Deck Guide: Aatrox Xolaani Bilgewater, the list that refuses to lose
After the Runeterra Open on April 15th and 16th, the Aatrox list with Xolaani the Bloodweaver started to become very popular in ranked ladder and grassroot tournaments.
For that reason, I prepared a complete guide on how to play this remarkable list. It is a deck that conquered my heart, and those who keep up with my articles frequently know that I took this list to Runeterra Open, in which I grabbed a Top 16.
How to play the Deck - Bringing back a game style which was forgotten in time
Usually, lists come up in the game due to some need players feel or have of winning against a specific archetype.
However, that wasn't the case for Aatrox with Xolaani the Bloodweaver - actually, the origin of this list is still a mystery, at least to me. Definitely, due to the deck's super fun nature, I believe players who matched against it searched it, and grabbed it for themselves, and this way, in the blink of an eye, everyone started to play a variation of it.
Which is a happy coincidence, considering this list is quite consistent and strong against the current meta, and can easily slot into competitive lineups. The last time I remember a deck with an entirely new archetype came into the meta out of nowhere, was with Rubin's Pile, from Riot Rubinzoo.
But, as much as we have a "new archetype", the game style isn't new at all. That is because this deck is very reminiscent of an old archetype, with They Who Endure, in which the more allied units die throughout the match, the bigger your Overwhelm unit gets.
Unlike the They Who Endure list, the Aatrox Xolaani the Bloodweaver list can only increase the stats of Xolaani the Bloodweaver if the unit which died had its power stats enhanced. That's why equipment is very important, as they are the main sources of buffs that this list presents.
Another important card for this archetype is Reaver's Row. This landmark will be the one responsible for filling your board with 1 cost units with their power stats increased and the Fearsome keyword.
Besides that, in some matches, Reaver's Row will be enough to finish matches without the need of Xolaani, Aspect's Bane.
You must have realized we have many 1 cost units in this deck. That happens because Jagged Taskmaster is extremely efficient at sharing +1 attack globally to all 1 cost allied units.
That makes this deck's game mechanics easier, once you won't need to worry as much about playing your equipment on your units, as they'll have the additional attack already.
We can classify this list as an aggressive deck, because its main goal is to deal as much damage possible on every attack turn.
But, this mustn't be done carelessly - when you attack with a unit, you're exposing it to be the target of blocks, and if your attacker dies during the combat without having additional attack stats, you'll be losing stacks toward your Xolaani the Bloodweaver down the line.
It is extremely important to be offensive, but with caution. If you keep losing many units which don't have additional attack stats, at the end of the match your Xolaani won't be big enough to end the match.
Once your unit on board already has its attack increased, don't hesitate to attack with it. If it is slain, you'll be stacking numbers for your Xolaani. This way, your opponent will always be forced to answer your plays and at every second they'll have to spend resources on that.
Gradually, your opponent will run out of resources, and probably be at low health, and as much as we always have but a few cards in hand, we'll always have an explosive late game.
Darkins are equipment that can be recycled on board all the time, and as a result, at the end of the match, we'll still be able to summon one of them on board if it is necessary.
Don't forget that, to guarantee your Xolaani, Aspect's Bane ends the match with a single attack, always have at least one additional attacker besides her on board.
Mulligan Guide - The Toughest Part
I believe you'll realize this deck's piloting in general is quite intuitive, and in a few games you'll get the hang of it. But, definitely, the most confusing bit is the Mulligan.
It is hard to have a bad hand with so many low-cost units in your deck, but you must always look for an excellent hand with this list. If not, we run the risk of not having Xolaani the Bloodweaver on turn 7.
As a result, this deck benefits from the aggressive Mulligan strategy, in which we throw back into the deck all the cards which are not the cards listed below:
This deck can deal 4 points of damage on turn 1.
Shellshocker + The Darkin Ballista is currently the only combo in the game which can deal 4 points of damage to the Nexus on turn 1. Be careful: this combo only works if you're attacking on odds.
Unlike other decks, this list has an excellent hand regardless if you're attacking on odd or even turns. The cards listed above are great in case you're attacking on odds, but if you're attacking on evens, your perfect hand should look something like this:
This is the perfect hand if you're attacking on evens, because if you develop on turn one Crackshot Corsair, the only cards that can keep you from activating Jagged Taskmaster's Plunder effect on two are: Quietus, Pie Toss and Group Shot. Cards like these are not very common on ranked ladder, and even less so in tournaments.
The Aatrox list with Xolaani suffers a lot against decks that have plenty of stuns, or heavy removals.
Actually, this list is extremely weak against Shadow Isles control decks that bring Vengeance and Quietus, once there isn't a card that defends your units against the removals of those sorts of decks. And equipment removals are also extremely strong against your deck.
— Samira Fizz - The secret to winning against the Aatrox list with Xolaani is to be faster. And Samira Fizz can be faster than your list, as it uses elusive units. Actually, any deck that benefits from elusive units as their main win condition is extremely efficient against our list.
