6 Decks to Counter Zed Poppy – Patch 2.18

Another week, another big shift in the meta - time to go hate on Rally Elusives!

Hey, Agigas here!

At the start of this season, Zed Poppy wasn’t very popular. However, thanks to a great matchup against Dragons, and then another great matchup against Lurk, the deck showed impressive performances and caught the eye of the player base.

Over the last 3 days, Zed Poppy has overthrown Lurk as the most played deck in Plat+ with a 9.13% play rate and also boasts the highest win rate of all meta decks with a 55.0% win rate. The deck has really impressed players – it has extremely few meta counters, and its fast and consistent game plan makes it an excellent deck to climb with.

However, while the current meta isn’t great at targeting Zed Poppy, the deck is clearly not exempt from counters. With such a high play rate, now is the perfect time to play some anti-Zed Poppy decks!

Let me share with you some of the best options out there. I’ll start with the most well-known and popular ones then progressively get into more niche options.

All stats are plat+ from lor-meta.

  • Win rate against Zed Poppy: 57.1%

Gangplank TF Bandle is an aggressive midrange archetype, looking to rapidly flood the board and consistently deal face damage. While the deck is able to kill the opponent quickly with aggressive early units and burn spells, it also has impressive midrange capabilities. Gangplank TF does a lot of value, has a strong mid-game power spike with Gangplank, and plays good removals alongside Kegs.

Gangplank TF has been underplayed since the nerf to Tenor of Terror and Stonestackers. However, it has proven to still be one of the most powerful decks in the meta with a high win rate on the ladder.

How to play against Zed Poppy:

  • Mulligan for your 1 and 2-cost units. You want to pressure them fast, and force them to block with their Elusives. If you already have a good early hand, you should also keep Monster Harpoon and Make it Rain. Keep Twisted Fate if you have Dreadway Deckhand.
  • Depending on your hand, there are several ways you can approach this matchup:
    • With Dreadway Deckhand and Twisted Fate or Make it Rain, and maybe a Monster Harpoon, you should be able to deal with their threats with removals.
    • With less removals and more threats in hand, you want to play as the aggressor. They can’t afford to take too much damage because of your burn reach. If you can force them to block with their Elusive units you will be in a great spot.
    • No matter the role your hand pushes you into, look to get consistent Plunder triggers to progress toward your Gangplank level up. Their is nothing they can do about a level 2 Gangplank, so he will often win you the game on the spot when you level him up early enough.
  • Ideally, you want to have a keg on board when you use TF’s Red Card or Make it Rain. Not only it will help kill 2-health units, but it will also prevent them from entirely negating the effect with a Ranger’s Resolve.
  • In general, you want to develop before attacking against them. Most of their units don’t want to block. Their punishes for not open-attacking are Brightsteel Protector and Golden Aegis, but you’ll be happy to force them out as early defenses instead of combo tools.

Teemo Swain created by Agigas • last updated 2 years ago
  • Win rate against Zed Poppy: 61.9%

Teemo Swain is a new archetype that emerged recently alongside Riven Swain as a way to combine to powerful Bandle City midrange package with Swain. The deck performs extremely well on the ladder in the current Zed Poppy meta and is featured on our Tier List as a Tier 1 Dark Horse – don’t sleep on it!

With early chump blockers and cost-efficient removals, Teemo Swain survives the early game all the while creating cards and setting up Swain. Teemo, Poison Dart, and Lecturing Yordle put shrooms in the opponent’s deck, which synergize well with Swain.

Swain is the main win condition of the deck, and will quickly close out games thanks to the numerous cards that can trigger his stun effect. The Leviathan completes that win condition by tutoring Swain and stunning the opponent’s board when both are on board, all the while pushing a considerable amount of burn damage.

How to play against Zed Poppy:

  • Mulligan for Teemo, Poison Dart. Keep Ravenous Flock if you have a damage spell or Arachnoid Sentry. Keep Lecturing Yordle if you have a good hand.
  • Zed Poppy struggles against your numerous 1-damage spells – Sharpsight, Nopeify, and Twin Disciplines all are a large investment, leaving them with only Ranger’s Resolve as a somewhat good answer. Therefore, you can rapidly clean their board thanks to Poison Darts and Lecturing Yordle’s Poison Darts.
  • Ravenous Flock is particularly good at finishing a unit after they try to protect it from a removal with a combat trick.
  • With your numerous cost-efficient removal, you can make it very hard for them to stick a threat. Zed is their most reliable threat thanks to his 2 health points and quick pressure.
  • If possible, look to use removals during your turn, so if they protect their unit with Sharpsight it doesn’t also help them push more damage.
  • They don’t have an answer to Swain or Leviathan – if you can resist their aggression, the game will be easy to close. Be careful though to not commit all your mana on a Leviathan play when they could use that turn to Rally and kill you, unless you have to.
  • You don’t even always need to find your finishing tools, as a duo of Lecturing Yordle can sometime snowball games on their own.

