Being able to make Katarina relevant as a champion is an impressive enough feat to credit the Viego Deserter deck. Also achieving one of the best win rates in the metagame ever since the Worldwalker set was introduced, is what we really are talking about here! Brokenball has already discussed the deck early on in the expansion:
In this in-depth guide, we will explore the success of the deck in the current patch and all the intricacies the deck offers. Whether it is for its offensive capabilities of building insane pressure through large units, or its great resiliency thanks to the Shadows Isles spells, Viego Deserter is a top 3 metagame in a lot of player’s book – and trust me!
Decklist and Deck Tech
Viego Deserter is what I would call a Midrange Enforcer deck. The deck is capable of playing in the role of the aggressor (developing the Viego synergy into dropping bombs one after another), or defending against faster decks until stabilizing the board (Vile Feast, Undergrowth and House Spider all are great defensive tools).
In this regard, Viego Deserter positions itself based on who is across the battlefield, although it will keep in mind the end result it is looking for.
No matter the match up, a typical game with the deck should end with Viego, Legion Deserter or Invasive Hydravine on the board and threatening the opponent to inflict major damage. The big emphasis for the pilot should be to figure out the most effective way to get to this specific point.
This concrete endgame powerful goal combined with a rather flexible early and midgame is what makes Viego Deserter the great deck it is currently. Through pinpointing the turns you know you will not be flexible (for example, turn 5, where you wish to play Viego or Legion Deserter), you can create a cohesive logical sequence of turns.
In this case, we will be working backwards to create the perfect sequence based on what is in our hand. Our turn 5 is our starting point (but the end of the sequence really) and we want to play our champion Viego as safely as possible.
Turn 4 will likely be dedicated to removing as much board as possible as to prevent our opponent from dealing a ton of damage because we wouldn’t be able to defend ourselves, our mana being invested somewhere else. Turn 3 ideally is a Camavoran Soldier, as a way to buff up our Viego and make it more resilient when it comes down on the board.
In this sequence, we can see that the only 2 flexible turns we have are turn 1 and 2. Because if we have the Camavoran Soldier, we will play it on 3, and in a way to protect Viego, we will focus on what the opponent does on 4.
Now when going into our first two turns, we can ask ourselves how our decision will matter towards that later goal of playing Viego. Is it better to develop the board, like with House Spider for example, or should we store our mana for flexibility, considering we likely won’t have a chance at doing so in the near future.
These kinds of reasoning are essential to piloting the deck well, and are what makes the deck so good currently. These 2 steps of figuring out our important, developing turn and then working our whole sequence of turns around it allows the deck to play its big threats in the ideal setup. This also forces the opponent to react perfectly and get punished very quickly.
Tech Cards and Options
Playing Katarina or Not
This is one of the biggest talking points in the deck: Either going with triple Elise or two and a copy of Katarina. Considering both choices are posting a win rate around 54 – 55%, it is hard to get a clear answer for this one.
I would say that triple Elise is the safe choice, as she is the best way to force the opponent into an early reaction and can get us an easier to navigate early game.
Katarina is in the deck for its highroll potential, forcing the opponent to keep an answer for her in addition to Viego, the Legion Deserter and the Invasive Hydravine. Also, with 3 copies of House Spider and the possibility to simply store the mana gems on turn 2, I don’t feel the deck is in dire need to have a 2 drop every single game.
Personally, I like Katarina as her addition usually allows me to play only 1 copy of Atrocity, and instead get another defensive spell in the deck. But if you are new to the archetype and not sure on how to use Katarina in the deck, going with triple Elise is completely fine as well.
The popular spell from Noxus makes a lot of sense in the deck, and can replace Undergrowth quite easily if you expect to face midrange or Landmark based decks more than aggressive ones.
Most of the time, the deck doesn’t really need the created Nightfall card as we pack enough value, but it can also be a nice surprise in some match ups.
