The Deep archetype exists since April 2020, and has always been a list which had as its main goal to answer other Control lists, or metas which were too slow.
But, recently, the whole LoR competitive community was taken aback by the best win rate Nautilus has ever seen in his entire career, and currently the Deep deck is ranked no.1 in the meta decks ranking.
As I always loved this archetype, and have played it since 2020, added to the fact that almost nothing was changed in the decklist, I decided to craft the Complete Guide to playing Deep. Let's go!
Deep - From Trash to Class
The problem with the Deep list has always been the speed of lists which were competitive, and now that Aggro doesn't exist anymore in the same way as before, the Deep archetype can finally breathe and have time enough to make its game strategy work.
The list's main win condition hasn't changed since it was released, but some cards were added and others removed from this deck to satisfy its needs in the meta.
Historically, Deep has always been an anti-meta deck, focused on answering other Control lists. That made this list, in a very surprising way, always play with a variety of cards very different from one another, depending on the meta, and even the player.
Of all Legends of Runeterra decks, definitely Nautilus Maokai is the most unique, and the toss mechanic makes this list very complex to understand, because you'll be throwing away cards from your deck, and on top of it will be giving your opponent information on what you have in hand, and also almost reaching your deck-out stage.
It all seems bad, but it makes sense in the end, due to the interaction between champions. Let's understand how the crazy toss mechanic works.
Main Strategy and Win Conditions
As you must have realized, the Deep list benefits from the interaction between the keyword Deep with the Toss ability.
Your main goal in any game will be to reach Deep as soon as possible.
When you have 15 cards or fewer in your deck, your Sea Monsters are granted +3/+3, which is enough for them to become threats on board straight away.
Adding that Nautilus' aura at his level 2, which makes all Sea Monsters cost 4 less, out of nowhere you can place units with 7/7 stats for free on board.
That is without saying these same units have extremely strong units, as it is the case of your main Sea Monster: Devourer of the Depths, which will be the card responsible for controlling the whole game for you.
Maokai's main card package is the icing on the cake here, and it is the reason why this list is so strong against slower metas. That is because Maokai's effect of tossing away the opponent's deck doesn't have any margin for answers. It happens that way because the stack for this champion to level up happens in the deck, not on board. This champion doesn't need to be on board to level up.
So, after 25+ allied cards are tossed or dead, this champion levels up, and you only need to place him on board to activate his effect of obliterating the enemy deck almost completely.
A very important detail is that this effect of obliterating the enemy deck prioritizes champion cards in the list, which means any champions your opponent still has in their deck will be obliterated.
This way, the Deep list has a lot of advantage in the late game, because the tossing mechanic doesn't obliterate champions from your deck - so, even if you and your opponent have 4 or fewer cards in your list, you'll still be able to shuffle in champions into your deck, unlike your opponent, who won't have any champions left available in their deck.
One of the reasons why Deep has adapted into the meta so well is the extensive number of Control card options for a low cost we have, besides early game units.
As a result, the Deep list might have the easiest Mulligan strategy of all the decks in Runeterra: always look for low-cost cards in your initial hand.
It is a strategy which is very similar to most Hearthstone lists, so that could be why so many players who migrate from Hearthstone to Legends of Runeterra enjoy Deep lists. Here's an example of how your initial hand should be:
The Deep deck is classified as a Control/Combo list, but you must play proactively many times, unlike other slow decks. That's why having a hand that plays well on mana curve is essential.
Facing Other Decks
Throughout the years, Deep won many defensive tools and support cards, and nowadays matchups which used to be impossible, such as, for instance, any aggressive Demacia deck, can be considered good for Nautilus' deck today.
Let's take a look at the main current matchups which the Deep list can face nowadays.
These little faes have Spellshield, and that prevents your Undergrowth from killing targets. That is without mentioning you won't have time enough to bring your Maokai on board on level 2, because the Tristana list is extremely fast for you.
Overall, you can even hold off a bit of the early game pressure using your low-cost units as blockers, but soon, the strength of the keyword "Impact" in followers in Tristana's list will be enough to end your defenses.
— Samira Fizz - The Samira Fizz deck took a heavy hit in the latest balance patch, and that is why Deep is so strong in the meta, because Aggressive Elusive decks completely destroy Nautilus' strategies.
That happens because you'll hardly be able to reach the Depths against the Combo Noxus deck, and this added to the fact other Elusive followers can complete evade your Deadbloom Wanderer, which prevents your healing, the spells which deal direct damage to the Nexus will also be extremely efficient against your list.
