Hi guys, Dorgan here. It’s been some time since I wrote a specific deck guide. This is primarily due to the fact that I switch decks during the season and not necessarily because I’m busy countering the meta. I’ve completed the monthly climb enough times now that I want to keep my perspective fresh. However, last season I got hooked with Shaman, despite it being one of my least-played classes. After seeing a list that I believe originated from Firebat, I decided to give it a shot and ended up using it for my entire climb from rank 12 to top 40 Legend rank.
The deck combines Mech synergy with a good amount of burst and reach. As a dedicated tempo deck, the game-plan is to claim the board, protect valuable minions, and close out the game as soon as possible. Depending on the match-up and draws, closing out can be done as soon as turn 3 or as late as turn 15. The key is to spot and set up lethal [damage] a few turns in advance.
In general, you want to curve out as well as possible, meaning you’ll have to properly plan your moves in order to minimize the potential number of weak outcomes. This especially applies to the Overload cards as being forced to play them prematurely can really shake up your curve. Therefore, even though it may be tempting at times, don’t be the guy who just blindly slams minions onto the board. 🙂
Even though I consider this deck to be an aggressive deck, it’s not all about attacking face each turn. With a board-centric hero power and no Charge minions, you’ll want to trade efficiently to ensure that your minions survive at least long enough to bring your opponent within lethal range.
Most of the cards in the deck have synergy but are also decent when played alone. I’ll now go over each card, explaining its purpose in the deck and the possible synergies.
rockbiter-weapon: Great early-game removal against other tempo-oriented decks, good damage push against bigger minions, and deadly combo with Windfury cards like doomhammer or whirling zap-o-matic.
whirling-zap-o-matic: A little bit more fragile than its Mage counterpart snow-chugger but also a lot more threatening. Requires an immediate answer, especially in combination with flametongue-totem and/or rockbiter-weapon.
flametongue-totem: Helps with trading by often making annoy-o-tron and its Divine Shield scarier. Increases reach and pushes whirling-zap-o-matic‘s damage output to 10 health a turn.
crackle: One of the most RNG-dependent cards introduced in GvG. Can be used as cheap removal or burst. Has nice synergy with azure-drake and wrath-of-air-totem.
lava-burst: More reliable than Crackle but also a lot more expensive. Still good to have piece of mind when killing sludge-belcher and other 5-health minions or when throwing it at your opponent’s face. 🙂
powermace: One of the main reasons why this deck works well. Adds a little Shaman spice to the Mech theme by protecting minions on board while also buffing them. If you aren’t expecting a Silence effect, turn 3 Powermace into a buffed piloted-shredder makes for a scary turn 4. Nonetheless, even a buffed annoy-o-tron gains a lot of value from the hammer. It also pushes Whirling Zap-o-Matic to 10 damage per turn while making it way harder to kill with 4 health. If you have a board, plan your turns accordingly before using the last charge to make sure you get the optimal buff.
doomhammer: 16 damage over 4 turns? Why not?! Sometimes used to keep the board and other times uses to throw at an opponent’s face (especially when used in conjunction with Rockbiter Weapon for 10 damage).
fire-elemental: One of the most powerful Shaman cards. It is super powerful in tempo match-ups but can also help you come back against control decks. Always keep this card in mind when it comes to Overload since you’ll usually want to play this on turn 6 if possible.
cogmaster: Okay, let’s get the Mech engine rolling. A Flame Imp without the health drawback seems powerful enough to include. It’s especially strong when going first and played on turn 1. However, you always have to keep in mind that opponents will try kill your other Mechs first to transform him back to a 1/2 body. Following him up with a Mech usually allows you to trade up or threaten a significant 3 damage a turn.
mechwarper: I don’t have to say much about this one, right? Solid body, insane Mech synergy … staple in every Mech-themed deck.
annoy-o-tron: When this card was first previewed, I thought it would just really annoy your opponents but not much more. As it turns out, it can be quite powerful. Combined with Powermace or Flametongue Totem, it provides both a solid threat and a Divine Shield minion buffer to protect your more valuable minions. Even without buffs, Annoy-o-Tron nicely protects your Whirling Zap-o-Matic for a few extra turns of damage. It’s also nice in aggressive match-ups like Hunter and Mech Mage.
