We’re talking Poppy today! While this article is going to focus on her pairing with Lulu in Demacia and Bandle City, Poppy is an incredibly powerful unit that can work in many other champion and region combinations.
Poppy really only requires for you to have a large board and swing just once to be worth her cost already – everything else is icing on the cake. We don’t care about Lulu as much – or, for that matter, about the second region we choose to support Poppy, – as long as we can enable the swarm game plan.
In fact, Poppy can and has been paired with many champions and many regions. I have seen her working well with Lucian, Miss Fortune, Tristana, Akshan, Fizz, Jarvan IV… You get the idea. Lulu pairing is the one I chose to showcase here because it performed best both in my experience and using the data I could get my hands on, and also because I can’t quite realistically make a deck guide for every Poppy Swarm variation.
This guide is not saying this is the best iteration of Poppy Swarm, but it certainly is the one I’ve preferred so far. Read with this in mind, and remember that the main thing you need to make this archetype work are the three copies of Poppy.
Besides Poppy, there are three other crucial elements to this Rally Swarm deck:
- Yordle Smith. We are not overly reliant on Yordle Smith, but he allows some incredibly one-sided board positions (ever been hit by turn 1 Fleetfeather Tracker into turn 2 Young Witch?) if the opponent does not have a way to deal with him. Yordle Smith fits right in with the swarm game plan and can single-handedly deliver you games on a silver platter.
- Rally. Once we’ve set up a solid board position, Rally effects are often required to leverage the advantage into a win. A mix of Relentless Pursuit and Golden Aegis is a core component of this archetype.
- Value Generation. Bandle City Mayor and Loping Telescope can be quite insane, especially together. It is technically possible for Bandle City Mayor to Manifest Loping Telescope, and in turn, Loping Telescope can Manifest Bandle City Mayor, so you can see how that can get out of hand. They also can both create high-value units for that extra oomph to finish a close game.
Techs and Options
As I’ve mentioned, there are way too many options if we’re considering all the various Poppy Swarm builds out there, but let me feature two odd cards that I think are interesting for the swarm build presented in this article.
Dawnspeakers: This card hasn’t seen play in quite a while, but it has a certain appeal here, especially when your opponent isn’t playing around it. If you think about it, Dawnspeakers gives the same benefit Poppy does turn after turn but with a different condition.
Stony Suppressor: Play this bad boy against Nami decks or Draven Caitlyn decks, and I guarantee your win rate will shoot up! It actually is hilarious. Of course, it isn’t that great into certain other matchups, but it does feel to me right now that most decks play a lot of spells, even board-based ones like Draven Sion.
- Know when to curve out and when to bank spell mana for protection. Against high-interaction decks, keeping your crucial units (Poppy, Yordle Smith, Bandle City Mayor, and Lulu) out of harm’s way with a Sharpsight can be the difference between a win and a loss.
- Learn attack sequencing. When attacking, you need to keep in mind that on-attack effects apply from left to right. For example, when you go into combat with Lulu + Fleetfeather Tracker on the left, and place Yordle Smith to the right of them, then Fleetfeather Tracker will not gain Quick Attack because when Yordle Smith triggers, the Tracker is already a 4/4. When you’re supporting Poppy with Lulu, the Poppy will become a 5/5 – first, she turns into a 4/4 thanks to Lulu, and then applies her own +1/+1 buff.
- Play for board dominance and prepare to Rally. Playing four copies of Rally effects, probabilities tell us that you are very likely to draw at least one copy of the effect by turn 5 (about 70-80 per cent of the time). Those are pretty good odds, and you should play your game with the expectation that you will draw that sweet Rally eventually – and to leverage that, you need a dominant board position.
General mulligan tips:
- Unless you’re against a removal-dense deck, always mulligan for Fleetfeather Tracker and any of your 2-drops:
- Consider keeping Lulu or Poppy if your hand already has a solid curve.
- Against removal-dense deck, hard mulligan for Bandle City Mayor and Loping Telescope, those can grind them out.
- Keep Sharpsight against Nami Zoe or Zed Lulu.
- Always mulligan away Rallies.
Mulligan for: Fleetfeather Tracker, Yordle Smith, Lulu, Poppy, Sharpsight. You may keep one Rally if you have two early proactive plays in hand.
