Call of the Mountain: Leona | Early Impressions Part 5
After a long climb, we are now over the halfway point, with the 26th of August peaking right over the next ridge! Let's take a bit of a rest at the Solari enclave and see exactly how they've built such a glowing reputation for themselves.
Leona comes in with Daybreak, a fresh keyword that empowers the card if it is the first we play during the round. Fairly straightforward, it should be good value and promotes a "Play on curve" playstyle in the early game while introducing interesting choices later on between which Daybreak card to choose from, though could be awkward if we're forced to forego any Daybreak bonus for the sake of tempo. At level 1, Leona is a sturdy unit with enough power to trade decently into most of the field, however her true power lies in her ability to stun targets consistently throughout the game. Though not as board-breaking as Swain, she is a consistent threat when played and should be easy to level up in the right deck. A deck which, if centered around her, would fatally include many Daybreak cards which obviously comes with an opportunity cost. It is entirely possible that Leona could instead fit as a lone 4-drop or within a Daybreak package in a different archetype, much like Fiora or Vi do not have archetypes of their own but have still seen play as standalone units. Leona's sturdy statline, powerful effect, and easily achievable level up will ensure that she sees play, most likely in aggro or midrange, but I can also see her work as a stalling tool for greedier decks.
Leona's Morning Light
For Demacia!-lite reveals its true power when benefitting a board of Daybreak units. With a leveled-up Leona on board, Morning Light stuns two units on top of buffing our board. It is a solid spell to press a mid-game advantage forward that can obviously get punished by fast removal but should prove deadly if not played around by the opponent. If ever on the back foot however, Morning Light becomes a dead draw, as it lacks flexibility. Furthermore, like many keyword related effects, its viability hinges on the presence of the Daybreak archetype to ever see consistent play. If Leona finds a deck of her own, Morning Light surely will become a card to keep in mind, but otherwise its high risk and lack of flexibility are likely to be troublesome, and in many cases reasons enough to leave it by the wayside.
I liked this spell at first. Then I remembered that Might exists. In fairness, they have differences: Zenith Blade is Slow which is not in its favour, and though it receives the same amount of stats as Might, they are distributed in a way that does not synergise well with the granted Overwhelm. Finally, Zenith Blade can draw a copy of itself on Daybreak which is good value. The Slow speed is the killer here, as any play made with Zenith Blade is going to be heavily telegraphed and thus easily played around. The best use I can see for it is to grant the buff to Challenger units, but it still voids the possibility of an open attack. Awkward stats and keyword combination paired with a telegraphed speed does not bode well for this spell's future, but I can perhaps see it in a Challenger-heavy midrange deck, or as level up fuel for Taric.
This one is actually a bomb. The good kind, made of sugar. While it's true that the Slow speed can make it clunky and the removal is not guaranteed, it can deal with a wealth of threats that previously had no good, neat answer like Commander Ledros, any unit protected by Unyielding Spirit, Anivia, Tryndamere, and They Who Endure. Sunburst will not always see play but is a solid answer to the slower, more powerful units found in the game and should find its place against specific metagames, with an honorable mention going to Lux and the Mageseeker cohort.
While it costs more yet heals less than Health Potion, the guaranteed draw is powerful in decks that usually run such healing spells: combo decks like Ezreal/Karma where thinning our deck is almost always a worthy move. If given the opportunity, such combo decks would be interested in playing Guiding Touch, especially when dealing with an aggro metagame; however I believe that all the currently revealed healing effects in Targon are meant for a very specific champion: Soraka, Runeterra's healbot. Without her existence as an incentive to run more healing, Guiding Touch should remain a niche option, albeit a powerful one.
If you are surprised at the power of 1-drops in LoR, the reasoning likely has to do with the existence of spell mana. By design, 1-drops must be extra powerful or they would never be worth playing even for aggro decks, as banking the mana instead would be best in the long run. Beefy soldier boy can trade with the most powerful of 1-drops, Jagged Butcher, and otherwise beats every other 1-drop under the sun, with the amusing exception of Legion Rearguard. Of course, Jagged Butcher would choose to wait until Solari Soldier's Daybreak buff fades before trading, but they usually trade card advantage for tempo when deployed on turn 1 with Warning Shot, and Solari Soldier stops that tempo gain in its tracks. Solari Soldier is a tremendous 1-drop that enables Daybreak synergies and is useful both for attack and defense, easily finding a home in any archetype.
Shieldbearer serves the same purpose as their Solari Soldier companion, being a wall of stats on the turn they are played. There is not much to add there, as they overpower all other 2-drops in the game. They won't fit everywhere as they lack the utility of other 2-drops like Hired Gun or Icevale Archer, though they largely make up for it by their ability to stall a beatdown or initiate their own.
Like the two previous Daybreak units, Sun Guardian is at its best on the turn it is played, though with such a large mana investment and the Overwhelm keyword, it definitely leans towards aggro rather than simply being a wall of stats. So what does that leave us with? A middling Darius with less attack but more health, while requiring no condition to gain those stats but losing them on turn end. On its own, Sun Guardian seems a bit... average, even in an aggro deck. As it is, Sun Guardian should be serviceable as a finisher, but beyond its Daybreak bonus is merely a slightly better Alpha Wildclaw, and even that only for a single round.
Rahvun, Daylight's Spear
Rahvun has been a bit of a contentious topic because of his wonky wording. According to RiotUmbrage, "It's always Day for us" means that Daybreak effects trigger even beyond the first card played, as opposed to them lasting longer than normal. With this interaction clarified, where does Rhavun stand? As a 5-drop he is quite sturdy and therefore should always be a good play on curve. The random Daybreak card it creates is valuable, though its expected value will of course depend on the whole Daybreak pool once it is completely revealed. Rahvun's aura could be a powerful enabler for other Daybreak cards, especially for Level 2 Leona on the board, as every Daybreak activation will stun an enemy unit, potentially disabling a large number of units on following turns. Overall, Rahvun is a solid turn-five play that unlocks a lot of power for Targon in the form of a staple for the Daybreak archetype.
The Solari come in with a much stronger showing than previous reveals, with powerful - if a little bland - statline buffs. Since they can only last a turn, it gears them towards a beatdown aggro or midrange playstyle, overwhelming their opponent in the early game and letting Leona disable the enemy board for the win. I'm interested to see if a Daybreak/Nightfall archetype can function, as they seem to naturally work well together in order to get the best of both worlds.
Card game enthusiast since childhood, and Top Master player for LoR, Asher has played as many CCGs as he could lay his hands on which kickstarted his competitive streak. Achieving high ranks in Hearthstone, Duelyst, and TES: Legends, his goal is now to do the same in Legends of Runeterra by competing in all possible tournaments. With a drive to always improve, Asher is looking to brew the best decks and help new and experienced players alike.
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