Every metagame has its featured decks. The best decks, the bad decks, the ones we don’t necessarily understand why they have such a high play rate, and those who have everything to be convincing but don’t see much play.
Taliyah Ziggs can be put in the last category, or at least could have up until this past week. For the vast majority of patch 3.6, the deck was very under the radar while featuring good match-ups against Ezreal Caitlyn, Feel The Rush, and Mono Shurima, several popular decks of the current environment. In the last few days, though, it feels like players might have finally understood the power of Ziggs Taliyah, the deck rising to the top 3 in terms of play rate and top 5 for win rate.
Based on the landmark synergy, Ziggs Taliyah is an off-tempo burn deck. Early on, the deck will look to complete both champions’ level-up conditions while not falling behind on board. In this part of the game, units like Rock Hopper, Endless Devout, or Creative Chemist are key to fighting on both fronts – the landmarks and the board. In this part of the game, the deck will use the Roiling Sands a lot, which forces board-centric decks to change their sequencing to avoid having their key units being tagged with the Vulnerable Keyword.
Against slower decks or those which would not rely on units, then the Ancient Preparation and Preservarium become the preferred landmarks, allowing us to find our best card for the second part of the game.
Once this first phase is completed, the deck is looking to completely change its playstyle and will suddenly focus on damaging the opponent’s nexus turn after turn, culminating with a big attack and some support cards like Unleashed Energy and The Absolver for a potential big chunk of damage. With both Ziggs and Taliyah being able to deal a lot of damage without being put at risk of being damaged (Ziggs can stay in the back lane and Taliyah often removes her blocker when attacking), the deck forces its opponent to commit a lot of resources in order to remove our key cards and then opens up for a punish with Ancient Hourglass or Rite of Negation.
The key element in the deck is this subtle change of pace that operates once Ziggs and Taliyah are leveling up, as the damage will start adding up really fast if the opponent doesn’t stop the snowball fast enough. Looking from afar, the deck is doing the same thing before and after the level up of its champions, which is playing landmarks and solidifying its position on the board. But when taking a closer look, we can see that almost each damage number is bigger.
Ziggs now deals 2 damage when attacking AND upon landmark destruction. Taliyah now deals 6 damage when attacking, if we played the Herald of the Magus, we now have Overwhelm onto our champions… So it might not look like we are actively using more cards or more mana during our turns, but the opponent is very much forced to do so in order to preserve its nexus from all this potential burn coming their way.
With this mix of board control tools and burn possibilities, Taliyah Ziggs is a complete deck, one that can adapt to their opponent even though they would rather play against decks that are rather slow in the landmark development phase of the deck. But Taliyah Ziggs can be difficult to grasp at first, as these flexible decks tend to require a lot of training before being played at their highest potential.
This added difficulty could explain why the deck was featuring such a low play rate in the first weeks of the patch. But now that it seems Taliyah Ziggs has taken a front-row seat in the current metagame, nobody can ignore yet another Shurima deck poised to be a contender for the upcoming seasonal.
Techs and Options
The Arsenal : The 8 mana “Landmark Pantheon” as some might call it is a card with every reason to be played in this deck. The only reason why the list in this guide does not feature The Arsenal is the 8 mana cost, which seems like a lot in the current metagame. With a card like QuickSand being played in a ton of decks (Mono Shurima, Mono Viego, Mirror match…), relying on a ton of keywords can be a losing bet, and one I am not keen on spending 8 mana into.
Rite of the Arcane : A card with a lot of upsides in the deck. It allows us to destroy a landmark and remove a potential mid-sized threat on the opposing board. The problem with Rite of the Arcane is that even in a landmark synergy, Shurima has the great Quicksand which is almost impossible to pass on. The featured list could cut Unleashed Energy if you would rather have more defensive options than explosiveness.
Waste Walker : The real reason I’m including the card in this section is to explain why you should put it in your deck, although the card looks like a good synergistic option. There are 2 problems to bring up regarding this card :
- On turn 3, Endless Devout is a better card to play in order to advance our overall gameplan as it works towards leveling our champions and can synergize with a turn 4 Desert Naturalist. Waste Walker is a potential threat, but one that wants to be a win condition rather than helps our already existing ones.
- Waste Walker is a threat at the wrong time in our curve. We don’t want to start being aggressive on turn 3, then stop to develop our landmark synergy, and then come back to being threatening with our champions. We want our most passive phase to be early on in the game before our opponent has enough mana to be too big of a problem.
General Tips :
- Play with the change to the burn gameplan in mind :
We aren’t being passive in the early game, accepting the role of the defender because we want or enjoy it, it is a necessity, but it needs to serve the bigger picture. As such, see this portion of the game as a necessary sacrifice to then become a burn deck and unlock the real potential of your deck.
As you get used to it, try to time as precisely as possible the moment you can operate your switch and imagine how your opponent could derail it, it will allow you to anticipate the potential removal our opponent could have access to and the resources you might want to keep.