Glorious Shellfolk created by Agigas • last updated 2 years ago
  • Win rate against Zed Poppy: 59.2%

Glorious Shellfolk was a deck built by Eniamor, one of the most renowned players of Shellfolk. This take on the archetype looks to cast Glorious Evolution to transform every single unit into a massive threat rapidly and close out games with Daring Poros or Ambush.

With the powerful midrange units from Bandle City, and Vi and removals from Piltover and Zaun, the deck is able to survive the early game and slow down the opponent to get enough time to play Glorious Evolution. Curious Shellfolk is there as a powerful value and tempo engine, and the deck won’t run out of things to do as long as it sticks on the board.

While the deck might look really weird at a first look, and doesn’t have the most amazing stats on the ladder, it is actually a pretty decent archetype to climb with once you learn to play it correctly. Plus, it is one of the most degenerate, fun, and quirky decks to play in my opinion. If you’re interested in learning more about it, feel free to take a look at Random7’s Deck of the Day article.

How to play against Zed Poppy:

  • Mulligan for Thermogenic Beam, Mystic Shot, Sump Fumes, Otterpus, Conchologist, Poro Cannon.
  • Use your removals and blockers to slow them down in the early game. If you can prevent them from rushing you down, you will have no trouble finishing the game as they don’t have any counter play to your combo finish nor removals for Curious Shellfolk.
  • Use Poro Cannon’s Daring Poros to block high-attack Elusive units, and/or get good trades with Greenglade Duo or Shadow Assassin.
  • Glorious Evolution might seem like a large mana commitment, but you can rebuild a board in the very same turn thanks to 1-mana units such as Daring Poros, Otterpus, and Trinket Trade. Look to cast it early to reduce the cost of your cards, start creating threats, and force them to block. However, be careful to not play it when it woud cost you too much tempo and would give them a window to kill you.

  • Win rate against Zed Poppy: 74.3%

Ezreal Twisted Fate was a popular archetype a few seasons ago but disappeared because of nerfs and meta evolutions. Since then however the previous nerf to Make it Rain got reverted, making the deck an interesting option once again.

Ezreal Twisted Fate’s game plan is to control the pace of the game thanks to the very cost-efficient removals from Bilgewater and Piltover & Zaun. The deck quickly levels up Ezreal, which alongside Riptide Rex and burn damage are the finishing tools of the deck all the while keeping control of the board.

While Ezreal Twisted Fate suffers against other midrange decks and control decks because its power plays aren’t as impressive as theirs, it does perform well against board-centric strategies with fragile units thanks to its numerous cheap removals.

How to play against Zed Poppy:

  • Mulligan for Jagged Butcher, Dreadway Deckhand, Thermogenic Beam, Make it Rain, Mystic Shot, and Monster Harpoon. Keep Twisted Fate if you have Dreadway Deckhand.
  • In this matchup, you want to win the game by making Zed Poppy run out of threats. You have tons of high-quality removals, and once you took control over the board, you can easily close out games with Ezreal, Riptide Rex, burn, and your own board.
  • Look to force their Ranger’s Resolve out with Mystic Shot or Thermogenic Beam. You don’t want a Ranger’s Resolve to counter a Make it Rain or a TF’s Red Card. You can also use a keg to prevent Ranger’s Resolve to negate the damage.
  • While you are overall not playing as the aggressor, you should still look to push as much damage as you can. The opponent cannot afford to lose too much health because of your burn spells – forcing them to block with their Elusive units will make the game that much easier.
  • In general, look to develop before attacking as they don’t have a lot of defensive tools – only Brightsteel Protector and Golden Aegis, which you’ll be happy to force on defense instead of combos.

Swain TF created by Agigas • last updated 2 years ago
  • Win rate against Zed Poppy: 70.8%

Swain TF is an archetype with a similar playstyle to Ezreal TF, featuring the strong Noxus removals and the Swain win condition instead of Piltover & Zaun and Ezreal. This archetype is quite old and stood the test of time very nicely as it was still regularly played up until last season, but it is progressively starting to suffer difficult matchups against more powerful midrange and control decks.

Against board-centric strategies with fragile units, however, the deck is still just as good as in its glory days and will have no trouble against Zed Poppy. While Teemo Swain is looking better right now on the ladder overall, if your main goal is to specifically target Zed Poppy then Swain TF still seems to be the superior Swain archetype thanks to the combination of Kegs, Make it Rain, and Twisted Fate.

How to play against Zed Poppy:

  • Mulligan for Crusty Coadger, Dreadway Deckhand, Arachnoid Sentry, Ravenous Flock, Make it Rain, Twisted fate. Keep Monster Harpoon if you have a good hand.
  • In this matchup, you will play as the control deck. You want as many removals as possible to keep killing the opponent’s key threat through the combat tricks, and starve them out of ressources. Their Rallies and buffs will then stack in their end, with no good targets to use them on.
  • Arachnoid Sentry is a key unit to slow down their aggression, and combines particularly well with Ravenous Flock.
  • They don’t have any counter play to Swain, making it quite easy to kill them. Swain will even force them to block, making it harder for them to focus on their aggressive game plan.
  • Be careful with Leviathan – this is a very high-cost play which doesn’t have a significant immediate effect. You don’t want to give the opponent the opportunity to Rally and kill you when you play it. However, you should also recognise when you don’t have another choice than playing it.

