The second Seasonal Tournament is just around the corner, and it is time for players to start thinking about strategies and what kind of meta environment they are expecting.
As the winner of the EU Monuments of Power Seasonal Tournament back in December, RuneterraCCG asked me to share my experience and view on what to expect for this second installment. In this article, we will talk about 3 main topics.
First, I intend to share the useful advice for Open Rounds stage that I have based on my experience from the first Seasonal. The format is exactly the same, so there might be good information to take in and lessons to learn.
Then we will try to dig into the current metagame, talking about what decks to expect, the surprise picks, and what the overall field could look like.
As a conclusion, we will discuss the predicted meta, in order to highlight possible strategies or lineups that players might be looking to bring for the Open Rounds this upcoming Sunday.
So for all of those who are eager to watch the best open-field competition Legends of Runeterra has to offer, or if you are competing yourself, let’s dive deep into what the second Seasonal Tournament has to offer!
How to Approach Open Rounds
Seasonal Tournaments are divided into two very different parts, the Open Rounds, and the Top 32 playoffs.
The first stage is very unpredictable – with 1024 players, it is really hard to have a read on who you could face and what they might be playing. Even if a deck represents 22% of the field (like it has been the case for Twisted Fate/Aphelios recently on the ladder), statistically, you will face it only in three out of your five rounds on average.
Such an open field means that line-ups that are trying to target one thing are just too volatile and this kind of strategy should be kept for the top 32 part of the tournament in my opinion.
Of course, that doesn’t mean target strategies should be put aside entirely. Players who have particular decks as their comfort picks could still find a way to create a very good targeting line-up using them. But it is important to keep in mind that such a big field is full of surprises when it comes to what we might encounter.
I believe comfort and level of execution with our decks are more important than a perfect lineup strategy.
This is even more important to keep in mind that a player planning to beat a specific matchup often takes ‘a double risk’: first, they need to hit the matchup they want, and then they need to be able to actually beat that matchup consistently.
The other thing that I feel is really crucial to understand about the Open Rounds stage is that even if there are 5 rounds to go through, only the fifth round matters to qualify. Only the players that will go 5-0 will go through the round of 32 – so it’s essentially a single-elimination masked as a Swiss.
As such, a mindset that I like to have is to just think that there is nothing else to consider other than that fifth round. Even if in practice, every round is of the same importance, and a loss means that the tournament is over – the idea that you are just playing to reach round 5 alleviates a lot of pressure. It takes you out of that dread that every round is ‘do-or-die’ – for some inexperienced players, or people who tend to struggle with stress, it can help quite a bit.
So, this is my advice based on the experience in the first Seasonal Tournament. It is a very important event and there will be pressure. Understanding the variance will play a big role and finding a way to stay composed for the whole Sunday will be crucial in qualifying to the next stage.
Now that we know what we are getting into: let’s talk about the actual metagame that we can expect.
It’s an Aphelios and Twisted Fate World
Whether it is paired up or included in different decks, this meta is about Aphelios and Twisted Fate, and I don’t expect too many lineups that would choose to neglect those champions.
Most tourney lineups will very likely feature the juggernaut that is TF Aphelios; alternatively, players could try to complicate the ban a bit for their opponents and split the two champions up. Then, we could see a Fizz TF deck alongside either a Lee Aphelios or a Zoe Aphelios deck.
While the lineup featuring TF Aphelios list has more space (2 more deck-slots!) to build around if you have other comfort decks you would like to bring, it also makes it easy for the opponent – they have the option to either ban the deck or bring something to beat it.
The second lineup, splitting TF and Aphelios, although it complicates the ban for the opponent (or at least tries to – Fizz TF is widely considered to be on the same power-level as TF Aphelios currently), it also puts a lot of pressure on the right choice of the third deck. Finding a balanced strategy might not be so easy to do since Fizz TF is seen as a heavy-pressure deck when Aphelios decks tend to be more on the tempo or value side of things.
No matter how we look at it, the midrange/tempo archetypes should be the most represented ones this weekend, and by a pretty big margin.
Other than TF and Aphelios, plenty of decks currently are using pressure in the midgame as their way to victory: Fiora Shen, Draven Ezreal, Zoe Lee Sin are three decks that could find their way as a second or a third deck there, given their flexibility in both the gameplay and the deckbuilding they allow. They would fit very well into a ‘ban the best deck’ strategy as they don’t have polarised matchups, letting the player be in charge of adapting to the opponent’s lineup.
But with popularity comes a heavy price to pay: the emergence of counter lineups. And considering how well-known and expected the lineups I listed above are, some counter decks targeting TF and Aphelios are bound to appear.
Two decks have been shining lately on the ladder: Draven Jinx Discard Aggro and Teemo Ezreal Puffcaps. Both can do a particular thing very well, which should be a very important come this Sunday: Nexus pressure.
While most of the top meta decks win the game on the board and through steady development culminating in a ‘too much to handle’ situation for the opponent, these two decks are trying to attack Nexus health directly, and make it a much bigger concern than the board state. These decks force some other archetypes to operate at an axis they aren’t as good at and force them into diverting from their original gameplan.
With aggressive decks booming on the ladder this week (Draven Jinx has posted a 12% and Gangplank Miss Fortune – a 9% popularity), control decks also have a reason to come back as a counter to those, making Anivia Control, Feel the Rush and Shadow Isles as a region something to consider as well.
With all those intricacies, the metagame looks pretty interesting for the first part of the tournament, and players of all styles should be able to find an approach and a lineup that could fit them.
