After rotation, Pantheon took some time to find himself in the meta, because this champion has lost many support cards for the Eternal format. But after the first Runeterra Open, right after the nerfs to the Varus Samira deck, we felt the need for a list with this game style which is more geared towards combos in tournaments.
And that is how Samira Pantheon came to be, challenging statistics to crown high-skill players in the competitive scene. I'll tell you all a bit about the history of this deck, and teach you how to play one of the most complex lists in the current metagame.
Samira Pantheon - Transforming an Archetype
Historically, there has always been in Runeterra an archetype in which the main focus is to protect and buff a single unit, and, therefore, it alone will be your deck's main source of damage output. That happened with Lee Sin lists, and even with Akshan decks, before rotation came out.
However, after many cards that supported this style of play were sent to the Eternal format, the game lacked decks which work that way, and it is why Samira Varus came to be. In the second week of April this year, that list was a rising list in that month's Runeterra Open, and was the most victorious deck of the ranked ladder in that same period.
Actually, it was so victorious it had to be nerfed hurriedly in a hotfix. After nerfs, the deck disappeared, but as the meta still needed an archetype that worked similarly, slowly one of the most interesting and complex lists in all of Runeterra was crafted: Samira Pantheon.
Targon is going through a bad phase currently, and much of this region's identity is tied to the Daybreak package, which was recently nerfed. So, it is very hard to make the Targon cards which are not tied to that archetype work. But the whole community mobilized and set up a pack of supporting cards to Pantheon which plays very well with this idea of bringing Samira as a support to work with a combo list.
This list performed very well in grassroot tournaments, and particularly in the ranked ladder as an answer to a meta filled with Tristana decks.
In May's Runeterra Open, the deck was fairly popular, but it didn't have much success due to the very chaotic nature of the tournament and a slightly more volatile and aggressive meta.
However, as time goes on, this list grows better and better, and more refined, and can become a safer combo option in the future for players that want to bring that type of idea to their competitive lineups.
The Deck's Main Strategy
The deck is quite complex and full of nuances, and that is why we'll go step by step to understand how the list's main strategy works. Before anything, it is very important that you always have in your head that this list is very dependent on Pantheon, though it is a deck prepared to play without the champion. Its win rate grows exponentially when you draw or have Pantheon in your initial hand.
It is important that, early in the match, you try at most to establish on board with your low-cost units, and, at the same time, equip them. Targeting allies is the deck's main mechanic, and that is why at least once per turn you should do that to speed up your Pantheon's level up progress.
The idea of the whole deck is to work with your level 2 Pantheon on board, as he will be the main source for your damage output and eventual removals that your deck will have in the match.
Depending on the keywords your Pantheon gets, it is possible that at the moment he drops on board leveled, the game might already be completely won. The best keywords here are:
- Spell Shield
- Life Steal
The worst keywords for Pantheon are:
Before, Tough was one of the worst keywords for Pantheon, but as now a big portion of the removals are direct damage spells, it is very important that your champion always takes the least damage possible.
If you didn't draw Pantheon, Wounded Whiteflame is your second option as a unit that will grow and possibly be your win condition. That is due to the keyword Fated, which grants the Fated unit +1/+1 every time the unit is targeted. This way, eventually that unit will get too big, and it will be very hard for your opponent to do something about it.
Another unit that might also become an alternative win condition is Camphor, the Doubt, which is granted Spell Shield, Overwhelm and Challenger after your target 4+ allies in different rounds. Camphor might be a unit that pulls another attacker or some threat on the enemy board, or it might be a unit that deals direct damage to the enemy Nexus.
In this list, Samira is essential for you to control the first few rounds. This champion is very versatile and matches the strategy of targeting allies a lot, once she needs to use the spell Flair to declare her attacks. That is why Samira is very important for this deck, and you must always try your hardest to keep your champion alive.
Lastly, if everything goes wrong, which means, you didn't draw Pantheon, your Samira has already been removed and Camphor, the Doubt doesn't have enough damage, your last hope will be Naganeka of Zuretta.
