Bard

Zed Bard Deck Guide

Zed Bard is among the most popular new archetypes, and is performing well in the current meta! Den took the archetype all the way to the Master rank, and shares his knowledge in this in-depth guide!

Hi everyone, welcome to this deck guide covering one of my favorite decks which appeared with the WorldWalker set, the super high tempo deck Zed Bard.

There are a lot of Bard decks roaming the ladder, and at least 5 champions have been extensively tested with the mysterious traveler. Most pairings make a lot of sense and have shown decent ladder results. In my opinion, Zed Bard is, alongside Poppy Bard, the two most interesting ones to explore because of the pressure they are capable of developing on their opponents.

While Bard is probably one of the best late-game engines in the game thanks to the Chime mechanic, I believe being able to develop some pressure and force the opponent into a defensive stance is what provides the most opportunities to abuse the potential extra stats. As for Zed, while a bit out of the metagame for the majority of last year, he stays a great pressure champion and one of the best targets for the Chimes in the game.

The concept of the deck is quite simple, we are looking to impose a super high pace from around turn 3 when we develop Zed up until the point our opponent cannot keep up with us anymore. In order to achieve this game plan, we need to space out our buffs the best possible way, either using those for immediate pressure or to set up huge threats down the line. Overall, the ultimate goal of this deck is to dominate the attack turns and pose a big enough problem so that the opponent isn’t able to freely use theirs.

In order to create this pressure, we have Zed leading the charge, but also a ton of support cards we can leverage to affect both our board and the opponent’s one. If the Chimes and the Greenglade Elder will help you grow your threats, Will of Ionia and The Maker should be great at slowing down your opponent by sending their important units back in their hand.

With the ability to affect both sides of the table, Zed Bard’s main concern is not losing to a potential race to the finish line. Especially aggressive decks which force the deck to be defensive very early on can make it difficult to establish our board dominance. In these instances, the build will be looking to abuse Spirit’s Refuge to keep its nexus safe and buy some time to focus on its own strategy.

In the end, Zed Bard would be considered a simple yet effective deck. It focuses on a basic game plan, but one that can be enforced against many opponents in a variety of ways, either building its pressure around Zed or relying on Elusive units, for example.

The deck isn’t a particularly dominant force so far, as hyper-aggressive decks tend to be a good counter and those are quite popular early in an expansion when players are looking to climb the ladder quickly (and then wait for 8 weeks in the masters rank, don’t ask me why…).

Zed Bard still is evolving as we speak, and already appears to be a great option to pressure most midrange or control opponents, while being able to access the great Ionian disruptive tools in order to be the one dictating what happens on the board.


Tech Cards and Other Options

With only 1 region available to build around, it could seem like Bard decks are rather unflexible, which is true to some extent. One of the reasons why I like Ionia as this sole region is because it is one of the most versatile ones in the game, something we can already see in the list.

In the possible inclusion in the list, a lot of cards are match-ups dependent, so consider it is impossible to run all those cards in the same list. Still, the deck can adapt to a flurry of opponents in order to be competitive.

Inspiring Mentor

I see a lot of people running this card, but I personally feel it isn’t a worthy inclusion in the deck. First, it doesn’t make so much sense with Bard because it is a +1 buff, which doesn’t help the level up as we want to add even numbers to reach 20.

Unless you get 2 of Inspiring Mentor or buff Zed specifically, your Bard will either be at 19 or 21 on his level up. I would consider the card for aggressive matchups if you want an early blocker that also buffs a unit in hand later on, but otherwise would stay away from Inspiring Mentor.

Mystic Vortex

A good way of shuffling a lot of Chimes early on in your deck, the Vortex has the problem of being a very passive play early on and not drawing the card immediately later on. As we are looking for tempo rather than value, I tend to cut the card and prioritize Greenglade Elder for boosting my units in hand.

Greenglade Duo

Elusive is a very powerful keyword in a deck like this one, as it can force the opponent into expanding a ton of resources to avoid getting a unit to hit their nexus.

