Hello, Mezume here! I’m a regular writer at RuneterraCCG and this time I’ve been asked to write a guide for the powerful meta deck that emerged during Guardians of the Ancient season: Dragons!
Dragons is a midrange deck that revolves around Shyvana and other units with the Dragon tag. It aims to level Shyvana and take over the board in the mid-game, using Lifesteal units to sustain against aggressive strategies.
The early game is where the list is at its weakest: it relies strongly on drawing its cheap Challengers like Dragonguard Lieutenant and wants to utilize Blue Sentinel’s temporary ramp to cheat out bigger units. The one-of Zoe can also help with the early game, but overall where the deck starts to shine is its later turns.
From turn 4 onwards, the mid-game starts. Shyvana comes down onto the board with a strong follow-up in Screeching Dragon. Due to their Fury keywords, Dragons are difficult to chump block and wear down. On top of that, every attack and block with Shyvana on board brings her closer to leveling up, which will further make your attack turns even more powerful thanks to the created Strafing Strike.
Against aggressive strategies, The Fangs,
Dragons’ win condition is in taking over the board and making it impossible for the opponent to wrestle control back. Against aggro decks, it is done by running them out of resources, while slower decks will likely just get overrun by your sheer amount of stats.
- Pay attention to the combat ordering. Shyvana’s level up can provide her with an extra point of health and power, so always attack with Shyvana last. This is good practice even if you don’t plan to ‘force’ her level-up – sometimes you will see the need for a situational Strike effect and that could make her level.
- Keep an eye on an Aurelion Sol level up. If possible try to plan ahead and pave way for Aurelion Sol‘s level 2 that will help you close out the game. A threat of him leveling can also force some awkward trades by opponents.
- Plan your Radiant Guardian turn. Try to save your Challenger units to proc Radiant Guardian on your own terms. A good player will try to play around it, so don’t throw away units you can sacrifice to enable Radian Guardian soon.
- Don’t waste your Strike effects. Single Combat and Concerted Strike are both really powerful tools, as most of your units will be bigger than those of your opponents. It can be tempting to use them at the first appealing opportunity, but in many matchups, you will want to hold them to prevent spells like Glimpse Beyond, Noxian Fervor, and Atrocity.
General mulligan tips:
- Look for Shyvana. She is the cornerstone of this deck and you want to have her as early as possible; there are few decks that can deal with her easily, especially now that she has Fury in her Level 1 form.
- It can be tempting to keep Dragon Chow, but without a Dragon, or unless you have other early game cards it will be close to useless (it can tank a hit or two at best and you will be down a card).
- Do not get greedy keeping spells. You do not play many early game units; unless you already have some of those in the starting hand, even cheap spells should be mulliganed away.
- Lifesteal units can be kept against aggressive decks, but only if you already have some early game units like Dragonguard Lieutenant, Zoe, or Laurent Protege.
The match-up section below includes more specific mulligan tips against different archetypes.
Mulligan for: Dragonguard Lieutenant + Shyvana/Screeching Dragon, Laurent Protуgу, Blue Sentinel, Lifesteal units. Can keep Hush if the hand is already satisfactory.
- Because of Hush, Concerted Strike, and the general size of your units, even Nasus will not be very threatening in the late game. Due to that, the main goal is to get there without giving up too many Slay stacks.
- Their main win condition is to rush you down before you are able to stabilize. This makes early units and Lifesteal really powerful in this matchup and your main priority should be to stem the bleeding from the first three turns.
- Do not waste Hush too early – shutting down and killing Nasus is a priority.
- Your Strike effects can be countered with Glimpse Beyond. Instead of using them proactively, try to Strike in response, denying the draw and potentially healing. On top of that, keep in mind they can Vile Feast their units to deny healing; if you have the luxury to do so, Strike and Challenge units that have more than 1 health.
Mulligan for: Early units, Lifesteal.
- This is a pretty straightforward matchup. They will want to overrun you early, but outside of a pretty expensive card in Noxian Fervor, they have no ways of stopping Lifesteal, and you can respond with a Strike spell.
- Do not commit Strike spells if they have over 3 mana – or only use them on high HP cards like Azir. Instead, keep them for when they have to Fervor to deny healing.
- If possible, avoid letting your units die during trades when the opponent has 2 or more mana. Denying the damage from Ruinous Path makes it a very weak spell and helps keep you healthy.
Mulligan for: Lifesteal and early game. If you have Lifesteal and an early game unit, Single Combat is powerful.
- If you can stick a Radiant Guardian, the game is almost certainly won, and it is very hard for them to avoid enabling your Radiant trigger. Try to save Strike effects for when you have Radiant on board.
- Trade your units aggressively to reduce the power of their Crowd Favorites. This changes if you have Hush in hand; you can bait them into spending 4 mana on what will effectively become a 2/1 unit.
