The Aatrox Vayne and Quinn list is still considered one of the best decks in the game. On May 13th and 13th, in the Runeterra Open, it was the third most used list in the American tournament, and was also one of the winning decks of the Runeterra Open in April.
This list is favored by high-skill competitive players, and it always performs well in tournaments and in the ranked ladder. For that reason, I decided to bring a complete guide to this incredible deck for you!
Aatrox, Vayne and Quinn - The Best Demacia Can Offer
My story with this deck starts right after the Runeterra Open in April finished. So far, I had never been much of a fan of this list, and I even wrote in many articles here at Cards Realm that I had a certain bias against that list.
However, I had never in fact played with this deck after it went through the necessary refinement and changes to perform at a competitive level. After I played with this deck, I never abandoned it, and, today, the Aatrox Vayne and Quinn list can even be considered one of my favorite decks of all time!
The list counts with Aatrox's cards kit, cheap units and Demacia combat tools. This way, the deck works as a drawn out Midrange, and it might be one of the most complete and refined lists in the current meta, regarding deck building.
It seems everything in the deck makes sense in a very harmonic way and is there to complete an idea or a strategy. But, it is still an archetype that allows for many card alterations, and that is why it is common to see players who love this list always playing with extra or fewer copies of some specific cards.
The strategy performed very well in the last few months, as it is a great answer to both other aggressive lists and slower decks. It is very hard to have a difficult game with it if you know what you are doing.
And as it is an archetype which was particularly well-cared for by Riot during the whole Darkin set, the cards that make up Aatrox's kit, in my opinion, are the most fun ones in the entire game.
We have many win conditions, but the most common and easy to execute is the combo of Ranger-Knight Defector + any Darkin equipment.
This card has a very strong combination of keywords, and, when Quick Attack is added, for instance, from The Darkin Harp, Defector becomes an unstoppable damage machine. Or, if you combo her with The Darkin Spear, the unit becomes an uncontrollable attacker which will easily share stats with all other units in your deck.
This unit is hard to be removed, and currently we have just a few units that can hit Defector head on. As a result, it is always very safe to drop it on its mana curve and equip it with any of your Darkins, without fear. In case your opponent has any answer, usually, they'll have to spend all their turn to play it as well.
The second most common win condition is to use the spell World Ender to level up your Aatrox. This way, all your Darkin will have their cost reduced by 5 as long as your Aatrox is on board. And, as all Darkins are very powerful units, you'll create a lot of value and deal a lot of damage against your opponent, all the while investing very little mana.
This win condition requires you to have, at least, a game start in which your units have struck using equipment. That happens because, after the heavy nerfs the Aatrox archetype took, now World Ender costs 16 mana at its base, which means, it is necessary to have struck at least 3 times with equipment so that this spell is at least playable during a match.
Even then, Aatrox's origin always brings a consistency to this champion's card draw during the matches, and that win condition is even quite common, particularly against slower lists. Pay attention to the beginning of the game, so you always give priority to your units attacking with their equipment.
And, lastly, another win condition with this list is the combo of Valor + The Darkin Harp. This combo is responsible for controlling and completely decimating any aggressive lists that have as its main strategy spitting out small units.
Valor with the Harp has 4 points of attack, Challenger and Scout. Considering even Blocking Badgerbear, which is considered a premium card in terms of "stats", can't defend itself against this combo, imagine the rest of the low-cost units.
That is why any matches against a deck which doesn't interact with your board well are won at the moment that combo comes into play.
This deck has a very simple and concrete Mulligan strategy.
You need to have at least one equipment in your initial hand, and always look for low-cost units that have the keyword Challenger.
You don't need to have Aatrox in your initial hand, as this champion draws itself due to its Origin effect: after you play or summon 3+ different Darkins in the match. A perfect hand for Aatrox Vayne and Quinn should have the following cards:
Vayne is the only champion in the deck which must be kept in your initial hand, and that is why we always bring 3 copies of her in the deck. That is because Tumble is an essential card for your strategy of striking multiple times with equipped and Scout units. As the turns go by, Vayne will apply mana discounts to Tumble until it costs 0 mana, and you can attack without spending any resources in a defensive turn, for instance.
