Note: There is no game five. Sorry, OBS was being weird.
Something you may not know about me is that I love Midrange Shaman. I spent a lot of time playing with the list in seasons past, especially during the days of Secret Paladin. I love the flow of the deck, love the hard decisions it creates, and love the different creative avenues. However, I did not like what the list became over the past few seasons. The totem plan was too heavy handed, and the endless string of boring minions weren’t fun or interesting. This week’s list, a rank 1 legend deck from Nalguidan, breaks away from that mold and injects some life back into the deck that I love. While the totem plan is still here, there are a ton of fun interactions and interesting minions to play with that really makes me love this list again.
This deck is a Jade infusion on the classic Shaman list. You have your Tunnel Troggs and your Totem Golems, but you also have a bunch of new tools. Everyone who has faced Druid knows how strong the endless string of Jade Golems is, and this list really capitalizes on that fact by giving you ways to both control the board state while adding in your own threats. That is essential for any midrange list, and it is what makes this whole thing come together. You want to put down strong minion after strong minion and never look back.
Yes. I have been thinking about Earth Shock a lot over the past week, and I absolutely love the inclusion here. The reason is that there are a ton of good targets for this card right now running around the meta. Almost all of Pirates early minions have one health, Jade Golem creators are everywhere, the slower decks love their deathrattle, and many midrange lists have things like Frothing Berserker, Twilight Drake or big buffed threats. This shuts down all of those options and gives you an extra silver bullet to deal with a wide range of threats that can cause you a lot of problems. It also gets buffed very nicely by spell power.
I bring this card up because it is very important to understand what target you are going to use it for. I view Earth Shock a lot like Hex because it is a card that has a very strong effect that can shut down one problematic minion. In slower games you want to almost exclusively save this for Sylvanas Windrunner unless you also have a Hex at your disposal (though against Renolock you want to use it on Twilight Drake more. Beyond that, you just want to get value where you can. Using this against Pirate to stop a Frothing Berserker is great, as is using this to take out a Jade Swarmer or a Bloodmage Thalnos/Loot Hoarder on a deck low on cards. Even shutting down something like a Tirion Fordring before trading in can be a massive swing. This is a strong card and you don’t want to just shoot the first thing that comes down unless you have a very good reason to do so.
While it is easy to overlook this card as a worse Spirit Claws (which in some ways it is), Jade Claws is a very important piece to this build. Not only does it control the early board and give you a body, but it also has overload in curve with Tunnel Trogg. Something that I (among others) truly underestimated was just how strong Jade Golems were going to be on their own. That is to say, a 2/2 weapon for two is not good on its own, but if that 2/2 weapon also gives you a 4/4 or a 5/5 for just two mana then it’s pretty unreal. A big part of this deck is finding value where you can, and this card is a perfect example of that. It is a lot like Jade Lightning, but it simply comes down a little bit earlier.
Something that is very key about Jade Claws is that they allow you to control a lot of the early game. The past iterations of Midrange Shaman were all about stacking up quick pressure with a few cards and then bursting your opponent down with ahead-of-the-curve minions. This list can operate in that way, but it is important to remember that you have the ability to go longer if needed. The golem package means you are always going to be in games, which means you can drag out a lot of matches. I have had plenty of games where I realized that my damage output wasn’t very high to pressure so I played defensively and eventually worse my opponent down with a string of constant threats. Those lines are not obvious, but they exist. Look for them when you can.
Something else that I like about this list is that, like the Shaman decks of the past, it is a big skill tester. There are many examples of that, but one of the biggest is Flametongue Totem. Positioning matters here, and putting the 0/3 into the wrong place can really hurt you. That means you want to think about positioning all of the time just in case you draw into Flametongue. This is a style of midrange that, because of the longer gameplan option, thrives off of making strong value trades. Fighting for the board is essential, and even messing up placement by one can be the difference between taking over a game and falling behind. Always look at your minions and match them up against your opponent’s board with an extra two attack. Another important note is that, like totems, the jade golems spawn on the right side of the board. This is important to remember because you often want to keep that side clear when playing a golem into a Flametongue.
