Zoe Vi Aka ‘Rubin’s Pile’ Deck Guide
Here’s a conundrum: should a deck’s original creator get the credit for it? Common sense dictates that yes, they should. However, figuring out exactly who invented a deck is an arduous process, and it is very likely more than one individual had thought about the archetype and put something together.
But in the case of this deck I’m going to cover today, I don’t have that problem! ‘Rubin’s Pile’ refers to RubinZoo, former MTG pro-player and current game dev for a little game you might have heard about: Legends of Runeterra. He popularized the deck in the community and recently took it to the No.1 spot on the NA ladder.
The deck changed a lot since its inception. It used to include a mix of Zoe, Viktor, and Vi, but the idea is still the same. Rubin’s Pile is literally that: a pile of cards. It usually is a derogatory term for a subpar deck that lacks a crucial element like a cohesive game plan, or a proper win condition.
In the case of Rubin’s Pile, the term is mostly referring to very particular ratios of the list. Decks usually want as many triple copies of all the cards they play as they can for the sake of consistency, so seeing that many 1- and 2-of’s honestly has made me physically uncomfortable sometimes. But it works! Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t the best deck around. It has its issues, and it isn’t close to the Heimerdinger Vi deck of old in terms of pure power, but it still has its good matchups in the current meta and it is fun to play.
The first instinct would be to think we are trying to go all-in on Zoe’s level up, but that is not the case. In the current metagame, leveling Zoe is unlikely considering the removal that gets thrown around. The reason we want as many unique cards as possible is for the real champion of this deck. Not Zoe, not Vi, but the mighty Subpurrsible!
The name of the game is value. From start to finish, we will be looking to generate power with our Invokes, using generated cards such as Gems or Ignition to fuel Spacey Sketcher or Sump Dredger, and generally looking for good trades and efficient removal in the early game. Vi often can trade favorably, granting us an additional edge once she comes down in the midgame. By the time turn 8 or 9 rolls around, Subpurrsible should be powered up, and Starshaping can also serve as an alternate win condition.
A 5-cost 5/5 Elusive that draws you a card is completely nuts, but that power is obviously gated by its condition which forces a rather heavy deck-building cost on us. Funnily enough, Piltover & Zaun has a lot of card creation to go with Subpurrsible, (Trail of Evidence, Calculated Creations, Back Alley Barkeep, etc.), but almost none of them see play, and for the purpose of this deck we rely almost entirely on Invokes instead which provide much greater value.
Vi is not a game-winner. Rarely does she level up, and she can be somewhat clunky when going into combat. Her high attack means she usually is the most powerful unit on board, but her Challenger incentivizes her to kill opposing units as opposed to hitting the Nexus. What she does really well is forcing favorable trades to guarantee card advantage, or dealing with back row value engines. A turn 5 Vi can deal with any number of problematic units, like Thresh, Azir, Trundle, Inspiring Marshal… The list goes on. She is normally weak to Hush, but Targon has not been present enough in the meta for it to be a major problem.
Out of close to a hundred games, I have seen Zoe level up exactly three times. The meta is simply not conducive for her that way. With all sorts of removal running around like Vile Feast, Mystic Shot, Ice Shard, Avalanche, Culling Strike, Single Combat, and a wealth of Challenger units, it’s best to forget about flipping her. It’s great if she levels really, but don’t be sad if she doesn’t. Zoe has done her job if she provided us with a single Supercool Starchart, as will advance our Subpurrsible, on top of generating value for us out of thin air. Pretty good for a 1-drop, and every subsequent Superchool Starchat is a cherry on top.
- Win Condition
Rubin’s Pile doesn’t exactly have an all-encompassing win condition. Generally, the game will end up because we’ve wrestled board control, ran the opponent out of value, or used Subpurrsible or Starshaping to go over the enemy board. Where we gain in flexibility, we lose in inevitability compared to decks like Lissandra Trundle Control. It is important to identify the relevant win condition as we enter the midgame in order to seize the opportunity when it presents itself.
The decklist above is my own, and it’s important to understand that there is a lot of room in the deck for changes. Unique cards such as Moonlight Affliction, Sunburst, or Spell Thief are the first ones you should look at cutting as I added them to deal with the current metagame, as opposed to them being all-around good cards. I have a soft spot for Moonlight Affliction as a “Deluxe” Hush though.
