Hi everyone, den at the desk, with the new guide on one of the most talked-about decks of Patch 2.18: Dragons.
Considering how many buffs its cards received, we can say that Dragons have become a good deck – but still a bit disappointing at the same time. And the raw number of different lists for the archetype should be a testimony that players still are experimenting to find the best Dragons decklist out there.
Obviously, the deck is now much better than it was before receiving all this help, and the impact Dragon’s Clutch can have on the game now is a huge factor. The simple fact that Dragons can now threaten to lethal more often and use what they are best at – their board -to do so, gives the deck a different look and makes it feel much more frightening.
But there still is ‘a lack of satisfaction’ feeling about Dragons, as the deck still has to reach the highest tiers of the metagame and prove itself at the top of the ladder.
So far, I have seen at least 4 different takes on how to build Dragons, all of them pairing
The main problem I have with this orientation for Dragons is the fact that matches rarely go to late-game scenarios where we can safely develop big Dragons to close out the game.
Instead, the midgame is much more important, and Dragons often find themselves adopting a defensive role against most of the current metagame. The impact of big dragons is therefore very marginal compared to what it could be if the metagame was focused around slower, more value-oriented decks.
That’s the reason why, for the current metagame, I decided to go for a much more tempo-oriented deck that can close the game faster if it gets through the opposing pressure phase. Thanks to Shyvana and Zoe, we also have more tools to fight efficiently during that most important phase of the game.
Against slower decks, where we could miss the great late-game Eclipse Dragon and Aurelion Sol provides, we are instead looking to abuse the Fused Firebrand as our main pressure tool. Golden Aegis is another game-ender once we manage to establish some solid board presence with our midrange threats.
Because I imagine most people expected an Aurelion Sol list and might wish to play that kind of deck, the list from Pixer during last week’s Fight Night is a good choice: Click here to open the decklist.
Tech and Options
Dragons builds can go in different directions and adapt to various specific metas – to the point that it can actually become quite challenging to find the perfect 40 cards decklist. Below is a list of cards that can help you steer your deck in one direction or another depending on what you wish to accomplish.
- Solari Priestess. A really good card when we have time to get the value out of her, Solari Priestess can also feel very very slow in situations where you are playing from behind. A must-have in the value-oriented builds, the priestess competes with cards like Guiding Touch or
Ruined Doomguardin a more tempo-focused build. Considering we aren’t aiming to slow down the game and use cards like Golden Sistersor Falling Comet, she was among the cards I had to leave out.
- Judgment. Once again, this is a card that I feel is way too expensive to exist in the current metagame. I feel the only use of this card would be in a Shyvana deck, where the goal would be to go Shyvana on 4 into Judgment on 5. Although highly rewarding when it works, this gimmick looks to be more risky than rewarding.
- Radiant Guardian. A key card to keep decks like Poppy Ziggs or GP TF Bandle at bay, Radiant Guardian rewards us for trading our units – but in this build of the deck, we don’t have as many disposable bodies. Fused Firebrand is taking Guardian’s slot in this more tempo approach.
- Hush. Depending on your matchup, Hush will be one of your best or one of your worse cards. Against Sion, Hush is a premium card. Against more aggressive decks though, the card can often feels too expensive at 3 mana – even against Lurk or Rally decks. It usually is better to fight for board early and stabilise instead of relying on a Hush to save you. Running one copy instead of Guiding Touch or a Strafing Strike isn’t bad though.
- Loping Telescope. This is a card that started seeing play in the deck recently, it serves a ‘toolbox’ purpose, being a cheap blocker while keeping your options open. In a more Dragon-focused build, I feel Dragon Chow provides more of a upside as it can block a 2/1 unit early and then serve its goal of drawing a card and buffing one of our units. The Celestial pool of 3 and under is great to dig into, as we can find cards to pressure for cheap, to cycle or generat some great defensive spells.
- Brightsteel Protector. A great Demacia 2-drop – can be good against aggressive board-reliant decks, setting up great blocks and buying us time. If you see a lot of Lurks and Rally, consider switching Ruined Dragonguard for the Protector. However, Dragonguard is still better in midrange and control-oriented matchups.
- Board presence is king
Whether it is to defend yourself, to pressure the opponent, or even to create a distraction, Dragons operate almost exclusively on the board. They are really good at it, and with Demacia’s combat tricks and the beefy stats, our Dagons will keep growing throughout the game.
Force your opponent to come and play on the board with you and keep your important Dragons alive and well. Guiding Touch is a great example of a card that we look to use on our units more than our Nexus whenever possible.
- Set up 1-on-1 combat situations
Dragons are amongst the biggest units in the game, and there aren’t many decks that can take them on. Our spells also work well towards that goal, as Single Combat, Strafing Strike, and Concerted Strike all serve as single-target removal.
In that context, our biggest weakness is to fast wide boards as this transitions quickly into Nexus damage and forces us into a race. Even if it might feel bad early on in the game to sacrifice cards we would like to save for synergies later on (like Ruined Dragonguard), it is important to not let the opposing board go wide, otherwise, our 4- and 5-drops won’t be as efficient as they could be.
