Hey, Agigas here! This guide is dedicated to the Darkness archetype – one of the most popular and successful control decks in recent times.
With its ability to defend itself against aggression, to out-grind most matchups, and to punish non-interactive decks, Darkness has shown it has all the tools to stand the test of time, and be a deck worth learning. I hope this guide will help you master its complex nature!
This is a control deck, looking to leverage synergies around its namesake spell, Darkness. Your champions, Veigar and Senna, are key units to this strategy as they act both as its enablers and payoffs.
Senna allows you to cast Slow spells, most importantly Darkness, at Fast speed, making your control gameplan feel much smoother. She also is an impressive Darkness engine, making it very easy to chain Darkness’es once you’ve secured a couple of discounts or damage buffs.
Senna’s level-up is very impactful, granting you a further 1-mana discount on all your damage and kill spells, making it very easy to keep full control over the board. Finally, her champion spell, Dawning Shadow, is extremely strong when cast at a Fast speed.
Veigar generates one Darkness on-summon, and also buffs its damage at each Round Start. While Veigar does not have the same immediate impact as Senna, if he can stay alive for a few turns, he will make it far easier for you to control the board with big Darknesses.
Veigar levels pretty easily, and finishing games is a formality at that point – he will regularly be your way to close a game, though you do not necessarily need him to do so.
To go along with and support these two powerful champions, this deck packs up the most powerful units of the Darkness package.
Twisted Catalyzer and Stilted Robemaker don’t generate Darkness, but they make it a lot stronger through damage buffs and cost reductions. With these two, alongside your champions, you can quickly get Darkness to become an extremely powerful spell.
Darkbulb Acolyte is the cheapest way to generate a Darkness, and it has an efficient body for its low cost. Ixtali Sentinel is much more expensive – however, the Lifesteal keyword helps to stabilize, and the Darkness that doubles to go face allows you to increase the pressure, level up Veigar faster, or outright finish some games.
Surrounding the core of this deck’s strategy, Bandle City and Shadow Isles provide powerful control tools and value cards to support the Darkness package.
Vile Feast, Pokey Stick, Withering Wail, Vengeance, Group Shot, Wallop, Piercing Darkness, and The Ruination form a very powerful control package, complementing your Darkness spells in your game plan. Moreover, Piercing Darkness and Ruination synergize well with Senna – those are devastating spells when cast at a Fast speed.
The deck is also able to protect its key units with The Rekindler and Transposition. Transposition is a particularly interesting card – it can also be used in a proactive way to re-play The Rekindler or, as a way to get some reach, Ixtali Sentinel.
Conchologist is a staple unit of Bandle City, and while it is not really the core card of the deck, it still is a very important card as it allows you to find the spell you need and makes you a little bit less predictable, all the while developing the board.
Techs and Options
- The Box is a great control spell at punishing development. It can be a clunky card when the opponent plays around it, but will do great against decks forced to develop several units over a turn and/or decks with key 3-health units such as Gnar.
- Glimpse Beyond is a powerful draw spell when cast as an answer to a removal. Your units are threatening, so you can often force the opponent to use removals proactively, giving you a great window to cast Glimpse Beyond. Consider teching it in if you want to improve grindy, value-oriented matchups.
- Minimorph, once a staple of Darkness, has been replaced by Vengeance in the current meta. However, it is still a strong consideration if you want to improve matchups that are resilient to Vengeance (e.g. Zoe Lee with Deny, Feel the Rush with Tryndamere, Ledros).
- Burgeoning Sentinel, Otterpus, and Hapless Aristocrat all are solid 1-drops in the Darkness archetype and you should consider them if you want a better matchup against hyper-aggressive strategies. Burgeoning Sentinel is your best choice against Fearsome, Hapless Aristocrat – against non-evasive aggression, and Otterpus helps more in tempo-oriented matchups.
- Go Hard is an alternative to Group Shot. The healing and opportunity to get a Pack Your Bags can help, however the Slow speed can make it a lot more clunky, and you lose the upside of being able to sometimes deal 2 damage with Group Shot.