tinkertown-technician: Simply one of the best 3-drops in the game. When used with a Mech, it provides a 4/4 body and a Spare Part. While this deck has no real synergy with Spare Parts, the extra parts still fill your curve nicely while making a huge difference in certain situations. For example, freezing your opponent’s big drop so your minions are still hitting his face is game-winning. The only reason why it is a 1-of in this deck is because this deck runs fewer Mech minions when compared to other Mech-theme decks. Also, Shaman’s Mech 2-drop is not as resilient compared to snowchugger and shadowboxer. One does not want two weak 3-drops in his hand but one usually works out well. 🙂
spider-tank: Ignoring dark-cultist, this is the best plain 3-drop in the game. Coining a Mechwarper into a turn 2 Spider Tank leads to a huge tempo advantage. Also when buffed by a Powermace, the 5/6 body is quite scary as Silence still only reduces it back to a 3/4 body.
mechanical-yeti: A solid body with Mech synergy. Just a 1-of since it’s not amazing and also helps your opponent by giving him a Spare Part. Nonetheless, a solid addition.
piloted-shredder: With it’s 4 attack, it threatens a lot of other minions while still guaranteeing board control (combine Deathrattle minion with Flametongue Totem).
azure-drake: One of the most questioned cards in this deck. However, I found both the card draw as well as increased Spell Damage very useful in addition to the solid 4/4 body. Azure Drake into Crackle or Lava Burst also guarantees kills on minions (or opponents) that otherwise would’ve survived. 🙂
the-black-knight: Another questionable card. Almost every deck runs some kind of taunt at the moment. Even just hitting an Annoy-o-Tron saves you two actions/attacks while still putting a solid body on the board. It’s really good against Sludge Belchers and insane against any other Taunt minion in Druid. However, it’s quite useless if you’re facing a lot of Face Hunters.
dr-boom: Yes, it is the only BGH target in the deck. Despite this, it still earns its spot in the deck for a few reasons. First, the Boom Bots still have nice synergy in the deck (Mech, can be used with Flametongue Totem, and provides additional damage). Second, your opponent still has to have the answer (which usually is not the case if you’re playing against other tempo decks). Third, your opponent has to spend mana to play the answer. If you’re ahead on board and play Boom on turn 7, limiting your opponent’s mana to only 4 (after playing BGH) can be enough to secure the win.
I’ve seen some different builds emerging from this one. Most noticeably, the Azure Drakes were sometimes replaced with Bomb Lobbers. I’ve paid close attention to this change ever since first seeing it. I like Bomb Lobber as a card and wouldn’t have mind including them. However, I found the Azure Drakes to be more useful in almost every situation. Both the card draw and the spell damage are really useful while the body is already stronger. Bomb Lobber’s Battlecry has some really powerful best case scenarios (killing stealth shades or an opponent’s Azure Drake) but most of the time you either don’t have a target or just a small chance of hitting something useful. Do you want to throw bombs at a silver-hand-recruit? Me neither. Nonetheless, other people have had decent success with it, so feel free to try it out yourself. 🙂
Other than that, people have tried cutting cards like Tinkertown Technician, Mechanical Yeti, Lava Burst, and/or The Black Knight to include cards like harvest-golem, earth-shock, hex, and loatheb. Including Harvest Golem seems reasonable since it enables more Mech and Flametongue Totem synergy. On the other hand, a Harvest Golem is a lot less threatening than a buffed Tinkertown Technician. I haven’t tried these changes out personally so I can’t really tell how they affect the match-ups in general.
The deck itself is rather cheap and shouldn’t require too many budget substitutions. The Black Knight is not necessary. As stated above, it can be replaced by Earth Shock or Hex. Dr. Boom is not really replaceable but if you don’t have him, you could try alakir-the-windlord or another high-impact card. 🙂
Since you want to force your opponent into obeying your rules, the mulligan strategy is almost the same for every match-up. As a deck dedicated towards minions and board control, curving out is extremely important so always keep your curve in mind. Let’s go over the important cards to keep in mind for the mulligan:
- Cogmaster: As the only playable 1-drop in the deck, this card provides a lot of pressure and is a must-keep going first. Going second can be a little bit trickier but playing it turn 3 alongside another 2-drop can smooth out your curve. Even with an amazing curve like Coin + Mechwarper into Mechwarper + Spider Tank, you will find a window to throw in this little 3/2 for 1 mana. 🙂
- mechwarper: One of the most important cards in the deck to start with. Comparable to the pre-nerf Undertaker, this card has the ability to snowball you into a big advantage quite fast. Especially if you’re up against a class that you don’t suspect being able to deal with it early (Paladin and Hunter have very limited tools for example), this card can change entire mulligan decisions on its own. Keeping a Spider Tank or even a Shredder can be reasonable if you know Mechwarper is going stay around. However, you don’t want to be too ambitious against most classes. Druid has Wrath or Zombie Chow + Shapeshift. Mage has a buffed Cogmaster or Frostbolt. Rogue has Backstab + Dagger. Believe me, I’ve tried it. If you have to totem on turn 2, the follow-up Spider Tank and Shredder aren’t that impressive anymore.
