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LoR Shadows of the Sands (Part 11) - Building out an archetype

An archetype in any game is just as viable as it's lowest costing cards. That's something I've known for a long time, but a philosophy I'm revisiting as I try to build out these archetypes into playable decks for testing purposes. As such, the actual testing has taken a small pause, apart from getting some initial results I'll talk about later addressing clear early problems.

So why do the lowest costing cards create the archetype?

There are two different reasons, really. For one, it sets up the early game and fills out what you want to be doing early on. Most archetypes have to build on themselves in some way, and as such appreciate some sort of early game to get it going. Probably one of the best examples I can show of this is Elise-Kalista Spiders (image courtesy of Mobalytics and courtesy of EG Swim and TL Alanzq for the written article):

This deck looks to make use of tons of early units for two purposes - to pressure the opponent early on and set the tempo of the game and two set up for They Who Endure.

It's easy enough to understand why early creatures are important for early tempo. But this deck also shows why early creatures are important for a win-con strategy. They Who Endure provides a good way out for this deck and reliable way to win. Because of all the creatures being summoned, They Who Endure is often at 10+ power even if it slams onto the board on turn 7. Combine that with the card called Atrocity, which sacrifices it to deal it's damage to any target, and you can send that 10+ damage straight to the enemy Nexus.

Secondly, low cost cards are curve fillers that allow the deck to make the most use of their mana without wasting any that they would prefer not to waste. There are a few examples of this I can think of fairly clearly. Look at one of the top decks in Ezreal-Twisted Fate combo:

This deck is dependent and full of multiple different synergies to fill out the archetype. It's, largely, a synergy dependent deck, as all the synergies feed into their eventual wincon of out-valuing with Twisted Fate or comboing with Ezreal.

One prime example for this is the seemingly innocuous Warning Shot. As seen on the left, all it does is do 1 damage to the enemy Nexus. This card has two primary functions in this deck. Primary function one is that it triggers Pilfer effects, which are effects that units have when they come into play that only trigger if the enemy Nexus has taken damage from you this turn. Warning Shot is by far the easiest way to trigger this.

Secondly, this card works late game with both Ezreal and Twisted Fate once they have leveled up. When this is played, a leveled up Ezreal will shoot the enemy Nexus for an additional 2 damage or a leveled up Twisted Fate will play one of his random Wild Cards.

And this card is that important while just sitting at a measly 0 mana. This deck is full of other examples of this, but the point that I am making is that this allows for early triggers of Plundering and late game value at any time thanks to its non-existent cost.

I bring this all up partially for my own recollection and understanding and part to show my thought process as to why low cost cards are important.

And why do I bring this up?

Because these cards are the cards I'm missing!

I have the big, splashy cards. They're some of the cards people would like to see during spoiler season and gawk at for how impressive they are! However, in Shurima, I was yet to make meaningful early units when their ENTIRE deal is board presence. And what kind of board presence am I looking to establish without any 1 or 2 cost units or spells?

And so, because of this, deck building has taken a small pause. I don't want to fill these decks up with early units already existing - I want to show what these new cards have to show early on in the game as well. And so, I'm working on designing a bunch of low-cost cards to put throughout these decks to really fill them out and make any of these archetypes actually viable.

So, let's take a look at them!

First of all, when creating curve-fillers and game-starters, it's best to start at the 0-2 mana range in my opinion. And so, I started at the classic 1-drop.

Many archetypes present in the game have some sort of 1-drop to match their archetype, and I didn't want to make Azir / Xerath spell-based decks an exception to this. With the push towards board control in Shurima, I wanted to ensure that this card centralized around board control. And, simply put, a 1-cost minion that has above vanilla stats will fill that roll, it being routinely able to trade with 2-drops even.

