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LoR Competitive Week in Review for 8/23 - 8/29

The first Legends of Runeterra World Championship kicks off in just a few days. If the ladder has felt a little harsher than it has on set releases in seasons past, and this is probably why (this goes double for Europe who has players grinding to qualify for the next iteration of EU Masters). But over the weekend, a lot of players took a break from the ladder to try out their new decks and old favorites in a tournament setting. We’re going to be looking at 2 events that took place from the release of Beyond the Bandlewood until now - GGToor x Sqweeby x Duckling $500 Runeterra Showdown #2, and the Online League Series #31. I’ll be skipping over Giant Slayer’s BR & EU Fight Night, as I have a lot to say regarding how the standard 3 deck format shook out. If you’re chomping at the bit to just consume as many decklists as possible, the link to both events lists can be found right here. Spoiler alert: it was a lot of Draven/Sion.

Usually I like to take things chronologically, but I want to start with our open events this time around. I’ve combined the Top 8 from Runeterra Showdown and the OLS, giving us 48 decks to look at.

8 Sivir Demacia

7 Draven / Sion

3 Fizz / Nami P&Z

3 Zoe / Nami

2 Darkness Control

2 Spooky Viego

2 Ziggs Noxus Burn (1 Darius + 1 Sivir)

2 Yordles (1 Ionia + 1 Demacia)

2 Lee Sin

2 Azir / Irelia

1 Ez Karma

1 Frostbite Midrange

1 Ziggs / Taliyah / Malphite

1 Draven / Riven Burn

1 Pirates

1 Star Spring

1 Go Hard

1 Lurk

1 Anivia

1 Discard Aggro

1 Scouts

1 Spiders

The grand finals of the OLS saw Pachuki (Nami/Zoe / Ez Karma / Frostbite Midrange) defeat Kochua (Lulu/Zed / Sivir Demacia / Draven/Sion). Over at the Runeterra Showdown, it was ZacharyCooper (Lee Sin / Anivia / Spooky Viego) taking down Seasonal runner-up Iannogueira (Go Hard / Draven/Sion / Fizz/Nami). There’s a lot to dissect here, so let's jump straight into it.

The first thing I want to talk about is Draven/Sion, the breakout deck of the new expansion. It was the first deck to hit Masters on 3 servers, and everyone knew it was going to be one of the most represented decks coming into the weekend. There are a few different approaches you can take to handling Sion specifically, as a lot of the deck's power is tied into this heavy hitter. Pachuki came with a strategy to actually target the Sion deck out of the lineup, and we saw it work out beautifully in the finals of the OLS. Frostbite Midrange took a pretty long hiatus from the competitive circuit while Sivir roamed free, but I got to witness firsthand its potential to thrive with Sion’s popularity. It’s pretty obvious that frostbiting a Sion is a really good way to not take 10 to the dome while also not having to deal with Sion Returned. After all, Brittle Steel hits nearly every unit in the deck while also playing around Survival Skills. Pair this with Ez Karma, who has great removal for the smaller units, while having Sion answer in Palm and Will of Ionia. Or Nami/Zoe, who can utilize Sparklfly to laugh off a Sion hit, and you have a recipe for success. It was a bold call out to target a new deck in the opening week, but the Sion lists probably aren’t going to undergo too many changes in the next week, and something similar could make a huge splash at the qualifiers. That said, it is important to keep in mind that Draven/Sion was the only deck to make the finals of both events and its power is not to be underestimated. 

The second thing I want to talk about is ZacharyCooper’s lineup. It’s pretty common knowledge that when a new set comes out, aggro thrives while control suffers. This is mostly because an unrefined aggro deck is better than an unrefined control deck, so Zach decided to run back some already refined control lists. When Minimorph and Aloof Travelers were spoiled, there was a lot of concern about how they would impact the decks Zach brought. Lee Sin is the most expensive card in his respective deck and also susceptible to Minimorph. Anivia is another deck severely hampered by the card, and a well-timed Aloof Travelers hitting a Ruination or Harrowing can give a lot of steam over to that player. That said, these cards haven’t really found a pairing in the opening weekend. Darkness Control is the only widespread deck running Minimorph, and I think I just mentioned something about the performance of unrefined control decks. It was a great lineup and strategy for the opening weekend, but as Minimorph decks get refined I’m curious how much staying power the strategies have. It’s important to keep these cards in mind especially as new ones get released - play rate does not equal power level, if you’ll all remember how few decks played Ruin Runner in the early days of Shurima.

What I want to talk about next is what was absent from the top 8 of either event. There were a few new decks that didn’t perform up to community expectations, namely Caitlyn and Bandle Tree. Personally, I give both of these decks a pass - traps are a very complicated archetype to figure out that require precise deck building, and very well may not be ready by the qualifying stage. As for Bandle Tree, the deck is harder to build than Star Spring. The two obviously share the similarity of having a landmark based alternate win condition, but Star Spring came out as a pseudo pre-built archetype, and then never changed. This is the Star Spring list from the Runeterra Showdown top 8, and this is Helpless Victims’ Star Spring list from the Monuments of Power Seasonal in December of last year. Bandle Tree is a lot less straightforward, and again, may not be figured out by the qualifier. While both decks are certainly powerful enough to get you by on ladder, the RNG aspects inherently tied within them as well as the complexity in the deck building stage understandably makes them unappealing options for high stakes events.

Now, I want to talk about old decks that are absent from the top 8 of either event: Draven/Ezreal and Sivir Ionia. I know that for the most part players have come to find the Demacia version of the deck more appealing, but it does surprise me that no one still wants Ghost/Flurry of Fists a Sivir for lethal. My initial guess is the high presence of elusives organically within the meta makes the combo too hard to pull off. Looking at the 3 most popular decks from the weekend, each one has an answer. Sivir Demacia of course plays Sharpsight, and the 6 Nami decks all revolve around elusive win conditions. Even Draven/Sion is playing at least 2 copies of Poro Cannon, and while a 0 mana discard outlet is the primary focus, it does also give them 2 handy Daring Poros. As for Ezreal/Draven, I’m a little perplexed on it’s absence. The deck is currently undergoing a minor facelift, with players experimenting with Draven/Caitlyn and even Ezreal/Caitlyn within the deck's shell. But regardless of which version you chose to go for, it feels like it’s all similar enough to the normal Draven/Ezreal we all know and love. You have a pseudo Sion answer in Arachnoid Sentry, but perhaps that isn’t enough? I could sit here and ponder many such questions, so I’ll wrap it up with this; the lack of Draven/Ezreal (or a Caitlyn variant) in the top cut this weekend is not indicative of the deck being absent from the tournament meta, and after being the most consistent deck across all 5 seasonals, I would be very surprised if it didn’t send anyone through to the Playoffs stage of the World Championship.

And those are all my major points! It’s important to remember that the entire picture is not laid out by the results of 2 grassroots tournaments, but if you’re preparing to watch the qualifying rounds rather than play in them this should give you a very solid foundation of what you can expect the Americas top talents to be bringing. There’s always room for new decks to pop up between now and then, and for us that’s one of the most exciting parts. I want to wish good luck to all of the competitors this weekend, and be sure to stay tuned next week for a wrap up of the qualifying rounds!

Tagged: esports
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