Weekly Legends: Dragon Shaman!

After looking into some classic spins on some old decks, we are taking a trip back into the wild. Not the format (that comes later), but a very interesting list that comes from RageSmorc. While once non-existent, LOE revived Shaman decks and turned them into an extremely well-tuned aggro machine. That shift has worked very […]

Introduction

After looking into some classic spins on some old decks, we are taking a trip back into the wild. Not the format (that comes later), but a very interesting list that comes from RageSmorc. While once non-existent, LOE revived Shaman decks and turned them into an extremely well-tuned aggro machine. That shift has worked very well for Thrall, and face has been the place for the class over the last few months. However, this is Weekly Legends, and we don’t bother with the same-old, same-old here. Rather, we look at the new and exciting. And this week, we have it with a very cool Malygos/Dragon Shaman deck that operates like a midrange/control hybrid. You have your early drops curving into bigger minions, but you also have a ton of removal options to drag out games.

Dragons are a very interesting tribe because of how much neutral synergy they have. Pretty much any deck can run the scaly beasts with reasonable success, and that means choosing a hero comes down the power as well as the style of list you want to play. While Shaman’s hero power is not great for its current lists, totems lend themselves quite well to slower decks where the healing, taunt and spell power matter (especially the taunt). The class is very is board-focused, and has access to some of the best removal in the game in Hex and Lightning Storm. Throwing dragon synergy into that mix enables you to play a control deck that starts out early in the same way that Priest does. There are two types of control decks in Hearthstone, passive and proactive. This very much falls into the “proactive” camp; a deck that contests the board at every stage of the game, but has enough big finishers and strong clears to eventually come out on top.

Key Cards

Tunnel Trogg

While normally an aggressive-as-it-gets beatdown card, Tunnel Trogg is a terrifying one drop that has some really nice applications outside of Aggro Shaman. For a control or midrange deck this card acts as a Mana Wyrm/Zombie Chow hybrid. Not only can it come down early and eat a bunch of small minions against aggro, but it also has the ability to get huge and trade up very well against both midrange and control. Add on how quickly the 1/3 can do damage and you have a real winner. This is by the best one drop you have available to you, but it is important to remember that it is here to trade, not to attack face. It may be hard to see this as a removal spell, but that is exactly what it is.

Another interesting use for this card is tricking your opponent. A lot of your early game cards are the same things that Aggro Shaman runs, and that is how your opponent is going to see you when the game first queues up. One of the underlying themes of this deck is the ability to play big minions all throughout the game, starting with Tunnel Trogg and Totem Golem and ending with Ysera. However, if your opponent thinks you are aggro they will use premium removal (or go out of their way) to clear this card. While it rarely happens, you want to make sure you can keep up the illusion as long as you can. Any day you can get your opponent to use an Execute or Shadow Word: Pain on your one drop is a good day. This is especially important because it really opens up your middle game, which is where most of your threats start to come down.

Ancestral Knowledge

Ancestral Knowledge is another aggro card that has some very powerful potential outside of its usual deck. Drawing two cards for two mana is really strong when you are digging for burn spells, but it is also really good if you are looking for answers, spells or just some extra minions. Yes, locking down two of your crystals can be annoying (more on that below), but netting cards is usually worth it. Card advantage is one of the most important factors in Hearthstone today. While a lot of decks do that on the board with sticky minions, there are other ways to keep your momentum going. This card is one of those ways, a very strong topdeck that also can be spent during dead turns to put you ahead or bring you back into a game. It can also be a good way to find some dragons when you are in need of an activator.

When utilizing this card, always keep the overload in mind. It is very easy to just assume that drawing two cards is worth losing two crystals on your next turn, but that is not always the case. I would think of using this card in the same way you would use a Doomguard that you need to play from your hand. That is to say, always value the card against its drawback. When playing a Doomguard you always want to think about if a 5/7 on board is worth more than the cards you are going to discard. With Ancestral Knowledge, you always want to value if having those two extra cards is going to be worth losing two mana crystals on your next turn. Sometimes, like if you need a specific card or answer to a board, that answer is yes. However, if the answer is no, you are probably better off just playing a minion or removing something from the board.

Lava Shock

As with any deck running massive amounts of early overload, you want to have access to Lava Shock. I bring this card up because it can be very difficult to use. Not necessarily in practice (use it when you have a lot of overload) but knowing when and how to properly plan it. If this card is in your hand, you want to use it to map out future turns. For instance, rebounding after playing a turn three Feral Spirit, or when you double up on a turn six Ancestral Knowledge. Even using it the turn after you play an overload spell can be very key to making sure you stay on pace. Never lock down your crystals without some sort of plan. However, it is important to see past this cards ability as well. It is easy to focus on what something does instead of what it is. What this card does is stops overload, however what it is, is two damage for two mana. Not the best deal, but a necessary tool in a world full of so many powerful two drop minions. This card picks off all sorts of small creatures ranging from Mad Scientist to Sorcerer’s Apprentice to Knife Juggler. If you need to kill something and this is your only option, don’t hesitate to use it.

