Zoo is currently one of the most powerful aggro decks on the ladder. This is because it is good against almost every powerful deck on ladder and has a decent matchup against the rest. That is a very important when trying to climb, and makes it a great choice for the trek to legend. However, even great decks have their share of tricky matchups. One of those for Zoo is Aggro Shaman. This guide will breakdown that matchup and show how Zoo, though the underdog, can use its slow board presence and surprise burst to come out on top.
One of the biggest reasons to play Zoo is how many versions there are. When deck building you always want to stick with a style that you know and understand. With Zoo, that means you can always play what best suits you, be it slow mid-range, large minions based or very aggressive. All that Zoo cares about is a strong curve and sticky minions. Once you have those two elements in the list, you can then begin to tweak the fringe and tech cards to your liking. To help you understand the different directions you can go in with Zoo, three decks have been linked below to help you figure out exactly the kind of list you want to play.
While in some matchups your can keep slower mulligans or reach for the higher-cost cards, here you cannot afford to mess around. Aggro Shaman is one of the strongest burst-decks in the game and, like the Face Hunter decks of old, every bit of damage they do is a problem. That, mixed with the fact that you Lifetap to stay in games, makes it so you need to hit your curve as reliably as possible. Not only will this allow you to challenge their cards as they come down, but it will prevent you from bleeding your own life. Health is your biggest resource in this matchup, and even missing one drop can be the end of the game. Shaman starts with the board and then ends with burst, you need to clear early to interrupt that plan and supply pressure of your own.
Cards to KeepFlame Imp Abusive Sergeant Voidwalker Dark Peddler Knife Juggler Dire Wolf Alpha Haunted Creeper Nerubian Egg Imp Gang Boss
Power Overwhelming should always be kept alongside a strong opening curve.
Imp-losion can only be kept with the coin and if you have early drops to go along with it.
Defender of Argus is one of your best tools in this matchup, but you only want to keep it with the coin and a very strong opening.
How to Win
As you can imagine, the best way to beat Aggro Shaman is to just keep your life total as high as possible. That may sound very straightforward, but it is not easy to do. You need to constantly be working in this matchup, trying to keep their board clear while also mitigating your lifetapping. Anything they play is a threat, and you need to keep them off the board at all costs.
There are two ways you are going to play this matchup, and you should be able to read both early on. Understanding your role will help you know how to play the game. In most games, while it may seem strange, you are much more a control player. In most of these games you are going take this slow, only bursting through with extra minions or when you have full control of the board.
However, if you have a good start and Shaman falters you need to turn up the heat very, very fast. Never forget that every aggro deck, especially ones that run a lot of different burn spells, plays very poorly when being reactive. This is because they are forced to use their burn on minions rather than your face. The main goal of this matchup is to get them to care about the board, because once that happens you are in control.
Early Game Strategy
The starting turns will dictate the rest of the way the game goes. Aggro Shaman will roll you over if you don’t have access to early drops because once their starting minions get in damage they can just go over you with burn. On the flip side, because of the way Zoo is constructed, you will be able to handle them if you can get a strong presence.
Get your buffs ready. Aggro Shaman runs a ton of different early game threats that have high health or are hard to remove. Tunnel Trogg, Totem Golem and Feral Spirit can all cause problems if left unchecked. You need to be able to kill all of those cards, and your buffs are the best way to do that. It is because of those cards that Power Overwhelming can be a very strong keep early on.
Another good rule here is to always get something down. Lifetapping can be fine in some matchups, but here, taking two damage to not add to the board is a disaster. You need to constantly threaten Shaman or force them to act. That means just dropping down a turn two Knife Juggler even if you know it’s going to get hit by a Lightning Bolt. That is three damage you won’t have to take to the face later on.
Also make sure to get use out of Voidwalker. This card can stall very well in addition to being able to trade with things like Leper Gnome and live. You can also use this to protect some of your more valuable minions.
The middle of the game is where you start to take the board, and it is also where you can live or die. The reason for this is Aggro Shaman will no longer care about minions here, and put all of their energy into doing as much face damage as possible. If you can react to that you will win, if not, you will lose.
Imp-losion, while too weak to keep on its own, is a very strong tool to have. This card is removal (key for keeping pressure off of you) and also immediate board presence. The imps put on pressure in their own right, and they each are able to trade after the initial damage the spell does. While some games you are going to want to wait to play this with Knife Juggler, you mostly just want to use it as soon as you can (it does a great job at attacking Feral Spirit)
Defender of Argus is your only real source of taunt in this match. Not only can it provide buffs for your minions, but it also can shut down Doomhammer. While burn still goes right over its head, being able to shut down the weapon can really buy you some time. As with mulliganing, there is no reason to mess around with this card. If you have two minions, drop it onto the board.
Loatheb, if you run it, is the most important card in this matchup. By far. The reason is that this card basically reads “prevent lethal for one turn” against Aggro Shaman. Games where you aren’t controlling the board, or games that are very close, are most often going to come down to a race. Having one card that can freeze your opponent out for a turn is essential, and will most often give you that extra push you need to find lethal first.
Late Game Strategy
There is very little lategame in this matchup. However, if you do go long there are two modes. In one of those modes you are trying to take over with your large finishers, and in the other you are attempting to race.
When racing you want to be very careful. Aggro Shaman is always one card or spell away from winning the game. Understand that, and always try to be wary or late-game tapping (unless you are trying to find lethal immediately). In addition, be aware of your opponent’s damage potential, which will help you understand if you need to trade or hit face. You almost always want to trade, but some games you will have choice but to push if you need to set up a two turn lethal.
In contrast, if you have board control or are at a decent life total moving into the late turns you typically want to do your best to just overpower your opponent with your big finishers. Dr. Boom is perhaps your best option, but anything from Loatheb to Sylvanas Windrunner to Doomguard, all do a great job of cranking up the damage potential and force Shaman to react or die. You never want to play these cards over clearing, but if you have the opportunity, get them down as soon as you can.
Sea Giant is very strong here. While it is also going to be powerful, you can reliably get it down early on because of the way that Aggro Shaman tends to ignore the board. They most often won’t kill swarms of small minions, allowing you to get this down around turns four or five. Do your best to set up the 8/8 if you have it in your hand.