- Pass on your attack turns whenever possible. Often, they will be too scared of Challengers to drop Draven or Jinx; and every turn you’ve stalled is a net gain for you, as your deck scales better and becomes more and are more powerful.
Mulligan for: Shyvana + Dragonguard Lieutenant, Laurent Protege, Single Combat.
- This matchup was initially thought to be favored for us, but in fact, it becomes much worse if they run a lot of copies of Homecoming. Try your best not to put yourself in a position where one recall loses you the game, and keep a Single Combat to counter Homecoming. Keep in mind they can also target their Emperor’s Dais with this spell, which is uncounterable for Dragons.
- Playing a Solari Sunforger on a defensive turn or activating a Radiant Guardian can make their attacks completely useless. Aim to do so as soon as possible to buy yourself extra time to find ways to deal with champions, Sparring Students, and Inspiring Marshals.
- Your Dragons’ Fury keyword allows them to essentially block unbuffed tokens forever. Drop them down as soon as you can and let them grow at an insane pace.
- Killing Azir and Inspiring Marshal is key. Keep enough cards and mana ready for whenever these two are put on the board.
Mulligan for: Dragons, Dragonguard Lieutenant, Strike effects, Sharpsight.
- Your units are generally large enough to block most Overwhelm damage. Make sure to curve out well to stop as much damage as possible in the mid-game.
- Strike effects are your best defensive tool that can prevent Overwhelm from damaging your Nexus. Especially if you don’t have Hush in hand, try to save a Concerted Strike for whenever your opponent uses Battle Fury, if possible.
- While passing is generally a great habit, make sure not to get surprised by an Exhaust pulling your only large unit away to the side.
- In the late game, they have no way to stop big Elusive attacks. Getting The Great Beyond or
Immortal Firefrom Starshaping or Aurelion Sol should be enough to close out the game.
Mulligan for: Dragonguard Lieutenant, Shyvana, Blue Sentinel. Keep Dragon Chow if you have Shyvana. Keep Sharpsight/Single Combat if you have enough early game.
- Keep in mind the potential size of their Tri-beam Improbulator by tracking their hand and how many 3-cost cards have been played. A big swing with some stuns and a stacked Tri-beam is the most common way for Ez Draven to win games against Dragons.
- Make sure to leave your main threats outside of range of cards like Ravenous Flock and Scorched Earth. Starshaping – as well as avoiding unnecessary blocks – are great ways of achieving that goal. Similarly, avoid using cards like Single Combat and Concerted Strike in conjunction with your own damaged units.
- Try to keep enough mana up to deal with Ezreal when he is leveled. They can sneak a surprising amount of damage if he can stay alive.
- To win, you need to outlast them. They need to out-tempo you to win. If you can survive the Tri-beam swing turns and stabilize, they have no way of coming back.
Mulligan for: Dragons, Dragon Chow, Blue Sentinel.
- This is a difficult matchup as you have very little protection for your units and cards like Flash Freeze, Vengeance, and The Ruination can stop you in your tracks. Try to develop enough threats to be menacing, but without giving the opponent a satisfactory Ruination.
- Blue Sentinel, if developed early, can prove to be really awkward for your opponent. If they are forced to use their AoE spells to weaken your board, it will eventually pop and potentially allow you to ramp into an early Eclipse Dragon or Aurelion Sol.
- Because your units are quite large and TLC does not run a lot of them, opening a turn with a Single Combat or Concerted Strike to push more damage can be devastating if they cannot redevelop a blocker.
- Unless they have mana enough for The Ruination, you can usually develop your board before attacking; Avalanche just tickles most of your units and the rest of their reactive spells are fast- and burst-speed.
Mulligan for: Shyvana, Sharpsight, Dragonguard Lieutenant.
- Possibly the absolute worst matchup of this deck. Your entire win condition revolves around board presence and Striking, while Ashe Noxus excels at denying Strikes and bending combat to its will. Sharpsight is your most powerful combat trick, as it partially denies Frostbite and helps you trade more evenly.
- Curve out well and do not play around too many of their cards. You are unfavoured in this matchup so it is best to push your opponent to have all the answers, rather than play slowly and wait for them to draw into those answers.
- Hush is a great combat trick: it can be used to stop an Ashe finish, but mainly to cancel Frostbite on your own units.
Dragons are one of the newest additions to the meta; they are not particularly strong on their own, but emerged as a deck that beats Thresh Nasus, while having a fighting chance against Azir Irelia. It is a new take on Demacia Targon and is likely to stay here as long as the top decks remain as they are.
Its rise is one of the positives of this patch and I enjoy playing this archetype; I suggest you do the same before it leaves the meta – which is likely to happen soon enough.
I hope this guide helps you learn a little about the deck and its matchups, it is pretty simple and straightforward to play!