With Gwen's launch in the Forces From Beyond expansion, a lot of combinations were tested, and from those two winners were declared, being viable even with the end of the Forces From Beyond expansion.
One of them is Gwen Katarina Elise - also known as Red Gwen - and the other is Gwen Sejuani. You can check out the teachings of both decks here at Cards Realm: the Red Gwen guide was written by Guedestroier, and I, SEJUmilde, am responsible for the Gwen Sejuani guide here.
At the moment I'm writing this article, this deck has a win rate around 53.92%. Its popularity rate fell a bit compared to last week, but it still has a nice win rate, so it might be a good choice for you to surprise opponents in the ranked ladder or tourneys.
Introducing the Deck
When we talk about the Freljord Shadow Isles region combo, we certainly think about control decks that like to heal themselves and can take down the enemy board very easily. Throughout LoR's history we've had Anivia, Feel the Rush and Trundle Lissandra working around this idea. However, when we talk about Gwen Sejuani, we mean the complete opposite.
Gwen Sejuani's premise is to be an aggressive Midrange deck, an initial game style that might even be similar to aggro due to this deck's cheap units that can deal a reasonable amount of damage, such as Ruthless Raider, Phantom Butler and Tusk Speaker. If you're a fan of aggressive decks, Gwen Sejuani might be up your alley.
The Shadow Isles part of the deck offers low cost units with the keyword Hallowed so you can put pressure on your opponent early on, and in case they die, they will provide a power buff to the first attacker on the left. The Freljord side, on the other hand, brings units with the keyword Overwhelm that love to receive that hallowed enhancement.
Both regions contribute with more than one way to close out the game through spells or their champions.
This champion needs to be on the board and attacking to be able to level up, so be very careful when summoning her on curve 4: analyze if your opponent has any answers to remove her, and it is always nice to have 2 mana banked to protect her by using a Troll Chant or an Inner Beast.
Her ability Snip Snip! is excellent, as it guarantees direct Nexus damage (helping out Sejuani's level up) and it is a way in your deck to heal. Gwen levels up by dealing 10 damage, so her skill is enhanced. Before, it would drain 2 fixed damage, and leveled it will drain 1 damage to each 2 power she has, and of course, through Hallowed this champion can increase her power very easily and become a finisher in the deck.
A very relevant piece of information about Gwen: her ability Snip Snip! when she hasn't leveled yet cannot be canceled by removing Gwen out of combat because of the text that says it will drain 2 fixed damage, but as her level 2 ability depends on her attack, it does end up being canceled if she is removed from combat.
This Freljordian champion levels up after you've dealt 5 Nexus damage in different rounds. Cards such as Tusk Speaker, Unspeakable Horror and Ram Stance help you deal this Nexus damage when you don't have the attack token, and therefore help you level up this champion faster.
This War Mother gets the ability to freeze all enemies when you deal Nexus damage for the first time each round at level 2, which is quite powerful because it allows you to get favorable trades.
Historically, Sejuani has always been an excellent champion to face Midrange decks because she creates a situation in which it is very hard to kill her through strikes after leveling up. And as mentioned before, Gwen's ability has synergy with Sejuani, as it serves both to help her level up and to activate her level 2 ability.
The Winter's Claw leader also has an effect when played (at both levels) which allows you to choose a target to freeze and pull with vulnerable, which makes Sejuani also a removal tool. It is interesting, because at the same time you can think of a way to remove an enemy unit, on the other side you can also pull a vulnerable target and deal more damage to the enemy Nexus thanks to allied Overwhelm units or even Sejuani herself.
Gwen's side in the deck comes in the form of her followers which have Hallowed, responsible for guaranteeing the deck's buffs: they are our spokespersons Boisterous Host and Phantom Butler, two low cost units. Therefore, it is very advantageous to have these cards in your initial hand to guarantee an explosive early game.
As they are units that benefit from being slain, you don't have to worry about making favorable trades with these cards or even worry about your opponent spending their resources to remove these units, as you will be better off without them.
Our most expensive Hallowed unit is the Conductor of the Mists, one copy only, and it ends up being a fascinating card to use defensively - after all, as it has 4 power it can trade out with important enemy units. When it dies it creates a Ghastly Band in hand.
These are the cards that have overwhelm, so it is here that you will want to connect Hallowed to, as this way you will get the opportunity to deal a lot of damage. Ruthless Raider and Tusk Speaker are low cost units with 3 power, so naturally they will be responsible for a considerable amount of damage output early game.
