Gnar Burn Deck Guide
It should come as no surprise at this point to see another Gnar deck do well in the current metagame. In this one, we will explore a popular archetype ever since Bandle was introduced as a region, but who had a rough patch in the last few months as Poppy was nerfed several times.
With Gnar entering the fray, Ziggs finally found a second champion to fight alongside him and the Yordle burn archetype came back to being a metagame contender.
Just like previous iterations of the archetype, the Noxus Bandle pairing relies on an explosive early start to pressure the opponent through our cheap units that will later transfer towards an active burn gameplan thanks to Decimate and Noxian Fervor.
Bandle or Yordle burn is a simple deck in its essence. We are looking to quickly establish a threatening board and convert it into nexus damage. In that game plan, we are looking to abuse the numerous 1 and 2 costs units in our deck to quickly force the opponent onto a defensive stand.
With our champions potentially arriving on a curve on turns 3 and 4, it is very important to get going from turn 1, meaning we have to mulligan aggressively in most matchups. The more we can develop before that point, the harder our champions will be to remove for the opponent, as resources will already be invested into the other distractions we played previously.
The deck is labeled as “Burn”, an adjective usually referring to damage spells aimed directly at the opposing nexus as a core mechanic. However, most of our game plan relies on our units and their capacity to generate solid pressure, leaving Noxian Fervor and Decimate as support cards rewarding us for the damage our units manage to deal with during the match. If this first phase of aggression does not work out well enough, our spells will be almost useless to use as they would only represent a loss of tempo considering we couldn’t make the match about nexus’ health.
Another reason why our units are key to succeeding with Gnar Burn is the distraction they represent to our opponent once we make our switch towards the burn phase of the game.
The reason why we can use Decimate in this deck while it is a card that eats a large part of our mana for the current turn is that the opponent is already trying to solve the units problem presented to him on the board. If our counterpart has nothing else to worry about but pure burn damage, they can spend their mana on healing or setting up a lethal of their own in order to race us to the finish line. If there are units on the board though, they can’t commit to stopping our burn damage entirely, otherwise they open the door for our board to push even more damage.
Walking that fine line of onboard pressure and burn spells is what makes this new iteration of Yordle burn a good Tier 1 deck in the current metagame. And the addition of Gnar and Teenydactyl at the top of the curve helps maintain that pressure phase for as long as possible.
Techs and Options
- Brother’s Bond: A rather unused card that can be a good damage push in the deck as it can represent 4 damages for only 2 mana. Playing this card makes the importance of your early board even more crucial.
- Might: Another buff card that can help push some surprise damage to the enemy nexus. The card works particularly well with a transformed Tyneedactyl, making it a 9 attack overwhelm unit.
- Legion Grenadier: A rather good 2 cost unit for a burn deck as it guarantees at least one damage to the enemy nexus. The 3/2 statline can feel weak at times because of the many 2 attack low-cost units in the current metagame
- Treasured Trash: A great late-game refill card helping a lot against defensive opponents, or simply to be able to play more carelessly as we know we can have that big refill turn later on.
- To open-attack, or to develop? Choosing if you want to open-attack or develop before attacking is at the core of the aggro gameplay, and making the wrong choice can easily cost you the game. Be mindful of what your opponent could do to punish you for either choice.
- With this deck, you often prefer to develop unless there is a real punish for it.
- Also, because you tend to rapidly flood the board, you’re usually interested in trades to prevent your board from getting clogged up. Open-attacking oftentimes means you will trade less.
- Prepare your switch to the burn game plan. There are 2 main indicators that you should start thinking about burning the opponent down rather than keeping on developing units onto the board:
- You are slowly losing the board and lack refill in hand in order to keep developing enough pressure. Don’t force it then, use the remaining board for chip damage or blocking your opponent and start focusing on their nexus
- Your hand is filled with damage spells. Sometimes, the opponent still has 12 health but we have double Decimate and double Noxian Fervor in hand. When this happens, it usually is better to simply go for it as we won’t be able to do anything else effective anyway.
- Adopt a racing mindset. Most of what burn decks aim to do is to kill their opponent before they can reach their comfort zone and stabilize the situation. It’s a race between our damage output and the opponent’s capacity to either stop it or beat us first.