- Take the free damage along the way :
Although we aren’t looking to actively burn our opponent until we are in our comfort zone, it would be stupid not to make it easier by taking some damage along the way. Taking some damage with our early units, and making an opportunistic push with Desert Naturalist will both get us some damage but also get some resources out of our opponent’s hand. Both these possibilities are advancing our game plan while not spending key resources on it.
- Know the different ways you can deal some damage :
Ziggs when you destroy a landmark or upon attacking, Taliyah when attacking against a 4 or less health blocker, using The Absolver to grant overwhelm to an attacker… this deck is capable of dealing damage in many ways, and it is up to the pilot to navigate those.
Especially for Ziggs, who can deal a lot of damage from the backlane, it is important to know if it is worth risking him when attacking or if we should keep him safe and play it a bit slower.
The second common way for the deck to deal some damage is through the board, as we are able to develop some threatening board states with the Desert Naturalist and the Endless Devout. Some cheesy synergy can be to use the Unleased Energy to destroy the Sarcophagus at burst speed and buff a unit while having an extra 5/3 fearsome to attack with.
- Adopt the race mindset
Just if you were an all-out aggressive deck, Taliyah Ziggs in the latest part of its gameplan is very much focused on the opponent’s nexus and looking to race the opponent to the finish line. “How do I bring my opponent’s nexus to 0 health ?” is the one and only relevant question when in this portion of the game
As such, our thinking should be focused on the health resource and how can we and our opponent impact it, both ours and theirs. In this logic, we should think about potential healing, potential explosive plays capable of racing us back, the amount of damage we are capable of dealing and how our opponent can counteract it.
General Mulligan Tips :
- Passive and Active landmark synergy :
In any scenario, we are looking to play some landmarks in order to advance both Ziggs and Taliyah’s level-up conditions. But not all our landmarks do the same thing in the big picture. Ancient Preparation, Preservarium, or Unraveled Earth helps with keeping our hand full of options and flexible, and impact our card resources, but have little to no impact on the board. On the other hand, Inventive Chemist, Rock Hopper, and Endless Devout impact the board and might push some damage but could leave us with fewer possibilities in hand later on.
- Keep Ziggs, Not Taliyah :
Ziggs can be a problem even still as a level 1 champion. With a 3/4 body and damage to the blocker and the nexus when attacking, Ziggs can force the opponent to focus on him early in the game, or get us some damage in matchups we know we will have to hurry eventually.
Taliyah on the other hand, is only a real threat when leveled, meaning we don’t ever want to keep her unless we see a clear path to playing her on 5 and leveling her on the spot or very soon afterward. With the good amount of draw the deck features, we will find her during the game anyway more often than not.
Match ups :
Mulligan: Look to rush for a Taliyah and Ziggs level up. Curve of Landmarks – Ziggs.
Ancient Hourglass with a good hand already
Match up tips :
- With all of our best units being at 3+ health, FTR can’t rely on Blighted Ravine or Avalanche in order to clear our board. The more expensive removal like Vengeance or The Ruination can be easily answered with ancient Hourglass and Rite of Negation.
- At some point in the game, FTR will have to ignore what we do in order to ramp or play its signature spell. These turns are key for us to develop and create a very oppressive situation for the opponent. Once we have that, we can keep our mana and play reactively with our spells in order to protect our board.
- With Quicksand and Hexplosive Minefield, we are usually fine to defend against at least one attack from Trundle and Tryndamere as 10/10 giants. Don’t try to outvalue the opponent though, we stay a burn deck first and foremost.
- The Roiling Sands might look mostly useless in this match-up, but granting Vulnerable to Face of the Old Ones can be very detrimental for our opponent and an easy trade for us.
Mulligan: Look to rush for a Taliyah and Ziggs level up. Inventive Chemist – Ancient Preparations – Rock Hopper – Endless Devout – Desert Naturalist with Endless.
Preservarium – Ancient Hourglass can be kept with a good hand.
Match up tips :
- Units are better than passive landmarks in the early game to force some resources out of the opponent’s hand and get some chip damage while you are at it. Ezreal Caitlyn does not have access to any form of healing
- Ezreal Caitlyn can easily deal with 2 kinds of units: the damaged ones (Ravenous Flock, Scorched Earth) and the low health ones (Mystic Shot, Statikk Shock). If a unit doesn’t fit one of these two criteria, it is safe to use an Unleashed Energy or The Absolver onto it without much risk of punishment.
- Caitlyn is the important unit in the early game to deal with, the bombs can damage our champions later in the game and ruin an otherwise perfect scenario. Use your Roiling Sands and Quicksand to make sure you deal with Caitlyn before she can cause too much trouble.
- The only way to lose this match-up is to get behind on board and start taking damage, allowing our opponent to race us with their spells and Ezreal. Even if it can seem a bit expensive at times, we want to protect our nexus and start the race on our own terms.
Mulligan: Look to rush for a Taliyah and Ziggs level up. Inventive Chemist – Rock Hopper – Endless Devout – Desert Naturalist – Ziggs.
