Introduction and Deck Stats
Hey there, Raphterra here! Today, I’m bringing to you a guide on Go Hard Nightfall.
The deck list featured in this article was one I personally used to climb from 0 LP to Top 14 Masters at 71% win rate (20 Wins – 8 Losses).
This is a slower, control-oriented variant of the usually aggressive Nightfall deck. This version may not be as explosive as the classic Nightfall list, but it compensates with tools to interact with your opponent and with more ways to win in the late game. If you want to see the Go Hard Nightfall in action after reading this article, check out my detailed video guide!
Go Hard Nightfall is a midrange / control deck that combines the Nightfall package with control tools from Shadow Isles. Access to invokes, nightfall effects, and moon weapons allow this deck to have flexible game plans and multiple ways to win.
This deck can follow the standard Nightfall gameplan of going wide with early units, then exploding in the mid-game with the newest Nightfall card from Worldwalker Expansion, The Winding Light.
The deck’s champions, Diana and Aphelios, both have ways to interact with opposing units and control the board. Combining Targon with Shadow Isles allows this deck to run semi-control tools like Vengeance, Unspeakable Horror, and the main spice of the deck, Go Hard.
Go Hard is a ping spell that serves as a cheap Nightfall activator and can sometimes provide a late-game win condition with Pack Your Bags. It’s not unlikely to draw into multiple copies of Go Hard since this deck runs multiple card-draw tools like Guiding Touch, Pale Cascade, and Unto Dusk.
Unto Dusk is probably the most impactful and flexible support card of the deck. It can be used on: (1) The Winding Light to buff boards at burst speed, (2) Doombeast to deal Nexus damage, and on (3) Lunari Priestess or Eclipse Dragon to generate cards. In some rare cases, Diana and Aphelios are also viable targets for Unto Dusk to either push damage or to generate a moon weapon.
General Mulligan Guide
For the mulligan, you’ll always want to keep Aphelios and The Sky Shadows. You also want to keep 1 Nightfall activator like Lunari Duskbringer or Go Hard. If you have a Nightfall activator, you can keep Diana as well.
Games with this deck can go very differently depending on your mulligan.
- Early Game Scenario 1: Good aggressive start with early units!
This is when you can go for wide attacks with multiple early units. If you have Aphelios or Diana in your opener, you may gain board advantage with Diana’s challenger or with Aphelios’ Crescendum and Calibrum. If you have a good start, you want to inflict every early Nexus damage that you can.
- Early Game Scenario 2: Slow start without combo pieces?
In this case, you don’t need to panic because you still have a strong late game to fall back on. You can just play units, take good trades, and keep up in tempo with your opponent.
- Mid Game: Generate cards and go wide!
In the mid-game, you want to start generating cards with Lunari Priestess and Unspeakable Horror. You are also looking to remove your opponent’s key units with Vengeance. The main goal during this phase is to enter the late game with a wide board, in preparation for an explosive turn with The Winding Light.
- Late Game: Look to finish the game, in multiple ways!
Ideally, you want to go for an explosive turn with The Winding Light. This combo turn usually inflicts huge damage to the opposing Nexus.
Aside from this, there are multiple ways to finish games. You can go for: (1) the burn strategy with Doombeast, Unto Dusk, and Pack Your Bags, (2) the elusive strategy with invoked celestials, and (3) the overwhelm strategy with Aphelios’ Infernum or another round of The Winding Light + Unto Dusk combo.
- Choose the correct invokes!
This can be a complex topic, since the correct celestial to invoke depends on several factors: the board state, the hand state, and the matchup. I will try to break down the general situations you might face in your games, and the celestials that you may want to take in those situations:
- Are you preparing to go wide for The Winding Light?
- Are you looking for removal against combo/control decks?
- Are you looking for late-game finishers?
- Can you threaten lethal with elusive units?
- Phase the correct moon weapons!
Another skill-intensive portion of the deck are Aphelios’ moon weapons. To make things simpler, you generally go into the cycle of Crescendum into Calibrum into Gravitum. This is a nice cycle that allows you to go wide, remove units, and stun units in preparation for your explosive turn with The Winding Light.
