Deep Dives: Ezreal Control and Karma/Lux Control
Hey everyone! This post was adapted with permission from Toephur who wrote an amazing Reddit post recently. He’s a control deck Master who’s here to teach you how to play Ezreal Control and Karma/Lux Control with lists from Swim and Alanzq! At the time of his post, he was ranked #3 in NA!
You can check out his stream at twitch.tv/toephur_42 between 10AM-4PM PST.
Hey everybody, I’ve been playing card games ever since I was a kid, definitely Magic for the longest, but despite top 8’ing a few PTQ’s, hitting Mythic on Arena, hitting Legend on Hearthstone, and long hauling as hard as I could for Artifact, I’ve never really gotten a big break in any card game.
Recently I’ve been playing Runeterra, and I really like where the game is at right now. I learned the game by playing elusives, I know yuck, but once I made it to Platinum and had most of the cards I started playing what I really like, which is control, and used that to climb all the way to #3 in Master NA, although somebody just knocked me down to 5.
I decided to do a writeup of the two control decks I played, Ezreal and Lux/Karma, to try to give you guys a sense of the way the deck plays, the matchups it can succeed in, and the mulligan decisions you’ll need to make.
How to Play Ezreal Control
The first deck I started playing seriously was Ezreal combo/control, which I played into Master with 99 Wins / 86 Losses. I’m much less of a deck builder and much more of an in-game player, so most of the time I just use stock lists, which is why my initial version was just a carbon copy of Swim’s.
(Big ups to Swim he’s an amazing deck builder and streamer that I’m sure almost all of you already know about.) I eventually switched over to Master’s list before the dreaded Elnuks took over, which featured 3 Entreat for a ton of consistency.
I was skeptical, but I really liked the Entreat version not only because of the consistency but because Entreat is an amazing finisher once Ezreal has leveled up, it’s 2 damage at burst speed which gets you a mystic shot for another 4 damage at fast speed.
As Master put it “that’s 4 mana for 6 damage, so it’s just fireball”. However, not long after playing Master’s list I saw Hyped running Elnuks, and pretty soon everyone was running Elnuks.
I really didn’t want to run Elnuks because I absolutely loathe RNG from the depths of my soul, but they’re such a strong way to develop onto the board I had to switch over. My final version looked a lot like this:
Except that I didn’t run the 1 Tavernkeeper and cut 2 Avarosan Sentries so there’s only 1 in my list. I put those 3 cards into 1 Entreat, 1 Trueshot Barrage, and an extra Avarosan Marksman. The reasoning for this is I was playing almost 70% of my games against Fearsome/Elusive and Sentry is at his absolute worst when he can’t block.
I also added the Entreat for consistency and kept a Trueshot Barrage because against any deck without Deny it can absolutely swing the game, especially when you know you’re playing to it and can set up their units appropriately.
I’ve never even played with the Tavernkeeper which has to be a mistake on my part, I’ve seen Prismat running it all the time and he’s an incredible Ezreal player so if I was going to run the deck now I’m sure I would find room to try one out.
I think whatever you do with these last few slots is probably fine and won’t affect the deck much, but I do encourage people to try out different one of’s in the deck. When you’re playing a reactive control deck with a lot of card draw the first copy of a card is almost always the best, so running a lot of 1 of’s is a great way to get some more flexibility in your deck.
Mulligans for Ezreal Control:
I think some of the most crucial and difficult decisions you make with almost any deck is the mulligan process and mulliganing with control is an extra difficult topic, so I wanted to spend some time outlining decisions in the mulligan phase.
For Ezreal you’re essentially looking for your units and cheap removal in the early game. Troop is obviously an auto keep as it is your best early game card and you should mulligan as many Bull Elnuks as you can to make sure you have the highest Elnuk odds possible.
Avarosan Sentry is great against any matchup where he can block, and with the changes that’s essentially all of them, which is why people are playing more of that card again, so he’s almost always a keep.
Chump Whump is the other card that you’ll almost always keep, he’s a solid body which you need in the early game, as well as giving you fuel for your Ezreal or any discard outlets that you’ve drawn early game, such as Rummage and Get Excited.
The Auto-Mulligans are Ezreal himself, Entreat, Progress Day, Harsh Winds, Rummage, and usually Get Excited. You basically never want to play your Ezreal early game, unless you have multiples, your opponent has no removal, and he’ll give you an advantage on board.
When in doubt, you shouldn’t play him until he’s leveled and you can respond to removal with a ton of spells for damage, which explains why you don’t want him or Entreat in your opener.
