For me personally, there is no better feeling than playing champions that are underrated. Recently both Taliyah and Malphite received significant buffs in Patch 2.9, but are still considered not all that strong. I have seen a lot of different versions of this champion pairing using a variety of cards and strategies. I attempted to refine this archetype and I landed on a really consistent midrange deck that has a surprising amount of flexibility.
Our goal with this deck is to control the mid-game. We have a lot of early value and units that trade efficiently. Take that – plus the ability to give out a lot of Vulnerable, and the fact that Shaped Stone is one of the best 1-cost spells in the game – and we can quickly pull ahead of the mid-game.
We then follow this up with either one of our champions which both level up relatively easily. Even one of them can normally do the trick to end the game – but if you get both that is even better. We aren’t using a lot of landmarks because they can really slow down your tempo, but cards like Rock Hopper and Blue Sentinel are great for keeping tempo, trading efficiently, and still pushing your landmark requirements. On top of getting a good payoff for landmarks with Taliyah and Malphite, both the Earth Elemental and Stonebreaker are strong payoffs as well. They can help you clear key opposing units and push through lots of Nexus damage.
Even though we don’t have crazy strong landmarks to duplicate with Taliyah’s play ability, she is still a very important top-end piece we use to finish the game. Having a landmark out when Taliyah is leveled is key, as we mainly use her to push through some Nexus damage to finish the game off. Another great use is combining her with the Vulnerable to pick off opponents. And now with the +1/+1 buff she stays on the board a lot easier. The reason we are running Inner Sanctum is to ideally give either Taliyah or Malphite Overwhelm, which greatly helps close out games. There are plenty of other good buffs for these champions to get as well though!
Before reducing they’ve reduced the requirement in Malphite’s level-up condition I was running a few more landmarks. Now he is much easier to level up, and we don’t have to fear losing tempo running higher-cost landmarks. Malphite serves as a great threat to finish a game since he can stun the entire opposing board. We typically have a strong presence in the mid-game, so this can be game-ending. Besides that, he is just a truly massive body that can block almost anything and survive as he waits for his turn to strike.
Since we aren’t running a lot of landmarks, Unraveled Earth is really key to our plan. This helps tremendously in leveling up our champions, getting Earth Elemental and Stonebreaker online, trading efficiently with Vulnerable, and on top of all that, it draws a card! If I had to pick a spell that was the most key to this deck, it’s Unraveled Earth.
In terms of Flex slots, Targon is one of the most flexible regions in the game, so of course, there are a lot of other options you have to put into this deck! Along with that, Shurima has many more landmarks at its disposal. So if you are looking for more landmark synergy to try out in this deck, I would suggest trying some of the following: Ancient Preparations, Ancient Hourglass, Salt Spire, and Eye of the Ra-Horak.
If you are looking for some more flexibility in the spell department because you want some more combat answers or healing options, I would suggest trying some of the following: Pale Cascade, Hush, Zenith Blade, and Starshaping.
- Play for mid-game value. Most midrange decks make or break it by how much value they can get out of every single unit you play. Since we want to finish the game before getting to extremely late turns, we have to dominate the mid-game. Making sure to trade efficiently and use your spells to get rid of high-value targets on the other side. If you have to take a little bit of Nexus damage in order to set up beneficial trades on a future turn, do it! Your units are the most important aspect of this deck and you will need them to close out games.
- Plan ahead. This does sound like pretty generic advice, and honestly should be followed anytime you are playing Legends of Runeterra. However, it is especially important here since you have multiple landmarks with Countdown and many powerful interactions of your deck require some smart setup.
- You can typically plan for your Blue Sentinel to die on a specific turn if you utilize Vulnerable efficiently, and this allows you to get a big unit out ahead of time. A well-timed Stonebreaker on turn 5 can be a massive swing. Getting Malphite out early can also be strong, even if he isn’t leveled up yet.
- Beyond planning ahead for just this, you also want to really utilize the Inner Sanctum, and make sure it goes off when you have valuable units to target with the buffs.
