This is a part of the MUA series for N’Zoth RenoLock 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.
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.
Midrange Shaman is the most popular deck on the ladder for quite a while. Right now Midrange Shaman alone is more popular than any other class, that’s why I think it’s correct to start with covering this matchup. It was always a pretty 50/50 matchup for RenoLock if you knew what you were doing. Exact win rates vary a lot depending on the Shaman’s list – mainly the sources of burst. Before the nerfs it mostly depended on whether the Shaman was playing Doomhammer / Al’Akir the Windlord + Rockbiter Weapon combo. Right now it depends on whether he runs Bloodlust or not.
Mastering this matchup is the most important thing you have to do when playing on the ladder right now, and since this matchup is pretty hard to play correctly, I hope that this MUA will help a bit.
High priority (you always keep):
- Acidic Swamp Ooze
- Shadow Bolt
- Reno Jackson
Medium priority (you situationally keep):
- Possessed Villager + Power Overwhelming
- Dark Peddler
- Imp Gang Boss
- Twilight Drake
Hands down the best draw against Midrange Shaman is Doomsayer. When dropped on turn 2, Shamans rarely have a way to deal with it. And if they do, it often requires them to Hex it, which is one Hex down for the later game. It can kill the Tunnel Trogg/Totem Golem and stall the game for one turn. Acidic Swamp Ooze is amazing, because of the 2x Spirit Claws pretty much every list runs now. It’s often 9 damage for 1 mana + it can counter most of your early game minions quite well, so you want to get rid of it. Shadow Bolt is an okay answer to Totem Golem. It’s not amazing, but it stalls the game for a bit, which is what you want. Hellfire is good as an emergency turn 4 board clear, which you sometimes have to do. Let’s say if enemy curved with t1 Tunnel Trogg into t2 Flametongue Totem into t3 Feral Spirit – if you don’t clear that, you’re dead in 2 turns or so. And Reno Jackson is always a keep. Midrange Shaman with a fast start might put a lot of pressure on your life total, so turn 6 Reno is often a saving grace. Keeping it in your hand makes you feel safer.
Then, the situational keeps. I call them “on curve” keeps, because I tend to keep them when I have a good curve – this is one of the ways to counter Shaman’s early game ever so slightly. Possessed Villager + Power Overwhelming is not amazing, but it’s an okay combo to keep. You don’t really care about card disadvantage as much as about dealing with their early threats, so you can trade 2 for 1 (into Totem Golem most likely). Dark Peddler is a strong card overall, but it’s not really that great in this matchup – it dies for free to buffed Trogg, to Totem Golem, to Spirit Claws with Spell Damage, to Lightning Bolt… There are just so many ways to kill it. For the same reason, I don’t keep Earthen Ring Farseer – it often doesn’t get any on board value. But a big plus of Dark Peddler is that he might give you Soulfire, which is good in this matchup. Then both Imp Gang Boss and Twilight Drake are also keeps if I have curve to back them up. Tapping on t2 and t3 just to drop t4 big Twilight Drake is very risky against Hex, but if you have a minion every turn, you don’t mind them spending a turn Hexing your 4-drop if they don’t put any pressure.
For more general tips, check out the guide I’ve linked at the top. Here are few matchup-specific tips:
- Managing AoE is the most important thing in this matchup. Most of the lists can reflood the board few times in the late game, most notably with Thunder Bluff Valiant and Thing from Below. Basically – they have more potential ways to reflood than you have the board clears. So use the clears only when you absolutely have to. If you have okay minion trades on the board – trade with minions. If you can use single target removals to manage the board before it gets out of control – do that. You try to keep Shadowflame and Twisting Nether for special occasions – against a few bigger minions.
- You can try to play around Hex on your big Deathrattles by killing them off immediately. Cairne Bloodhoof combos nicely with Shadowflame, because it gives you a 4 damage AoE and a 4/5 on the board that’s not really worth Hexing (plus you get a full Cairne from N’Zoth). Sylvanas + Power Overwhelming can be a single target removal if enemy has a single big minion on the board (e.g. Fire Elemental).
- You don’t have to hurry up – you will win the game in the long run. Shaman will run out of cards or you will outvalue him with Lord Jaraxxus. But you can’t rush things down – play reactive, defensive until he starts topdecking. Then you can shift the gears and start hitting him in the face. At this point it’s also safe to play Jaraxxus – they have no way to burst you down without any board.
- A lot of the lists run Bloodlust, which is very problematic in this matchup. In the late game you should be in the control of the game already and clear things immediately anyway, but in the mid game you often have to abandon the board control and go for a big AoE turn. That might bite you back, as even with just a few totem on the board, Bloodlust is deadly. Try to play around it if you can, but not if it would cost you too much (e.g. you don’t Siphon Soul a totem to prevent Bloodlust lethal, unless you would be in a good spot if you do that). If you’re low or Shaman has a lot of small minions you can’t kill, drop playing around it completely and hope that he doesn’t run it.
- Brann Bronzebeard + Cult Apothecary work pretty much as a second Reno in this matchup (as they often have 5+ minions on the board), so try to keep it for the emergency late game heal. Cult Apothecary + Shadowflame is another cool combo that both heals you and clears the board.
- Try to hit your AoEs with Emperor Thaurissan proc. This way you can still have some tempo after AoEing. E.g. if you discount Twisting Nether and a 4-drop, you can play both on the same turn, which is big, as you don’t give a full board control to your opponent.
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!