Deep Archetype Guide: Picking the Right Variant for the Meta
After the ramp nerfs in patch 1.14, the meta has yet to settle down, with the only constant presence in it being the Twisted Fate Go Hard deck. During these kinds of shifts, ‘pocket metas’ emerge – they can last between a few hours and a few days and revolve around a handful of specific decks.
During these pocket metas, Deep can be great for climbing the ladder. You can fine-tune it to beat either aggro or control, while always going at least even with midrange.
Deep is also a popular tournament deck because of this. It allows you to target a specific type of opponent, and tune your list to serve that goal. In last week’s OLS, a biweekly community tournament, 3 of the top 8 players, including myself, had Deep in their lineups.
I spent the last couple of weeks testing different Deep lists in Masters, using various combinations of regions and tech cards, analyzing what works best in different metas. This article is the result of that effort and extensively covers the topic of tuning the Deep decks for ladder and tournament play.
If you’re interested in a more broad, entry-level guide to the Deep archetype, please refer to this article.
1. Shadow Isles Deep
Shadow Isles Deep is the most commonly seen Deep deck. Shadow Isles offer additional Toss cards and, with Maokai, an alternate win condition.
Unlike other regions, Shadow Isles can be teched to beat either aggro or control. Against aggro, Shadow Isles contains cards like Vile Feast, Deadbloom Wanderer, Withering Wail, Thorny Toad, Grasp of the Undying, The Ruination, and even Maokai. Against control, Shadow Isles has access to cards like Vengeance and Mist’s Call.
The list shown above is balanced to be solid against an open field. If you are playing in an uncertain meta, I would play a deck similar to this one.
For a list meant to target late game decks, see Trivo’s second place OLS list here.
2x Thorny Toad – Toad is not the flashiest card, but it can help you survive against early aggression while tossing cards. Against aggro, I would run 3 copies. In slower metas, I would cut this card and Withering Wails in the list above for Salvage, Shipwreck Hoarder, Atrocity and Mist’s Call.
3x Deadbloom Wanderer – Heals and tosses.
2x Mist’s Call – First popularized by ImpetuousPanda, Mist’s Call can swing games in Deep’s favor by reviving a Nautilus killed by a Vengeance or a Freeze + Culling Strike. In faster matchups, Mist’s Call can revive Deadbloom Wanderer and Thorny Toad for a solid value as well. If you are expecting to play against decks that can easily kill Nautilus, this should go up to 3 copies.
1x Atrocity – Can close out games by dealing surprise damage. Try not to use this if your opponent has mana to negate it unless you have no options. In slower metas, I would definitely go up to 2 copies.
2x Vile Feast, 2x Withering Wail – Heals and pings.
2x Vengeance – Removes key units that can be hard to deal with like Swain, The Leviathan, Captain Farron, Ezreal, Jinx, etc.
1x The Ruination – Resets the board and can win the game if your opponent does not play around it. It’s personal preference whether to play one or two copies.
Fading Memories – Fading Memories can be used as a more flexible Jettison by copying Deadbloom Wanderer or Dreg Dredgers. It can generate and additional Sea Monster or even a surprise blocker in desperate situations.
Grasp of the Undying – This deck has no good way of removing early Ezreals. As mentioned earlier, if Draven Ezreal starts getting more popular, I would play at least two copies of Grasp.
Terror of the Tides – Win condition when summoned in the late game against most board states, but it is the worst Sea Monster to draw early.
2. Ionia Deep
For a few days last week, I was almost exclusively queuing into Feel the Rush and Anivia decks. Traditionally, Ionia decks counter late-game Shadow Isles/Freljord decks because Deny negates bombs like The Ruination, Vengeance, Warmother’s Call, and now Feel the Rush.
Additionally, Deep as an archetype also counters Shadow Isles/Freljord Control decks because it drops bigger units, such as Nautilus, faster. It can also obliterate or shuffle back late-game threats like Anivia and Tryndamere. However, Deep can sometimes still lose to early Feel the Rushes or well-timed Vengeance and The Ruination. Combining Deep with Ionia eliminates these possibilities.
Since most of Ionia’s good spells are 4 mana or higher, we can also have the room for Zap Sprayfin to fish out Jettison and Lure of the Depths.
Ionia deep, unfortunately, is really bad versus aggro. Concussive Palm, Jaull Hunters, Tasty Faefolk, and Claws of the Dragon can help against slower aggro decks like They Who Endure. However, versus a faster deck like Mistwraiths, the list will fold very quickly.
Key Ionia Cards
3x Deny – The reason why we play Ionia.
3x Tasty Faefolk, 3x Claws of the Dragon, 2x Concussive Palm – These cards keep you alive in the early game against midrange decks. In a dense control meta, I would cut Tasty or Claws for another Palm and Will of Ionia.
Will of Ionia – Against slower decks, Will of Ionia can win the game on the spot by bouncing Anivia or Tryndamere. This card is also quite good against Tahm Kench/Soraka as it allows you to reset buffed units.
