Before writing this guide, I went back to check what I wrote in the intro of my Zoe/Aurelion Sol guide and found this sentence: “the constant choices the pilot has to deal with can make this deck a bit of a puzzle at first”. I think it’s safe to say – that archetype was nothing in comparison to the deck we’ll cover in this guide.
As the latest arrival in Legends of Runeterra, Aphelios got a lot of praise and a lot of attention from the players. The champion offers a very flexible package of Moon Weapons that can be used in a wide variety of ways. We have seen him be paired with Zoe and Lee Sin, and both combinations are looking solid in the current metagame.
In this guide, we will cover what could actually be the scariest champions team-up in the game, and what I would consider the most skill-intensive deck in the game right now: Twisted Fate and Aphelios. For those who didn’t have a chance to try the archetype yet: imagine that Zoe Invokes and Fizz-TF had a baby that has both the tempo of Fizz TF and the longevity of Zoe Invokes – or at least something really close to it.
The first take that I saw on the deck was the one J01 posted on Twitter where he shared a list with a 28-1 win-loss record while playing as the #1 rank on the EU and SEA ladder. Of course, such a performance had players wonder how good the deck was and more lists started to pop up. Today I will share my take on the archetype.
Keep in mind this is a very new archetype, and probably one of the most complex ones to play to this day ever in Legends of Runeterra. My views are totally up for debate and a different take on how to approach the build or the gameplay of the deck might be just as valid as what I will cover in this guide.
Playstyle: Tempo. While midrange would be the closest common definition of a playstyle for this deck, I think it’s fair to just call it a tempo deck.
Depending on matchups and the situation, the deck can decide to play faster, using The Veiled Temple as a pressure tool and looking for a Mind Meld finish with the Elusive units and some Messengers. Aphelios and Twisted Fate can also be used aggressively with
Alternatively, the deck can pursue the opposite direction and slow down the pace of the game in order to Invoke some larger units or create a bigger board. In that case, Calibrum, Severum, and the Gold Card might be better options. The Veiled Temple will also be used to buff a unit and you can give an Overwhelm with Infernum.
Since the deck can go in such different directions, classifying it purely as an ‘Aggro’, ‘Midrange’ or ‘Control’ deck would be misleading in my opinion. I’d rather keep the definition of playstyle of the deck as open as possible, calling it a tempo- and initiative-based deck instead.
Another thing impacting playstyle is the way you build the deck, and you can go in various directions here. The 3 key cards in the deck (the 2 champions and the landmark) all require a different kind of support to shine.
The most important to me is The Veiled Temple, as the card can make anything in your deck become a threat and it requires a very specific removal. Since The Grand Plaza nerf, Ez Draven has mostly disappeared and landmark removal isn’t a thing in the current metagame, meaning we can safely plan around our temple and support it.
The build in this guide focuses on that synergy more than the ones around Aphelios or TF, hence the reason why the deck doesn’t play cards like Bastion or Gifts from Beyond, for example. Instead, I looked for card generating other cards – like The Fangs or Mountain Goat – so we can apply tempo while abusing our temple every turn.
While I do believe this up-tempo approach to the deck is currently the best, other takes that focus on maximizing Aphelios or Twisted Fate potential are also very powerful and it’s up to you to find a build that fits your playstyle and environment.
To give you some perspective of how flexible the deck can be, here’s a build that focuses on board interaction and controlling the trades.
Considering the flexibility of the deck and the many possibilities that have been tried by various players, I figured that a list of card options that would help your tuning could be useful.
Healing is great in a deck that tries to generate value, and sometimes aggressive decks can really punish us in the early game. The card helps maintain a good health total while also giving us big units to finish the game.
The deck’s main problem is the access to removal and there are some champions in the game capable of doing a ton of damage even by just staying in the back row. For example, the mirror is a matchup where killing TF and Aphelios is the only thing that matters.
