Hi everyone, den at the writing desk. Today, we’ll focus on a deck that I enjoy a lot and that I would recommend if you like tempo-based lists with a strong board presence.
In my mind, Akshan Gnar is a cross-breed of Draven Rumble and Akshan Sivir. It has this capacity to deal an absurd amount of damage like Draven Rumble, but also a great ability to dominate the board through trades and the Quick Attack keyword, just like Akshan Sivir.
After a rather quiet early game that will be focused on Akshan and advancing his level-up, the deck then looks to set up its win condition: a big unit with Overwhelm + Double Attack, often using Papercraft Dragon onto Gnar or Ruin Runner. Your deck and your champions provide a great deal of stability, and this kind of endgame situation will happen consistently.
When you start learning this deck, play for tempo and maximize the pressure during your attack turns. The strongest part of the Akshan Gnar gameplay is the natural synergies we can build around the Quick Attack and Overwhelm.
Quick Attack puts a lot of pressure onto the board, getting some free Nexus damage or forcing the opponent to sacrifice their early units. The Vulnerable keyword will also play a key role, as it allows us to dictate the trades and pick off their units.
Advancing Akshan‘s level up is crucial to be able to efficiently close the game. With 3 Papercraft Dragons and 3 Ruin Runners in the deck, we will often draw at least part of our combo by turn 5 most of the time, and then thanks to the Warlord’s Palace, we will reliable get the missing pieces.
As the game goes past turn 5, our mindset should start changing towards Nexus damage rather than board control. Against other tempo or aggressive decks, the possibility of outvaluing the opponent with Akshan and Gnar exists – but this scenario happens only occasionally.
Ruin Runner is our main target for the Papercraft Dragon, but Gnar can also be great in that role when leveled on-curve (Inventive Chemist helps with that), and Akshan can work backed up by The Absolver.
The rest of the deck supports the different parts of our gameplan. The package of Treasure Seeker, Merciless Hunter, and Vekauran Vagabond is great with Akshan in order to develop some tempo early. Inventive Chemist sets up the Gnar level-up Gnar on turn 4, and Conchologist is just a great flexible drop.
As for spells, we have the cheaper pack of 1- and 2-mana spells in one pile, and Wallop,
More expensive spells should be kept for big tempo swings and support to our lethal push later in the game, or to deny our opponent’s push. Wallop can be used to remove the blocker for the Overwhelm unit, Friendship! is a flexible tool that can grant Barrier (or Spellshield to Gnar if we couldn’t find Ruin Runner). Lastly, Rite of Negation simply is an all-around counter card that can take care of an opposing Vengeance for example.
Techs and Options
A 2 Gnar + 1 Sivir spread is an option, but I’m still not sure if it’s the right way to go. Sivir works in this deck the same way she does in the Sivir Demacia build, but also, when equipped with Papercraft Dragon, she grants all of our units the Double Strike keyword! If you decide to run her, you might also want to incude a copy of Preservarium to compensate for the draw capability of the removed Gnar.
Yordle SquireA utility 1-drop that helps with leveling up Akshan or buffing up our late game finisher. I’ve found the card to be too slow in the deck and would rather use Ruthless Predator if you want similar kind of utility.
- Rock Hopper
Another way to grant Vulnerable to opposing unit, Rock Hopper also helps in the blocking department if you would face a lot of Fearsome attackers. Otherwise, at 1 health, the card is usually too fragile that falls prey to a Vile Feast too easily.
- Pressure, pressure, pressure
It is through continuous pressure that we achieve our victories. By forcing our opponent to deal with Akshan, then a Merciless Hunter, then a Walking Sands, etc, we drain the opponents resources until they are helpless against our Papercraft combo.
- Priritize protecting Akshan, Gnar, and Ruin Runner
It is tempting to use some resources onto our other units, like a Merciless Hunter for example. But keep in mind that this deck is only about the board – it is sometimes a necessity to sacrifice some of our units to make sure we can protect the most important ones.
- Leverage the Vulnerable keyword
The keyword allows our Akshan to pick best trades and level up safely. Later in the game, we can set best possible situations to maximise our damage.
- Force your opponent to ‘show their hand’ first
We are a pressure deck, looking to leverage our attack tokens to build our lead. The Quick Attack keyword is a great way to make our opponent react to our attack and commit something before we do.