- On top of all this, plan to have a Roiling Sands out when you want to play Desert Naturalist, so you can get your Grumpy Rockbear. Sometimes you need to do this by holstering a Rock Hopper until your opponent has spent their mana, and other times you can do it at burst speed with
- Be patient with your champions. One of the biggest things I was doing wrong when I first started piloting this archetype was rushing to get both my champions leveled up. This ended up making me lose a lot of momentum and by the time they leveled and hit the board, I was really far behind in the game. Your champions are very important, but ideally, you don’t have to work all that hard to level them up, as their progression should come naturally.
- Balance the offensive and defensive use of your spells. The main two spells I am talking about under this topic are Shaped Stone and Ground Slam.
- Firstly, as I talked about earlier, Shaped Stone has incredible trading potential. On top of that, spending 1 mana on an unblocked attacker or an attacker with Overwhelm and getting 3 extra damage is huge. If you have the opposing Nexus low, this is a viable option.
- Ground Slam can of course be used to eliminate or stun key attackers. This is generally the main purpose of the card, but towards the end of the game, this can actually be a key piece to get some final damage through. Just stunning the opponent’s best blocker is a solid option, but also stunning the defender of one of your Overwhelm units allows you to push through a lot of Nexus damage. Make sure to utilize these spells in the most vital situations.
General mulligan strategy
Mulligans have never been easier than with this deck! We really are just looking for a solid curve. We absolutely keep Chip, Rock Hopper, and Blue Sentinel. Besides that, the only other card I auto keep most of the time is Unraveled Earth. If you have one or two of these, you can decide to keep a Desert Naturalist or Earth Elemental, but normally you are just looking for a solid starting curve.
A good counter to an onslaught of beefy Overwhelm units is stuns and your own high-health units. We have a very good matchup into this midrange deck and can typically handle their storm very well while also pushing our own win condition.
Us having higher health units causes some problems for their deck that is pretty reliant on removal. On top of that, we have good removal options for both of their champions. We can normally win the midgame here and close the game out. One thing to look out for is Scorched Earth on your Malphite, and also taking too much early damage and being finished by a Captain Farron.
Into this matchup, we should play similarly as we do into TLC. We have to win before the Watcher gets down. The biggest reason that we have a slightly favorable matchup is because of the Desert Naturalist. Being able to destroy Frozen Thralls is a huge advantage. This allows us to delay Lissandra Leveling up giving us more time to overwhelm them and finish off the nexus.
Although we don’t have a great matchup into board-wide strategies because we don’t have wide removal options, we can normally go even with Azir Irelia. Having high health units helps us block many Sand Soldiers and save our nexus health. On the offensive side, utilizing our Roiling Sands can set us up for some really great attacks and removing key units.
This matchup is pretty interesting. We want to win the game well before Aurelion Sol hits the table, but we also need to win the midgame against a very strong midrange deck. We have some viable combat tricks to trade up with, but on the other side of the board, Dragons are coming in with strong striking combat tricks and their own buffs and silences.
Trundle and Lissandra are very good into wide boards since they have so much AOE. That being said, our board states are normally a little bit more healthy where just 1 Blighted Ravine won’t do much. If we can continue to apply strong pressure before they are able to get the Watcher out, we have a chance at overwhelming them and getting the Nexus to 0. If they do hold on until they get out the Watcher, most hope is lost.
Nasus Thresh can push a really strong mid-game with a ton of card flow. They end this with a massive Nasus who is a pain to deal with. We aren’t running a lot of great counters for Nasus, outside of just stunning him. This sometimes can work, but often they have ways around it. The mid-game normally ends up being close to even but their finisher provides a problem we don’t have an answer for.
We really don’t have a good plan versus a go-wide strategy. Yes, we can remove their champions with Ground Slam, and also trade decently with some of our units, but many times this ends up being too little too late. The pressure Discard Aggro puts on you is too quick and we have no real way to turn that back around. Your best bet is making every trade as perfect as possible and surviving every card your opponent has until you can stabilize the board.
After the most recent buffs to Taliyah and Malphite, I am very happy with how their archetype is feeling. There are certainly improvements to be made, and still, many more variations to test, but I have high hopes for the list in the future.
It is a really fun midrange deck that plays fairly differently than most I have played previously. You essentially have another resource to play around with – landmarks – and they require some unique play patterns but offer some surprising strength.
I am excited to see what other landmarks and other support pieces come out in the future that will help this deck even further. If you give Taliyah and Malphite a shot, feel free to discuss how it went in the comments below!
Thanks for reading!