LoR Homebrews: Apothecary Reputation
Gray Apothecary and LeBlanc's buff provide an opportunity to revive the Reputation archetype
Hey, I’m Astrofeesh! You might know me as the creator of Cait Mill, which you can find here. You can find me on Discord as Astrofeesh#7532 and Runeterra.ar at https://runeterra.ar/j8X1XkrrUch9wbPfuNwFo13S9hP2, where I occasionally post fun decks I make.
I’ve been playing LoR regularly since Beta, but I’ve never climbed past Diamond since I don’t really have the patience to grind to Masters.
My favorite part of the game is building new decks, to the point where I rarely stick with one archetype for more than a few games.
I also consider myself an expert small-tournament player, especially in ones with deck-building restrictions – some I’ve played include ones hosted by the Legends Cast podcast, Runeterra Life, and TKG STAYWOKE. I’ve only played in a handful of larger tournaments, though.
I took a break from ladder the past few seasons because I burnt myself out, but I started playing Ranked again recently with the challenge of only using my own off-meta brews to climb.
I’ve been playing Reputation pretty consistently ever since it first came out as an archetype, all the way back in Empires of the Ascended. It’s probably my most played deck of all time, wih LeBlanc and Sivir being the first two champions I got to mastery 5.
However, after a few expansions that didn’t bring any good support to the archetype – on top of a few hard-hitting nerfs in Shaped Stone, Merciless Hunter and Ruin Runner – Reputation was placed in the unfortunate state of simply not being worth playing. Sivir/Akshan basically did the same things, but better, and the Noxus payoffs for Reputation didn’t really do enough to justify playing the region instead of Demacia.
As such, I had mostly placed the deck on the backburner, as no different than other largely forgotten archetypes like Karma/Anivia or Taric/Riven. Sadly, the deck just wasn’t able to stand out at all.
… Just Waiting to be Buffed
However, the release of Gray Apothecary and a buff to LeBlanc (creating a Mirror Image on level-up) provided an opportunity to revive the archetype. With its newfound infinite value engine and easier combo potential, Reputation has been given the tools to set itself apart from every other deck.
Whereas before it was locked into being a fast aggro/midrange deck, it can now adapt its gameplan to fit the matchup.
As a result, Apothecary Reputation is a deck that has no hard counters: even its bad matchups are very winnable provided you don’t draw poorly.
Plans within Plans
To understand how to play Apothecary Reputation, it’s important to understand the 4 different gameplans it has:
Tempo, to punish decks with slow development,
Board Advantage, to stall out fast decks,
Control, for when games go late, and
Combo, whenever you have the opportunity to pull it off.
We’ll choose our gameplan based on the opponent’s deck and our opening draws – don’t worry, it’s easier than it sounds!
And, a quick note on our spells: they generally play very similar regardless of the scenario, so just play them how you would normally:
Bloody Business is a good removal spell,
Noxian Tellstones is a very versatile combat trick,
Whispered Words is card draw that gets more efficient if you hit Reputation, and
Rite of Negation is your emergency button.
The tempo gameplan is our tool against slower control, combo and value decks, where our goal is to punish their slow development by playing high-attack units and finishing off with Sivir, Kato the Arm and Incisive Tactician as our top end.
For this gameplan, you want to aggressively mulligan and play out your one- and two-drops as fast as you can, dropping your champions on curve if possible.
LeBlanc is always worth keeping in your mulligan because of the pressure she provides, and Sivir should be kept only if you already have cheap units in your opening hand.
It plays very similar to the classic version of Reputation, with our units forcing the opponent into uncomfortable trades while Trifarian Gloryseeker and Merciless Hunter pull high-value blockers out of the way.
Unlike other aggressive decks though, we have an infinite value engine to fall back on: Gray Apothecary. If our opponent manages to stabilize the board and we aren’t quite able to turn the corner, we can just drop Apothecary and switch over to a completely different gameplan.
The opponent will likely be short on resources, giving you the opportunity to start out-valuing them and winning in the late game. However, do note that dropping Apothecary too early loses you tempo, so make sure to only play it when you have the spare mana to.
Our board advantage gameplan works best against faster aggro and tempo decks that try to overwhelm the board early.
Functionally, it works pretty similarly to the aggro plan, but with one main difference: instead of relying on rushing down our opponent, we’re focusing entirely on gaining a board advantage.
Treasure Seeker’s Waking Sands is also an excellent way of stopping an attack round completely to give you time to play out more units, so don’t be afraid to play it on defensive turns if you need to.
Sivir and LeBlanc are good at winning back the board because of the pressure they provide, especially if you’re able to play their champ spells, but they should only be kept in your mulligan if you already have cheap units.
Attacking can be a very good way of forcing the opponent into either taking bad blocks or putting themselves on the edge of lethal, especially if you manage to get your champs down. However, the most important thing against aggro is to just make sure that you don’t take so much damage that you lose to burn before you swing the board back, which is easier said than done, but definitely possible with the right draws.
