Soraka/Tahm Kench In-Depth Deck Guide
Hello, Agigas here! This is not my first article on RuneterraCCG, but if you don’t know me yet I am a Master player since beta, with several #4 peaks and tournaments wins. I am also TSM/Blitz.gg LoR consultant and I wrote a lot of articles about Legends or Runeterra.
Soraka/Tahm is probably the most played new archetype from the new expansion, Monuments of Power. And there are reasons for that! This archetype is not only brand new, but also very unique, strong, skill-testing, and fun to play. I played it extensively during the past week, especially once I got to Diamond; this deck took me on a clean 18-0 streak from Diamond 4 to Master! Despite being popular, the deck is still not very well-researched because of how young it is, and a lot of players are looking to learn more about it – I hope this in-depth guide will help! 😄
Table of Contents
This deck is very unique, and it is pretty tough to fit it into a category – let’s say it’s a midrange combo deck. The principal gameplan of the deck is to synergize wounded units with heals and finish the game thanks to the alternative win condition of the new Landmark, Star Spring.
However, winning through Star Spring is not the only way to win. If you can snowball hard enough, you can simply lock your opponent out of the game and kill them by hitting their Nexus until its health is at zero. I know, that’s wild.
The deck’s composition consists of 2 distinct parts: ‘the wounds’ (Tahm Kench, self-damaging units, and Shakedown) and ‘the heals’ (Soraka, Star Spring, healing spells). In addition, you also have some protection spells and tricks to foil the opponent’s plans (Hush, Pale Cascade, Bastion).
This is by nature a very snowball-oriented deck. If you manage to make your units stick on the board, you will be able to continuously heal and protect them, trade advantageously – all the while building up your win condition. Star Spring is a key card in the deck and illustrates its concept very well: if you have a lot of damaged units, it will provide continuous heals, making you snowball every turn. Tahm Kench is another snowball-oriented card; stick him, protect him – and you will be able to remove one of the opponent’s threats every turn for 2 mana. It will soon get to the point where the opponent will stop playing units at all because he knows they’ll just get eaten by your demon-frog.
- Tahm Kench: One of the stars of the deck, Tahm Kench is its removal engine. Thanks to the protection spells and healing support, Tahm Kench will be able to deal pretty much with anything and go back to full HP. Removing an opponent’s threat for only 2 mana (and no actual card investment) every turn gives you a huge snowballing advantage. He also helps a lot with activating your healing synergies, because An Acquired Taste makes an opponent’s threat strike him, which in turn then allows us to heal him. With a lot of HP, he is a perfect target for big heals like Astral Protection or Soraka’s support ability.
- Crusty Codger: A very good 1-drop on its own, and helps activating your healing synergies. A simple but core component of the deck, we can’t ask for more.
- Boxtopus: This unit helps a lot in activating your healing synergies as well, and can also be used to remove key threats thanks to the Challenger keyword. With healing support, it can even trade for multiple units! It’s useful that even once you get it back to full HP, you can still continue to activate your healing synergies – just keep challenging smaller units and then healing Boxtopus back up again. This unit is a repeatable healing synergies activator that also curves out beautifully into Soraka.
- Fortune Croaker: Another great unit on its own, drawing cards is OP and the self-damage helps to activate your healing synergies. This card isn’t the most effective in the self-wound category, as it will only get you 2 points of self-damage. However, it still provides a solid board presence and cycles itself.
- Lounging Lizard: This unit wasn’t in my build when I started playing this archetype, and initially I wasn’t really looking into Elusive threats. However, one of the worst feelings for this archetype is to have nothing to heal. Lounging Lizard offers a reliable and repeatable source of self-damage, helping you to never run out of wounded units. He has quite a lot of HP and naturally goes as low as 1 HP, making him a great target for big heals like Astral Protection or Soraka’s support.
- Broadbacked Protector: Probably one of the least reliable self-wound units in the deck, this card is very bad when your Nexus is at full health. However, thanks to the healing support, it often destroys aggro/burn decks by itself and is good as long as your Nexus is damaged. This unit does not perform well in every matchup and situation, but when it does work, it really does some heavy-lifting.