While on the surface this card is here to beat Pirate Warrior, it also serves as your primary AOE. A lot of the meta (a lot, a lot) is Pirate Warrior, and having access to a two mana spell that challenges their openings and gives you board presence is very key. However, another way to look at this card is, like Jade Claws and Jade Lightning, it is a removal spells that also gives you extra value. Every body is valuable (especially in a deck like this) even if those bodies are just a 1/1 or a 2/1. For this reason, being able to have the flexibility to both clear and play a threat is very strong. That goes double against other aggro decks.
One important note is that it is ok to be greedy with Maelstrom Portal. Clearing a couple of small minions if often good, but holding onto this until you have spell power is often a strong decision. The only reason you want to drop this right away is if you are facing a very strong push. However, if you can afford to drop minions instead you probably should. You will notice that there is only one Lightning Storm in this deck, which means you only have one large AOE at your disposal. Portal fills that gap, especially when you can get it to two or three damage. That goes a long way and really cleans up your trades or finishes off bigger threats. Never play this just to play it. As with everything else in the build, try to have a plan.
Holy mother of Jade Golems! Another amazing inclusion into this deck, Aya Blackpaw is the card that rewards you for taking the jade road. This six drop is absolutely unreal and one of the strongest cards a midrange list can have. Even after just two jade spells this card becomes a 5/3 summon a 3/3, deathrattle summon a 4/4. That is a whopping 12/10 worth of stats over three bodies for six mana. Talk about a punch. Aya, a lot like Savannah Highmane, is a card that can just end the game on the spot because she’s resistant to AOE and works as two minions for the price of one. When you have the happy panda in hand you want to work hard to control the board and limit your opponent’s minions as much as you can.
I bring up Aya as a way to discuss a much bigger theme here, which is conservation of minions. There is a lot of AOE rolling around the meta right now due to the recent resurgence of Reno decks, and that means you need to be careful about flooding the board. A lot of your threats are two-in-one cards that instantly put on pressure. Not only that, but people are still going to be wary of Thunderbluff Valiant even though you do not run it. That means a solid threat plus a few totems can also bait out clears as well. Always only put as many minions onto the board as you have to when facing control unless you are making a serious push for lethal before they can stabilize. It is tempting to overextend, but even something as simple as Aya Blackpaw plus a totem can be enough pressure to get your opponent’s Dragonfire Potion before refilling.
The four decks I have seen the most so far in the early meta.
The current king of the ladder, Pirate Warrior is a winnable matchup. In fact, this matchup is one of the biggest reasons to play this deck. Not only do you have access to cheap taunts and powerful opening minions, but your removal does a very good job at keeping them in check. This is a game where you need to try and get control of the early board in anyway that you can. This will cripple their damage potential and allow you to become the aggresor, which is a position Pirate cannot win from. You have some extremely large minions that trade well and stop things like Patches the Pirate and N’zoth’s First Mate cold in their tracks. Do not be afraid to play the role of pure control during the early game, this will buy you time and help you get to your midrange taunts.
Though it may seem counter-intuitive, this is a game where you need to put pressure on your opponent. Pirate Warrior has a ton of live cards in their list, and they will continually topdeck damage if you let them. That means, barring a taunt here and there, you need to try and kill them as soon as they run out of steam. This is going to be easier than you think because Pirate Warrior loves to go face and will largely ignore the board if given the chance. Punish them for ignoring you and always understand to put them on the back foot when you have the chance. You have many ways to damage and you should push hard whenever you have the board.
Buckle up boys and girls, because it’s gonna be a bumpy ride. This is going to be the toughest matchup for you by a long shot and the reason is that Dragon Priest has even bigger midrange minions than you do. Anduin and his scaly companions matched up well against Midrange Shaman before Mean Streets, and they sure as heck match up well now. All of their threats have very big bodies and they can just dominate you during the turns where you usually make your money. The way you combat that is by getting one of your explosive openings and putting on early pressure. That does not necessarily mean you need to prioritize damage and attack their health, but rather that you just need to always have a large threat on the board (even if you use it to trade). This will force an answer from your opponent each turn and prevent them from advancing their minion count.