Based on what we expect our opponent to play, we can see this race as a sprint or as a medium-distance race – we aren’t looking for anything too long with this deck. But no matter what, we should always have in mind how do we win the race. Whenever in doubt, go for an all-in race, as it is what the deck is built for.
- Separate the guaranteed damage and the conditional damage. Based on who we face, not every damage card possesses the same effectiveness. For example, Noxian Fervor and Imperial Demolitionist allow the opponent to remove the target before the effect resolves. Impact units do not deal their strike damage if their blocker was removed. On the other hand, Legion Saboteur will always deal her damage once the attack is locked in. Keeping in mind which source of damage is conditional and how the opponent can interact with it (and how much mana it would cost them to do so) is a huge factor in taking our best statistical chance at winning the game.
- Gnar and Conchologist allow for some flexibility. With Gnar now a core card in the archetype, Yordle burn can extend its curve and afford to play longer into the board, especially if we can level up Gnar. Depending on the phase of the game we are in, we will either be looking to generate some Pokey Sticks to get some refill or to use Gnar’s level up to take an annoying threat out of the equation during our next attack.
The same idea goes for the Conchologist. As a 2/2 body, we are not looking to play him early during our pressure phase and would rather go with House Spider or Stone Stackers instead. Coming in later in the game, Conchologist allows us to be more flexible and work with more information as to which card we wish to pick. If we are still in our board-focused phase, aim for a card that will buff our units or remove potential blockers for the opponent. If we already switched towards the burn plan, then look for cards that we can eaily convert into direct damage.
Mulligan For: Early Swarm -> 1 drops and House Spider.
- Pantheon Demacia is a much better deck than us if it comes down to a 1-on-1 battle. Luckily enough, we are much faster in the early turns and should use that to snowball our lead before the opponent can come back on tempo.
- Our damage cards requiring a unit like Noxian Fervor and Imperial Demolitionist can be answered with Single Combat. While it’s important to keep it in mind when pushing for lethal, it is also a good way to bait out removal from the opponent in order to protect other threats
- Gnar leveling up is a good milestone for us in the matchup, the vulnerable keyword being really good against Pantheon Demacia. Gnar probably won’t remove the unit, but the intent is to take it out of combat with a small dispensable unit.
- Wallop (from Conchologist or if several Gnars) is a huge card for us, on both phases of the match. So are other cards that are very impactful on single targets like Ravenous Flock or Scorched Earth.
Mulligan For: Early Swarm – Ziggs – House Spider
- Trundle Timelines is a great single target removal deck until it reaches the late game, but a rather poor one when it comes to handling a lot of small units. Because of this, we should aim at swarming the board early and making the opponent’s early units (Avarosan Sentry, Boom Baboon, Zaunite Urchin…) not able to block all of our attacks.
- With no healing in the opposing deck, it is rather easy to anticipate how much damage we will need to close the game. Our focus should be on the board early on and maximise what our units can do as the damage part of the game should be easier to navigate.
- Because of the heavy single-target package the opponent has access to (Piltover’s damage spells and Freljord’s freeze spells), Gnar is difficult to leverage and capitalize on. Don’t rely on him too much.
- Until the opponent has enough mana to play Buried in Ice, only Icevale Archer really punishes us for not attacking at the start of our turn, the rest of the opponent defenses being Fast or Burst spells. If you can ignore the Archer, developing our board for more potential damage usually is a good bet.
Mulligan For: Damage based curve -> Legion Rearguard – Legion Saboteur – Stone Stackers – Gnar – Ziggs
- We don’t have that many Fearsome blockers in our deck, making our blocks a bit awkward if we fall behind on board. However, you can simply focus on being aggressive and this problem kind of solves itself.
- Being dominant on the board usually nets much more damage than trying to burn with Decimates and Noxian Fervor, and allows us to be in control of when to start the damage race.
- Both decks have very limited defensive possibilities, making the attack turns the point of emphasis for both sides. The goal is to develop enough pressure so that the opponent is scared of an open attack and isn’t free to develop as they wish.
- Gnar leveling up is huge for us as we are likely to remove a good unit for the opponent while dealing some solid damage. With only Noxian Fervor as a potential answer for Spider Burn, it’s good to take the risk as the opponent spends as much mana as we invested to remove it.
