The Empires of the Ascended expansion is finally out! I have spent the first few days experimenting with Taliyah as her landmark-based condition and explosive level up caught my eye.
In this article, I want to showcase 3 different decks which include Taliyah and have a certain potential. These lists are not meant to be top-tier. Instead, the breakdowns below are intended to inform you of Taliyah’s strengths and weaknesses, and if she has the capabilities to fit in a specific metagame or any powerful archetype.
As another disclaimer, I should add that although I have played a lot of Taliyah myself, I have not faced a single opponent running a deck with her in these early days.
This deck’s dream is to use Taliyah to copy The Veiled Temple and use them both in conjunction to pump a unit’s stats and threaten to end the game through sheer value, using Celestials as finishers if the need arises. Ideally, Aphelios would have been played on an earlier turn to stabilize the board and allow us space to set up our temple.
Aphelios decks are nothing new, but Taliyah, once leveled, brings incredible pressure, threatening a minimum of 9 damage on attack turns. Coupled with Infernum, Taliyah becomes a force of nature, able to dispatch her blocker and deal massive damage to the Nexus as well.
The deck does suffer heavily against aggro if it does not draw Lunari Duskbringer into Aphelios, and with his recent health nerf, Aphelios can almost never survive if you’re forced to block.
The second major issue is its consistency. It is often that I found myself without a Veiled Temple to duplicate, and when I could, having to sacrifice two turns to set up a Temple and then duplicate it is often too crippling in terms of tempo
While Taliyah could have a place among the many Aphelios variants, she sadly has not been powerful enough to make herself a vital part of this deck’s core game plan and can easily be cut for more common alternatives such as Zoe, Twisted Fate, or Tahm Kench.
Lissandra and her followers create landmarks that turn into giant monstrosities. Taliyah duplicates them and levels up after you summon enough. The synergy is obvious, but is it any good? I focused at first on a heavy control archetype, but it was outgunned by other Lissandra variants such as Lissandra Trundle, so I went with the midrange angle.
With this deck, the end goal is to have a Frostguard Thrall on board as early as turn 6, and several by turn 7 and 8 for a blowout attack. To achieve this, we go through the early game playing our landmarks or Predict package, slowing the game down as best we can.
On turn 5, Taliyah should be able to come down on the board already leveled-up and ready to pressure the opponent. Alternatively, Draklorn Inquisitor can melt down a Frozen Thrall played on turn 1 and start churning out value early.
In the late-game, the main concern for us is how we manage our board space, as it tends to become too crowded. In case of a stalemate, Lissandra’s Watcher can obliterate the enemy deck, bypassing their board entirely.
The deck’s lack of reach and flexibility is a major concern, but the archetype is at least functional. Not a glowing recommendation for Taliyah so far, but it is a step up.
This one pairs Taliyah with a known quantity, as Twisted Fate has nothing to prove. The deck revolves around a huge amount of card draw to level up Twisted Fate quickly, using Ancient Hourglass to keep him safe. The dream is to use Taliyah to duplicate a Twisted Fate who has been put in Stasis
Of course, that dream is fairly rare, and on most occasions, a single levelled Twisted Fate is enough to win the game. Taliyah can copy the other landmarks to control the outcome of the card draw or the amount of draw itself and is a strong attacker in her own right.
The game plan is flexible because of the cycling nature of the deck, and will sometimes lead you into strange paths where duplicating Taliyah herself is the right choice.
Sadly, once again, Taliyah finds herself in a variant of a deck that is merely average in its power – one where the other champion carries most of the weight. Unfortunately, often I find myself limited by Taliyah much more than I am given interesting avenues of play or straight-up power.
Is Taliyah Viable?
I was extremely excited to find a home for Taliyah, I really was. However, after this amount of testing, I must conclude that Taliyah just does not provide the same average power compared to the other Shurima champions.
Her weak level 1 form forces us to build decks around landmarks – which in turn often pigeonholes her into building weaker versions of existing archetypes, or new archetypes that would rather not have her at all.
Her level 2 form has potential, but the deck-building cost required to consistently get her there is crippling for most archetypes, and in that way, she is akin to Yasuo. Although, she is more flexible than him since landmarks cover a wider spectrum than Stun effects.
Her lack of standalone power is also a major issue, although it can be linked to her leveling cost, as playing 4 landmarks before turn 4 is rarely achievable, and doesn’t allow for much game plan flexibility. Even at level 2, Taliyah’s power is not game-ending, the payoff is simply not worth the cost.
Finally, even her most promising decks run into board space issues where we are forced to overwrite units and end up losing value for it.
Will Taliyah ever find a home? Is there a deck that can truly use her levelled form consistently while not sacrificing too much power on awkward landmarks? Perhaps, but considering the current card pool, that deck will have to be well-refined and is not likely to be anywhere near Tier 1 in terms of power level.
Until better landmarks are added to the game, I’m afraid Taliyah is going to stay a shadow of a champion, much like Katarina, Lulu, and Yasuo.