In some matchups in which your opponent also plays a more Midrange approach, it is very important that you always have in hands the spell Fish Fight.
It is almost unfair the amount of board control you'll have once you play that spell against your enemy. Besides it being a card that allows for a strike with an equipped unit, which means, you'll be lowering the cost of your World Ender. that spell allows you to rotate equipment between your units.
It is very important that you keep playing, as much as you can, Darkins on board, and, as a result, Fish Fight, which unequips an ally, allows you to play the equipment again on another unit.
This deck has good matchups against most lists in the meta, but it is still a deck that loses very badly against specific strategies.
That is, as much as you win against many Control decks, some Control decks are still extremely strong against it. And, as much as your list wins against Midrange matchups, some specific matchups are terrible for you.
Karma Sett - the Karma list can't deal with your pressure early game, and with the amount of offensive and defensive stats your units have throughout the mid-game.
The greatest issue is that the removals in Karma's list aren't enough to stop the attacks from your equipped units, and all your strategies are very easily executed.
You'll be able to attack with your Ranger-Knight Defector, and will also be able to discount a lot of mana on your World Ender. As a result, it is very hard for Karma to reach turn 10, and once they do, you'll probably have won the match already.
That is also without mentioning that even Sett can't usually deal with your units, as you have many defensive tools such as Form Up!. As a result, it is very common for Karma players to just ban your Aatrox list in tournaments.
Jinx Ekko - As much as Ekko's list in theory has many great cards against your deck, such as Quicksand and Scrying Sands, even then, your list performs great against this deck.
That happens because Petricite Broadwing is immune to Scrying Sands, and the keywords from equipment can't be silenced by Quicksand. That is without mentioning that most of your units will have bigger stats than those on Ekko's board, and your deck can also remove Ekko without activating his strike effect with Fish Fight and Condemn.
Aatrox also serves as a safe port to heal your Nexus, and, this way, in case you have taken too much damage in the first few rounds, you can easily come back into the game due to this Darkin champion. Ekko's list will hardly present big problems for your deck, and, as a result, due to the popularity of the Shuriman deck, Aatrox Vayne and Quinn's deck was very popular during the May 13th Runeterra Open.
Heimerdinger Jayce - Though Aatrox's list loses badly to Shadow Isles decks, due to the Midrange nature of Jayce's deck, this matchup actually becomes favorable to the Demacia list. That is quite odd, because the Jayce deck still takes many cards which, in theory, are perfect to deal with our deck, such as Quietus and Soul Harvest.
But, Jayce's list needs to put units on board for the deck to work, and that is the moment in which your list comes in and deals with all the enemy followers. Heimerdinger and Jayce can't deal with Aatrox as well, because this champion, even when he is killed, comes back into the hand in equipment form, and you'll still be able to level him up in future turns.
This way, your Aatrox list is very well-prepared to solve the Shadow Isles deck's small units, and, even when their removals meet your units, your end game is much more explosive and consistent than Heimerdinger's.
Shen Jarvan IV - The Aatrox list doesn't deal with Barriers. And the units in Shen's deck will also be bigger than yours throughout the mid-game.
That, added to a much higher number of defensive combat tricks that the Demacia and Ionia deck has compared to your list, makes matches against that deck very hard. Shen Jarvan IV is growing in popularity again because it is one of the few lists that deal with Samira Fizz and Tristana decks at the same time. And, as a result, it is very common to find this deck both in the ranked ladder and in tournaments.
It is very hard to win against this deck, but, even then, it is still a list that loses a lot to itself as it "bricks" easily. So, it is still possible to win a few matches here and there, but you'll need to count with luck.
Nautilus Maokai - This matchup is sad for any Midrange list.
