Empires of the Ascended Seasonal Tournament: Meta Explained and Decks to Prepare For
Legends of Runeterra Empires of the Ascended Seasonal Tournament is happening this weekend. Being a long-time tournament competitor and currently the number 14 player in ranked on the NA shard, I was asked by RuneterraCCG to share my thoughts about the meta expected in the upcoming tournament.
Riot has recently announced a change in the format of Seasonals – this time and going forward, Day 1 will consist of 9 rounds of Swiss. I don’t expect this to affect the meta environment too much, but I would expect that by the later rounds you will start to see significantly fewer non-meta decks.
The reason meta decks are ‘meta’ is that they have powerful game plans that can be consistently executed. In previous Seasonals, we saw some unique decks, such as Ezreal Trundle, make it to the top cut with a good run of 5 wins only to lose in the first round of playoffs. In the new format with 9 rounds, decks as such will have even a harder time making it to the top 32.
Another thing to consider is that ‘counter lineups’ are still hard to make work in the Open Rounds because your opponents might not bring any of the top meta decks you’re targeting. This was true for a 5-round Swiss and remains so for the 9-round format.
In his article about the Cosmic Creation Seasonal Tournament, Den brought up the concept of a ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’ meta. Going into last Seasonal, it was pretty clear that there are two dominant decks that would form ‘the Rock lineup’, Twisted Fate Fizz and Aphelios.
This time around, we have Trundle Lissandra Matron Control (TLMC) and Nasus Thresh at the top – although not nearly as dominant. These two decks are the new Rock, the only question is – what would be a third deck to combine them with? Looking at top cuts of recent tournaments, such as last week’s Mastering Runeterra and OLS tournaments, Zoe Lee Sin could sometimes act as the third deck in this lineup.
TLMC wants to level Lissandra and summon Watcher through some combination of Ice Pillar,
Nasus Thresh wants to deal as much damage as possible while empowering Nasus. The older They Who Endure deck used to have a very similar gameplan, but could often brick by drawing Cursed Keeper and Warden’s Prey without a Blighted Caretaker or Ravenous Butcher – or vice versa. Nasus Thresh now has Spirit Leech and Fading Icon as additional pieces, and Nasus can be tutored by Thresh or even Rite of Calling (while Endure players had to rely on finding They Who Endure timely).
Lee Sin, outside the hands of a few select players, traditionally has always had a very low win rate across the board, both on the ladder and in tournaments. Lee Sin is not the easiest deck to pilot and many players think that the deck is inconsistent. Additionally, bringing TLMC, Thresh Nasus, and Lee Sin together does not really have a cohesive ban strategy besides banning Scouts.
As a result, I do not expect that many players to actually bring Lee Sin together with TLMC and Nasus. This makes identifying the actual Rock lineup a bit murkier, in that many players might pair TLMC and Nasus with a different top-tier deck such as Ashe LeBlanc, Ezreal Draven, Zoe Asol, Zoe Diana, Scouts, Jarvan Shen, or even Deep. Players that are planning to ban TLMC might opt to bring Nasus with two aggressive decks, such as Nightfall and Discard.
What is clear though is that TLMC and Thresh Nasus are looking to be the two most popular decks of the tournament.
Despite not knowing the Rock lineup precisely, it’s actually pretty easy to think of the Paper lineup. Both TLMC and Thresh Nasus have pretty clear weaknesses and are unfavored against Overwhelm, MF Quinn Scouts, and Scargrounds. Zoe Lee is favored against TLMC and goes at least even with Thresh Nasus. A Paper lineup could contain any four of these decks:
One of the interesting things about Nasus and TLMC being at the top decks is that TLMC actually counters Nasus. This means that if someone wants to specifically counter Nasus, they can bring TLMC, Scouts, and Kench Soraka. This lineup, however, has the downside that it will be soft to other Paper lineups countering TLMC.
Ashe LeBlanc, Ezreal Draven, and Zoe Diana all beat Scargrounds, Scouts, and Kench Soraka. Interestingly enough, I think that this lineup is actually a much safer pick than the Paper lineup, and it might end up being one of the more popular choices this weekend.
Ashe decks have always been a popular tournament pick, even in metas where Ashe lists were performing poor on the ladder. Frostbite Midrange is very good into combat-based decks like Scouts but loses to aggressive burn decks and late-game control decks.
With the addition of LeBlanc, these weaknesses are not as pronounced because Ashe can now turn 4 Reckoning much more reliably. However, Ashe will still generally lose to Spiders, Ezreal Draven, TLMC, and Discard Aggro. Despite this, Ashe right now is as good as it’s ever been, going close-to-even with Thresh Nasus and having favorable matchups into almost every deck in potential Paper lineups.
Ezreal Draven is roughly in the same spot as last Seasonal. Back then, Ezreal Draven was not as popular because it was considered to be unfavored against both Twisted Fate Fizz and Lee Sin. This time, Ezreal Draven is also unfavored against both TLMC and Thresh Nasus. However, Ezreal Draven is a deck that leaves a lot of room for outplay even against bad matchups – for example, in the last Seasonal, Iannoguirea snagged second place with the deck in a meta filled with Twisted Fate Fizz and Lee Sin.
Zoe Diana is in a similar boat to Ezreal Draven, in that good Targon players can often outplay bad matchups. However, unlike Ezreal Draven, Zoe Diana isn’t actually unfavored against Thresh Nasus. Zoe Diana can Hush or Moonlight Affliction a Nasus while being able to contest the early game with Zoe, Spacey Sketcher, and The Fangs, and healing up late-game with Starshaping.
Because of the number of Invoke cards Zoe Diana runs, it can also sometimes produce enough stuns and silences to survive a TLMC’s Watcher combo. This unfortunately is not a consistent game plan because you won’t always hit Equinox‘s and Crescent Strike‘s off of your Invokes.
Before concluding the article, I wanted to make a special mention regarding triple aggro lineups.
Like Ashe, triple aggro has been a staple in competitive Runeterra for quite some time. It has some very good matchups but typically loses to decks that can either out-tempo them (e.g. Ezreal Draven or Scouts), or decks that can survive their initial onslaught (e.g. TLMC or Zoe Asol).
Because you can ban out bad matchups, triple aggro is appealing in tournament play. Triple Aggro is also a popular pick for players that are generally not confident in their ability to outplay other top decks since aggro decks can draw unlosable hands.
In his article on Escola Runeterra, top ladder and tournament player Finni actually suggested playing Discard Aggro, Nightfall Aggro, and Spider Aggro this weekend.
I personally would expect to see some number of triple aggro lineups, but I would expect to see most of these to fall off by the end of the tournament. Compared to last Seasonal, when triple aggro could prey on Twisted Fate Fizz, right now it is in a much worse spot than last time – the top dogs, Thresh Nasus and TLMC, are favored into most aggro decks. However, I generally am pretty biased against aggro decks, so I could very well be proven wrong.
In 9 rounds of Swiss, consistency is key, and lineups containing TLMC and Nasus Thresh seem to fit that bill right now very well.
However, compared to last Seasonal, I personally think that there is much more room for diversity in the meta. Ashe LeBlanc, Ezreal Draven, Zoe Diana, and Lee Sin are all very strong decks in the hands of the right player.
In a long 9-round day of competition, many players will not be able to maintain a focus as well in later rounds as compared to earlier rounds. Because of this, more players than usual may opt for comfort picks even if they know that they might not necessarily be the best deck for their lineups. For Seasonal Tournament, I will now almost always suggest playing comfort picks over meta picks if you are not confident on the meta decks.
Like always, thanks for reading and I will be happy to answer any questions, comments or feedback you may have!