Aggro Shaman is the Cancer Hunter of League of Explorers. I playtested Kolento’s Aggro Shaman decklist from Rank 15 through Rank 1. These are my thoughts and matchup strategies.
- The Good: Fast method of farming ranked wins for Golden Shaman. Games are quick and aggro decks are an efficient way to climb ladder.
- The Bad: Having tested different matchup strategies, primarily between Rank 8 and Rank 2, my personal experience suggests the current meta is less favorable for Aggro Shaman. I think the primary reason is because people know what to expect.
- The Ugly: You’ll be going for FACE 95% of the time. Even when emoting “Well Played” after a game, you know deep down inside that the game was not, in fact, well played. Remember that climbing ladder is a grind and that this is an Aggro deck – you’ll be able to get in more games overall, and should understand when it is better to concede and start a new game.
- Prioritize the following 1 and 2 mana cost minions (as many as possible): [card]tunnel-trogg[/card], [card]leper-gnome[/card], [card]sir-finley-mrrgglton[/card], [card]totem-golem[/card].
- If you have Tunnel Trogg and Coin, keep [card]feral-spirits[/card] and Coin it out on turn 2.
- Do not keep a hand of low cost spells with no minions. Sometimes you’ll mulligan into spells only, at which point you will be forced to just hero power until you draw into minions that you can play.
- [card]lightning-bolt[/card] is OK to keep if you have Tunnel Trogg on turn 1, and especially if you expect the opponent to play an early threat you’ll need to address (e.g. [card]mana-wyrm[/card], [card]darnassus-aspirant[/card], [card]knife-juggler[/card])
- Always plan one to two turns ahead, especially because of Overload. Think about mana restrictions, whether or not you can unlock with [card]lava-shock[/card], etc.
- If you have the mana to spare and haven’t played Finley yet, ALWAYS hero power first for the chance of the spell power totem.
- Lava Shock is great to combo with [card]elemental-destruction[/card]. Many players will overreach and swarm board after you play Elemental Destruction assuming that you will have 5 locked mana crystals on turn 7. You can then Lava Shock and play 5 mana worth of spells for lethal.
- Don’t save minions even if your opponent can trade cleanly with them. If you don’t have board control, you’ll need to drag the game out to draw into your direct damage spells for lethal.
- If you have [card]doomhammer[/card]in hand, try not to play any Overload cards on turn 4. Getting Doomhammer out as fast as possible helps your win rate as it represents 16 points of damage alone, and combos with [card]rockbiter-weapon[/card].
- When you’re facing Control classes, you will be able to force heals over board clears. Against a Paladin with [card]reno-jackson[/card] for example, making him play Reno on turn 6 instead of [card]equality[/card] + [card]consecration[/card] removes an end game threat that can put his life total out of reach.
Steady Shot > Life Tap > Shapeshift > Reinforce > Fireblast > Lesser Heal > Armor Up.
- Same rule applies with Steady Shot as it does for Face Hunter – use it every turn you are able to.
- Life Tap is especially important versus matchups against Control decks as the draw power will make a difference.
- Remember that Shapeshift will give +1 attack to Doomhammer on that turn.
- The Rogue hero power is excluded in the list above because it destroys Doomhammer and should generally not be selected.
There are starting hands that allow you to swarm the board early and go face the entire game (e.g. 2x Tunnel Trogg, Leper Gnome), there are starting hands that are just spells (despite a “correct” mulligan) where you have to stall and wait for a big turn (e.g. Elemental Destruction + minions) and there are hands in between. While the information below is good to follow generally, always think about win conditions and the cards you need to draw to get lethal. Elemental Destruction fits well because it is a CONTROL card in an AGGRO deck that allows you to stall for a turn or two while you search for lethal.
- Three main Mage decks in the current meta: Tempo, Mech, and Freeze.
- [card]mad-scientist[/card] does NOT indicate what kind of deck it is.
- [card]unstable-portal[/card] indicates that it’s Tempo or Mech Mage.
- Any mech that’s not [card]piloted-shredder[/card] should indicate that it’s Mech Mage. Some Tempo Mages will run a [card]clockwork-gnome[/card].
- [card]mana-wyrm[/card] means it’s either Tempo. I’ve seen some Mech mages run Mana Wyrm, but they typically cut it out.
- Freeze Mage will run [card]acolyte-of-pain[/card]. Freeze Mage now runs [card]cone-of-cold[/card] as well. Pay attention to whether or not Freeze Mage is a Reno variant based on if you see any duplicate cards or not. [card]forgotten-torch[/card] is a card that Freeze Mage often plays.
- In case it’s Tempo or Mech, keep Rockbiter in hand vs Mana Wyrm. This matchup is heavily unfavorable for Shaman. You win the Tempo matchup as long as you keep the board under control. This means getting rid of their [card]flamewaker[/card] is a big priority. However, you need to push damage because there aren’t many ways to address [card]archmage-antonidas[/card] or [card]rhonin[/card] and you can’t spend all of your direct damage spells clearing board.
