If you follow me on twitter, you know that I have been trying to find a ladder deck since the release of Old Gods. For a while, I was enjoying C’Thun and then N’Zoth warrior, but after a while those decks’ winrates plummeted, and losing all the time isn’t fun OR a good ladder strategy. In the end, I decided to take secret paladin to rank 5 on the Wild ladder (my seasonal goal since ranked rewards were introduced) and spend the rest of the month trying to find a deck for this month.
It was not until Chakki (twitter: @Chakki_HS) finally won a major tournament (HCT America, I believe, and congrats to him), with a line-up including this shaman list that I finally found something I wanted to play around with. Specifically, I loved the Nerubian Prophet + Master Evolution combination. I don’t know if his practice group first discovered this interaction or if they got it from somewhere else, but he is the first I’ve seen use it, so he gets my credit and thanks.
It works like this: if the prophet is in your opening hand, he can be played on turn three, for three. As a 4/4, this is already a solid tempo play. BUT, if it sticks around for a turn, you can “evolve” it, which is based on its initial cost of 6 instead of any reduced cost you payed, thereby getting yourself a 7cc minion and a 4/5 (the vanilla 4-drop benchmark) on turn 4. Beautiful. The REAL magic happens when your turn 3 nerubian gets to take out a totem golem or something before you evolve it, which usually leaves you with an insurmountable tempo lead against most decks.
I’m not an analytics guy, but your options for 7cc minions are the following:
Ancient of Lore (5/5)
Ancient of War (5/5)
Knight of the Wild (6/6)
Acidmaw (4/2, likely with a negative effect, this guy is usually a very bad roll)
Antonidas (5/7, and will win you the game if he lives even just one turn)
Eadric the Pure (3/7)
Guardian of Kings (5/6)
Confessor Paletress (5/4, also a very solid effect if she lives)
Prophet Velen (7/7, pretty scary effect, depending on how much burn you run)
Fearsome Doomguard (6/8)
Ancient Shieldbearer (6/6)
Obsidian Destroyer (7/7, decent effect)
Baron Geddon (7/5, situational ability)
Bog Creeper (6/8, taunt)
Captured Jormunger (5/9)
Chillmaw (6/6, taunt)
Core Hound (9/5)
Grotesque Dragonhawk (5/5, windfury)
Hogger, Doom of Elwynn (6/6, good effect)
Ravenholdt Assassin (7/5, stealth)
Rend Blackhand (8/4)
Stormwind Champion (6/6, nice ability)
Skycap’n Kragg (4/6, charge)
Twin Emperor Vek’lor (4/6 taunt)
War Golem (7/7)
In sum: less than a 4% chance of a “bad” effect, almost guaranteed to get a 5/5 or better, and a few options will just win you the game if not dealt with immediately.
As you can see from the link to Chakki’s list, he put this nice interaction into a face shaman list. The benefit of doing so is that Master of Evolution can “capture” additional value from battlecry, charge, and divine shield minions after some of their value is already spent. Argent horserider seems to be the second best target in his list, allowing you to deal 2 (or more) damage to a target, and then evolve out a random 4-drop. Again, conceivably, this can be done on curve (with the divine shield making that prospect a little more likely). The problem with this decklist, for me, is twofold: 1) I’m not much of a “face” guy; and 2) I prefer to at least put my own twist on decks, because deckbuilding makes me feel clever and stuff.
Accordingly, I started experimenting with more midrange builds. Obviously, I kept Tunnel Trogg, because it is the current best one-drop in the game. Trogg, of course, needs some overload cards to make him work. I also wanted some nice alternative evolution targets, which made me lean towards battlecries. Both battlecry and overload have some totem synergy and… voila! After a bit of brewing and testing, I’ve come up with this:
I named it “4th of July” because of the “free-dom” cards (prophet and thing from below played for free) and because of the explosions when you win, and because I’m lame. The deck has done very well for me in the past few days of testing. I was basically on a win-streak with this from rank 18 to mid-rank 11 this weekend (save for a loss here and there and TWO losses to disconnect), all very early in the season when games tend to be a little tougher to win than they would later in the season. I only stopped to watch Game of Thrones, write this post, and go to “work” on Monday.
Some notes on card choices:
– Jeweled Scarab: this card allows for great flexibility and power, in that a lot of the top shaman cards (from which discover draws more frequently than neutral cards) are at 3cc. You get life-gain, spot removal, AoE, draw, minions, and finishers, making shaman the possible best fit for scarab. On top of that, this particular shaman build has great scarab-synergy with Master of Evolution (most of its value is in the battlecry, so it tends to get a big buff when the body is evolved), Brann, and all the minion buffs.
-Gormok: with the shaman hero power, the sticky argent squires, cards that add two minions to the board, and reduced-cost midrange minions, Gormok can frequently give a fairly-easy, and fairly-unexpected trigger. I’ve always liked his power and flexibility and he is a another pretty solid evolution target.
– Brann: with all these battlecrys, we might as well get double the effect! He doesn’t see play in the other versions of shaman because he’s not a great face card and totem shamans don’t have the space for him, but he can really go off in this build and the tempo play on 3 doesn’t end you like it would face builds.
