Originally written by Mezume, updated for ‘Between Worlds’ Season by Den
Lee Sin Zoe is a peculiar archetype. It is very focused and reliant on its unique main win condition – a leveled Lee Sin.
This deck has been around since October 2020, when Lee Sin was reworked for the first time, and it is likely to stay as the staple combo archetype of Legends of Runeterra for a long time.
Currently, Lee is considered a good tournament deck, one that aims at punishing damage-based decks like Discard or Poppy Ziggs – Eye of the Dragon is the worst nightmare for these kinds of opponents. Additionally, the Stun and Recall mechanics from Ionia are great against the popular attacking champions like Poppy, Sion, or the Plunder duo of Gangplank and Sejuani.
However, over the past couple of seasons, Lee Sin got a bit worse as a counter to control strategies – with the introduction of Bandle City, Minimorph and Aloof Travelers have been very bad news for Lee.
Gameplan & Key Cards
Lee Zoe is a combo deck that has been evolving over a long period of time and so became even more focused on its very streamlined win conditions.
The first and most obvious win condition is Lee Sin himself – giving him Overwhelm and growing his attack to a point where he can one-shot the opponent’s Nexus is one of the most satisfying ways to win in Legends of Runeterra. The other two of its win conditions – leveling Zoe and stalling the game with Eye of the Dragon – are more convoluted.
As you can see, the deck runs a minimal amount of units – ensuring that Gifts from Beyond always pulls Eye of the Dragon. With a high density of spells, we are sure to level Lee Sin very early on and have enough protection for him or our Dragonling machine.
In the very early turns, we want to find our units. Zoe and especially Eye of the Dragon are the cards that will get us through the early game, hopefully stopping some of the damage our opponents want to deal to our Nexus. Against slower decks, we can use this time to progress Zoe’s level-up counter.
By turn 4 or 5, your Eyes should be fully popping off as your main engines. Between Gifts from Beyond,
These plays can stall the game for a while, but unless you are facing an aggro strategy, they probably won’t be enough to actually bring home the win – this is where your champions come into play. If you were able to successfully protect Zoe, around turns 6 or 7 is where she can level up. Otherwise, with enough banked mana, Lee Sin is ready to come down onto the board.
From here on, you will be looking to defend with Dragonlings on your defensive turns and threaten lethal with Lee Sin on offensive turns – all this while ensuring there is enough mana to protect him from harmful spells such as Vengeance.
- Lee Sin
The reason the deck even exists – Lee Sin is potentially the most powerful finisher in Legends of Runeterra. In his level 1 form, he puts himself in danger while attacking – so it is best to only do so while he is levelled. As long as we make sure he is protected – and between Twin Disciplines, Deny, Pale Cascade and more, this is not so difficult – it is nearly impossible to kill him.
Zoe has two roles in this deck. Her primary role is that of a value generator.
- Eye of the Dragon
The main win condition of your deck against aggressive strategies. Most of the time, it will stay in the backrow, while letting Dragonlings take care of both blocking and attacking. The deck has essentially 6 ways to draw it, as Gifts from Beyond’s Crescendum will always pull this unit. Protecting the Eye is the way to stabilize in the early-to-mid game and stalling until Lee Sin can come down. Outside of Lee Sin, this might as well be the most powerful card in the deck.
- Zenith Blade
Lee Sin’s ability is good, but it is Overwhelm that really enables the OTK. Zenith Blade deserves a mention, as it ensures that we can threaten to defeat the opponent in one swing, forcing them to react and waste their resources. Additionally, its Daybreak effect means that we are free to use it liberally on other units such as Tasty Faefolk.
Because we have 3 Gifts from Beyond, there are occasions when instead of tutoring for Eyes of the Dragon, the Gifts will be used to pick up I
- Deny and Nopeify
If these 2 cards wouldn’t exist, Lee Sin probably would have never been a Tier 1 deck to begin with. While it is tempting to play 3 copies of each and feel like nothing can happen to you, LoR in its current form rewards board control more than spell disruption.
As such, most lists dedicate 3-4 slots for these cards, and the exact spread can change based on what you face. Nopeify will be good against aggro, damage-based decks, where it will counter Get Excited!, Noxian Fervor, or Make it Rain for example. It will also be cheap enough so that you can still answer the board state and not tap out of mana. Deny is better in midrange matchups or against Demacia’s Rally cards.
