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Championless Tempo (Demacia / Ionia) Deck Guide

February 6th, 2020 | jscaliseok
Legends of Runeterra has been out for a few weeks now, and the overall meta is just starting to take shape. Though elusives and Shadow Isles took over at the start, many different regions and builds have risen to the top. A range of players have hit Master with unique decks, and this week's list, which comes from Petrify, is one such build.

This list does use the early elusive package that has become so popular on ladder. However, it goes about it in a slightly different way. Rather than being a true aggro deck, it is a tempo build that seeks to slowly pace the game each and every turn.

>> Championless Tempo (D/I) Deck List <<



The first thing you'll notice about this list is that it runs zero champions. We've seen that through control lists, such as the early SI/Ionia or SI/Frejlord decks. However, this is not something we've seen typically with aggro or midrange builds. There are many low-cost heroes in the game, and they all bring something unique to the table. As such, it's a big leap to go with only followers.

This deck chooses that route because it is a pure tempo deck. That is to say, rather than relying on one strong card or a specific combo, it puts down small units that steadily apply pressure. Rather than overwhelming your opponent, you chip away at the enemy nexus while removing or slowing down the opponent's board.

This game plan is realized through a slew of powerful-but-cheap units across both Demacia and Ionia. Many people already know how strong elusive units are, but this deck goes beyond the normal fare. Rather than playing for synergy, you have a bunch of effectively-statted units and cheap spells that are all great in a vacuum. That combination wins a lot of games.

The Elusive Package

First and foremost, this is an elusive deck. You have the traditional early game units as a way to build pressure. Those are Greenglade Duo, Navori Conspirator, Shadow Assassin, Silverwing Scout and Kinkou Lifeblade. Conspirator helps you pick up Inspiring Mentor or Shadow Assassin to double dip on their play ability, while the others exist to get in at the nexus without worrying about blockers.

Of these, Kinkou Lifeblade is the most powerful. There are many Shadow Isle-based aggro decks on ladder right now, and they come hard at your life total. The healing you get from Lifeblade is often the difference between winning and losing. In fact, always buff it in those matchups whenever possible. You're almost never going to lose to aggro when you're gaining life and dealing damage at the same time. They simply can't keep up.

Silverwing Scout is a reaction to the other elusive decks running around. When buffed, it is almost impossible to kill thanks to the tough keyword. This is a card, like so many here, that exists to create tough situations for your opponent. If you aren't under a lot of pressure, this should be one of your main buff targets with Laurent Bladekeeper.

Also know when you need to block with your elusive units. Ideally, you'll never have to. However, there will be games where you want to use them to stave off pressure. Always think about what burst spells your opponent might have at any given time and calculate it against your life total. Sometimes you need to block. Sometimes, due to the damage on your swing back, you need to take a hit and hope they don't have it.

The Tempo

A good tempo deck doesn't just have a bunch of small minions, it also plays off the opponent's cards. This list does that through Fleetfeather Tracker, Deny, and Will of Ionia. All three of these cards may seem inconspicuous, but they go a long, long way towards protecting your board.

Fleetfeather Tracker is a removal spell more than anything else. The bird trades into early game units, picks off other elusive followers, and makes your opponent take bad trades to avoid it. Controlling combat is a big part of tempo, and the 2/1 ensures you can sculpt the early board to your favor.

Beyond Fleet, you also have Deny and Will of Ionia. Everyone who plays on ladder knows the power of Deny by now. The three mana spell allows you to extend onto the board or block and attack with little worry of tricky non-burst spells. That is huge for this list because you want to do a lot of work with your small minions. If they get killed by early spells or mid-game AOE, it completely decimates your advantage. Deny prevents that from happening.

Will of Ionia is a bit more nuanced than Deny, but it is also quite strong. This card wins marks for its versatility. Most of the time it helps clear out blockers, but it can also shut down big attacking units as well. As with Deny, this card simply protects your board. Yes, your opponent can replay their unit next round when they have the mana, but by that time they'll have taken so much damage it won't really matter. Just note that this spell is costly, making it more of a mid-game option than anything else.