Let’s dive into those lineups and the strategies they could feature in order to get an edge come Sunday!
Rock, Paper, Scissors
Most card game metagames usually can be described in a ‘rock – paper – scissors’ grand scheme. There are the best decks, their counters, and the ‘counters to the counters’.
In the current format, the ‘rock’ would be the Aphelios and Twisted Fate decks, which are expected to be dominant among the submitted line ups. ‘Paper’ would be damage-pushing lineups with aggressive decks, aiming to punish those midrange decks that need some time to set up. And ‘scissors’ would be those late-game decks that can sustain the beatdown of the aggressive decks but would allow too much time for the ‘rock’ decks to contain them effectively.
Disclaimer: The sample decklists provided in this section are only here to broadly illustrate the archetypes. These are not tuned for specific matchups or a predicted environment.
Aphelios TF paired with two Deny decks should be a very simple yet effective strategy against other midrange or control strategies. The idea of this lineup is that it looks to ban the best deck of our opponent and is comfortable playing into either tied or favorable matchups all the time. These decks are shining on the ladder for a reason: good draws can beat anyone.
Aggressive decks are not really considered in this plan, as well as a deck like Teemo Puffcaps that should be an immediate ban as it would counter both Aphelios TF and Lee Sin.
Against opposing midrange lineups, the ban will likely be directed at Fizz TF, the most aggressive deck of the lineup and arguably the best overall deck as well.
In the case of a ‘scissors’ lineup (see below), which would be the best thing to face for us, the ban should be used to protect our Fiora Shen deck, which is the weakest deck against a control-oriented lineup, although still favorable. As such, ban the deck with the most freeze or board removal potential in the mid-game, big spells like The Ruination shouldn’t be a problem since we are running Deny.
With a more aggressive setup – but still, a midrange core – this lineup should be favored in a battle of midrange decks. It also makes the ban more complicated. When we face a previous lineup with this one, when both players ban their opponent’s best decks’ (read – TF decks), Ezreal Draven will have better matchups than the opposing Fiora Shen.
These decks have somewhat different gameplans which means it will be harder to demolish a single deck as the first lineup could. However, it also means that this lineup is difficult to target as the opponent shouldn’t be able to find two decks of ours with the same weaknesses. And with such a high power-level of a lineup, upsetting a bad matchup against even a targeting strategy shouldn’t be too unlikely.
Targeting strategies usually will be able to find one deck to beat in our lineup, which is why the proper ban will be very important to protect our vulnerable deck.
Overall these ‘ladder’ lineups have such a high power-level that it seems impossible to not consider them as a primary option. The challenge here is to find an edge against the other ‘rock’ lineups, not opening yourself too much to the ‘paper’ lineup that tries to counter you.
This is why we shouldn’t see too many crazy things in terms of deckbuilding here, as bringing those lineups means the players want to be safe and comfortable on those decks, looking for flexibility.
“Stop what you are doing and answer me!” is a good name for this lineup. With the rare ability to counter almost every Targon-based deck in the current metagame, this lineup should be one that will strike fear in the heart of players who expected tournaments and ladder to be the same.
The main thing with this lineup is the choice of the third deck. The first two are fairly easy to pick and are the two best decks when it comes to pressuring the opponent. The third one though will be the most important one and the defining factor for the lie up success.
Going with Teemo Puffcaps opens other aggressive lineups to counter us as the deck is fairly weak against fast decks. Other consideration for the last deck can be Gangplank MF, Riven Darius Ovelwhelm, or other damage-based deck.
Choosing another aggressive deck, even though it looks to make more sense, means that we have to go with a weaker deck in terms of powerlevel, as aggro generally struggles on ladder currently. It also means we’re usually choosing the less flexible deck. We already have Discard Aggro – it is a deck that is capable of winning on the board and features a lot of draw. The other available aggressive decks are much more volatile in their aggression and could be countered more easily.
Also the lack of flexibility means that we have to get some lucky pairing and get some good matchups during most of Open Rounds.
This lineup looks like the dark horse and not a lot of players would choose to bet on something like this. It is also important to remember that while it might counter the general field, it could only take a single round of ‘scissors’ lineup for your run to suddenly end.
This is the riskiest lineup to bring to this tournament, as targeting aggressive decks opens us up for a lot of counter-play from other lineups.
I believe this concept can be changed to fit a lot of ideas. The important part is the core of SI/Frejlord alongside Fiora Shen as it can counter Fizz TF fairly consistently if built for that purpose. Go Hard looks to be the best complement for now, making a trio that will be very effective against aggressive decks or Fizz TF.
The main problem the lineup has is finding the edge against the ‘rock’ midrange lineup that we should face in most of our rounds. Therefore, finding a way to beat Fiora Shen or Lee Sin (if we pack a heavy freeze package in the Anivia deck for example) is very important.
This lineup is very interesting, and could surprise opponents – they normally wouldn’t be prepared for this kind of strategy. I would personally recommend this lineup to someone who has some of his comfort decks here and knows how to be flexible on the builds.
For this line up to work, both deckbuilding and piloting skills will be required, as those decks will be on the low end of the power-level when compared to other lineups.
This upcoming Seasonal Tournament looks to be very close to the previous one in terms of the structure of the format (however, big changes are in store to the next one!).
This time, there is one deck above the rest again (Go Hard was the one back in December), and Twisted Fate is still part of it ironically.
In the last tournament, Go Hard was forcing a ban as there wasn’t a clear counter to it outside of Feel the Rush back then. But this time, the aggressive and damage-based decks are making things very interesting and actually spring different strategies into existence.