The deck has a high skill ceiling and has a lot of nuance to piloting it. You will have to adapt to the situation given and put a lot of time and practice into the archetype to become proficient with it. Below, are some of the tips to help you get started:
- Deciding when to play Lee Sin. One of the main decisions with which you are presented during a game is when to play Lee. Because he is your main win condition, you have to be aware when you are able to play him safely. However, if you wait too long it may be too late to come back into the game. While it will always depend on the matchup and the current board- and hand-state, here are some rough guidelines you can start with.
- Against aggressive decks you can play Lee Sin if:
- They have already attacked for the turn and have no way of killing you, so you do not have to keep mana up.
- You have the attack token and can pick off a priority target (such as Sivir, Poppy, Zed).
- If you’re against a deck that does not have a way of refilling their hand and keep up pressure. In that case, you can simply use Lee as a value Challenger – especially if you already have Eye of the Dragon set up.
- Against midrange and control decks you can play Lee Sin if:
- They do not have mana to kill Lee – if they tapped out, it is safe to put him on the board. Alternatively, if you have a certain read on your opponent and they are playing like they do not have spells that can kill him, just play Lee.
- You have the needed protection: against some decks this may mean Nopeify! and/or Deny, while against others simply Twin Disciplines or two spells to proc Barrier.
- On a bad board state, you will sometimes have to risk it and play him into a full-mana opponent – the resilient Challenger in Lee can be a great way to fight back for the board.
- Against Bandle or PnZ decks, it is reasonable to just drop Lee Sin as soon as you get a chance if you expect your opponent to have Aloof Travelers in hand. A sub-optimal Lee is better than a discarded one. Some lists run
Scaterred Podto serve as a shield against the discard effect.
- Against aggressive decks you can play Lee Sin if:
- When to go for the kill. Especially against control decks, this is a crucial decision to make. You have to take multiple factors into consideration. Here are some of the scenarios you will need to recognize:
- You are playing against a deck that cannot stop it. While this may sound obvious, sometimes we default to playing games safe and not committing all our resources even when there is no way it can actually backfire. Before every attack, make sure to go over the opponent’s deck in your head and ensure you are not missing a 100% lethal opportunity.
- Your opponent has tapped under the mana required to stop you or you can protect Lee.
- Once again, fairly obvious but needs to be reiterated. It is essential that you know what cards can stop an OTK. Examples include Vengeance in SI, Flash Freeze in Freljord and so on. Keep in mind regions like PnZ and Noxus can stop it by killing of their own units, cancelling the kick.
- Currently, the biggest problem is Minimorph which we can’t do anything against unless we include Bastion in the list and cast it proactively. Finding Moonglow off of a Supercool Starchart is another good defense against Minimorph.
- You have enough resources to go for it again next attack. Sometimes there is no way to force your opponent to use up their mana. In that case, what you can do is threaten the kill this turn even knowing they have a temporary answer. You will force them to spend their removal or stall tools – but then, next time you attack, you can finish the job.
- How to deal with aggro. If you are playing Lee Sin, you want to be able to beat aggro consistently – and over time this deck became much stronger against those archetypes. So how do we do it?
- While levelling Zoe and giving everything Lifesteal with a Dragonling is the dream and allows you to win on the spot, oftentimes you need to gauge the viability of that plan: are you even able to reach such a spot? The reason you need to ask yourself that is that sometimes you will just have to trade Zoe into a Legion Saboteur early on. This is especially relevant if you are holding multiple Zoes in hand.
- Eye of the Dragon is your key card, but it is useless without spells. The best way to trigger early Eye is with Gifts from Beyond into a Moon Weapon the turn after, but this is the ideal scenario and will not happen often. You can, however, still make it work with the multitude of spells in your deck. Sonic Wave in particular goes great with Dragonlings, while buffs such as Zenith Blade and Mentor of the Stones’ support effect can make Eye of the Dragon into a huge impenetrable wall of stats.
General Mulligan Tips
- Zoe is always the goal. Regardless of the matchup, Zoe is always a great card. She is a must-remove for control decks, a turn 1 blocker for the most aggressive strategies and a win condition against decks without interaction.
- Mulligan aggressively. Even if some cards might seem “decent”, it is best to mulligan for whatever your win condition is – especially in a deck that is so reliant on particular cards in each matchup, such as Eye of the Dragon versus aggro and Lee Sin versus slow archetypes.
- Keep Eye of the Dragon if its good in the matchup – even if you have Gifts from Beyond. First, there isn’t such a thing as too many Eyes of the Dragon on the board against an aggressive opponent. Second, Gifts from Beyond can be flexible and used in other ways than simply the Crescendum weapon.
