Our Wild N’Zoth Control Shaman deck list guide will teach you how to pilot this popular deck to control the Wild Ladder! Our guide features mulligan, play, and card replacement strategies!
Control Shaman has been a mainstay in Wild since the format was introduced. Previously, the deck would take advantage of Elemental Destruction, often paired with Hallazeal the Ascended for both a full board clear and massive healing. With the Un’goro release came a more reliable board wipe in Volcano with less of a downside than Elemental Destruction. As a result, Control Shaman became a more consistent option, proving to be the most viable control deck in early Wild meta reports.
There are a handful of different builds for Control Shaman, including variants that cheat out Malygos with Ancestor's Call followed by a barrage of cheap burn spells. Other lists choose to work in Thing from Below to capitalize on hero powers in early turns and ward off early aggression.
The most consistent build, however, is credited to Sipiwi94 which will be outlined in this guide. Sipiwi94’s deck involves a combination of high-value Deathrattle minions with Ancestral Spirit, Reincarnate, and N'Zoth, The Corruptor. The addition of Kel'Thuzad offers the potential for a nearly unclearable board. This particular build offers the tools to stifle the most aggressive of decks while still being capable of out-valuing greedy Reno lists.
Wild N’Zoth Control Shaman Mulligan Strategy & Guide
The mulligan section will be divided into two parts – against fast decks and against slow decks. Fast decks are generally Aggro decks (e.g. Pirate Warrior) or high tempo Midrange decks (e.g. Midrange Hunter). Slow decks are slower Midrange and Control decks.
Keep in mind that the variety of archetypes for each class in Wild makes the mulligan phase a bit of a challenge. If you’re unsure about what deck your opponent is playing, operate under the assumption that it’s the fastest variant for the class. You can always draw into the cards you need against slower decks, but if you mulligan for the slow variant, you’re likely to end up dead very quickly if you guessed wrong.
VS Fast Decks
Higher Priority (Keep every time)
- Devolve – Faster decks tend to play low-cost minions in the early game that are over-statted and/or snowball out of control. Devolve answers both of these issues and can cripple an otherwise threatening board. When coupled with Maelstrom Portal, early pressure is essentially negated.
- Maelstrom Portal – Against weak boards this card is obviously effective on its own. The generated minion is often surprisingly relevant as it can provide board initiative, which allows you to dictate trades in upcoming turns. Occasionally, it can even help reduce the impact of low-rolling Lightning Storm by finishing off damaged minions.
- Lightning Storm – This is the most cost-effective AoE in your deck. It can be used to quickly remove a board full of low health minions on turn three. Ideally, you want to play this with some degree of certainty that it will clear the board. However, due to the variance in the damage and the inherent randomness of the Shaman hero power, you’ll want to have some form of follow up should you low roll your storm. If possible, keep it in combination with a Devolve or Maelstrom Portal.
- Healing Wave – Eventually you need to stabilize against aggressive decks and this card helps do exactly that. The high-cost minions in your deck make it very likely to get the full healing effect, giving you a chance to recover from limited play options in your early turns.
Lower Priority (Keep only if certain conditions are met)
- Sludge Belcher – Against decks that rely on minion pressure, Blecher has been the go-to card to put a halt to this plan since the release of Naxxramas. It does clog your hand until turn 5, however, so it should only be kept against faster midrange decks with the coin and/or other good options in hand.
- Far Sight – Obviously, it feels bad to whiff on this and hit a low-cost card. That said, the combination of cycle and ramp can help you find massive swing turns, sometimes necessary to turn the tide against aggressive decks.
- Hex – For decks that rely on a single minion snowballing out of control, Hex can be a suitable substitute for Devolve despite having less impact on the board as a whole and costing one extra mana.
VS Slow Decks
Higher Priority (Keep every time)
- Ancestral Knowledge – Against slower decks, you really want to cycle early to give yourself the option to either present threats or manage an opponent’s board. Likely, you’ll have very little to do in the early turns for these matchups and won’t be too adversely affected by the Overload.
- Far Sight – As mentioned, cycle is important. The ramp here can be equally important if you can reduce the cost of a big threat, which gives you the opportunity to pose some semblance of board pressure.
- Hex – Almost all slow decks are going have a good target for Hex. Even midrange decks that go wide on the board are likely going to have one minion that stands out. Against other control decks, not having an answer to Sylvanas Windrunner can lose you the game.