- Aloof Travelers can help target decks relying on a particular expensive card, such as Feel the Rush or Lee Sin.
- Buff and discount Darkness’es early on, chain them later.
Darkness is a very inefficient spell early on, and you should hold onto it until it gets some buffs or cost reductions – that is unless you have absolutely nothing else to do or see a great opportunity. Instead, in the early game, focus on making Darkness’es stronger with Twisted Catalyzer, Stilted Robemaker, Veigar, and Senna, so then you spike in the mid-game with cheap, high-damage Darknesses.
- Find the right timing to play Veigar.
Veigar comes down at a significant tempo loss, and you certainly don’t want to lose him before he triggers. In some matchups, you want to play him as soon as possible to get as many Darkness buffs as possible, while in others, you might want to hold onto him until the tempo loss is less impactful and/or the opponent’s removals are used up or became less convenient to use.
- Look to level-up Senna efficiently.
Once Senna levels, she provides a cost reduction for your removals. Because of that, you want to level her up quickly, and at the lowest invesment possible, so you can benefit from the cost reduction on more spells. Withering Wail or The Box are particularly good at accelerating her level-up.
- Understand your role in the game.
It can be tempting to slam your high-synergy cards to grow your Darkness spell as fast as possible. However, it is often better to play more reactively and let the opponent make the first move – you’re the control deck, and can outgrind pretty much any archetype. You playing reactively will make the game a lot harder to play for the opponent, even when you actually don’t even have any control tools in hand. That said, it is also important to recognize when you can be the one to pressure – Darkness has a lot of well-sized units and a high burn reach with Ixtali Sentinels. Assess your role carefully, depending on the matchup and the current state of the game.
- Get familiar with the range of spells Conchologist can offer you.
Conchologist gives you 3 choices among 44 possible 1-3 cost spells from your regions – Bandle City and Shadow Isles. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- There are a lot of cheap ping spells in the pool: Go Hard, Group Shot, Poison Dart, Pokey Stick, Unspeakable Horror, and Vile Feast. You have about 50% chance of finding at least one of them among your options. They all are good early on, so they’ll often be what you’re looking for. Note that I’ve not included Bouncing Bomb or Wallop because they are not cheap, but they can also be considered used as ping effects.
- Black Spear is often clunky, but it’s at a premium when it comes to removing mid-size threats.
- Stress Defense, Mist’s Call, and Wallop are often great utility choices as well. You can also pick up Glimpse Beyond for removal-heavy matchups.
- Fading Memories, Stalking Shadows, and Splinter Soul combine really well with your numerous “When I’m summoned” effects – special mention goes to The Rekindler.
- Stay flexible – every card in the pool can find a use, don’t dismiss any picks rightaway without giving them some thought.
- Sometimes, when the Manifest options aren’t great but you see a Trinket Trade there, you can pick it up and essentially get another roll to see 2 extra options plus Otterpus.
General mulligan tips:
- Twisted Catalyzer is a card you’re always happy to see in the starting hand – buffing your Darkness early will make your whole deck a lot stronger. Against decks struggling to answer it on turn 2, you should hard-mulligan for it.
- Stilted Robemaker is also a great card in the mulligan – playing it early will make your Darknesses a lot more efficient and will allow you to chain them faster.
- Veigar should be kept if you want to play him on turn 4. However, you should mulligan him away when defending yourself in the early turns is your first priority.
- Conchologist, Vile Feast and Group Shot are great keeps against aggressive matchups. Withering Wail is a good tech against go-wide decks, and Vengeance is against archetypes banking their game plan on one big unit.
Be aware that these are just the general guidelines to help you understand the deck’s game plan. Mulligans are very matchup-dependant – please refer to the matchup section below for more specific advice on mulligans against different meta decks.
Mulligan for: Twisted Catalyzer, Conchologist, Group Shot, Vile Feast. Keep Withering Wail if you have a good early hand.
