Nightfall Deck Guide & Matchups
Hello, Agigas here! I am a Master player since beta with several #4 peaks and tournament wins. I love sharing my knowledge about the game and I have been a regular writer at RuneterraCCG. I write in-depth deck guides, articles for tournament players, and curate our constantly updated Meta Tier List.
This particular guide you’re reading is part of our ongoing series of guides on meta decks. You can find the other guides and a matchup table on this page.
This guide is dedicated to Nightfall – a solid aggressive deck, flexible thanks to its ability to grind out longer games.
Nightfall Aggro is a deck looking to consistently activate Nightfall to gain powerful effects. Through these effects, the deck generates a lot of tempo, allowing it to pressure and finish the opponent. Nightfall also has a lot of 1-cost units, allowing the deck to have very aggressive starts.
As a package, Nightfall can be divided into 2 categories: the enablers, and the cards with the Nightfall keyword themselves. Lunari Duskbringer, Solari Soldier, The Flight, Mountain Goat, and Stalking Shadows are all cheap cards that can easily help you to trigger Nightfall effects. As for the payoffs, Diana, Nocturne, Stygian Onlooker, Lunari Shadestalker, Crescent Guardian, Doombeast, Cygnus the Moonstalker, Pale Cascade, and Unto Dusk all have powerful Nightfall effects.
While Nightfall Aggro has the ability to out-tempo most decks to win the game, it really shines thanks to its champions: Diana and Nocturne.
Diana is extremely strong in this deck for a 2-cost unit. Right from the early game, her Nightfall ability will help you to secure a free kill on one of the opponent’s early units, allowing you to pull ahead in tempo. Later on, she will very easily level up and continue taking free trades, reaching very high amounts of attack. It is not rare to see a 7+ attack Diana in the late game.
Nocturne is another powerful champion in the deck. His Nightfall ability is really great on offense, especially if you can level him up on-attack. The -1/-0 modifier can also have value when you’re on defense, and Nocturne can additionally act as removal against the opponent’s key unit. His level-up helps to find a quick lethal, especially in matchups with a low amount of anti-Fearsome blockers.
Nightfall’s sheer aggressive power is impressive and can secure some very quick wins in the right situation. However, even when the opponent has an aggressive start or manages to defend themselves, Nightfall is not the kind of aggro deck that quickly falls apart. The deck has access to an impressive amount of value thanks to Stalking Shadows, Pale Cascade, and Unto Dusk.
With the ability to additionally activate Torment trigger many times (Doombeast, Stalking Shadows finding Doombeast, Unto Dusk targeting Doombeast) and its Elusive units, Nightfall can push a lot of damage to close things out even when it has lost control of the board.
- Plan your turns ahead, right from the very start. Nightfall is often considered to be quite a complicated deck, and this is the main reason why. Right from turn 1, you need to have a clear plan of how your turns 1 to 4 will look and how you want to sequence your plays. If you don’t plan ahead, you can easily find yourself in a situation where you cannot activate Nightfall, which will prevent you from snowballing early.
- Learn to navigate hand-states that are lacking Nightfall enablers. It is not rare to find yourself not drawing into the desirable enablers/payoffs ratio – and in that case, you need to know what Nightfall effects to prioritize. Stay flexible, and estimate which one of your Nightfall triggers are the least valuable in the current state of the game.
- Once you’re past the first few turns, Diana is often a good enabler. Thanks to her cheap cost, she can easily activate Nightfall for another card, and if she’s leveled up and you activate a Nightfall effect you’ll still get her Nightfall effect.
- Think through your Stalking Shadows picks. Nightfall Aggro has a lot of very good targets for Stalking Shadows. All units are very valuable, and you wanna stay open-minded – sometimes it’s best to simply pick the best unit without even thinking about the Ephemeral copy. However, some of your units have a particularly good synergy with Stalking Shadows, which makes them into generally great targets:
- Doombeast is a very common pick to close out a game through burn damage, or to stabilize your own Nexus health against an aggro/burn deck.
- Stygian Onlooker can bring a massive amount of pressure. Being able to push 8 Nexus damage for 2 mana often wins games, and is often a great pick when the opponent doesn’t own the board and/or you already have a lot of value in your hand.