Nopeify! – Against Twisted Fate Go Hard, the Ionia Deep deck is just a bit too slow, and will generally stabilize with around 5 HP left. Nopeify lets us survive by negating early Go Hards and significantly delaying their Pack Your Bags. If you are facing a lot of Go Hard decks on the ladder, I would definitely add this card in.
3. Discard Deep
Discard Deep, also known as Turbo Deep, became quite popular for a brief period of time after the Sump Dredgers and Zaunite Urchin buffs. By playing Rummage, Sump Dredgers, Zaunite Urchin and Twisted Fate, Discard Deep can hit Deep faster and more consistently than the Shadow Isles variant. However, with the addition of The Slaughter Docks, the advantages gained from playing Piltover & Zaun over Shadow Isles have been significantly diminished.
Now, the main advantage of playing P&Z on the ladder is that it has cheap removal such as Mystic Shot, Gotcha, and Get Excited. Unfortunately, in the current meta, one-for-one small-target removals aren’t in their best spot right now. Against late-game Shadow Isles decks, the best target is usually Wyrding Stones or a damaged Trundle. Against faster decks, there are usually too many units for your spells to handle.
Right now, I would only consider Discard Deep in tournaments with specific deck-building restrictions. For example, in many community tournaments, you are required to create three decks with no overlapping regions.
2x Rummage – Half a Jettison, except you have control over what you mill. Generally, you want to save this until you are about to hit Deep or have already hit Deep. Figuring out the appropriate card to toss is probably the hardest part of playing this deck.
2x Zaunite Urchin – Quarter of a Jettison on a body. Depending on how aggressive the meta is, Sump Dredgers might be better than this card.
2x Twisted Fate – General utility card. Mostly used for Blue Card, but Red Card and Gold Card can win games in specific circumstances. Because of how many draw power this deck has, most opponents have to respect TF and will look to remove it.
2x Mystic Shot – Good for removing Twisted Fates, Mistwraiths, and other 2 health units. Could be bumped up to 3 copies depending on the meta. In some games, Mystic Shot can provide the last bit of surprise direct damage needed to close out the game.
3x Gotcha!, 1x Get Excited! – 3 damage is a really good amount right now because it can remove Draven, Ezreal, and Pale Cascade’d 2 HP units. This deck has enough discard that you can get rid of Gotcha if it is drawn at an inopportune time. Gotcha is interesting because in general, you want to just draw cards to hit Deep faster and be mana-efficient while doing so. However, you also have to consider that you could happen to draw into a discounted Gotcha. For that case, you need to have some mana remaining, as well as a proper Gotcha target. Overall, you need to balance out whether it is worth being more mana efficient or playing for Gotcha.
Statikk Shock – In metas with a lot of 1 HP units, I could see this being run along with Make It Rain and Dreadway Deckhand.
4. Freljord Deep
Freljord Deep, for the most part, has no access to Fast spells. In exchange, you receive Avalanche, Icequake, Kindly Tavernkeeper, Flash Freeze, and Harsh Winds. Avalanche and Icequake can be really good in metas with slower decks that tend to clog up the board, as these two cards will often act as a one-sided The Ruination. However, at the moment, only Twisted Fate Go Hard fits the bill.
Although this list specifically does not run freeze spells, if Lee Sin ever makes a comeback, I could see Freljord being played for access to Flash Freeze and Harsh Winds. In general, Deep does pretty poorly into Lee Sin. However, with freeze spells, Deep should be able to live long enough to eventually swarm the board with enough Sea Monsters to overwhelm the opponent.
3x Zap Sprayfin – Similar to Ionia, most of Freljord’s good spells cost 4 or more, allowing us to play Zap to fish for Jettison and Lure of the Depths.
3x Avalanche – The single reason to play this deck. Against Twisted Fate Go Hard, this deletes everything that is not Chronicler of Ruin and plundered up Jagged Butcher.
1x Icequake – Avalanche #4. Might be worth running two copies.
3x Avarosan Sentry – Only card in Freljord that can reliably thin the deck, besides Entreat.
2x Kindly Tavernkeeper – Heals out of Pack Your Bags range.
In general, this deck performs worse than both P&Z and Shadow Isles Deep in almost every matchup except for Twisted Fate Go Hard. This deck really only targets a very specific matchup and I would not generally play it.
Most Deep decks have the issue of either being very good versus control and bad versus aggro, or very good versus aggro and bad versus control.
Shadow Isles Deep is the only version of Deep that can be tuned to do well across the board and would perform even better when further fine-tuned to take on either aggro or control.
In a pure control meta, due to access to Deny, Ionia Deep seems poised to be a very strong anti-meta pick. Unfortunately in the current meta, Discard Deep doesn’t offer a lot, while Freljord Deep seems to only be able to be geared to win very specific matchups.
In regards to this weekend’s seasonal tournament, if I were to bring Deep, I would try to scout my opponents as much as possible and build a Deep list accordingly. If you’re a lower seed, you will be matched against some higher ranked opponent in the Round 1 – in this case you can look up their decklists on the Leaderboard. This is unfortunately much harder to do for the top 324 players on the ladder, because their first opponents will be gauntlet players not shown on the Leaderboard.
Thanks for reading and good luck in your games!