- Spider Burn is a hyper-aggressive deck filled with cheap aggro units, Fearsome and Spider units, and burn damage. As long as you can avoid falling too much behind and keep your Nexus health high, they will quickly run out of cards in the midgame.
- In the early turns, you goal is to trade your small spells and units with theirs to prevent damage. Look to trade your blockers with less than 3 power with their non-Fearsome attackers so you can keep your stronger blockers and spot removal for Fearsome units.
- In the midgame, look to set up a powerful Withering Wail or The Box to blow out their board and stabilize. Even without casting those, the threat can push them to play slower, and then you will be able to shut them down with Ixtali Sentinel.
- Your Fearsome blockers are precious against them, and you should be careful not to play into their Frenzied Skitterer. Look to play Twisted Catalyzer or Stilted Robemaker right after they play the Skitterer so you do have a Fearsome blocker.
- In the late game, look to keep a removal to answer their Noxian Fervor.
Mulligan for: Twisted Catalyzer, Conchologist, Group Shot, Vile Feast.
- Gar Burn is a very aggressive archetype looking to bring your Nexus health down with cheap units and then finish with burn damage. You need to be very conservative with your Nexus health – as long as they can’t get you low enough, they can’t win.
- Your cheap units and removals are your best tools against their early board swarm. Then, Ixtali Sentinel quickly locks the win thanks to its Lifesteal keyword.
- Be prepared to deal with Gnar whenever he comes down – the champion creates too much value for you to let him live.
- Noxian Fervor is one of their key spells as it allows them to prevent Ixtali Sentinel from hitting anything. Be ready to answer it with a removal, especially when you’re preparing an attack with Ixtali Sentinel, so you don’t take unnecessary damage. Avoid using Piercing Darkness when they could fizzle the life gain with Noxian Fervor.
Mulligan for: Twisted Catalyzer, Stilted Robemaker.
- Sentinel Control is a control deck that can also push a lot of damage quickly with Fearsome units, and finishes games with burn damage. You need to navigate the game carefully and avoid taking too much damage, as their burn can go over the top of your healing.
- Their Sentinels make it less desirable for you to play early units if the opponent can easily remove them. Look to play Twisted Catalyzer when they tap under 2 mana so they can’t remove it with a spell rightaway. Stilted Robemaker is a great unit against them as it trades up into their Fearsome units and is hard to remove.
- Look to remove Kindred as soon as she hits the board. She has a low health total and they don’t have any protection spells – she shouldn’t be a problem as long as you play around her.
- For a control deck, their access to value is quite limited – they don’t have much draw, and don’t have the card generation you have. Minimorph if you play it is a great answer to Commander Ledros. You don’t need to rush anything once you are in control over the game, and should focus on keeping your health total stable, all the while being ready to answer Atrocity at any time. Them playing Ledros will allow you to really take control of the tempo and close things out.
Mulligan for: Twisted Catalyzer, Veigar, Stilted Robemaker.
- Both your decks are looking to build up a powerful plan in the late game, all the while having a good board presence early on. As long as we’ve managed to build up a huge Darkness, the game will be very hard for them as they need to build up a large board.
- Their deck is able to create huge tempo swings with the Trundle‘s Ice Pillar + Concurrent Timelines combo, and Buried in Ice + It That Stares. Avoid overcommitting to the board, and try instead to limit their’s, so Buried in Ice never represents too big of a tempo swing. Ruination is a great answer to Buried in Ice.
- Try to play around their Piltover & Zaun removals, especially Thermogenic Beam.
- If you can stick a Veigar on the board the game will become a lot easier as Darkness becomes big enough to deal with Trundle.
- Do not underestimate their mid game. While they will rarely outright kill you quick, Concurrent Timelines and/or Gnar can snowball the game if you let them do, and then you will be in a very uncomfortable spot going into the late game.
Mulligan for: Twisted Catalyzer, Veigar.
