The Shellfolk story started with a bug. A couple of weeks into the Beyond the Bandlewood season, players discovered an obviously broken and unintended interaction that the Curious Shellfolk had with the Lucky Find spell.
Every time you were choosing one of the three buffs offered by that spell, Shellfolk copied the Lucky Find, but not the generated ‘buff spell’ – the original spell! This bug effectively allowed the player to go ‘infinite’ with Lucky Finds, being limited only by the hard cap that the game imposes on the number of spells you can cast per turn.
That bug got fixed, but players were hooked on Shellfolk and kept trying out to make this amazing value engine relevant again.
The big break came during the Worlds Championship, to which the eventual champion Alanzq brought a Shellfolk deck as a part of his lineup. It was banned in most of his matches, creating a sense of power and fear around this new archetype.
Since then, the deck has been experimented with on the ladder but has seen moderate success so far, failing to reach an overall 50% win rate.
It isn’t really the deck’s fault, however. It is unfortunate that the most popular lists in the current meta – Nami Zoe, Discard, or Poppy Ziggs – are often too much to handle for Shellfolk, which is trying to build towards a value gameplan in the midgame and eventually runs out of answers when facing massive pressure.
In a tournament setting, however, the deck is looking much more powerful. Control archetypes are more popular in that format, and the ban also helps to protect Shellfolk against undesirable matchups.
At the core of the strategy, we obviously have the Curious Shellfolk who acts as the value-driven finisher of the deck. Ezreal plays the role of the damage finisher to help speed up the process in matchups where we can’t fully rely on Shellfolk value.
Tempo in the midgame is very important for this archetype. The combination of Bandle City and Piltover almost guarantees you will never run out of cards, but these two regions also share the same weakness: the lack of healing. In the current metagame, that is a significant flaw considering the amount of pressure that top decks can apply from turn 3 on.
This is the reason why tempo is so crucial, as it will be our way of keeping the health up before you can transition to your late game. Cards like Bandle City Mayor or Aloof Travelers help with that, providing board presence in addition to some value and hand disruption.
Overall, due to the lack of healing, Shellfolk is much more comfortable playing against board-oriented decks like Demacia rather than against a burn opponent running Noxus.
Techs and Options
Station Archivist: Alanzq played 3 copies of this card in his Worlds list, but after trying the deck myself, I felt that Aloof Travelers is better. A single copy of Archivist could still be a good idea if you want an additional 3-drop value blocker.
Bandle City Mayor: I haven’t seen people running this card in Shellfolk too often, but the Mayor has been great for me. Against aggressive decks, he provides cheap blockers in order to buy time. Against slower opponents, and especially with Shellfolk on the board, the Mayor runs away with value.
Lecturing Yordle: A bit expensive, but a helpful midgame body that generates cheap spells you can use for removal needs.
Time Trick: Another card from the original list that synergizes with Shellfolk very well. However, because the current metagame is too fast, I felt casting it was often too much of a tempo loss and the Aloof Travelers are helping with the card flow enough.
- Know your win conditions
With something as flashy as Curious Shellfolk at the top of the curve, it is easy to get carried away spamming value and forgetting that you need to actually close out the game.
The deck has several win conditions: the Shellfolk is the value route, Ezreal represents the direct damage win condition, and Vi is the tempo win condition that can be supported by Bandle City Mayor to create some threatening boards.
- Get familiar with the ranges of your card generation effects
This deck will very rarely run out of gas, considering how much card generation we have access to. But with great power comes great responsibility, and in order to maximize the deck’s potential, you will need to get accustomed to the basic ranges and probabilities your card generation effects offer.
As a basic rule, prioritize picking units to keep up on tempo, and choose particular spells whenever you’re presented with a great opportunity to use them in the current game state.
- Set up for Shellfolk
Going for tempo before switching to the Shellfolk value gameplan is a great way to force resources from your opponent. This way, we are setting up for a situation where Shellfolk is more likely to stick.
Also, keep in mind that once you have Shellfolk online and going, you will fill up your hand really fast. Look to proactively empty your hand a bit before refilling it with Shellfolk value.
- Prioritize saving your Nexus health
It is very hard to lose a resource war with this deck, so, eventually, most opponents will be forced to try and go after your Nexus. I would advise prioritizing health over anything else, especially at first, while learning how to play the deck.
- Work to level up Ezreal
Leveling Ezreal isn’t something that happens naturally in this deck – at least not to the extent of Ezreal Draven, for example. As such, whenever you are choosing between several good plays, prioritize the one that advances an Ezreal level-up condition. The Prodigal Explorer will pay you off dividends for investing in him.
- General mulligan tips
As stated before, we should think about health first and foremost, so it is a rule we will also apply in our mulligan.
Against aggressive decks, Mystic Shot and Sump Fumes are our best removals. Pokey Stick and Thermogenic Beam are good against 1-health units early on, the latter also being useful later against midrange threats like Gangplank.
Essential Combos & Interactions
- Curious Shellfolk + Trinket Trade into Otterpus
The Otterpus we’ve picked from Trinket Trade will be doubled, and the mana cost of the copy will be additionally reduced by 1. Because Ottepus has Attune, this Trinket Trade is free as 1 mana we paid for it is refunded by the 0-mana Otterpus.
- Curious Shellfolk + Prank
When you Prank the opponent’s card with Shellfolk on the board, you will get a copy of it that costs 1 less mana. Your copy won’t have any Prank effects on it.
However, if you then Prank the same card for the second time, your second copy of it will be altered by the effects of your first Prank.