- Test for [card]counterspell[/card] using weak spells. This deck doesn’t run that many minions but it’s better if you can give them a Leper Gnome instead of [card]bloodmage-thalnos[/card] or a [card]mana-tide-totem[/card] when they have [card]mirror-entity[/card] up.
- The Freeze matchup is more favorable for Aggro Shaman, as long as you keep going for face. [card]ice-block[/card] and [card]ice-barrier[/card] can only soak up so much damage, and an aggressive board early will be near impossible for him to deal with. Keep [card]earth-shock[/card] or [card]hex[/card] for the [card]doomsayer[/card] and [card]frost-nova[/card] combo.
- Pop Ice Block as soon as you can. Sometimes you need to just go for it. Even if Freeze Mage plays Reno and heals back to 30, Rockbiter and your direct damage spells give you a lot of ways to salvage the game.
- There are two main variants of Renolock currently: a [card]feugen[/card] and [card]stalagg[/card] version and a Combo version. There is also a Handlock variation without Reno that runs double [card]dark-peddler[/card] and looks for lethal through [card]arcane-golem[/card] + [card]power-overwhelming[/card] + [card]faceless-manipulator[/card] (discounted through [card]emperor-thaurissan[/card]).
- Keep track of the important cards that Renolock can play:
- Heals: [card]earthen-ring-farseer[/card] (3 mana), [card]antique-healbot[/card] (5 mana), [card]siphon-soul[/card] (6 mana), Reno Jackson (6 mana)
- Taunts: [card]sunfury-protector[/card] (2 mana), [card]defender-of-argus[/card] (4 mana), [card]sludge-belcher[/card] (5 mana)
- AOE: [card]demonwrath[/card] (3 mana), [card]hellfire[/card] (4 mana), [card]shadowflame[/card] (4 mana), [card]twisting-nether[/card] (8 mana)
- Remember that the big swing turn for Renolock comes from playing an AOE clear with a heal. Understanding the above mana requirements can allow you to control the amount of damage that you do before a lethal turn without letting them get back into the game. Be as aggressive as possible in this matchup, as your best chance to win this matchup is to get damage in before taunts and heals.
- Zoo is more prevalent this ladder season as well, with two variants: one is a token/swarm version with [card]sea-giant[/card], and the other one runs [card]brann-bronzebeard[/card] and to get value off of double Battlecries from Dark Peddler and Defender of Argus. Elemental Destruction improves your matchup against Zoo. If you lose early board control, most of their board can be killed by Elemental Destruction. Zoo is a deck that focuses more on board control than damage. With a strong starting hand, you should go for face and force them to make trades.
- Some Secret Paladins now run 2x [card]annoy-o-tron[/card] to improve their matchup against Aggro decks. Mulligan hard for minions so you can get in as much damage early on. Keep track of which Secrets they have played, especially [card]noble-sacrifice[/card]. If Secret Paladin is able to hit their [card]mysterious-challenger[/card] on 6, [card]dr-boom[/card] on 7 and [card]tirion-fordring[/card] on 8, it’ll be very difficult for Aggro Shaman to win. Save your direct damage spells for lethal later in the game. Aside from [card]truesilver-champion[/card], Secret Paladin does not have any slots to run heals. Do take pride in the fact that [card]divine-favor[/card] has absolutely no value for the Secret Paladin against an Aggro Shaman.
- Midrange Paladin has a lot of board presence and heal. Their [card]muster-for-combat[/card] + [card]quartermaster[/card] turn can be addressed with Elemental Destruction, but your concern is more about running out of enough damage to deal lethal in the longer games. Midrange Paladins typically run two Healbots and one [card]lay-on-hands[/card], and possibly [card]tuskarr-jouster[/card].
- Murloc Control Paladin wins by cycling through their deck and playing two [card]anyfin-can-happen[/card]. They run two Lay on Hands and typically have Earthen Far Seer and Healbot. If they can stall the game long enough to get their Murlocs out, the game is heavily in their favor past turn 10.
- I have not met Aggro Druid on the ladder at all this season.
- Against Midrange/Combo Druid, be as aggressive as possible and always go for face. The only exception when you should not go face is to prevent them from mana ramping with Darnassus Aspirant. Keep Rockbiter or Lightning Bolt to remove Darnassus Aspirant. Be expected to answer a 4/6 [card]druid-of-the-claw[/card]. Similar to the Secret Paladin matchup, you’ll want to have as much damage as possible from minions earlier on.
- Remember that the win condition for most Druids is the [card]force-of-nature[/card] + [card]savage roar[/card] combo (14 damage alone). Also pay attention to damage from double Savage Roar when deciding whether or not to play Elemental Destruction, or trade in your own board. Sometimes, the choices that a Druid makes will indicate what cards they likely have in hand. For example, if a Druid uses [card]living-roots[/card] to summon two 1/1 Sapling tokens instead of removing one of your monsters, chances are he wants to use Savage Roar for the surprise lethal.