- The Flight is yet another amazing pick. Thanks to the Elusive keyword, The Flight will help to push damage – especially when you have multiple copies of the unit. Moreover, The Flight interacts very favorably with Ephemeral from Stalking Shadows: as it hits the Nexus, the Ephemeral copy will shuffle itself into the deck before dying. The Ephemeral copy of The Flight is functionally the same as the original unit – unless you play it on the opponent’s attack turn, then it will die end of round and you will lose the recurring value.
- Play The Flight, hit the opponent’s Nexus to shuffle it back in the top 3 cards of your deck, then use Stalking Shadows – you will be guaranteed to find The Flight. This is a very common and powerful play, especially when you’re on the Elusive game plan.
General mulligan tips:
- You often want to look for your cheap Nightfall activators. Good early units + ways to activate Nightfall effects will allow you to generate an early snowball, whereas having too many Nightfall units and not enough enablers can make your early a lot less explosive. Lunari Duskbringer, Solari Soldier, The Flight, Mountain Goat, and Stalking Shadows tend to be good keeps.
- Nightfall Aggro really shines when its champions get to carry the game. Diana is almost always a keep, and Nocturne can be kept when the opponent can’t easily remove it and/or struggle against Fearsome units.
- When your hand feels cohesive, you can keep some Nightfall units that curve well with your enablers. Stygian Onlooker is often a great keep in matchups when you need to put your opponent under pressure quickly.
Be aware that these are just the general guidelines to help you understand the deck’s gameplan. Mulligans are very matchup-dependant – please refer to the matchup section below for more specific advice on mulligans against different meta decks.
Click on the box to read detailed info about a matchup of choice:
Mulligan for: Diana, Lunari Duskbringer, Solari Soldier, The Flight, Stygian Onlooker, Mountain Goat. If you have early plays, keep Crescent Guardian, Doombeast, or Stalking Shadows.
- They have a very aggressive deck, looking to push a lot of damage with Fearsome units, then close out with burn (ex: Doombeast, Decimate, Noxian Fervor). Therefore, you need to adopt a more defensive playstyle and try to protect your Nexus first.
- Don’t be afraid to use The Flight or a 4/1 Stygian Onlooker as blockers.
- Playing more defensively doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look at how you can pressure them during your attack turns. They don’t defend themselves that well, and finishing quickly enough can prevent them from finding that last piece of burn they needed. They can also sometimes have a more high-value expensive draw (Decimate,
Stalking Shadow, Unspeakable Horror).
- Set up your board to block their numerous Fearsome units. Be very careful about Frenzied Skitterer.
- You can wait until they play their Frenzied Skitterer to play a 3 attack unit right after.
- Gems and Pale Cascade are very valuable to create Fearsome blockers. Unto Dusk can also be used this way on Stygian Onlooker or on a debuffed Crescent Guardian.
- If you stabilize the board, they will switch to a burn game plan. Your own Doombeasts are particularly valuable to sustain through their burn damage.
Mulligan for: Diana, Nocturne, Lunari Duskbringer, Solari Soldier, Stygian Onlooker, The Flight, Mountain Goat.
- In this matchup you can’t really count on your midrange grindy gameplan – if you take too much time to win, they’ll kill you with Lee Sin. You don’t have any tools to prevent them from doing so, therefore you need to fully commit to your high pressure/tempo plan.
- Look to try and force them to tap out of their mana. If you prevent them from keeping spell mana up early, it will get way harder for them to prevent your powerful mid-game tempo plays, especially Nocturne.
- Nocturne is often your way to a lethal. Being able to bypass their numerous small units – especially Dragonlings – is very important.
- Their best answer to a Nocturne level-up is Hush, but the tempo loss associated with it will allow you to get even further ahead.
- Their other answers are attack buffs. Pale Cascade on a Dragonling to block Nocturne can quickly change the game. Try to either force out their Pale Cascade earlier in the game or lower Dragonling’s attack with Nocturne.
- They have quite a lot of low-impact cards in this matchup. If you force their best cards out early, it is very often easy to completely take over the tempo in the midgame while their bad cards stack up in their hand.
Mulligan for: Diana, Nocturne, Lunari Duskbringer, Solari Soldier, Stygian Onlooker, The Flight, Mountain Goat. If you have a good hand with many 1-health units, keep Pale Cascade.