This Darkin can solve the trickiest of issues you might find late game, and it may be a very consistent removal tool against your opponent's board.
This list has a simple Mulligan strategy. You must always have in your hands Pantheon, and even two copies of this champion are okay to have, but three is a bit too much. Aside from that, always look for some equipment, and Samira as well. If you choose all your cards as you're supposed to, your initial hand should look something like this:
It is very important to remember that you must try, every turn, to target a unit on your board, and that is why drawing cards that allow you to do so is very important. Most of your cards have synergy with the effect "if you've equipped an ally this game"; that is why you must give high priority to having equipment in your opening hand.
Don't be scared if you didn't draw any, as it is very likely that at least on turn 4 you'll already have in your hands at least one equipment card, as you have 9 cards that allow for that synergy in your deck.
Depending on the matchup, it is possible some removal tools are necessary for you to win, such as Furious Wielder and Brutal Skirmish, and that's the reason you should always keep an eye out for your opponent's deck.
If they're playing a more Midrange inclined list, these striking spells are essential.
This list got popular as a direct response to the Tristana meta, as this combo strategy is very consistent against decks that like to play very cheap and small units, without many key stats.
This way, all units you put on board will almost always be bigger than your opponent's units. But, your list can't deal with heavy Control decks, or very fast and aggressive lists that have Elusives. Your deck works perfectly against Midrange lists.
Tristana Gnar Bilgewater - Tristana's deck can't deal efficiently with your units. This list with the Bilgewater region is the slowest archetype and is more geared towards a combo considering all Tristana decks, and that allows our Pantheon to have enough time to work through his combo and his synergies throughout the match.
Another factor is that Tristana's deck is very vulnerable to the keyword Challenger. You'll usually have no issues with removing and targeting enemy units during the game. That is without saying it is very hard for Pantheon to be removed, even more if the champion is granted Spell Shield and Tough after he levels up.
Tristana can't position any attackers which have more than 5 attack early in the match without it being herself. And, as a result, trades will hardly be unfavorable to us.
Garen Kai'Sa - This Kai'Sa list has been very popular lately, but a great weakness to this deck is that this list needs to play on curve, which makes all matches with it very transparent and can easily be "read" and predictable, considering the moves Kai'Sa can and will do.
This allows the Pantheon list to be proactive and make decisions which would be very risky against other decks. For instance, declaring a removal as your turn opens up, or developing a unit without any fear and spending all your available mana.
That type of more transparent game is very beneficial to the Pantheon player, which will always make the play which possibly won't make them lose any unit. Historically, Demacia is very bad against removals as well, and as your deck is filled with striking spells and Challenger units, it is very easy for us to dominate completely the first few rounds against Kai'Sa.
Vayne Aatrox Quinn - This deck loses to Pantheon almost because of the same reasons as Kai'Sa.
The difference is that this matchup is a bit harder for the Targon player, once the Aatrox deck can play very responsively and slowly. But, even then, Pantheon is always the favorite. This deck's units grow considerably and at a fast pace, and the enemy doesn't have any tools that can deal with a leveled Pantheon.
A very interesting nuance to this matchup is that these decks work quite similarly until the turns which Pantheon or Aatrox drop come along. The difference is that Aatrox tries to control the game with his healing and Darkin synergies, whereas Pantheon tries to finish the match as soon as possible.
And, as a result, the Targon list can be very superior in that state of the game and very frequently ends the match with a victory against Aatrox.
Shen Jarvan IV - Unlike other Demacia lists, the Shen Jarvan IV deck works with the Barrier mechanic, which is a very effective defensive resource against attacks made by the Pantheon list's units.
The Shen deck is also filled with Challenger units and very strong combos that can attack the Targon player's Nexus very easily. Imagine that the Shen deck is prepared to deal with your list; everything you do, this deck does better and more consistently, and on top it takes cards that are good against your strategies.
