lot of games quickly.
  •  If you feel 6x rallies are too much, consider trimming Relentless Pursuit before Golden Aegis. I definitely don’t recommend going below 6 since this is very much our deck’s thing (and these do ‘stack’, in a way), but Science surely won’t oppose you doing a bit of research on the topic.

Our Cards

 

Champs:

Zed: He may this “Oooohh, I’m all shadows!” attitude, but he really shines in this deck. Remember: Punchy-yet-patient. Don’t play him without protection: baiting some removal that we can counter with Sharpsight is often game-winning.

Our shadow ninja is often our Plan A: He puts a ton of pressure and becomes really scary when levelled up. It’s not rare to win just with Zed, Fleetfeather Tracker, some extra unit and a couple of tricks: Any extra stats on Zed will transfer to the shadow he summons when attacking.

Poppy: It has to be said, ours is the only deck that deserves her. We can actually level her up! (Once in a while, at least)

Like Zed, we need to make sure we can protect her; that’s why our buffs are among the highest-winrate cards, remember? She pairs really well with Young Witch and Brightsteel Protector. Simple, straightforward, powerful champ (which is why she sees so much play in other decks, of course).

Our Spells:

Our three buffs and one of our rallies, are the four cards with the highest winrate. That should tell you a lot about how this deck wants to be played.

Remember: this is a tricky, patient archetype. We are not about flooding the board; we’re about tricking our foe into bad plays so we can unleash our offensive potential.

Ranger's Resolve: Great insurance. So good that data suggests 3x may be correct, although I’ve felt hands getting clogged (above all since they are not cumulative).

Nopeify!: Great insurance, part II. Probably one of the most skill-intensive cards in our deck: its usefulness is tied to our knowledge of what our foe could have that is worth countering. Same comment as above about data suggesting 3x.

Sharpsight and Twin Disciplines: Sharpsight has been a staple Demacian card since it was printed. Twin Disciplines went from “ugh” to “whoa” in the same big balance patch that propelled Young Witch to the front. Both put a ton of work in our deck: They keep our dudes alive at all times, and make our dudes bigger on the attack. Especially Zed: Remember that buffing him before attacking will make his shadow larger, too.

Relentless Pursuit and Golden Aegis: The secret sauce making our dish a killer stew. In particular, Golden Aegis on defense tends to create awkward turns, both sides staring at each other in a Mexican standoff. Unless one side happens to have Poppy, in that case it’s always a blood-soaked hammer trailed by a Victory screen.

 

Our Followers:

Fleetfeather Tracker: Flies like an arrow. Hits like a wrecking ball. Demolishes opposing gameplans and dashes our opponent’s hopes. Wouldn’t be a stretch to call this deck “Young Tracker Rally”, but well, Riot said focus’ gotta be around Champs and that’s why we call this deck “Zed Poppy.” Anyway: this lil’ bird kills our rival’s small units while clearing the way for our champs to hit with full force. Pair it with Young Witch for one of the best 1-2 punches in LoR.

Navori Bladescout: Not the one-drop we usually want in our opening hand, but gets the attacking going if we have nothing else. Becomes a 1-mana Decimate when played in our rally turn. Chumps like a champ, and makes Zoe cry.

Young Witch: Poster girl of how one extra health point can make all the difference. A few months ago this youngster was buffed to 1/2 (from 1/1). Hers, plus the buff to Twin Disciplines was all it took for Twitcher extraordinaire and infamous elusive abuser Swim Maystrim to break the meta (again…). Witch turns Fleetfeather Tracker into a bloodthirsty monster and lets Poppy punch through the thick of our foe’s defenses. Her pings to our foe’s face add up, too.

Brightsteel Protector: Perhaps our most versatile unit. Encourages our non-elusives to attack unafraid, and is the only good option we have for blocking. Especially good to protect key units from Vulnerable shenanigans, and turns Fleetfeather Tracker into a ravenous beast.

