The Brewmaster: Episode 4 (Control Shaman)

Hey guys, if you’re just tuning in for the first time, you should check out the first three installments of the Brewmaster series to get caught up to speed. One, Two, Three Well, the time has finally come, the first month of The Brewmaster is coming to a close. I have had a blast with Control […]

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

OneTwo, Three

Introduction

Well, the time has finally come, the first month of The Brewmaster is coming to a close. I have had a blast with Control Shaman, but all things must pass in their own way. While it took some real time and some real tweaking, this is the “legend” version of the deck. While I spent too much time tweaking at the start of the season to make the final push, this list got me quite far (two at the highest). Had I had more time, I have absolutely no doubt this would take me all the way to the orange diamond.

While this deck was originally a little more scattered than I wanted, this new version is exactly what I was aiming for when the season started: a solid control list that can beat most of the popular decks despite being reactive. It was a tough task, but all of the removal and healing really give Shaman much more options than any other class. This deck took a lot of time to put together (not to mention how much LOE helped) but it is now ready for battle. This list is not the easiest to pilot, and there are plenty of tech cards you can play, but it is one of the most rewarding decks I have ever won with.

Where We Are Now

Reno Jackson. Seriously. Not only did the treasure-seeking legend make this deck playable, he altered the entire thing. Last time we talked I was attempting to create a half-deck. What I mean by that is that I was playing a deck that needed Reno to win games, but also had a lot of multiple cards. This list is a lot leaner, shedding that extra baby fat for all one of-s except for Healing Wave (still an essential) and Hex (also very necessary). Beyond that we have a mish-mash of different removal spells and healing options.

Sometimes you need to trust your gut when deck building. I knew early on that trying to go reactive in Hearthstone was going to be difficult. The only way I saw myself outlasting my opponent’s was through healing, lots and lots of healing. The original Molten Giant version was an attempt at that, but the final version just does it better. Both Healing Waves, Antique Healbot, Reno Jackson, Alexstrasza and Refreshment Vendor all give aggro decks absolute fits and can bring you from five life to the twenties in a heartbeat. Never forget that healing is important against all matchups, whether you are playing against a combo deck, a fatigue/control build, or good old Face Hunter.

The other half of this deck came down to removal. Shaman is one of the only classes that can pull this style of build off, because it is one of the only classes that has access to so much removal. You have strong AOE as well as great targeted burn. That combination, backed up with healing, gives you the ability to stall for a long, long time. However, even with all the stalling, I still found myself needing a little extra board presence from time to time. That is why I beefed up some of the slots with things like Earth Elemental, Fire Elemental and Zombie Chow. Those cards stall as well as the spells, but do it on the board instead of from your hand.

In the end, the deck is as about as heavy control as you can go with Shaman. Throughout the season I really tried a bunch of different builds, but none of them seemed to have the same kind of punch, win percentage or longevity. Even when playing super control you do need to have some sort of board presence. It is an odd balance between trying to play as many spells as you can, while also attempting to play some threats. I am not sure if I have hit critical mass with this deck, or even hit the optimal build, but this is about as close as it gets.

The Cards

This section will help to explain some of the cards I found to be the most interesting throughout the season.

Zombie Chow

I open at the close. When making a deck, sometimes you are going to move on from some of your past cards or choices. However, that does not mean you want to forget about those cards. Deck building is a process that takes time. While something may not work at one time, that does not mean you should dismiss it forever. Rather, when you get stuck or hit a wall, go back and see if it may fit into the new version of your deck. That is what Zombie Chow was for me. I originally had chow in the list as a way to combat aggro, but the deck wasn’t focused enough. Now that the deck has been focused, and I know the purpose of each card, I think this is a great one of.

As stated above, you need to have some sort of board presence at different parts of the game. While you will not see chow all that much, there are some games (Hunter and Paladin come to mind) where playing this turn one will be the difference between winning and losing. When looking at any Reno deck you always need to weigh how important each card is. This card plays a very simple role (beat aggro decks during the early turns) but it does it so well that it is more than worth the risk of having a bad topdeck in some matches. Even if this wins you only 10% of games against aggro decks, that swing is more than enough to warrant it a spot.

Hex/Healing Wave

I thought it would be only appropriate to talk about the only two-ofs at the same time. When making a full Reno Jackson deck you really need to ask yourself, “is this card important enough to be a two of?”. I know this because I went through many versions of that question, always checking to make sure that I absolutely needed a card to be a two of. During week three we saw that I had many two-ofs that, it turns out, I didn’t need as badly as I thought I did. The reason is that Reno’s ability is so incredibly strong that making sure you can trigger it with some consistency is actually worth making the rest of your deck less consistent. I realized this and began cutting down two-of after two-of until the two most important cards in the list were left.

So, the big question: why Hex and Healing Wave? The answer is because you are a control deck, and both of these cards are essential to what control is attempting to do. You absolutely need healing, and while Antique Healbot could be the two-of you go with, the fourteen health potential and lower cost of Healing Wave make it much more important. I won many games by clearing the board or playing a big minion and then just immediately regaining half of my health. On the other hand, you absolutely need removal, and there is no better removal spell in the game than Hex. The versatility on this card is insane, and can help you with anything minion, no matter the shape, size or situation. No matter how many cards you want to shave for Reno Jackson, and no matter how many games his ability can win, he is not worth cutting a Hex. At this point in time, I reckon nothing is.

