The Brewmaster: Episode 3 (Control Shaman)

Hey guys, if you’re just tuning in for the first time, you should check out the first two installments of the Brewmaster series to get caught up to speed. One, Two Well boys and girls, we did it. I mean, not it (legend is still a long way off) but I finally managed to get a list […]

Hey guys, if you’re just tuning in for the first time, you should check out the first two installments of the Brewmaster series to get caught up to speed.

One, Two

Introduction

Well boys and girls, we did it. I mean, not it (legend is still a long way off) but I finally managed to get a list together that is a real contender. When building a new deck you always want to look for that “aha” moment when everything just seems to click. That is what happened to me during last week, and I am really excited by it.

This list, as you can imagine, has been through some major shifts. However, building a deck is all about tweaking and tweaking and tweaking. We have come a looong way from the original double Molten Giant build, but everything is better off because of it. I have been playing this game for over two years now, and after thirteen trips to legend you begin to learn when something feels good. That does not mean you are win streaking straight to legend, but it means you start to see everything coming together. A lot of the early stages of a new deck are going to be struggle. However, once you start moving past that and start beating your bad matchups and hanging tight in almost every game, it’s a beautiful thing.

Where We Are Now

Healing. Seriously. While not the original point of the deck, that is what this list became all about. Reno Jackson has been an absolute godsend. Even despite running multiple two-ofs (more on that later) he triggers 99% of the time I play him, giving an amazing tool against both Aggro and Control. In Hearthstone, you need healing to make control decks work. I was messing around with that in the last build, but this time I decided to go all the way.

I made the changes to the deck because, no matter how easily I could beat control, Aggro and Midrange were still giant problems. Neptulon and Sylvanas Windrunner would almost always pull me through the control matchups, but I still wasn’t able to overcome the midgame aggression from the faster decks without timely AOE. That is when I decided to shift the entire deck to beating those decks. Hex, Big Game Hunter and Neptulon were always going to carry me through the control games, but against other decks I just needed ways to stay alive.

One of the most important parts about building a deck is understanding its weaknesses. Especially in its first stages, you want to know what you’re weak too and then go fight it. Healing is great because, while it is very strong against aggro, it also helps immensely in a lot of control games, fighting back finishing combos or Alexstrasza. That duality made me leave two of all the healing cards I could find but spread out the removal to make Reno Jackson better.

As of right now, the list is a super top-heavy game. While not strictly a fatigue deck, you want to be prepared to go super long. Every Control matchup is going to go to fatigue, so make sure you never out-draw your opponent. It seems that grindy games are the general nature of control decks in Hearthstone. Embracing that fact, along with a few timely releases, are what really took this list to the next level. While I may not be winning as much as I want to be yet (some numbers still need to be adjusted), I have gone from milling around rank 12 to actually winstreaking up the ladder. This feels like something I can take into the golden ranks, and that’s a pretty cool place to be.

Key Cards

This section will help to explain why certain cards are in the list, what I think about them, and how they’ve performed so far.

Forked Lightning

Reno Jackson changed a lot of things in this deck. The push towards healing was one of them, but the one-of cards were another. Even though I do run some duplicates, you still want to have a deck mainly built from single cards. That meant cutting a Elemental Destruction, which I value less than Lightning Storm. However, I knew I was going to need to make up for the lack of that AOE. Forked Lightning seemed like a perfect fit since it can kill off two things for the price of just one mana. The two overload can hurt from time to time, but being able to clear out early minions or finish off two bigger ones has helped many times throughout my games.

When analyzing cards to put into your deck you want to look at what role they will fill and why you need them. Thirty slots is not a lot, and each card needs to have a certain purpose. Forked Lightning is what I call “early turn AOE”. It may not have the same impact as your later turn removal, but it can do a great job of keeping off early pressure (which is by and far your biggest problem here). Many decks love to swarm these days, and the higher I climb the more Paladin I see. That means this card just keeps on getting more and more powerful. It is just a one-of, but a deck like this is built from a lot of different one-ofs that all have a certain role. Know how they fit into the overall deck and you should be fine.

Jeweled Scarab

As good as I knew Reno Jackson was going to be, Jeweled Scarab took me completely by surprise. At first glance, this card seems like a cute two drop to show new players the discover mechanic. And honestly, I didn’t pay it any attention when it first came out of LOE. However, things changed when it came out that discover cards had a four times higher chance of showing you a class card than a neutral one. That is a huge difference that really puts a different weight on the cards coming out in the rest of LOE. But I digress. Knowing that the beetle was much more likely to get a Shaman three drop than some random jank minion made me instantly change my opinion on the scarab. It went from a forgotten minion to an instant two-of.

While Jeweled Scarab may be a cute gimmick in most decks, it is a much different beast (no pun intended) in Shaman. While Thrall may have his problems, Shaman sure comes with a great slew of three drops. Mana Tide Totem and Tuskarr Totemic are both very nice options for filling in a curve, while Healing Wave, Elemental Destruction, Lightning Storm, Lava Burst, Far Sight and Hex all just give you more of the good stuff you already have. As a strict control deck, more AOE or more removal is never a bad thing. In fact, I have won many games by people not playing around a third Lightning Storm or Hex. The beetle is exactly what this style of deck wants: something to play on turn two that also lets you draw a card. Yes, sometimes you are only going to have access to a mediocre minion, but thanks to the percentages you are almost always going to get something really good.

