Evolve Shaman is an archetype that had major success after the release of Journey to Un’Goro. Evolve decks were explored a bit in previous expansions but only picked up real traction after Un’Goro. Now, with Frozen Throne’s release, we’re going to look at how the archetype has changed and how it can be built moving forward to adapt to a brand new meta-game.
Evolve Shaman picked up some new tools with the newest expansion, but the trouble is finding exactly what cards to play and what cards to cut from the list. While there is no right answer this early into a developing meta-game, there are quite a few exciting options to explore and we’ll start by showing the list that has been having the most success so far.
Update – Evolve Token Shaman – November 2017
Evolve Token Shaman has started to reduce in popularity due to weak matchups against Zoolock and Aggro Druid. It also is only just about even with Aggro Rogue, Jade Druid, and Highlander Priest.
Evolve Shaman Mulligan Strategy & Guide
I’ll divide the mulligan section into two – against fast decks and against slow decks. Fast decks are generally the Aggro decks (e.g. Pirate Warrior) or high tempo Midrange decks (e.g. Midrange Hunter). Slow decks are slower Midrange and Control decks.
VS FAST DECKS
Higher Priority (keep every time)
- Bloodsail Corsair – Corsair is great to keep, regardless of whether or not you are playing against a weapon class. It comes down as essentially two cards (given you don’t draw Patches), pulls Patches the Pirate from your deck (increasing the quality of cards you can draw next), and makes your Flametongue Totem much more powerful as an early play.
- Fire Fly – The only other one-drop in the deck. This card is deceptively powerful, especially if you have the coin and it also combos with Flametongue Totem. The 1/2 body is not trivial as it can trade into 1/1 minions with ease and be buffed with Flametongue to make value trades on early minions.
- Jade Claws – Jade Claws is an incredible card as it comes down early to contest the board with tempo, kill off your opponents early minions either by itself or in combination with your one-drops, and creates a free token which scale later in the game. Having board control with this deck is very important and this is one of your best cards to ensure that you stay ahead on board.
Lower Priority (keep only if certain conditions are met)
- Maelstrom Portal – Portal is a great card against faster decks where you are fighting for board as it can be played to kill one or more minions and will generate a minion. You can look at this card as a very small Firelands Portal with upside early in the game, since it has the potential to kill multiple minions. It has significant blowout potential if you can roll the Spell Power totem from your hero power. The downside of this card is that if you play against a slower deck, it will mostly just be a 2-mana one drop with very little benefit.
- Devolve – Devolve is a very good card versus decks that rely on early buffs (i.e. Murloc Paladin, Pirate Warrior, Token Druid). It is important enough in those matchups that you want to keep it, especially since we are only running a single copy, but if you guess the matchups wrong on ladder it can be a dead card in your hand.
- Flametongue Totem – Totem is a very powerful card, but requires other early card in your hand to be effective, especially in fast matchups. If you play against an aggro deck and a Flametongue is your only early play, you’re probably going to lose and wish you had mulliganed it away in search of a one drop or a Jade Claws. This card looks like a must-keep because it has such high upside, but the opportunity cost of keeping it without other early game is very high.
- Primalfin Totem – Primalfin is a somewhat slow card, but demands an answer from your opponent immediately or it can very easily take over a game. The 0/3 body is not trivial as it can be difficult to deal with early on and frequently your opponent will take two turns to deal with this card while you develop other threats and generate more tokens.
VS SLOW DECKS
Higher Priority (keep every time)
- Bloodsail Corsair – This is going to be kept in your opening hand every game, for the same reasons that we kept it against fast decks. He is two bodies in one card that draws Patches the Pirate out of your deck and combos with Flametongue Totem.
- Fire Fly – Similar to Bloodsail Corsair we want to keep Fire Fly because we always want early board presence to transition into pressure. Fire Fly is also two bodies in one card, but for a higher mana cost. We want one drops always, so we should always keep Corsair and Fire Fly.
- Flametongue Totem – Unlike versus fast decks, we can afford to keep this basically any time against slow decks. Even if we have no early plays, this turns our hero power and anything we play for the rest of the game into a threat. It is a must-answer card and combos very nicely with our one-drops if we have them. This is one of your best tools to snowball the game in your favor.