- Understand your role. This is a pillar of card games, and exceptionally important to pilot this deck effectively. Because of the wealth of options you are given, it is important to know whether you are the Beatdown or the Control player, both when you mulligan and throughout the game. Going too fast and running out of resources is a real risk, but so is not going fast enough and losing to a heavier control deck. There is no easy way to break this down, but do try to be aware of your role within a game and learn from it.
- Plan your Subpurrsible turn ahead of time. If Subpurrsible is in your hand by turn 5 or so, you should map out how many unique cards still need to be played in order to power it up and plan your turns accordingly. Sometimes, making suboptimal plays just to power Subpurrsible up for a crucial turn can be the difference between a win and a loss. Also, keep in mind that Subpurrsible will always draw you a card no matter what. You may find yourself in a position where playing a 1/5 Sub is correct simply because there is no way to power it up otherwise, though that situation should be exceedingly rare.
- Balance your discard fodder and your discard outlets. Ballistic Bot and Mountain Goat are our primary sources of discard fodder. It can happen that we get too much of fodder – and nothing to discard it to. It’s important to stay flexible, and sometimes just using the Gem to heal a unit for better trades or to push more damage ends up being the better play. Once again, it comes down to understanding your role in the matchup you’re in.
- Pumping Vi & Ballistic Bots. Note that both Vi and Ballistic Bot grow by 2 attack with the use of a single Gem. Vi also does so with Pale Cascade or Bastion, while Ballistic Bot grows with Supercool Starchart, allowing for a burst speed pump in a pinch.
- No fodder. Sometimes you’re not going to draw any fodder while you have Sump Dredger, Spacey Sketcher, and maybe even a Get Excited! in hand. It sucks, but at that point, you’re better off discarding an actual card to get something useful. It’s always going to be a difficult decision to make, but it’s also a good opportunity to define your game plan. With that knowledge, seeing which card is better to discard should become clear.
- Make proper Starshaping procedure into a habit. Unless you’re specifically in need of the healing (on Nexus or a unit), you want to be casting Starshaping in such a way that the generated Celestial impacts the board in the same turn, or the next. Anything longer than that and you likely would have been better off playing something else. Conversely, don’t be afraid of casting Starshaping even if it heals nothing. In more control heavy match-ups, the healing often doesn’t matter compared to getting an early win condition that can be duplicated with Iterative Improvement.
General Mulligan Tips:
- Sadly, there can’t be too many useful general tips here, because the most important mulligan decisions for this deck are matchup-based (check out the next section for those). The good news is that you will be looking for mostly the same opener from game to game, at least broadly. So my best advice to you is to think about what your opponent’s win condition is against you and mulligan to “counter” it. But in general:
- Against aggro, you hard-mulligan for Spacey Sketcher, Zoe, Ballistic Bot, Mountain Goat, Mystic Shot, and Thermogenic Beam. Don’t keep The Fangs unless you have a 1-drop or 2-drop already in hand.
- Against control, you’re looking for Zoe, Ballistic Bot, Mountain Goat, and Vi. Sump Dredger can be kept as well, and don’t be afraid to play it on-curve for pressure even if it means discarding a real card if you feel like you need to be fast.
- Ideal Curve. The ideal curve for most matchups is going to be 1) Zoe, 2) Ballistic Bot/Mountain Goat, 3) Sump Dredger/Solari Priestess, 4) any of the following: The Fangs, Supercool Starchart, a removal spell, 5) Vi. It obviously isn’t going to happen this way all the time, but you want those tools in the early game if possible as they will kickstart the value train and are universally solid.
Mulligan for: Zoe only if attacking on odds, Spacey Sketcher, Mountain Goat, Vi, Hush.
Because we have Hush, Nasus rarely is a threat. The main lose condition here is that Thresh Nasus goes hard in the early game and kills us quickly, or puts us at 4 health or below so that anything can kill us via Atrocity. So we play as defensively as we can until turn 5 where Vi comes down and can threaten Thresh. By that point, the game becomes a matter of denying them Glimpse Beyond targets, playing around Black Spear, preventing them from going too wide, and setting up lethal with Celestials or Subpurrsible.
Don’t get overconfident, even with Hush in hand. The big blowout play for them is to play Nasus and use Siphoning Strike to level. At this point, even if we have Hush, it won’t stop the Siphoning Strike if we have a 2 health unit. The unit dies, both Thresh and Nasus grow, and we’re down one Hush. Not a place we want to be.
Mulligan for: Zoe, Spacey Sketcher, Mountain Goat, Ballistic Bot, Thermogenic Beam, Mystic Shot. Keep Get Excited! if you have a Mountain Goat or Ballistic Bot.