Later on when you reach mid game, with an Ancient Yeti - in case you get him in your initial hand - we are able to get a 5/5 unit that gets cheaper and cheaper. You can consider developing it early in round 4 (the earliest round you can summon it) or at round 5 by just 3 mana, as this opens up a window of 2 mana banked for protection or another unit development.
Finally, among our most expensive followers we have Scarmaiden Reaver, which has the Overwhelm and Regeneration keywords and a 4/6 status. It is a very hard unit to remove as it has high health points and also regeneration, and its only problem is to not have big power points for a 5 cost unit, and that is why it isn't used as often. However, this weakness is overcome in this deck because of the Hallowed buffs.
We also have Alpha Wildclaw, costing 6 mana, with Overwhelm and a 7/6 status. Naturally it is a very raw power unit, and it can even be put to attack without the Hallowed buffs, as this way you can put pressure on your opponent by spreading out your damage output in your attack. As it does cost 6 mana, it is a very expensive unit and we opt to have just one copy. The Scarmaiden Reaver ends up having more priority.
Three Sisters is an excellent card and also very flexible: we can use Flash Freeze to protect an unit and stall a game, we have Fury of the North to buff a unit's damage so it can finish the game or remove a unit. And lastly Entomb, which can be used defensively to temporarily remove an enemy unit from the game or during your attack to remove a blocker and then deal Overwhelm damage.
Troll Chant is our protection card which can create favorable trades. Inner Beast can also protect a unit by granting it +1+1, however her most important part is the resource which creates in hand, the Stance Swap.
Even though Udyr - the champion that works around Stance Swap - hardly sees any play, Stance Swap ends up being used in Freljord Midrange decks as a versatile resource, as is the case for Gwen Sejuani.
I image you are wondering: Is there a Stance that is better than all others?
The answer is definitely no, as your choice with Stance Swap will depend a lot on the situation you're in.
For instance, the Wildclaw Stance is great to close out games, as we can put it on Gwen, which grants her Overwhelm and she will always be buffed by her passive Hallowed skill. The Boar Stance by granting a unit Regeneration can help you out in matches where your enemy has spells that can deal 2 damage, as this way you can survive through more removals or force your opponent to spend even more resources.
In a similar way, the Bear Stance helps you take down a unit as you survive through damage, as it offers 2 health points and 2 attack points. The last Stance Swap is the Ram Stance, and this one you can use against decks with fragile units to clear your opponent's board or even use it to activate a level 2 Sejuani.
I definitely like the Stance Swap's flexibility a lot.
Unspeakable Horror has more than one role. It might just be healing, a level 2 Sejuani activator or a resource engine to help out matches or finish them. Being honest, many times I've won due to a card created by Unspeakable Horror.
Strike Up the Band isn't useful just to hoard more Hallowed buffs, on the contrary, it has a more complex role. It is a card that you can think about using defensively to create blockers against an enemy attack, and in some cases your opponent might just give up attacking at all if they see they will have an unfavorable trade with ephemeral units. At the same time, you can use it offensively to have more attackers.
Our last spells, Battle Fury and Atrocity, give this list another way to close out matches. Battle Fury, by offering a +8+4 buff to a unit, might be the bit that was left for you to win, just as it might be used as an answer to an enemy action.
If your opponent uses a Vengeance or a Concussive Palm to a Hallowed buffed unit, just use Battle Fury in another attacker. As for Atrocity, it is very intuitive: it is that classic card to finish matches in the Shadow Isles region, being used in the meta ever since its release in the game: you kill an ally to deal damage equal to its power to anything, and that includes the Nexus.
Mulligan and Game Style
You want in your initial hand low cost cards such as Boisterous Host and Phantom Butler, and of course if we think the game through, the sooner we have them, the more Hallowed buffs we can stack.
Your cheap overwhelm units - Ruthless Raider and Tusk Speaker - are also valuable to have early game to help you put pressure on your opponent. Be careful if your opponent is playing a deck that doesn't have Fearsome blockers, as in this case it is better to summon Phantom Butler than the Ruthless Raider on turn 2, in case that's your attack turn.
You don't have to, but favor summoning Tusk Speaker on your defensive turn to help out leveling Sejuani. We won't forget about Ancient Yeti.
Usually, keeping Gwen in your initial hand depends on what else you have. If by instance I have my 1 and 2 cost units, in this case I opt for keeping Gwen in my hand.
I try pressuring my opponent any time I can, as eventually your bigger Overwhelm units will threaten lethal attacks when they're buffed by Hallowed, and you'll have Battle Fury and Atrocity to help you close out matches. Always respect a possible answer from your opponent if they have mana for it, though.