Greenglade Duo: Foes hate these two. If you’re bad at math, you’ll hate them even more: greatest source of missed lethal when we miscalculate how much she’ll grow during a rally turn. Very fragile. Don’t keep them in your opening hand.

Shadow Assassin: Not our strongest card, for sure, but the only card draw we have. I may just be lucky with the card she draws, that’s why I keep 2x of her in the suggested build.

Laurent Protege: Like Fleetfeather Tracker but bigger, meaner, bad-asser. Leads to great puns with Mastering Runeterra’s co-host: “Who does not know the name Fleurant?” We’ve cut one Shadow Assassin and one Navori Bladescout to make room for 2x (data suggests 3x is too much).

Mulligan

I believe this is a fairly straightforward deck to mulligan.

  • First of all, the Holy Trinity: Always keep, or mulligan aggressively for, Fleetfeather Tracker, Young Witch and Zed. We like taking our time, but we love hitting early and often.
  • Never keep your rallies. We gotta build a board first.
  • Brightsteel Protector is a great keep if we have something else. Almost Holy Trinity level, but needs some other unit on board to be worth it.
  • If you have three units and your curve covered, consider keeping a buff.
  • Versus interaction-heavy opponents (Discard, TF decks): Increased priority for non-rally spells.
  • Versus slower opponents (Nami Zoe, Darkness): Consider keeping Poppy if you have a good early game. Don’t keep Navori Bladescout even against Zoe (unless the rest of your hand is amazing), we want our top aggressors.
  • Versus swarmy opponents prone to flood the board (Ziggs Poppy, Bandle City Mayor decks): Keep Brightsteel–GREAT tool against Stone Stackers in particular.

A Few Strategic Tips

Imagine a triangle that says “Doing my thing” on one vertex, “Not letting you do your thing” on the second, and “Not letting you do your thing when your thing is not letting me do mine” on the third. Something like this:

Doing my thing” is what straight-up Aggro does. “Not letting you do your thing”, aka Fun Police, is what Control does.

Rally Elusives is kind of weird in that, although we do follow a very proactive game plan (hitting face as often as possible, ideally 2-3 times during the same round), and although we do have a very aggro-looking curve with very little interaction, we excel at not letting our foe have fun with us.

That’s in my opinion the main key about playing Rally Elusive: If we time our defenses properly, we have half of the game won. We’re about building a board and then chaining a rally or two, not about blood-lusted berserking.

The other half of the game is not making mistakes. These are a few of the most common, in my experience:

  • During a Rally turn, forgetting that all of our effects last until end of turn. When planning a rally turn, remember that the Quick Attack provided by Young Witch during our first attack will still be “on” during our second attack.
  • Fubaring how big will Greenglade Duo grow in a Rally turn. It’s not rare to open-attack, play a unit, rally… but sometimes playing the unit first, even if it passes the initiative to our opponent, is an extra point of damage when Greenglade Duo is concerned.
  • Not using the Oracle Eye and then missing lethal by 1-2 points. When considering going all-in (which often means Poppy sacrifices herself to make the team bigger), better double-check with the Eye that we actually can push through. If we lose our board we are in serious trouble.

Last but not least: A good offense is indeed a great defense. Or, better put: the threat of a good offense is a great defense. One thing our deck is really bad at is blocking (as a rule of thumb: don’t!), but the threat of us having a rally in hand, or us casting Golden Aegis on defense, can be enough to give our foe pause and have them pass priority, allowing us to end the turn.

In Closing

Rally Elusives has been tilting foes out of their salted minds since the dawn of LoR. I hope the above guide either entices you to become one of the tilters or inspires you to tweak a card or two and improve your tilting prowess.

If you have any doubts about the data or the reasoning, poke me on Reddit or Twitter @HerkoKerghans and ask me about it—I’ll either do my best to provide a proper response, or we’ll have to find the answer together and we’ll both learn something new. Win-win!

And if you liked this guide, you can find more of my writings here in Mastering Runeterra, or at my Riwan Newsletter (link).

May you always chain your rallies right, may shadows shroud your elusives and good luck in your climb! =)