GvG Experimental Decks series – Control Shaman

Welcome to another article of Goblins versus Gnomes Experimental Decks series! This week we take a look at the potent Control Shaman!

Introduction

Hello guys, Giordy here! Welcome to another article of Goblins versus Gnomes Experimental Decks series! In this series I am going to present, along with other reviewers, a number of decks that we have been testing on the ladder now that the new Hearthstone expansion has finally been released. These are going to be decks which are tested by us and which we find fairly consistent and fun to play. The purpose of this series is to show you our builds, so that you can test them, too, and give us feedback on their strengths and weaknesses. It is noteworthy to say that these decks reflect our personal play style and may not respect everyone’s tastes. Nonetheless, I hope you enjoy our builds  and that they can give you good ideas when it comes to building your own deck to play on the ladder!

In my previous article I discussed my Aggro Mech Mage build, describing its strengths, its viability on the ladder and its possible variants. In the timespan of only 3 days I climbed from rank 13 to rank 4 with my Mech Mage deck! Once I got to rank 4, though, I hit a wall that forced me to switch deck in order to pull out some victories. I realized that meta was changing: since everyone had been climbing the ladder with mech decks, players at high ranks began to use decks that could easily defeat those mech swarms. This caused a huge meta shift, because from one day to another everyone began to play warrior. After many days since that , I still face an insane number of warriors: 80% of my opponents are control warriors. Since I am not prone to going with the flow, I chose not to play control warrior in order to avoid mirror matches. Instead, I tried to find a build that had a fair chance of beating warriors, thus allowing me to climb the ladder more easily. While many people suggest Control Paladin or Control Priest as a counter to warriors, I wanted to give good ol’ Shaman a try. Thrall is a very reliable hero, who has a fair chance of winning against both aggro and control decks, thanks to its many removals. Besides, games with Paladin tend to go to fatigue 80% of the time and I just can’t stand playing for that much with the risk of losing a 20-minute game. Control priest should be even more effective against warriors, but I never played Anduin that much, so I need to get better at playing priest before trying to reach legend with it on the ladder.

Anyway, while browsing through shaman decks on Hearthpwn I stumbled upon 11point5ft’s latest build, Neptulon Shaman. The guy is a streamer who reached rank legend n°1 during the first half of this season. He is also season 9 first player to hit legend (12/12/2014). While I did like his build, I didn’t have nor like neptulon. The 7/7 body is certainly good, but refilling your hand with 4 random murlocs when playing a deck which does not run any seemed a bit of a weak play in my opinion. Besides, Neptulon can easily die from big-game-hunter, which is run by most Control Warriors. The other card I was not sure of was enhance-o-mechano: while I do understand the tech power this minion can provide to a board full of totems/tokens, its situational use and its weak stats made me doubt of its efficacy in constructed. The minion has indeed a lot of potential, but I chose to run more solid minions instead of the two discussed above.

Anyhow, after substituting those two minions with beefier fellas I gave the deck a spin on the ladder and I was surprised by how good it was. In a couple of days I climbed from rank 4 to rank 2+ and I am still climbing. My aim is to hit legend in the next few days, either with this deck or some other deck I might review in the future. But enough chitchat! Let’s discuss my build!

Discussing the build

Many players nowadays run dr-boom as their 7-mana drop choice. I surely recognize Boom’s great potential: it is a 7/7 body with two smaller, annoying, exploding bombs that can mess up your opponent’s plans. It is a minion which is great for board presence and which strength is not conditional. Nevertheless, Boom still dies from big-game-hunter and the bombs aren’t very effective against the class I meant to counter – Control Warrior. This is why I opted for a more appropriate yet still incredibly powerful drop: troggzor-the-earthinator. This trogg can really mess up Garrosh’s plans, especially on an empty board. Being a 6/6, he does not die from BGH and his body is still great.

Another big minion I wanted to add to the deck, in order to give it more late-game power, was sneeds-old-shredder. Even if ragnaros-the-firelord has surely more finishing power than this mech, dropping into the battlefield a late-game minion with a decent body and which spawns another minion upon death is really game breaking. If they kill your Ragnaros (and 90% of the time they do) you’re left with nothing on the board; if they kill your Sneed’s Old Shredder, they will then have to deal with another legendary minion on the board. If they leave it on the board, you have a 5/7 body which is great for trading and which “survives” brawl and other pesky mass removal effects. Overall, I am really happy of this minion: in my opinion it is an improved cairne-bloodhoof that is generally very hard to deal with.