- In this matchup you can’t really count on your midrange grindy gameplan – once they reach Deep, your chances of winning go down very quickly. Therefore you need to fully commit to your high pressure/tempo plan.
- Because they often only play one card per turn, it can be quite easy to start pulling ahead in tempo and generate a lot of pressure.
- Nocturne is great in this matchup. If you have him in hand, avoid trading early so you can stack up a large board and then bypass their blockers with Nocturne’s level-up.
- Their best plays to counter your tempo plays are Withering Wail and Vile Feast.
- Prevent them from setting up a powerful Withering Wail by trading your 1-health units as much as possible.
- Use your Pale Cascade in order to save a unit from those spells.
Mulligan for: Diana, Lunari Duskbringer, Solari Soldier, Stygian Onlooker, The Flight, Mountain Goat, Doombeast.
- Pirate Aggro is a very aggressive deck, looking to put a lot of pressure on its opponent with numerous cheap aggressive units and a lot of burn damage.
- Use your own cheap units to match theirs, and prevent them from pushing a lot of Nexus damage. You tend to out-scale them in the mid-game thanks to your value (ex: Pale Cascade, Stalking Shadows) and powerful mid-game plays (ex: Diana).
- Early in the game avoid attacking with The Flight, and use it as a blocker instead.
- Once you get control of the board, their easiest way for them to continue pushing damage is through burn (Noxian Fervor, Decimate, Imperial Demolitionist, Legion Grenadier, Miss Fortune, Captain Farron). Use your Doombeast’s Torment to stay out of their reach while you pull ahead and finish them.
- Gangplank is their most powerful mid-game play. Even without his level-up, he can already put a lot of pressure thanks to his good stats and Overwhelm keyword. When he does level-up, Gangplank can change the course of the game in a single attack by wiping your board with his ability backed up by 1-2 Powder Kegs.
- Try to prevent them from spreading their Nexus damage over different turns. For example, try to kill their Legion Grenadier on a turn you would take Nexus damage anyway. It will slow down their Gangplank level-up.
- When they play Zap Sprayfin, be aware they have Noxian Fervor in hand – Noxian Fervor is their only spell costing 3 or less.
- Note: Some versions do play a 1-of Brothers’ Bond. But even then, the opponent is much more likely to have drawn a Noxian Fervor.
Mulligan for: Diana, Lunari Duskbringer, Solari Soldier, Stygian Onlooker, The Flight, Mountain Goat. If you have a good hand, keep Nocturne or Crescent Guardian. Keep Pale Cascade if you have Mountain Goat.
- Shen Jarvan is a midrange deck that can have some slow starts but quickly accelerates in the mid-game. Because of their very powerful mid-game plan (ex: Screeching Dragon, Jarvan IV,
Jarvan IIIwith Jarvan IV on the board), you clearly are the aggressor.
- This matchup can be tricky to navigate because in their deck they have everything they need to potentially beat you. Their early curve out is tough to out-speed, especially with Laurent Protege; they can heal with Spirit’s Refuge to stabilize; they have the ability to remove your key units with Single Combat or Concerted Strike; and they can block Elusives with Sharpsight.
- However, they won’t always draw everything they need, in the right order. Keep testing them, and try with your hand to attack them on what they’re missing.
- Their Deny can only be used to counter Doombeast’s Torment or
Nocturne’s Unspeakable Horror.
Mulligan for: Diana, Lunari Duskbringer, Solari Soldier, Stygian Onlooker, The Flight, Mountain Goat.
- Overwhelm is a somewhat slow but very hard-to-stop aggro deck. Their early game pales in comparison to yours, but later on, you don’t have a way to prevent them from pushing lots of Overwhelm damage.
- Because you can’t stop them later on, you need to fully commit to your tempo/pressure playstyle – your midrangey value gameplan won’t help you.
- Fortunately, they aren’t very good at defending themselves.
- If you can flood the board early on with cheap units, it can be really hard for them to contain you. They don’t have tons of cheap units and have no removals.
- They don’t have any way to block or remove an Elusive unit during your turn, so your Elusive units are guaranteed to hit their Nexus. The only thing they can do is use Troll Chant to lower your unit’s attack.
- They don’t have any heal or counters – if you get them into your burn range and they can’t straight-up kill you before you cast your burn, you win the game.
