Fiora Shen Deck Guide
Good morning everyone, den here!
About a week ago, we talked briefly about the return of the Fiora Shen archetype in a ‘Deck of the Day’ article. Today, we will go much more in-depth breaking down the deck, covering its position in the current metagame and how to optimally pilot the deck to the best of your ability.
First, it is important to understand that Fiora Shen came back because of the specific qualities of the current environment. It has what we call a ‘relative power‘, and it is not an all-round strong deck that can defeat any opponent.
Fiora Shen has been rising because the current metagame is revolving around early board domination. Ionia Shurima decks are making control decks almost impossible to play on the ladder and it has opened the gate for the board-centric decks who aren’t high on interaction and focus on developing their own pressure-oriented gameplan.
And amongst all those board-centric decks (Lurk, Sivir Akshan, Azir Irelia, and Zed Lulu, to name a few), one stands above all when it comes to its pure value-trading potential: Fiora Shen.
What makes Fiora Shen better than all these other decks when it comes to thriving in a combat-focused meta is the use of Fiora and the Barriers. Your champion simply gives you another win condition that isn’t relying on destroying an opposing Nexus, which means you can have a whole different approach to the combat phase and can focus on denying your opponent’s development, while advancing your own unique gameplan.
Now that we know why the deck has some valuable characteristics in the current metagame, let’s jump into the decklist.
As stated in the introduction, if we are playing Fiora Shen, we are doing so because of the specific environment – so the intent of the list isn’t to beat every deck, but to be really effective against the ones we are trying to prey upon. After we’ve identified this as our goal, it has led us to some key deckbuilding choices.
- Only 1 Concerted Strike
The current metagame has a lot of Spellshield targets and Concerted Strike is really bad against them. The card is great against Barriers, but most of the time we will still end up trading down on mana, and it is difficult to keep mana up waiting for a Barrier. Outside of the Lee Sin matchup, I wouldn’t recommend running more than 2 Concerted Strikes.
- 3 copies of Spirit’s Refuge
In most variants, you will see 2 copies of Spirit’s Refuge, but we do run a three-of here. Against other board-centric decks, our goal usually isn’t to go after our opponent’s Nexus but to leverage our advantage in the board battle and potentially secure our Fiora win condition while staying at a nice health total. Spirit’s Refuge helps to do just that.
- The role of Laurent Bladekeeper
This card is kind of my personal flavor touch in an otherwise well-established deck. Laurent Bladekeeper is a 3/3 unit giving a permanent 2/2 stat boost to Fiora, Rivershaper, or Shen. In a deck that is all about keeping your high-value units alive, Laurent Bladekeeper is oftentimes almost as good on a defensive turn as Shen is on an offensive turn.
- No Nopeify and only 1 Deny and Golden Aegis
Although these cards are essential to fight control and removal-based decks, remember that we aren’t trying to beat everything with Fiora Shen. The goal of the deck is to bully other board-centric lists, meaning we have to sacrifice some matchups in order to be great at our main objective.
We are not trying to push heavy damage right out of the gate (except in specific matchups). Instead, our early turns should be geared towards building a strong board and setting up favorable trades. Keep in mind that in almost every board-focused matchup, winning the trading phase will most of the time lead to opportunities to deal Nexus damage.
Because we focus so much on the combat phase, our offensive turns are very important. These turns are the ones where we can really pick our battles and control what our opponent can or cannot do. They are also our time windows for removing important opposing units with Challengers. So, in matchups where you know your opponent doesn’t have a great draw capacity, see your attack turns as removal turns.
During our defensive turns, the goal should be to limit our losses and prepare for the next attack turn the best we can. If we are ahead, we can use these turns to either store some spell mana, or to develop units we would want to open attack with. If behind, then our focus should be on protecting our already existing board and health total.
We have 3 ways to affect combat and help our units:
- Barriers – this is obviously the best keyword in a board battle, especially because Ionia, Shurima or Demacia do not have any ways to remove a Barrier easily (unlike PnZ or Bilgewater that could leverage Mystic Shot or Make it Rain).
- Quick Attack (through Young Witch) is great because it forces our opponent to commit their combat trick against a Quick Attack unit, and then we can react to it. Remember that Barrier counters Quick Attack, so be mindful of potential Spirit’s Refuge from the opponent.
- Stat buffs are a simple yet effective tool, and mostly they are cheap. Most of the time, we want to use them as an answer to our opponent’s action instead of casting them proactively. Also, because of their cheap cost, we can keep our opponent on their toes simply by keeping up as little as 2 mana.
The second important part of the deck’s gameplan is understanding which units do we want to protect the most. Obviously, Fiora and Shen are the engines that get the deck going, but other units can be just as important to the deck depending on which win condition we are going for.
- Young Witch. Just like Shen, Young Witch has an impact on the game as long as she is on the board, helping our other units be a problem on our attack turn. In a combat-focused matchup, keeping her alive makes Shen, Fiora, Rivershaper, Fleetfeather Tracker, or Screeching Dragon so much easier to use efficiently.