- Don’t keep Pale Cascade, Twin Disciplines or Nopeify if you don’t have Zoe or Eye of the Dragon already. A lot of support cards are bad by themselves – you need to have a good target for them in hand.
Mulligan for: Zoe – Eye of the Dragon – Gifts from Beyond – Concussive Palm. You have one of the above, look to keep: Sonic Wave – Twin Disciplines – Pale Cascade
- This is a great matchup as long as the opponent cannot set up a wide early game board followed by an attacking Poppy resulting in a huge snowball. Don’t be greedy with trades and hold the fort until you can stabilise.
- Eye of the Dragon alone is capable of winning this match on her own if you keep her alive and spawn the Dragonlings every turn. Be careful not to overdo it and run out of cards. In that case, focus on summoning them on your opponent’s attack turns rather than yours.
- Lee Sin is a glorified removal in this matchup – don’t hold off on playing him thinking he might be safer later on as a win condition. If your opponent has to use several cards on him and he gets removed, it is still a win in our book.
- If you can get to a Zoe level up, it’s great, but do not aim for it. The priority is our Nexus health and staying out of range of Noxian Fervor and Decimate.
Mulligan for: Zoe – Eye of the Dragon – Gifts from Beyond – Concussive Palm. You have one of the above, look to keep: Sonic Wave – Twin Disciplines – Nopeify.
- Their Fearsome units can be a problem as the Dragonlings can’t block them. Prioritize removing Fearsomes if given the chance to do so. Sonic Waves should also be used for that purpose rather than killing a unit you can block anyway.
- Killing Lee Sin is very hard for Draven Sion – they need to invest 2-4 spells to do it, and that’s even without accounting for the Barrier and your potential answers in hand.
- Focus on staying out of trouble health-wise, this matchup can be lost by taking too much damage early on. With Concussive Palm, Will of Ionia and potentially Gifts from Beyond, Sion should never touch your Nexus before Lee Sin can send it back to your opponent’s hand.
- If Eye of the Dragon stays live, you can’t die. Buffing her with Zenith Blade for extra health is a great thing to do rather than keeping it for a Lee Sin that doesn’t necessarily need it to win the match.
Mulligan for: Zoe, Eye of the Dragon, Gifts From Beyond, Tasty Faefolk. Keep Lee Sin and Guiding Touch if you already have a good hand.
- Eye of the Dragon is essential to winning this matchup, just like in every aggro matchup. The Dragonling can block very well, while Eye itself threatens good blocks with cards like Twin Disciplines and Pale Cascade.
- Zoe lets you Invoke great blockers through Supercool Starchart, in the form of The Charger, The Messenger and The Trickster, while triggering Eye of the Dragons ability. She is, however, very vulnerable to versions running Make it Rain, so keep that in mind and have a protection spell at the ready.
- Nopeify and Deny can both come in clutch in this matchup by denying Decimates and Noxian Fervors. Keep track of your opponent’s mana and keep enough mana up yourself accordingly.
- Gangplank‘s level-up is a big threat in this matchup. Try to avoid it by planning your turns so that you force a trade with Legion Grenadier when they have already triggered the level up counter that turn. Same goes for Noxian Fervor.
Mulligan for: Zoe, Nopeify, Eye of the Dragon, Gifts From Beyond. Keep Guiding Touch or Twin Disciplines if you already have early units.
- The newer versions of this deck are even faster than before, so they can put a lot of pressure and then try to convert it into near lethal situations with Arachnoid Sentry or Tri-beam Improbulator. To stem this bleeding, Zoe’s Invokes and Dragonlings are essential in this matchup. Focus on Invoking units that can trade well, such as The Messenger and The Trickster.
- Try to avoid playing Lee Sin early and unlevelled. They run a lot of removal and you will need to ensure you have enough protection.
- Use your protection tools wisely. Gems and Guiding Touch are great at stopping Ravenous Flock and
Scorched Earth,while Deny is best kept for a stacked Tri-beam Improbulator. Hush and Concussive Palm can stop the Overwhelm from Captain Farron or let you kill an Ezreal.
- If they haven’t played an Arachnoid Sentry yet, it is a good idea to open attack with Lee Sin over giving the opponent priority.
Mulligan for: Zoe, Lee Sin. Nopeify, Hush and combat tricks can be kept if you already have Zoe and/or Lee.