- Shakedown: With Tahm Kench and Boxtopus, Shakedown completes your toolbox of instruments that deal with opponent’s threats. This card helps a lot with your healing synergies as it will deal 2 damage to one of your units but also give Vulnerable to 2 opponent’s units. You can then challenge those Vulnerable units, taking favorable trades while setting up even more heals.
- Soraka: The other champion of the deck, Soraka is a massive heals engine, draw engine (this is the kind of thing I love to hear), and… a very good blocker! This last point may sound less relevant, but it’s actually pretty important. Thanks to her high HP and self-healing, she will deny most attack possibilities for the opponent. Even when the opponent does decide to attack, they will only be helping you to activate your synergies. It’s also worth mentioning that curving out Boxtopus into Soraka can start a very strong snowball. All of that, and for only 3 mana – that’s a good deal if I’ve ever seen one.
- Star Spring: You can think about this card as your ‘third champion’. This healing engine will help you snowballing games once you get some units on board, and you will win through its alternative win condition more often than not.
- Guiding Touch: A very solid healing card on its own, but also helps you cycling through your deck while sustaining either damaged units or your Nexus if you need it.
- Astral Protection: This card can take your Tahm Kench (or another unit you want to protect) and transform it from almost dead to near unkillable in a lot of matchups. It synergizes really well with high base HP units (Tahm Kench, Soraka, Broadbacked Protector, Lounging Lizard, Boxtopus).
- Star Shepherd: This card benefits greatly from all the healing that’s going on, and can easily grow up to trade with a higher-cost unit. Playing it on turn 1 will often scare the good opponent out of attacking that turn because he doesn’t want to give the wounds to heal. However, this card doesn’t help with fueling your synergies. That’s why I play only one of it, if you would ever draw 2 you could end up running out of healing or self-damage.
- Hush: Auto-include in Targon decks. Hush is a key card in a lot of matchups to stop their game-winning turns (Lee sin, for example). It can also act as a great protection spell for your units when the opponent uses any buff as a combat trick. Last but not least, you can use it as a last resort to silence your own Tahm Kench when he is about to get killed; this way, the opponent won’t get back units captured by Tahm.
- Pale Cascade: Great buff spell that cycles itself, auto-include in unit-based Targon decks. This can act as a smaller protection spell or used to enable better trades. Pale Cascade on Boxtopus can be a great way to deal with an opponent’s key unit.
- Divergent Paths: This card is effectively a 4th Star Spring copy that costs 3 more mana, which is still great because of how important Star Spring is to the deck. But the “Destroy a Landmark” part is far from irrelevant too and acts as a very nice tech in some Landmark matchups (the most popular one being the mirror).
- Bastion: At the start, I wasn’t convinced by 4 mana Bastion, as it can be easily popped by small spells. But the more I played the deck, the better I liked this card, going from 1 to 2, and finally 3 copies of it in the deck. Try to be careful about how you use it, and avoid casting it when your opponent can pop it without significant cost. If you ever manage to force your opponent into a corner where he can’t afford to play around Bastion (or make him believe you don’t have it), this card will save a key unit from a hard removal, changing the course of the game. I found the little stats buff actually relevant as well, and in some matchups, you can also use it as a combat trick that doesn’t lose to Hush.
Adapt Your Version
As I said earlier, this archetype is brand new and there are probably some cards that will change over time and in different metas. I’m not claiming my version is perfect, but I think it’s a pretty good and safe starting point. If there are any cards that you dislike and/or that are underperforming for you, you can look to make some changes. Here are some cards you could consider adding to the deck:
- 3rd Lounging Lizard: This card is really good as long as you have enough healing to sustain it. So far two copies have been doing great for me, but having a third one might be a consideration.
- 3rd Broadbacked Protector: If you face a lot of aggro/burn decks (Pirate Burn, Discard Aggro, Teemo Elusive…) you should definitely consider adding a 3rd Broadbacked Protector. This card can destroy those kinds of archetypes.
- 3rd Hush: I didn’t want a third Hush because there are some bad matchups for this card, but if you find yourself playing against a lot of relevant keywords and/or buffs (Zed, Lee Sin, Elusives, Fiora with buffs, Vi…) you might want a third one.
