Back to Basics: Midrange Shaman

Midrange Shaman is back and it's great in this meta! Check out DarkFrost's guide to one of the game's most underrated classes.

Introduction

Greetings Friend, is what I was dying to emote this season in a GvG ladder which has become an aggressive rush fest. There is nothing more fun than wrecking a board full of Mechs on turn 3 with a Lightning Storm and then watching Jaina rage. Today, I’m sharing a niche deck that is viable as long as the meta wants it to be – Midrange Shaman: old school style.

The Current State of Shaman

Shaman has been regarded as weak since the launch of GvG, not because they got any nerfs, but because they didn’t get as many good cards compared to other classes. Shaman quickly fell out of popularity and the classes that received the more powerful cards rose to the top.

Currently we face a meta where Mech Mage, Hunter, Druid and Rogue are extremely common.  All of these Match-ups are excellent for Midrange Shaman. Warrior is also an amazing match-up. Warlock and Paladin are also thereabouts. These matchups are 50-50 or 40% if you have an abysmal draw. Shaman has great tools to counter aggro and with a little bit of RNG on your side, you can win against anyone.

Deck Breakdown

earth shock – Excellent silence that also deals 1 damage. One-shots a lot of Hunter minions with Spell Damage +1 and also kills off shielded-minibots. I really like how this card has become so much more valuable after the launch of Naxxrammas and GvG due to all of the Deathrattles. P.S. It one-shots Twilight Drakes.

lightning-bolt – The value of this card is being able to spend 1 mana to deal 3 damage that other classes need two for. This gives you good tempo, and allows you to play a 1-drop or a 2-drop along with your removal.

Lightning bolt is really useful for getting rid of mechwarpers and all other pesky 2-drops. The other purpose of this card is to provide burst damage in the late game.

I prefer Lightning Bolt over crackle because it is 1 less mana and a lot less RNG.

rockbiter-weapon – There aren’t any Windfury minions in this deck, but that doesn’t mean that Rockbiter has no value. It is still a great card to kill most of the 1 and 2-drops. This card can be replaced with a Zombie chow.

flametongue-totem – Flametongue is best used on a decently filled board since it allows you to trade extremely well and has amazing synergy with haunted creeper. This is one of the best cards in the deck and can snowball your board. Remember this will be the top target for your opponent the moment he sees it so make sure to get good value out of it the moment it hits the board.

haunted-creeper – Excellent card for simply filling the board and having some board presence. The 1/1’s are no joke because if you get to use Flametongue Totem on them they can take out almost any 2 to 3-drops. I liked this card in Shaman since Naxxramas and don’t know why some of the popular Midrange Shamans have dropped it. This little guy is best against Paladins and rush decks. I will always coin out this guy against a Paladin because it is important to have something to kill the Recruits.

feral-spirit – Feral Spirit is a card that makes you want to play Shaman. Getting two 2/3’s with Taunt for just 3 mana is crazy good for tempo and can really punish aggressive board states from your opponent. Forcing an aggro deck to trade in the early game really hinders their burst potential since they don’t get that early game damage in. The two Overload from this card always sucks a bit on turn 4 but it still lets you play Rockbiters and Lightning Bolts meaning that you aren’t completely locked out. A Flametongue Totem follow-up to a Feral Spirit is always great.

Honestly I can’t wait for Lava Shock for Shamans because it is going to be really powerful to be able to ignore the Overload while getting an effect on the board (i.e. Dealing 2 damage) and then developing the board even further.

hex – Arguably the best hard removal in the game. It is your answer to every big threat to your board or to a snowball card. Hex is a must have two-of in almost every Shaman deck just because of how much tempo gain it can give as well as having an easy answer to most threats.

lightning-storm – No area of effect (AoE) card in the game is as good as Lightning storm on its own. Even if you only roll 2 damage it is still a consecration[card] for 1 less mana. I also think that this card will get a significant boost in power with the release of Lava Shock in the new adventure Blackrock Mountain. Being able to negate the Overload is a real power play. This card can be a one of in the deck depending on the meta but since there are so many aggressive decks it makes sense to play two of these.