- Rivershaper. Especially against slower decks, which will try to run you out of resources or aren’t giving you much for Fiora’s win condition, Rivershaper is the card to keep alive so you can keep tempo and card advantage up through the whole game. Against faster decks, the 2/2 body can be a little lackluster in trades if not supported. But the capacity to find more resources, especially combat tricks and our Lifesteal spells, makes the Rivershaper a great unit in almost any matchup.
- Screeching Dragon. In many midrange matchups, Fiora can’t really win that many fights unless you keep investing combat tricks into her. The Screeching Dragon, though, is capable of taking some tougher 1-on-1 fights. So if you know the opponent will rely on well-stated units that Fiora can’t consistently beat, think about investing into a beefier Challenger unit.
When it comes to mulligan phase, we usually want to approach it with an idea that you want to pass on turns 1 and 2, then play Fiora on 3, Shen on 4, and have 3 mana stored to protect our champions at basically all times.
However, against aggressive decks, this line of play can be fairly slow, and playing nothing in the first two turns would cost us a ton of health. Instead, finding a Fleetfeather Tracker and one of our 2-drops to support it and start trading early might be a better idea.
Against decks that will have a hard time competing with us for the board, we are looking for value units and annoying threats like Rivershaper and pretty much any unit at 4 mana and more.
Additionally, an important rule that is applicable to every matchup is to look for a unit to cast your spell on first – before you keep the spell itself. However, in burn matchups keeping a Spirit’s Refuge could be a worthy risk that goes against this rule of thumb.
- Very favorable: Discard Aggro, Sivir Ionia, Lulu Zed, Pirates, Azir Irelia, Lurk
Those decks are great at mounting some early pressure and snowballing off of it, but they lack draw to refill if we manage to stop them.
We want to make sure they get stuck in this kind of a situation, and we try to achieve it either with an early curve of units to match their development or with a Fiora that we protect till the end of the game.
These are the matchups where Spirit’s Refuge is key, as the opponent will try to race us. Our goal is to shut down this plan.
There is no need to be in a hurry in these matchups, take your time and force your opponent to take actions first so you can work with as much information as possible. Once you feel in control, adopting a more aggressive stance will force your opponent to use valuable resources to stay in the match.
If you find an early Spirit’s Refuge, feel free to use your health as a resource to line up better trades and stabilize the board as early as possible.
Pirates or Discard might be capable of killing you from 6 or 8 health without any board, so these are matchups where the Refuge can be used purely for healing even if the Barrier wasn’t necessary.
- Slightly favorable: Lee Sin, Karma, Thralls, Go Hard
These matchups are difficult, but I believe we are slightly favored as long as we play optimally.
The main common pattern about all these decks is they have a certain point in their gameplan that, when reached, turns the table and puts us in a very bad spot. However, we do have an initiative on the board against them, which is exactly what we are aiming to leverage.
In those matchups, Fiora is much weaker than in the previous category of matchups because the units our opponent plays are beefier, and they have more ways to protect them efficiently.
Also, we will need some refill to keep the pressure coming, so Rivershaper becomes a much more important piece of the puzzle than against more aggressive decks. Buffing it with a Laurent Bladekeeper usually nets incredible results.
The key card in those matchups is the Golden Aegis, because it allows us to focus on building the biggest board knowing that we can punish the opponent when the opportunity presents itself.
- Unfavorable: Ez Draven, GP Sejuani, Swain TF
Look out for how many of these decks you face in your local meta, because if they are too popular, Fiora Shen isn’t a good deck to play anymore.
Similar to the previous category, all three of these decks too have a certain point that, when reached, usually means the end of the game. It’s Captain Farron for Ez Draven, leveled Sejuani for GP Sejuani, and The Leviathan for Swain TF. Because of the big stats on these finishers, it is hard for us to remove them and we usually have used up a lot of resources at this point in the game.
In order to win these matchups, we need to rely on units finding early damage, and then looking for a Rally punish on a turn they would invest a lot of mana into their development.
Our best units for that are Shen,
The early game should serve as a way to either get some damage in or force the opponent into using resources that would otherwise be used onto our premium units. If you manage to find a breach, I would advise going for it and taking whatever the opponent is willing to give you.
This is one of those cases where you should just fall back on basic card game principles like tempo and pressure instead of trying to outsmart the situation.
If I had to leave you with one piece of advice as to how to get better on Fiora Shen, that would be the following: in every game, ask yourself the question: “Is this a game that I will win through Fiora?”. It happens very often while coaching students, that I see missed opportunities and overinvestment into the wrong units when playing this list.
This question is key and represents well the position of the deck in the current environment: it is a ‘counter deck’ looking to pick the battles it can win and avoid the ones it loses.
When you understand your role and know how to pick your battles, you are a predator – but you could end up being the prey after just a single quick little shift in the meta.
I hope this guide has been helpful to some of you out there, and as you know by now, feel free to hit me up on Twitter for any questions you would have, related to this guide or LoR in general.
Good game everyone,