Hello! My name is Raphterra. I’m a Youtube content creator, a consistent Master rank player, and a two-time top cut finisher in Riot’s Seasonal Tournaments. My Youtube channel focuses mainly on videos where I take decks (meta, homebrew, meme) to the highest rank I can.
A significant portion of the community has been very vocal about the current state of the meta with Azir Irelia and Thresh Nasus being very dominant and oppressive, not allowing fun off-meta decks to be played in Ranked mode. While this may be true for high Masters elo, I would insist that in other ranks there is a lot of room for innovative decks.
In this article, I will cover three fun, strong, and viable off-meta decks that you can actually climb Ranked with. For each deck, I will provide the following: strength assessment (up to what rank can you take the deck to), quick matchups overview, how the deck wins, how the deck loses. I have personally played all these decks; video gameplay will also be provided if you want to see the decks in action!
- Gameplay Video: Click here
- Good Against: Dragons, Lee Sin Zoe
- Bad Against: Ezreal Draven, Ashe Noxus
Shyvana Cithria Matron is the strongest deck in this article and has the most potential to be a top-tier deck when refined further. This list is definitely strong enough to take you to Masters; this is the deck that I used to climb this season from Platinum to Masters at a 71% winrate (51 Wins 21 Losses). There is still a lot of experimentation being done with this archetype, Sorry covered some of the other builds in this article.
The deck wins by sticking units onto the board in the early to mid-game, then finishing the opponent in the late game with Spectral Matron + Cithria, Lady of Clouds. Most decks cannot handle a board of units with big stats and powerful keywords (Challenger, Fearsome, Lifesteal).
Against aggressive decks, dropping down a Radiant Guardian or the Mask Mother + Darkwater Scourge combo is game-winning. Against midrange and control decks, as long as you play safe and make sure that you have 1-2 units on the board by turn 8, you can instantly win with the Matron Cithria combo. The strategy will struggle against decks that have efficient ways of removing your units (Ezreal Draven), or decks that can exert pressure on you while stopping you from attacking (Ashe Noxus).
Early in the season, a lot of players were looking at Matron CIthria as a meme, but I really think that the deck could get very frustrating to play against. Very similar to Trundle Lissandra Control (another Spectral Matron deck), this archetype mostly loses to itself: if you don’t draw your combo pieces in the late game, or if you get aggro-ed down without drawing your Lifesteal units.
- Against aggro, you want to mulligan for Radiant Guardian, Mask Mother + Darkwater Scourge, and early chump blockers. Against midrange and control, you generally keep Shyvana, Cithria, Lady of Clouds, and Spectral Matron in the opener. Mobilize and Oblivious Islander are good keeps if you already have Spectral Matron or Cithria.
- Mobilize is a key card in this deck. Do not use mana in the first two turns if you can afford not to. Turn 3 Mobilize into 0-cost Dragon Chow into 3-cost Shyvana is a common combo in the deck. If you have Shyvana + Dragon Chow against a deck with Challengers (ex. Dragons with Dragonguard Lieutenant and Screeching Dragon), you would want to wait for them to attack before summoning Dragon Chow.
- Your main targets for
Oblivious Islander will be Spectral Matron and Darkwater Scourge. Darkwater Scourge Mask Mother combo can be done earlier if you are able to discount Darkwater Scourge.
- Your main target for Mask Mother is Darkwater Scourge or Ephemeral summons from Spectral Matron. If you discounted Spectral Matron with Oblivious Islander, you can eat that unit with Mask Mother as well. In certain situations you can use Mask Mother as a ‘buff’ for your units: Radiant Guardian, Screeching Dragon, Laurent Protege.
- Do not be afraid to use Spectral Matron + Cithria defensively if this is the only way you can survive. If you have multiple Spectral Matrons in hand, you can use them on consecutive turns.
- On your Matron Cithria turn, always check if you can lethal them through the fearsome Matron. You can often get lethal by Challenging their anti-Fearsome blockers and dragging them away in order to hit the Nexus with your big Fearsome units.
- Gameplay Video: Click here
- Good Against: Discard Aggro, Pirate Aggro
- Bad Against: Vladimir Scargrounds, TLC
After playing and refining the decklist initially posted on Reddit by Big Papa Smurf, I am now a firm believer that Zilean Twisted Fate is the strongest ‘Zilean deck’. While we might have to wait for more support cards before this deck becomes Tier 1, my current assessment is that it is strong enough to take you to at least Platinum, and some of my viewers on Youtube have successfully piloted the list to Diamond. Also this is definitely very fun to use in my opinion!
When I say ‘Zilean deck’, I mean by it the list that attempts to level up and win with Zilean and not just use him as a chump blocker + Predict tool. This deck in particular focuses on leveling up our champions: Twisted Fate and Zilean. The deck is packing a ton of card draw to level up Twisted Fate while also helping you find Time Bombs to level up Zilean.
Chump blockers (a Clockling from Ancient Preparations, Jagged Butcher, Pool Shark, Fortune Croaker) allow us to trade and defend against early boards while we stall until the level-up of our champions. Thanks to these chump blockers and the efficient board clear we have (Zilean’s Time Bombs and Twisted Fate Red Card), the deck can hold its own against swarm archetypes that run low-HP units (Discard Aggro, Burn Aggro).