- This is not a matchup in which you can hope to level Zoe. Instead use her to generate some value through Invokes. Crescent Strike especially can swing a turn if used on Shen and/or strong Challenger units.
- Hush is really powerful against Barriers and unit buffs, which they have in abundance. Try to force as many combat tricks as you can out of them by using your own Twin Disciplines and Pale Cascades and once they’ve spent most of their mana, hit them with Hush to win the trade.
- Lee Sin is your win condition in this matchup, but you need to be careful about committing to playing him. Concerted Strike is the perfect counter to his Barrier, so make sure you have a Deny or at least Twin Disciplines ready in order to save him.
Mulligan for: Zoe, Eye of the Dragon, Gifts From Beyond, Tasty Faefolk. Mentor of the Stones if you already have early units.
- Eye of the Dragon is the key card in this matchup. Having extra blockers thanks to Dragonlings can help you trim their board, while Eye itself can usually safely block at least one unit. Make sure you plan your turns so there’s always Dragonlings on defence and beware of Flame Chompers! that might pull them aside.
- Zoe’s ability to create Supercool Starchart allows you not only to find Invokes such as Equinox against Crowd Favorite, but it also helps you trigger the ability of Eye of the Dragon – a truly powerful ability.
- Lee Sin is impossible to remove for Discard, especially once he is levelled. Simply drop him down when you are not at risk of dying and start removing their threats, while dealing damage to the Nexus.
Mulligan for: Zoe – Eye of the Dragon – Gifts from Beyond. You have one of the above, look to keep: Nopeify – Twin Disciplines – Pale Cascade.
- Plunder is a matchup that looks like it is going well until it doesn’t, the lategame is very volatile here. Try to seize tempo before they can start curving leveled champions and The Dreadway. The sweet spot for you usually is around turns 5-6.
- When attacking on turn 1 with Zoe in hand, don’t slam her onto the board as you’ll run into Parrley. Pass first, and then if your opponent plays a unit, your Zoe will be safe to hit the opposing Nexus.
- It is incredibly hard for Plunder to remove a flipped Lee Sin, its best removal being Monster Harpoon at 5 damage. Equally, a leveled Sejuani can deny your Lee Sin with a 0 mana Warning Shot.
- Nopeify, while only being a 1-of in our deck, can be really good in this matchup, especially later on. It can stop Make It Rain from giving a level-up trigger to the champions, but most of all, it is able to deny a discounted Monster Harpoon, protecting either your Lee Sin or Eye of the Dragon.
- Concussive Palm and Will of Ionia are great ways to stop what could be near lethal attacks from their champions. The latter is also an incredible tempo advantage if used on The Dreadway. Additionally, Will can be used to put Sejuani back in hand before a kill turn when the opponent has gone under 6 mana needed to replay her.
- Hush is a key card to deny Sejuani’s freeze for a turn, try to keep that for the kill turn and make sure to start the turn with that.
Mulligan for: Zoe, Eye of the Dragon, Gifts From Beyond, Concussive Palm. Deny can be kept if you already have a good hand.
- One of the strongest cards they can have access to is
Death from Below. If they have 4-mana up, always keep your own 4-mana, as they will likely be too afraid to have it met with a Deny.
- Eye of the Dragon is extremely important, as the 2/1 Dragonlings can chump block most of their high attack but low health units efficiently, continuously trading up. One of the biggest threats against it is the Redfin Hammersnout. One fantastic trick against this is to keep your 1-of Retreat at the ready and use it to remove Vulnerable. As a bonus, it will also give you the triggers needed to summon a Dragonling the turn after!
- Concussive Palm is a great way to deal with Rek’Sai, so try to keep it for that. They do not have any direct damage in the deck, so even if it looks juicy to Stun that 8/1 Xer’Sai Hatchling, it is not that big of a problem to take the damage to the Nexus.
- Lee Sin is usually going to be completely uncontested, as they need at least two spells to get through the barrier and most versions do not have ways to stop his attack, outside of a Bone Skewer to cancel the kick. You are usually safe to drop him down with just 4-mana backup, or even less if they’ve already spent theirs.
Mulligan for: Zoe – Eye of the Dragon – Gifts from Beyond – Lee Sin.
- Minimorph and potentially Aloof Travelers will be a huge problem that you can’t do much about. I’d suggest taking your shot whenever you see the window rather than waiting and being punished for not trying.
- Senna is a must remove threat as she makes it much easier for them to deal with Lee. Not much can happen to Lee Sin outside of Minimorph if Senna isn’t on the board.
