Aggro Shaman is a deck that has proved to be very reliable and very consistent. This is largely because of it’s high amount of burst, aggressive minions and incredibly strong openings. All three of those factors are key to good aggressive decks, and they all come to Aggro Shaman in hordes. As such, it is a good deck to take to the ladder. If you want to bring Thrall into battler, you need to know how to combat all of the popular decks in the game. One of those decks is Zoo, a classic, once-dead deck that has come roaring back to the ladder with a furious vengeance. This guide will look at the new iteration of Zoo and show how Aggro Shaman, with fast pressure and strong burn, manages to beat it.
When building aggro Shaman you want to a pick a build that best fits your style. There are two current builds for the deck, and you want to make sure to stay in the lane you are most comfortable with. Remember, always choose a deck that suits your style, as this will keep you the most focused and give you the best chance to win. Here, you can either go with the version that runs more burst or the one that has more board control and minions. While both versions are aggressive, the one with more burst cares a lot more about face, while the second style can pace a little slower. To help you get started, a guide to one of the more aggressive versions has been linked below.
Against Warlock you are going to do everything you can to have strong opening minions. Even when playing Zoo you need to assume your Warlock opponent is the ever-popular Renolock. This is because, if you are wrong you can easily recover for Zoo. However, recovery is much harder against Renolock since you need to race them before you can heal. Either way, when mulliganing against Warlock you want to be very, very fast. Look for your one and two drops and throw anything else back. Removal isn’t even really needed here, but you can keep it alongside a grip full of small creatures. Just know that you want to open up the board against Zoo with minions. Due to the way they thrive off of board control you usually won’t be able to win just through hoarding burn.
Cards to KeepTunnel Trogg Rockbiter Weapon Abusive Sergeant Sir Finley Mrrgglton Lightning Bolt Leper Gnome Ancestral Knowledge Totem Golem
Lava Shock can be kept if you have no turn two play or if you have a large amount of overload.
Knife Juggler is not a good keep on its own, but is very good if it slots into the curve.
Crackle is a good keep 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.
Lava Burst is very strong if you have a fast opening.
Doomhammer, while very slow, can be kept with the coin alongside a super fast opening.
How to Win
In Hearthstone there are two ways to play against Zoo. One is by controlling the board better than they do, and the other is to simply rush them down before they can properly set up their gameplan. Here, you are definitely the latter. Even with things like Tunnel Trogg and Totem Golem you cannot hope to stand up to Zoo’s board control, which no deck in the game can match. As such, you want to put the pressure on up front as a way to set up your game ending burn. This does mean you need to ignore the board altogether, but that you want to make sure you are getting your hits in when you can.
One of the most central parts of beating Zoo is being able to predict their plays. You cannot know every card in their hand, but you can predict a turn two Abusive Sergeant on a Voidwalker or a turn four Imp-losion. Knowing and understanding those trades will help you know how to play. An overarching rule of this match is, once you lose board you will never get it back. That means, once they get ahead your only chance is to hit them with everything you have. If you can predict the turn they are going to take the board, it will make this switch much, much easier.
Another important aspect of playing Zoo is understanding what Zoo is. On paper it is an aggro deck. However, in practice it is quite different. Swarm Zoo is the most popular version these days, but midrange and classic are both run as well. Every version of Zoo starts out fast but also runs a whole slew of big minions. Dr. Boom and Sea Giant are two of the most popular, but Sylvanas Windrunner and Sea Giant also see a lot of play as well. Understanding that those minions exist is a big part of being able to know when you need to turn up the heat.
Early Game Strategy
One of Aggro Shaman’s biggest strengths is their incredibly fast openings, and here that can really put you ahead in the game. The basic point of playing against Zoo is you want to create minions or board states that they cannot easily clear. Tunnel Trogg trades really well in the early game, as does Totem Golem and Sir Finley Mrrgglton.
While damage is always the first priority, if you have a quick start you can play the tempo game with your early cards. In this you want to clear out minions while hitting face at the same time. This will enable that early pressure you want while also making sure Zoo never gets a strong foothold to run into their middle turns.
If you have a Lightning Bolt or Rockbiter Weapon during the first turns of the game do not hesitate to burn it on a non-deathrattle minion. While there is no point in breaking a Nerubian Egg or Haunted Creeper, using your burn to help out your minions is usually the right play. Zoo has a ton of buffs, and even clearing a Dark Peddler can be important because it gives them one less thing to trade into your board.
Do not be afraid to play Feral Spirit. The wolves are not always great, but here they are very powerful. The reason is that Zoo usually cannot remove them in an efficient way. They gum up the board, and force your opponent to spend some time (and resources) removing them. This will allow you to set up your next turn play, add more minions to the board, or protect more valuable minions like a buffed Tunnel Trogg. The overload can be annoying, but you should always get the wolves down as early as you can.
The final rule of the early game is to kill Knife Juggler on sight. The two drop is an absolute nightmare if left alive since it has the ability to kill off your minions, do damage and control the board. You cannot let that happen. Trading is usually the best way to get rid of the pesky gnome, but even using a Crackle is more than worth it.
BesidesVoidwalker, Zoo only runs two taunts in Defender of Argus. However, defender is not just a taunt, it is two taunts that also give minions buffs. In that way it is the best defensive aggressive card in the game, which spells a whole lot of trouble for you. While you never want to spend all of your time clearing in case the defender comes down, you do want to be ready for it turn four and beyond. This means you just want to have some removal in hand or a strong board presence so you can easily clear should your opponent’s minions if they suddenly become buffed.
Watch out for Loatheb. The five drop is not played in every Zoo deck, but it is run in a lot of them. The reason this card is so back breaking is because shuts off almost all of your deck for a turn. Not usually the end of the world, but it most often gives your opponent the edge in a race. You need to constantly be thinking about the five drop. The way to play around him is to slowly ease out your burn throughout the game. However, if you want to hold, just make sure you are in a state where one lost turn isn’t going to kill you.
The middle game is where you also gain access to Doomhammer. The epic weapon is a lot of damage and by far your best tool in this matchup. The damage this represents is insane, and just playing this card will instantly force Zoo on their back foot. While the hammer can clear the board, you typically only want to do that if you are under threat of death or really need to protect your minions. Most of this time you just want this to be four damage a turn.
Late Game Strategy
Ignoring the games where one side is super-far ahead, these turns are usually going to be a race. However, unlike many aggro vs. aggro matches where both sides are hitting as hard as they can, this match is going to be a lot more careful.
Zoo knows how much damage you can do, and they will carefully mitigate their life taps to not die. On the other hand, you do need to know how much damage Zoo can do when they have a minion on the board. Buffs like Abusive Sergeant and Power Overwhelming can quickly add up, especially when paired with a Doomguard. If you and your opponent are low and you don’t have lethal, don’t be afraid to trade since you can topdeck a lot more damage than they can.
As stated above, Zoo runs a fair amount of large minions. Here is where they all start to come down. You want to deal with them the same way that you deal with losing the board, by going face. Of course, if you can clear them you should. Howevrr, most of the time you just want to point your burn at your opponent’s face and try to kill them before their hordes can kill you.
Always make Zoo feel safe if you can. That is to say, never try and spend a bunch of burn in a turn when you can easily hold it and then kill them the next. Lifetap works against them immensely here, and you need to get them to use it as much as possible. If you can lull them into a false sense of security they will play a little looser. This means they will often hero power and drop into your burn range more often than not.