Hey guys, Jasensational here!
Zoe Lee Sin has been around for a long while and remains to be one of the strongest, most consistent tournament decks. While having worse ladder performance stats, the best players still boast incredible win rates. Especially given the surge in Thralls or GP Sej decks, the deck stands to gain a fair bit and is among the staples in recent meta reports. I think the archetype is really strong, and in this Zoe Lee Sin deck guide I would like to share some tips on becoming a better pilot.
Where this deck shines is its incredible flexibility to win games with either of the two, or a combination of both win conditions: leveling Zoe, or kicking the opponent’s nexus in with a leveled Lee Sin. Even in the hardest matchups, like against Darkness or Bandle Tree that have Minimorph or Aloof Travelers to answer Lee Sin, Zoe can steal games by herself.
I’ll start with the more straightforward of the two-win conditions, Lee Sin. For those of you unfamiliar with how Lee Sin works, his leveled ability allows him to strike and recall an opponent unit. Paired with overwhelm, this essentially allows us to strike the opponent’s nexus twice, once with the skill, and second with our attack now that the blocker is removed from the equation.
Lee Sin also has a unique ability that allows us to give him a barrier for the turn by casting two spells on that turn, giving our Lee Sin great survivability. So the aim of this win condition is to stall out the game, then either cast Zenith Blade or Infernum off of Gifts From Beyond, then buff our Lee Sin’s attack using Twin Disciplines and Pale Cascade to deal lethal damage.
Then there is the Zoe level up win condition. The reason why this one-drop champion can win us games is because of her unit ability to grant allies keywords on summon after leveling up. In conjunction with Eye of the Dragon we can stall out much longer by giving all allies lifesteal each round. Or with invoked cards like The Trickster or bigger elusives off of Behold the Infinite or Solari Priestess we can sneak in elusive damage turn after turn.
Leveing Zoe is simple on paper, we just have to play out our cards until we play ten unique cards. Our deck is designed to make this process easier, with many burst speed cards and ways of protecting Zoe. The same buff cards to go in with Lee Sin also provide us defensive means. Pale Cascade stops a ping and Twin Disciplines might stop an Avalanche. Cards like Supercool Starchart and Gifts From Beyond also count as two cards for Zoe.
It’s important to identify which win condition we should be prioritizing early on, because leveling Zoe versus stalling until Lee Sin otk will play out very differently. This can be identified easily in one of two ways. One, we don’t draw Lee Sin, and two, we cannot rely on Lee Sin to close games. In most situations, it’s almost always correct to play for a Zoe level up, given we draw her.
Even if Lee Sin can win us games, being able to represent both threats of our champions can draw out many resources from our opponent, either slowing down their gameplan or limiting their removal for Lee Sin. But as the pilot, it’s important to know when to draw the line and save spells and resources. It could be deciding to save our Zoe with a Twin Disciplines, or let Zoe die and saving our Twin Disciplines to be used for damage later with Lee Sin for example. This will come down to experience, but be careful we don’t tunnel vision into one plan over the other if we can use both.
This Is A… Control Deck?
This distinction is not as important, but I want to talk about the playstyle of the deck and how it shares important characteristics of a control deck. At first glance, it can be weird to look at a deck with practically no direct removal options and see how or why you can play it like a control deck. But the fundamental ability of a control deck to control the pace of the game through passing and stalling is one of Zoe Lee’s strongest characteristics.
This is largely possible due to Eye of the Dragon being able to summon us Dragonling and our deck’s ability to proc it consistently. This is such an important card in this deck that we “technically” run six copies of Eye of the Dragon, with Crescendum being able to tutor it from our deck. Having a Dragonling on board can make an opponent's attack turns extremely awkward, especially given our ability to buff Dragonling to take down bigger units while healing back health.
Even on our attack turn, we can set up easy non-committal open attacks with Dragonling to casually heal back two to six health. In conjunction with Sonic Wave, we can even pick off enemy units reliably while healing. Outside of Eye of the Dragon, we have access to cards like Concussive Palm, Will of Ionia, and Crescent Strike to slow down the game or punish development from the opponent. This ability to stall out the game empowers Lee Sin as we can often finish the game with him alone with very few decks being able to handle him properly.
In a similar control deck style category, we are often happy if we can pass effectively and burn our opponent’s mana, also slowing down the game. But that is not to say we would win the game if we passed nine turns in a row. If we aren’t casting spells, we aren’t progressing towards our Lee Sin level up; we’re not activating Eye of the Dragon to stall defensive turns; and, we’re not progressing our Zoe level up. This leads us up nicely to the next point: when to spend resources.
What is the Right Time to Spend Your Resources?