With our combination of early game board presence and damage-based removal, it is hard for Spiders to push a significant amount of damage through the early game. If turn 5 rolls around and we can drop Vi without them going wide on us, the game is won, and Starshaping can bail us out later on. Don’t pull the trigger too early with your removal, try to bait out Noxian Fervor first whenever you can.
In closer games, at some point around turn 5 or 6, we will have to figure out how many turns are needed to finish off the Spiders player. Taking a risk to go for lethal faster can pay off as otherwise, it would mean waiting out another two turns to attack, which can result in them drawing a sizable amount of burn and finish us off.
Mulligan for: Zoe, Mountain Goat, Ballistic Bot, Sump Dredger, Vi, Hush. Keep Sunburst if you don’t have Hush.
This matchup is actually really straightforward, at least early on. We are the beatdown, so go as hard as you can early on, and don’t underestimate how much damage an early The Trickster could deal over the course of the game. The blowout for us here is that they heavily rely on single big Lifesteal units to survive like Radiant Guardian, or Darkwater Scourge + Mask Mother. Vi can trade favorably into Radiant Guardian, and Hush or Sunburst deal with both. Sometimes going for lethal with The Serpent pulling the Lifesteal unit at the end of combat is enough.
If the game goes longer, we’ll have to rely on our elusive threats, but most importantly we need to keep their board as small as possible. We have the tools to deal with a Spectral Matron +
Mulligan for: Zoe, Ballistic Bot, Mountain Goat, Thermogenic Beam, The Fangs. Keep Get Excited! if you have fodder for it.
Like most aggro matchups, we have some edge against Discard Aggro because of the midrange nature of our deck, but they can still easily swarm us. Keep Thermogenic Beam and Get Excited! specifically to kill Draven or Jinx, and play for tempo in the early game before transitioning into beatdown later on.
Our main win condition is going to be through board control, as there will rarely be time to set up an Elusive threat. Once we’ve passed through the early game hurdle, keep their blowout actions in mind. If they have a big board, be aware of a potential Crowd Favorite, always be prepared for a turbo Jinx level up, and remember they can regain steam with a late Augmented Experimenter.
Mulligan for: Zoe, Mountain Goat, Ballistic Bot, Vi, Thermogenic Beam. Keep double Thermogenic Beam as long as you have at least one early drop.
Draven Ezreal really comes into its own in the midgame when they can field a wide board while efficiently dispatching our blockers either with removal or stuns. Our goal is to pressure them enough in the early game that they have trouble setting that up.
As the game unfolds, we shift to a more value-oriented game plan and attempt to starve them of options through sheer value. It is not that hard considering the amount of card generation we possess, but it can be quite slow, and Draven Ezreal easily preys on that. Be aware of how many removal or stuns they can play, and favor caution by fielding as wide a board as we can.
Mulligan for: Zoe, Ballistic Bot, Mountain Goat, Vi, Thermogenic Beam.
We are the beatdown, but we do not want to trade our units in too early. Dreg Dredgers can prevent our Mountain Goat from attacking, and Sea Scarab is supremely annoying to deal with. The plan is to set up a wide board by turn 5, at which point
Favor taking Falling Comet from Solari Priestess to have a clean answer to Nautilus. When they hit Deep, which should be anytime between turn 6 and 8, it is time to shift to the Elusive win condition. Be aware that The Immortal Fire is a bad choice because Devourer of the Depths can Obliterate it for free. It can be acceptable as long as you have a Mystic Shot available to deny the Devourer.
Mulligan for: Zoe if attacking on odds, Ballistic Bot, Mountain Goat, Sump Dredger, Vi.
We are the obvious beatdown. Ballistic Bot is our best bet for early aggression, and Sump Dredger is solid as well. Vi can also be troublesome for them to deal with if they have not banked the mana for Vengeance on turn 5. For this reason, it is sometimes beneficial to play into certain removal in the early game if it ensures they would not have 7 mana open on turn 5, allowing Vi to do some work.
Always keep in mind what removal they can play with the mana available, and get an idea of what our board state might look like in a turn or two from now. In a meta where Spirit Journey is not a popular tech, storing a bunch of anti-Watcher Invokes can pay off (Equinox, Crescent Strike, Falling Comet), but remember that without Crescent Strike, we might still be dead on board once the 3 or 4 Watchers hit our face for 11 damage each.
