Weekly Legends: Shaman Returns! (Legend Go-Big Shaman)

An updated deck guide to the Shaman class - buffed and powered up with the newly released Shaman BRM Cards!

Introduction

Sometimes here on Weekly Legends, we like to theorycraft. While Legend Decks are great, sometimes it’s also nice to look at individual cards and see how they fit into the overall metagame. This week, Shaman got arguably the strongest four drop in the game, Fireguard Destroyer. This card is insanely powerful, a 4/6 for four at worst, and a 6/6 or 7/6 50% percent of the time. Those are ridiculous numbers, and took Shaman from one of the worst decks in the game to one of the best. That may be a bold claim, but as Innerscorecard’s legend deck shows, sometimes you have to be a little bold if you want to win.

Look at that list. Seriously, just look at that list. Annoy-o-Tron? No Earth Shock? Neptulon?? Kel’Thuzad??? You better believe it. This isn’t your mama’s Shaman list, this isn’t OG Fight Night Shaman, this is new Shaman. This is beat you over the head until you stop moving Shaman. Fireguard Destroyer gives the deck an incredibly powerful must-answer four drop that gives way to the later game and allows your larger minions to take over. What this deck lacks in card draw it makes up for in minion size and, unlike traditional Shaman, it tries to get value from its minions rather than from its spells. It’s always refreshing to see a new take on an old deck. This is a great take on traditional Shaman that, is not only good, but is also a blast to play.

Key Cards

Note: The original list ran Ragnaros the Firelord, but I prefer Doomhammer for its burst potential. That choice is completely up to you.

Annoy-o-Tron

While most Shaman decks take the Haunted Creeper route, this deck opts to use Annoy-o-Tron as it’s anti-aggro two drop of choice. While this is mainly due the obvious synergy with Powermace, it is also much better at stopping aggressive starts. Creeper trades really well, but Annoy-o-Tron is a great taunt that can kill things like Leper Gnome while also keeping charge minions at bay. In a deck like Shaman, which depends on a strong curve to really get going, having a wall on turn two that sets up Unbound Elemental can be a very powerful opening. Annoy-O-Tron is a very sticky minion that, in addition to the above benefits, sets up a strong curve that this deck needs.

Powermace

Powermace is an interesting card. Three health is the benchmark for Shaman removal (Lightning Bolt, Rockbiter Weapon, Fire Elemental), and this card fits into that theme very well. While it does double with Annoy-o-Tron, Powermace is really just a three cost Fiery War Axe. This kind of extra removal is very important when trying to set up a curve, and helps you get to the middle game. While using your removal in the early game is usually strong, being able to strike something down while also playing out four and five drops is very important.

This deck relies on curving out very strongly much in the same way that Tempo Mage does. However, you have some extra removal that really helps that plan come together. Powermace is a card that says “do three damage twice”. While sometimes it may be tempting to hold back and try to make use of the deathrattle, it is much better to ignore it completely. That does not meant that you want to forget about the deathrattle (and you should use it when you can) but don’t let the +2/2 dictate when and how you use the card.

Mind Control Tech

The original list had two Kezan Mystics, but I think that is a huge overreaction. Yes, Hunter is a hard deck (more on that below) and Freeze Mage has made a comeback, but one mystic does the job just fine. However, while mystic is dead in a lot of matchups, Mind Control Tech is not. You could also run Big Game Hunter in this spot, but I personally prefer MCT in the new Zoo dominated meta. It may just be a 3/3 for three, but it can outright win you the game in certain situations. Not only that, but almost everyone on the ladder is aware of or plays around BGH these days. You will almost never see that same caution when playing around the tech. It is worth playing over the others just for the surprise factor alone.

Fireguard Destroyer

The card that changed everything. Fireguard Destroyer does two things very well, and both are essential for this deck. One, it enables you to just crush turn four (or three with the coin) and instantly take control of the board. Six health is very hard to remove and when this thing becomes a 6 or 7 attack minion your opponent is in a lot of trouble. In a midrange deck it is very important to be able to consistently put threats out, and this card gives you access to two extra huge minions. Even when you get a 4/6, that’s a bigger yeti, which you will take 25% of the time.

The second thing that destroyer does is, by being such a huge threat, it makes your late game even better. Most of the time, removal that is typically used on things like Dr. Boom or Neptulon (Execute, Fireball, Hex) has to be used on this card. That means, when you do get to the later turns, your big minions will be harder to remove. This is the number one reason the card is so powerful, and why it is the glue that holds the entire deck together.

Defender of Argus

This deck has large minions, and it has no healing. As such, Defender of Argus is a perfect choice for keeping you alive in tight spots. Not only does it make it so your opponent cannot simply ignore Fire Elemental and just go face, it also can shut down or stall both Zoo and Hunter. Those two decks are some of the most frustrating on the ladder right now, and I would not run this deck without argus for that exact reason.

I bring up this card to accentuate just how important it is. Every deck in the game right now has the ability to burst you down, from Hunter to Priest to Paladin. You cannot expect to sit comfortable at 12 or less life, especially if you don’t have control of the board. There are several options to combat this problem, but in Shaman taunts are the best way to go. While you could run healing, hiding behind taunts (especially with totems) is a much better alternative. Add in the fact that argus is so good your big minions as well, and it is an easy choice.

Kel’Thuzad

This deck lives off of huge minions, but Kel’Thuzad does something more than Dr. Boom, Neptulon or even Sylvanas: it wins the game. Ok, that might be a little bit of hyperbole, but this card has to be answered immediately or the game is over. That’s not an understatement. That reason is why it is the finisher of choice, and it gets even stronger if you choose to run the original build with Ragnaros the Firelord.