- whirling-zap-o-matic: A big threat if it isn’t answered immediately. You’ll want to play it when it’s safe to survive at least a turn. Definitely a keeper.
- annoy-o-tron: Can protect your other minions and does serious works against aggressive decks since it takes care of Clockwork and Leper Gnomes, Webspinners, and such. Also, using a Rockbiter Weapon or Flametongue with it early can provide some huge tempo. If a Mage has to spend his whole turn 2 or 3 by using hero power on the divine shield, it already paid off. 🙂
- powermace: You know from playing/facing Warriors already that a 3-attack weapon can deal with a lot of stuff. You can clear your opponent’s nasty northshire-cleric or mechwarper instantly while still setting up a big Mech minion the next turn. You can also protect the minions you’ve already played. Definitely a keeper, too.
- rockbiter-weapon: Going second, it can be useful to coin out a Rockbiter Weapon in certain match-ups to deny your opponent a board. In this regard, it serves the same purpose as Powermace. Playing your own 2-drop and coining out a Rockbiter to kill your opponent’s Mechwarper or Snow Chugger makes sure you are the one who is ahead. Depends on match-up and curve though.
- crackle: Almost the same. I sometimes keep it to deal with an opponent’s Spider Tank or similar threat if the rest of my hand curves out nicely.
- spider-tank, piloted-shredder, mechanical-yeti, and tinkertown-technician: As stated above, if you have a good Mechwarper curve and are certain that your Mechwarper will survive, go ahead and keep these, too.
The rest can usually be thrown back. Of course, there are always some edge cases, but this gives you a good general rule of thumb. However, feel free to keep a hand like Annoy-o-Tron (x2), Flametongue, and Powermace going second. 😛
As a reference, here are my stats from my climb to legend (starting at rank 5) during Season 11 (January 2015).
Slightly unfavorable (6 games: 3W-3L, 50%)
When I did the climb, most of the Hunters I faced were Face Hunters. This match-up is almost a coin-flip where both parties try to rush each other down. Since this match-up is slightly unfavorable, it’s important to take calculated risks in order to steal games. Trading their biggest threats away is important and Annoy-o-Tron does some serious work stalling your opponent. But in the end, you need to set up lethal as soon as possible. I often found myself in a position where I would’ve died to a combination of two cards (let’s say Unleash the Hounds + Kill Command) but couldn’t afford to play around it if I wanted to win the game. Usually, Face Hunters exclusively run explosive-trap, so keep this in mind when you trade to try to keep minions out of its range if possible.
In the following weeks, Mid-range Hunters became more popular again. In this match-up, getting a foot on the board early is important. Since they are less likely to curve out well and respond to your threats in a fast way (i.e. Charge minion), it is a little bit easier to get a good standing. This also becomes more crucial because they have more value in the long run. If you have Flametongue Totems, try to set up a regular totem so you can run it into their freezing-trap. Also Mechwarper is a good tool to get your frozen minion back on the board more quickly. This match-up feels slightly unfavorable too, especially if he curves out well.
If you rotate an Earth Shock into the list, it will do serious work in this match-up (webspinner, leper-gnome, piloted-shredder, wolfrider, etc.).
Slightly unfavorable (8 games: 4W-4L, 50%)
All Rogues I faced were exclusively some variations of Oil Rogue. This match-up can be frustrating since it relies a lot on their draws. If they have the perfect answer every time, there is not much you can actually do. If they answer all your threats in a perfect way, just suck it up, wait a few seconds, and queue again. If not, try to race them down and make them spend as much resources as possible. However, be aware of big blade-flurry turns that can easily kill your board and damage your health total. If they set up something suspicious, try to play minions like Piloted Shredder or just place a totem instead of a minion. Powermace is really powerful against their 3-drops. I also keep a Crackle or Lava Burst if the rest of my hand is good enough. violet-teacher combined with spells like preparation or backstab are annoying enough. But if it stays on the board for several turns, you probably lost.