- Nami Zoe possesses three tools to disrupt you: Double Trouble, Line ‘Em Up, and Prank. There’s also smashing your Nexus to pieces of course but let’s ignore that one. Your goal should simply be to build a strong board and deal as much damage every time you gain an attack token.
- Poppy and Lulu can go crazy in this matchup since Nami Zoe has no way of removing them or stopping them from attacking. There is Gravitum from Gifts from Beyond, but that would mean that they’ve given up on summoning a Sparklefly with a Crescendum and that’s what we like to see.
- Unless you are going to very obviously die from Elusive damage next turn, prioritize killing Nami over Elusive units. The exception is if you can make sure to kill a Sparklefly. Swat those nasties every chance you get.
- Aim to win by turn 5 or 6 as that is when Nami comes online and and turbo-buffs a Sparklefly out of the stratosphere. Applying enough pressure can delay this, but you are not going to win the long game.
Mulligan for: Fleetfeather Tracker, any 2-drop. Keep Lulu and Sharpsight if you have early plays.
- Don’t let them breathe. Darkness tends to have a weak opener which easily allows us to set up a strong board. They also lack meaningful AoE removal, so simply playing unit after unit will eventually lead to a strong board which you can leverage into a Rally win since Darkness’ removal options tend to be clunky.
- Don’t fall for the value trap. Though you could theoretically play Loping Telescope and Bandle City Mayor on loop, instead choose to Manifest faster units as it is highly unlikely that you’ll outvalue Darkness.
- Protect your champions. Avoid playing Poppy or Lulu without mana backup to cast Sharpsight or Ranger’s Resolve.
- Don’t focus too hard on removing Veigar. If he is played early, that does not change your game plan. Simply create as strong of a board as you can muster and swing for the kill. At that point you should be forcing them to block with Veigar by threatening a win, and if not then something went very wrong.
Mulligan for: Fleetfeather Tracker, Stone Stackers, Ranger’s Resolve, Buster Shot.
- Match their early game aggression. They have access to a lot of burn damage. This means we need to prevent as much early game damage as possible since we will always end up controlling the board eventually thanks to our superior value tools. The hard part is winning before they get to burn our Nexus down with Decimates and Noxian Fervors.
- Don’t waste Buster Shot. This mortar shell has Miss Fortune’s name on it (it’s Sarah, by the way).
- Don’t play too safe, play to your odds. Also known as “Don’t play to not lose, play to win.” Once you’ve stabilized, it’s important to take stock of how many turns you will need to destroy the enemy Nexus and weigh that against how many turns they would need to burn down your Nexus in case they draw the proper burn cards. Unless you have a second Poppy in hand to cast
Poppy’s Keeper’s Verdict, Gangplank will often be a death sentence; don’t wait around to finish the game even if it means taking a slight risk, it will pay off in the long run.
Mulligan for: Fleetfeather Tracker, Yordle Smith, Bandle Commando, Lulu, Poppy.
- Lurk has few interaction opportunities. They can pick off a target with Redfin Hammersnout, Bone Skewer, or
Death from Below, but those are all conditional and should allow you space to play around them and let you set up your board.
- Can’t take it too slow. You have no reliable countermeasure to deal with a leveled Rek’Sai or Pyke, so you do need to take control of the game somewhere between turns 5 and 6 and deal the fatal blow before the champions overpower you.
- Track cards that have triggered Lurk. If you see your opponent playing a card that they have Lurked with last round and topdecked just now, then you can play safe in the knowledge that there is no chance of
Death from Belowblowing you out.
Mulligan for: Fleetfeather Tracker, Stone Stackers, Loping Telescope, Bandle City Mayor, Lulu, Poppy.
- Caitlyn Draven is a removal-dense deck. Therefore, you will want to rely on Manifesting value to outlast them. The more Loping Telescope and Bandle City Mayors you have at the start of the game, the more likely you are to win.
- Try set up Poppy and Lulu open-attack. Playing them before attacking is fine, but usually this will lead to them being stunned by an Arachnoid Sentry or outright dispatched with a Thermogenic Beam or worse, a Tri-beam Improbulator. Try to bait your opponent into spending some mana before playing them on defense, then open attack on your next turn.