The 3 drop slot in the deck feels impossible to take away from Camavoran Soldier, the card being at the core at the synergy.
The Buhru Sentinel helps with creating another potential threat before playing Viego and forcing some removal out of the opponent’s hand. If you are playing against control or midrange decks a lot, the card helps taking on the aggressive role more easily, a role that is usually easier to pilot in those matchups.
A spell alternative to the Spirit Leech, Whispered Words allows you to draw at burst speed instead of spending your action on it. It also has the benefit of not requiring you to kill one of your units to do so.
If you feel like the Spirit Leech is too slow and you are not getting a fine target for it often enough, then you probably want to try the Noxus draw spell.
Keep the sequence in mind
Viego Deserter is a deck on a mission. It is capable of defending, being aggressive or even patiently store mana for later, but it always does it because it makes sense in the planned sequence of turns. As such, always try to replace your actions in the overall goal of the sequence you planned for, making sure they contribute to the end goal.
Keep in mind that your sequence can change as the game develop, and you will have to adapt on the fly based on what your opponent does and the draws you get as rounds advance.
We are a Viego, Legion Deserter deck
We can play quite an up-tempo gameplan, and possess strong defensive tools to control the opponent’s board. We also have threats that should force the opponent into reacting, like Elise or Katarina. However, keep in mind that as long as they help to create a safer environment to play our game winning cards, they are doing their part.
Determine your role in the match up as early as possible
Either playing it slow, looking to answer what the opponent does, so we can prevent losing a burn plan when we invest our mana into our big units. Alternatively, we can play more proactively, growing Viego and the Legion Deserter as big as possible to make their removal more difficult. We can pick very different directions as to how we want to approach our gameplan.
The key here is to establish our plan as early as possible and be consistent in how we want to enforce it. This doesn’t mean completely ignoring a portion of our deck, but knowing which part is important and which one will act as the support.
Understand your opponent’s point of view
As the deck grows in popularity, its reputation of being able to enforce its huge units onto its opponent grows as well. Because of this, you are likely to see players overreact to your units and play much safer than they should.
This psychology bias is something we can use to our advantage and back our opponent into a corner they created themselves. It should make it easier for us to develop our threats as they put themselves into a defensive stance and forget about other means of pressure.
Matchups and Mulligan Guide
– Yuumi Pantheon – Very Favored
- We are comfortable taking on a reactive role in this match up, using our Noxus spells to remove the opponent’s unit and developing when we aren’t under pressure.
- Pantheon‘s removal all need a unit on the board to function. If you manage to remove or keep the opposing board to a minimum, it should be safe to play your key units.
- Eventually, a leveled Pantheon will come down onto the board, which is a big problem if there is a Spellshield or Elusive keyword on it. Look to be able to develop Viego or a Legion Deserter before this happens.
- Ravenous Flock can be answered with Guiding Touch, which makes Disintegrate a much safer option. Ideally, you would use Ravenous Flock if you have another spell in hand, usable to re-damage the unit in case it gets healed.
– Poppy / Galio Bard – Favored
- As time passes, the Chimes can add up and become a problem if we cannot get our own growing mechanic going. Look to remove the challengers which could deal with Viego and play him on the board before going back to controlling the game.
- We should be behind early on as Demacia’s unit are better at trading than we are. We don’t need to win the board early, just create a situation where you can develop safely.
- Outside of Galio, the opponent barely has any good topdecks in the lategame. If you see their hand starting to shrink, you can play to run them out of resources.
- Katarina can be a great asset in this matchup, the opponent barely running any spell removal. She should most likely be able to level up and give us some grinding potential.
- Atrocity is guaranteed to trigger unless the opponent has enough power on board and enough mana to use Concerted Strike.
– Annie Jhin – Favored
- This is one of the few matchups where we heavily rely on our control tools. All of our pressure package will come naturally if we are able to control what our opponent does.
- Our spells are great at supporting our cheap blockers to finish off opposing units. Feel free to take “bad” trades to setup your spells.
