How to Play Darkin Fate
Turn the clock back a nerf or three and Pantheon was an absolute house of a card dominating an entire metagame.
I’m Jordan “WhatAmI” Abronson and I’m here to let you know that while he can’t be an entire deck to himself anymore, with the right support this particular aspect of Targon can still shine.
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Deck Code: CECQEBQHAQCQEBAHHOBACAQGBECAMAIDBEUACBIJAMCACBIJAUBQGCJDGNOACBIHCYBAIB4AAGBQCAICAQDV3CQB
Protect the Queen
And by right support, what I mean of course is “enough synergistic secondary win conditions to give anyone even attempting to play the control deck against us fits. It’s strange that a deck whose mana curve ends at four might be one of the strongest mid game decks there is right now, but that’s the power of the Darkins.
What lets this deck function is the fact that you are essentially running twelve champions. Pantheon can’t be enough on his own to consistently close games, but what he can be is another powerful tool in a completely overloaded arsenal of such weapons.
With the way this deck cycles equipment Akshan’s landmark levels are almost unbelievably fast. Creating a huge discount turn as early as six or seven and quite often by eight, all while applying other pressure is absolutely nuts. And if you already have all your pieces in play, simply spell shield up and slam away.
Xolani gets underestimated in basically every deck she enters. A single card that can create two mana 4|3’s, a six mana 7|7 Overwhelm, and trigger fated or Akshan for negligible mana cost? Darkin Bloodletters is one of the top stars of this deck and I will open keep it in many matchups.
Last but not least my true Targonian love is Horazi. In either form, she can combo with a Sparklefly to do some incredibly busted things. Wandering Shepherd will also allow some sick keyword transfers and in a pinch, even a random Absolver will allow the big darkin lady to close out games quite quickly.
Phase One: Looking Ahead
This is a deck that will highly reward those who can skillfully read the future of the game state and brutally punish any who neglects this most important aspect of play. From the start of the game, there are a couple of important questions you need to be asking yourself.
Number one, what turn am I realistically trying to level Pantheon? This becomes more or less important if the erstwhile aspect is actually in your hand, but just like Nami, you need to keep the level-up condition in mind from the word go. Otherwise, when you draw him later, he will sit there sad and unleveled.
Number two, what particular set of pieces and I trying to put together to make powerful units? Your deck has thirteen targets in it. Akshan, Pantheon, Saga Seeker, Vekauran Vagavond, and Sparklefly. Mountain goat can do in a pinch, but he’d rather be there to help out and block if he can manage.
You’ve got nine pieces of equipment to help those targets shine. Darkin Bloodletters, Darkin Lodestone, and Wandering Shepherd all create the boosts and consistent targeting you are looking for.
Depending on the matchup and your opening hand figuring out when and how to put those two together in the right way will be a big part of your game. How much pressure we need to apply versus how defensive we need to depend almost entirely on the speed at which your opponent wants to play the game.
This is a deck that counterintuitively wants to match the speed of its opponent. Against an aggressive player we want early blockers and to have Sparklefly carry. Against a later game deck we are happy to lean in hard on Akshan’s landmark and look for Pantheon and out Darkin friends backed by Rite of Negation to close.
Phase Two: Interaction
Other than blocking we only really have seven pieces of real interaction in this deck. There are of course a few more than that if you count champion spells, both Akshan and Pantheon provide meaningful board interaction when you double draw them, but seven is the number we have without any caveats.
Four pieces of unit removal and three ways to counter spells. What that means is that with most hands we need to jealously hoard the opportunities we’ll have to cast these spells. You have to ask each time you are tempted to use that counter to a spell or unit if this is the right time.
I’ve had games against control decks where I have spent the entire match threatening a Rite of Negation that I never cast and then won the game. Just because a large threat is going to die doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the right time to save it.
Instead of auto-piloting those units or removal spells, think if stopping this unit or this piece of removal is what is going to put you in a potentially game-winning situation. If the answer is yes then fire away. If the answer is no, then think two or three more times before you pull the trigger.
Phase Three: Darkin Destruction
While this is a pantheon deck, I honestly win quite a few more games by simply casting my big Darkin units. Xolaani herself is a 7|7 Overwhelm, just two points off being a six mana castable Frozen Thrall. That’s some serious beat down power right there if you have any other kind of pressure at all.
Beyond that, Horazi with any kind of backup will turn literally any unit into a gigantic threat. Obviously Sparklefly is the dream, but sometimes all you need is a random board full of 7/7 units to crush through your opponent’s dreams. Spellshield is a very real keyword no matter where you put it.
What all this means is that going into turn six plus you need to be very conscious of how you equip your Darkin weapons. You don’t want to get stuck with them in play when the time comes to start slamming your endgame threats.
Make sure you can cycle through equipment to what you need to cast, or if you can’t, strongly consider not deploying your Darkins. Ensuring they will be there when you need them is often more important than an extra +1|+1.
This deck is extremely tight, so a lot of what folks will notice right off of the bat is what *isn’t* here. First, of all, Zenith Blade has simply been hurt too much to be a realistic plan. Committing a full three mana to that small a buff is simply not something we can justify any more.
Secondly, we’re only running two non-Pantheon-fated units. That’s simply because those aren’t the best targets for the buffs in this deck. Akshan’s landmark and Sparklefly both use the power that we can give far better than simply making something a touch bigger.
Last but certainly not least you’ll not the absence of Yuumi. While the original kitty equipment was quite strong in the Demacia version of this deck, we lack any rally effects. What that means is that we can’t turbo-level her and attack at a normal speed she is simply too slow for the metagame we live in.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask WhatAmI during his streams (Tuesday-Thursday around 3PM PST and weekends for tournaments).