Hey, it’s me, Asher, with an article dedicated to Demacia’s crown prince! Jarvan IV did not exactly have the best of start with the launch of the Empires of the Ascended expansion. However, in patch 2.5 he was granted a significant buff with a +1 to both his attack and health. It is an undeniable upgrade, but was it enough to make J4 a force to be reckoned with?
- Jarvan IV strengths and weaknesses
Jarvan IV’s strength was always his turn 6 ‘power spike’. He is a unit, true, but he functions more like a burst spell that reads “summon a Jarvan IV Challenging the Strongest enemy”. The dream is for Jarvan IV to come down on turn 6 or 7 and enable an advantageous trade thanks to his Barrier.
This is obviously appealing – but rarely happened in the past – as the Barrier could be popped in many ways (Vile Feast, Mystic Shot, Ice Shard, Hush, etc.) With the initial 3 health, that meant Jarvan IV was almost always dying in this case. Yet now, with 4 health, Jarvan IV has much better odds of surviving the encounter or even forcing another removal.
Jarvan IV is also a strong tempo play as he allows us to go wider without the drawback of having to pass the initiative back to the opponent, something that can be very hard to punish for certain decks lacking the proper interaction tools.
As for the weaknesses, Jarvan IV comes quite late in the game for an aggro-oriented champion, which means we likely want him to close the game or deal a significant blow to the enemy.
While the trade he forces is often beneficial, it can be awkward to have him since he will be summoned on-attack as long as we have the mana. In a situation where we do not want to play him in order to save mana for combat tricks yet are forced to open attack, his presence in our hand becomes a liability. Generally, this means the decks that employ him try to shy away from tricks that cost more than 3 mana which is obviously a rather heavy deck-building cost.
The other big issue with Jarvan IV is that his powerful level-up is difficult to achieve. It relies on the opponent actually playing enough units in due time, but more importantly, on our ability to force combat trades and have our attackers survive. There are a lot of conditions, and the level up is not reliable at all.
This can be remedied, as Jarvan IV demonstrates himself, by the use of Barriers. Shen J4 makes great use of that particular keyword, for example. The other way is to use enough beefy or Challenger units, two elements that are very prevalent in any Jarvan IV deck, sometimes more by necessity than choice.
- Winrate: 53.2%
I’ve played close to 70 games with this archetype and I am sitting comfortably at 514 LP on the Master ladder. Dragon decks have been around for a long time, featuring Shyvana or Aurelion Sol and going for a midrange beatdown game plan. They have remained quite weak throughout most of their existence, though both Aurelion Sol and Screeching Dragon have had a good presence in the metagame, just not in any Dragon-related archetypes. In Patch 2.5.0 however, both Shyvana and Jarvan IV received a buff which made me re-evaluate their power level and synergy.
The other very very cute reason this deck is legit now is thanks to Dragon Chow. This little buddy helps you fight off early aggression with his sturdy 3 health. Ideally, it will block once then get eaten by a Dragon, triggering Fury and recycling itself with the card draw. The big dream is to have three Chows on board for Shyvana to eat on turn 4 and level up instantly. Two Chows plus a strike in combat also works, and it happens more than you’d think.
Talking about Shyvana, people are sleeping on this champion. She relies on other Dragons to level up consistently, but once levelled, she can grow very large, very fast, and the big thing that I’ve seen people overlook is that we can open attack fairly safely and prevent the opponent from developing because of the free Strafing Strike she creates. This can paralyze an enemy into a really bad decision fork: either develop nothing and waste a ton of mana, or develop something and enable Shyvana to grow further. Oftentimes the latter is preferable but still feels horrible for the enemy.
I have seen many players in Master rank games prefer killing a Screeching Dragon over an unleveled Shyvana, and that is definitely a mistake. Perhaps people have been scarred too badly in the past by Screeching Dragon in Fiora Shen and overvaluing its power compared to poor underplayed Shyvana. But make no mistake, once leveled, which can be as early as turn 4, she can completely take over the board.
I like including at least 2x Eclipse Dragon and 1x Aurelion Sol because it allows us to out-grind certain matchups, and Eclipse Dragon’s Daybreak effect can allow us to be more flexible with our mana which can be a great boon considering how expensive Dragons are.
On the other side of the spectrum, against aggro, Scarzig made me realize how good The Fangs could be and I’ve not regretted including it ever since.
So why include Jarvan IV? Some prefer Garen but I believe the 5-drop slot is too crowded with Screeching Dragon and Fused Firebrand already contesting it. Others swear by 3x Aurelion Sol, but I honestly don’t see it. When do we actually want more than one copy of Aurelion Sol? And while this Dragon deck would most of the time like having the option to play Aurelion Sol on turn 10, it is not worth the risk of drawing two or three copies early game and bricking our hand considering our main win condition is the mid-game beatdown.
