The spoiler season gains momentum and now it is Winter’s Claw warmother Sejuani who fearlessly rides into battle as the brand new Freljord champion. She is a very powerful unit, exceptionally effective in midrange decks. Alongside her, Riot have also revealed a few other Freljord cards, that seem to explore the aggressive tones of the region. Let’s break each and every card in-depth!
Here’s our rating scale:
- 5.0: Broken card. (Hecarim before the nerf).
- 4.0: Meta staple. (Zed, Karma, Deny, Cithria the Bold).
- 3.5: Good in multiple archetypes. (Stand Alone, Get Excited, Will of Ionia).
- 3.0: Archetype staple. (Corina Veraza, Anivia).
- 2.5: Role-player in some decks. (The Ruination, Fae Bladetwirler)
- 2.0: Niche card. Underpowered card, or tech card or currently from an unfleshed archetype. (Ren Shadowblade, Parade Electrorig).
- 1.0: Never sees play (Unstable Voltician, Basilisk Rider).
SEJUANI – 3.5
With Sejuani, you’re paying 6 mana for decent statline combined with a relevant keyword and very strong play ability. Upon entering the battlefield, she Frostbites an enemy unit of your choice and also gives it a ‘Vulnerable’ trait until the end of the round.
A ‘Vulnerable’ enemy unit can be forced to block any of your own units during combat. Check out the symbol used to represent this trait – a hook similar to ‘Challenger’, but turned upside down. It feels like a neat visual representation as the ‘Vulnerable’ keyword indeed plays like a ‘reverse Challenger’.
Sejuani is the only card with Vulnerable mechanic revealed so far, and we have to see more examples of its implementation to give a proper evaluation. Still, it is certainly a good call to give Freljord more ways to interact with an opponent and be clever rather than brute-force your way out of every situation.
(On a less related note though, seeing a second champion revealed alongside with yet another brand new keyword makes us all even more excited for future spoilers. It seems that every region will get a fresh mechanic in the new expansion!)
Back to Sejuani, note that her play ability doesn’t have a skill icon. It means the play effect resolves at burst speed, does not go on the stack and can not be interacted with in any way (compare it to Corina Veraza or Yone, Windchaser, for example). However, it not being a summon trigger puts quite a bit of limitation on Sejuani’s utility. It means effects like Dawn and Dusk are not as exciting with her, and leveled Thresh will not activate Sejuani’s ability when pulling her from the deck either.
Sejuani frostbites a threat upon arrival and can challenge it right away – and 5 attack means she will one-shot most of the followers/champions she will combat that way. Thresh is the only champion currently in LoR to have 6 health at Level 1 – everyone else will fall by the power of Sejuani’s True Ice flail. It’s important that at 6 mana, she acts as a solid on-curve answer to meta-defining champs like Garen, Karma and Heimerdinger, to name a few.
All of the above makes Sejuani a no-doubt playable and kind of an exciting champion by herself – and we didn’t even get to talk about her level up clause.
What the Winter’s Claw warmother wants you to do is to damage the enemy Nexus in 5 different rounds. It is crucial that she doesn’t have to be on the board to see the damage go through and can ‘pre-flip’ while in your deck – just like Ezreal or Yasuo. It makes the level up condition attainable, but still a very hard one to achieve, especially if your plan is to level up her by turn 6.
But imagine that you’ve made it and Seju did flip – what’s the pay-off then? The champion gets a usual +1/+1 boost in stats, but from now on she also Frosbites the opponent’s full board when you deal damage to enemy Nexus for the first time each round. Crazy, right? It’s Brightsteel Formation-level of hopelessness, a game-ending ability, so it’s no wonder the level up conditions are harsh.
Okay, now that we know that the game is worth the candle, let’s brainstorm the ways how to upgrade Sejuani reasonably quickly. It is obvious we will have to specifically make some deck-building adjustments to speed up the process – pure combat damage will not see your champion level up before the game ends.
(By the way, I really like Riot’s approach to champion card design in the new expansion so far, both with Quinn and Seju. It seems that their core principle is to make each champion into a decent value proposition on its Level 1 side, but also to add a difficult-but-not-discouraging upgrade clause that transforms them into a crazy bomb on the flip side.
What is being achieved there is that such a champion card can cater to 2 distinct deckbuilding needs. On one hand, it can serve as a primary focus of the deck where you try to solve a Level Up puzzle, both in deckbuilding and in the gameplay. And on the other hand, the champion would also work just fine as a support card in any deck that might need it.)
So, what are the ways to directly damage opponent’s Nexus outside of the combat phase? In Freljord, there are none (except for the new spoiled card Ember Maiden we’ll talk later about). Demacia, Ionia and Shadow Isles are out of the contention as well (even though SI have some potential with Phantom Prankster). Hence, to make Seju work we are priced into an alliance with either Noxus (so unflavourful!) or Piltover and Zaun.
