Taliyah Review and Theorycraft
Mezume here to talk about the newest spoilers we’ve been shown for the Shurima expansion: Taliyah and her support cards, as well as the Predict mechanic.
While everyone expected a certain different champion after seeing the Predict package, we were surprised with something completely out of the left field. What came out though swept me off my feet, as I believe these new cards are really exciting and I can’t wait to play with them.
In this article, I go card by card and give it a grade according to our rating scale and at the end, I will give an example of what a deck utilizing Taliyah may look like.
- 5.0: Meta-defining card, proven itself as a staple in multiple top-tier archetypes.
- 4.0: Archetype staple, or auto-include in multiple archetypes.
- 3.0: A solid playable, could serve as a staple for some archetypes.
- 2.0: Can be used for specific synergies, or to counter some decks
- 1.0: Doesn’t find its place in the meta.
Taliyah – 4.0
While her stat line is not exactly great, copying a landmark is really strong, either some of the Shuriman Countdown ones, but also cards such as Hexcore Foundry or The Veiled Temple. What is even better about this ability is that she summons an EXACT copy of that landmark. That means if you copy a Hibernating Rockbear (see below) with only 1 turn left on its Countdown, next turn you will get not one, but two 5/4s.
Her ‘play’ ability alone makes her very strong, especially when we compare her to Promising Future; another card in the set that does a very similar thing but without leaving a body behind. In addition, Taliyah’s level up is fairly easy to achieve in any deck that wants her: there are multiple cheap landmarks among already revealed, and she only needs four of them to be summoned by the time she comes down – she will copy one of them to achieve an immediate level-up.
When we arrive at her level-up, this is where her real payoff comes to play. In a similar fashion to Swain, she is a 5-cost champion that is capable of finishing the game by herself, but in a slightly different manner. While they are both weaker on defense, Taliyah is much less vulnerable during her attack. If you have a landmark on the board, she will deal 6 damage to her blocker or, if unblocked, to the Nexus. All this makes her a very powerful pay-off for a deck that revolves around landmarks – and these landmarks are already strong on their own! It is very possible that she will be a meta champion.
Any deck relying on Taliyah will have to include a fair amount of landmarks, as her leveled form is a big payoff and as a stand-alone card she would not be strong at all.
The real deckbuilding question when it comes to her is what direction to take it in? Of course, Shurima is a big question mark for now, as we don’t even know half the cards coming in the first expansion yet. That said, it can be fun to look at what we have and make a deck list out of it.
The way I see it, Taliyah is more of a midrange than a control card. It has very little defensive power, especially with Countdown landmarks doing essentially nothing the moment they come down. While doing nothing is not exactly a known way to play a midrange deck, there is potential in this concept, as once the landmark effects resolve, a big tempo swing is bound to happen, especially with a leveled Taliyah.
In my opinion, there will have to be another payoff next to Taliyah, for such a deck to be viable. Here is a very unrefined list, that will probably want an extra champion and more Shurima cards to work with:
I’d like to once again point out this is a very incomplete list, but the idea is to have strong swing turns with a leveled Taliyah and multiple Grumpy Rockbears, backed up with Rally effects. Because Taliyah practically removes any blocker when she is leveled, the Rally increases in strength. The reason Relentless Pursuit is chosen over Golden Aegis is that there is no reason to try to protect Taliyah and the cheaper mana cost is crucial in the deck.
Multiple of these cards are mostly placeholders, waiting for better cards to replace them. However, the synergies are very easy to be found. Tons of landmarks allow for Xenotype Researchers to hit Taliyah fairly often, while the Golden Ambassador is capable of pulling her (and hopefully another champion that fits the strategy in the future). Because there is no Overwhelm in the deck for those stats, Exhaust and Roiling Sands act as ways to pull blockers away from your highest damage units, allowing you to attack the Nexus for the highest possible amount of damage.
Stoneweaving – 1.5
Invoke showed us how great it can be to choose out of 3 options according to what situation you are in currently.
What we also learned from that keyword, however, was that the more narrow the range of options, the better the Invoke. Sadly, Stoneweaving is heavily hindered by the amount of bad landmarks in the game. You will often be offered a dead card for you and it is most likely not worth a card slot.