Kel’Thuzad is a great card valuewise even if you get to trade just one minion. However, there is no deck that can overcome having the lich live for more than a turn. While there are other large finishers, this deck is based around having board control and keeping minions in play. Kel’Thuzad, the king of minion trading, is the leader you want at the top end of the deck. While there are cases to be made for switching out your other big cards, this is one you do not want to switch out.

Matchups

As always, the five decks I encounter most on the ladder.

Face Hunter

I say this every time, but I am so sick of writing about this deck. However, you cannot take a deck onto the ladder and not prepare for Hunter. The most important part of this matchup is to remember that you have no healing. You cannot afford to just take damage and sit back or you will lose to their hero power. The best way to win this game is to be proactive. Fireguard Destroyer and Unbound Elemental are great here, and if they get huge you can just keep hitting your opponent in the face and make them answer your threats. The other win mode here is Doomhammer which can be used to clear (not ideal) and also for a lot of fast damage.

The other way to win this game is to make the best use of your taunts. Defender of Argus is not usually a keep, but it is a great pickup midgame. Annoy-o-Tron can also buy you valuable time and a well-timed Kezan Mystic usually ends the game. Taunts are usually enough to buy you time for lethal, but always be aware that, because of their hero power, you want to keep your life total high at all times.

Zoo

As I showed last week, Zoo is back and scarier than ever. Not only do they have more resilient minions than they used to, they also have access to later game cards. In fact, they have so many threats I would probably say this deck has no weaknesses. This matchup is very tricky, as you have no Earth Shocks to deal with Nerubian Egg or Voidcaller. You really need to curve in this matchup, and while you do not want to get rid of a Rockbiter Weapon or Lightning Bolt, you do want to mulligan aggressively for both Zombie Chow and Annoy-o-Tron to help get you to your big minions.

Zoo is a deck that you really cannot afford to miss a turn against. One bad play (or one bad turn) can end the game. Your best tool (besides large minions) is Lightning Storm. However, Imp Gang Boss and Nerubian Egg make it a bit harder to use. You want to look for openings for when you can clear the whole board, but you almost always want to save it for Imp-losion. Just like Kezan Mystic for Hunters, Mind Control Tech can also outright win games.

Paladin

Though its popularity has fallen in recent weeks, Paladin is a very good class that still has an insane amount of tools to win the game. They have three types of removal that you want to be aware of. First, two Aldor Peacekeepers, which shut down your big minions and also advance their board. They also have Big Game Hunter, which means your first 7 attack minion will not stick. Finally, they have Equality. You want to slowly wear down these answers until they have nothing left. Once that happens, the game is usually over as you can take over the board quite easily.

Hex is at a premium in this matchup, and should be only saved for Tirion Fordring and Sylvanas Windrunner. Those cards are very hard to answer, and you will usually lose a lot of tempo if you can’t get rid of them efficiently. A general rule against Paladin is to always keep their board clear. Lightning Storm is a great card for that reason, and your early game also shines at clearing recruits. The best way to play this matchup is to try and ride out the tempo game, removing their minions while playing threats. Do that, and you will almost always beat them in the long run.

Tempo Mage

Tempo Mage is a deck that hangs on the fringes of the meta. It is good at times, weak at others, but is something you almost always want to be aware of. This deck can get some very fast starts, but also struggles when it doesn’t have a curve or skips a turn. Due to cheap removal, you can usually deal with their early quite well and stop them from gaining momentum. If their removal (Frost Bolt, Fireball) is used reactively rather than as a way to protect their minions, you are always ahead. This deck depends on their late game to finish you off, but you can match them punch for punch. Not only that, but while their removal is damaged based, you have access to Hex. Because of this, and due to cards like Fire Elemental and Fireguard Destroyer, you can play their game often better than they can.

Druid (Combo)

New deck, old rules. Druid has always been an easy match for Shaman, and this is no exception to that rule. In fact, it may have gotten easier than it once was. Fireguard Destroyer and Unbound Elemental create fits for Druid, and can single-handedly end the game if they don’t have an Innervate. You want to only mulligan for Zombie Chow, Annoy-o-Tron and Hex (just in case they Innervate something early) in this matchup, and play tempo the whole way. Every minion you have is a threat, and you have so many it is very hard to keep up.

Not only does Druid really struggle with big minions, they generally have problems with lots of minions as well. Even something as simple as sneaking in a totem here and there can really mess with their plan and put them on their back foot. The only way you really lose this matchup is the combo, which can be played around with Defender of Argus, Annoy-o-Tron and even just a taunt totem. Keep your life above 14 and play out your big minions, and you should be fine.

Mulligan Guide

As always, there are a couple of “always keep” cards. These are Zombie Chow and Annoy-o-Tron. Unbound Elemental should always be kept when you have the coin, as it is just an amazing two drop. When playing against Hunter or Warlock (assuming Zoo) you want to keep Rockbiter Weapon and Lightning Bolt. These are also great against Warrior, Priest and Rogue. There is a case to keep them against Mage as well if you do not have any other opening cards.

Powermace can be kept with Annoy-o-Tron, but should be sent back in most other circumstances. Hex should only be kept against Druid due to their ability to power out large minions, and Lightning Storm  is a must keep against Paladin and Zoo. You typically want to play into your curve, and just look for ways to get right to the powerful middle game. The most important card to this, Fireguard Destroyer, should be kept with the coin against Druid, Mage and Priest.

That’s the deck for this week. As always, I hope you guys enjoyed it, and I hope you enjoy the resurgence of Shaman. I for one love the new cards, and am looking forward to the final wing of Blackrock Mountain. Until then, may you always go big, or go home.