This game is all about controlling the board in any way that you can. Dragon Priest does not do very well at catching up to Jade Golems because the constant threats wear their removal thin very quickly. Even if they do manage to clear with a Dragonfire Potion, it is going to cost them their whole turn, allowing you to immediately retake the board. Priority is perhaps the most important thing in this matchup, because whoever has the turn has the ability to run out big threats and put their opponent on the defensive. You never want to be the one trading into threats, you want to be one that is supplying the bodies. This starts early on with your usual OP one and two drops. Priest has trouble matching up to those, and if they don’t have Shadow Word: Pain they will fall behind. Just be careful not to extend to far into Dragonfire Potion. If you have the board on turn six hold back or trade into dragons to limit the AOE’s value.
Renolock is a very interesting matchup that you are going to win by playing very cautiously. As discussed earlier, this is a game where you want to work hard to bait out AOE into situations that are very bad for your opponent. For instance, forcing them to Hellfire only half of your board, or causing them to use Twisting Nether into Aya Blackpaw. These situations are something that no player would take voluntarily, so you need to make them go down those paths by pressuring enough where they can never get comfortable. Renolock is only a good deck when it has the time to set up big minions and play threats. If they are constantly worrying about killing off your minions and playing spells just to stay alive they will tap less, which runs them out of cards. From there, your golems should take over.
The golden rule of this matchup is to make sure you almost always have something on the board. Like Priest, Warlock is a class that only has so many forms of removal at their disposal. Once they use their heavy hitters like Siphon Soul and Twisting Nether, you can freely fill up the board and just make larger and larger minions. Every single threat is something Renolock has to answer, and that is not going to come easy to them. You want to pace this game and only really push when you want to force them to Reno at a bad time. The six drop is very strong, but it also does nothing to your board. Always try to get him against some large minions to help you keep up the damage.
Note: Many people are playing Reynad’s rank 1 list, which does not run Felfire Potion. Just something to think about.
Jade Druid may have a real deck yet, but that does not mean this is a good matchup for them. Never once in the history of Hearthstone has Midrange Shaman matched up poorly against Druid and that isn’t going to start now. This is a game where you are going to simply stick to your gameplan and just run out threat after threat. This will wear Druid’s removal down and slowly run them out of cards. Malfurion loves to ramp, which is going to take up most of their early turns. As they do that, you just want to put down as many bodies as you possibly can. For all of their cards, today’s versions of Druid depend on efficient removal into threats to win games. If that removal ties up their mana, they will not be able to do much. There is nothing you really want to play around here, just slam down as many threats as you can before they get going. Another part of this is being careful when trading. Never give your opponent an easy kill and control the board in a way that cripples their damage. For instance, killing a 1/1 o protect your Totem Golem from being Wrathed, or your Tunnel Trogg from dying to a Living Roots. Those type of plays matter, especially against a deck whose damage is so dependent on low health minions.
Mulligans with this deck are just like classic Midrange Shaman. You want to get all of your early game minions and then build up the curve. Tunnel Trogg, Totem Golem and Acidic Swamp Ooze are your must keeps here. Flametongue Totem and Jade Claws can be kept with a good curve, and Feral Spirit should always be kept with a coin and the curve. The same goes for Mana Tide Totem. Maelstrom Portal is for any aggro deck (especially Pirate Warrior) and Hex is good against Druid if you have minions. If you have low-cost minions you can also keep Earth Shock against Renolock and Jade Rogue. Finally, just keep Jade Lightning if you have a good curve and you are playing a board-focused deck.
Ah, what a breath of fresh air. As much as I detest the recent versions of Midrange Shaman, this list is just plain awesome. You have two great avenues of play here, and they both are extremely fun. Slowly trading the board and supplying bigger and bigger bodies are what midrange is all about, and this does that marvelously. You get all of the classic Shaman cards you love with a mix of some really fun new tools (especially White Eyes). Just a good time all around. Thanks for reading and, until next time, may you always roll spell damage.