In the end, Jarvan IV seemed like the natural choice. He offers Dragons some much-needed tempo, a way to play more dynamically by being able to go wider without sacrificing an open attack.
The other synergy point is that Dragons tend to be beefy and do not die easily which can sometimes bring Jarvan closer to a level up. To achieve his level 2 condition we’ll be counting mostly on the champion himself and Laurent Protege; suffice it to say Jarvan IV leveling is not quite in the cards, but that is fine. Much like Fiora (RIP) in Fiora Shen, or Draven in Ezreal Draven, they are not meant to level up for them to perform their function.
- Win rate: 54.3%
This archetype has been dissected at length by Raphterra here on RuneterraCCG! Jarvan IV comes as a replacement for Fiora following her nerf and you can check the in-depth article here.
- Win rate: 55.1%.
Elites is a bit of a classic nowadays. It has had its ups and downs but it generally remained as a decent Demacia beatdown deck. Nothing too flashy to it beyond the stats gain from Battlesmith, the various Challenger options, and in this specific variant, the Rite of Negation.
The game plan is elementary: play units on-curve, sometimes keep mana up to counter removal, or to play Tattered Banner on Honored Lord, Gallant Rider, or Garen. Go for value trades and try to maintain a decent board size for Vanguard Bannerman to get as much value as possible. Eventually, Garen flips at which point the real beatdown begins, and Jarvan IV is just there to top it all off.
The deck suffers from being rather predictable in its play patterns, and the tools at its disposal are rather one-dimensional, which is to say there isn’t a lot to do besides trying to establish a good board and win through sheer pressure.
And that is part of the problem for the archetype. The average power level of the cards it employs is merely average, and there are no tricks that can come in to turn some board states on their head. For the Fallen could perhaps be considered like such a trick, but it will not help bypass a stronger board, merely replenishing our side with weak units.
One point where the deck does excel is its region splash flexibility. Being almost entirely made up of Demacia cards, we can pick and choose which region is the best to splash, whether it is to go for Shurima’s Exhaust and Rite of Negation or the Shadow Isles’ The Harrowing or a powerful finisher.
- Winrate: 51.1% (in Master rank)
How do we win? It seems very straightforward: play a bunch of units on-curve, some like Mountain Goat or Mentor of the Stones (not present in this iteration, but very well could be) will give us Gems, a prime resource to level Taric up, while Laurent Protege and Screeching Dragon further Jarvan IV’s level-up.
The key, beyond simple board superiority, is Taric and the many buffs he is able to receive and duplicate. Taric receives a stats buff, Tough, and so does his supported ally who will ideally be challenging an opponent or threatening a significant amount of damage. In many cases, it is very difficult or straight impossible to actually trade with a buffed-up Taric in a fair fight. That becomes actually impossible when he levels up which usually happens on his second attack, sometimes before that.
Duplicating the draw effect from Pale Cascade is alright, but the real fun starts with Golden Aegis. Triggering the Rally effect twice means there’s potential for three attacks in a single round which is absolutely insane. But of course, there’s a hiccup.
The deck ends up being one of those ‘feast or famine’ types. If the opponent doesn’t have the tools to remove Taric, the lad simply takes over the game because he is simply too damn tanky. On the other hand, if the opponent has one of those tools (Hush, Concerted Strike, Thermogenic Beam, Vengeance, to name a few), then Taric simply dies without gaining much value, and we are left with a simple midrange Demacia deck with not that much sauce.
Verdict? The deck is alright. It performs well enough, it just lacks a powerful alternate wincon to carry it if Taric isn’t drawn or dispatched too early. I can definitely see this as a potential tournament option, and it will take many by surprise on the ladder as well. Plus, honestly, it’s fun to bash people with Taric’s Golden Aegis Triple Attack Wombo Combo.
It is clear that Jarvan IV is clearly in a better place than he was before, and he is a fine replacement for Fiora in Shen Jarvan. But it is also becoming increasingly clear that building a deck around the crown prince is not exactly worth the price.
It is one of those cases where the payoff is good enough, however building a deck that finds that payoff consistently would inevitably cripple us and leave us just short of a power threshold needed for a competitive deck.
That’s not such a bad thing mind you, as Fiora or Draven both have been used as level 1 champions with great success, and there is no reason Jarvan IV cannot do the same. It just means Jarvan IV will likely not have a competitive deck centered around himself and his level-up.
He is not that far off though. With just a bit more support in the way of beefing units up or forcing combat trades, or more Cataclysm synergies… And in the meantime, we can enjoy him as a powerful standalone unit.