- Keep it simple – look for the best play and sequence it correctly
This might look like weird advice – of course, we always look for the best play, with any deck. What I mean by this is that oftentimes with this deck, the best play is obvious, and it’s mostly a matter of sequencing it properly.
As said before, Dragons aren’t very flexible in the way they approach the game, they want to set up beefy units to dominate the board and impose their will through efficient trading and evergrowing threats. In a lot of cases, keeping that simple approach in mind will serve you well, as taking complicated lines of play can be pretty punishing with a deck that isn’t filled with various options.
- Ask yourself how you’re going to end the game
When growing our board and being in a dominant position, especially with large units like Dragons, it is easy to get carried away and believe nothing bad can happen to us anymore.
While the deck is one of the best when it is in control of the board, our healing is limited to only 5 cards in our deck, meaning a deck with direct damage could race us and a control deck could find a way to come back onto the board given enough time. Once you feel you are safe and can develop your board, transform that development into damage, denying any comeback possibility your opponent might have.
General Mulligan Tips
- Always prioritize having units first. A lot of our cards are dependant on having a unit on the board, as such, when mulliganing, always look for the unit before the spell that requires it. Once you have a unit you feel can be used, look for the best spell to go with it.
- Interaction curve and pressure. This deck has 2 types of curves you can go for. Our interaction-oriented curve startsing on turn 1 with Zoe and ending on 5 with Screenching Dragon – we want to get a Dragonguard Lieutenant out on 2, be flexible on turn 3 and play Shyvana or Sunforger on 4. And our pressure-oriented curve starts on turn 3 with Ruined Dragonguard and ending on 5 with Fused Firebrand, preferably with Shyvana in the middle and some mana avalaible to use some spells alongside our Dragons. Each particular matchup asks for one or the other curve and identifying it correctly will go a long way in order to boost your winrate with the deck.
- Don’t be greedy. On turn 4, we have 2 units who love being paired with a cheap combat spell. Both Solari Sunforger and Shyvana love to see a Single Combat or a Strafing Strike in hand to make sure they get the maximum value possible. The thing with keeping these precise combos in the mulligan, is that if the game doesn’t go exactly according to plan, you might get overwhelmed early and loose too much tempo to get anything out of your 2 cards. When picking up the deck, I would advice going for very simple mulligans at first, and then try to do some planning ahead when you are more comfortable.
Mulligan for: Fused Firebrand – Shyvana – Dragon Chow – other Curve-fillers if you have some of the mentioned cards already.
- Although they play units early, Darkness doesn’t accomplish much and is rather growing its spell and defending more than trying to pressure you, you have time to develop your board.
- Sharpsight, Strafing Strike and Guiding Touch should be used to keep your units healthy and safe from Darkness.
- You need to build some pressure before Veigar and Senna come onto the board. if the opponent can afford to not block with them, he will build a big momentum that translates to losing our board and pressure later on.
- Keep Single Combat and Concerted Strike for real problems instead of trying to get some damage in removing eventual blockers with it. We are fine taking time as long as the 2 champions don’t stick to the board.
Mulligan for: Shyvana – Dragon Chow – Dragonguard Lieutenant – Ruined Dragonguard.
- Our main concern is their snowbally early game that can translate to too much Nexus damage. If we can limit that, or find a Solari Sunforger to heal back up, the board battle should be won.
- There is nothing the opponent can do against 5+ health units,
Moster Harpoonbeing their best removal – and not every list runs it. If you can grow Shyvana past that point, the game should be as good as locked.
- This is the textbook matchup of playing for tempo and not taking too many risks. Our opponent has to create situations he can leverage to beat us, stay safe and answer what they could be trying to do, then develop your board to take over the game.
Mulligan for: Zoe – Dragon Chow – Ruined Dragonguard – Shyvana – Screeching Dragon with a good hand
- The matchup becomes better if we have Hush. It becomes worse if the opponent runs Arachnoid Sentry, Ravenous Flock, or Scorched Earth.
- This is the ultimate board-based matchup where both players will try to establish dominance. Our opponent has access to direct damage so we want this to stay stable on the board as much as possible.
- Ruined Dragonguard is the absolute best card of the matchup. It rewards every trade we will take with Dragons and allows them to grow to stupid amounts of stats. Also at 4 health, he is pretty hard to kill for our opponent.
- With Twinblade Revenant changed to a Fearsome unit, our opponent can’t really enforce trades when attacking. Unless your health dictates otherwise, aim to maximise value when trading and protect Shyvana and Screeching Dragon as a priority.
- Sion is the big lategame problem, but we should be able to deal with him before he attacks if we have board control. Concerted Strike is the best way to pop Sion so the opponent doesn’t get to attack twice.
Mulligan for: Shyvana – Ruined Dragonguard – Dragon Chow – Zoe – Guiding Touch can be kept with a good hand
- Ravenous Flock and Scorched Earth are our main problems here, as they reward the opponent for chump blocking, something we otherwise don’t mind as it grows our Dragons. Guiding Touch can be a saving grace against those, so can be Strafing Strike if that allows enough healing. Although slow to play, Fused Firebrand’s Spellshield is a great protection too.