Preservarium with a good hand
Match up tips :
- Mono Shurima puts us on the clock from the very start, which can feel like an oppressive situation for us. But as neither of our champions can be removed with Rite of the Arcane once leveled, we are very capable of closing the deal before Mono Shurima can finish its Sun Disc’s countdown.
- Most of the time, Desert Naturalist won’t be able to destroy the Buried Sun Disc, as Soothsayer will protect it first. The card still is great to create a threatening board and push some damage, so don’t refrain from using it for pressure rather than hold it and try to play 2 on a Spellshielded Sun Disc.
- Oftentimes, our overwhelm units will be met with Quicksand, limiting the damage we can deal when attacking. For this reason, look to go wide rather than build one heavy hitter and protect your champions as they deal damage no matter what.
- Even if the opponent reaches level 3, there isn’t any healing in the Emperor’s deck, so we can still try and race our opponent for the win.
Mulligan: Developing the board while advancing our champions’ level-up condition. Inventive Chemist – Ancient Preparations – Rock Hopper – Endless Devout – Desert Naturalist – Ziggs.
Preservarium – Unraveled Earth with a good hand
Match up tips :
- The mirror match is a gentleman’s race followed by an all-out race. First, both players will try to dominate the board and advances Ziggs and Taliyah’s level-up. Once done, the second race can begin, where we look to maximize damage while trying to deal with the opponent’s key threats.
- The Roiling Sands are very effective at disrupting our opponent’s curve, look to play those when you anticipate a Champion to be played.
- Ziggs being at 5 health and Taliyah at 6 on level 2, it is almost impossible to remove them outside of combat. While Taliyah should attack in order to get her damage triggered, Ziggs can stay safe in the back lane if you feel you are already ahead in the race.
- Ancient Hourglass is both a great defensive tool, but also a way to deal damage if Ziggs is on the board. It is sometimes worth not trying to remove a threat just to avoid being punished by the card.
Mulligan: Look to swarm the board early, then transfer to direct damage. Inventive Chemist – Ancient Preparations- Rock Hopper – Endless Devout – Desert Naturalist – Ziggs. Quicksand – Hexplosive Minefield with a good hand
Match up tips :
- Pantheon won’t give us as much time as we would like to in order to set up our damage properly. Once one of their units starts growing out of proportion and is granted Overwhelm, we need to be able to close the game in the next few rounds.
- Quicksand and Hexplosive Minefield are great to slow our opponent down, but we need to convert this extra time into damage or it won’t help at all
- There is almost no point trying to go big against Pantheon, instead, try to swarm the board so they cannot block everything. Endless Devout and Desert Naturalist combined are great in that regard to quickly build some pressure. Unleased Energy can also allow us to summon a Restored Devout at burst speed
- When going for the burn plan, it is usually better to plan it over 2 turns. The first is to play Ziggs and likely use Ancient Hourglass or Rite of Negation to protect him, and the second turn to go all-in on the damage.
Mulligan: Fight for the board early on. Investive Chemist – Rock Hopper. Curve once you find the early drops
Match up tips :
- Pirates are much faster than we are at racing, meaning we have to be defensive early on to be able to race back once we stabilized the board
- Rite of Negation is our best form of healing, as it can counter a Decimate or Noxian Fervor. Quicksand should be used to simply lower the damage on one of the opponent’s attacks;
- Use your resources aggressively, especially cards like The Absolver or Unleashed Energy. We don’t want to waste mana or give our opponent more time than necessary.
- Roiling Sands are very difficult to time well in this match-up. Use Rock Hopper as a unit first and foremost, and Unraveled Earth as a draw if you don’t have a better possibility.
- Ancient Hourglass should be seen as a “deal 2 damage to the enemy nexus when Ziggs is on the board”. Otherwise, use it to block and keep a unit with Fearsome or Overwhelm which could deal some damage next turn.
With the seasonal at the end of the week, I cannot tell you to pick up the deck and bring it this Saturday, as I believe the deck has a lot of intricacies that require a lot of time to learn. But if you enjoy flexible decks and one with very few polarized matchups in the current metagame, then Taliyah Ziggs could be your favorite deck very soon.
Capable of pressuring the opponent through the board or with direct damage, Ziggs and Taliyah has slowly become one of the most feared Shurima tandems in a metagame featuring at least 4 competitive decks from that region. And with only Pirates as an almost impossible opponent to overcome, the deck feels like a safe pick in order to get some late climbing with.
If you have no experience with the deck, I would highly recommend making it simple at first and separating the deck into its 2 important phases: Fulfilling the landmark condition at first, and then focusing on the damage you can get out of your champions afterward. If you are able to sequence those moments nicely, you should be able to build on them and quickly pick up on some advanced synergies the deck can offer.
Have any questions about this guide or simply want to share your passion for the game? Join us in the RuneterraCCG discord!
As for myself, you can find me on Twitter for direct contact, feel free to also tag me in the discord if you need anything there. Hopefully, this guide will help a few readers to get better at the deck, and until then …
Good Game Everyone