- They can remove units by challenging them thanks to Rock Hopper, Exhaust, or Ruthless Predator. Avoid playing a key unit while they have the attack token.
Mulligan for: Diana, Stalking Shadow, Lunari Duskbringer, Moutain Goat. Keep Nocturne or Pale Cascade if you have a good hand.
- This aggro mirror can often get very grindy – your early game capabilities naturally match each other. Therefore, the matchup often resolves on who can build the better mid-game. Champions can quickly allow you to pull ahead, Diana especially.
- It is important for you to play the value game so that you won’t see yourself falling behind in the mid-game. Going very aggressively and trying to play the aggro role can sometimes work, but will more often than not be stopped by the opponent’s Doombeasts.
- One of the easiest ways to close out games is to start an attack turn with a leveled Nocturne on board. By playing multiple units, you can lower the opponent’s units’ attack to push through and win the game.
- Getting a leveled Nocturne before your attack, however, can be difficult. You’ll need to hold on to your Nocturne for quite some time before he levels up – if you play him too early, they could remove him with their own Nocturne or Diana.
Mulligan for: Diana, Lunari Duskbringer, Solari Soldier, Stygian Onlooker, The Flight, Mountain Goat, Stalking Shadows.
- Nasus Thresh is a midrange deck using the sacrifice synergies. You can pull ahead early but they can match you if they draw good early combos (ex: Cursed Keeper or Fading Icon + Ravenous Butcher). In the mid-game, however, they tend to slow down a bit to play one big unit per turn (Baccai Sandspinner, Spirit Leech, Thresh, Nasus). This is your best window to accelerate the pressure. However, once they are set up, they are clearly favored as the game goes longer.
- It can be very difficult for them to deal with Elusive units. They have no Elusive units of their own, and no healing – so Elusive damage quickly stacks up and pressures them a lot.
- Unless you’ve seen a signal that they don’t have it, try to play around Blighted Caretaker – avoid stacking up 2-health units when coming into their attack turn, especially if they have a good sacrifice target for it.
- Be careful about Atrocity. You don’t have any way to counter their Atrocity and they know it, so if you get too low they won’t hesitate to throw it in your face. When Nasus gets onto the board, they can deal a lot of damage with Atrocity, therefore you want to stay very healthy in this matchup.
- On the other hand, you can try to bait out their Atrocity and use Unto Dusk on a Doombeast as an answer to heal. However, this play can get countered by Rite of Negation.
- When you have Nocturne and Pale Cascade, consider keeping your Pale Cascade for Nocturne. Thresh is their great answer to Nocturne, but Pale Cascade will completely throw off their plan.
- Their Rite of Negations doesn’t have many targets – only Doombeast’s Torment and
Nocturne’s Unspeakable Horror.
Mulligan for: Diana, Lunari Duskbringer, Solari Soldier, Stygian Onlooker, The Flight, Mountain Goat.
- Discard Aggro is generally considered to be a great anti-aggro deck. Their discard synergies allow them to match the opponent’s early aggression, or even get ahead. Later on, in the mid-game, it is very hard to beat them because of Jinx and Augmented Experimenter.
- You can attack the matchup through two angles.
- Trying to get an early lead and converting it into damage is often the most effective way of taking the win. They don’t have a lot of Elusive units (only Daring Poro from Poro Cannon). They don’t have healing either, so if you get them into your Doombeasts’ reach you win the game if they can’t finish you before you play them all out.
- You can try to grind out this matchup, as you’re not a pure aggressive deck – you also are very strong in the mid-game. Jinx can make things a lot harder, but their deck outside of Jinx and Augmented Experimenter runs extremely low on value. So, as long as Jinx is contained, this is a strong approach to the matchup.
- Try trading as much as possible to limit their board’s size. If you allow them to assemble a large board, it will enable a lot of their synergies (Vision, Arena Battlecaster, Crowd Favorite).
Mulligan for: Lunari Duskbringer, Solari Soldier, Stygian Onlooker, The Flight. If you have a great early hand, keep Doombeast or Stalking Shadows.
- Ashe Noxus is a midrange powerhouse, with beefy units and freezes to win board fights in the mid-game. However, they have several weaknesses that you can attack.
- They struggle to contain fast aggression. Multiple 1-drops out can pressure them a lot and allow you to push a lot of damage.