Charged Hammer

I bring up Charged Hammer because it really accentuates the way you need to think about deck building. This was a card I completely overlooked during when first creating the deck, and once I realized my miss I put it in and never looked back. Any brew is going to have certain “key cards” that are going to allow it to operate in the way that it does. That can be a very obvious inclusion, such as Mysterious Challenger to Secret Paladin, and sometimes it can be a lot of subtle. Every card in your deck is going to count. I find this is a point that many people miss. While many cards are givens, you never just want to throw something into a deck because “eh, it might work”. That approach can be done with lists that are already tried and tested, but do not try that when starting new.

Charged Hammer played an essential role in my run this month, and it is one of the most important cards in the deck. Yes, it is just a one-of weapon, but its ability is so incredible strong that you don’t need to worry about that. Anytime you can stabilize with Lightning Jolt (the power the hammer gives you upon death) against an aggro deck, the game is pretty much over. Furthermore, the ability is also great against Midrange, where it lets you combine your other spells to finish off mid-game threats, and against Control, where the two damage can be used as removal or a way to stack up pressure while heading into fatigue. All of those modes are incredibly powerful, and they each give you a way to use the hammer differently based on the game you are in.

Emperor Thaurissan

The emperor was one of the latest additions to this deck, but I think he serves a very important role. This deck draws a lot of cards. Now, there is not a lot of card draw in it, but you are much more reactive than proactive, waiting for the right moment to heal, kill or play AOE. As a result, most games you are just going to be stockpiling cards in your hand. This gives Emperor Thaurissan some great opportunities for discounts. Though he is never going to live for more than a turn, having a large chunk of removal and some finishers cost one less can really help. For instance, I won a couple of games by being able to Elemental Destruction my opponent’s board and then drop Alexstrasza. He is also very good on curve, since it completely opens up your turn seven, eight and nine.

Thaurissan is all about giving you more options. Sometimes you are going to want to play three or four spells in a turn, or sometimes you are going to want a couple of minions. Those turns can only really be enabled by Emperor Thaurissan, which is why I think he needs to be in this slot. The discounts may not seem too great on paper, but once you operate the deck you will understand how powerful they can be. Some of you may be tempted to try out another midgame card, and that is fine. I think The Black Knight could have some serious potential as a utility/surprise card. Hogger and Kodo Rider may be worth looking at as well. However, you do not want to run Harrison Jones. This is a fatigue deck in many games, and drawing ahead of your opponent can be disastrous. If you really want weapon destruction, find a way to squeeze in an Acidic Swamp Ooze.

What I learned

Playing a reactive deck is very hard in Hearthstone. A lot of the game (especially moving into LOE) is about controlling the board through tempo, and if you aren’t doing that you are going to have to actively combat it. Shaman is very well equipped for that, but I still feel like it may be missing a minion or two. Where Paladin Control has access to Guardian of Kings, which heals and puts down a huge body, Shaman only really has Antique HealbotHealing Wave and Reno Jackson are the two best heals in the game, but even they sometimes aren’t enough. Everyone (including me) wants more midgame or early options for Shaman. While that is fine and well, one more minion that healed and contested the board at the same time would really put this over the top. I am not saying it has to be at Reno’s power level, but maybe a legendary 5/5 for 5 that healed for 13, or something along those lines.

While I would like more healing, there is absolutely no need for more removal. Although I didn’t know it before this month started, Shaman has far and away the most removal options in the game. Yes, almost all of them come with overload tacked on, but being able to handle midgame threats without using a Hex is amazing. That, combined with the AOE options, gives Shaman more than enough ways to deal with everything their opponent sends their way.

Another note about building a pure control deck is that it almost always is going to be a fatigue deck of some sort. And this deck is absolutely a fatigue deck. While some games you may win due to a large minion sticking around or, by some grace, you just manage to play the tempo game with your board, just about every matchup is going to lead to the skull cards. Knowing this is the most important part of playing this deck because it helps you understand when to stop drawing, when to heal and the best way to utilize your removal. In addition, since you are a fatigue list you also know your opponent is going to see every card in their deck. That allows you to play around things like double Savage Roar/Force of Nature or Alexstrasza/Grommash Hellscream because you are always going to have to face them. Knowing the cards in each deck you face is a big step to playing this.

While I learned a lot about how to construct a control deck, I may have learned ever more about putting together a Reno Jackson deck. Building with Reno is a good way to really be in tune with your deck since you are constantly evaluating each card’s function, and then going over how and why that function is important. When building any deck you always want to ask yourself why you are playing a minion or spell. Sometimes that answer can just be as a simple as “it’s amazing” or “it’s really good” but having those type of answers and knowing what each card is for is how you start to construct something that can win on the ladder.

Conclusion

Well, that’s the first month of The Brewmaster. I hope you guys enjoyed it, and I hope you are looking forward to next month (I know I am). While I have promised Deathrattle Rogue many times, that deck has already been taken to legend too much for my liking. Remember, this series is supposed to try explore unproven or unidentified archetypes, and that deck no longer fits the bill. So, instead of traversing the ladder with stealth and cunning, I am going to look at the power of the sea and sleeve up some murlocs…The only question is whether Thrall or Uther is going to lead that charge. Until then, may the power of the elements destroy your enemy.