Xerath Review and Theorycraft
Hey, Agigas here! Xerath is the long-awaited fourth – and last – Ascended champion of Runeterra, and I was personally very excited to see how the powerful mage would translate into a card.
In this article, I’m going to evaluate Xerath, share a theorycraft built around him, and break down all the cards revealed alongside the new Shurima champion.
Here’s our rating scale:
- 5.0: Meta-defining card, should prove 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: Could be used for specific synergies, or to counter some decks.
- 1.0: Unlikely to find its place in the meta.
Xerath – 3.0
I wasn’t expecting it at all, but Xerath is a landmark synergy champion.
In his level 1 form, Xerath is pinging the opponent’s weakest unit every time one of your landmarks is destroyed (either purposefully with an effect like Desert Naturalist, or naturally through completing a countdown). He seems to be far from impressive at his base – an underwhelming body that needs very specific synergies and has no outstanding payoff.
Thankfully, in the right deck Xerath levels quickly – the speed at which he does should be comparable to Taliyah‘s level-up condition – maybe slightly harder if the landmarks you’re running aren’t easily destroyed.
Once he does level up, Xerath becomes a lot more interesting – 3 damage means you get to snipe and kill the opponent’s units one by one, granted you still have enough landmarks to destroy.
Because of his heavy reliance on landmarks, Xerath has to be in a deck with a high count of them. The best way to quickly level and use Xerath will be through cheap, self-destroying landmarks, such as countdown landmarks, or Roiling Sands.
Landmarks that trigger some kind of an effect when destroyed also have great synergy with Xerath. However, there are very few of them, and the package that comes with the new Shurima champion seems quite incomplete.
Tomorrow’s champion is speculated to be Ziggs – flavor-wise, it would make perfect sense for him to somehow slot into the “destroy your landmark” archetype. Therefore, we might only have seen half of this archetype’s package so far with Xerath.
Just like all Ascended champions, Xerath doesn’t stop at level 2. If you’re playing a Buried Sun Disc deck, you can access his very powerful level 3 form. While in it, Xerath puts a very serious clock on the opponent, while offering a scary board control tool.
So far, the Sun Disc archetype has struggled to survive and complete the Buried Sun Disc’s countdown quickly and reliably enough. Xerath, thanks to his easy level-up condition should be helpful in that area, granted you’re willing to pay the deck-building cost.
Overall, Xerath seems to be a welcome addition in landmark decks as a potential sidegrade to Malphite and in the Sun Disc archetype, which can build around him to achieve a reliable level-up.
However, while Xerath will have no problem finding a dedicated deck, he doesn’t seem very impressive in sheer power level.
Taliyah Malphite is a deck that was popularized by GrandpaRoji, and this new version still uses the core of it, but with Xerath.
This is a deck with a massive amount of landmarks, as they allow you to level both Taliyah and Xerath.
Ancient Preparations, Preservarium, Salt Spire, Blue Sentinel‘s Crest of Insight, as well as Roiling Sands from Rock Hopper and Unraveled Earth will all enable your payoffs while providing some meaningful effects along the way.
While landmark decks are known to be quite slow, this archetype actually can create a lot of pressure through its tempo plays.
Chip, Waste Walker, and Earth Elemental will all have above-the-curve stat-lines – and the latter two have Overwhelm in particular, so they should present a lot of pressure. Stonebreaker offers removal, burn, and a body – all-in-one on a cost-efficient card.
Taliyah is core to this deck. Not only she will quickly level up to accelerate the pressure, but she also represents a very strong on-curve follow-up to a Salt Spire.
Xerath, with all these countdown landmarks plus Roiling Sands, will easily level up and help you control the opponent’s board.
Overall, this deck does look like quite a powerful midrange archetype. Whether or not it will end up better than the Malphite version (which should make better use of on of the most powerful cards revealed today – Herald of the Magus), is yet to be seen.
But either way, it seems like landmark decks will see meaningful improvements with this new expansion.
Rite of the Arcane – 2.5
The cost-efficiency here is great – it is comparable to Black Spear.
However, Slow speed is a significant downside. Destroying an allied landmark is also a very restrictive condition, limiting the spell to a specific archetype.
This card relies too much on landmarks that have a payoff for getting destroyed – and we have very few of them in the game so far.
After tomorrow’s reveals, this card might become more interesting.
Endless Devout – 3.0
At first glance, Endless Devout looks impressive. A 3/3 stat-line will hold its own on the board, and coming back later as a 5/3 Fearsome while activating landmark synergies is strong.
However, the opponent will sometimes be at liberty to ignore it for a couple of turns, meaning you’ll end up with a 3/3 body that doesn’t have a lot of impact on your game plan for a long time.