But, the biggest potential of this list against ours is the burn elements and all the direct damage output this deck creates without worrying about removals. That happens because our list can't interact with enemy units, and Samira Fizz shines a lot if there isn't any enemy interference to their game plan.
— Rek'Sai Pyke - The Lurker deck can be faster and more incisive than our list, and that is why you'll hardly win the Nexus damage race. It also closes out a match more or so during the same turns in which we'll be looking to summon our Xolaani the Bloodweaver, so, it will really depend on who has the attack turn on turn 7; if you are attacking on odds, you might still have a chance.
But, if this list has attacked many times during the defensive turns using Snapjaw Swarm, you'll be forced to give up many blockers, and, eventually, you won't have enough resources to hit the enemy units head on.
— Leona Noxus - This list has gigantic units and stun elements that are very strong against your deck. In case Leona is dropped on board, you won't have any tools to remove this champion, and much less if you want to remove Rahvun, Daylight's Spear. And that combo of cards on board will easily stun all your units very easily.
That is without saying Leona has the keyword Challenger, which means your units that don't have additional power buffs will always be in danger of being removed by her.
In general, slow decks that don't have many heavy removals, or slower Midrange lists, suffer a lot against this list.
— Veigar Senna - You'd expect this matchup to be bad, as this list has cards such as Vengeance and Quietus, and even many healing and removal spells.
But, all those cards are extremely expensive, and with the Aatrox list, there is a lot of damage output in the first few turns; when your opponent finally has resources to remove the threats you'll be putting on board, it will be too late.
The game for you is too fast, and the Veigar Senna list, as much as it has all the tools to stop your deck, just isn't fast enough.
— Seraphine Jack - Just like Veigar Senna, this list has all the tools to deal with your board, and these removals even are enough to neutralize your game plan at the beginning. But, the only card that doesn't suffer against any Piltover & Zaun and Bilgewater removal is Xolaani the Bloodweaver herself.
The Seraphine Jack deck can't deal enough damage to deal with your gigantic Darkin. The good news for your list playing against Sera Jack is that the Seraphine deck can't close out the game easily against your list, which allows you enough time to draw your Xolaani and hoard stats on her.
— Karma Sett - Of all the control decks in the meta, this is the one who suffers the most in your hands. Besides not having direct removals, the game for Karma only beings on turn 10, and your Xolaani list closes out the match on turn 7 or 8 at most.
This Ionia list simply isn't prepared to deal with so many low-cost units early in the match. The removals Karma Sett has don't really remove cards, and, instead, actually, are just stuns or recalls.
This may feel a bit annoying, as your Xolaani the Bloodweaver in general experiences difficulty in growing in matches against Karma, and that is why I recommend you search in your Mulligan the landmark Reaver's Row: this card will be your main win condition.
— Aatrox Vayne - The Aatrox Vayne list has just one other weapon against your game plan: The Valor + The Darkin Harp. In general, units with Challenger are extremely efficient against your deck, but you can still deal with that pressure if you're aggressive enough.
But a unit with Scout + Challenger and Quick Attack, is impossible to deal with, and you can be sure Valor will destroy your whole board in the blink of an eye. Other than that, this list doesn't have many other resources to deal with your aggression and, in general, we'll close out the game easily on Turn 7 with your Xolaani.
Fast but very Important Tips
— Don't worry about Aatrox, as this champion is only here to allow you to run your Darkin equipment alongside 1 cost units. We don't need to have this champion in our opening hand.
— The Darkin Ballista is perfect to deal with Karma if you summon Naganeka of Zuretta. In matches in which we don't draw Xolaani, it is likely we'll have to use our Darkins to close out the game.
— When an ally equipped with The Darkin Bloodletters dies, it summons a Darkinthrall, which is a 1 cost unit. That means: it has a lot of synergy with your deck. So, always try to summon this unit again and again, whenever possible.
The Darkinthrall benefits from equipment, but try to equip it with any other equipment that isn't The Darkin Bloodletters. It is more efficient for your deck to summon Darkinthralls all the time, and if the unit which is carrying the Bloodletters is already a Darkinthrall, another 1 cost Darkinthrall won't be summoned.
— Steem is rarely a unit which will impact your matches, besides giving another keyword for your Xolaani, Aspect's Bane. Actually, Steem is the only tool you have in your deck that may bring some sort of defense to your Xolaani.
— Reaver's Row works better if you play this landmark on board during an attack turn, because its countdown will end in your next attack turn, which will give you many stats and the keyword Fearsome for your 1 cost units. This way, we can prepare a very strong open attack.
This deck won my heart and I hope it wins yours too. This list is filled with small combos and very fun interactions, which make the game very refreshing to me.
If you've read so far, now you have all the knowledge you need about Xolaani's secret to destroy the entire world! I mean, the ranked ladder...
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