- Dragon’s Clutch is a huge finisher in this matchup as the opponent almost exclusively uses small units as blockers. The overwhelm keyword and the +1/+1 are permanent so feel free to use whenever it nets you some good damage output.
- Poppy is a must-remove before she attacks alongside several units. We will win the beefy stats battle even against Poppy, but that creates more annoying blockers and less potential damage if we were to grant Overwhelm to our units.
- Bandle City Mayor is the other go to kill unit, a wide board can be a problem to deal with so we want to limit our opponent’s opportunities to do so whenever possible.
Mulligan for: Shyvana – Dragon Chow – Dragonguard Lieutenant – Ruined Dragonguard
- Until Sejuani hits the board, which is usually a very bad news, this is going to be a unit battle, where we try to impose our Dragons onto the board while the opponent levels its champions. Think about developing first and stay safe from Monster Harpoon if possible.
- Plunder is great at removing small units, but pretty bad to handle the big ones. Once you removed the early game units blocking the way, you have to bulldoze your way to victory with your bigger unit.
- Hush can be a great card in this matchup, as it gives you a free turn disabling Sejuani in the lategame. Consider running the card instead of a Strafing Strike if you see this matchup a lot. Same could go for the Solari Priestess and her Falling Comet.
Mulligan for: Zoe – Dragonguard Lieutenant – Shyvana – Sharpsight – Single Combat – Brightsteel Protector or Loping Telescope (if you run it)
- The matchup is slightly favorable with if you have a Brightsteel Protector.
- If you can deny them board presence, the game is locked and won, there is absolutely no reason to focus on something else than trades and removing the board.
- Don’t panic at the sight of the Elusive units your opponent might play, we have various ways of dealing with them with Sharpsight, Single Combat or Strafing Strike. Focus on getting some units down to be able to use those instead.
- Zoe will not net you any value in this matchup, but an Elusive blocker is great, so she is still good.
- Shyvana leveling up is a huge win condition as we get extra removal card every time we attack with her. This should be the goal you aim for during the match.
- Once you wrestled board control, switch to the “end it” mentality, this will force cards out of your opponent’s hand to protect themselves. These are valuable resources we won’t have to deal with during the attack turns.
- A well-timed Single Combat or Strafing Strike when the opponent goes for Golden Aegis is one of the best tempo swings you can have in this match up.
Mulligan for: Zoe – Dragonguard Lieutenant – Brightsteel Protector if you play it. Solari Sunforger – Sharpsight – Single Combat, if you have some of the previously mentioned cards already.
- This matchup is about stabilizing the board and then our Nexus so we don’t lose to a Decimate we couldn’t do anything against. Noxian Fervor is much easier to deny with a combat spell.
- Solari Sunforger is your best unit to stabilize health, and he can be used in a viriety of ways:
- During our attack turn, it’s a 5/4 Lifesteal who will net use some guaranteed health, the opponent usually not being able to deal with more than 3 health units without blocking into it.
- During the opponent’s attack turn, before they swinged. That will usually freeze the opponent, who doesn’t want you to be able to block with the Sunforger.
- With any combat spell you might have, the best being to do it during your attack turn, so you can attack and then use a combat spell for even more lifesteal.
- The midgame units like Lecturing Yordle or Poppy should not be a problem to block, it is the swarm in the early turns that is important to deal with, as this is what creates the snowball of damage we want to stop from happening.
Mulligan for: Zoe. If you do not have Zoe, throw away your entire hand. If you have her, look for curve and disruption of the opponent’s early game, Dragonguard Lieutenant and Brightsteel Protector or Loping Telescope mostly.
- The matchup is closer to 45% if you play Brightsteel Protector or Loping Telescope instead of Ruined Dragonguard.
- Lurk might be the reason why Dragons can’t shine in this metagame, as the evergrowing attack is a nightmare for our Dragons to go against in combat. Play risky and dive into the first opportunity you see.
- Leveling up Zoe is the best thing we can do in this matchup, granting keyword to our entire board is our way to victory here. She isn’t so difficult to protect, the hard part is to stay alive until we can get there.
- Try as much as possible to deny Pyke value, even if that means using a Single Combat to suicide the unit he is targeting with its spell into a weaker one.
- Golden Aegis can be used for the sole purpose of granting Barrier to an important ally as a defensive tool in this matchup.
Dragons isn’t a bad deck, especially after all the help it received in Patch 2.18.
The problem is the fact that its gameplan is still too linear and dependant on what the rest of the metagame looks like. The popularity spike the deck had in the early days after the patch quickly got matched by Lurkers and limited its potential growth. Since then, Dragons were relegated to a tournament deck, which is capable of shining when protected with a ban.
Whether you believe the tempo or the value approach is better is entirely up to what you want the deck to accomplish. I personally believe this tempo build is more suited to the current metagame, which rewards early and midgame pressure rather than late-game value.
Also, in order to make the deck more flexible, being the one pressuring the opponent opens up different lines of play, while more defensive approach usually relies on finding the right card at the right time.