Lower Priority (Keep only if certain conditions are met)
- White Eyes – Since you won’t be posing much in the way of pressure, your best chance against greedy decks is out-valuing them. Adding multiple 5 mana 10/10’s to your deck is a great way to do so.
- Devolve – Slow, midrange decks develop a strong board over a period of turns which this card neutralizes for two mana. Control decks tend to present individual, high-value threats which Devolve can also help manage, albeit less effectively than Hex.
- Volcano – Despite its cost, Volcano is actually quite flexible. Against midrange, it removes a board the opponent has spent several turns developing. In control match-ups, it can trade two or three for one with high-value threats.
Wild N’Zoth Control Shaman Play Strategy
The playstyle of Control Shaman really varies widely depending on the matchup, as is evident in the difference between cards kept in the mulligan for each matchup. Against Aggro, the path to victory relies on dealing with the early pressure and setting up a wall of large, sticky taunts. In Control matchups, getting good value off of N'Zoth, The Corruptor or Kel'Thuzad is likely to be your primary win condition.
Your goal against Aggro decks is really quite simple: survive the onslaught of their early turns. Since the deck is limited in single-target removal, survival often depends on your area of effect spells. As such, you’ll need to be patient with your resources before pulling the trigger on your AoE. With Lightning Storm, especially, you need to not only weigh the possible outcomes of the current turn, but also consider the effect the Overload has on your next turn. Often, there will be a turn or two against Aggro decks where you are hanging on by a thread.
While the matchup is generally favored, it’s likely that you’ll have to take a risk at some point. With a lot of high-cost cards in the deck, you’re probably going to have to make a tough choice between two options at one point that will dictate the outcome of the game. Do I clear the board and pray my opponent doesn’t have burn or do I need to heal? Should I start my wall of taunts or is it likely my opponent has removal and/or silence and I should instead heal up? During these critical turns, it’s important to not only know what cards are in your opponent’s deck, but also to make accurate reads about what they’re holding in hand.
If you’re able to weather the storm of early turns from an Aggro, you’re likely to win the game. Landing an Ancestral Spirit on Earth Elemental or Sludge Belcher can be game over against decks with limited burn.
Control decks usually give you the time to build up a plethora of Deathrattle minions in your graveyard resulting in an insane pool of minions for N'Zoth, The Corruptor. That said, proper timing of your N’zoth turn is crucial: it doesn’t matter how many minions you bring back if you play directly into a Polymorph all Kazakus potion or Equality + Consecration.
Bringing back all your Deathrattle minions isn’t the only option against Control, however. Comboing Ancestral Spirit and Reincarnate with White Eyes not only adds to your N’zoth pool, but also loads your deck with 10/10s that become a challenge to deal with over time.
Against other N’zoth decks, limiting their pool of Deathrattle minions is essential. A well-timed Hex or Devolve can limit the opponent’s potential for a massive swing turn. From turn ten on, you want to make sure that Volcano is kept in hand to deal with resurrected minions that dodged your transform effects.
No matter the variant, your goal against another Control deck is to exhaust your opponent’s resources by both removing their threats and presenting threats that need to be removed. Usually, the latter can only be done from turn five and beyond, so early turns are spent drawing cards and removing weaker minions.
Usually, you want to cycle early in the game with Ancestral Knowledge and Far Sight to ensure that you have an answer to a deck’s main win condition in hand. Hex and Devolve both neutralize single and/or synergistic threats, so use them appropriately. Volcano can provide a much-needed reset and, played on turn 10 with one of your many 5-mana minions, results in board initiative.
- Reincarnate on Kel'Thuzad results in a board that is nearly unclearable. While not always necessary to close out a game, with other minions on board it creates a frustrating loop of resurrects for your opponent to deal with.
- Ancestral Spirit provides immense value in many matchups, but it’s important to be careful with the timing. Silence and transform effects quickly ruin your plans to make your high-value minions sticky.
- While Ancestral Spirit doesn’t add a non-Deathrattle minion to your N'Zoth, The Corruptor pulls, it does summon two copies of the targeted minion when coupled with Reincarnate.
- Reincarnate on Sylvanas Windrunner steals a minion and resummons a copy of Sylvanas to grab a future threat from your opponent.
- While it may be tempting, a turn 4 Barnes is rarely the correct play. Ideally, you want to couple it with Reincarnate or Ancestral Spirit to get the full stats of the minion you pull.