Harsh Winds and Progress day are obvious mulligans also because they’re too expensive. Brittle Steel often joins Harsh Winds as a mulligan because you want to be using units and removal to stabilize the board early on, and then using freeze to buy you a few extra turns like game as you kill your opponent.
Sometimes, however, if your opponent is on a unit based deck and you have units of your own you can keep Brittle Steel and freeze units that you block to turn Brittle Steel into 1 mana removal, which is very powerful for keeping up with early game decks.
Rummage and Get Excited are almost never good in an opener, because you don’t want to be discarding cards until late game, but if you have a Chump Whump then Rummage might be worth keeping around and if you opponent is on a deck that crucially uses a 3 health champion, Ezreal/Heimer/Fiora/Elise, then you might want to hold onto Get Excited if you don’t have a Thermogenic Beam to help you out.
To decide whether or not to mulligan the rest of your deck the first question is how effective you think the removal is in the matchup. For example, if I’m playing against an Elise/Hecarim deck I’m keeping as many Thermogenic Beams as I can, because it’s the best answer to Elise on 2 and Hecarim on 6.
By the same token Statikk Shocks can be good in matchups where your opponents have lots of 1 health units (see Elusives and Spiders), but if they flood the board early with units Stattik Shock can’t kill then the spell becomes clunky and needs to be mulliganed, such as in matchups like Fearsome Rally.
The second question to ask yourself is how diverse are the answers in your hand. You want your opener to be able to handle multiple threats from your opponents because you have no idea what they’ll have, so looking for a blend of cards is almost always good and multiples are usually bad unless they happen to be amazing in the matchup.
The last card I’ll touch on for mulligans is Trueshot Barrage. A lot of people aren’t running this card and I think that’s fair, but resolving one can stabilize the board out of nowhere while stacking your Ezreal a ton.
I definitely wouldn’t run this card in a meta with lots of Deny, especially since most of the Ezreal deck is at Burst speed there are so few Deny targets that your opponent is bound to have one by the time you’re casting Trueshot Barrage, so you’ll have to play around that.
However, against any unit based that doesn’t have Deny, like Fearsome Rally or Spiders, you can keep Trueshot Barrage in your opener and set up to play it on turn 4 to devastating effect. If your opponent is in Ionia though, don’t keep Trueshot Barrage and don’t cast it if they have 4 mana up.
How to Play Karma/Lux Control
After hitting Master, I decided I wanted to try a different deck. I had been getting pounded relentlessly by Karma/Lux creating a million lasers and I decided I’d rather be doing the lasering instead of getting lasered.
I started and finished with Alanzq’s list for the deck:
I unfortunately never got to see Alanzq play the deck, I’m sure I would have learned a ton from that, but I have watched his stream a bunch. He’s a really strong player and gives a lot of insight into his decision process while he’s playing, so I highly recommend checking him out if you’re looking to learn.
I think one of the most crucial skills for playing this deck is knowing when to pass priority back to your opponent. This is largely because Lux/Karma is such a late game powerhouse, I think I’ve lost 1 game out of 19235780492338690543 when they both hit the board and stick around, meaning you’re highly incentivized to let the game go as long as possible.
Aggro decks need to develop units and attack to win, Heimer needs to combo and play units to win, even Ezreal has to be casting spells to level him up, but not Karma/Lux. With Karma/Lux all you’re really waiting for is for Karma to become Enlightened.
Once that happens and she’s on the board with Lux not only are all your spells far more powerful because they go off twice, but they stack Lux twice as fast and her lasers fire twice also. What this means is that if you and your opponent both spend the turn floating mana it’s a win for you, unless you’re behind on board.
Because of this, and the fact that the deck is so reactive, in most situations you’ll want to pass back to your opponent until they actually spend some of their mana to do something.
In fact, if I’m ahead on board, I’ll almost always do nothing if my opponent won’t spend mana first. This isn’t to say that it is always right to do nothing. If you’re playing against an aggressive deck you’ll almost certainly be forced to develop one of your 3 drops and use some protection on it to trade favorably and stabilize the board.
You should also develop Karma with protection as soon as you reasonably can, which frequently is turn 5, but sometimes is turn 6 if you feel like you need Deny up.
However, as long as your opponent isn’t far enough ahead on board that you have to deal with it, then do nothing.
Let them tap out so it becomes clear how best to use your removal or so you’ll have the opportunity to stick and protect a threat like Karma or Lux.