Best enablers at Noxus are Blade’s Edge and Crimson Disciple. But would you run three Blade’s Edges in your deck to achieve Sejuani’s dream though? The card is too bad to maindeck right now. However, with the recently leaked buffs to Katarina, who will produce a free Fleeting copy of the card as of patch 0.9.4 – maybe something’s really there?
An alliance with Piltover and Zaun looks more promising as they have a bunch direct damage effects like Mystic Shot, Get Excited, as well as Used Cask Salesman and Statikk Shock. The latter two are more synergistic with our plan as your will rarely want to spew valuable single target removal on early Nexus damage. Unless you’re going all-in aggro with Boowcrew Rookies and Jinx discard. But then again – why would you need Sejuani there in the first place?
Another funny interaction there is with Teemo and his shroom cult – but we still don’t know how that works for sure. No one has been on that trip yet, but logically speaking it seems that mushroom traps should not count as damage for Sejuani’s quest as the traps technically inflict self-damage. But we’ll have to see the interaction and I’m certainly rooting for all of you Teemo memers out there!
Anyway, as you can see, there’re a lot of deck-building challenges to tackle and we’ll have to wait for more spoilers of course, but currently it feels like there are not enough tools to achieve Sejuani’s dream. As a support character she is very exciting though! The champion can strengthen Ashe’s Frostbite Midrange, Vladimir’s Crimson Midrange, Anivia Fr/SI Control, some are even excited to pair Seju up with Ezreal… The possibilities are vast.
All in all, Sejuani is a very strong card, and I hope she will truly shine in multiple archetypes. However she will likely fall just short of a meta-defining card – hence the 3.5 rating. Which, honestly, is a perfect rating for a champion card, when you come to think about it.
FURY OF THE NORTH – 3.0
At first, Sejuani’s signature spell looks unexciting, but it will likely play quite well. Sure, it is basic and very fair effect, being +4/+4 buff for 4 mana. But let’s compare it to a similarly-costed (and very much feared) Riposte.
Barrier effect on Riposte is neat, but it can be interacted with easily by the fast-speed ping-spells (Vile Feast, Statikk Shock) at the cost of less than a card for your opponent. However, when you give your unit +4/+4 at burst speed, there’s little your opponent can do outside of spending another full card (removal or another unit to trade with) to deal with your creature. Fury can almost guarantee your unit survives to live another battle.
And if you’re still on the fence about Fury of the North being a slightly better spell than Riposte, imagine this: you’re sending your challenger Fiora into combat against their 2-2. You have mana up, they have mana up. Think about it, would you rather have Fury or Riposte backup in this situation? Maybe I’m biased, but I know my answer!
EMBER MAIDEN – 3.0
Oh man, you know it – Elise will soon become a miserable Spider lady in the new Ember Maiden meta!
But seriously, this card will likely become a staple in Crimson Midrange archetype and could even single-handedly uplift the list to tier 2 status or so. The Vladimir/Braum deck was a fringe pet deck for the entirety of beta season, but lacked the interaction and reliable value engines to push it to competitive viability.
Ember Maiden is destined to fix all those failings, it seems. She helps Vlad, Braum and Sejuani with their quests, she triggers Crimson Disciple and Crimson Curator, as well as the likes of Unscarred Reaver, Scarthane Steffen and Scarmother Vrynna. Ember Maiden also enables Noxian Guillotine that suddenly emerges as a premium interaction piece in that kind of a deck.
The only downside of the unit is that it also deals damage to itself, and so will need constant attention and buffs. Take Heart and Bloodsworn Pledge are among the tools to help you mitigate her death wish.
RUTHLESS RAIDER – 2.5
She is the first truly aggressive two-drop in Freljord and also the only card in the region to have Tough keyword. I like that the new expansion aims to explore the violent side of Freljord by introducing their own powerful aggro curve – Omen Hawk into Ruthless Raider into Ember Maiden. And Tough means that Raider will be immune to Vile Feasts and such – but even more importantly, to Ember Maiden herself!
STORMCLAW URSINE – TBD
Riot obviously likes to mess with us. Just a few days ago, an overstatted Loyal Badgerbear card, who everyone assumed to be a token initially, turned out to be an actual common in the set. And this time they played us once again – everybody freaked out about overpowered Stormclaw Ursine at first, but then noticed that it has no rarity gem and is actually a token.
Since then developers have indeed confirmed Ursine is not a maindeckable card, and they will reveal the actual card that spawns it later in the spoiler season (the word is that it will also introduce a new mechanic). Well, alright then – but seriously, who does that? 🙂
Did you like Sejuani reveal, do you agree with the ratings? What champion is the best one to pair her up with? Thanks for reading and stay tuned with us for more spoiler discussion and ratings!