- 2 or 3 Zenith Blade and 3 Star Shepherd: Some versions of this archetype play 3 Star Shepherd and 2 or 3 Zenith Blade to have another win condition: giving Overwhelm to Star Shepherd. It is a great thing to have an extra win condition, giving you more flexibility on how you want to attack the game. However, my list doesn’t feature it because this combo makes you proactively commit your mana, and with this deck, I like to avoid that so I can keep enough mana to protect my threats.
Other cards that are worth thinking about but I don’t believe are optimal right now: Hired Gun, Mountain Goat, Sunblessed Vigor, Mentor of the Stones, Spring Guardian, Jack, the Winner, Resplendent Stellacorn.
Tips and Tricks
Keep track of your Star Spring
Something that you should always be aware of is your Star Spring win-con progress. The counter is the easiest thing to track, but there’s much more to it that can be used as relevant info. It is not uncommon to miss a Star Spring lethal and only find your win a turn later – and sometimes a turn later is a turn too late. Here are some questions you should ask yourself:
- What is the counter on my Star Spring?
- How many wounds do I have on board/in hand?
- How much healing do I have on board/in hand?
- Can I find a Star Spring lethal this turn? What are the risks if I go all-in?
- Can I start setting up a Star Spring lethal for the next turn? For the turn after?
Those are all pretty basic questions, but if you go through all the reasoning you can end up with quite complicated answers. The ability to keep track of these factors is one of the skills you can acquire by practicing with the deck, and it can make a big difference.
Star Spring isn’t indestructible
Landmarks are pretty hard to remove and sometimes it’s easy to feel like your Star Spring win-condition is inevitable. But some regions have access to Landmark removal, here is a full list of them:
- Targon, the highest density of Landmark removal (Divergent Paths, and both Falling Comet and Supernova from the Invoke pool);
- Noxus and Shadow Isles, pretty rare but still exists (Scorched Earth in Noxus, doesn’t usually see play outside of TF/Swain. Crumble in Shadow Isles, sometimes as a tech in SI control decks);
- Bilgewater and Ionia, exists but never sees play so you shouldn’t play around it (Sunk Cost for Bilgewater, Singular Will for Ionia);
- Demacia, Piltover & Zaun, and Frejlord have no way of dealing with Landmarks (however, the developers have confirmed that these regions will get their Landmark removal in the December expansion).
If you feel like the opponent’s main out is drawing removal for your Star Spring, then having a second Star Spring on the board can be a very good option to still win through your alternative win condition. However, you still need to play this second Star Spring early enough because the second Landmark will have its own healing counter and if you wait until the last moment you will have to stack it up from the beginning. There are some games I won because I recognized that I was about to get a large amount of healing and one of my opponent’s outs was to remove my Star Spring, so I played a second Star Spring right before getting my large heals to start stacking it and still win even after a single landmark removal.
Landmark removals are all more expensive than Star Spring, so you can also try to out-tempo your opponent, especially in cases where you don’t have another Star Spring. Don’t think you can’t win anymore because your Star Spring got removed, Soraka/Tahm has plenty of synergies that can net you tempo, value, and this way win a fair game of Legends of Runeterra. Tahm Kench can also literally lock an opponent out of the game.
Be very cautious with your units
If your units get removed, you will start stacking healing spells in your hand and won’t have much to do with it – and this is one way to lose the game. You need to do everything you can to keep your units wounded, but also alive.
This means that you should think before doing anything proactive; what can the opponent do against it? How can you protect your units? Playing this deck at a good level requires a lot of game knowledge about what are the buffs and removals are in your opponent’s deck, so you can play accordingly and prevent them from removing your units. For example, playing Boxtopus on turn 2 against Shadow Isles or Bilgewater might not be a good play if they still have 2+ mana; it would easily get removed by a Vile Feast or a Make it Rain. If you play Boxtopus later, you will have enough mana to heal him when they try to kill it. Of course, adapt your plays accordingly to your hand: if you have a lot of units in hand, you can play more proactively, but if you have a lot of heal, you need to be very careful about not letting your units die.