- Feel the Rush is an archetype looking to control the game with the FR/SI removal package, and then close things out with Feel The Rush. Despite their strong removals, they often struggle to answer Twisted Catalyzer and Veigar when played on-curve, meaning our Darkness spell can grow pretty quickly.
- Look to play around Avalanche and Blighted Ravine – do not make too large of a board if you think they might hold those cards, and look to make your board more resilient with high-health units. They also play 1 or 2 copies of The Ruination, and therefore you should avoid overcommiting to the board even with high-health units.
- Veigar is often the key to the game, as he will quickly snowball your Darkness spell and act as a win condition. The more Veigars you can find, the better. If the Darkness spell gets big enough to deal with Trundle, the game gets a lot easier.
- Look to remove their non-buffed champions with damaged-based removal. Those won’t be nearly as effective against champions from Feel the Rush, which you will need your Vengeance and/or Minimorph to deal with.
Mulligan for: Twisted Catalyzer, Stilted Robemaker, Veigar.
- The mirror generally is extremely value-oriented. Both players have the tools to deal with the opponent’s threats, and unless one player manages to quickly snowball a Veigar or a Twisted Catalyser while the other bricks, the game is bound to become a long grind.
- Veigar is the key unit of the matchup. Him buffing Darkness helps to deal with the opponent’s champions, and once he levels up it is very easy to close out the game. Look to play him early on when the opponent taps under 6 mana – it is hard to deal with Veigar while the Darkness spell is still small and Vengeance/Minimorph aren’t available. On the opposite, you might not want to tap under 6 mana if you’re afraid of the opponent playing Veigar and aren’t falling behind on tempo.
- Despite its grindy nature, it is important not to let yourself fall behind and lose too much health – Ixtali Sentinels can provide a lot of reach, especially if a leveled Veigar manages stick to the board for a turn.
- If you start falling behind on value, look to set up a blow-out turn where you pressure the opponent and make them fall behind on tempo. If you get the opponent to tap out or use their answers to Veigar on something else, you can quickly win the game. On the opposite, if you’re ahead in value, look to keep control over the board without making yourself vulnerable to Veigar.
- To improve the matchup, consider teching in a second The Rekindler and a Glimpse Beyond.
Mulligan for: Twisted Catalyzer, Stilted Robemaker. Keep Wallop or Veigar if you have a good early hand.
- Lurk is an archetype looking to to build up Lurkers’ attack, making every unit into a dangerous threat, and allowing them to level up Pyke and Rek’Sai quickly. Their rapid snowball can quickly become overwhelming to deal with, especially if they pull ahead in tempo.
- Early on, look to get the best trades possible while enhancing your Darknesses with Twisted Catalyzer and Stilted Robemaker. If they aren’t too ahead, you can play an early Veigar, but be careful about
Death From Below.
- Wallop is a very powerful card to stall out one of their units, protect your unit against a Bone Skewer, or prevent Rek’Sai from leveling up by casting it before she gets to attack.
- If you get to stabilize the board and grow your Darkness spell, the game becomes very hard for them as they don’t have a lot of value without Rek’Sai and are completely reliant on their units.
Mulligan for: Twisted Catalyzer, Vengeance. Keep Senna, Stilted Robemaker, Veigar if you have a good hand.
- Pantheon Fated is a midrange archetype that buffes Fated units with its numerous targeted spells, and quickly levels Pantheon. Cataclysm, Single Combat, and Concerted Strike are all very cost-efficient, making it often hard to stick an early Veigar onto the board.
- Your best tools to keep them under control is Vengeance. Senna’s spell is also particularly strong in the matchup. Let the opponent stack a lot of buffs onto their unit, and only when they use Zenith Blade onto it and start pushing too much damage you can use a hard removal – you don’t want to waste your spells on mid-sized threats.
- To level up Pantheon, they have to cast one buff per turn as often as possible. Wait for them to cast their mandatory targeted card, then start playing your cards – force them to play more buffs on the same turn they’ve already procced their Pantheon quest.
- Look to keep a ping or another cheap spell in case Pantheon randomly gets the Spellshield keyword or if they play a Bastion.