Slightly favorable, maybe even (6 games: 4W-2L, 66.7%)
shielded-minibot is an amazing card in this match-up. Therefore, having an Annoy-o-Tron or Mechwarper followed by a Powermace to clear it really helps. Don’t be a fool and coin out your Whirling Zap-o-matic if you can’t protect it against a Minibot. 🙂 Also the other early game threats of Paladin are annoying to deal with (muster-for-battle, zombie-chow, aldor-peacekeeper, and knife-juggler). However, Paladins will usually have to play defensively in this match-up, meaning enough pressure forces them to make sub-par plays that can actually be dealt with. Nonetheless, there are a few cards to watch out for. consecration and truesilver-champion on turn 4 means you don’t want to trade too many minions below 3 HP and you don’t want to give him a free Spider Tank. Therefore, trading your Spider Tank into his 1/1 recruit might be suitable to play around both cards. Also, be aware that Paladins usually run two healing mechanisms (antique-healbot & lay-on-hands) for 8 health on turn 5 and 8 respectively. Furthermore, they usually also run two sludge-belcher and tirion-fordring for Taunt as well as at least one equality that can clear your board in combination with a Consecration past turn 5. Try to keep these things in mind and plan your moves accordingly. 🙂
Slightly favorable (3 games: 2W-1L, 66.7%)
Control Warriors are known to be an archetype with no real weaknesses and this thinking stays true for this match-up also. If you can get a good start, it’s hard for the Warrior to keep up with your pace outside of a good brawl turn. However, Warriors have a bunch of survival tools, so they always have the possibility of stabilizing in the late-game. The main tactic is to keep their armor low and force them to use their shield-slam with another card like shieldmaiden or shield-block. Annoy-o-Tron does serious work denying Warriors good weapon turns. Since the 1/1 totem and Boom Bots are the only 1-health units, it’s hard for them to get value from their cruel-taskmaster in the early-game. If the rest of the curve is okay and no Powermace shows up, it’s also reasonable to keep a Rockbiter Weapon to one-shot an acolyte-of-pain.
Overall, you want to keep all your minions above 1 health to deny the Warrior value from Taskmaster, whirlwind, and deaths-bite. Try to keep your valuable minions undamaged so they don’t get an easy execute. Since most Warrior lists don’t run silence, hitting something with Powermace turn 3 and getting a buffed Shredder out turn 4 allows you regain board control if lost it early to weapons and removal. If you’ve reach the late-game, minions like Fire Elemental and Dr. Boom can help you push through. If you have to, take a risk because Warriors will most likely be able to stabilize past turn 8. Keep a turn 9 alexstrasza in mind, which means potentially flooding the board to burst them down from 15 HP afterwards.
favorable (13 games: 11W-2L, 84.6%)
Mage was the class I faced most on my climb to legend. Most of them were Mech Mages, with a few Freeze and Control Mages to mix things up. Some of the matches were really close, so it’s probably rather about 65% than 85%. 😉 In this match-up, it all comes down to tempo. Killing their stuff, denying them huge Mechwarper turns and clearing Mechs as long as possible to deny them value from Goblin Blastmage and Tinkertown Technician. Fire Elemental can really help kill nasty things like Mechwarper and Snow Chugger, allowing for a comeback if you fell behind early.
Your mid-game should be stronger than the Mage’s since you have good spell removal to deal with their Blastmages and Yetis. If you are up against Freeze or Control Mages, just try to apply as much pressure as possible without committing too much after turn 7. The Freeze Mage match-up is somewhat frustrating and you are probably not favored since most of your damage comes from minions. Fortunately, they aren’t too common on ladder.
I have only played against one Fatigue Mage with this deck, so I can’t really tell much about the match-up. This Fatigue Mage, however, happened to be Kolento (#33 legend at this point) on stream. If you’re interested in the VOD of this match, feel free to watch it here. 🙂
highly favorable (4 games: 4W-0L, 100%)
Priests have a hard time taking care of your early pressure and will thus waste a lot of resources to keep you from hitting them. As long as they don’t have a very good draw, it’s hard for them to stand a chance in this match-up. There are a lot of cards to watch out for, but most of the time it’s a judgement call. If they act suspicious (passing the first 3 turns, strange trades, damaging minions that don’t die), feel free to either play minions that survive the suspected clear or use your hero power instead of playing another minion. Cards to watch out for: shadow-madness (keep in mind that your 3/2 Cogmaster might become a 1/2 if they either steal it or your Mech), auchenai-soulpriest + circle-of-healing (Shredder, Yeti, and Powermace play around this), lightbomb (try trading with minions that die to Lightbomb anyway but be careful, some people get really mad when you play around it! :D), and cabal-shadowpriest past turn 5. However, if you manage to keep minions alive, Priests have a hard time keeping pace with your tempo. Even a fully healed injured-blademaster might not be able to stop you since it only has one attack per turn.
