Hey there, Raphterra here! Today, I’m bringing back Off-Meta Decks for Ranked, a series of articles that I used to write way back! In this series, I write about decks that I find very fun to play but have some weaknesses that hold them back from being high-tier. With ladder being dominated by Kai’sa and Bard decks, I figured that this would be the perfect time to bring back this series and hopefully spice up your ranked ladder experience.
The three lists that I’m featuring today are the decks that I have been testing and experimenting with for the past week. I think that all of these decks are strong enough to reach at least Diamond, but may require some meta shifts or some refinements before they can be strong enough to reach Masters. If you want to see these decks in action after reading this article, check out my gameplay video!
Akshan Udyr Combo
The first deck that I’m featuring is Akshan Udyr combo! This fun, combo archetype is a proven deck for ranked ladder, as it has been a common presence in APAC Masters for the past patches. This deck focuses on protecting and levelling up it’s champions: Akshan and Udyr.
Akshan is the deck’s priority unit in the early game. His Warlord’s Palace is essential to search for Udyr in the mid game. Buff spells like Shaped Stone, Troll Chant, and Inner Beast can protect Akshan from dying in combat while also progressing Warlord’s Palace‘s countdown.
Udyr is the deck’s main win condition. Once you have a Level 2 Udyr with Overwhelm, you can usually win games within two attacks. Udyr‘s stances allows for some flexible plays like using Ram Stance to clear wide boards, or using Bear Stance to outscale stat-focused decks.
Shurima gives this deck ways to interact with opposing threats. Desert Duel and Grappling Hook are strike spells that help this deck get rid of threatening key units. These strike spells also synergize well with the deck’s champions by progressing Akshan‘s level up or by generating Stance Swaps with Udyr.
The deck also has several utility tools: Quicksand to disable keyword-focused decks, Three Sisters to stop single-unit threats, Kindly Tavernkeeper to provide healing against burn decks, and Rite of Negation to counter big spells.
This deck is probably the strongest among the three lists featured in this article. This deck can to toe-to-toe against the two top decks of the meta: Kai’sa Demacia and Bard Illaoi. However, the weakness of this archetype is that Udyr requires some time before he can win games. He can also be vulnerable to removals when he is dropped on board without any stances.
Don’t get me wrong, I think Udyr is a good example of how win conditions should be. However, other top tier decks in the meta are capable of putting out bigger threats with less time and less commitment. If the meta slows down after the next balance patch, we might see this archetype become a meta staple!
Shen Barrier Midrange
This is my updated version of Shen Barrier Midrange, utilizing the newest Barrier support cards from Forces From Beyond! This archetype combines Ionia‘s Barrier and Support effects with Demacia’s Challenger units.
This deck aims to establish dominant board control by setting up a board of Shen with Fleetfeather Tracker, Petricite Broadwing, Swiftwing Flight, or Screeching Dragon. This setup allows you to pick off opposing units and take several favorable trades.
Kinkou Student and Moral Support are the latest additions to the Barrier archetype. Kinkou Student helps Shen level up very fast if they are together on board. This unit also makes your opponent wary of engaging in combat since it’s always possible for Kinkou Student to gain Barrier any time.
Ki Guardian is a card that I did not run in my initial build, until I realized that Shen, Greenglade Caretaker, and Kinkou Student‘s effects also activate when granting Barrier to units in hand. This allows for a lot of outplay potential since players generally don’t expect this surprise combo.
Moral Support can become a powerful combat trick but requires a significant deck building cost. This spell is the main reason that I’m running Lulu and Durand Architect in the deck. Similar to Shen, these support cards are very synergistic with Challenger units. Getting a 2-mana burst Barrier spell with Moral Support serves as an additional payoff for running them.
Barrier Midrange can be very effective if you can setup a board with your key units. However, this deck also has some glaring weaknesses. First is the deck’s reliance on having board control. It can be a struggle to come back from games where your opponent is able to remove your units.
This deck also be very prone to bricked hands. Shen Barrier Midrange needs a balance of early units, mid-game units, and utility spells to successfully pull off its intended strategy. There will be games where you would lose just because you don’t draw the cards that you need to execute your game plan.
Despite these weaknesses, Riot has been actively pushing more support cards and positive balance changes to this archetype. I’m hopeful that we will see more soon!
Gwen Undying Midrange
The final deck in this article is my personal favorite, Gwen Undying Demacia! This deck combines Gwen‘s Hallowed package with The Undying and The Grand Plaza. The Grand Plaza‘s Challenger units can trade into much bigger threats due to the Hallowed buff.
The Undying is the most important unit of the deck; the deck’s game plan will all tie together if you’re able to draw The Undying early. This undead zombie can keep coming back and pick units off when combined with The Grand Plaza. This deck has plenty of ways to kill off The Undying for powerful payoffs.
Removing opposing threats is where this deck shines. This list runs multiple copies of Single Combat, Crumble, and Concerted Strike. Most decks cannot afford to run multiple copies of these cards, but The Undying ensures that you will always have an allied target for these spells.
Glimpse Beyond and Spirit Leech allows you to cycle through the deck and outgrind your opponent in the late game. Ethereal Remitter and The Wings and The Wave can establish board presence for defense or for wide attacks with The Grand Plaza.
Lucian and Gwen are the deck’s champions; both units have Quick Attack which automatically makes them synergistic with The Grand Plaza. Gwen has obvious synergy with Hallowed units, and her drain effect can be game-winning against aggro decks. Lucian is a solid early drop and he benefits from unit deaths, but he is usually a prime target for removals.
Out of the three decks I featured in this article. I think this deck has the most potential! The combination of The Undying with multiple removals feels very broken if you don’t draw poorly in the early game. The weakness of this build is that it’s very reliant on drawing The Undying. As I mentioned earlier, this deck’s game plan ties together once you have The Undying on board. Not drawing this unit can lead to very bricked hands.
I will be experimenting further with this archetype in the next days!
While it might feel that the meta has already been “solved” with Kai’sa Demacia and Bard decks, I think that there is still a lot of room for experimentation. That being said, I’m definitely looking forward to the next balance patch. Hopefully we see some of the top decks get slightly toned down. See you in the next article!