I personally don’t like the card too much and feel like The Fangs are a better healing option in the deck, but a lot of players have 3 copies of this and it helps towards leveling up Twisted Fate as well.
While I think Astral protection does a better job at protecting our minions, Bastion being only a great answer to hard removal like vengeance, the card has merit in protecting our important units.
Salvage being a more immediate option and the deck usually not lacking mana to use, I tend to prefer Salvage. Pick a card is a great option to refill a hand that you are afraid will not do enough in the near future though and can set up a very easy level up for TF.
Drawing The Messenger means we are guaranteed to get the temple proc during that turn and we can also keep adding to the board to set up for a Mind Meld.
- Dictate tempo and initiative
This is everything this deck wants: initiative. Being the one in charge of the pace of the game allows the deck to really shine and develop its many synergies. Being forced into a defensive position will instantly reduce the deck’s potential and close some paths you could have explored otherwise.
You have plenty of value in the deck, and many ways to refill a hand that gets low on cards. So unless you are facing an opposing Aphelios or Twisted Fate deck which could potentially outvalue you, if you don’t manage your resources properly, I would advise using your resources to build a board that would force reactions from your opponent.
Another thing to note is this build does not run Guiding Touch or Starshaping. Aggressive decks are lately on the backfoot, even more so – because of Aphelios giving cheap access to Lifesteal and removal options. For this reason, I’ve built the deck with midrange and slower matchups in mind.
It further means that when you face an aggressive deck, you should be very careful with how much freedom and damage potential they have – especially if you don’t have Aphelios or The Fangs.
- Have a concrete game plan
When playing a deck that offers this many possibilities, it is easy to feel lost or start taking steps that suddenly pull you in different directions. In order to help with that, we want a very simple game plan in mind to remind ourselves of.
While you might want to change or adapt your game plan based on what will happen in the game, having a simple direction -like going for pressure or value, or building the board steadily, or going for a big combo turn – will make it much easier to imagine your sequences and build your turns.
- Go for the kill
Something I realized while playing the deck was that it was very easy to get carried away developing value and setting up our synergies. Even though we don’t fear many decks when it comes to winning the resources war, dragging the game too long also allows our opponent to set up his own game plan.
In order to not run into an unpleasant surprise, switch to an aggressive plan when you feel like you are in the lead. You can always fall back to a longer game plan and generate more cards if the opponent happens to match you.
- Get in your opponent’s shoes
Aphelios and Twisted Fate are very scary champions to face, and they will usually force some kind of reaction from your opponent.
Understanding how your opponent reacts to what he perceives as a major threat is very important to lead the game in the right direction for you. Losing Aphelios or TF might be bad for us, but it is important to consider what the opponent had to sacrifice in terms of resources or tempo in order to deal with them.
Being able to spot and evaluate these little edges is what makes the deck special and amounts to a big lead at the end of the game.
- Mulligan plan: Temple -> Aphelios -> Early game
Most of the time, the temple is the card that allows us to outpace our opponent and use our resources to their full potential, which makes it logical that we are actively looking for the card in our mulligan so we can play it on turn 4. Keep in mind that this means our turn 4 will not be very tempo-efficient as the landmark does nothing when we play it. So when you have it your starting mulligan, it could be wise to keep solid tempo plays leading up to that point.
Apart from the temple, the other card that makes us going is Aphelios, as the Moon Weapons allow us to adapt to almost any kind of a matchup. He is especially important in matchups against other Targon decks which don’t have a great way of removing him from the board.
If we have one of these two engines in our mulligan, we should be looking for an early game to start playing onto the board -especially when we face aggressive decks looking to put us under immediate pressure. Mountain Goat and Lunari Duskbringer are our best options. Boxtopus is almost never a keep as the idea is to summon him with Crescendum so we get a 3/4 body instead of a 3/1.
Twisted Fate and The Fangs can be valid options against aggressive decks, as
While they are very important cards down the line, the Elusive units usually serve a support (Zap Sprayfin) or a finishing blow (Burblefish) purpose and will almost always be thrown away during the mulligan, except for very specific situations.