[card]harvest-golem – Fits the theme of this deck – value. The Golem is a sticky minion that cannot be destroyed in 1 hit, so it lets you get Flametongue value in the early game as well as board presence. This card can be replaced with a Farseer when there are a lot of Hunters of the face variety. Otherwise, a Harvest Golem is better against Druids and Mages.

mana-tide-totem – Card advantage right here. This card has a virtual Taunt since your opponent will want to kill it the moment they see it. If your opponent uses a spell to get rid of this guy then you just gained a card over your opponent which is important in Control match-ups. The most ideal time to play this card is when you can defend it behind Taunts or to make your opponent’s turn awkward by forcing them to react to this card. This card alone can carry some lost games, and it improves Shaman’s main weakness – card draw.

defender-of-argus – I really don’t like 4-drops in this deck since it is the turn you are most likely to be Overloaded. However, Defender of Argus has fantastic synergy in a Shaman deck with totems and token minions. He is an essential card against aggressive decks and can help in getting good trades. I sometimes only run one of these and replace the second one with a sylvanas-windrunner if I face fewer rush decks.

antique-healbot – The MVP of this deck. I believe this is the best card that Shamans has gotten access to in GvG. Shaman always had one weakness. They didn’t have any healing. If your opponent gets you very low to set up lethal, you simply died the next turn. Not anymore though, since Antique Healbot is a great neutral healing card. I have had hunters concede against me after I dropped this guy.

azure-drake – Despite how many people complain about Azure Drake being too slow for the meta, I can’t imagine a Shaman deck without 2. The card just fits Shaman. It gives you much needed card draw and spell damage – both of which have increased value in a Shaman deck. It’s hilarious how strong Shaman spells can be with at least +1 spell damage let alone +2 spell damage if you have the wrath-of-air-totem out as well. Azure Drake + Lighting Storm on turn 8 is almost as good as flamestrike and can be devastating against Paladins in particular.

loatheb – This card needs to be here to basically counter the Druid combo force of nature + savage roar. The other main use of this card is to put your board in a state of lockdown which can be a great win condition. If you can play a Loatheb when you have a board and your opponent doesn’t it’s pretty much GG from there on.

sludge-belcher – This card has become a must include in almost all non rush decks. It is a double Taunt. It will protect your totems and your other small creatures. Belchers are the best way of answering a board filled with small minions. I run two of these because one just isn’t enough.

fire-elemental – The best 6-drop in the game second only to the almighty savannah-highmane. The ability to deal 3 damage costs 2 mana for most classes. So look at this guy in the sense that you are getting a darkbomb with a 6/5 body that costs 4 mana. That’s insane value.

It is almost mandatory to have two of these in every Shaman deck. The other bonus is that he doesn’t cause Overload. I save Fire elemental to kill something with three health usually, but sometimes it is required that you play him just to keep the pressure going and use the 3 damage to hit face. I try to prioritize not Overloading myself on turn 5 if possible since a Fire Elemental is one of the strongest on curve 6 mana plays in the game.

neptulon – The most contested spot in this deck goes to this old fish. Why not Dr. Boom?By turn 7 as a Shaman you are probably going to have a pretty decent board presence to begin with. The thing you will be lacking is cards. You will run out of steam more times than you will lose the board. This is where the power of Neptulon comes into play. He provides extra steam in the control match-ups. You will always have more cards to play with. Even if you run out of cards, just playing Neptulon will set your board up at least for 2 turns if not more. He solves the biggest problem of Shaman – weak card draw.

It is always a good idea to save the Murlocs until an AOE hits your board and then flood the board immediately with more Murlocs to keep the pressure going. Remember that Neptulon has an Overload of 3 so plan your next turn accordingly.

Playing the Deck

This is a Midrange Board control style deck which aims to overwhelm the opponent with a massive board advantage in the mid-game and win from there. The deck has no particular card as its win condition and relies on having a decent board to snowball with. The early game removal that is cheap and efficient should help you deal with almost any aggression from your opponent. lightning-storm‘s strength can also help you recover from a position or lock down a winning board.

One of the most important things with the deck is that you need your early game (removal or minions). It is always preferable to have a minion heavy hand than a removal heavy hand. Against most opponents that don’t have heavy early game AoE, I tend to flood the board as much as possible so that I can always have an answer and take the lead on the board. It is really important to make the aggressive decks take a defensive stance so that you are the aggressor in the match-up. feral-spirit is an excellent card that can help you achieve this. It has Taunt so that your opponent has to trade and it also protects your other minions to get in more damage.

Play mind games with your opponent. People ‘usually’ go into defensive mode if you hit their face a lot and get some damage in along with some Taunts out. This might not be an important detail in matches where the opponent just wants to rush you down and ignore your whole board. But in match-ups where board control is the top priority, it can be a clutch decision to hit the face if you can get decent Taunts up for protecting your minions. It is a high risk play which can give good rewards. If you decide to go for this play, make sure that you have the ability to clear if your plan backfires. Having a lightning storm in hand is a great insurance for this approach.