A Shadow Isles Freljord deck usually is favored against a Bandle City Shadow Isles deck. This Overwhelm deck can put on a lot of pressure, and Heimer Norra will have difficulty removing your board, as their removals are mostly pings, which can easily be answered by Troll Chant, and when we look at bigger units such as Scarmaiden Reaver, Alpha Wildclaw and Ancient Yeti, these pings are harmless.
Besides that, Heimerdinger's turrets usually have 1 health and you can easily get rid of them with a Ram Stance. This way, your opponent will be pressed to find Vengeance.
Master Yi Karma
Again your Sejuani Gwen is favored against a Shadow Isles control deck, the reason being similar to the Heimer Norra matchup. But here your opponent will have even less blockers than Heimer Norra, as Heimer Norra can take advantage of portals and Heimer's Turrets.
Nami Lee TF
This is a very tough matchup for Gwen Sejuani, due to resources such as Homecoming and Concussive Palm, which makes our game plan a lot harder to execute. Besides, the champions Lee Sin and Twisted Fate have nice board control skills which end up making it very hard for our units to survive and attack. Nami is another nightmare, as she grows units up to the point of being able to block the Overwhelm damage.
Our outs here is trying to have the cheap units early on, playing as an aggro swarm deck, and following this strategy will drain our opponent's mana resources early game and will delay their own champion level ups.
It is important to remember that in the latest expansions Riot decided to nerf a very dominant deck just as a new expansion hits to help out new champions, and because of that many people believe Nami and Ionia will be nerfed, and in case that happens, Gwen Seju might grow a lot next expansion, specially with the addition some of the new cards.
Here we have a power struggle between decks that want to summon units on board and grow them to take down the enemy Nexus first. The problem is that Pantheon Fiora has access to Demacia's striking and rally cards.
Regarding Rally, unfortunately there's nothing to do, save for using your protection spells wisely and therefore save your units from the striking spells, and of course, don't forget that Fiora might offer a different win condition for this match.
In this type of matchup I suggest bringing a copy of Vengeance so you can also have some removals for important enemy units in this Pantheon Fiora list.
In my opinion, Gwen Sejuani is a very versatile deck that you can modify according to your need, or the meta, so I decided to select a few card options that might be added in this list.
As I've talked about previously, there's the advantage that Stance Swap offers, so Vulpine Wanderer becomes a very good unit to add in this list as it offers more of that Stance Swap. In that same sense of creating even more resources, we can mention Fireth, Reaper of the Sands, as it brings equipment into the deck. I consider it to be better than Combat Cook because of its cost.
Still considering resource creation, this deck usually doesn't bring card draw, so we can think of using Shared Spoils. It is a very underestimated card in my opinion, as after all it creates the situation in which you can draw a card from Plunder and at the same time buff three of your deck's units +1+1. This is very advantageous, even more so if they're Overwhelm units.
Glimpse Beyond can be used in this list as an answer to some metas, because by killing your unit you can also cancel the effect of some cards such as Piercing Darkness or Nasus as he tries to strike and level up. In that same category we also have Doombeast which brings a little bit more healing, a way to activate Sejuani and level her up or just to guarantee some more direct Nexus damage so you can win the match.
The last card mentioned is Vengeance. Some decks depend a lot on a unit and that can become troublesome for you to deal with, so having a way to remove these units besides Sejuani or direct combat is very important. So, consider adding in a Vengeance to this list. By the way, Vengeance can also be used offensively in the same sense as Entomb can, in the midst of an attack.
Above we have an example of an alternative version of this deck which is using some of the cards cited, and at most I suggest you trade out Omen Hawk for a Shared Spoils. This version is being used by the player NNT eluwardhayk in the Master rank, with 23 matches and a 73.91% win rate. I was interested in his idea of inserting an Eternal Dancers, as its ability to bring back another attacker might make a difference.
I'm happy this deck has found its place in Legends of Runeterra. When Gwen came out, the first thing I suggested was to build an Overwhelm deck with her, because in case you don't know, I'm an Overwhelm fan! I'm practically a Brazilian RickoRex, so I built a Gwen Seju list when Gwen was released and now that I see that this deck has proved to be good, I feel very accomplished.
This deck has a nice win rate, its popularity has fallen a bit due to the high presence of Nami in the meta, so supposing she and Ionia are nerfed in the next expansion, Gwen Sejuani might be very favored by that. If you're a fan of aggressive decks, I highly recommend this deck!
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