The spells should be kept depending on the rest of your hand. If you have something important to protect, feel free to keep a Sunblessed Vigor for example. As a general rule, I tend not to keep the support cards if I don’t have the card to support first.
Focus on: Keeping tempo high enough so that the opponent cannot develop safely.
This is a matchup where Hush buys us a lot of time to set up our win condition, and Falling Comet can be a game-winner. The temple should be our best card, providing us with more mana and also allowing our units to get out of Avalanche range quickly. If you have the possibility, direct the buff to Aphelios and TF.
Anivia is a deck that is great at defending and has inevitability if we give them the chance. Neither Targon nor Bilgewater can deny The Harrowing so there is some kind of clock here.
Based on this, we have to be the aggressor in the matchup and accept taking some risks in order not to settle into a stalled-out situation.
The Elusives are great in this matchup, they push for damage, force opposing AoE and also keep our hand full of resources. They usually are the starting point of a snowball effect that will force the opponent to commit resources trying to answer us, and that’s the situation the deck looks for in every matchup.
Once you’ve managed to force your opponent into a defensive position, your ability to generate cards should take over, and eventually, your opponent’s hand will lack answers.
With The Veiled Temple, Sunblessed Vigor, and Aphelios’s Moon Weapons, you should be able to play around most damage-based AoE pretty quickly in the match, leaving only The Ruination and Vengeance as cards to be careful about.
Due to your ability to generate cards, you should be able to force Ruination without committing too much of your hand, once it is passed, you can safely push even more. The Fangs or Solari Priestess are great at doing so since they add to the board without changing committing your hand size. Mind Meld is usually only countered by The Ruination and we run 2 copies, so you can use it to bait out removal and rebuild the board with your leftover mana, or keep it to punish an opponent who used his precious removal a bit too early.
Overall, you will be the one in charge of the matchup, and it is up to you to lead in the direction that is best for your deck.
This take can be true as well when it comes to FTR, which is a deck that isn’t played much currently but that shouldn’t be overlooked. This matchup will have very similar defensive tools in the mid-game but a much more explosive late-game allowing for less time to seal the deal.
Focus on: Playing off-tempo to reduce pressure and stay safe from damage burst.
Aggressive decks are not really a thing lately but it’s still important to mention them as possible matchups. This is also an important mention since it is one of the few encounters where the temple won’t be an important part of your gameplan, at 4 mana, the card can be too slow to invest into.
Instead, we will be looking out for our two champions as they are very flexible and unless our health is already very low, should serve as a great distraction for our opponent. While Twisted Fate can sometimes be ignored if the opponent is largely ahead, Aphelios is usually a must-remove for any aggressive deck, considering Moons Weapons can put us back in the game from almost any situation.
Sunblessed Vigor is great in those specific setups, helping your champions stay alive or just allowing for some value trades with your various early units.
The Fangs is usually the card that makes us favorable in those matchups, as the card provides everything we wish for against an aggressive deck: health and flexibility. Of course, this card alone won’t be enough to win the game, but combined with all the good tools to slow down things, The Fangs is usually the nail on the coffin as it can switch the game to a board-centric battle, one that we are way better equipped to win.
While I combined all various aggro decks under this section here, there is one kind that we do not like to face: Overwhelm.
Our deck is not very well equipped to deal with large minions and our way to fight against big-bodied minions is to use our temple to buff our small or medium-sized minions, which is too slow against an aggressive deck. We, therefore, have to rely on timed stuns to slow down our opponent and find a way to seize initiative one way or another. This isn’t a completely unfavored matchup per se, but keep in mind that being greedy can be heavily punished by Overwhelm.
Focus on: Early to mid-game transition on the board.