This advice is especially true for Tahm Kench; if there is one unit you don’t want to see dying, it’s him! Sometimes, you shouldn’t use An Acquired Taste on the scariest opponent’s unit, even if you have heals to get him back to full HP afterwards. The opponent could respond by using a damage-based removal or buff, so Tahm Kench would die when he tries to eat their unit. Think about what the opponent could have to answer your play, then choose your meal accordingly.
Sum up: One of the things that made me start playing this deck is its even matchup spread. This deck has a lot of good and even matchups in the current meta, making it a great choice if you don’t like playing rock-paper-scissors and losing before you draw your hand. The only known matchup you are unfavored in is Ashe Noxus, but this deck is pretty rare these days (though if it comes back in the meta you better be careful).
For the mulligan, the general advice is that you always keep at least 1 Star Spring, and after that, you are often looking for early units, champions, and specific cards for the matchup. The most important thing is to have a cohesive plan with your starting hand, and have an idea of how the first few turns are going to play out. Below I have a specific section for each matchup named “Increased priority in mulligan”. There I name the cards that are more valuable than usual in a matchup so you must keep them in mind while mulliganing. However, ‘increased’ mulligan priority doesn’t mean ‘absolute’ priority – Your first goal in mulligan is to have a cohesive hand!
- Difficulty: Even.
- Increased priority in mulligan: Hush.
- This matchup is often a race, Lee Sin against Star Spring. The ability to delay their OTK with Hush or Bastion can often give you the time to finish stacking your Star Spring.
- Tahm Kench can annoy them a lot, but won’t win by himself most of the time because they can counter An Acquired Taste.
- Zed isn’t very strong against you because of your high-health units, like Soraka.
- Most versions have no ways to remove your units when they don’t have the attack token (when they do have it, they can challenge with Lee Sin or Sonic Wave). Hence, you can play your units proactively and focus primarily on optimizing your own game plan instead of worrying about opponent’s removals. But when you commit in combat, be careful about their buffs. And remember, they also play Hush.
- Difficulty: Favorable.
- Increased priority in mulligan: Broadbacked Protector, early units.
- Look to prevent as much face damage as possible while building up a strong board.
- It can be a pretty even matchup, but if you play a Broadbacked Protector the matchup heavily swings in your favor.
- If you are already gaining control of the board and but worried about your Nexus HP, use Guiding Touch on your Nexus instead of your units.
- They have no good answer for Tahm Kench (only need to be careful about their relatively low-damage spells), so if you get through the early game you can eat all their units one by one.
- It is not hard to finish them off by attacking even if you didn’t find your Star Spring win condition.
- Difficulty: Even.
- Increased priority in mulligan: none.
- Gameplan: This matchup can be tough because of The Ruination (and to some extent, Vengeance).
- You need to be very careful and play around The Ruination the whole game setting up situations where you can instantly re-build your board after The Ruination.
- They have some cards very bad cards against you – Withering Wail, Avalanche, Vile Feast, Unspeakable Horror all can’t kill any of your units if you play around them, and are only helping you to get wounds for your healing synergies.
- Try to avoid playing Bastion when they have 2 mana left, you would just be giving value to one of their 9 cheap SpellShield poppers. Wait for the right time, and try to force them into a situation where you can Bastion a big spell safely. Finding a way to make Bastion work can be the difference-maker in this matchup.
- You can often get their HP surprisingly low because they are quite slow and they will try to play around Bastion, making them even slower. Having them at low health gives you the opportunity to play towards several win conditions of your own at the same time, and make their life a lot harder.
- Difficulty: Even.
- Increased priority in mulligan: Tahm Kench, Divergent Path.
- Gameplan: The mirror match is something I was really hyped to write about. I usually don’t like playing mirror matchups, but this one is actually one of the most interesting, unforgiving, skill-testing matchups I’ve seen. Don’t get me wrong, this matchup can be won by nut-draws very fast, but when both players have similar tools to work with, this is a banger. I will go into some pretty complicated tips and ways to play around priority, so don’t worry if you don’t get everything at first, and feel free to ask questions!