Keep in mind that you need to evaluate if starting with Calibrum or Gravitum makes more sense over Crescendum. For example, you might want to immediately kill a key early unit like Gleaming Lantern, or you might need to immediately prepare a stun to stop a big attack from Legion Deserter.
In the later stages of the game, you can phase into Severum if you need to heal up, or into Infernum if you’re looking to create a big overwhelm unit.
- Never give up!
Between invokes, Aphelios, Doombeast, and Pack Your Bags, this deck has many ways to come back from lost games. Play until the last draw and keep finding ways to win!
Matchups and Mulligans
Annie Jhin – Favored
- Your early units, heals, and drains give you the edge to survive the onslaught from Annie Jhin until they eventually run out of gas.
- Prioritize removing Annie in the early game to make sure she doesn’t level up. Go Hard, Unspeakable Horror, and Diana can help you remove their units and get board advantage early.
- In the mid-late game, Doombeast is a reliable tool to keep you out of range of their burn spells. You can also phase Severum from Aphelios or try looking for The Golden Sister in your invokes.
- Save Vengeance for Jhin if your opponent is threatening his level-up.
Lurk – Favored
- Hard mulligan for early blockers and trade with their units early. Expect them to drop a Snapjaw Swarm on Turn 2; prepare a blocker if you can.
- Aphelios and Diana can get free kills on their low-cost followers. If you know that your opponent has Rek’sai, you can phase into Gravitum to stun her before she attacks.
- Rek’sai and Pyke are your primary targets for Vengeance. You are likely to lose if your opponent is able to level them up.
- Crescent Strike and Falling Comet are good celestial spells to invoke.
Ezreal Caitlyn/Annie – Favored
- This is a grindy matchup where both decks will try to control the opposing board with removals. The card advantage from Invokes gives you the edge to outgrind and outvalue them over a long game.
- Captain Farron, Caitlyn, and Ezreal are your primary targets for removals. Meteor Shower is a great celestial spell to deal with Ezreal or Caitlyn.
- It will be easy to close out games with big Celestial units once they’ve exhausted most of their removal spells.
Viego Deserter – Even
- Save Vengeance for their big units. From Turn 5 onwards, always represent mana to threaten Vengeance. Falling Comet is a good celestial spell to take from Invokes. Equinox can shut down Invasive Hydravine and Legion Deserter.
- If you can remove their big units, they will have a hard time dealing with Elusive celestials in the late game.
- Keep your Nexus health out of Atrocity range. Make sure you’re keeping track of Legion Deserter’s stats based on how many Encroaching Mists have been summoned.
- If you have Aphelios, make sure to plan ahead and cycle Gravitum when you’re expecting your opponent to play Legion Deserter.
Bard Demacia – Even
- Aphelios is a key unit in the matchup, since he can control the board with Calibrum and Gravitum. He will be the primary target of your opponent’s challengers. You may want to prepare Vengeance and Pale Cascades to protect your Aphelios.
- You want to cast multiple copies of Go Hard as early as possible. Casting Pack Your Bags in the mid-late game will be game winning.
- Use Diana to pick off Esmus, Breath of the World for free.
Lissandra Taliyah Thralls – Unfavored
- This matchup can be rough since they can clear your early board with Avalanche or Blighted Ravine. They can also use Sands of Time to stop your attacks if you threathen lethal with The Winding Light.
- You cannot afford to play around their board clears. You need to go wide early, be aggressive, and hope for the best. You cannot play safe; you need to win before they summon multiple Frostguard Thralls.
Deep – Unfavored
- You need to play aggressive in this matchup. It can be hard to remove and trade with their Sea Monsters once they are Deep.
- Slow down their Deep win condition by killing Sea Scarab with Calibrum. Don’t be afraid to use Vengeance if they play an early Mao’kai.
- From Turn 7 onwards, prepare Vengeance for Nautilus.
Aphelios Diana is a strong ladder deck because outside of Lissandra Thralls, most other matchups feel very winnable even in unfavored situations. The deck has good presence in all phases of the game, and it has a lot of flexibility due to invokes, moon weapons, and random card generation. However, this flexibility means that this deck may be harder to pilot for new or inexperienced players. You may require more games to practice and master this deck.