Feral Spirit

While many of the dragon cards are self-explanatory, the fringe cards, like Feral Spirit, need a little bit more explaining. No matter what their use has become, the wolves are first-and-foremost a midrange card. Here, they are used as a tool for control. While two 2/3 taunts are not as strong as they once were, they do two things really well. One, they gum up the board and force your opponent to use resources to fight through them. This can be very good at taking the early board from aggro, which has a bit of trouble doing three damage. Even against decks like Aggro Shaman or Tempo Mage they most often have to commit some of their burn to clearing, which either takes up a turn or is less damage you have to worry about down the line. The second reason they are so good is because of how well they protect your face.

Despite the few taunts and heal you run in this deck, you will still find games where you just don’t have enough ways to stay alive. Charge is an important part of the meta, as is Ironbeak Owl. As such, having one taunt, no matter how big, is usually not going to be enough to stop aggro. Yes, both of the wolves have three health, but just getting something down that has taunt is almost more important than the health. Even so, three puts this out of range of a lot of AOE, keeps the wolves safe from small minions like Shielded Minibot, and usually eats an entire weapon hit. The spirits may not be as good as they once were, but in a deck like this you need to stay alive for as long as you can. Not to mention how strong they are when placed onto an empty board.

Malygos

While I could talk about any of the big three dragons, I chose to focus on Malygos. While Ysera is a great grind-out card, and Chromaggus can be a constant source of card advantage, Malygos is a bit more tricky. Yes, he is the essence of magic. His spell power is a great finisher and he instantly turns all of your cards into massive sources of damage. However, this is not a combo deck, it is a control deck. That means that MalyGod is just one tool in a huge box of different options. You do not have to plan around him, nor do you need him to win games. That being said, he does win a lot of games, so you should always try to bait out your opponent’s hard removal on your other big cards before putting him down.

The most important thing to remember about Malygos is that he is not in this deck solely as a finisher. You have no spell reduction, which means you are not going to be able to drop him down and OTK your opponent no matter what the situation. Rather, he is a gigantic minion with a 4/12 body that, similar to Ysera, can be a nightmare to deal with. However, unlike Ysera, you will win the game ninety percent of the time if he lives a turn. That rarely happens, but even if Malygos gets silenced he is going to be able to clear or push for damage depending on what you need. The most important part of the legendary dragon is playing him in the same turn as a Lightning Bolt. This turns the bolt into an eight damage removal spell. Not only is that extremely strong as removing a giant minion, but you opponent now has to do something about the 4/12 on top of losing the board.

Matchups

The five decks that I encounter the most on ladder.

Secret Paladin

I’m gonna be honest, this matchup is not great. In fact, some would say it is pretty terrible. While you can keep up with Secret Paladin if you curve out in the right way, opening slow or missing a turn due to overload is pretty much the end. Secret Paladin has an almost unstoppable curve, and setting yourself back a turn can really hurt, especially if that turn comes before a Mysterious Challenger or Dr. Boom. The best way to win this game is to meet them play for play and try to leverage your board presence to overwhelm theirs. Also note that their large minions are going to come down, most likely earlier rather than later. The two best cards at your disposal here are Hex and Lightning Storm. Hex is one of the only ways you have to deal with their finishers, and storm deals really well with their swarms cards like Muster for Battle. Each of these cards nullifies one board, but that usually won’t be enough. Always try to play removal while simultaneously getting your bigger minions onto the board.

Zoo

As hard as Secret Paladin is to combat, Zoo is much more manageable. That does not mean it is going to be an easy time, but your multiple removal options and countless large minions can really put the aggressive Warlock on their back foot. Despite how many cheap creatures they run, Zoo is a deck that loves to hoard cards to give them more options as the games goes on. To combat this, you want to try and draw out their hand as much as possible. This is commonly done by playing your larger minions and using them to take over the board. Aggro Warlock cannot properly operate with minions on the board, and if you get a full clear they will have to drop down multiple things to regain that presence. To take advantage of this as much as you can. Get the most use out of Lightning Storm as you can, making sure to pop deathrattles before using AOE.

Always be on the lookout for lethal. Zoo will Lifetap themselves into the ground throughout any game that goes long. Though you are a control deck, never forget to calculate possible damage or ways to push through. Lightning Bolt, Lava Shock and Crackle are all burn spells that can bring your opponent down to zero very quickly. Normally, that won’t come up. However, against Zoo it is something that should always be in the back of your mind. In addition, always look for an opportunity to play down Malygos. Even without a burn spell to go along with it, the legendary dragon represents one-turn lethal. If Zoo does manage to clear it out, they are going to have to commit a ton of resources to do so, which then gives you priority for your next big play.