- Look to close out the game sooner rather than later
We need to go for the kill as soon as possible. As the game progresses, the opponent gets more and more mana to use, making it more likely for them to be able to counter our final offensive or develop more board than we can’t handle. If we have a reasonable shot at closing the game on round 7, it’s usually better to go for it rather than be safe and try it on round 9.
General Mulligan Tips
- Always go for Akshan
While Inventive Chemist on 1 is great for a Gnar on 4, and Merciless Hunter is a nice 3-drop, the difference between finding Akshan early and not is huge with this deck. The 2-mana champion gives us sustain and is our best trading unit early on. He also makes a lot of other cards much stronger – like Shaped Stone or both of our 3-drops units.
- Look for board resiliency
It is a mistake to keep Ruin Runner, Papercraft Dragon, or even Gnar. You need to find cards that will prepare the board for their arrival instead.
- Look for specific card combos
Inventive Chemist plus Gnar for the level up, Akshan plus Merciless Hunter or Ruthless Predator for an early removal, Treasure Seeker plus Merciless Hunter for a bigger removal using the
Walking Sands… This deck has a lot of simple yet effective synergies we can leverage to get ahead on board during the first 3 or 4 turns, so look for those when mulliganing.
Mulligan for: Akshan – Inventive Chemist – Merciless Hunter – Gnar – Ruthless Predator with some units already.
- This matchup is a lot about dominating the early game and snowballing off of it. With a proactive gameplan on both sides, the one coming out on top of the early exchange on the board gets to develop its bigger threats much more safely
- Ruin Runner is much more reliable than Gnar when going for the kill. Yordles in Arms plays either Buster Shot or Wallop, giving them a great way to deal with or at least slow down Gnar.
- Akshan can be met with a Mystic Shot on turn 2, which is a big tempo loss for us. Consider passing turn 1 if you have Shaped Stone to protect him, or look to bait Mystic Shot with Merciless Hunt for example.
- The Vulnerable keyword should be abused in this matchup, especially on the opposing Fizz. Look to remove the units you cannot block to limit the damage Yordle in Arms can do.
Mulligan for: Akshan – Gnar – Inventive Chemist – Treasure Seeker – Wallop
- Apart from Pyke, Lurk is very easy-to-read in terms of removal. Play for board domination early on and then your spells (Wallop and Friendship mostly) should allow for great tempo swings.
- There is almost nothing Lurk can do to stop Ruin Runner from attacking apart from a big blocker tanking the damage. Consider keeping Wallop or a Ruthless Predator to challenge a low health unit and maximize your damage when going for the kill.
- Wallop is an incredible card in the matchup, as it denies Rek’Sai attack, helps push damage with Overwhelm, or can save one of our vulnerable units from being removed. Pick it off of Conchologist if possible and try to be smart with the one copy in the deck.
- This matchup is only about on-board tempo. We likely will win a value-based battle thanks to our champions, but it usually is better to reduce the opponent’s possibilities rather than trying to expand ours.
Mulligan for: Akshan (Keep several Akshan if you have them) – Ruin Runner – Inventive Chemist – Treasure Seeker. Support Akshan level up once you have the champion (Vakauran Vagabond – Shaped Stone – Ruthless Predator)
- Spellshield is the most important keyword against a defensive deck, making Ruin Runner our default unit to build upon for the finishing blow. Rite of Negation and Friendship can also help in creating a difficult to remove Gnar.
- Removing Veigar and Senna is key to denying Darkness extra value, keep a Vulnerable enabler ready around the turns you would expect your opponent to play those threats.
- Pushing damage early is crucial against a defensive deck, as it makes our lethal setup much easier to complete. Both our one drops are rather aggressive so we can try and push some damage before the opponent gets to stabilize.
- Akshan’s spell is great to try and remove a threat while not being on our attack turn, hence the reason why we are totally fine keeping several copies of it in the mulligan.
Mulligan for: Akshan – Early Units – Shaped Stone
- As our way to control the board is based around trading units with our own, it can sometimes be difficult to handle the early swarm Yordle Burn can develop, and we end up being forced in a blocking position which is a bad thing.