— Rek’Sai Pyke - The shallow waters win against the Deep waters by a long mile. Lurkers might be the fastest strategy in Legends of Runeterra. And as you can imagine, all fast strategies are extremely strong against Deep.
A very important factor is also Xerxa'Reth, The Undertitan's Spellshield. Actually, any unit with Spellshield is extremely problematic for the Deep list.
Overall, the only card that will win any trades against Lurkers will be Nautilus himself, but until this Titan can come on board, it will probably be too late.
This list takes too long to finish matches, and that allows you enough time to reach Maokai's Level 2 with ease.
Another important factor is that there are just a few units on Seraphine's board which are actual threats that need to be removed by Devourer of the Depths, so, this way, you'll be able to be patient and wait for the right moment to obliterate Mischievous Marai and Jack.
That is without saying that, in general, after you reach Deep, your cards will be too big for any removals on the other side, and any 0 cost unit you play already escapes Hexbliterator's range.
But be careful, there is only one way of winning as Karma against Deep: If they had their deck obliterated, but they still have 1 Karma on board and other copies of this champion in their hand, they can create value enough from the spells created by her champion spell, Insight of Ages, and win the game.
Other than that, there isn't much they can do against Deep. The Piltover&Zaun version of Karma doesn't have enough damage to deal with your units; The Targon version is too slow and usually loses too fast to Maokai, and the Freljord version, despite winning the battle for the board, also suffers to Maokai. Overall, there isn't much of a future for Karma when she's facing Deep.
But the other great tool you have is Devourer of the Depths; all units, aside from the Darkins themselves, can be targeted by Devourer, and even Aatrox himself is a target. This forces Vayne's deck to play defensively and forces the player to hold answer spells, as it is the case of Single Combat. This way, the game gets much slower, and it gives you enough time for Maokai to come in and end the happiness of the Demacia player.
Another very important factor is that Sea Monsters always win all trades against Vayne's units. That, added to the fact that Vengeance is an extremely strong card against the Darkin archetype, there isn't an easy match for the Aatrox Vayne list against Deep.
— Ashe LeBlanc - The reputation list has a very nice early game against your deck, but the problem arrives when you reach Deep on turn 6, and you also have access to Vengeance. This matchup is a ticking time-bomb which ticks in Nautilus favor, so the probability of the game being better for Deep is always bigger, but there are ways for Ashe Leblanc to win the match if they have a very aggressive hand.
If Vengeance hits good targets, and so does Devourer, Deep won't have any issues, but if neither of these cards show up, the game can get very hard very fast.
In this matchup, Maokai will hardly be useful, because the Deep list will be fighting for their life at every second, and the main priority is to be as healthy as possible. Always look for Vengeance, Undergrowth and Deadbloom Wanderer.
Fast but very important tips
— If you have 17 cards in your deck and play a Shipwreck Hoarder, as much as this monster shuffles two more cards in your deck, before doing so it tosses two, so you'll reach Deep anyway and have 17 cards in your deck. (You can have more than 15 cards and still be in Deep waters, you only need to reach 15 cards once throughout the match.)
— Avoid attacking and/or trading out your Dreg Dredgers without having Sea Scarab on board. Keep in mind Sea Scarab works much better if you already have units on board to be killed and this way, when they die, you'll activate its tossing effect, and the perfect unit to pair with this Sea Monster is the Dreg Dredgers.
— Sometimes it's better to wait to develop your units until Maokai is on board. If this champion is on board, any and every development you do will toss 2 cards from your deck, so, this way, you can keep some units in hand to speed up your Deep progress, and that is ideal in certain matches.
— Avoid playing Jettison unless it's the turn you can guarantee going Deep. This card can be a great option to surprise your enemy, because you can declare strong attacks without your opponent realizing they'll need to prepare themselves to block huge units.
Another factor is that, when you toss, cards that are obliterated are revealed, so, this way, you'll be revealing unnecessary information to your opponent about what you have in hand.
— In games in which your main win condition is Maokai, many times your main strategy will be to just stay alive. Avoid trying to win the game by hitting the Nexus or being aggressive, as you'll be winning against your opponent by running them out of cards. If you gamble on unnecessary plays, you might end up losing a lot of value on board and your opponent might turn the match.
— Don't worry about tossing cards after Nautilus refills your deck. It's part of your list's strategy to be very low on cards.
You'll only lose gas if your Nautilus is killed, and you can't shuffle this champion back into your deck anymore. Otherwise, losing a Devourer or any other Sea Monster isn't as punitive in this state in the game.
If you've read this far, blessed be by the Blessed Isles' sap, you now have all the knowledge regarding the Deep list. If you liked the content of this article, don't forget to share and comment on social media! See you!