The most important thing to know about playing Shaman is that board control is your win condition. It is really important ‘not’ to overextend the board when your opponent is packed with AoE. In these match-ups, you are playing a conservative game. The maximum focus is going to be using your hero power and trying to flood the board with more totems than actual cards so that your opponent has to use AOE to clear. Defender of Argus is going to be the best card in this match-up since he activates your totems. The other important card is feral-spirit because it lets you flood the board after a board wipe. This can get you back in the game easily even if your board was just cleared since it puts even more pressure on your opponent because he just used his AoE and now has to deal with the board again. It is extremely important not to play Feral Spirit when you know your opponent is able to use AeE like on turn 7 against a Mage because of flamestrike or turn 4 against a Warlock because of hellfire. In these kind of match-ups, this card is meant to be played after a wipe or when your opponent can’t AOE them down.

Mulligan Guide

You will be looking for generally:

  • rockbiter weapon
  • haunted-creeper
  • harvest-golem
  • feral-spirit

Against Aggro match-ups:

  • earth-shock
  • haunted-creeper
  • lightning-storm
  • feral-spirit

Against Control match-ups:

  • haunted-creeper
  • flametongue-totem
  • feral-spirit
  • mana-tide-totem
  • defender-of-argus

Match-ups

Good: Mech Mage, Standard Druid, Hunter, Oil Rogue, Mech Shaman, Control Warrior

Average: Handlock, Zoolock, Control Priest, Midrange Paladin

Bad: Control Paladin, Pyromancer Priest, Face Hunter (if you get a bad draw)

Popular Match-up Analysis

Mech Mage

Important Cards: rockbiter weapon, haunted creeper,  feral spirit, lightning storm

Cards to be wary of: goblin blastmage, mechwarper, fireball

This match-up is a fast one. Our goal here is to establish board control over the Mage and stop her from overpowering our own board. Our cheap removal will come in handy in this match-up. The most important thing is to try to clear all the Mechs each turn and to stay above at least 13 health to not be in double fireball range.  Feral Spirit is a real obstacle in the Mage’s path. It is the best card in this matchup after Lightning Storm. Playing an early Haunted Creeper followed by a Feral Spirit is a good opener. If you have a Lightning Storm to back up this opener this will be an easy match.

In the case that you don’t get a good opener, it is important to not take too much damage early on and stabilize the board. Get greedy with your removal but don’t delay it for too long that you end up not having enough health to escape the burst. Loatheb should be saved in most cases to prevent double fireball from killing you. Playing around Goblin Blastmage is another important thing. Although the Mage usually doesn’t have AoE spells, Blastmage can absolutely shatter your board presence if it hits the right stuff. You can prevent this by either not letting the Mage have any Mechs on board, or by having your stuff above 2 health so that it wont die to a Blastmage + ping.

Standard Druid

Important Cards: feral-spirit, haunted-creeper, flametongue-totem, rockbiter-weapon, hex

Cards to be wary of: Druid of the Claw, ancient-of-war, Spell Damage + swipe, force-of-nature + savage-roar = 14 Damage, mind-control-tech

The Druid match-up is the reason I started playing this deck in the first place. Shaman is able to just wreck Druids. Against Druids remember two things: always be the aggressor and flood the board as much as you can. Druid’s removal is really struggles to deal with any of Shaman’s excellent Midrange minions. All of your early game can easily trade up with the Druid’s minions with the help of just one flametongue-totem. Their card advantage begins to dwindle really quickly as you start flooding the board with feral-spirits and Haunted creepers. Druids are no threat to this deck. If you manage to reach turn 9 though there are a few things that can get the Druid back in the game, and that would be the azure-drake + swipe combo or the force-of-nature + savage-roar combo. Luckily most Druids are not running Azure Drakes for some reason.

hexing a Druid of the Claw is an absolute power play against Druids. It completely neutralizes their mid-game power and snowballs your board to the point of no recovery there on. They rely heavily on getting good trades with their minions but if their minions just go 1 for 1 then they can’t do shit against you. This is precisely why Shaman is traditionally good against Druids.

Hunter

Important Cards: defender-of-argus, earth-shock, flametongue-totem, feral-spirit, loatheb

Cards to be wary of: explosive-trap, freezing-trap, kill command, mad-scientist

If you are able to Earth Shock a Mad Scientist when you have Spell damage on turn 2, the Hunter loses a lot of his early game pressure. The best way to win this match-up is by getting a turn 4 Defender of Argus on two totems (preferably the healing-totem and the wrath-of-air totem). This will let you kill almost all of the early 1 health creeps from Hunter while keeping your whole board alive at full health. following this with a Feral Spirit into a Loatheb puts the Hunter so behind on board that he will be forced to trade and use his Kill Commands on your minions. Just make sure you have enough burst to kill the Hunter while you keep getting in damage each turn.