That said, as a champion spell, it can have some niche uses in desperate situations.
Shaped Stone – 3.0
If Elixir of Wrath and Radiant Strike had a child… yeah, that’s what Shaped Stone is.
The problem with this card is that neither of those two sees play, and Shaped Stone might also be just shy of making it. Plus 3 attack can come clutch for Overwhelm or aggressive decks, but in those, the health buff is not that relevant.
That said, I can see myself eating my words, as it is quite a large stat buff with a lot of potential.
Sai Scout – 2.5
Her stat line is slightly below average, even if we keep in mind the Predict bonus. In a deck based around landmarks, which is her most likely place, she will get Elusive most of the time. That is a great upside, considering that her stats are defensive enough to be able to usually block Elusive attackers twice.
Having only 2 attack on turn 3 is pretty weak and the possible Elusive tag, combined with the fact that her Predict needs to hit a landmark (meaning you might have to choose between the Elusive keyword and a non-desirable draw) makes her a pretty below average choice for a deck.
Hibernating Rockbear – 3.0
Ignoring the big downside of having to wait for three turns: this is a 2 mana 5/4. While obviously weak to more aggressive strategies, that is a lot of value even without taking into consideration any synergies that it has.
If you play this card on turn 3 and then copy with Taliyah on 5, you are getting 2 5/4s on turn 6. This is a lot of stats and you are even able to open attack that turn! This is definitely a great landmark in strategies revolving around Taliyah, but possibly a little too weak to make its way into Shurima decks as a generic value card.
Desert Naturalist – 3.5
Shurima’s landmark removal seems quite premium. Even though it does use up unit mana, having a body is a big upside. In addition, Desert Naturalist does not lose much value if the opponent plays no landmarks. With how many cheap and token landmarks have already been revealed, this will nearly always have an appropriate allied landmark to target.
All in all, it’s landmark removal that generates tempo advantage due to being a unit. The other part of the ability means it could destroy a token landmark like Roiling Sands or an early one like Ancient Preparations to become an even better tempo play. It is likely to be included in most Shurima decks, especially if landmarks are popular.
Salt Spire – 2.5
One more way to summon a Grumpy Rockbear (the 5/4), this one most likely was made to be paired with Taliyah. If you play this into her as a follow up on turn 5, you will get a 5/4 and a 9/8 the round after, assuming you’ve summoned 4 landmarks that game.
By itself, it is most of the time just a bit worse than Hibernating Rockbear, as you pay a higher mana cost for it. With Taliyah it gets much stronger on-curve, but overall it does not have a really high power level, especially considering that in the late stages of the game it is a 4 mana card with no immediate effect.
Rock Hopper – 3.0
Initially, when I saw this card I thought it wasn’t that great, as it only had 1 health and was pretty much a worse Hired Gun. While his stat line is not as good as the one of its Bilgewater counterpart, the additional landmark summon matters a lot for Taliyah level up.
It can also be played in a proactive way, to stop the opponent from playing a strong champion on-curve; similar to Challengers. The 3 attack also means it is a Fearsome blocker. I don’t believe it’s very strong, but it should be able to find its way into landmark decks, as having a Rock Hopper is a great way to slow down aggro, without hindering the ability to level Taliyah on-curve.
Unraveled Earth – 2.5
Granting two enemies Vulnerable, with the caveat that the opponent can play around it is not an awful effect and the card also replaces itself in hand.
Using spell mana, which a landmark-focused deck might possibly have leftover of, is also a decent upside. Whether it is worth the whole 3 mana though, it is hard to judge.
It speeds up Taliyah’s level heavily and it is difficult to even look at this as a stand-alone card. As part of its package, it is probably playable, but not an auto-include.
Ancient Hourglass – 4.5
At first glance, it is easy to just start comparing this card to Bastion. It is a defensive tool that can save units on your board, with the downside that it’s not usable proactively. It is, however, better than Bastion in the sense that it usually cannot be denied with a single cheap spell.
It also packs tons of synergies. Taliyah is able to copy the Stasis Statue and have the unit come out twice. Promising Future is capable of doing the same. Even just using this on a unit with a strong summon effect such as The Rekindler is a powerful value play. I believe this may be an auto-include in most Shurima decks, much in the same way as Single Combat/Sharpsight are for Demacia.