Anyway, let’s get back to the build as a whole. Personally, I find the deck to be very consistent. It has good board presence since the early stages of the game, thanks to sticky minions such as haunted-creeper and harvest-golem. It only runs one copy of zombie-chow to avoid useless late-game drawing, but even if it’s hard getting the chow in your starting hand because of the single copy, it is still a decent body during mid-game and it certainly helps with early trades if you don’t draw into earth-shock or rockbiter-weapon. The deck also runs a single copy of harvest golem, basically for the same reason why only one Zombie Chow is run. harvest-golem is a sticky 3 drop that can be buffed by flametongue-totem and give you fair trades during the early stages of the game. Along with feral-spirit, which is basically a must for all shaman builds (this spell is incredibly effective), 11point5ft also runs one copy of mana-tide-totem. This totem is not extremely reliable as a cards-drawing engine, but if you drop it at the right time you can generally get at least 2 cards out of it, and if you don’t, you have probably baited out some removal, so its presence is always congenial.

defender-of-argus is probably preferrable to sludge-belcher in a Shaman deck, because buffing and taunting your own totems or small minions can always prove to be a solid defense against a possible attack from your opponent’s minions. While the Belcher might be get rid of with a hard removal, dealing with two separate taunts is always more annoying than dealing with one (and a half). Besides that, Thrall really benefits from the card draw and spell power provided by azure-drake: this is why the 5-mana spot is better occupied by the drakes rather than by belchers.

A single copy of antique-healbot provides enough heal to keep you out of death range, especially after your enemy drops an alexstrasza on the battlefield. Fire Elementals are a must, and so are hex and lightning-storm: I don’t think they need any explaining. Both alakir-the-windlord and doomhammer represent the win conditions of the deck. They are particularly effective when buffed by rockbiter-weapon. You gotta be very careful when playing Doomhammer against warriors, though, since an early harrison-jones can really turn the tide of the battle in their advantage. I usually wait to play the hammer during the late stages of the game, when they either have already played Jones or when they are about to go to fatigue.

It is interesting that 11point5ft removed lightning-bolt entirely and replaced it with crackle. I honestly was skeptical at first, but I have to say that this turned out to be a great substitution. Crackle places itself in between Lightning Bolt and lava-burst: it has 1 overload like Lightning Bolt, but it also has the potential of dealing more damage. It can be used both to remove big bodies or to push for lethal. I happened to beat the top 20 EU legend player Odemian with a final double Crackle, combined with the fury of my Doomhammer.

General Mulligan Guide

Mulligans with Shaman are really different depending on the hero you are facing. While you can greatly benefit from dropping an early haunted-creeper against a hunter or a zoolock, it might not be as effective against a warrior, since you can give your opponent another way of triggering their Armorsmiths and Acolytes of Pain. You generally want to dig for a Lightning Storm against aggressive decks, while you need some hard removal like Hex against slower decks such as Handlock or Control Warrior. It is generally good to keep earth-shock, since you can always find a good way to use it against a variety of opponents. Keeping flametongue-totem is also very smart, since you can buff your early minions/totems with it for better trades. I generally also keep harvest-golem and of course Zombie Chow in my starting hand, while I usually throw back mana-tide-totem unless I am facing really slow decks.

In any case, if you are looking for some more in-depth advice on playing Shaman, I suggest you take a look at Kolento’s Legend Shaman Deck Guide, Part 1 and Part 2.

Conclusion

It takes time and experience to play Thrall correctly, but when you learn how to play it right, it can be incredibly rewarding. This hero literally has the tools to win every possible deck on the ladder. It is not extremely strong against one archetype over the other, but it has a fair chance of beating all of them if you play it right. Even if Thrall is not my favorite hero, I have to say that he is the one who is allowing me to push forward on the ladder. I really look forward to playing this deck some more and I hope you guys enjoy playing it, too!

As always, if you have any suggestions, tips, or questions, feel free to write in the comments section below.

Also, if you would like me to review a deck that is particularly dear to you at the moment, link it to me and I will check it out.

You can also contact me any time in-game (I mostly play on EU but also occasionally on NA): my battletag is Giordy#2566.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

Peace out!