Deathlord

As shown above, aggro was giving me a ton of problems. Deathlord was the answer to those problems. While not a two-of by any means, the three drop can absolutely shut down an early swarm or keep final pushes at bay. For a long time the only class that played Deathlord was Priest. The reason was that Priest had access to a ton of removal options that allowed them to mostly deal with whatever came out should the Deathlord die. That is the exact same logic here. Hex is the best removal spell in the game, and Big Game Hunter also cleans up giant minions really well.

Another added benefit of the lord is that you are almost always a fatigue deck when playing control. While you never want to run this card out without removal to back it up, it gets better and better as the game goes on. Using Deathlord‘s deathrattle to make your opponent “draw” a card can be really good. It can also negate some really powerful battlecries, such as those from Alexstrasza, Justicar Trueheart or even Reno Jackson.

Fire Elemental

Some people may be confused by this inclusion, and that is perfectly understandable. Fire Elemental is traditionally seen as a good tempo card (because it is). However, when looking at a 6/5 body that also does three damage it works as a great control card as well. A good rule of control, especially control decks like this, is that more removal is never a bad thing. You want ways to control the board. Sometimes you want that be in the form of minions (Sylvanas Windrunner) and sometimes you want it to be through removal (Crackle). This card embodies both. Not only does it put down a big threat which puts some stock on the board, but it also lets you clear out or finish off a ton of minions running around. As your games are going to go long, all of your spot removal needs to be saved for high priority targets. You cannot afford to Hex a Piloted Shredder in the same way that you cannot Crackle a Keeper of the Grove. This just gives you one more way to try and kill the midgame minions that are normally so troublesome for you.

Reno Jackson

Holy mother of explorers! Reno Jackson is not just a card, he is a powerhouse that really makes this entire deck work. As you can see, I drastically altered the composition of the deck, working in a lot of one-of cards to make sure his battlecry was more consistent. Now that I have done that, triggering him is fairly straightforward. Honestly, the hardest part of Reno is remembering what you’ve seen from your five two-ofs. Always be hyper aware of playing or seeing those cards. Putting Reno into play without the battlecry is an absolute disaster. You need to always watch out for the cards that come your way and understand the best times to use him.

Some of you might be skeptical of running five (five!?!) two-ofs in a Reno Jackson deck. Understandable, but trust me when I say that I experimented with all sorts of different numbers when first playing the legend. While the deck with 30 different cards was ok, there were just too many things it was missing. Then as the games went on, I begin to realize I would not need to use Reno until the much later stages of the game (or in fatigue). At that point, the numbers did not matter as much since you had seen so many cards. That is what allowed me to keep some pairs into the list. As you can see, I also heavily value healing over just about every other option.

The last important note about Reno is his versatility. The trickiest part of building a working control deck is having something that has the late game to go against Control and the healing and early presence to not just die to aggro. We are very close to achieving that equilibrium, and Reno Jackson is a big reason why. Aggro or fast decks do not do well when their opponent suddenly goes back to full health, and control decks hate it when their fatigue opponent is suddenly way ahead. Each of those situations comes up a lot and using Reno is the right way is essential to making it work. Remember, he is your fail safe and should be used as such.

General Thoughts

Now that I have covered the matchups in part two, I am going to write a bit about this deck moving forward into part four (which will be the final video).

The two most problematic decks right now are Tempo Mage and, as seen in the video, Midrange Hunter. Those decks create a lot of problems, because this is not a list that is built to stand up to burst. Tempo Mage is probably the hardest matchup since, outside of getting both your AOE and healing, a Flamewaker plus spells will just too much damage. However, you absolutely need to have all of your removal against Midrange Hunter since so many of their minions are incredible sticky. Always keep Earth Shock or Hex to deal with Savannah Highmane.

Due to how weak such a reactive deck is to burst you think Druid would be a big problem. However, you can usually stay ahead of their combo through healing, taunts and AOE. Always be very careful against Druid and make sure you save Hex for their random large minions at all costs.

Azure Drake is the card I find myself losing to again and again. You usually do not have the board presence to kill the 4/4, and you do not want to waste premium removal on it. That leaves us in a tricky spot since even with healing it is hard to stand up to four damage a turn. The Fire Elementals are my current answer, but I am thinking about looking into other removal options (Lava Burst comes to mind).

The other card I have been thinking about is going back to the second copy of Elemental Destruction. I absolutely love having this card in a lot of games, but adding a second one means a second Lava Shock. That would also mean cutting Reno Jackson. A lot of my climb so far has been because of the legend. However, as decks I see start to shift to board control rather than aggro he might be worth the cut. As stated, he is fantastic in the control games, but the consistency of going back to a bunch of two ofs might be the way to go.

My final thought has to do with another card I have been thinking about, which is Emperor Thaurissan. If you follow my Weekly Legends series you know I am not a huge fan of simply using him as value in control. However, there are so many games where you have a hand of eight or nine cards the discount could almost always be worth it. Not only that, but he does have pseudo-taunt and will bait out premium removal when he lands. I am not saying he should be an obvious inclusion, but is definitely worth consideration.

The only thing I am absolutely sure of about this deck right now is that healing is the direction you want to go in with it. Shaman has a lot of weaknesses, and most of those stem from not being able to withstand large attacks. The healing may seem over excessive, but you desperately need it to live.

Conclusion

Everything and everyone must evolve. Last week I showed you where my Shaman deck was going, and this week I took it there. I am not sure what the next step is gong to be, but the week six/five wall has kind of got me thinking about new directions. Some of the new cards (Jeweled Scarab) have been absolutely fantastic and really helped the deck grow. It is a work in progress for now, but hopefully we will see next week exactly what my new build is capable of. Until then, may you heal, heal…and heal some more.