I like the inclusion of Ghost in order to be able to grant elusive to whatever I like when I see fit, but more elusive units could make sense if you are looking to bring more pressure against a defensive deck.

Memory’s Cloak

A cheaper Deny that is especially good to protect Zed specifically, I haven’t tried this card too much. I think it has potential against Noxus-based decks mostly to counter stuns, Ravenous Flocks, and such.

Concussive Palm

A great overall card, but one that seems a bit less effective than Will of Ionia currently, as sending units back in the hand is a game-winner against Tentacles decks and is great to remove potential blockers to Zed when setting up for an open attack.

Kinkou Lifeblade

A good unit in the overall scheme of the deck, but one that tends to be a bit overpriced if it doesn’t receive a ton of buffs. I feel like Tasty Faefolk does a better job in you are looking for pure healing synergy.

Fae Guide

Most of the time, granting elusive to Zed once is enough to win the game, so I would rather do it with Ghost at burst speed.


General Tips

Dark Star Zed

Work for the lead

Whether it is being able to drop Zed safely, developing a leveled Bard, or simply going wide with the units you buffed with Greenglade Elder, it is all being in a position when the opponent feels threatened by this development.

Once established onto the board, the deck can deal a ton of damage quickly, so it is usually better to take your time and work to get ahead on tempo rather than going for an aggressive development the opponent could answer on its own terms.

Look for open attacks

Especially against Noxus (Arachnoid Sentry), but also against Frejlord (Icevale Archer) or Jhin (The Stagehand), the current metagame features quite a lot of skills capable of stunning Zed. Illaoi decks also play Tentacle Smash, and Bard decks could be tempted to stun Zed before he attacks as a way of not having to deal with the shadow either. As such, the best way to prevent the opponent from stopping our opponent from using those tools is to open attack when it represents a good enough pressure play.

This means you will likely use your defensive turns to set up the attack and then use the rest of your offensive turn to redevelop or work towards your next offensive turns.

Know your opponent’s breaking point

A lot of decks in the current metagame are looking to accomplish something specific to set up the win. Deep, Thralls, Illaoi, Pantheon… All these decks are looking to do something quite specific and have to develop eventually to reach that situation.

While an explosive start and a 5/4 Zed will get you almost anywhere you want, knowing when is the best time to develop onto the board also is quite valuable. The biggest thing to learn is when to go from turn 1 and curve aggressively, or when to take it slow with a Greenglade Elder and boost your units for more resiliency. The same goes for developing units before Zed or keeping the mana for a Nopeify or Twinblade Discipline to protect our win condition.

Don’t be afraid to go to the late-game as long as you are ahead

While we aren’t a deck looking for the late-game, we don’t necessarily have a problem with it when the setup is right. A leveled Bard, for example, can help us have some scaling into the late-game and keep our board growing even though we aren’t playing new units every turn.

If we managed to direct our buffs to our elusive units, it might force the opponent to continuously expand resources in order to keep them at bay, same goes for a big or leveled Zed. The idea is to assess how many resources we will force out of our opponent’s hand if we keep the pressure at a constant level. If it feels like a winning bet, going to the late game isn’t such a bad gamble, otherwise, look for the kill.


General Mulligan Tips

When you already have Zed in hand and attacking on odds

Look for direct support to Zed, either buffs or protective spells, do not keep units that could receive Chimes instead of Zed. Assess the risk of your opponent being able to answer Zed on turn 3 to know how all-in on the champion you should go.

When you already have Zed in hand and attacking on even

Assess how likely it is that you can ignore your opponent’s turn 3 and just drop Zed to attack with him on 4. If the risk is low, play it as you were attacking on odds.

If you need to answer some threats along the way, look for units to block while helping Zed grow (Byrd, Greenglade Elder, Esmus…) and Twin Discipline to help with trades or protect Zed.