Because of that, I don’t think Endless Devout will make the cut unless you are really looking for landmark synergies with Sarcophagus.
Risen Altar – 2.5
Dami’yin the Unbound is reminiscent of Ruin Runner – and we all know how much pain a big Overwhelm Spellshield unit can inflict.
However, Dami’yin is not main-deckable, and you’ll have to get through Risen Altar first.
Your 6-mana plays usually need to have some immediate impact on the board, else you would just fall behind.
Therefore, I don’t expect to see Risen Altar outside of an archetype that is able to consistently activate its effect on the very same turn you played it.
Herald of the Magus – 3.5
Herald of the Magus needs a very specific shell to be good – a lot of easily destructible landmarks, and champions that can make great use of the buff and the Overwhelm keyword.
However, if you do manage to meet all those conditions, Herald of the Magnus is a very impressive card. While its stat-line is a bit underwhelming, it will still often be enough to hold the board, and the effect really enables your champions to finish games while simultaneously protects them.
Taliyah Malphite is one example of a deck where Herald of the Magus seems like a great fit, as it plays a lot of landmarks, and both of its champions benefit greatly from the Overwhelm keyword.
Waste Walker – 4.0
Waste Walker’s base stat-line is already quite decent for its cost and will do a fine job contesting an early board.
As the game progresses, Waste Walker grows and becomes way too big for its cost. This unit can go completely out of control in the right archetype, and the Overwhelm keyword fits it very well.
While landmark archetypes have often been struggling in the past, it seems like the new expansion is bringing some over-the-top tools to push them into competitiveness.
Construct of Desolation – 2.0
Ruinous Acolyte – Obelisk of Power
The cards this spell creates don’t look very strong, therefore paying extra mana for them doesn’t seem like a great deal.
Construct of Desolation would definitely fit in a Ruinous Acolyte archetype, as you want to have as many of them as possible to snowball the buff, just like in a Mistwraith deck.
The flexibility of either creating a landmark with destruction payoff or an effect that destroys a landmark might help this card fit quite nicely into a landmark destruction archetype. However, we don’t have anywhere near enough tools for this archetype for now.
Ruinous Acolyte – 2.0
Ruinous Acolyte is very reminiscent of Mistwraith, with an ‘everywhere’ buff and the Fearsome keyword.
However, to make this strategy efficient, you would need many landmarks with destruction payoffs, which sounds like a very tough ask so far.
Instead of being the main focus for a deck, Ruinous Acolyte could also be a cheap and cost-efficient way to destroy your landmarks.
But again, the archetype doesn’t have enough tools for now.
Obelisk of Power – 1.5
You really need a lot of synergies to run this landmark. Obelisk of Power doesn’t bring a lot of value, and your buffed unit will often get blocked or removed.
Maybe a deck that has units with evasive keywords and landmark synergies, like a Ruinous Acolyte archetype, could be interested in attack buffs from Obelisk of Power.
Sandseer – 3.0
Sandseer’s stat-line and a Fearsome keyword are quite good and will threaten the board nicely. The ‘draw 1’ effect is a welcome addition to the card, making it a great value piece.
While her ‘Play’ effect can definitely be abused, most landmark-synergy decks actually don’t run that many landmarks among the main 40 cards. Landmarks in those decks are often created by units, and you rarely ever go above 10 main-decked landmarks there.
Still, the draw clause on Sandseer is a welcome addition, with a potential for high-rolling and some neat synergies with Predict.
Unleashed Energy – 2.0
If you cast this to get a +2/+1 buff, you will have a very underwhelming, over-costed combat trick.
To make the spell interesting, you really need to look at landmark synergies.
However, there aren’t enough landmarks with payoffs for destroying them to make this spell good.
Servitude of Desolation – 2.0
At 7 mana, the spell has to offer you a lot, and in many different situations.
While Servitude of Desolation can swing games where you just traded your whole board in combat, or as a comeback from The Ruination, it will also have a lot of not-so-great moments.
This card is also heavily countered by landmark removals, as the whole effect of this 7-mana play relies on a single
Today’s reveals brought some very strong additions to landmark archetypes, potentially even pushing them to competitive play.
I think Xerath is a bit underwhelming, but he will still feel like a slight upgrade in several archetypes. Let’s keep in mind that there is a lot of speculation around Ziggs being tomorrow’s champion, and with him, we could get the second half of this landmark destruction package.
I hope you’re enjoying Beyond the Bandlewood spoilers as much as I do. We’re getting closer to the end of the reveal season, and I’m very excited about all the new possibilities opening to us, and I can’t wait to test all my theorycrafts.
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