Aggro Shaman is one of the most popular decks in the current Hearthstone meta. Not only does it have the finishing burst that all good aggro decks need, but it also has some extremely fast and reliable starts at its disposal. If you want to play Aggro Shaman you need to be ready for all of the other popular decks the game has to offer. One such deck is the ever-present Tempo Mage, a list that can challenge Aggro Shaman with early removal and strong burst. This guide will break down that matchup to help you understand the best way Shaman can take down Mage.
Anytime you are playing Aggro Shaman you can choose just how aggressive you want to be. Some versions are all-out, choosing to play charge minions alongside huge swaths or burst. However, some versions run more minions and slowly build damage on the board in the way that Aggro Druid does. Whatever version or deck style you choose always make sure it is the one you best understand. Knowing you deck is very important to its success. To help with this, a guide to the more aggressive version of Aggro Shaman has been linked below.
Going up against Tempo Mage is pretty tricky. The reason is that you will need to mulligan like you are playing against Freeze Mage and then adapt. While you can recover if you are playing against Tempo, mulliganing slow against Freeze is almost always a loss. For this reason, when playing Jaina you just want to keep early minions. Even a turn one Abusive Sergeant or turn two Knife Juggler (normally suboptimal plays) are much better than nothing. The only early removal you want here is Lightning Bolt and Rockbiter Weapon. Crackle is also a good keep since it is strong against both Tempo and Freeze Mage.
Cards to KeepTunnel Trogg Abusive Sergeant Sir Finley Mrrgglton Lightning Bolt Leper Gnome Crackle Knife Juggler Totem Golem
Lava Shock is a good keep with a strong start or if you have no other removal.
Crackle should always be kept alongside early minions.
Feral Spirit should always be kept with the coin or a one-two punch coming before it.
Argent Horserider follows the same rules as Feral Spirit.
How to Win
This is a very interesting matchup because you and your opponent are both going to largely ignore the other’s gameplan. That does not mean you want to ignore them, but know they are going to largely control the game by taking over the board and you are going to fight that with tons and tons of damage. Against some decks (or in some certain situations) you want to control the board as a way to keep your key minions alive and push damage through. However, here that is very hard to do (and sometimes just impossible).
Since you are never going to beat Tempo Mage in a board fight, you want to beat them by stacking up as much damage as you can. Despite their name, Tempo Mage is largely an aggro deck with a few large finishers. They play very similarly to Aggro Druid, using early minions to get key pressure, and then backing up those minions with fishing damage (in this case burn). However, like all aggro decks, you can win the game if you can find a way to force them onto the back foot. The best way to do that is with early pressure.
This is a game where burn is your most powerful resource. However, it is also important to note which minions you need to kill and which ones you can ignore. The general rule is, kill or remove anything that has to do with spells as best you can, but let the rest answer you. For instance, you typically don’t want to let a turn one Mana Wyrm live because it trades favorable with some of your larger minions. On the other hand, a turn four Piloted Shredder is not worth the resources to clear, you just want to get in damage where you can.
Early Game Strategy
The early game is the only time you really want to care about the board. All of their small minions can lead to a lot of problems if they go unchecked, because they can all do damage, clear and give them extra resources. While you want to play proactively in most parts of the game, this is one area where you have to concede a little to them. As strong as your deck is, there is no reason to be reckless.
One of your best tools here is Feral Spirit. The wolves are very strong because, not only are they hard to Mage to easily remove (usually costs them two spells), but they also can gum up the board, giving you time to draw into more threats or burn. You want to get them out early to make sure they get the maximum amount of value.
Be ready for Flamewaker. While you cannot actually play around the salamander, you can have some sort of burn in your hand to be ready to take it out. While it may not feel good, even using something like Crackle to get rid of it is most often the correct play. This card will not only devestate your board if unchecked, but even allowing it to live for a single turn will often amount to way too much damage for you to be able to handle.
Always remember in the early game to try and save Rockbiter Weapons if you can. While they are very efficient removal, they also represent a ton of burst damage. That burst is especially important when going up against a deck like Tempo Mage because sometimes you will win by killing them just one turn before they can kill you. Rockbiter Weapon/Doomhammer is what makes that happen.
The middle of this game will be the part where the dynamic starts to shift. That is to say, you almost never want to clear moving forward. These are the turns of the game where Mage starts to bring out their larger minions and you really start to fall behind on board. While that sounds bad, if you got your damage in during the early turns then it won’t really matter since you will be able to finish them off with burn from your hand.
The one exception to the clear rule is Azure Drake. When facing any type of Mage deck, spell damage is very, very scary. Understand this, and know when to clear the drake. If you are under pressure, feel like you could die, or at medium life but have seen no burn, you generally want to take out the dragon as quickly as possible. However, if you have board or are winning the race, it is usually best to allocate your resources to your opponent’s face.
Doomhammer is very important for the damage it can do as well as the damage it represents. Remember that Temp Mage does not do well when they are on the back foot. If you can pressure them, or if they think they are going to die soon, they will play a lot more conservatively, which is very good for you. Always play the hammer as soon as you can, because even if you don’t have lethal, Mage will alter their entire gameplan to try and not get hit.
Note: If they run Water Elemental, you do want to clear it at (almost) all costs. If they shut out your Doomhammer it will take you out of a lot of damage and they will also know it is a threat they do not have to account for.
Late Game Strategy
The end of this game is almost always going to be based in burn. Frostbolt and Fireball are Mage’s finishers of choice, and yours are things like Lava Burst and Crackle. The way you mitigate this is to always keep you and your opponent’s life in check, while thinking about the potential damage you can both do. For instance, if you are worried about dying from some burn combo, then you should try to clear. In contrast, if you are winning the race and just need to draw one more spell to win, don’t be afraid to push.
Turn seven is extremely key here because you cannot fight Dr. Boom. Know this. While there will be times when you can theoretically clear him, if you spend the resources to do so you are almost always going to be dead anyway because you will no longer have your finishing damage. As a result, really start cranking up the pressure turn six going into seven, and if they do drop the doctor, hit them with everything you have.
Sometimes at the end of a game you want to be a little safe, trying to bait your opponent into thinking they’re safe when they’re really dead. Don’t do that here. You and your opponent are both going to be racing, and you need to get them to zero before they kill you. If that means you need to hit them with spells over three turns, start slinging. Even if it tips them off to what’s in your hand, it doesn’t matter. This is not a match that ends peacefully.
Totem Golem is your best friend in this matchup because of its versatility. While it packs a punch (like everything you play) it also eats almost all of Mage’s early game minions and lives to tell the tale. When playing this card in the early game you, unless it is your only minions, you typically want to use its large body to clear the way for everything else that comes down.