- The great part of this match up is the fact that the opponent cannot do anything against our Ruin Runner or Gnar double attack combo. It is always a good idea to go for a lethal setup if we aren’t at risk of losing before getting there.
- Although we can use Rite of Negation to counter a Decimate and buy ourself a turn, we don’t want the opponent to ever be in a situation where they can focus on burning down our nexus. We need to make the board phase of the game last as long as possible as this is where we are at our best
- Gnar on turn 4 can be answered with Noxian Fervor while we can’t do much about if we don’t have the attack token. Conchologist can help in that regard, otherwise, look to make it awkward for your opponent to play Gnar.
Mulligan for: Early Curve – Ruin Runner – Akshan
- PnZ decks are the worst for Akshan because Mystic Shot is such a good answer to our champion. We still have to play Akshan if we have him as it at least advances the landmark and gives us a chance to play the next one leveled-up.
- Spellshield is crucial to have when going for the kill as the Freeze spells are cast at Burst speed, making Rite of Negation useless in that regard.
- The Walking Sands from Treasure Seeker is a lot of pressure for the opponent as they do not play Avalanche and are forced to invest resources into it. It can be a great way to get some damage to their Nexus or force a Mystic Shot that will be then gone for Akshan or Merciless Hunter.
- Trundle is extremely difficult to remove for us as the opponent can protect it with Troll Chant. Most of the time, it nets better result to use the Vulnerable to pull it away with a disposable unit.
Mulligan for: Akshan – Merciless Hunter – Ruthless Predator – Gnar
- Scouts is one of the few decks that can beat us at the board control game thanks to their Challenger units paired with MF. We need to abuse the Vulnerable keyword to dictate the trades.
- There is very little Scouts can do to prevent us from landing our huge Double Attack blow to their Nexus once we attack. Before that though, committing the 5 mana for either Ruin Runner or Papercraft Dragon opens us to be vulnerable to a Rally or some big development from our opponent.
- Ruin Runner isn’t a good blocker, making it fairly easy to remove for a Scouts deck if they have a Challenger at the ready. Keeping Friendship or Wallop ready to protect our key unit is a must if we expect to keep it on the board.
- Rite of Negation is a card that grows in importance as the game goes, early on the card is rather useless, but denying a Golden Aegis at the right time can be a huge tempo swing in our favor.
Mulligan for: Akshan – Merciless Hunter – Inventive Chemist – Treasure Seeker
- This is another deck that is stronger than us in the trading department. We need to adopt an aggressive mindset and focus on their nexus rather than trying to dominate on the board.
- The Vulnerable keyword is very important to be in control of our attack phases. Merciless Hunter grants Vulnerable forever, which is something we would like on their biggest units, so we can control what it will block during the game. Temporarily Vulnerable keyword are better used to either help Akshan get an attack in and advance its landmark or to be able to challenge a weak unit when going for lethal.
- Wallop and Friendship are our biggest tempo tools in the match, helping our units stay alive for an extra turn and deny our opponent with a potential removal. We need to use those close to the moment we setup our lethal otherwise the opponent will regroup and take control of the game again.
- There are times where we will need to take a gamble on a certain card not being in our opponent’s hand – we can’t beat the best Pantheon Demacia draws anyway.
This deck is a real pleasure to pilot. I feel it has the curve that is very natural in the way it transitions from the early game with Akshan to the threats of Gnar and Ruin Runner.
Akshan Gnar also is a solid pick in the meta. I’d say this deck is more resilient on the board as compared to Yordle in Arms, for example, which allows it to prepare more complex setups rather than only rush to try and close the game.
With a rather good matchup into Darkness and positive numbers against most board-centric decks, this deck shouldn’t go away any time soon. The biggest trouble this deck has the Scouts matchup, which is is gaining more and more popularity as time passes. Down the line, a second copy of Wallop instead of the Rite of Negation might be necessary to address this particular matchup.
I would recommend this deck to anyone who enjoys a midrange gameplan and huge bursts of damage in a single attack. I believe Akshan Gnar is capable of climbing at any rank of the ladder.
As usual, any question you would have about this guide is welcome, either in the comment section or in the RuneterraCCG Discord. As for myself, you can find me on Twitter or helping the aspiring players get their big break into the scene.