Once we’ve stabilized the board and our aggro opponent is out of gas, winning tends to be pretty easy. Our units are big enough that once we gain the board advantage against aggro, it only takes one or two attacks to win. Often, our opponent won’t have blocked any early attacks, meaning just one swing with our champions will finish them off.
Apothecary generally isn’t necessary for this gameplan, so only play it if you’re completely safe on board.
Going control is our solution to midrange and other control decks that we aren’t able to consistently win the board against, while also being a backup plan if games go late.
Gray Apothecary will be the foundation of our control gameplan: we'll use the value it generates to grind out our opponent in the same vein as we would with Howling Abyss.
Generally, you want to hard mull for Apothecary and get it down at the earliest opportunity you can safely do so. After that, start playing out your five-attack units – remember: with Apothecary out each one will give you a strong unit after dying, so any card or unit your opponent spends killing it is effectively minus-one in card advantage for them.
After that, just keep playing big Apothecary units and throwing them at your opponent, and you’ll eventually run them out of cards and win the game!
You’ll often have to stall the game to get full value off of Apothecary, since it is weighted towards expensive units. Your cheap units are usually pretty good as chump blockers, but be aware that some midrange and control decks will be able to overpower you on board before you can get the Apothecary ball fully rolling.
Because of this, it’s often a good idea to go with a tempo gameplan first to apply pressure, and only switch to the Apothecary plan once your opponent’s stalled out the game for you.
Last but not least, our combo gameplan isn’t something you plan for at the start of the game, but rather something you draw into naturally.
The combo is pretty straightforward:
You level LeBlanc,
Play Incisive Tactician,
Then play Mirror Image on Tactician to rally once again (in the same vein as the Taric/Golden Aegis combo).
Usually, three attacks in one turn is more than enough to win you the game, but you can keep playing Mirror Images as long as Tactician lives for a constant stream of rallies since LeBlanc will generally give you a new one each attack.
To switch to the combo gameplan, a few conditions must be met (all of which tend to happen naturally):
You need to have leveled-up LeBlanc, or the ability to level her up with an attack,
You need to have drawn into Tactician,
You need enough of a board advantage to be able to attack, which is usually the case if LeBlanc is able to level-up,
You’ve hit Reputation, which is technically only a soft requirement as Tactician can still be played for 8 mana, but it makes the combo much harder.
The most effective way to utilize this combo is to start by open-attacking, then immediately dropping Tactician afterwards.
That way, it not only pressures your opponent to spend mana and chump-block during the first attack, but it also gives you an extra chance to level LeBlanc if you haven’t done so yet.
Pulling the combo on a defensive turn is still possible, but it gives your opponent more time to set up and pressure you by counterattacking. If they completely tap out and you still have enough mana, however, it’s close to a guaranteed win.
Again, the Tactician - Mirror Image combo isn’t something you should be playing for from the start of the game – but if you draw into Tactician and have a LeBlanc out, you should always be looking for an opportunity to pull it off. It’s usually enough to win the game on its own, and it can be done as early as round six.
Ironically, the versatile nature of Apothecary Reputation means there isn’t much wiggle room for swapping cards out. The only real flex spots are Thorn of the Rose and Rite of Negation, though you may be able to get away with cutting one copy of Thrashing Snapper as well.
There are a few cards that work as good replacements:
Quicksand is an excellent tech card against Elusives and can work as both a combat trick and extra stall, though it’s a bit weaker now that its second mode only gives -1|-0,
Baccai Sandspinner is a solid 4 drop that fits our gameplans very well, but it often ends up being a worse version of Merciless Hunter,
For Glory! is a solid card and a pretty decent finisher as well, especially after you hit Reputation. However, it has the potential to brick your hand a bit, and is horrible against aggro,
Callous Bonecrusher is another solid four-drop that’s pretty good after you hit Reputation, but you’ll often have to play it pre-Reputation to fill your curve, where it’s a lot worse.
For mulligans, a good rule of thumb is to always keep your champions and low-cost units, and always throw back your spells, as they’re mostly just to support your unit-based gameplans.
Whether you keep Apothecary depends on the opponent’s deck:
If you’re up against a fast and agressive deck, you should throw it back; Apothecary is pretty bad in those cases,
In long matchups, when you’re going for a value gameplan from the start, you should hard-mull for it,
In cases you need to go fast, or control the board, you should keep it provided you already have a cheap unit or two in hand.
Reputation is one of my favorite archetypes of all time, second only to Cait Mill, and it’s easily my most played deck as well. I was never able to find success with the deck after Ruin Runner & Friends got nerfed, but Apothecary gave it the chance to be a good archetype again — this is my go-to deck for climbing, as it’s a very good deck if you know how to play it well and its versatility means it doesn’t really have any bad matchups.
I would probably put this deck’s power level around Tier 2, as I’ve had massive success with it on ladder and it feels very viable. I went 8-2 in my past 10 games, and both losses were due to misplays rather than the deck's fault.
It can go toe-to-toe with the strongest decks in the format, and the nature of the deck makes it hard for your opponent to figure out how to play against it. In fact, I would say I enjoy this version even more than the original, since being able to throw an endless stream of big units at your opponent is much more fun than just beating people down with Ruin Runner every game.
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