Mulligan for: Zoe, Ballistic Bot, Mountain Goat, Solari Priestess, Sump Dredger, Thermogenic Beam.
As a midrange deck, we rely a lot on our trades, and Ashe is excellent at turning bad trades into good ones. Specifically, Vi trades evenly into most of their units which is already bad enough, but a single Frostbite effect can completely destroy us tempo-wise. On top of this, Avarosan Hearthguard makes most of our removal inefficient, and their boards are always beefier than ours, with the added problem that with the exception of Vi our midgame boards are always weak to Reckoning.
Trying to starve them out of options would be a solid win condition if most lists did not play a combination of Trifarian Assessor and Whispered Words, so the best we can do is meet their aggression in the midgame and hold out long enough to set up an Elusive win condition, usually helped by an early The Trickster for some chip damage.
Mulligan for: Zoe, Ballistic Bot, Mountain Goat, Sump Dredger, The Fangs, Thermogenic Beam.
This is bad. Really bad. Zoe can be blocked by Dancing Droplets, and we have no efficient way to deal with Azir. To cap it off, Vi can be bounced efficiently by Homecoming, our removal can be disrupted by their recall spells, and our board might as well be made of paper once Azir levels or Inspiring Marshal hits the board.
So how to win? Mountain Goat granting us Gems and allowing us to repeatedly block Sand Soldiers is useful, and The Fangs are a big hurdle to go through for our opponent if they do not have Shaped Stone. Additionally, Equinox is a solid answer both to Sparring Student and Inspiring Marshal. Most of the time though, by the time Vi comes down on turn 5, our board has already suffered some loss, and they can usually prevent Vi from hitting her target. Best we can do is to try to keep up tempo-wise and hope they cannot deal with Vi later on.
Mulligan for: Zoe, Mountain Goat, Sump Dredger, Solari Priestess, Thermogenic Beam. Specifically do not keep Ballistic bot if you are attacking on odds because their Dragonguard Lieutenant eats it for free.
It doesn’t look like it at first, but this matchup is horrible. They have a great number of tools to prevent us from gaining value. In the early game, their many Challenger units can easily dispatch our Zoe, Ballistic Bot, or Mountain Goat in unfavorable trades. We can handle Shyvana and Screeching Dragon with a Thermogenic Beam or Vi, though they have a great number of ways to deal with Vi specifically. Between Sharpsight, Concerted Strike, and Hush, it is relatively assured that they will be able to keep her down. The rest of our board is just food for Dragons.
One decent answer we have is Equinox to prevent Screeching Dragon from gaining too much value. Yet soon after, they will either ramp into Aurelion Sol, leverage Shyvana’s level-up, or use Eclipse Dragon’s Nightfall effect. The best we can do here is rely on one or two The Trickster, power up Subpurrsible as fast as we can and sneak a win with a big Celestial. The Immortal Fire isn’t great, as it is extremely vulnerable both to Hush and Concerted Strike. Copying The Destroyer or The Great Beyond is our best bet.
Last tip, if Solari Priestess offers a Falling Comet, avoid taking it and prefer a more proactive Celestial. Waiting for Aurelion Sol to drop or dealing with their board is not the way we win, we need to keep our board going with chump blockers while threatening damage with Elusives. I would potentially take a Falling Comet if I needed to deal with a leveled Shyvana, but even that is unlikely to work.
Rubin’s Pile has always been a very interesting deck to me, in part because it brings me back to the good old days of Heimerdinger Vi. It is obviously a very different deck now, but I can’t help but feel fond of it. But is it the best choice considering the current metagame of patch 2.8? No. Hard no.
I would say it is a middling Tier 2 deck considering its lack of easily set up win condition, and the fact that it loses hard to two of the currently most popular decks in Azir Irelia and Dragons is far from ideal. But it has been present in the metagame for several months now, both on the ladder and in tournaments, and I think it definitely deserves its spot.
There is a lot of room for techs in this deck, in fact, a spicy one happened just the other day during Week 1 of the LoR Masters Europe competition where Finland brought Tri-beam Improbulator and Spring Guardian for the win. I’m pretty excited to see how the upcoming patches and future card releases will shape this deck.
That’s it for me, thanks for reading! Feel free to swing by my Twitter or Twitch if you’re looking for some quality misplays, and don’t hesitate to leave a comment, whether you have a question or not. I’ll be waiting with the rest of you in the Patch Notes Waiting Room hoping for Riot to deliver us from the Vast Shuriman Desert™.