Ancient Preparations – 3.0
This is essentially a 1 mana 2/2 that allows you to Predict, which is quite a powerful ability. The caveat, in this case, is that the unit comes into play 2 rounds later, when the stat line is already quite weak.
The power level of this card isn’t that low, as Predict generally does not lose value in the late game, especially if you have access to any draw abilities and the mana to make use of them. It helps you level Taliyah as well, which bumps the rating of this card, but even in that archetype, there might be better landmarks to run.
Aspiring Chronomancer – 4.0
A very standard 2-drop speaking stat-wise with a powerful ability to alter your next draw. Strong when dropped on turn 2, capable of possibly tutoring an Aphelios, Draven, or another powerful 3-cost champion. It does not lose much value in the late game, where it acts as a chump blocker and helps you dig for whatever card you need to close the game out or turn it in your favor.
In general, 2-drops rarely have too much impact in the later stages, so a card that can still affect the game in the late game, while not being a brick early on is a great one to have in your deck.
Xenotype Researchers – 3.5
If you draw every card this has buffed, you’ve essentially played a 12/12 for the small cost of 3 mana. That sounds great on paper, but… it isn’t as strong as it may seem. Only 3/3 of those stats are frontloaded and the later the game goes, the less stats matter. The only time they do is if there is Overwhelm or other keywords as such involved.
This card is hard to evaluate properly, but with Predict being a big theme of this package and quite a few Overwhelm and Elusive units already in the game, it can be possible to make this card work and be a great addition to multiple decks.
Khahiri the Student – 3.0
In a deck that this may be included in, it will nearly always be a pre-nerf Loyal Badgerbear. Without the full knowledge of what Shurima will bring to the table, it is hard to tell if the stats will mean a lot for any strategy to want to play this card.
It is likely that a list built completely around Predict will not necessarily need a 3 mana 4/4, but if the meta is board-based, I can see Khahiri being a great inclusion.
Khahiri the Returned – 2.0
Khahiri ventured into the Void and returned. Sadly, the Void seems to have made him a worse card.
Jokes aside, he is a very specific card that needs a deck built around himself to actually make it work. The question is, is he worth it? Most likely not, but I will definitely try to make a strategy based around him!
He seems to be a pay-off in a Predict-based archetype, and even if you have Predicted him once, it’s already a 6/6 Fearsome, which is not great, but also not awful. If you get two procs on him, you get insane value, but his keyword also sadly gets weaker as the game progresses, so he won’t have as much of an impact as he would had he rocked Overwhelm or Elusive.
I give him a 2.0, as I really want to believe in the card, even though its real power level is probably even a little lower.
Preservarium – 4.0
Drawing two cards, even if one of the draws happens at a delay, for just 2 mana is an insane value. Salvage costs 4 and has an irrelevant upside, Deep Meditation costs 3 even after the reduction. There is the big caveat of having to use unit mana, but even so, it is a great card.
It can fit in many decks and, like every draw card, it has additional synergy with Predict. Combo and value-oriented lists are the ones that will most likely make the best use of it.
Promising Future – 2.0
This card is fully tied to how strong landmark Countdown effects are. In the cards that we have seen so far, there are none that can use this card to its full potential.
This is most likely going to be tied to a very specific landmark that is capable of turning the game around with its effect; but with how expensive it is, there are not many ways to make good use of it.
The best we currently know is the Stasis Statue, and that might not be enough to let this card see play. Of course, I bet there is going to be someone to play a degenerate combo deck with this, but I don’t see it myself for now.
I am really excited for Taliyah and how many ways there can be to make her work; from really fast strategies to slower and control ones.
What I like the most about this reveal and actually all the other ones is that the cards are not pigeonholed into a single archetype. Even such a synergistic card like Taliyah appears to be able to be built around in multiple ways, and her package cards can make their way into different archetypes. Additionally, we are yet to see where the Predict cards take us; one more thing to be excited about!
Shurima shapes up to be one of the most interesting regions with a distinct identity; I can’t wait until we can all play it in-game! Thanks for reading and I surely hope I won’t look back and think “wow I was wrong about these” in a few weeks!