- In this matchup, you’re probably never killing your opponent by damaging his Nexus, so you should avoid attacking at all because you’re only activating their Broadbacked Protector. In the same spirit, if the opponent attacks (often to get a heal from Soraka’s support), you might consider letting their attack go through, though you can also look to block to damage your units.
- This matchup often revolves around a Star Spring race. Make sure you maximize every heal you can get with Star Spring on board.
If players have a similar-quality draw, it will often come down to the scenario when both players finish their stacking on the same turn. That’s exactly the kind of situation where the game-knowledge can be a deciding factor. It is may not be intuitive, but in this case, the win will be granted to the player who presses “end turn” first. This is because the end of round effects do have an order and the player pressing “end turn” sees his end of turn effects resolve before the other player.
So, in order to win the game in that situation, you need to play as many cards as possible, one by one, to keep giving the priority to the opponent. Attacking to give the priority to the opponent works too. The first player to hit “pass” will offer the “end turn” opportunity to his opponent. In order to force the opponent into a pass, you might want to save spell mana for that turn, and maybe save some cheap cards in your hand if it doesn’t delay your win condition.
- The other way this matchup can play out is what I like to call a ‘Tahm Kench domination’.
This is my first tip: avoid playing Tahm Kench during your attacking round if you don’t know if your opponent has a Tahm Kench in hand! Once again, this is because of priority. If you play Tahm Kench during your round, the opponent can play his own Tahm Kench, pass to the next round, and eat your Tahm Kench before you can eat his.
Unfortunately, this is also the reason why the player attacking on evens is coming in the game with a big disadvantage. Let’s say you are the one attacking on evens; on turn 4, you’re opponent can pretty safely play his Tahm Kench during your round, and once his Tahm Kench is on board it makes it a lot harder to play yours.
If this situation happens, you still can find means to play your way out of it: first, wait for him to play An Acquired Taste during his round (remember you should avoid playing Tahm kench during your turn, else your opponent will cast an Acquired Taste first). Then, play your Tahm Kench, so you can play An Acquired Taste at the beginning of your next round and take back the control of the ‘Tahm Kench domination’.
But if your opponent is very good, on his attacking rounds he will delay his An Acquired Taste until you’re tapped out of your own Tahm Kench. And if you don’t play Tahm Kench, he will use an Acquired Taste only on your rounds… In that case, you can still find a way around – with 2 Tahm Kenches! Play your 1st Tahm Kench on your opponent’s round (requires 8 unit mana) or during the opponent’s round once he has already cast An Acquired Taste (cheaper), let him eat your first Tahm Kench, and play your 2nd Tahm Kench. This way, you will have the opportunity to eat his Tahm Kench, and you will even get your 1st Tahm Kench back!
Last but not least, you can earn back your ‘Tahm Kench domination’ by denying An Acquired Taste with Bastion (but the SpellShield can be broken by Hush).
- Difficulty: Unfavorable.
- Increased priority in mulligan: none.
- Gameplan: This is your worst matchup among popular ones, but it is still very much winnable.
- Ravenous Flock is a very annoying card (don’t forget it is also Swain’s champion spell), as it makes it easy for them to remove your already damaged units. You can try to heal your unit when they use Ravenous Flock to try to make it fizzle, but they can still put a damage spell on the stack so your unit is damaged again when Ravenous Flock resolves. Trying to counter the Flock this way is still something worth trying though, as it will force them to use their answers at worst and at best, if you manage to make a Flock fizzle, it can make the matchup a lot easier.
- Swain’s Fearsome can be annoying because you have a lot of 2-attack units. However, Pale Cascade, Hush and Bastion are great tools to give your units the ability to block Swain.
- This deck often runs 1, sometimes 2 Scorched Earth. This card is very annoying as it helps them remove a big Tahm Kench, but it’s also a great answer for your Star Spring.
- You don’t have a lot of good ways to deal with The Leviathan, so assembling Swain + The Leviathan combo on the board is quite an effective win condition for them. To beat it, you need either to go fast enough with your Star Spring, or to have a Tahm Kench big enough to eat Leviathan (and/or Swain) without dying to their removals.
- Difficulty: Favorable.
- Increased priority in mulligan: Broadbacked Protector, early units, Tahm Kench.