In addition to Hush being a great card for the matchup, finding Equinox or Crescent Strike is another way to slow our opponent down and prevent them from controlling the trades. Gravitum from Aphelios can be used as well to deny some important trades to our opponent, but if possible, we would like to pick Crescendum to find Boxtopus and take care of trading by ourselves.
This matchup can be very difficult to navigate as the pressure from Fiora leveling up can be difficult to handle at first. Play defensively to set up a good temple and then the match should become much easier as your turns should consistently be better than your opponent’s, which will leverage a great position on the long run. Trying to buff only 1 minion with the temple can be a great counter to Fiora, as she won’t have units to fight. Be careful not to lose to suddenly large board that you wouldn’t be able to answer though.
Once you feel you understand the matchup a bit better, look for your Elusive minions to be able to get some pressure onto your opponent without fearing to get punished by trades.
*Tips in this section can be extrapolated to use in the mirror match.
Focus on: Controlling tempo – generate cards of your own and make it awkward for the opponent to generate theirs.
This matchup is very simple and very complicated at the same time. It is simple because it is a game of initiative, as both decks are very close in the way they function and want to be the one pressuring to be able to generate cards at peace.
It is also a very complicated matchup to navigate as the constant card generation from both decks can lead the match onto various paths.
The main thing to keep in mind is that both decks ultimately win through the board, as we usually will use Mind meld for a huge blow when our opponent is trying to Atrocity one of his big minions. Therefore, when in doubt, try to plan around board domination as this should both help your game plan and slow down the opponent’s one.
Considering both decks are so close in the way they operate, power cards are really important to gain an edge in the match up. The mulligan should focus on finding cards we can abuse if they stay on the board: The Temple and Aphelios.
Following the same logic, we should aim at finding cards that can remove Aphelios, Zoe, Mountain Scryer before the opponent can abuse those. Challenger units, Falling Comet, and such cards will be key to removing those snowball cards that are so important to our opponent.
The finish should come in the form of Mind Meld most of the time as unless the opponent is playing Ruination or The Skies Descend as an answer, you should at least end up clearing the board with trades. We usually want to use it proactively as if the game stalls, then our opponent can develop a big Celestial unit that will be a problem for us to kill. Even if you get answered or punished, being the one in the lead and making the decisions is always the situation you want to be in.
Focus on: Protecting our health and the board; killing Twisted Fate.
This matchup can feel unfavorable at first, as defending against what seems to be a never-ending wave of Elusive minions can be extremely difficult. However, we actually have a lot of tools to answer our opponent’s gameplan and we are better at scaling onto the board.
First, we also have Elusive minions of our own to block, be careful about giving your opponent good Iterative Improvement on your Elusive minions though.
Second, we also have Mind Meld and a flurry of cheap spells to buff it in case our opponent would want to completely ignore our board.
The difference between these two decks is the directions they take in the mid-game, our opponent usually choosing a much more aggressive route since the late-game favors us most of the time.
Value game isn’t really an option we consider, it will usually come on its own if we can manage to slow our opponent down enough. Our main focus should be to lower the potential of Mind Meld and find a way to get rid of Twisted Fate before he can evolve.
As such, our own TF is better off being used as removal, Aphelios’s Calibrum is great to get rid of Elusive minions we wouldn’t be able to block, and the Challenger tag, whether through Boxtopus or Celestial unit will be very valuable.
While running our opponent out of cards is probably as hard as running out of cards ourselves, it doesn’t mean like we have to go through the 40 cards in their deck, staying safe from the most important ones is enough.
Also keep in mind that there usually only is a Mystic Shot as a removal option for our opponent, therefore, unless you get tricked to block or attack into a Suit Up! minion, you should be able to keep Aphelios or TF on the board with the help Sunblessed Vigor.
Focus on: Pressuring enough so the opponent can’t develop safely.
In a similar but exacerbated way of the Fiora Shen matchup, Hush is a key card to stay alive, as well as any other card that will slow down Lee Sin.