You can see an example match between me and Pavel (who was #1 legend at this time) that happened on stream here.
highly favorable (10 games: 8W-2L, 80%)
Druids, kinda like Priests, usually skip their early-game for a strong mid-game. Mid-range Druids have a hard time dealing with your early pressure and therefore burn a lot of their resources with cards like innervate to deal with your stuff as fast as possible or only play one card a turn (you’re usually able to deal with this). Flametongue Totem really helps with trading into Taunt minions while The Black Knight almost always gets really good value. As long as you don’t fear a minion dying to the Druid’s hero power or enemy minion, play other minions before the Annoy-o-Tron. Druids tend to kill your minions with cards like swipe, wrath, or keeper-of-the-grove, so the Taunt is less necessary than the damage on board.
Since Druids run two sources of Silence, try not to buff Silence-able minions with Powermace to avoid getting blown out. A silenced Shredder is bad enough without a buff. However, feel free to buff your Whirling Zap-o-matic when it’s able to attack and hit the Druid for 10 like you do with all your opponents! Since Druids have no form of reliable board clear, don’t hold back flooding the board. As long as they are playing to survive rather than win, you should usually be able to put enough pressure to push through eventually.
? (2 games: 2W-0L, 100%)
After so many months of dominance, Warlocks have almost disappeared from ladder. The two that I met on my climb were Zoo and Mid-range Demon-lock. The latter was defeated easily whereas the Zoo-lock put up a hard fight that he might’ve won if he played better. The Zoo match-up should play out similarly to the Mech Mage match-up. I haven’t played against Handlocks. However, as always against the gigantic Gul’Dan, watch out for hellfire, molten-giant, and a lot of taunts. Spider Tank and Tinkertown Technician both survive darkbomb and hellfire so try to set them up on turn 3 if possible. You should probably save your burn spells to bypass taunted Molten Giants in the late-game.
During the last few weeks, Demon Warlocks came into the meta again. This match-up is probably unfavorable since the Warlocks run a lot of annoying minions that aren’t easily cleared. Moreover, they also run two shadowflames, which makes it hard to build up a board.
? (0 games. Yep, zero.)
I haven’t faced a single Shaman during my climb so I can’t provide too much insight here. The mirror is obviously about early board control. In more control-oriented match-ups, watch out for lightning-storm and alakir-the-windlord!
At the beginning of the article, I told you not to be the guy that just mindlessly slams minions onto the board. This is especially important in Shaman since the positioning of minions will matter in a lot of games.
That said, this deck only runs flametongue-totem as a card that requires specific positioning, so you’ll always be able to focus on this. Trust me, it is an important factor in a lot of games. Therefore, the positioning of your minions will sometimes make the difference between a win and a loss. Always keep in mind that your totems spawn on the right side as you might want to use them as cheap resources to trade with your opponent’s minions.
As a general rule of thumb: the order of your minions from left to right should be descending in strength. This means that you want a board that looks like Fire Elemental – Spider Tank – Cog Master – Totem – Totem. However, this deck runs two minions that benefit very well from Flametongue Totem: Annoy-o-Tron and Whirling Zap-o-Matic. Combining the attack buff with Divine Shield, Taunt and/or Windfury makes the effect even stronger. Therefore, you’ll usually want to place these minions beside each other. Also, the rule of thumb is not without exceptions. If you plan to sacrifice all your totems, it can be useful to place something to the right of them turns before so you can benefit from the attack buff even more. Also, if you suspect your opponent might play a specific card (let’s say turn 5 druid-of-the-claw), make sure that the combat math adds up as well as possible. As a last piece of advice, if you have the slightest inclination about your opponent running big-game-hunter, try to keep your Fire Elemental as far away from a Flametongue as possible (far left side).
As seen above, I’ve had some amazing success on the ladder with the deck. A few of the wins probably came down to my opponents not respecting the reach of the deck enough (Doomhammer + Rockbiter + Flametongue for an additional 14 damage for example). But overall, I felt very comfortable in most of my matches. To give you consolidated numbers on my matches, here are my stats from last season again:
Stats from rank 12 to 5 (81% win-rate)
Stats from rank 5 to legend (73% win-rate)
In the end, I ended up in the top 40 Legend spots:
The deck provides intense, fun, and fast games that require you to think a few turns ahead in order to get optimal competitive results. It offers a lot of reach and can close out games quickly, given the right circumstances. My fastest kill on my climb was turn 3 against a Druid (Coin + Whirling Zap-o-matic into Flametongue into 2x Rockbiter; it’s risky but worth it :D).
If you’re interested in actual game-play, I streamed and recorded the biggest part of my climb, so feel free to have a look at my season 11 VODs on YouTube. And, of course, feel free to ask all your questions. I’ll be happy to respond to them!
If you are interested in more of my content feel free to check the provided links. Twitch followings and YouTube subscriptions are highly appreciated! 🙂