Combat Tricks

Another key part of tempo is getting favorable board states through favorable trades. In Legends of Runeterra, that is most often done through combat tricks. Riposte and Back to Back are two cards most people wouldn't expect to see in a non-Fiora deck. Even so, they work wonders for this game plan because they allow you to take great trades at burst speed.

Riposte is an extremely powerful card in the current board-heavy meta. Not only does the burst dodge Deny, but it creates a lose-lose situation for your opponent. If they block they often lose their unit, and if they don't it can open them up to taking massive amounts of damage. An unblocked Ripotse is one of the more common ways to win.

When pacing combat tricks, always make sure to play them at the right time. Know when you want to give your opponent a chance to react and know when you need to strike first. If you suspect they have something to play, let them play it. Just never attack into an unfavorable board state.

The Buffs

Another way to win in combat is to simply make your units bigger than your opponent's. In the early stages of LoR, many early game minions have similar stat-lines. As such, getting your 3/2 to a 4/3 can make all of the difference in the world.

For instance, let's say you're playing the mirror. They have a Fleetfeather Tracker on turn one. Normally, that would completely blank your turn two Navori Conspirator. However, if you buffed it with Inspiring Mentor they can no longer trade into it. You then get to attack freely without worry, netting you an extra four points of early damage. If they don't have an answer the following turn, that four turns into eight, which quickly turns into twelve. That chain is the basis of every tempo deck, and it is why buffs matter so much.

This build has three ways to buff units: Inspiring Mentor, Dawnspeakers, and Laurent Bladekeeper. Mentor is the easiest to use, typically hitting an early game elusive unit and then going back to your hand via a Conspirator.

Dawnspeakers are one of the more unusual choices here, but they have an incredibly high ceiling. The three mana 1/4 got a lot of use in early Dawnspider builds, and it does the same thing here: punishes your opponent for removing your threats. This card is an absolute powerhouse when left unchecked, and ensures that, even if your opponent can answer your threats, they will lose a lot of life for doing so.

Just be careful when and how you play Dawnspeakers. Commonly, you want to drop them down after you trade in combat so your opponent doesn't know you have them. However, if you need time, you can also play them first to deter your opponent's attack. Just never send them into block or attack unless you have a combat trick to protect them. They mostly sit on the bench and rack up value.

Finally, we have Laurent Bladekeeper. Though the 2/3 saw little play when LoR first dropped, it has become one of the most popular cards in the game. The 2/2 stat buff is very strong, especially when paired with powerful elusive units. Getting this on a Kinkou Lifeblade breaks open the aggro matchup, while sticking it on a Silverwing Scout creates an extremely strong attacker that will win in almost any combat. There is no one target you want to hit with this card. Prioritize elusive units, but take any window you can find to beef something up and press the attack.

Nonstop Combat

Relentless Pursuit is the most interesting card in this list, which is why it deserves it's own section. This spell is a "gotcha" card if there ever was one. That is to say, it catches people completely off guard.

Most games your opponent will assume you're a stock elusive build. As such, they will never play around you being able to attack twice in a row. This is a pure finisher that enables you quickly and efficiently shut down your opponent when they least expect it.

When setting this up, don't be afraid to pass priority to get your opponent to use their mana first. Many people will assume you're holding up Deny mana and play around it (or try to bait it) accordingly. As soon as they do that and you have a window, you can finish them off with your unblockable team.

Legends of Runeterra is still in its infancy, which means there are many decks popping up each and every day. While next week we'll go back to an interesting control list, this week I wanted to analyze a different take on the popular elusive package.

Tempo lists are not always the easiest to play. However, once you learn how to maximize pressure while taking away your opponent's threats (either through spells or combat) it gets much easier. Sometimes you just steamroll a slow start, but most of the time you're trying to make the most of your cheap minions and figuring out how to squeeze in that extra bit of damage.

(Last Updated: February 18th, 2020)

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