Mulligan For: Inventive Chemist – Precious Pet – Stone Stackers – Ziggs – Gnar
- There are 2 ways we can build our early game in the mirror which influences the rest of the match a lot :
- Early Swarm: If we try to go wide, it means we are likely to get some damage in when we attack but also allow the opponent to pick their trades. It usually works out if we can sustain the damaged train and stay ahead in the race
- Curve out to your Champions: Beefier units help stabilize the board and control the pace of the game. It usually comes at the expense of a bit of health but allows to race back later on more effectively.
- Noxian Fervor is a key spell to deal with the opposing Gnar. Try to not use the Fervor on a 1 health unit if your opponent has 2 mana opponent or Pokey Stick could punish you.
- The timing to play Decimate is crucial as it is a slow spell. Be warry of Noxian Fervor resolving before it, and to the opponent being able to open attack if it is their attack turn.
- Trying to outvalue the opponent usually gives them time to find their damage. Dominating the board should be done so it opens more damage for us down the line, not in a defensive mindset.
Mulligan For: Early Swarm – Ziggs
- Yordles in Arms isn’t such a problem as a card as we should be able to force our opponent into trades thanks to our high board pressure. We run into trouble once we stop forcing them to be defending and allow them to develop onto the board freely.
- Gnar is difficult to abuse in this matchup as the opponent plays either Wallop or Buster Shot. Ziggs however is much more annoying to deal with for the opponent at 4 health.
- Because of the card generation our opponent has access to, we can’t afford to make the match anything else than a health-based battle. Also, Decimate has time to be played in answer to a Yordles in Arms, which is great to close out the race.
- Might is a really good card against the low health blockers our opponent uses – consider picking it from Conchologist if you don’t play it already.
Mulligan For: Inventive Chemist – Legion Saboteur – Ziggs – Gnar
- We need to quickly switch to a burn-oriented game plan against Scouts, as they will dominate the board eventually through trades. Once you feel you can’t fight on the board anymore, direct your attention to their nexus.
- Gnar can be a game-winner if we can level him up as it helps both to push damage and control the trades. Inventive Chemist on turn 1 a great start to set Gnar up for success.
- Because we are very aggressivily early on, it is unlikely our opponent can store mana unless they don’t have a play for the turn. If you see them pass on turn 2 or 3, go for the biggest board you can during that turn to cash in on the damage.
- Scouts doesn’t play any removal spells, making conditional damage like Noxian Fervor guaranteed to resolve. This means it is easy to math the potential damage we can inflict as we can assume everything should work as intended.
Mulligan For: Early curve into Champions ->Legion Rearguard – Stone Stackers – Ziggs – Gnar
- Darkness is really good at Single Target removal once it gets its synergy going and can stick either Veigar or Senna onto the board. We need to get the pressure on board high enough so they cannot invest a turn into one of these.
- Gnar and Ziggs are at their best when following up cheap units to create a board with various statlines. Only cheap units would be weak to Vile Feast and Withering Wail, while one big hitter is removed with Darkness or stalled with Stress Defense.
- Noxian Fervor is a key lategame card for us. It can be used to go for lethal before a healing spell resolves for our opponent, or to remove our own unit blocking an Ixtali Sentinel to deny our opponent the healing.
- Might is a great card to get off of Conchologist if you manage to transform Teenydactyl. Otherwise, look for more Noxian Fervors or Culling Strike for Veigar.
If Spider burn was the highest-profile aggressive deck in the past few months, the addition of Gnar in the latest expansion operated a shift in the aggressive deck’s hierarchy. Currently, Gnar Burn is looking extremely solid and might have regained the status the archetype once had when Poppy was the star of the deck.
With an explosive early game followed by 2 beefy champions in the follow-up turns, Gnar Burn is capable of developing a ton of pressure right out of the gate and sustaining it until turn 5 or 6, at which point it will be looking to close the deal with its burn spells. Also, with Conchologist and Gnar generating some Pokey Sticks along the way, the deck isn’t so predictable as one might think.
Overall, the deck is looking like a solid pick across the board and should stay in Tier 1 or Tier 2 contention for the months to come.
I hope this guide can help some of you get a better grasp of what aggressive decks are capable of in the current metagame. If you have any questions, feel free to join our Discord or use the comment section below. As for myself, you can find me on Twitter or coaching.
Good Game Everyone