Example: With Shellfolk on the board, you Prank their Black Spear and apply +2 cost effect to it. You will get a copy of it that costs 2 mana (3 base, -1 cost because of Shellfolk). Then, you see the same Black Spear in your next Prank, and pick it again, applying another +2 cost to it. You will end up with a copy of it that costs 4 mana (3 base, +2 cost because of your 1st Prank, – 1 cost because of Shellfolk).
- Curious Shellfolk + Bandle City Mayor/Loping Telescope
While we mainly look to use Shellfolk combining it with Pranks and cheap card generation spells, we can also use it to generate additional units and pressure the opponent.
This way we can set up an overwhelming presence against an opponent who, for example, didn’t expect that we can rebuild so fast after they’ve cleared our board.
Because of hand-size considerations, I would refrain from taking expensive units. Aloof Travelers and Tenor of Terror at 4 mana is usually the highest I go for – Tenor being the general solid pick, while Aloof is great in control matchups.
Currently, the deck is performing poorly on the ladder, on average. It is very hard to play perfectly and the metagame is geared towards damage, pressure-oriented decks. Actual win rates may vary greatly from one player to another, depending on the local metagame and how comfortable they feel with the deck.
Mulligan for: Mystic Shot – Bandle City Mayor – Vi – Curious Shellfolk – Aloof Travelers
- Level 2 Veigar is their win condition in the matchup. Always keep removal for him and Senna.
- Minimorphs can deal with a couple of your engines, but we generate much more cards than our opponent. In the long run, they can’t keep up with how much value we can create.
- I would advise picking pressure-oriented units or Aloofs with Bandle City Mayor and Telescope, while opting for defensive spells with Conchologist or when Pranking with the Shellfolk. That way, we keep the pressure on the board for a very long time.
Mulligan for: Loping Telescope – Mystic Shot – Sump Fumes – Thermogenic Beam
- Rally decks don’t have direct damage, so they aren’t so bad for us to play against – it’s easier to sustain our health.
- If you hold the fort long enough, the value win will come naturally, focus almost exclusively on defending.
- You are playing an extreme value deck against an opponent with very few ways of refilling, so holding onto resources will only hurt you. Don’t use your Nexus health to tank damage when you can use other resources.
Mulligan for: Loping Telescope – Otterpus – Bandle City Mayor – Thermogenic Beam – Vi
- Make it your priority to deal with Nami if she hits the board. Aloof Travelers will usually take care of the Fleet Admiral Shelly in their hand.
- Telescope can generate Equinox or Crescent Strike, both cards being great at dealing with buffed up units. Conchologist’s best card is Stress Defense – to buy some time.
- Ezreal and Vi are both really important in this matchup. Ezreal is an Elusive unit that can block or force blocks. Vi is a removal on stick and she is very hard to kill for the opponent outside of Hush.
Mulligan for: Otterpus – Conchologist – Thermogenic Beam – Sump Fumes
- Play to develop the board and keep up on tempo, if you fall too much behind it will be usually too late to come back. The slower the exact version of Draven Sion our opponent runs the better it is for us.
- You can deal with Sion thanks to Minimorph, the main problem to deal with is the mid-game aggression with Draven, Lost Soul and the constant board flood.
- Value isn’t important in this matchup until the very end, so make the most tempo-oriented plays. The opponent has to invest a ton into removing Vi and Shellfolk, so they will eventually skew the balance in our favor.
Mulligan for: Otterpus – Conchologist – Mystic Shot – Sump Fumes – Thermogenic Beam
- Denying them the powerful early game start will allow for easier mid-game. Keep up on tempo, stabilize, and Prank their direct damage spells.
- There is absolutely no point thinking about value in this matchup, it is all about surviving.
- Impact keyword will deal some points of damage that may end up being crucial. If possible try to prevent Impact units from striking.
- Instead of playing around everything, ask yourself what you can realistically beat. A lot of wins will come from a good read or flat out gamble that paid off. Playing around stuff too much is sometimes only giving your opponent more chances to draw into lethal.
Mulligan for: Aloof Travelers – Bandle City Mayor – Loping Telescope
- It is very hard for their deck to race us, so they do rely on the Tree win condition. Look to discard it with Aloof or to find a way to pressure the opponent.
- Try to find Tenor of Terror off of Bandle Mayor or Telescope – it is one of the best mid-game pressure threats available.
- Ezreal, Shellfolk and Vi are all very hard for them to remove. Even if they’ve managed to deal with one of these threats, it is unlikely they will be able to answer the other one if you play it immediately.
This is undoubtedly one of the toughest guides I’ve ever had to write, simply because this deck requires a ton of practice before you can reach that feeling of comfort.
Once you get there though, it does pay off. I personally noticed an increase of more than 10% win rate as compared to when I was still figuring out the archetype and its matchups.
Overall, I wouldn’t recommend the deck to those with the single goal of climbing the ladder. The playstyle is very demanding and the current metagame tends to punish you for every mistake you make as the lack of healing can be too much to overcome in a lot of cases.
However, if you are looking for fun games, or simply enjoy value-based archetypes like Karma, for example, this might be the deck for you. I can also recommend this deck as a learning exercise – Shellfolk requires you to have some very robust fundamentals and matchup knowledge.
If you would like to discuss the deck, feel free to join the RuneterraCCG community on Discord. As for myself, you can find me on Twitter if you have any questions about this guide. I’m also offering coaching for players of all levels – feel free to message me directly on Twitter or find me here to book a session.