Thralls can be considered quite an old archetype, considering how long it has been around. However, it can also be considered one that never really prevailed, most of the time being a counter to popular defensive decks.
With the Worldwalker set, a lot of players saw a potential rise of Thralls on the horizon, with Harbinger Of Thralls and Sands of Time feeling like immediate inclusions in the deck. And they were right, as the deck has been a perennial top 5 deck for the first 2 weeks of the expansion, reaching above 7% in play rate across all servers, which is a serious vote of confidence from the community.
The deck never really broke through in terms of win rate, always being stable in between 50 and 55%. It is still undeniable that Thralls has managed to find its place in the current metagame and is a deck one needs to account for when going onto the ladder.
Kind of an archetype on its own island, Thralls is a deck looking to complete its signature Landmark Frozen Thrall‘s countdown and present the opponent with a stupidly large board of 8/8 overwhelm units. This is something that barely any deck is capable of containing, especially when those attack at the start of the turn, before the opponent could cast a slow spell like The Ruination for example.
In order to reach that endgame situation, the deck needs to navigate through different stages of development, and manage the opposing pressure while doing.
The first and most important step is to find a Frozen Thrall we can start building around. Obviously, the deck is build to efficiently find one or several of those early on. With the latest addition of the Harbinger of Thralls in the deck, you can now get a Frozen Thrall online in any of your first three turns, making the deck very stable in that first crucial step.
The second step, and usually the most significant one, is advancing our
Against a very aggressive or a board based opponent, we simply want to complete the 8 stacks as soon as possible, the Frostguard Thralls providing great blockers.
During this second step, it is likely we will have to work around our opponent’s development at some point, unless we feel we can race them and ignore their damage. In order to slow the opponent enough to safely summon our frozen army, we need to work the board and our health.
Often times, we won’t look to be removing the opponent’s board, rather limit the damage it can deal thanks to cards like
Lastly, the third phase of our gameplan is simply to go for the win, reaching the end of our countdowns and attacking with 24 or 32 points of overwhelm damage. This part is quite self-explanatory if you managed to get to this point. The sudden pressure the deck is able to generate usually allows you to adopt the mindset of a pressure deck, like a Darius Overwhelm one for example.
Tech Cards and Options
Frejlord and Shurima are 2 regions with a lot of tech cards available, so I feel this disclaimer is necessary: Whenever you envision adding a card to this deck, ask yourself what is its direct use to winning the race between your opponent’s gameplan on the one end, and you completing your Frozen Thrall‘s countdown on the other end.
A popular inclusion in many Thralls lists, the 3/3 healer is a nice commodity in a metagame with several damaged focused decks roaming around.
The main problem with the card is when to fit it in the curve, as turn 3 is often dedicated to Lissandra, or storing mana to enter the build up phase of the gameplan.
As such, the Tavernkeeper is typically a card you end up playing later in the game, bypassing the advancement of your win condition in the process. Most of the time, I feel like rushing to get your Frostguards nets the same result as buying yourself a turn with the Tavernkeeper, except the card won’t bother you in other match ups then.
A common inclusion in the previous builds of the deck, before the release of Harbinger of Thralls. Nowadays, the added value of summoning a Frozen Thrall has largely decreased thanks to the deck being more stable.
Three Sisters is considered enough in the list now, but a copy of
Another defensive option, this one focusing on slowing down the opposing board rather than our health like the Tavernkeeper can.
The Archer is especially useful against elusive or buffed up units like Fizz Riven, for example.
A fast speed AoE can be very useful in a deck that is usually quite weak to open attack outside of being able to freeze opposing units.
Always have your own progression in mind
While Frejlord and Shurima do provide good tools to slow down the opponent, we aren’t a defensive deck looking to run our opponent out of resources. Our game plan is about buying enough time to turn things around with our army of 8/8 overwhelm units.
As such, don’t get caught in defending and looking to deny your opponent any chance at developing, because that will typically also cost some time of your own clock. Look to assess what is really advancing you the most, whether it is focusing on slowing down the opponent, going all out on your Thralls as early as possible or trying to mix both.
Consider your opponent’s perspective
When your win condition can close the game in a single turn, and goes through potential blockers, opponents can be a bit scared of it. Especially as time passes and you get closer to completing your Frozen Thralls countdown, a lot of players will start playing with a sense of urgency.
This is something very important to use and understand when playing Thralls, as your opponent’s read of the situation can impact the best play a lot.
A lot of the time, the opponent will become more aggressive as you get closer to summoning your army, looking to end the game before needing to deal with it. Depending on the state of the game, you either want to completely focus on denying that aggression, or let it go and focus on summoning your Thralls the next turn.
The first possibility occurs when you know your opponent probably only has no refill after that one big development turn. In that instance, keep your mana for Freezes, Sands of Time or summon cheap blockers to deny some damage.
In the second case, you want to basically ignore what your opponent does and focus on beating them down next turn, as their aggression is a way of saying “I can’t do anything if those landmarks are completed”.
Consider chipping away at your opponent’s Nexus
While dealing 20 damage at once isn’t such an uncommon thing to do with the deck, it never hurts to get some free damage along the way.
The number we ideally want to reach is 16, as it means we can threaten lethal with 2 Thralls, the usual “easy” summon with the deck. Summoning 2 Thralls can be done with one copy of Promising Future or Taliyah copying a landmark, assuming we simply don’t find 2 of them in our early turns.
Getting to summon 3 or more Thralls isn’t uncommon, but usually requires us to ignore more of what our opponent does. The amount of cards and mana we have to invest in our landmarks to reduce all the countdowns is much bigger, making it much of a risk in some match ups.