It is very hard to establish a strategy against this type of deck when playing Pantheon, because even if you play responsively, the Shen list can put pressure on the game with units very early on.
If you get to face a lineup with Shen Jarvan IV, always try to ban this deck.
Fizz Samira - Before the nerfs, Fizz Samira used to lose this matchup, as you could deal with Fleet Admiral Shelly very easily, but something very curious happened with the Fizz deck. Now, the card that finished the matches for this list is Powder Pandemonium, which is a spell which your deck can't resolve in any circumstances. That is why, currently, this matchup is too unfavorable for this deck. Fizz Samira no longer cares about losing their units, as long as they can activate Plunder.
Now that the game extends until the moment your enemy hoards stacks enough to activate Powder Pandemonium, and there you have it, the game ends at that exact moment. Aside from you having a Life Steal Pantheon on board, which means you might still have a shot, the Fizz list makes sure you don't play a leveled Pantheon during the match most times.
Jinx Ekko - This matchup is quite sad. Your enemy has Quicksand, which is Pantheon's number 1 enemy. That is without mentioning that even if you remove Ekko, this champion usually comes back on board in that same turn, with an attack token, due to Chronobreak.
The only removal you have that doesn't allow Ekko to strike is Furious Wielder, which is the perfect target for their Rite of Negation. So, it seems everything you can do, Ekko's list has an answer. And if you pull Ekko in an attack, this champion will strike and will eventually draw more cards and create more value.
The predicts also help a lot the Shuriman player to search for the perfect cards to deal with our threats. So, even if you have time enough to have a leveled Pantheon on board, this champion will hardly be that much of a threat to end the match.
- The most important tip of all is: try to always have enough mana to play your spells or equipment. Your deck is responsive, and that is why it is essential for you to pass your turn at some point.
Usually, that turn will be the first so that you can have a little bit of mana banked so that in the future you can use your removal spells or equipment with no further issues.
- Pay attention to Camphor, The Doubt's effect, because this follower's effect only activates in your hand. You won't be able to put this unit on board with its counter on 3/4 and target it; if you do, Camphor won't get its keywords.
- Pantheon has Barrier, and that is why it is very common for you to see players put this champion on board in defensive turns to stop an enemy attack, even if he is still at level 1. That sort of play is quite beneficial as well, because, with Pantheon on board, targeting this champion and growing him gets much easier.
- Pantheon's Fated resets after he levels up on board. In case you have a level 1 Pantheon on board which is just missing one more counter to level up to level 2, if you target the champion, he will level up, and get +1/+1 from Fated, +1/+1 from the level up, and will be ready to get another +1/+1 stack after all that.
- Removal spells with a strike activate Fated, so be careful, because the damage your Fated units can deal in a turn is always a point of damage higher than what's being represented on board.
- Pantheon can't get any keywords he already has, so if you want to increase the odds of this champion getting the keywords of your choice, try to give him the keywords you have available beforehand.
- Wandering Shepherd can give your Pantheon the equipment that has Scout, which is the best possible keyword for your champion.
- If you have a leveled Samira on board, try to always Rally with this champion so that your allies with Overwhelm or Challenger also attack more than once a turn, this way putting on pressure on your opponent's board.
- Iula is the best defensive card in the whole deck, as she will be responsible for bringing Spell Shield beforehand to your champions and units. Even if your Pantheon doesn't get Spell Shield as he levels up, Iula can solve your problems in the blink of an eye.
- This list doesn't have many card draw tools, and therefore it is extremely important to have an extra care when it's time to attack or declare any combat. Losing units is very bad for your deck, and if you end up with no units on board, you won't be able to target anyone and won't be able to level your Pantheon.
That is why, if in any turn you have some questions regarding whether an attack must be made, usually the best decision is not to attack, just to guarantee your units won't get damaged from enemy blocks, this way making them vulnerable to removals.
If you read this far, now you are an avatar of the Aspect of War, and you're ready to duel for Mount Targon's honor and glory!
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