- Primalfin Totem – We keep this for the same reasons we keep it against fast decks. It is another must-answer threat that acts as a lightning rod for removal from your opponent. It will either get cleared and generate a token, creating an opportunity for your other threats to live or it will live and generate an endless stream of murloc tokens that can end the game with a Bloodlust.
Lower Priority (keep only if certain conditions are met)
- Jade Claws – While Jade Claws is still a fantastic card and we are not unhappy to see it in our opening hand, it loses a great deal of luster versus slower decks. Claws is best when it can come down on turn two and immediately start fighting for board control, but versus the slower archetypes it will usually just generate a jade golem and then sit around for a few turns. I usually only keep this card versus priest (Northshire Cleric, Radiant Elemental, and Curious Glimmerroot are pretty easy targets ) and Paladin, since Paladin frequently plays early Murlocs that need contesting.
- Mana Tide Totem – I will almost always keep Mana Tide when I have the coin as you immediately put your opponent to the test of having removal for it starting on turn two. This card is a fantastic keep if you already have early pressure like Bloodsail Corsair, Flametongue Totem, or Primalfin Totem. Frequently versus slow decks, you will play your totems on curve and will end up overloading your opponents removal and one of your totems will live and take over the game.
Evolve Token Shaman Win Rates
Evolve Token Shaman Play Strategy
Evolve Shaman has been classified as an aggressive deck in the past, but I would disagree with that. It plays out very much like a faster midrange deck (like Midrange Hunter) in that you want to seize board control and develop your threats continuously for the remainder of the game until you can close out the game with a Bloodlust, a game-ending Evolve, or even just natural damage from your superior board presence. The drawback of playing Evolve Shaman is that if you lose board control, it starts to become much more difficult to win the game. The deck thrives on being ahead on board and many of its cards supplement that (Flametongue Totem, Evolve, Bloodlust, Thrall, Deathseer). With the new Frozen Throne expansion, Token Shaman gets better and worse at the same time. The deck can thrive against slow decks if you are able to curve your minions into your late-game evolve threats, demanding answers for your totems along every step of the way, BUT it can also get blown out by strong, cheap AoE spells (like the recently printed Defile).
When playing against aggressive decks, you are looking to fight for board control early and transition that board control into a mid-game value or damage push. What I mean by this is: You want to play early minions early on in the game, trade effectively and efficiently into your opponents minions, and once you have both fought for board control, you can end the game with Bloodlust or Thrall, Deathseer if you’re ahead on board, or a Doppelgangster/Evolve combo if you are at a high enough life total. Usually you will play the Doppelgangster/evolve combo if you have traded off your minions with theirs, but you may also find that your minions survived and theirs did not and can make damage pushes to close out the game.
Once you’re ahead on board, it becomes a matter of managing your resources. You want to take value trades when given the opportunity (i.e. trade your 1/4 into their 2/1) and develop your totems when you can. Each one of your totems (Flametongue Totem, Primalfin Totem, and Mana Tide Totem) are incredibly effective when you are not under much threat from your opponent and each one of them can create and insurmountable lead that your opponent frequently cannot beat.
While you can easily close out games with the Doppelgangster/Evolve combo, it is frequently correct to evolve a board of dorky one and two-cost minions to upgrade your tokens and totems into more threatening cards. It is always a risk that you evolve a board with a one drop on it and get Lorewalker Cho or Doomsayer, the odds of that happening are very low and you should not be scared of it when you are fighting in the early game.
Control decks can sometimes just roll over and die without doing much against you, because of how the deck plays. You play so many cards that demand answers on their own that your opponents removal is very commonly overburdened and a powerful totem will slip through the cracks. It is not uncommon to curve a one-drop minion into a Primalfin Totem or Flametongue Totem, have your two-drop totem be killed and then follow it up with a Mana Tide Totem which lives and takes over the game.