- Their gameplan is very straightforward and they don’t have a lot of ways to change it. All they do is they are always trying to flood the board very fast with small units to leverage pressure and synergies, like board-wide attack buffs (Arena Battlecaster and Vision) or Crowd Favorite. If that’s not enough to win, Jinx comes in to single-handedly carry games, while Augmented Experimenter helps them to refuel.
- It is not easy to prevent them from flooding the board because you don’t have any board-wide removal, but you have plenty of very good blockers.
- You can easily deal with their key threats (Jinx being the most important target) with Tahm Kench, or even with Boxtopus or Shakedown.
- If they assemble a big Crowd Favorite, Hush can be a great answer to it.
- Broadbacked Protector can easily lock the game for you, they aren’t likely to remove it and it will quickly get your Nexus back to high HP.
- They don’t have good ways to deal with the Boxtopus turn 2 into Soraka turn 3 curve-out. This can make the game a lot easier.
- Difficulty: Favorable.
- Increased priority in mulligan: Hush, Bastion.
- This deck has access to Invoke to find removal for your Star Spring. Getting 2 Star Spring on board can help against Falling Comet, but not against Supernova. If you manage to have Star Spring stick on board, this matchup is very good as they aren’t fast enough to race it.
- They will often try to build up a big Vi to challenge your key units – Hush is a great answer to that.
- Be very mindful about playing your key units right into an easy Thermogenic Beam for them. This is the best matchup for Bastion because they will very often have to commit a big Thermogenic Beam into your Tahm Kench, making it very easy and safe to cast Bastion.
- Heimerdinger is not really threatening, you can easily block the onslaught of turrets and even use them to take more wounds to heal through. Tahm Kench, Boxtopus, and Shakedown can easily kill Heimerdinger, or at least force the opponent to use his answers if he wants to protect him.
- Their most dangerous threat is The Great Beyond, from the 9-mana Celestial from the Invoke pool. Hush alone won’t be enough to deal with it because of the SpellShield. But even if they do get it, they cannot play it before turn 9, and it won’t even finish the game on that turn if your Nexus is still healthy. Despite them having ways to remove your Star Spring, this matchup feels favorable because of how long it can take for them to kill you.
That’s all for this very fun and powerful deck! I think everybody should try out this archetype – you can learn a lot playing it because it will often punish your mistakes very hard. I enjoyed the deck a lot, and it’s an insanely great choice to climb, I played it with a lot of success in Platinum and it got me from Diamond 4 to Master in an 18-0 fashion. It’s easily one of the Tier 1 decks in the current meta.
That’s all for me (unless you want to enjoy the Bonus), I hope you enjoyed the read as much as I enjoyed writing it and that it will help you! If you have any questions or feedback, I will be very happy to answer you in the comments here or on this dedicated reddit post! 😄
If you would be interested in more content from me, you can follow me on my Twitter. I use it to share the best decks I’ve been playing, my tournament performances, and to let people know when I publish a new article! 😉
Good luck & Have fun!
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Tahm Kench’s lore, let me tell you – you are missing a lot! You should at least watch this cinematic Riot published for the champion’s release in League of Legends, this is one of the very best champion trailers, in my opinion, it truly is beautifully terrifying.
What a commendable achievement!
This is what lead me to think about this: Tahm Kench is actually helping and encouraging you to succeed. Exactly like he does with his victims. Looking into it a bit more, my thought got only stronger when I read Tahm Kench card’s flavor text:
My friend, I know that expression. I can see you feelin’ like the cards you’re holdin’ ain’t the ones you deserve. You got a desire for the finer things, don’tcha? Perhaps you’ll allow me to satisfy your hunger, let you savor all that you ever desired. All I need is your name, scratched on my paper… and you, my friend, will be satisfied for life.Tahm Kench (before level up) card flavor.
You struck a deal, my friend, and though you will undoubtedly bask in its benefits, remember… there will be a time when I get my fill, too.Tahm Kench (after level up) card flavor.
The mention of “the cards you’re holding” can be seen as metaphoric. Or else, Tahm Kench is clearly talking to you, the player!
The conclusion to this is pretty clear: by playing Tahm Kench, you’re sealing a deal with this demon, making you his next victim…