It is very hard to win in time before the Nautilus list reaches the deep. After many early game control tools, such as Undergrowth, were added to this deck, Demacia simply stopped winning against that list as if in the blink of an eye.
That is without saying Devourer of the Depths obliterates your units and their equipment, preventing you from recycling your Darkin. Vengeance is also a very annoying resource to deal with, once we don't have any tools to deal with that type of removal.
As much as Maokai isn't an outright problem when he is on board, against your list, if he reaches level 2, the Deep deck has many ways to just hold off the game and not die. And, as a result, even if Maokai isn't a big aggressor, it will always be your priority when targeting removals, delaying his aggressive development.
That is why it is always frustrating to play Vayne Aatrox against Deep, because you almost win, but never really do.
Nasus Veigar - Shadow Isles is a region that counters your list severely. And all current Nasus decks, without a question, beat you.
I chose to represent the Nasus variant with Veigar, as it is the list with Nasus that has the highest win rate against Aatrox. There's not much of a secret as to why this deck is strong against yours: all Shadow Isles removals are extremely efficient against your units.
You also don't have any tools to deal with the landmark Vaults of Helia, so, once it is on board, it's over: you don't have a way to stop the amount of value this card will create.
Nasus is also a champion that escapes the range of your removals and offensive stats, and your units, even when equipped with The Darkin Harp, will hardly be able to deal with the pressure of Nasus on board.
- The Assimilate effect in World Ender is quite confusing, so I feel the need to explain it - Assimilated units are transformed into the Darkin equipped, keeping the equipment and all stats or keywords from the original unit.
Which means, if you assimilate a Valor + The Darkin Harp, your board will then have a Styraatu with Scout and Challenger, equipping The Darkin Harp. Negative keywords such as Ephemeral or Can't Block or Can't Attack aren't assimilated. Any buffs to their health or power stats from the assimilated units will also go to the Darkin they transformed into. So, if your Valor is +1/+1, your Styraatu will also have this buff. Champions can't be assimilated.
- It is possible to attack 3x during a turn by abusing the Scout mechanic with this deck. If you attack with all your units, and then declare an open attack with a Scout unit alone using the cards Tumble or Cataclysm, you'll get an additional attack token, allowing you to attack a third time in that turn.
- In case you suspect your Aatrox will be obliterated by your opponent with a Hexbliterator or a Devourer of the Depths, equip your champion with a Darkin weapon or any other equipment. This way, you'll still be able to Assimilate your The Darkin Blade on another random ally and that copy of Aatrox won't be lost forever in the match.
- Quinn is a very situational unit in your list, and can even be removed from the deck to open up space for another Aatrox. This champion is a safe port against more aggressive lists with many Elusives or small cards, and that is why Valor, alongside a 3/5 attacker with Scout, such as Quinn, is always extremely strong against that type of strategy.
- By far, the best equipment cards are The Darkin Spear and The Darkin Harp. All other cards are situational, but remember you need to play at least 3 different Darkin equipment to draw Aatrox for free.
- Catch! is very strong, but it comes at a high price. The effect of this card doesn't count as playing a Darkin equipment, and, as a result, when you use this card, you won't be speeding up drawing your Aatrox. Use Catch! wisely.
- The Darkin Ballista, when assimilated, becomes Naganeka of Zuretta, which is currently the best control tool in Noxus, and the best card to deal with Karma in the whole meta.
- Try to always play a bit more reactively early on, because having mana banked is very important for your deck, once it is possible to equip allies using spell mana.
- Remember: Aatrox heals two Nexus points each time he comes on board, and strikes. That is why this champion works well in defensive turns, because in theory you'll be declaring 4 points of healing in case your opponent wants to declare an attack.
- Darkin followers, when they strike, even when they aren't equipped, still count for World Ender's mana discount. Equipped Darkin allies don't discount mana from World Ender twice when they strike.
If you've read this far, now you have all the Demacian Darkin knowledge necessary to destroy Runeterra!
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