- Reincarnate can be used on enemy minions, so use it on your opponent’s Deathlord if you feel so inclined (bonus points if you do so against a Combo Priest that’s invested buffs on it).
Wild N’Zoth Control Shaman Win Rates and Matchups
Due to the wide variety of decks in the Wild format, only those that are considered Tier 2 and above are considered in the matchups. The best-performing deck for each class will be included, regardless of tier.
*Win rates for archetype matchups are calculated using data from last month minimum of 50 games played vs each archetype and are provided by Metastats.net
Egg Druid: 48%
Egg Druid relies entirely on minion damage, so while the meta stats suggest this is unfavored, it is certainly winnable. This deck tends to dump their hand early, so hold your board clears (if you’re able to) until the opponent is nearly out of resources. Devolve does a lot of work against their buffs and is perhaps the most important card in the matchup.
Living Mana is a card to have on your mind as the game progresses and, once again, Devolve provides a crippling response. If you already exhausted Devolve on a threatening board, Lightning Storm or a Spell Power + Maelstrom Portal will do the trick.
Because of the lack of burn in the deck, you should be relatively safe if you’re able to set up a wall of taunts.
Midrange Hunter: 54%
Again, nearly all variants of Hunter rely on minion pressure and, like Egg Druid, tend to buff their minions to generate threats. Devolve is important here and makes it easier to save Hex for Savannah Highmane.
Freeze Mage: 46%
Freeze Mage is a tough matchup due to the lack of pressure this deck can put out before turn five. Landing an Earth Elemental or getting the Kel'Thuzad + Reincarnate combing in place may be your best shot at winning here. Save Healing Wave for after Alexstrasza so your opponent is forced to assemble an OTK combo.
Reno Mage: 45%
While the stats again show this as unfavored, the shift from a burn focused Reno build to the N’Zoth variants (which are minion heavy) swing this matchup into the Shaman’s favor.
The goal here is usually to kill off as many White Eyes as you can. Eventually, the Mage runs out of ways to handle the stream of Storm Guardians you play. If it is the N’zoth build, you want to Devolve and Hex their Deathrattles and save Volcano for after N'Zoth, The Corruptor is played by your opponent.
Secret Mage: 35%
Secret Mage is an abysmal matchup for Control Shaman. Unfortunately, as a tempo deck, it aims to get ahead in the early turns which you’re likely to spend doing next to nothing. Follow it up with burn over the top of your taunt wall and things can feel pretty helpless in this matchup.
The best you can do is Devolve early threats before they get out of control or pull secrets and be prepared to Hex an Ethereal Arcanist or Kabal Crystal Runner. Landing a Hex into an opponent’s Duplicate can be very disruptive.
Midrange Paladin: 47%
This matchup more favored that the stats suggest. In fact, due to the rise of the Dude Paladin, Control Shaman is well-positioned to see a rise in upcoming seasons due to its ability to counter several top tier decks.
Save Devolve for after the recruits are buffed but be aware that you cannot Devolve the frog from Hex. Do NOT try to Devolve a frog that your opponent has buffed with Spikeridged Steed. Always be aware of Equality + Consecration and try to land an Ancestral Spirit on your biggest threat from turn six on.
Secret Paladin 49%
This matchup plays very similarly to the above. The main difference is the timing of your transform targets, which should be saved after turn six, if possible. Devolve and Hex both reduce the impact of any secrets pulled by Mysterious Challenger.
Dragon Priest 53%
Most Dragon Priests in Wild run a more tempo-based build with little in the way of top-end. That said, their buffs make them extremely susceptible to Devolve so getting good value out of your transform effects is crucial.
Neutralize the board they’ve spent the first four to five turns developing, and you’ve got a good chance at winning. Drakonid Operative does pose an issue because every card in your deck is good for the Priest.
Combo Priest –%
While no stats are available for this matchup, it is undoubtedly in the Control Shaman’s favor. Once again, your transform effects are going to be crucial.
A wall of taunts can protect you from the possibility of an OTK, but be aware that a Deathlord sticking on turn 3 can wreak some havoc. If you can, never let a minion with high health survive more than a turn and disrupt your opponent’s attempts to combo with Radiant Elemental.
Miracle Rogue: 51%
Miracle Rogue is countered heavily by some of the tools in this Control Shaman list. Conceal is pretty meaningless when you have a Devolve in hand, so use it sparingly. Questing Adventurer and Edwin VanCleef are often the big threats to worry about and both are crippled by the card.