- The Fearsome keyword can be quite a powerful one in this match up, allowing us to push serious damage with Viego and potentially race back later in the game. It also makes Elise a safe investment early on.
- Arachnoid Sentry is ideal to remove Jhin with Ravenous Flock, but we can also use the card to prevent a unit from attacking, denying a potential skill activation in the process.
– Deep – Even
- This match up is a race to each deck’s win condition. The early units are nice to get in some Nexus damage, but it’s the heavy hitters staying on board which help us win the game.
- Both decks have very similar, Shadows Isles based removal spells. Vengeance is the important one as it can remove the more important units. Being able to get ahead on board and force a
Veangeanceout is huge in terms of tempo.
- Elise is nice to get some pressure going, but the most important part of the early game is removing the Sea Scarab before it tosses too many cards.
- Once we land one of our pressure cards onto the board, we don’t want to stop playing up-tempo so the opponent cannot catch up. Feel free to use your draw cards (Glimpse Beyond and Spirit Leech) early on to support that plan.
– Heimerdinger Jayce – Unfavored
- This is a matchup where we can almost exclusively focus on developing our side of the board. The goal is to beat the opponent’s removal through playing too many threats for them to hand.
- Heimerdinger should be removed on sight before the spells can snowball the board out of control. Pressuring is the best way to prevent it from being played if possible.
- While we don’t want to ignore the opponent’s board, we also never want to end up in the defensive role. Look to develop first and then use removal to protect your units from being forced to trade.
- Glimpse Beyond is a great card to play around potential Lifesteal spells while refilling our hand. Ideally, you would never want to use the card proactively.
– Ezreal Caitlyn – Unfavored
- Caitlyn and Tri-beam Improbulator are the 2 difficult cards for us to play around as they both act as removal and generate a lot of tempo for the opponent. If possible, keep Viego out of range of the Tri-Beam or try to bait it out.
- Invasive Hydravine usually is what gets us over the edge as the opponent already needed to use removal on Viego and Legion Deserter. Once you start playing those threats, we want to keep on playing units so the opponent doesn’t have time to draw or develop a board of their own.
- Lategame, the opponent has access to quite a bit of direct damage with a leveled Ezreal or Captain Farron. We need to have some kind of board to be able to race back.
- Our spells are very good to answer opposing units without needing to get ours damaged and open potential removal for the opponent.
– Fizz Riven – Very Unfavored
- This matchup is about being able to apply pressure before the opponent can play Fizz and demolish us. As we can’t really deal with the champion effectively, we have to distract our opponent this way.
- Riven is much easier to deal with thanks to our Noxus spells. We are quite happy to let our opponent invest a lot of support spells into a unit that isn’t Fizz.
- With very limited removal, we know Viego and Legion Deserter will do a ton of work if we can land them on the board. Our objective is creating a situation where we can do it safely.
- As we can’t deal with Fizz effectively unless the opponent runs out of cards in hand, we usually want to keep our healing cards to get out of range of a potential attack from the champion.
Viego Deserter is a deck with a big flaw that usually is heavily punished in LoR; it doesn’t deal with the Elusive keyword very well. Luckily enough, Demacia has been a dominant region and kept the Elusive synergy at bay, allowing the deck to shine and dominate for the past few weeks.
Because of the structure of the current metagame, everything seems to line up correctly for the deck. the Noxus package is a great disruption against more opponent. Shadows Isles provides some healing and Viego, Legion Deserter and Invasive Hydravine gives the deck some major punch to close games.
The deck is also quite versatile, being able to play in both roles thanks to strong pressure and defensive tools. Overall, investing your time in this archetype should be worth it, both for Ladder and Tournament play.
Here’s the end of our guide, hope it was useful in some way. As usual, feel free to drop by our community Discord for any questions or to engage with the other members. For contacting me directly, you can find me on Twitter.
Good Game Everyone,