Also when making this card, I wanted to ensure I wasn't making a minion that could just be slammed into a hyper-aggressive deck. And so, I gave it a base-line stat of a 0/2, making it so that on turn 1, you're not looking to jam this into the opponent's Nexus for 3 damage right off the bat, unless you have a 0 mana spell, that is. And even if you do have that 0-mana spell, then that means you're in the direction of the Plunder archetype most likely to play Warning Shot card I showed earlier, further solidifying this card as a card meant for synergies and to fill archetypes. And, meanwhile, I decided on the 2 health because I want to keep Shurima minions aggressively stated, and having a higher attack than health helps follow that line.

I also wanted to make a curve-filler for sure that isn't just meant to be played early game. This is a deck meant to reward Azir and Xerath style decks that enjoy slinging spells.

While Azir decks want to hold spells in their hand to ensure they can play a spell every turn, Xerath decks more appreciate spamming out spells in your hand as much as possible. Regardless, both enjoy the extra board control this can provide, especially since Azir summons more Sand Soldiers which can challenge more enemy units, lining them up nicely for Piercing. And thus, this card is able to bridge both their archetypes.

Though, of course, I also wanted to ensure I made a card that could work in other archetypes as well. Ionia and P&Z also appreciate these sorts of cards, since both have some decks that enjoy casting multiple spells per turn. While Ionia will enjoy this for their control-heavy archetypes as an extra piece of removal, P&Z would largely appreciate this to clear the way to continue aggressing and swinging through. And thus, this fits differently into different archetypes.

Regardless of the deck, though, I wanted it to settle around a power level where you'd be more inclined to run 2 of it in a deck. That tends to be about the number you run in a deck where you definitely want to draw it, however drawing multiples at the same time isn't desirable due to diminishing returns.

Next, I wanted to design something for the poison archetype. Until now, I had designed some poisonous cards in Shurima that sat around mid to late game. And, that is most likely not where the deck wants to be. The deck likely wants to turbo a Cassiopeia level up, which will require low-cost an efficient ways to poison things. And so, having a curve-filler at 2 mana allows them to more easily set up poisons early on.

And, of course, the fact that this curves right into Cassiopeia the following turn is not an accident. If you're attacking on odd turns, this further allows you to really capitalize on starting the poison going early.

Lastly, I wanted a more generically good 1-drop unit. Nashramae Battlemaster is best scene in Aatrox and Rek'sai builds, which enjoy having enemy units be destroyed. However, any board control deck even without those champions will still appreciate an efficient and fairly bulky 1-drop to help establish board dominance early on.

The reason I wanted to make a more generically good 1-drop is because I want Shurima to have a card that provides good utility for a large swath of different archetypes. In LoR, this is best scene through cards such as Omen Hawk and Jagged Butcher, who see use in a wide range of decks for their pure strength and to help decks with the addition of something to do with their early turns. And I want this to function similarly.

And lastly, there were some changes I made that I mentioned earlier. In early testing, there was one thing clear that was brought to my attention, and that was that Kayn was by far the easiest to break.

Shadowstep was the main problem. Prior to this, it removed any ally attacker from combat to hit the enemy Nexus. Remember that card They Who Endure that I showed near the top when talking about archetypes? Yeah, cards like that completely break Shadowstep, so I had to tone it down quite a lot. But... Whose to say that shouldn't be a potential combo? So, I made some edits. Kayn makes Shadowstep, which only helps him become... Well... More elusive than even Elusive units, since not even they can block him, which I believe fits his ability in League to go through areas nobody else can walk through.

However, when leveled up, you get access to such a combo in Empowered Shadowstep, which does what it did before but at 1 more mana. This allows that sort of deck to still function if somebody chose to take it that direction without just creating a very breakable combo right off the bat. And, in my opinion, a combo is fine as long as you have to work for it, especially when that combo is having to level up a champion.

I wanted to add some support to each Shuriman archetype to start off with to ensure that there was good design space for early cards. For next week, however, I'm going to focus on one, and that will be the first deck I'm building for testing - A Shurima-Noxus deck featuring Kayn and Rhaast!

Anyways, that's all for this weeks updates! I know the last few updates haven't been as exciting and that's looking to change now! Thank you again everybody and stay safe out there!

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