The trick of this matchup is to pick the right battles since if you start spending too many resources on unnecessary things you will not be able to control Lee Sin efficiently. While stuns and SpellShields will be great to buy some precious time, the best thing to get is Falling Comet out of the Solari Priestess. Even If it gets denied, it usually is the only reliable way to get rid of the blind monk, and that means you can try to use Mind Meld more carelessly with Deny out of the way.
The best way to beat the deck is to get an early temple and go crazy with tempo up to the point where your opponent can’t keep up with the board. Aphelios should be used to develop the board with Crescendum or use Infernum to cash in some damage if a minion got buffier thanks to the temple. Nopeify might be a problem for your Moon Weapons so don’t plan all your strategy around them.
Unless you have a read on your opponent’s hand, I wouldn’t recommend trying to play it slow, and it is often better to take a gamble than to wait for a better situation to use a card, as time favors our opponent most of the time.
The Elusive minions are the star of the show in that regard, and while we might not have the same possibilities as Fizz – TF to multiply them, the temple can buff them for extra damage consistently. Do not refrain from using spells early as you want the Wiggly Burblefish to be ready as soon as possible. Whether it is to protect your minion in trades or to generate more pressure on the board, we never want to finish with more than the 3 mana we can store.
Focus on: Building the board as soon as possible to pressure the opponent.
Ez Draven relies a lot on snowballing tempo with its minions and then transferring to direct damage through Captain Farron and Ezreal in the late game. Since our deck doesn’t really have a great removal set, Draven can be a big problem for us and he will anchor the board for our opponent and force us to be the reactive player. The other problem is the deck capacity of destroying our landmark with Scorched Earth and therefore building even more tempo in the midgame.
The two issues combined can lead to a very defensive position where leveraging our card generation will be problematic, and we wished to be able to develop big minions to fight the board much faster than what the deck allows us to.
I don’t think there is a clear-cut strategy to win this matchup, Aphelios and Twisted can be answered with a Thermogenic Beam,
Most of the time, playing around Scorched Earth will cost you as much tempo as not playing around it. The Veiled Temple is also a great way to either buff The Fangs for a great Lifesteal potential or use the added stats to help with unit survival.
Try to play your important units when the opponent is low on mana, so Sunblessed Vigor can get them out of range of a possible spell. Astral Protection can be huge to save a champion or deny a Ravenous Flock
If you manage to reach the late-game in a safe spot, ask yourself what you can and cannot beat, as Farron and Ezreal can be very difficult to go against for several turns. If you feel like they will out race you, consider taking more risks and starting the race early before the opponent gets a chance to draw into it.
This is one of the few matchups where Starshaping would help the deck as the heal and the big Celestial units both play a key role in stabilizing the situation. Unfortunately, I don’t think it is enough to justify running it in a general build of the archetype.
In a similar fashion, Teemo – Frejlord deck can cause the same problem as we have troubles removing their important minions and the opponent can develop its synergies.
Aphelios and Twisted Fate are looking like an absolute killer of a combination in the current metagame. So many of players have praised the deck already, and yet it seems like there still isn’t a consensus around what is the best list.
The one I present in this guide focuses on maximizing the potential of our key pieces, The Veiled Temple in particular as it gives the deck its flexibility and pressure. Two champions are our other priority, providing us with resources as long as we are able to protect them.
While I believe it is the overall best list in the current metagame, it’s also true that it is only a week old and counters to it are still to be discovered. Nevertheless, I would advise any player looking for a flexible deck to climb the ladder to give this build a try, as it looks both very powerful and rewarding to play.
My natural playstyle will always lean towards tempo, and I believe killing the opponent is always the best route. In a deck that has no problem with generating cards, I oriented the build towards finding that win condition, hence the inclusion of Mind Meld and cutting some slower cards like Starshaping for example.
While I think my take on the deck can do great things in the current environment, feel free to experiment and find your own way of building and playing with Aphelios – TF. Given how good and popular the deck is, you shouldn’t have too much trouble looking up ideas from top ladder players.