Quest Rogue: 33%
Quest Rogue is another poor matchup for Control Shaman. Even with the nerf, Control Shaman give the Rogue far too much time to complete the quest in the early turns. Hopefully for the Control Shaman, the nerf reduces the number of people piloting the deck to begin with.
Aggro Shaman: 52%
Aggro Shaman is a moderately favorable matchup, but does pose some issues because of the potential for burn over the top of your taunts. That said, it can take the opponent some time to present a threatening board, so you have a little more time to set up AoE combos and drop your string of taunts.
At least one Devolve is included in most Aggro Shaman lists lately, so don’t get too comfortable behind your taunts and avoid going all in on Ancestral Spirit.
Midrange Shaman 53%
Even slower in building the board than Aggro Shaman, Midrange Shaman gives you more time to set up your plan. That said, Jade builds can get out of control quickly, so manage your resources appropriately. Hex on Aya Blackpaw is always good, and Volcano can take sometime take out two large Jade Golems.
Midrange is more likely to run Hex themselves, so try to bait it out on lower-value minions to ensure you get a high-value N’zoth pull on turn 10.
Reno Warlock: 46%
Reno Warlock presents some problems for Control Shaman, but is not completely unwinnable. Single target removal is plentiful for the Warlock, so try to land an Ancestral Spirit if you can, but be aware that some builds run Spellbreaker.
Control Warrior: 52%
Both taunt and generic Control Warrior play out the same way and have similar matchup spreads, so they will be considered together. Fortunately, both decks tend to be slow, giving you time to set up your Deathrattle minions.
Pirate Warrior 54%
The reliance on weapon and minion damage makes Pirate Warrior a good matchup, should you be able to stick so taunt minions. Mortal Strike is being cut in most lists, so you’re probably safer behind a taunt wall than healing out of burn range.
That said, many lists are replacing Mortal Strike with Spellbreaker, so you’re probably safest if you can keep the board clear. Hex goes on Frothing Berserker and Devolve wrecks the Pirate synergies. High-rolling a Lightning Storm on turn three can win some games as well.
Wild N’Zoth Control Shaman Card Substitutions
Control decks tend to require a great deal of dust to craft, and this Wild Control Shaman list is no different. Legendaries such as N'Zoth, The Corruptor and White Eyes are critical in this deck’s plan against control matchups and cannot be substitued.
While most of the cards are not replaceable, there are some of the other Legendaries and Epics can be swapped out to make the list a bit more budget-friendly.
- Kel'Thuzad – The Archlich is very useful in out-valuing Control decks, but not necessary for the deck to function. He can be replaced with Thing from Below to improve the aggro matchup or Cairne Bloodhoof to provide another sticky beater.
- Sneed's Old Shredder – While fun, this card is a bit gimmicky at times and not a requirement for the deck. Other options include any other high value Deathrattle, such as Cairne Bloodhoof, or a large threat that you can high roll off of Barnes like Ragnaros the Firelord
- Sylvanas Windrunner – Coupled with Reincarnate, she can essentially provide an 8-mana Mind Control but is replaceable. Suitable replacements include Cairne Bloodhoof, Thing from Below, or any high-value Deathrattle minions.
- Barnes – This card is helpful in cheating out your expensive minions, but can be replaced. As always, Thing from Below is a good choice, but Ancestor's Call can provide a similar effect without diluting the average minion-cost for Healing Wave checks.
- Earth Elemental – A huge roadblock against Aggro and a threatening minion against Control, Earth Elemental is an important facet of this deck. That said, the drawback when played without Lava Shock makes it somewhat replaceable. Swapping in two copies of Thing from Below sets up a similarly large taunt at a reduced cost but without having to mortgage your next turn.
- Far Sight – Of those listed, this may be the least replaceable card in the deck. The combination of the cycle and cost-reduction is exactly what this deck needs in many matchups. Replacing it with Lightning Bolt provides some early single-target removal, while Lava Shock may provide some pseudo-cost reduction by negating Overload effects.
About the Author
A card game veteran, Roffle has been infatuated with Hearthstone since closed beta. These days, he spends most of his time climbing the Wild legend ladder. Roffle has a wealth of experience in Wild Hearthstone, consistently maintaining high ranks on ladder since the format’s inception along with a top 16 finish in the inaugural Wild Open Tournament. Follow him on Twitter or catch him on Twitch for an occasional stream.