When you don’t have Zed in hand and attack on odds

Unless your hand is great for the match-up, or Zed isn’t good in this specific one, go look for your moneymaker first and foremost.

When you don’t have Zed in hand and attack on even

This one probably is the worst scenario and forces you to adapt to what you expect your opponent to do. Against a slow opponent, only keep Greenglade Elder and good buff targets, otherwise go for Zed.

Against a faster deck, look to fight on board early and wrestle for tempo with Byrd, Navori Highwayman, and other early units.


Matchups and Mulligan Guide

Freljord Shadow Isles – Feel The Rush – Very Favorable

Mulligan: ZedGreenglade ElderDeny with one of those

Matchup tips:

  • The first real problems arise when FTR reaches 8 mana and is able to play It That Stares and fight us on the board. Most of the time, the only way they get to it safely is through ramping when we don’t apply enough pressure. To counter that, boost your units to resist 2 damage AoEs (Avalanche / Blighted Ravine) and keep the pressure up.
  • Deny is making it almost impossible for the opponent to play FTR safely, meaning they will usually look to develop units as it feels safer. Take the punish with Will of Ionia or The Maker whenever you can build lots of tempo out of it.
  • There is no need to be extremely aggressive from turn 1, instead, building a very large board with buffed-up units will be much more difficult for the opponent to answer. If they only have Ruination as a possible answer, they open themselves to a devastating Deny.
  • Spreading the buffs usually is a good way to play around Vengeance or freeze effects, as long as your unit can resist the 2 damage AoE, it can already be a problem for FTR.

Freljord Shurima – Thralls – Very Favorable

Mulligan: ZedBuffsThe Maker with Zed already to counter Lissandra, Draklorn Inquisitor, and Taliyah.

Matchup tips:

  • Thralls puts a deadline on our aggression, as we ideally want to punish their rather passive midgame in order to prepare for their thralls opening up. We have to be aggressive to slow them down.
  • Sands of Time is the big card for the opponent as it allows them to prevent a lot of damage from our attacks. Unless you see a clear punish (e.g. weak board to Avalanche) it usually is a better idea to develop a big unit before your attack if the opponent has 6 mana open.
  • If we get the buffs going and level up Bard, we can grow our board to match the Thralls and take it a bit slower.
  • If you struggle with this matchup, consider using Homecoming to send a landmark back in hand. That said, it shouldn’t be a necessary inclusion.

Demacia Bligewater – Illaoi Demacia – Favorable

Mulligan: Early Curve of buffs – Will of IoniaThe Maker

Matchup tips:

  • This matchup is a fight for the board with 2 decks looking to grow and dominate through stats. Most of the time, the deck that can build the early lead will have initiative for the rest of the match.
  • Being able to send the Tentacles back in the opponent’s hand is what puts us ahead in the matchup. The same goes for Illaoi, which can be countered with The Maker as she is a 1 attack unit before attacking.
  • The opponent is using challengers to dominate the early game, which can be annoying for us, especially for Esmus. It is fine to focus on the buffs to trade efficiently rather than giving good trades for the opponent.
  • Depending on whether Jarvan IV or Lux is the second champion, we want to play the game a bit differently. Jarvan IV makes the opponent more explosive, and able to trade aggressively with Jarvan on turn 6. Lux makes the opponent likelier to accept a longer battle using Lux as a control tool.

Ionia Runeterra – Zed Bard – Even

Mulligan: ZedGreenglade Elder if hand with a lot of units. The Maker with buffs in order to send opponent’s Zed back in hand.

Matchup tips:

  • The mirror is a lot about being the one allowed to attack. If you can’t attack, you cannot force your opponent to use resources outside of what they wish to do. Zed is the easy solution for this, but growing our units also works well.
  • The two breaking points of the matchup are Zed continuously attacking on 1 side and not the other, or being able to stick a leveled Bard and growing in stats when the opponent doesn’t. Being able to do one of those things will lead to exhausting your opponent of his defensive tools as you can attack while he can’t.
  • The spells interactions are really important in the mirror match. Nopeify doesn’t do much as there are no cheap spells in the deck. But Deny is very important against Will of Ionia as the spell usually is the last resort to dealing with a unit.
  • Elusive Units can be a key to victory as they allow you to push for health if you lost the boosting battle early on. If your hand isn’t good enough to create multiple threats, play all your units and only keep elusives in hand to guarantee they get buffed by the Chimes.