- Zoe will likely be your go to win condition in this match, and Solari Priestess can help generate some needed value as well. Although keeping Zoe alive once the Darkness damage count starts to grow is usually impossible, focusing on her survival if you get her early in the game and can protect her from 1 damage spells early is a reasonable bet.
- Sonic Wave’s Resonating Strike get our Dragonlings to 4 attack, the perfect count to threaten Veigar and Senna with a dispensable unit and alleviating some pressure away from our real units we would like to keep alive.
Mulligan for: Zoe – Eye of the Dragon – Gifts from Beyond – Lee Sin. You have one of the above, look to keep: Nopeify – Twin disciplines – Pale Cascade – Guiding Touch.
- This is a Bandle deck that runs either 0 or only 1 Minimorph and no Aloof Travelers, which is good for us. It also is a Noxus deck with Ravenous Flock, Scorched Earth and stuns, which makes it mandatory to keep our important units at full health. Guiding Touch is a key card in that regard.
- Not much will stay on the board in this matchup and the opponent can simply wait to get The Leviathan and Swain on the board to lock down Lee Sin for good. We have to adopt an aggressive mindset in the midgame.
- Lecturing Yordle is a big problem in the midgame, as his Poison Darts can help set up a lot of other spells for our opponent and we can’t really spend Nopeify on that.
- Solari Priestess value can help a lot in this matchup.
- The Warrior can remove the Lecturing Yordle and Falling Comet takes care of Swain.
- The Traveler can help you get a big Elusive unit to try and close the deal if you see Lee Sin is late to the party.
- Written in Stars makes a much more resilient Zoe (who can now beat Teemo 1-on-1) or make Lee Sin a bigger beatstick.
Mulligan for: Zoe – Eye of the Dragon – Gifts from Beyond – Concussive Palm. You have one of the above, look to keep: Sonic Wave – Twin Disciplines.
- This is the matchup you want to avoid or ban. You aren’t great at dealing with Elusives and once you start being behind on the board, you will be in constant fear or a Rally. In order to win, think positive and be bold when you see an opportunity.
- Lee Sin actually is a great removal in this matchup, if you get the chance of playing him without immediate punish, go for it.
- Use Concussive Palm proactively in this matchup, we don’t want Poppy or Zed to buff the board or summon a shadow before stunning them.
- Zoe is your only Elusive blocker, try to keep her safe in combat whenever possible. If you can keep her alive until she levels up, you actually have a nice shot at winning the game.
Mulligan for: Zoe – Eye of the Dragon – Gifts from Beyond – Concussive Palm. You have one of the above, look to keep: Sonic Wave – Twin Disciplines.
- If possible, do not use the Dragonling to block Quick Attack units as you will not gain any health from it. This is a matchup we need to grind and health will matter a lot.
- Lee Sin should be used as potential removal whenever your opponent doesn’t have enough mana to use Concerted Strike as other combat spells can be denied simply with playing 2 spells for the Barrier keyword.
- Sonic Wave is a key card in the matchup, allowing you to pick your trades and trying to remove Quick Attack units mostly. The second part granting +2 attack also is nice to be able to block the Merciless Hunter with a Dragonling.
- Sivir is a nightmare to remove as our cheapest way to get its Spellshield off is Hush. Although she is the key piece of our opponent’s gameplan, it’s sometimes easier to just leave Sivir on the board alone rather than spending too much resources on her while letting the rest of the board grow.
- Against Sharpsight opponents, attacking with a Zoe that is close to leveling (7+ unique cards played) can be punished and lose the game, the shared keywords being a great lategame help. Consider if it’s worth taking the risk of them having it or if you’d rather try to level her up.
You probably won’t see Lee Sin a lot if you play on ladder, maybe even not at all considering how many bad matchups you risk running into currently.
But with the Seasonal looming this Saturday, it is impossible to forget about the deck in a tournament setting, where he can be protected with a ban and in a lineup looking to abuse a specific popular deck like Draven Sion for example.
The deck’s longevity at this point is impressive, and that is a testimony that the blind monk still is worth investing some time into to learn its intricacies. It offers the challenge as it’s one of the most complicated decks the game has to offer, and it will also allow you to practice play patterns that are very different than what most other decks push for.
I still encourage you to try it if you enjoy combo-oriented playstyle and are looking to punish aggressive strategies this weekend. If you feel like you need a little help in that regard, feel free to message me on Twitter or book me on Metafy.
Good game everyone!