A rule of thumb against Hunters, if you let them be aggressive you will lose, but if you are the one going for face, you will win. That is the key to winning this match-up. I will usually begin with haunted-creeper and follow it up with an aggressive flametongue-totem in order to get more damage in. He will either be forced to use a Kill Command or a bow charge and use up his whole turn while you will have all the mana to develop a board and be aggressive. It almost feels like you are the one playing Hunter.

When you do not get a good opener, the best play would be to try to use totems as frequently as you can while trying to draw more cards. mana tide totem is excellent in these situations as it basically buys you a turn. Savannah Highmane is no threat to you because of Hex. If the Hunter spends his turn six playing a Highmane and you Hex it you will pretty much win the game from there on.

Oil Rogue

Important Cards: sludge-belcher, fire-elemental, lightning-storm, loatheb, neptulon, azure-drake + lightning-bolt

Cards to be wary of: blade-flurry, fan-of-knives with Spell Damage, tinkers-sharpsword-oil burst

Against Rogues remember never to over-extend. They always have an AoE ready to wreck your board. This match-up is complicated because it relies heavily on the draws of each player. You don’t want too much of your early game in the match. Feral Spirit is to be saved to use when necessary instead of just playing it on turn 3. The Rogue’s board will always die to your AoE with only +1 Spell Damage. The important thing is to keep the board clear and your board ‘decently filled’. Playing your hand is never a good idea. One of the most clutch plays in this match-up is using Lightning Bolt to kill the enemy azure drake after playing your own. This gives you a lot of opportunity to be aggressive given the Rogue’s tempo loss. You will develop your board and the Rogue will clear it. This cycle will go on a few times until you draw your trump card neptulon. Not only does the Rogue have to deal with a 7/7 but also wont have AoE left to kill your Murlocs if you played the match right. Try to bait a BGH if you can by Flametonguing a Fire Elemental. I believe that I have won every match against Rogues where I drew Neptulon.

Make sure to eliminate the Rogue’s AoE one by one and have a few Taunts ready before going low on health. Sap isn’t really good against any of the minions in this deck except for sludge-belcher. The longer the game goes, the better the chances you will have of winning.

Midrange Paladin

Important Cards: lightning-storm, haunted-creeper, earth-shock

Cards to be wary of: quartermaster, shielded-minibot, tirion-fordring, truesilver-champion, consecration

The Paladin’s win condition is muster for battle + quartermaster combo and tirion-fordring. Both of these are easily answered by us. We have the best AoE in the form of lightning-storm for the mustered recruits, and Tirion is hard countered by Hex and Earth Shock. With that out of the way, there is one more thing required – getting the board before the Paladin. I will always coin out a Haunted Creeper in this match-up whether or not I have a follow-up on turn 2. This is because it allows me to deal with the Paladins Recruits as quickly as I can. The shielded-minibot can also be a huge threat in your plans because it will murder all your totems for free. It is wise to Earth Shock it before it gets too much out of control. Once you deal with the Paladin’s early game, his mid game is fairly weak compared to ours. This is where we start to dominate. He will try to pull off a quartermaster combo but you can just clear it all with an azure-drake + lightning-storm. Then the Paladin will play his Tirion as a final resort and then you just Hex him and win the match.

Sideboard

The following cards can be replaced depending on their availability or meta requirements:

  • 2 rockbiter-weapons for zombie chows – For even better match-ups against aggro at the cost of reduced burst damage and trading utility.
  • 2 harvest-golems for earthen-ring-farseers – Better against Hunters.
  • 1 defender of argus for a sylvanas-windrunner – If there are more Druids and Warriors than usual.
  • loatheb for harrison-jones – Better against Warriors and Paladins.
  • Neptulon for dr-boom – If you like Boom better.

Ladder Statistics

These are some raw statistics that I gathered while playing this deck.

I have played this deck from ranks 6 and upwards, my stats were 27- 10 which is a solid 72% win-rate.

  • Paladin 3-2
  • Warrior 2-1
  • Druid 5-2
  • Hunter 3-1
  • Mage 5-2
  • Warlock 1-1
  • Rogue 3-1
  • Priest 1-0
  • Shaman 2-0

A deck with a >70% win-rate is almost too good to be true. However, there’s a catch. The deck is only good for this meta – amazing versus Druids, Mages and Hunters. Decent against Paladins. It is best advised to play this deck when Mech Mage is all the rage.

Conclusion

Thank you for reading through this guide. I hope you liked it. If you have any suggestions or feedback please feel free to write it in the comments below. This was one of my favorite guides to write mainly because of the fun I had testing this deck. There is nothing better that wrecking a Mech Mage as I said earlier. I hope you have the same amount of fun as well. Happy Laddering. 🙂