Noxus Runeterra – Annie Jhin – Unfavorable

Mulligan: Buffs – Navori HighwaymanZedTasty FaefolkSpirit’s Refuge.

Matchup tips:

  • The more healing we run and the easier this matchup becomes. Prioritize Tasty Faefolk over Spirit’s Refuge as it can receive buffs and last longer in time. This healing allows us to focus on the board and use our health as a resource, knowing we can get it back later on.
  • If we manage to curve, it is quite easy to match what our opponent can do and heal back later. The big problem is the multiple stuns (Arachnoid Sentry, The Stagehand) our opponent is running that can disrupt our progression.
  • Our recall kit isn’t very mana efficient against the opponent’s low-cost units most of the time. Look to dominate the board first and then use the recall to navigate the end game and push for lethal.
  • Navori Highwayman receiving simply one buff can help us block very efficiently in the early game and buy some time to set up our other win conditions like Zed or Tasty Faefolk.

Demacia Bligewater – Scouts – Very unfavorable

Mulligan : Buffs – ZedTwin Discipline. Look to quickly highroll the buffs.

Matchup tips:

  • Scouts develops the board faster than us and uses challengers and MF passive ability to dominate the trades. We do not want to play fair against scouts and should use our buffs to cheat out stats and turn things around.
  • We can’t really focus on simply developing the board in this matchup, and being able to figure out what our opponent is up to will play a key role in being able to stick our units to the board.
  • The end goal for us is to dominate the board thanks to our buffed-up units, which usually means finding a way to play Bard safely and keep him on board leveled. Making some sacrifices along the way is a necessary evil.
  • With no challengers or hard removal on our side, MF can quickly be a nightmare. The way we can remove her is to pressure enough to force a block or recall her before she levels up.

Closing Words

I am yet not sold on where to put Bard Zed in the current metagame. The deck is really good at what it does, it might even be the best at pressuring the opponent consistently for a lot of turns. In a way, the deck could be reminiscent of Scouts in the way it tries to dominate on the board and constantly force the opponent to be answering or take a risk at developing their board, opening themselves for a big punish.

On the other end, the deck also has a clear weakness, which is decks capable of setting the board faster than it, forcing some immediate answers and limiting how we can build up our synergies.

Ionia is a good, flexible region in my mind, capable of adapting to the metagame with the exception of handling early well stated units outside of high rolling the Chimes. But because decks like Feel the Rush or Noxus Piltover exist, Ionia can benefit from a passive protection to potentially super aggressive decks and finds a way to be sustainable with Tasty Faefolk and Spirit’s Refuge.

All in all, Zed Bard is well-positioned currently, and my climb to masters using the deck was pretty smooth overall. I would be careful about potential changes in the metagame, opening the door to counter decks coming back. Until then, feel free to abuse the deck and spend some time learning its intricacies, I can guarantee you it is worth it.

As usual, if you would have any questions about the deck, feel free to find me on our Community Discord or on Twitter. Until then, I hope you are having a good time on the game and enjoying the new content!

Good Game Everyone!

den
den

Den has been in love with strategy games for as long as he can remember, starting with the Heroes of Might and Magic series as a kid. Card games came around the middle school - Yugioh and then Magic. Hearthstone has been his real breakthrough and he has been a coach, writer, and caster on the French scene for many years now. Although it took him a bit to get into Legends or Runeterra, his EU Seasonal Tournament win was the perfect start to get involved in the community. He now coaches aspiring pro players and writes various articles on the game. Find him on Twitter at @den_CCG!

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