On Friday we got an exciting glimpse into all the new features and content of Legends of Runeterra that awaits us in the first half of 2021. One of the biggest announcements was the addition of Champion Expansions that will happen between regular releases.
We do not know every detail of what we will be getting with these card drops, but the first one is just around the corner, coming in February. Aphelios has been revealed and wow, there is a lot to digest with this one!
Firstly, I am going to break down the design of this champion and evaluate his power level. Then I will go on to talk about what decks I could see him fitting in when he is released into this current card pool.
To be honest, Aphelios is a wall of text. Not only is the text on his card long, but he also comes with 5 additional cards – Moon Weapons – you need to learn and understand. On top of that, there is a new ‘Phase’ mechanic that controls how all of these pieces flow.
I have seen a lot of confusion around him already! It indeed pays great homage to the original Aphelios as a champion in League of Legends, where he is infamous for the overwhelming complexity of his design. But this complexity actually gives so many choices to the player and offers a lot of skill-testing challenges, which in my opinion is an incredible design.
Aphelios has Nightfall, which is naturally quite a complex keyword even by itself. But there’s much more, of course. When you trigger his Nightfall, you are offered 5 weapon choices to pick from. ‘Phase’ mechanic essentially allows you to place a ‘phased’ weapon on your virtual ‘wishlist’. You will then later acquire this exact weapon you ‘wished for’ by the triggered ability of Aphelios himself. It means Moon Weapons not only impact the current board states but dictate future turns as well – and both players will have to deduce which Weapons are being phased by Aphelios. This level of gameplay complexity is something really unique and exciting.
In order to unlock the power of Aphelios you will need to optimize the use of his Moon Weapons. These weapons are all 2-cost Slow spells, but they all come with some pretty powerful effects that can certainly be abused.
There are 5 Moon Weapons, all of which are all 2-cost Slow spells:
Deal 3 damage to a target follower.
Phase Severum or Gravitum.
Give an ally +1|+2 and Lifesteal this Round.
Phase Gravitum or Infernum.
Stun an enemy. If it’s a follower, Stun it again at the next Round Start.
Phase Infernum or Crescendum.
Give an ally +2|+1 and Overwhelm this Round.
Phase Crescendum or Calibrum.
Summon a 2-cost follower from your deck. If it has Nightfall, activate it.
Phase Calibrum or Severum.
Severum and Infernum are simple buffs that last only one round, but give valuable keywords like Lifesteal and Overwhelm. Both of these can be game-changing in particular situations. Calibrum deals 3 damage to any follower for 2 mana – it is also a pretty solid spell, especially in Targon where there is not a ton of cheap removal. Then we have Gravitum – a spell that stuns a unit, and if it is a follower you get an additional stun for another turn on that unit.
Lastly, we have a card that I think can be abused the most. Crescendum has the ability to summon a 2-cost follower from your deck, and if it is a Nightfall unit, you get to activate that ability. Currently, there are only two 2-cost Nightfall followers: Lunari Shadestalker and Evershade Stalker.
However, there are plenty of other super-solid 2-drops without Nightfall you can summon with this. The biggest thing to make note of about Crescendum is that it can essentially tutor a specific unit out for you, and use spell mana to do so. Using banked mana on another body to fetch will add to some serious board pressure. I encourage you to just open your collection and look through the 2-drops in the game – let your ideas flow around how to abuse this card! And remember that things, like summon effects and some keywords like Attune, will all trigger when these units hit the board.
On top of Aphelios and his Moon Weapons, 1 additional new Targon spell was also spoiled. Gifts from Beyond is a Burst-speed 2-mana spell that simply lets you choose a Moon Weapon to create in hand.
This again gives you even more weapons, and the flexibility of this card is amazing. Yes, you will have to invest additional mana, but the versatility you get for this is pretty awesome. And as a cheap spell, this will help to trigger Aphelios’s own ability that creates phased Moon Weapons even quicker.
We also haven’t discussed Aphelios level-up condition yet, which requires you to cast 4 Moon Weapons. He does not need to see them being cast, so this Gifts from Beyond can actually help you advance his level-up condition regardless of when you are playing him. Having access to these awesome weapons is very useful.
Deckbuilding with Aphelios
Aphelios seems very flexible. He very well might suffer from a problem of being a little too slow, but for now, I am going to guess he will fit in a few different builds. So let’s talk about where!
- Aphelios + Lee Sin
If Lee Sin does not see any changes in upcoming patches, I could see Aphelios being paired with him pretty well. Aphelios offers really solid spell support, as well as another access to Overwhelm through Infernum weapon, which is a key portion of the combo. On top of that, the access to Lifesteal with Severum here is really strong as well and can help you stall out until you have your win condition online. All of these Moon Weapons are spells and so will help toward leveling Lee Sin. Now the question truly is: would this better than the current Zoe version? Zoe requires a lot less mana-investment, and can potentially provide more spell generation with less commitment. I can see an argument for both of these approaches because they seem to have different strengths and weaknesses.
- Aphelios + Nightfall
Aphelios and his weapons have some seriously strong innate Nightfall synergy. Aphelios could revitalize this somewhat forgotten archetype and give it a new look. Currently, the deck functions as an aggressive combo deck that is trying to set up for one massive turn of damage to go through. I think this would still be the core game plan, but now – with the added versatility of Aphelios in the mid-game. He can give the deck a ton of various new tools it didn’t have normally. My first thought would be to remove some of the Shadow Isles cards – including Nocturne, and add Aphelios, focusing more on the Targon Nightfall cards. Obviously, you would still want the best SI Nightfall pieces, like Stygian Onlooker, Doombeast, and Stalking Shadows!
- Endless other options
These to me are the first 2 obvious pairings for Aphelios, but the fun shouldn’t stop there. He could find a home in a much slower deck, where you are controlling the board and going through phasing various Moon Weapons and utilizing their power.
Alternatively, I can also see some aggressive/tempo takes on Aphelios decks coming where you abuse what I think is the most powerful weapon, Crescendum.
Regardless of the style of your deck, learning how to plan for future turns with this champion will be a lot of fun. In my opinion, this is a really high skill-cap champion and I hope we see more designs like this in Legends of Runeterra.