- Speaking of Tri-Beam Improbulator… Track how big it potentially is. You can’t be exactly sure how much it will be because you don’t know when they’ve drawn it, but try to keep in mind what it could be.
- Beware Aloof Travelers. It can be a good idea to Manifest a high-cost unit you do not intend to play so that Aloof Travelers discards it instead of your Poppy, Tenor of Terror, or a Rally spell.
- You can play a slow, value-oriented game. Unless they draw all three Lost Soul, you can definitely run Caitlyn Draven out of value by chaining Manifests. They will eventually run out of removal and your beefy, Quick Attack units will finish the job.
Mulligan for: Fleetfeather Tracker, any 2-drops, Buster Shot. Keep Lulu and Poppy if you have early plays.
- Early game defense. Draven Sion can generally set up and start dealing damage faster than we can. They also play removal like Mystic Shot or Get Excited! that dispatch Yordle Smith and Lulu or Poppy, so gaining the upper hand within the first few turns is next to impossible.
- Be mindful of their tricks when you’re going into combat. I am referring to Survival Skills and a Burst-speed summoning of Reborn Grenadier which can both completely derail your board state.
- Turn 7 clock. You can generally assume that Sion will be played on turn 7. The only way to deal with this is either to a) threaten a win by then or b) have
Poppy’s Keeper’s Verdictto cast on Sion. If neither of those conditions are met, you are probably done.
- Use your Nexus health as a resource. You will often have to let your Nexus go dangerously low in order to create a strong enough board presence in the midgame. Since you would usually die by turn 7 or 8 because of Sion, the trick is allow your opponent to push early damage so that you can preserve your board and go wide. Once that’s done, you can leverage it by buffing it on turns 5 or 6 and hopefully break through the enemy line and close out the game there, or put enough pressure that playing Sion is not viable for them any longer.
- Protect Poppy at all costs. Since Keeper’s Verdict on Sion is such a powerful blowback, your opponent will likely focus on killing Poppy above all else, so do keep mana up for defensive purposive when Poppy is in play.
Mulligan for: Fleetfeather Tracker, Yordle Smith, Bandle Commando, Poppy, Sharpsight, or Ranger’s Resolve.
- Imbalanced win conditions. The problem of this matchup is that both decks do about the same thing, except you win with Rallies, and they win either with board pressure or The Bandle Tree alternate win condition. It just turns out that they can continuously replenish their board just like you do to stop your aggression, and since we have no way to deal with The Bandle Tree, they will simply win eventually if we fail to seize an advantage early enough.
- Leverage your unique cards. Fleetfeather Tracker and Yordle Smith are very important in the early game to start taking control of the board, but beware of Pokey Stick which can ruin that tactic. Ranger’s Resolve can gain crazy amounts of value throughout the game, as both boards will tend to be full and you can turn equal trades into favorable ones before Rallying for the kill.
- Protect your champions. Avoid playing Poppy or Lulu without mana available to cast Sharpsight or Ranger’s Resolve if the opponent has mana to remove them.
Mulligan for: Stone Stackers, Bandle City Mayor, Lulu, Poppy, Ranger’s Resolve.
- Pings for days. This deck will hammer you with 1 damage pings all the time, including nasties like Make it Rain and Twisted Fate’s Red Card, sometimes empowered by Powder Kegs. This makes Stone Stackers your best unit, and Ranger’s Resolve your best spell, make them count.
- Poppy and Yordle Smith are huge assets. The problem is that Yordle Smith is easily dispatched, and Poppy comes out on turn 4 and usually eats a Gold Card and dies before she gets to attack again. You can have Poppy dodge the gold card by using Sharpsight on an ally unit, preferably Stone Stackers.
- Avoid Manifesting big units. These will likely be Minimorphed, granting value to their otherwise clunky card in the matchup.
Rally Poppy is a straightforward yet fun deck with some interesting decision points, and it is actually very easy to misplay with it when going for optimal unit sequencing or mulliganning and lose completely winnable games.
You also get to play Poppy and Lulu which are both Top 1 contenders for the Cutest Yordle AND Cutest Champion rankings.
Go smash some heads!