Slotbot will be our main unit for stabilizing purposes since it can gain lots of stats due to the number of cards that we draw every turn. Against some matchups, level 2 Twisted Fate will be your key to victory as his Destiny Cards will render their attack turns useless (Lee Sin Zoe, Thresh Nasus). The deck will struggle against control decks that have a greedier game plan and have ways to kill your champions before they level up (TLC, Asol Demacia, Lissandra Thralls).
- I almost always keep Zilean and Twisted Fate in my opening hand. Chump blockers will be good to keep against aggro, while draw cards will be good to keep against control (if you already have your champions).
- Focus on leveling up your champions safely, and play reactively. If you can afford it, play your Time Bombs if Zilean is on board, and play your draw cards (Pool Shark, Fortune Croaker,
Twisted Fate’s Pick a Card) if Twisted Fate is on board. However, you should not be afraid to use these cards earlier if it is what is needed to survive.
- You are a control deck, passing is usually the right move for you, especially against aggressive matchups. On turns 3 and 4, you can often wait for your opponent to develop then punish them with Merciless Hunter, Baccai Sandspinner, or Twisted Fate.
- Bone Skewer has a lot of utility in this deck. I mostly prefer using it on Zilean to kill low-HP units, then shuffle back a Zilean to the top of your deck and create more Time Bombs. Also, keep in mind that this card is powerful when combined with Shaped Stone. Shaped Stone will always be activated in this deck, thus paired with Bone Skewer, it will allow you to remove high-health units.
- With Time Bombs, you can set up an easy Plunder proc. Monster Harpoon is useful in killing Level 1 Azir, while Riptide Rex can close out games on turn 8-9.
- If you have Level 2 Zilean, plan ahead which powerful cards you want to re-use on the next turn. Cards that can be particularly strong to re-cast this way are Soothsayer, Shaped Stone, and Riptide Rex.
- Gameplay Video: Click here
- Good Against: Ezreal Draven
- Bad Against: Azir Swarm, Discard Aggro
The first time I encountered Snoozebottom Zed Elusives was when Julius Novachrono beat me with it during my climb to SEA Masters. Bee3333, a high-rank Masters player in NA is also running a version pairing Ionia with Noxus. Similar to Cithria Matron, this deck might look like a meme, but I believe it is strong enough to climb to Masters with, and more importantly, it is very fun to play!
The game plan of the deck is to win by chipping your opponent’s Nexus down in the early game with Zed and Elusive units (Greenglade Duo, Navori Conspirator, Shadow Assassin), then finish the game in the late game with the combo of Trevor Snoozebottom + Battle Fury or Fury of the North on an Elusive unit.
If you’ve played Kinkou Freljord Elusives before, this deck is very similar to that one in terms of playstyle. The classic opener of turn 1 Omen Hawk into turn 2 Navori Conspirator is very powerful since permanent buffs work great with Zed, Elusive units, or even Ruthless Raider.
Ruthless Raider in particular shines in the Azir Irelia matchup since the Tough keyword will allow it to be an efficient blocker against Sand Soldiers and Blades. The deck plays well into decks that have no healing and little answers to Elusives (Ezreal Draven, Swain decks). It is also slightly favored against aggro decks that will be forced to defend with their units against Zed (Azir Irelia, Teemo Burn). The deck is unfavored when facing faster explosive aggro decks (Azir Swarm, Discard Aggro) where you are forced to use your Elusive units as defenders.
- Always keep Omen Hawk, Greenglade Duo, Zed, and Battle Fury in your opening hand. It might sound counterintuitive to keep Battle Fury, but you almost always can use it by turn 5-6 since you have many good buff targets. You can also keep Trevor Snoozebottom if you have a good hand.
- If you have Battle Fury in your hand early in the game, plan your turns ahead in a way that you can bank spell mana so that you can cast your finisher as early as possible. In this scenario, you want to make sure that you summon Trevor Snoozebottom before your attack turn. Zed is the best target for Battle Fury, but any of your Elusive/Overwhelm units will also work. Fury of the North can also be a good alternative if you do not have Battle Fury.
- When facing decks with anti-Elusive combat tricks (Sharpsight, Quicksand, Frostbite), always remember to play into them and bait these cards out early in the game with Greenglade Duo or Zed. If you get your opponent to commit these early, you will be able to safely cast your Trevor Battlefury Combo in the mid-game.
- Navori Conspirator’s priority targets are Omen Hawk and Dancing Droplet. In some situations, you can also cast it on Zed or Greenglade Duo that got were made Vulnerable by Merciless Hunter, Baccai Sandspinner, or Sejuani.
- Against decks that have spells that can clear your board (Avalanche, Withering Wail), make sure that you always bank mana for Deny. Even if you don’t have it, you can always keep mana up to bluff. Banking 1-2 spell mana is also always recommended in order to cast or bluff Elixir of Iron and Troll Chant.
- If you have 2 Trevor Snoozebottoms on the board, you can clone the same unit twice by placing the second Snoozebottom in the rightmost position of your attack.
I am planning to make more of these articles as I discover more decks! Let us know if you’re interested, and if so – this will be the start of a long series of articles to come.
If you have any suggestions for information that I can add to these types of articles, or if you have any questions regarding the decks, feel free to ask me in the comment section of this article or on my Youtube channel.