Go for the homerun when available
You won’t necessarily need to summon 5 Thralls to win the game, but if your opponent isn’t demanding you to do anything else, might as well go for the biggest possible board.
Promising Future and Taliyah are the 2 cards growing our potential summons the most, and logically are the 2 most demanding in terms of mana. Because it isn’t possible to spend this amount of mana without reacting to what the opponent does in a lot of situations, it is important to recognize the moments where it is safe to do so and go for it.
The simple fact that we are doubling our summoning capacity will force the opponent to take more risks so they don’t have to deal with the 8|8s coming soon.
Matchups and Mulligan Guide
– Ezreal Caitlyn / Annie – Very Favored
- Because of Scorched Earth, the opponent can slow us down quite a bit. But if we manage to get several Frozen Thralls on the board and spread the support cards around them, it is usually too much for them to handle, only leaving an aggressive gameplan as a solution.
- Noxus and Piltover are both regions with good single target removal but have a difficult time with large boards. As such, focus on summoning all your Thralls at once.
- Rite of Negation is a key card in the match ups once we got things going. It can protect a landmark from Scorched Earth or deny the spells our opponent will use when we attack with the big boys.
- Although they have access to direct damage, the opponent will not be able to kill us without the board softening our nexus first. Consider using and Avalanche or Blighted Ravine to remove the first few turns of development from your opponent to limit that potential damage.
– Deep – Very Favored
- This match up is a race between us summoning a large army of Frostguard Thralls and our opponent reaching Deep. Unless there is too much pressure early on, we can basically ignore the opponent’s units and focus on our setup.
- Thanks to our freeze spells and Rite of Negation, we can deal with Atrocity and use our nexus to tank a bit of damage during the match without fear of direct damage.
- Once the opponent reaches Deep, their units can almost match the size of ours, denying us a ton of Overwhelm damage and making the game more of a value-based battle.
- A problematic unit for us is the Abyssal Eye, as it helps the opponent draw and can deal quite a bit of damage once they reached Deep. Use Quicksand whenever you have a blocker able to remove it.
– Galio/Poppy Bard – Favored
- A Demacia-based deck will try to win through the board, as it is basically the only way the deck knows how to play the game. While it can be quite hard to stop a very snowbally start with a lot of Chimes, accepting the early damage to advance our landmarks gets us the win more often than not.
- Our cheap units are quite good at blocking against Demacia, a region with no Overwhelm or Elusive units. If you manage to remove the challengers on the opposing side of the board, you should get a good use of your
Clockwork Curatorsand Harbinger of Thralls.
- Quicksands and Sands of Time are really good at buying us some time, the opponent relying on the board a lot. Remember that Quicksands can also serve to remove the Formidable keyword at times or the impact Poppy could have gained.
- We don’t necessarily need to work for damage in this match up, although it helps in order to stop Chimes eventually. Simply summoning several Thralls can be enough to completely freeze our opponent for a few turns.
– Pantheon Yuumi – Unfavored
- Pantheon plays a similar game to ours, with the big difference that they also advance their damage count while doing so. Playing defensively only gives them more time to level Pantheon, we need to accept the race.
- Freeze effects and Quicksand are great cards, but don’t really help unless we can turn that extra time into something on our side. Most of the time, it is much better to keep those for late in the game when they can stop a big unit rather than just save a couple of health early on.
- Clockwork Curator and Harbinger of Thralls are decent blockers early on, especially before the opponent’s units are granted Overwhelm.
- Pantheon’s combination of Elusive + Spellshield (and possibly Scouts) isn’t something we can do much about. It is okay to not keep cards for Pantheon leveled up and simply plan on turning things around before that.
– Annie Jhin – Unfavored
- Although we are facing a much faster deck than Thralls, we cannot abandon our win condition as it is the only thing that can ultimately win us the game. Keep progressing your landmarks even if under pressure.
- The damage coming in isn’t something we can do much about. The winning mindset is to use our nexus as a resource and look to win before it reaches 0.
- Blighted Ravine and Avalanche can clear quite a bit of the opponent’s board, except for Jhin mainly. Don’t hold on to these too much looking for value, otherwise, chunkier units could come down.
- Rite of Negation is a key once we have the board under control and only have to worry about direct damage. The card can also deny the flurry of skills that activate when the opponent attacks.
– Illaoi Demacia – Very Unfavored
- While Pantheon usually builds a single big unit, which we can freeze or at least block. Illaoi presents several threats with the Tentacle and their support units or Illaoi herself. This diversity makes it very tough to block efficiently.
- Because we want to turbo towards our win condition, the best use we can make of a freeze or a Quicksands usually is for protecting our
- Our opponent being unable to interact with our landmarks is our saving grace. If you see an opening to land a Promising Future into Taliyah, go for it.
- The opponent is very strong on the board but does not have access to direct damage outside of maybe Make it Rain. Focus all of your efforts on stabilizing the board and taking over with your Thralls.
Looking at the numbers, Thralls is looking like a very reliable and popular deck, but one that also won’t break the metagame and post a 60% win rate over large sample of games.
While it is arguably one of the best decks against any control strategy, its bad match ups against more popular proactive decks are making it difficult to play at all ranks of the ladder. The deck can be adapted to fit those match ups a bit better, but then lose its primary focus and can feel like it is more difficult to achieve its win condition.
Although there are clear reasons not to play the deck, Thralls still is posting a very respectable 53% in a metagame that could seem like an unfavorable one. So imagine what it could do with a little help and more defensive opponent on the other side of the battlefield.
As usual, if you have any questions about this deck, feel free to stop by our community discord and tag in one the channels. For a direct contact, of if you want to follow me and my coaching adventures in the wonderful world of card games, find me on Twitter.
Good Game Everyone,