- When looking to kill a unit from full health with several damage spells, you generally should place all of them on the stack in one go to play around Guiding Touch.
- If you manage to grow and discount your Darkness a couple of times to the point where you can start removing their units even through buffs, the game gets extremely hard for them.
- The Taric version is a more difficult matchup as the Taric + Golden Aegis combo can be tough to always play around.
Mulligan for: Twisted Catalyzer, Veigar. Keep The Ruination if you have a great hand.
- Scouts is an aggressive midrange archetype looking to win the game thanks to board domination and/or Miss Fortune‘s level up. Both those win conditions are accelerated by the Scout keyword. You should be careful to be ready to deal with Miss Fortune and to not let the board snowball too much.
- Miss Fortune isn’t easy for us to answer without Darkness while being cost-effective. Getting your Darkness’es damage up with Veigar or Twisted Catalyzer is key.
- Be aware that they can try to protect their units with Sharpsight and Ranger’s Resolve. Look to play around them.
- Be careful about Golden Aegis – as long as they have 4 mana, you’re not safe from a Rally attack. Although, you should recognize when you can’t win against a Rally, in which case you should play like they can’t have it.
- They have no removals – their only way to deal with Veigar is through Challenger units.
- As long as you can deal with their units and don’t let Miss Fortune get out of hand, the game only gets harder for them – they have no value generation and some of their spells need units to be useful. Moreover, your Darkness damage scaling with Veigar makes it impossible for them to come back.
- The Ruination is a great tool if they overcommit – which they often have to do. However be careful not to make it too obvious and to avoid giving them the liberty to play around it, else you could fall behind on tempo and still lose with The Ruination.
Mulligan for: Twisted Catalyzer, Stilted Robemaker, Veigar.
- Just like the Scouts archetype, Tristana Swarm looks to build up a powerful board and leverage the power of Golden Aegis. Tristana is a key champion to enable their deck to push damage through chump blockers and dominate the board. If you can keep dealing with their units, their deck won’t be able to do anything.
- Be careful when using removals not to give a great opportunity for the opponent to cast Sharpsight or Ranger’s Resolve. Ideally you want to force the opponent to cast them to protect only one unit and without them pushing extra damage.
- It will be hard to answer the opponent’s Yordles in Arms if their board is a lot wider than yours, so try to have a board as large as possible when getting into that stage of the game. Consider not chump blocking the opponent’s unit early as long as you don’t take too much damage from it.
- They have no Challengers and so their only consistent way to remove Veigar is Buster Shot +
Pockey Stick. Look to play Veigar as soon as possible so you can build up large Darknesses rapidly.
- It is very important that you do not let Gnar snowball the game. Remove him quickly, even over Tristana.
Mulligan for: Twisted Catalyzer, Veigar.
- Bandle Tree is a combo archetype playing many double-region units to quickly fill the Bandle Tree’s quest to win the game. It is a very difficult matchup – we are not good at racing and have no tools to deal with a landmark win condition.
- Our only way to win is to race and hope we can kill them before they complete the Bandle Tree win condition and draw the Bandle Tree. Because of their numerous chump blockers we often can’t win through the board, so our hopes often lies in turbo-leveling Veigar and burning them.
- A ping spell combined with Ravenous Flock or Buster Shot can deal with our early Veigar. Unfortunately, we can’t afford to wait it out or bait to them to use on another unit – we need our early Veigar to race them. Keep as many Veigars as you can get in your mulligan and play them right away, hoping one will stick to the board.
- Look to kill Gnar before he gets to strike. One of our win conditions is them not drawing the Bandle Tree in time, so giving the opponent a free Pokey Stick is something you should avoid.
If you have a question, want to share feedback, or discuss this guide, I’ll be happy to answer you in the comments below! 😉
If you like my content and don’t want to miss out on anything, you can follow me on Twitter, where I share every article I write, but also my tournament performances, my most successful decks, etc… 😄
Thanks for reading!