- They don’t have any healing and often don’t close fast enough to out-speed burn damage.
- Because of these weaknesses, your ideal game plan is quite clear: you want to play the most explosive early turns you can to push damage, then finish them with Doombeast.
- Reckoning can hurt your board a lot and remove all your chump blockers.
- Unto Dusk cast onto a level 1 Nocturne can fizzle their Reckoning by reducing the power of 5-attack units.
Mulligan for: Diana, Lunari Duskbringer, Solari Soldier, Stygian Onlooker, The Flight, Mountain Goat. Keep Stalking Shadows if you have The Flight.
- Zoe Asol is a midrange/control deck. It has a strong mid-game board presence, and powerful healing and removals to survive. They are dominating in the late game, with the ability to play Aurelion Sol as early as turn 8 thanks to Eclipse Dragon, while defending themselves with Single Combat.
- On the first few turns, you have the opportunity to pressure them quite a lot. You want to find an explosive draw to do that.
- In the mid-game, their heals – Solari Sunforger in particular – make the matchup difficult. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do against it – you don’t have easy ways to deny them the Lifesteal hit.
- With their powerful mid-game units, like Screeching Dragon, it can be hard to keep the upper hand on the board.
- The Elusive gameplan is often the best way to attack them at this stage of the game. They can have answers to it (Single Combat, Concerted Strike, Sharpsight, Hush), but if you can run them out of answers you can find yourself in a great spot. The Flight into Stalking Shadows is a very powerful play in the matchup.
- Most versions play a 1-of Judgment. Don’t go too much out of your way to play around it – if you slow yourself down, they will sustain through your damage and out-scale you. Play around their Judgment only if you have the luxury to do so.
Mulligan for: Diana, Lunari Duskbringer, Solari Soldier, Stygian Onlooker, The Flight, Mountain Goat, Stalking Shadows. Keep Pale Cascade if you have a good hand.
- Because of their numerous damage-based removals, this matchup is pretty difficult to approach – your units are quite fragile. It can be quite hard to out-speed them, so your best option is often to keep the aggression coming thanks to Stalking Shadows, and run them out of good answers.
- They have answers for both open attacks with their fast speed removals (Mystic Shot, Statikk Shock, Ravenous Flock), and to development (House Spider, Arachnoid Sentry, Tri-beam Improbulator).
- If you keep switching between open-attack and development on your different attacks, you give them the best odds to always have the right answer. Ideally, you want to commit to a playstyle – open attack or development – and stick to it as much as possible. This way you can run them out of answers for the style you chose. Because Nightfall very often incentivizes you to develop (ex: Diana, Stygian Onlooker), this is most likely the style you’ll commit to.
- They have no counters or healing – unless they hit a very lucky Tri-beam Improbulator. Therefore, if you manage to push enough damage to get them into your Doombeats’ reach and don’t give them time to kill you before, you pretty much have won the game.
- When choosing Pale Cascade targets, use it to save unblocked units from a fast removal (Mystic Shot, Stattick Shock) during your attack to push even more damage. Avoid using Pale Cascade to help your units survive a trade – it gives them a great target for Ravenous Flock.
Mulligan for: Stalking Shadows, Pale Cascade, Crescent Guardian. If you have a good hand, keep a 1-cost unit.
- Lissandra SI is a control deck investing heavily into cheap board-wipes (Avalanche, Blighted Ravine, Withering Wail, and sometimes Ice Shard). It makes it very hard for you to go through their defenses, as most of your units are fragile.
- To beat them, the most reliable approach is to go the value route and run them out of good answers. Stalking Shadows is crucial, as well as Pale Cascade, which not only provides value but also helps you to push damage.
- Try to play around their board wipes as much as possible. You want to always put enough pressure on them, but do not overcommit on the board. Try to read from the way they play whether or not they still have a board-wipe in hand.
- Stygian Onlooker is often a great way to punish their Avalanche. You can play it right after they’ve tapped for Avalanche to push a lot of damage.
Nightfall Aggro is often considered to be one of the most complex aggro decks to play. However, if you’ve put the extra effort, it is a very rewarding deck. It has the flexibility we rarely see from aggressive decks and it can out-grind longer games when needed.
It quickly became one of my personal favorites. I think playing games that are quick but also filled with complex decisions is a really great way to learn and improve quickly.
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