A Hotfix Has Come, What Now?
On January 5th, 2023, a hotfix was announced that caught everyone by surprise! The meta was being completely dominated by Vayne Aatrox decks. Will these champions keep showing up even with these changes? Let's check them out.
Back Alley Bar
It cost 6, and now it costs 7 mana.
This card is every Aagro player's nightmare, and it used to create a lot of value by discounting cards in the players' hands, besides creating a 3/3 blocker on board, Back Alley Barkeep. As it costs 7 mana now, Seraphine decks will become even slower. This archetype had already gotten a few nerfs to Seraphine herself and Fanclub President, so, is it possible that with yet another nerf this deck will still be played?
The answer is no, but the list is still considered good. The truth is that most players are sort of fed up with this deck. Even "Sera lovers" are, the Seraphine biggest fans.
Because of Back Alley Bar, many cards end up having their cost set to zero in the player's hand, making it possible to have multiple actions in the same turn, and this way only one player played for a long time, with their opponents just sitting there, watching.
With this nerf, the landmark comes in later, causing this list to be less consistent and need more time to form its combos and finish the match. I believe it will still be a strong deck, specially for tourneys. But for ranked ladder, for sure we will see a fall in the number of Seraphine players.
The Back Alley Bar lists are already stuck with 50% winrate for quite a while in the meta, and with this nerf, the trend is for this percentage to drop even further. Landmark removals such as Aftershock are still very common, and that hinders Bar's lists from finding their combos a lot. This way, Seraphine can disappear from the meta, opening up space for other classic control decks to take over, which we will talk about soon.
Fallen Reckoner and Risen Reckoner
The biggest change is to these cards' health. Now that they have 2 health it is very easy to remove them by using direct removal cards and blockers. Cards that were already popular such as Mystic Shot, Electro Harpoon and Drop The Bomb will get even stronger. And cards such as Keeper of the Box, Conchologist and House Spider can now deal a bit better with all the aggression that these Reckoners dealt.
Reckoners are still being included in Gwen Katarina's archetype, lovingly nicknamed "Red Gwen". I believe this deck will still be played as, even though these cards are important for this archetype to work, there are other cards that are as much or more important for this list to work. Such as, for instance, Katarina herself, Phantom Butler, and Eternal Dancers. This deck was one of the most used decks during the World Championship, and is currently sitting with a 56,67% win rate in ranked ladder!
For sure, it is still worth it to play "Red Gwen", even after the nerfs. Specially because, the greatest strength of Fallen Reckoner is in this card's ability of granting the negative keyword "Can't Block" to the enemy's weakest unit.
The Darkin Aegis
The Darkin Aegis was a 1/1, and is now a 0/1.
This was maybe the best equipment in the game, by far. Now with this change, the Aegis is balanced. Before, the problem was that the follower who equipped this Darkin weapon was very hard to be removed, due to the keyword Tough. When this follower attacked, it almost always won trades, or dealt a lot of damage to the enemy Nexus early on, causing the early game for those who use The Darkin Aegis to be always too consistent and strong.
This card will still be used. Even more so because the purpose of this equipment is to protect its equipped unit, disabling cards such as Make it Rain and Mystic Shot as removals. Also, Joraal, the Darkin in which the Aegis transforms into, is one of the best and cheapest in the game. The combination of the effect of increasing the cost of enemy spells by 2 when attacking, and the challenger keyword, make it one of the best options to neutralize decks which are filled with spells and removals. This way, having 0 attack will not hurt so much decks that use The Darkin Aegis.
World Ender used to cost 13 and now costs 16.
This change was a punch to the stomach for Aatrox archetypes. World Ender has its cost reduced every time an equipped unit strikes. Now with this change, it will be necessary at least three strikes with equipped units so that World Ender is playable, keeping in mind that the maximum mana a player can have in a turn is 13.
Aatrox decks are among the most consistent ones in the game due to this champion's origin effect. And also due to the whole Darkin package which comes with him. Currently, it is the most played list in ranked ladder with a 9,57% play rate, and a whopping 57,43% win rate. You can say it is the best Runeterra deck for those who want to climb the ladder. However, with this drastic change to World Ender, these numbers tend to drop a lot.
Only this card is the deck's greatest finisher. And with World Ender costing 3 mana more, this causes this list to take even longer to find lethals in game. This way, many windows are open so that late game or valor decks can stabilize the board, this way controlling all the pressure that Aatrox built in the earlier turns with his Darkin army.
Even with these heavy changes, for sure we will still see Aatrox being played, the only difference is that it goes from a "strong" deck to a "balanced" deck.
Vayne was a 3/4 at level 1, and 4/5 at level 2. And now she is a 3/3 at level 1, and a 4/4 at level 2.
This change is maybe the most impactful one. Vayne is an essential card to many archetypes. Before, with 4 health points, this champion was rarely removed from the board if she was summoned on curve, causing her Tumble to be discounted and this way growing more and more the snowball effect that this champion started creating since turn 3.
Due to Vayne and Tumble, the champion Rumble started seeing play again. And both together are quite a pair, currently going over 55% win rate. This might be the only deck in which Vayne will still see play, due to its consistency and due to it not needing so many discounts provided by her sticking to the board to be applied to Tumble.
As for other decks such as Vayne Aatrox, and also Vayne Kayn, they have their days numbered. This champion now loses to cards such as Petricite Broadwing, and combinations such as Valor + any equipment. Even more direct removals such as Aftershock and Get Excited!. A Vayne on board as a 3/3 and no keywords represents no threat. And even if you have resources to protect her, it's not worth it to spend mana to save this champion, usually. She has become a Tumble printer, and nothing else.
So What Is Strong Now?
The Answer Is Jinx
This champion was already strong during the Legends of Runeterra's World Championship Patch, and was one of the most banned in the championship. Due to not showing up as much as it was always banned, it flew under the radar of many players. But you can be sure that she is still breaking hearts in the ranked ladder. Both decks that run this champion currently have a 56% or higher win rate in ranked ladder.
Draven Jinx (Discard Aggro)
Jinx will dominate the meta with lists that build super extensive boards, and cards that deal damage directly to the enemy Nexus. These are decks similar to "Red Gwen"'s game plan, but instead of concentrating their whole damage in one card, and attack multiple times, Jinx decks will spread out their win condition onto many followers and finish the game with a Super Mega Death Rocket!
Control Might Get Even Stronger
Remember how we talked at the beginning of this article how more classic control decks would come back into the meta? Now that Demacia has been toned down, and Aatrox will not appear as much, Aggro decks with many followers will start to come back. And if there are decks with a bunch of followers, Shadow Isles and Freljord will also come back to play Avalanche and Withering Wail into the enemy's cards. This way, Feel The Rush can gain even more momentum, for the happiness of control players.
The meta in the first few days into the hotfix will be crazy, and everyone will be testing out new stuff. But soon it will stabilize. If you've read this far, at least you're prepared for what's to come.
So, what did you think? Did you like the nerfs? Would you like more changes? Write down in the comment section what you thought of this article and the hotfix!
Thank you for reading, and I will see you in the next article!