Control Priest

Perhaps the trickiest matchup, Control Priest is a deck you need to be very careful with. In most games against most classes, running out your minions to control the board is the right way to operate this deck. However, when facing down Anduin you cannot afford to be so careless. Priest is a very interesting list that runs a ton of reactive cards, meaning they play to you. While that is one of their greatest strengths, you can use that to your advantage by controlling the way they take their turns. For instance, baiting out their premium removal on your smaller minions or forcing them to spend an entire turn on Lightbomb to get priority back. Always think about their possible answers, and play your minions according to the way you think their turn will go.

The two most important cards (from either side) are Hex and Entomb. Hex is critical because you need ways to answer their bigger minions (if they run any) or cards that they have stolen from you. While you do not want this game to go to fatigue, you should plan for it to last a good while. On the other hand, Entomb is a very strong card that will ruin your end game if you do not have a plan for it. The golden rule for that card is to try and bait it out on anything that is not Malygos or Ysera. While that may seem hard, you have a ton of midrange options that Priest will gladly steal if they do not have answer.

Despite what I said earlier, Malygos is a finisher in this matchup. Priest has almost no ways outside of Entomb to deal with the giant four health minion. If you play him when all of your opponent’s other removal spells have been used you will certainly win the game. If you have to play him or something like Ysera into an Entomb, Ysera is almost always the right choice.

Tempo Mage

As strong as Tempo Mage is against many popular decks, this is one of your better matchups. Not only do you have a ton of early game options to meet their plays, but you have heaps of removal and can simply go over their head as the game goes on. The main reason for this is the number of high-density threats you run. Almost everything you play, from Tunnel Trogg to Ysera, demands some sort of removal. While Tempo has some of the most removal options in the game, they will eventually run out. Your job is to keep them using spells and slowly grind out the game through this as a form of card advantage. Eventually they will not be able to answer something, and when that happens you can really start to dominate the game.

One of the most important cards in this game is Mad Scientist. While Counterspell can be problematic, the card you really need to keep in mind is Mirror Entity. You are not a deck that runs many small minions. As such, when they have entity up you want to make sure to only put something down that you can instantly kill.

Another important rule is to save your Hexes. While they have a good number of midrange threats, you can usually deal with them via spot removal or cards like Fire Elemental. However, Dr. Boom and Archmage Antonidas are much more resilient and will end the game if they go unanswered for even one turn. While you can kill them with damage (and you most definitely should if it is your only option), turning them into frogs is a much cleaner play.

Midrange Druid

As short-lived as this deck is (please Ben Brode, please), Midrange Druid still does everything it has always done. They are going to ramp quickly, they are going to play sticky minions, and if you ever can’t answer one, you are going to die. There is no way around that, and it is an unfortunate part of what Malfurion has become. Even so, you are in very good shape here. Shaman has always stacked up well against Druid, and this fight is no different. While their meager removal may be able to take out one or two threats, they almost always crumble to multiple big minions. Any high-density decks that run a lot of threats can do very well against Malfurion. Even something like a Totem Golem/Feral Spirit board can absolutely wreck their gameplan and allow you to build up turn after turn after turn. Once you fall into that sort of tempo, the game is more than over.

Another point about this deck is to always play your big finishers at any opportunity you get. A 4/12 body (even when silenced) just destroys Druid’s plans because they have no hard removal at their disposal. That also goes for a 6/8 as well. Furthermore, Druid’s silence (which they need to do on things like Malygos or Ysera) is a 2/4 Keeper of the Grove. Not only is that immediately killed by the minion you already have, but it also means they are not playing Force of Nature/Savage Roar. On that note, the combo still exists and it is terrifying. Fourteen health is, as usual, the place you need to stay above, whether that is with a taunt or any kind of healing you can muster. Hide yourself behind a minion as often as you can.

Mulligan Guide

Though this is a control deck, your are going to mulligan very similarly to Aggro Shaman. Your four “must keeps” are Lightning Bolt, Tunnel Trogg, Totem Golem and Feral Spirit. Beyond those four, you just want to look for early removal options like Lava Shock and Crackle. Anything five or above in mana cost should be thrown back. While not a “must keep”, Twilight Guardian is very strong and I like to keep it with the coin (dragon or not). Without the coin it costs too much.

In terms of specific keeps, you always want Lightning Storm against aggro (especially Paladin) and you only want to keep Hex when facing down Druid to stop an early Innervate. Earth Shock is a must keep against Warlock, and is also great against Paladin or decks that run Mad Scientist. While you normally want to naturally draw Ancestral Knowledge during the course of the game, it is a great tool to have against heavy, slower control decks like Warrior and Priest.

Conclusion

Dragons! Not only are they fun, but they are very powerful as well. Shaman is not a deck that typically gets the dragon treatment, but it a combination that seems to go together quite nicely. This is a very cool spin on the class as a whole, and a new angle to take this in (especially with a certain format coming up). I am always looking for the new and exciting, and this fits the bill better than ever. Hope you guys enjoyed the article and, until next time, may you always channel your inner Kibler.