- [card]ancient-of-war[/card] has come back with greater frequency in Druid decks, so save a Silence for it.
- I’ve seen Token Druid a few times this season with [card]jeeves[/card] for card draw. Typically they’ll need to keep running into your own minions, so you should just focus on going face.
- Control Warrior will be mulliganing aggressively for [card]fiery-war-axe[/card], [card]armorsmith[/card], Acolyte of Pain, [card]cruel-taskmaster[/card] and [card]deaths-bite[/card] against Shaman. If he doesn’t draw into those cards, it’ll just be a race between direct damage and armor. There’s no real point in playing around [card]brawl[/card] since it means he can do nothing else on turn 5 and you can resume damage on turn 6.
- Patron Warrior will most likely drop an early [card]frothing-berserker[/card] to try to stall the board. Even if a Patron Warrior gets his Combo and has two or more [card]grim-patron[/card] on board, the matchup is still manageable if you have Elemental Destruction.
- In both the Control Warrior and Patron Warrior matchups, get rid of the Armorsmith when you see it and be as aggressive as possible.
- Oil Rogue has board clear through [card]blade-flurry[/card] and [card]fan-of-knives[/card]. Fan of Knives is generally a weak play because it doesn’t address Feral Spirits or Tunnel Trogg. However, [card]preparation[/card] will allow the Oil Rogue to combo Fan of Knives on turn 3 with [card]si7-agent[/card] or other spells.
- Miracle Rogue usually can’t get out [card]violet-teacher[/card] or [card]gadgetzan-auctioneer[/card] fast enough for it to be a threat. Rogue will need to trade in [card]tomb-pillager[/card] to get the Coin, so you can just ignore it. Play fast and aggressively.
- Be prepared to address Sludge Belcher, and both Oil and Miracle Rogues do run heal with Earthen Ring Farseer and Healbot.
- This is a tough matchup. In addition to the class Hero Power, both variants of Priest have early taunts:
- Entomb Control runs two [card]deathlord[/card]. Nothing that you can really get from Deathlord will give you value, so silencing it and going face is advisable.
- Dragon Priest will have [card]wyrmrest-agent[/card] and [card]twilight-guardian[/card].
- Entomb Control will have consistent board removal through [card]wild-pyromancer[/card] + spells and [card]auchenai-soulpriest[/card] + [card]circle-of-healing[/card], [card]holy-nova[/card], and [card]lightbomb[/card]. If they play Auchenai to clear board, DO NOT kill the Auchenai. They will need to trade or use Hero Power against a 3/1 Auchenai Soulpriest, both choices favorable to Aggro Shaman, in order to start healing themselves again.
- Go for early game board control and save direct spells for a burst of lethal damage. Sometimes you’ll just outpace Priest and win by turn 5 or 6.
- In all Aggro matchups, you want to be as efficient with your damage as possible while controlling the board. You can make strategic trades to play around Knife Juggler + [card]unleash-the-hounds[/card] or maximize the value of minions that you know will die to an [card]explosive-trap[/card] anyway.
- In terms of direct damage, Face Hunter will have 2x [card]quickshot[/card] and 2x [card]kill-command[/card]. Because Aggro Shamans have many more spell options, think about how much direction damage you have and always play accordingly.
- Feral Spirits is awkward for Face Hunter to deal with efficiently.
- When trading minions, remember to take out the Beasts first to reduce potential Kill Command damage.
- Against Midrange Hunter, be careful of [card]bear-trap[/card] and [card]snake-trap[/card]. Be aware that Midrange Hunter will use [card]houndmaster[/card] to taunt an early Beast minion for board control.
- The Aggro Shaman mirror depends mainly on who has the better draw. A lot of times you just need to get rid of their early game threats while calculating your win conditions.
- Elemental Destruction can be a huge swing turn for you, but if you’re behind on board already the game will likely continue to be unfavorable.
- Take note of the cards that they’re holding on to –chances are those are direct damage Spells they are saving to get lethal with. Generally, if you have a strong start with early minions.
- Kill Tunnel Trogg as soon as possible as the damage boost from playing Overload spells can compound quickly.
- Remember that the player ahead in health can take the offensive, while the other player should trade minions on the board to protect his or her remaining life. A turn with big damage can typically swing the tides in your favor.
- Be aware that some Shamans are Midrange and will curve out into [card]fire-elemental[/card], Dr. Boom and larger threats. These decks will generally also have [card]lightning-storm[/card].
[toc]Closing Remarks and Acknowledgements[/toc]
I hope you found the guide to be informative and helpful. As always, please let me know of any questions in the Comments section below and I’ll try to answer them as quickly as possible.
I need to thank three people who have made this article possible: Royce “Royce” for making the article English proper, and George “Flamewheel” and Jesse “Aardvark” for their company as I was playtesting on ladder this season.
Good luck, and may the elements destroy your foes!