  • Win rate against Zed Poppy: 60.2%

You know Zed Poppy is a powerful deck when among its greatest counters there is a version of itself teched for the mirror! Lulu Poppy, compared to Zed Poppy, removes some of the aggressive powerful stand-alone cards to rely more on synergies and board domination.

Just like Zed Poppy, the deck’s game plan is to create an important board pressure with on-attack effects, back up its key units with combat tricks, and rally to accelerate the game. However, it replaces Zed for Lulu, leading to more ongoing synergies thanks to her support ability, and adds 3 copies of Laurent Protege.

With those changes, Lulu Poppy loses some power against control decks because its units are weaker when the opponent prevents you from setting up synergies. However, it is better in board-centric matchups, and the synergies with the Challenger units will allow you to dominate the board against Zed Poppy.

How to play against Zed Poppy:

  • Mulligan for Fleetfeather Tracker or Laurent Protege. Keep Young Witch, Brighsteel Protector, Young Witch if you have Fleetfeather Tracker. Keep Twin Disciplines if you have a good early hand.
  • Your early gameplan is to set up synergies and start snowballing the board. Fleetfeather Tracker is a key card in that goal – don’t trade it in a 1-for-1 trade! It synergy with Lulu, Brightsteel Protector, and Young Witch will enable you to take 1-for-0 trades and tear appart the opponent’s board.
  • Look to backup your synergies with combat tricks so the opponent can’t upset a good trade with his own tricks. Twin Disciplines is the strongest trick in this matchup, and Sharsight is better when used to block Elusive units.
  • Your Rallies do not only serve as finishing tools, but also as control spells when you have Challenger units and synergies on board.
  • In this matchup, Brightsteel Protector and Golden Aegis are particularly good to use on the opponent’s attack turn to prevent them from attacking.

Honorable Mentions

In the list above, we featured a lot of spicy and narrow options, as there are very few hard counters to Zed Poppy among the current meta decks.

However, a few meta decks are slightly favored against Zed Poppy and have an overall great win rate on the ladder. I want to give a mention to those decks, as they are great to climb with thanks to their overall strong power level alongside their ability to beat Zed Poppy more often than not.

  • Draven Sion: 52.3% win rate against Zed Poppy

Draven Sion has dominated the last season, and while the deck is no longer alone at the top since its nerf, it is still sitting comfortably at a Tier 1 spot.

Zed Poppy doesn’t like to block, making it quite easy to push large amounts of damage with a solid early draw and finish them with burn spells. With its strong removals, Draven Sion is also able to slow the game down to reach turn 7 and play Sion, which Zed Poppy has no way to deal with.

For more details about the deck, feel free to check out my updated Draven Sion deck guide, where I cover the matchup.

  • Yordle Burn: 53.6% win rate against Zed Poppy

Yordle Burn was, like Sion, one of the meta kings last season, but also got hit by the nerfs. The deck was able to adapt by replacing Tenor of Terror with Lecturing Yordle and is still among the strongest decks of the meta.

While Yordle Burn’s board synergies pale in comparison to Zed Poppy’s, the deck shines thanks to its massive burn reach. Zed Poppy doesn’t have many defensive tools, doesn’t want to block, and doesn’t have any healing, making it hard for them to resist Yordle Burn’s aggression.

  • Scout: 55% win rate against Zed Poppy

Scout has been a forgotten archetype for quite some time, but has been making a small resurgence lately and currently shows up in our Tier list as a Tier 1 Dark Horse.

Miss Fortune is the key card of the deck, and single-handedly wins games when not removed. Zed Poppy doesn’t play any removals, making it hard for them to kill her. Moreover, Scouts plays a handful of challenger units to synergize with Miss Fortune, making it hard for Zed Poppy to stick key units.

Scout has been performing great on the ladder this season, and you’ll rarely be unhappy about facing Zed Poppy. If you’re interested to learn more about this archetype, feel free to look at this Deck of the Day article.

Closing Words

While Zed Poppy is without a doubt a great deck and is quite hard to counter, we can see that there exist quite a few ways to beat it, going from great meta decks to more specialized options.

Unlike Dragons and Lurk, which were the 2 previous most played decks this season but didn’t last for long, I don’t expect Zed Poppy to see a major downfall soon – even though Teemo Swain’s numbers are rising. The deck has tons of great matchups, not many truly bad ones, and is very deserving of its Tier 1 status.

If you have any questions, feedback, or want to discuss those balance changes, I’ll be happy to read and answer you in the comments below! 

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Thanks for reading!


LoR player with multiple tournament wins and #4 ladder peaks. Ascended Seasonal top 4. I love writing guides to share my experience with the game with the community!

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