In most board states, we will be in a position where we want to stall out the game for a few turns, with an Eye of the Dragon on the board. To effectively act out our game plan, there are two key resources we must consider: the number of spells in our hand, and the amount of mana. To activate our Eye of the Dragon for Dragonling, we need to cast two spells, costing on average four to six mana, almost every turn. Remember this number: two spells is going to be the important figure we aim for. If we cast more than two spells in a turn, we are limiting how much mana we have going into the next turn, as well as the flexibility of what spells we want to play. This can have devastating effects if suddenly we’re unable to activate our Eye of the Dragon on a key turn and have no blockers available.
Generally, the number of spells is usually not an issue as most of our spells cycle through our deck, so the biggest restricting factor is going to be our mana. When our main goal is to activate Eye of the Dragon while keeping her alive, we need to play as reactively as possible. Some great non-committal plays that meet these criteria are Gifts From Beyond into Crescendum or Sonic Wave into Resonating Strike (usually on a dragonling when we have attack token). Both of these plays fulfill the two-spell requirement, only cost three mana, and don’t make us commit a protection spell-like Pale Cascade Guiding Touch or Twin Disciplines first.
Once Lee Sin is on the board, we still want to be reactive with our two spells, especially because giving Lee Sin barrier at the right moment can be crucial for his survival. We don’t want to put ourselves in a position where we cast two spells pre-maturely, get the barrier removed easily, and then open Lee Sin up to some form of removal or challenger. This is less important on our attack token since Lee Sin usually doesn’t engage in combat directly due to his leveled-up ability. So on defensive turns, it may be correct to block with Lee Sin and let him take some damage rather than giving him barrier.
As long as Lee Sin is alive after combat, we have plenty of counterplay to practically any combination of cards with a combination of our own. If our opponent tries to Scorched Earth our damaged Lee Sin, we can heal him up with Guiding Touch, then cast a second spell and give him barrier against a Mystic Shot to prevent damage, essentially fizzling out the Scorched Earth, all while having Deny as a backup.
Once we’re cast two spells in a turn, then we can continue the passing game. The opponent is forced into an awkward spot of attacking into Dragonling or needing to play proactively into our counters. This is where we can take aggressive passes to burn the opponent’s mana or feel comfortable cycling through our deck to find our win condition and spend our mana. Just make sure you are banking as much mana into the next turn or not accidentally tapping under appropriate responses.
Mulliganing wise, it’s pretty simple to identify the three best cards in our deck: Zoe, Lee Sin, and Gifts From Beyond
From there, we have two situations, but very important cards that I want to look for, being: Eye of the Dragon and Solari Priestess. Now you might be asking, why is Gifts From Beyond higher consideration than Eye of the Dragon? While we want to be tutoring Eye of the Dragon off of the gifts, Gifts From Beyond importantly is two spells for our gameplan, and thins out our deck by pulling Eye of the Dragon out of it. Whereas, keeping Eye of the Dragon is only important in aggressive matchups. Solari Priestess is great in midrange matchups to give us access to our only direct removal Falling Comet or other value plays.
Generally, it's correct to mulligan away spells from your hand in search of these five cards. Because our deck is primarily spells, the likelihood of finding them is quite high, whereas these five cards can make our hand a lot better.
Draven Sion - Favored (70/30)
This matchup is one of the reasons why Zoe Lee can be so powerful. With Eye of the Dragon healing us turn after turn, it can be hard for the Draven Sion player to ever get meaningful damage through. We have Concussive Palm and Lee Sin kick to continuously deny Sion from ever getting a hit in.
Burn - Favored (65/35)
Plunder - Favored (55/45)
One of the most popular decks on the ladder, Plunder is also a good matchup as Eye of the Dragon can shut attacks down and keep our health high. To beat a leveled Sejuani, we have a combination of Will of Ionia Hush or Falling Comet off of priestess to ensure our Lee Sin can finish the game. This is also a matchup where an elusive Scattered Pod can just clock your opponent for lethal damage funnily enough.
Poppy Zed Rally - Unfavored (40/60)
Elusives and rallies are Zoe Lee’s biggest nightmare. Relentless attacks after wiping away our Dragonling or having elusives we can’t meaningfully block can just put on too much pressure to handle. Prioritize removing their champions or elusives with Sonic Wave. Save up Deny mana if possible if you think they’re representing a rally.
Bandle Tree/Darkness/Minimorph Decks - Unfavored (40/60)
To any Zoe Lee beginner, these can feel like the hardest matchups, but to an experienced player, you may find these to be quite beatable. Because we can’t put our eggs into the Lee Sin basket, we will fully prioritize leveling Zoe. Either we level Zoe or they spend a Minimorph on her and then we play Lee Sin. Their game plans are quite slow and give us time to cycle for multiple Lee Sins if needed.
Zoe Lee has been known to drive players away from it due to its complexity. Hopefully, this guide helps to break down the key points and give tips on how to better pilot the deck and improve your game. This has quickly risen as one of my favorite decks to play and I wish that you find a similar passion for it!
Let me know if you have any questions! You can find me here:
Discord: Jasinsane #0246