Your best-case scenario against slower decks is just to curve out as best as you can and try to close out the game with a Bloodlust. Unfortunately, games get messy and we hardly every have the best-case scenario work out. Luckily for us, there are many different ways to approach games with this deck.
The deck has a natural scaling element with the Jade cards (Jade Claws, Jade Lightning, Aya Blackpaw), which is extremely helpful against control decks. We basically get rewarded for playing the game and playing cards, since we get the benefit of the free scaling golems. These can be problematic for control as the quickly begin turning into threats that pressure their life total a significant amount.
Evolve is always a good fallback whenever we have begun to exhaust the opponent of their removal and AoE spells, since we can Evolve + Doppelgangster to get three 6-drop minions (which can admittedly sometimes low-roll into a 1/1 or 2/3), which are usually too much for the opponent to handle.
Thrall, Deathseer is a fantastic inclusion from Knights of the Frozen Throne as it has an extremely powerful battlecry effect, and transitions into incremental value from then on. Incremental value is how you shut control decks down and Thrall is just the man (*orc) for the job.
Evolve Token Shaman Deck Tips
- Like I mentioned before, you can use Evolve on a board of dorky minions to upgrade them, but the threat of Doomsayer is always there. One of the tips I give people when playing the deck is: If you are ahead in the game, don’t hero power before you Evolve, because that just gives you another chance to hit Doomsayer with Evolve and if you’re ahead, you usually don’t need to take the risk. Obviously, this is contextual given the state of the game, but it is something to be aware of.
- Devolve is very strong against decks that rely on buffs. It is a great card against Token Druid, Murloc Paladin, Pirate Warrior, etc. It is also very important against cards like Spikeridged Steed, Tirion Fordring, Obsidian Statue, The Lich King, etc. Basically it’s a fantastic card against buffs, deathrattles, and taunts. Try not to be too trigger-happy with it since we only run one copy.
- Do not be afraid to use Bloodlust if you have a wide board and don’t have lethal. You usually want to pull the trigger on it if you think it is unlikely that your board gets any wider than in that moment. If you wait too long on Bloodlust and get greedy trying to have lethal with it, you give your opponent more time to board clears that shut off your Bloodlust entirely.
- Remember that Jade Lightning can be used as a board control/tempo tool as well as burst damage. There are situations that come up where you can roll spell damage to boost the power of Jade Lightning and kill your opponent, not that you will always need the extra spell damage.
- Don’t overextend your resources. If your board is pressuring your opponent, you likely don’t need to commit any more cards to the board and can use your superior board presence to gain card advantage while your opponent tries to find a way to deal with your board. Your opponents will usually overreact to the threat of a Bloodlust, so use that to your advantage.
Evolve Token Shaman Card Substitutions
Evolve Shaman is a pretty tight list, meaning there is very little room for innovation. The deck is basically 25-26 core cards with a few flex spots, which I’ll go over here.
- Thrall, Deathseer – While Thrall is a very powerful addition to the deck and his effect is irreplaceable, he isn’t totally necessary. You can add an additional Devolve or some lists have been running Bonemare.
- Aya Blackpaw – While Aya is extremely powerful and a natural fit for the deck, some people may be looking for a budget option and can find one in Jade Spirit or Jade Chieftain. If you don’t mind losing some Jade power, you can look back to the other evolve options listed above.
- Patches the Pirate – If you don’t have Patches by this point, I assume you’re not going to craft him and should just remove the Bloodsail Corsair from the deck and add three other one drops. Argent Squire is probably the best budget one drop you can go to and then the third one drop is up to personal taste.
- Maelstrom Portal – If you haven’t purchased the Karazhan expansion, you can’t really replace Portal with a similar effect but you can add more minions to the deck. Remember, Portal is good in specific matchups and dead in others, so replacing wouldn’t be a strict downgrade to the deck, but would decrease overall win-rates across the board. You can try to place it with other minions, like any of the ones listed above.
About the Author
Appa is a professional Hearthstone player with high finishes at multiple high-level events. He has been rated in the top 100 players in the world multiple times and brings a deep knowledge of the game with him. You can follow him on social media on Twitter or follow his weekly podcast that he co-hosts at Coin Concede.