Using this philosophy you can trick many aggro opponents when you develop a Laurent Protege on your turn. Frequently your opponent will see the Protege and not want to develop a new unit into a favorable challenge for you. This will cause them to pass back to you and wait for your attack to complete before developing their own unit.
You can take advantage of that tendency and end the turn and burn your opponents mana, even if there exists a favorable trade for you.
Although you missed out on a favorable trade on that turn, you can deny your opponent mana, and force the game to go longer which is always favorable for you. In the same vein, it’s always better to be blocking than attacking.
Attacking on your turn against an aggro deck gives them another opportunity to damage/kill your units and push through your board presence.
It is frequently correct to attack on your turn with Laurent Protege or Emerald Awakener for value, but if that could cause your units to die and you could just as easily be blocking with them next turn, you should be doing that instead.
This reduces your opponents opportunity for combat phases and to kill your units, while also ensuring you have mana open during combat for all of your tricks. If your opponent wants to open attack you that’s fine as long as you have some units in play, you want to be going through combat while your mana is open so you can react to whatever tricks are being played during combat.
Mulligans for Karma/Lux Control:
Karma/Lux skips turn 1 and 2 of every game, and enters turn 3 with 6 mana. Because of this in almost every matchup you’re looking for a 3 cost creature to pair with a 3 cost protection spell to play on turn 3 and immediately have a strong effect on the board.
Shadow Assassin is the best proactive threat for a control matchup like Ezreal or SI/Freljord, Laurent Protege is good for forcing trades with something like Elusives or Spiders, and Awakener pairs incredibly well with Stand Alone against aggro decks, but otherwise is the least favorable turn 3 play despite being the best 3 drop late game.
Which buffs are good depends on the matchup also, the exception being that Stand Alone is always the best and an auto keep.
Barrier is weakest against SI since they almost always have a Vile Feast clogged in their hand, but it’s amazing against any Demacia based deck looking to cast buffs on its creatures.
Twin Disciplines is the exact inverse of Barrier, so you’ll ideally be looking for whichever fits the matchup best.
Karma and Lux are always mulligans against anything aggressive like Spiders, Fearsome Rally, or Elusives, as they’re too slow to have in your opening hand. Against control matchups like Ezreal and Warmother’s Call you’ll want them, but they shouldn’t be developed until you think they have a reasonable chance to stick on board.
Single Combat is great for killing Heimers and Ezreals, but is a mulligan against aggressive decks because it can be difficult to set up. Purify should only be a keep against Elusives, and Health Potion is only a keep against Spiders if you suspect a burn finish.
The most interesting mulligan decision to me is Judgement. Similar to Trueshot Barrage with Ezreal, I will only keep Judgement against a unit based deck that doesn’t have Ionia in it. 8 mana is a lot to get to, but with spell mana you can get there on turn 5 and you really don’t need much of a unit to make Judgement a complete blowout on any sort of aggressive all in deck.
It’s absolutely terrifying to cast the spell with no protection, ideally you want Deny and barrier in hand, but many aggressive decks have 0 outs to the card making it an absolute house. Sometimes your opponent will even do you a solid and tap out and run straight into it, that’s the best.
The reality about Judgement is that your matchup against all in aggressive decks is so miserable anyway that you’re highly incentivized to keep the Judgement and go for the all in play since resolving it always wins you the game.
Because of Deny, Will of Ionia, and Vengeance, Judgement is always a mulligan against any deck based in Ionia or Shadow Isles.
By late game you’ll have drawn at least one anyway and against SI if your unit can’t be Vile Feasted, Black Speared, or Grasped you can resolve it, provided you have Deny up for their Vengeance.
Against Ionia though it’s really hard to resolve unless they tap out and play into it, which if they’re smart they won’t do. Sometimes Elusives will tap out and then attack with only their Elusive creatures to get around Judgement, but if you have Purify then you can blow them out real good. Otherwise, it’s rare to get one off.
P.S. I recently scrimmed on stream against Prismat while I was playing Lux/Karma and he was playing Spooky Karma. The matchup is incredibly complex and skill intensive so if you’re looking to see how those decks really function I highly recommend checking it out here. Our scrimming starts around 3:42:00.
Thanks for reading!
If you have any questions or feedback at all I’m more than happy to discuss whatever in the comments. I’ve also been trying to stream occasionally, but whenever I do it’s just me and my golden retriever Moose lol. I’ll be streaming around 10AM -4PM PST at twitch.tv/toephur_42.
If anyone wants to come through and talk about whatever that’d be great! If you find this helpful at all I can definitely write stuff up on more decks in the future!