– NO Flamewreathed: This appears to be a fairly common point of divergence with other shaman builds. Flamewreathed can just win you games, for sure. But I don’t like how it can either make your plays clunky, and/or requires you to play the anti-overload cards. He is also just the worst master of evolution target. Moreover, it has become expected, and most players are learning to play around it.
– NO Sir Finley: Finley works better in aggro builds, I think, in which you are hoping for warlock or hunter and willing to work with other hero powers, depending on the situation. This is because the shaman hero power is, in many cases, pretty weak. I LOVED Finley in my secret pally, and think he is a great card. However, in this build, the Thing from Below synergy makes the power much better. Also, all the totems have value in certain settings. Finally, the totems have all become “pseudo-taunt” because a lot of midrange builds now run bloodlust and/or thunder-bluff, so now every totem has a bit more value than it used to.
– NO Thunderbluff/Bloodlust: Not sure if I’m right on this one, but the cards feel very “win more,” so I’m not using them for now. Thus far, the scarabs and the mana tides have tended to keep me from running out of steam even without these finishers. Additionally, as I just stated, you get a bit of value from people playing around these cards that you’re not running. Misdirection can be one of the biggest advantages of homebrewing over netdecking.
– NO Defender of Argus: Defender of Argus is no longer that popular in shaman builds, but it used to be almost a staple as a good way to get value from other wise useless totems and help protect the face that has been taking a beating from weapon usage. In fact, in this build, it fits particularly well in light of my lack of other uses for the totems, my Brann, and my Master of Evolution… well argued, me, Defender of Argus is on the short list for testing (most likely in Gormok’s spot).
General Mulligan/Gameplay Strategies:
Generally, mulligans are fairly easy with this deck: you want to establish a strong 1-2-3-4, if possible, and force your opponent to react to your plays. That means you mulligan for 1 and 2 drops, and prophet. The ideal start is with the coin: tunnel trogg, totem golem, coin+prophet, master of evolution. Note that if you do not have the coin, the totem golem precludes your prophet turn 3, which is always a consideration when deciding the best turn 2 play. I never keep master of evolution without prophet, and even with prophet you send it back if you don’t have turn 1 and/or 2 plays.
Argent Squire is to help you get board control early. Turn 1 squire lets you play turn 2 abusive/flametongue/rockbiter to trade with their turn 1 (or 2) play while continuing to build the board. The card is especially good against other shaman decks, in which those first few turns are key. If you can, you want to play cards like Trogg, Brann, and Manatide behind a taunt, so as to facilitate snowballing out of control. You also want to make sure to position Tuskarr Totemic in such a way that what pops out of him is where you want it (usually, based on an existing flametongue totem, or a hoped-for one). Also, remember that hero power + thing from below = current thing from below cost + 1 (if you have two available slots on your board). If you have the choice between turn 2 totem golem versus scarab, you usually want the golem if you have no turn 3 play (to exert more pressure, and make sure scarab gets you what you want later on in the game).
In terms of specific matchups, the most popular decks right now are: other shamans, of all types, zoolock, tempo warrior, and midrange hunter. Nothing else is even remotely as popular as those decks. Against all three of those decks, it is very important to win and keep the board. Against shaman and zoo, that tends to be won or lost in the first few turns, whereas against tempo warrior and hunter it is more of a midgame battle.
Against shaman, games are frequently decided by who, if anyone, can get an early trogg to stick. Abusing prophet + evo is very powerful for taking an early advantage to a quick W. If the game goes later, it is frequently won by the player who gets a manatide to stick and draw a bunch of cards. Scarab pulls depend a lot on the board state at the time you play it, so later scarabs tend to be better than early ones.
Against zoo, it is very important to keep their board clear. Most zoo builds these days don’t run removal, opting, instead, to use buffs on small minions to win the board. Therefore, if you can keep the board clear, your big guys are always safe. This means sometimes attacking into a smaller minion with a thing from below is the correct play, because if you let that enemy minion live a turn, it will be buffed enough to trade. As you maintain the board, they will need to lifetap to keep up, until around turn 6 or so you win start going face. You usually want scarabs to get AoE, but wolves are also good, and in the late game you can go for lethal or life gain to lock up a win.
Against tempo warrior, just try to keep them off of a big battle rage. These means clearing minions from the board if you can. If you keep their card advantage in check, they run out of steam long before you do. Once they run out of steam, you can switch to going face. Unlike patron and control warrior, there is usually no downside to filling the board (so long as you can replenish after a ravaging ghoul). Finally, try to protect your “snowballing” cards behind taunts if you can, so they cannot get cleared with a weapon equip.
The most important aspect of most games is determining “who is the aggro.” This determination depends on your draw, your opponent’s class, and the cards your opponent plays. This deck tends to take the control position against shaman and hunter, but tends to be aggro against rogue and priest. Warrior is a toss-up.
Given the good start I’ve had with this deck, I anticipate being able to take it to my seasonal rank 5 goal with not too much difficulty. I’m going on vacation for the last 10 days of the month, so I needed a quick push this time. Hopefully it works for you as well as it has for me! Thanks for reading!