MUA: Discard Zoo Warlock vs Midrange Shaman

This is a part of the MUA series for Discard Zoo Warlock deck. MUA (short for Matchup Analysis) is a guide focused on a specific matchup – mulligan, most important points and quick strategy summary. Click here for the full guide: Beginner Guide (Overview, Mulligan, Strategy Tips) Advanced Guide (Setting up a clock, Positioning, Playing Around Removals, […]

Introduction

This is a part of the MUA series for Discard Zoo Warlock deck. MUA (short for Matchup Analysis) is a guide focused on a specific matchup – mulligan, most important points and quick strategy summary. Click here for the full guide:

  • Beginner Guide (Overview, Mulligan, Strategy Tips)
  • Advanced Guide (Setting up a clock, Positioning, Playing Around Removals, Alternate/Tech Cards)

The decks posted in MUAs are example ones – there are different versions of each deck on the ladder and so playing against them might vary a bit, but it’s impossible to cover all of them. I try to pick the most common one at the time of writing.

Matchup Overview

Midrange Shaman remains one of the most popular decks on the ladder, even after nerfs to Tuskarr Totemic and Rockbiter Weapon. Ever since Karazhan, Midrange Shaman matchup is a big challenge for any Zoo Warlock. With the addition of Spirit Claws and Maelstrom Portal, the matchup shifted from positive to negative. But it’s far from unwinnable and can be okay if you navigate it correctly.

I think the matchup got slightly better again after the recent changes – Tuskarr was one of the reasons why Shaman’s early game was broken and without it, Shamans have shifted focus on the mid/late game.

Mulligan

High priority (you always keep):

  • Flame Imp
  • Soulfire
  • Possessed Villager
  • Argent Squire

Medium priority (you situationally keep):

  • Voidwalker
  • Malchezaar’s Imp
  • Abusive Sergeant
  • Dire Wolf Alpha
  • Imp Gang Boss

Against Midrange Shaman, you really prioritize your early game – especially the Flame Imp and your sticky 1-drops (Possessed Villager and Argent Squire). Flame Imp is good, because it directly threatens Tunnel Trogg and even if enemy opens with a Totem Golem, you still have a lot of ways to kill it (another 1-drop, Abusive, Dire Wolf). The sticky 1-drops are great, because it’s hard to clear them completely for the Shaman. It’s very likely that once you drop it, you will still have some board presence going into next turn and that’s important if you have any buffs in your hand. And then, Soulfire, because early game tempo is VERY important and Soulfire on Totem Golem is a big tempo gain. It can also be used as a way to deal with Trogg before he gets out of control.

And going into situational keeps: Voidwalker is a keep only if you also have some attack buffs. 1/3 stats are pretty poor against Shaman unless you can buff them. It dies to Tunnel Trogg + Flametongue Totem (or Tunnel Trogg + Coin + Feral Spirit) and Totem Golem. But if you have Abusive or at least Dire Wolf Alpha, you might be able to make it work. Malchezaar’s imp is not the keep for the same reason – it’s even weaker than Voidwalker because it has no Taunt. However, he’s a priority keep if you manage to get a Soulfire. Then Malchezaar’s Imp + Soulfire is amazing t2 play either against Trogg or against Totem Golem. You don’t lose card advantage and gain tempo + you have a very high priority target to kill on the board. Abusive Sergeant and Dire Wolf Alpha are keeps only with other 1-drops – they’re bad by themselves, but can work wonders if you have some board presence. And Imp Gang Boss is a keep only if the rest of your hand is top-notch – it’s a good card, but 2 attack doesn’t trade that well against Shaman’s early game.

Strategy Tips

For more general tips, check out the Beginner part of the guide. Here are few matchup-specific tips:

  • You NEED to play around AoE. Try to play around Maelstrom Portal since turn 2. Making a board full of 1 health minions is an easy way to get wiped. In the mid game, you also need to start playing against Spell Damage Maelstrom Portal – 2 damage AoE. It’s more rare, but can happen. Then in the mid/late game, your main concern is Lightning Storm. How to play around those AoE? First of all, trading. If enemy has a 3/2 minion and you can either kill it with a 2/1 or with Imp Gang Boss, you should generally sacrifice your 2/1 unless you’re in a dire scenario and you think that you will need that extra damage. You can try to not pop the Squire’s Divine Shield or Villager’s Deathrattle – this way you get some leftovers even after the AoE. You buff your 3+ health minions with Defender of Argus – one extra health can make them survive. And you don’t play minions when you don’t need to. If you already have 4-5 minions on the board and you’re already weak against AoE, just tapping + passing a turn is okay (or playing only sticky minions).
  • In the mid-late game, Life Tap as much as you can. Midrange Shaman isn’t known for the burst, especially since they rarely play Doomhammer or Al’Akir the Windlord right now. Some lists do play Bloodlust, but this card is useless in Zoo matchup, so that’s good for you. Life Tapping a lot means that you have more resources to work with, more lethal opportunities and ways to fill up the board against after it gets removed.
  • Kill all the totems unless you’re very close to lethal. Leaving the totems against Shaman is a mistake. If you clear every totem, their spells will be weaker, their Flametongue Totem will be a dead card, their Thunderbluff Valiant will be way weaker. Not only totems – you play board clear game for the whole match. Both decks want to be ahead on the board and don’t want to play from behind. You can leave some minions on the Shaman’s board (probably not Spell Damage) if you’re setting up lethal next turn or if you have no clear way to kill it, but that’s it.
  • Try to not drop Doomguard and just go face with it – it makes Shaman’s Hex a great card, which otherwise is very mediocre in this matchup. Doomguard is basically the only really good Hex target in the deck – maybe a buffed Darkshire Councilman, but that’s still no tempo loss for you. So when you drop Doomguard, try to trade it into something – kill a Totem Golem, even a Tunnel Trogg. This matchup is rarely about face rushing Shaman down, but about getting as much as you can from each card until you set up a really threatening board.
  • When it comes to the late game and it’s harder and harder to keep up with the Shaman, you can try to face rush tactic. If you know that you can’t handle things in the long run, just stop playing around stuff, flood the board and try to kill him. He might happen to not have the necessary cards and you win. Also, sometimes setting him up at low health even without lethal in the hand is good – you can always topdeck a Soulfire or Doomguard to kill him. So if you’re ahead – play safe. And if you’re behind – play risky, because it’s hard to come back as a Zoo.

Closing

That’s all folks. Thanks for reading this MUA. If you want some matchup to be covered next, you have any questions or other suggestions – feel free to leave your comment in the section below.

Good luck on the ladder and until next time!