Introduction to RoS Control Shaman
It’s a new Hearthstone Standard Year and with all of the cards from the upcoming expansion, Rise of Shadows, revealed, it’s time to start brewing some decks for the launch! In that spirit, Control Shaman is one of the decks that possibly looks to make a comeback, primarily because of a number of good value-oriented legendaries that are coming out with the new expansion. Although the rotation takes a good amount of healing away from the class, the overlooked Omega Mind and the introduction of Witch's Brew (as well as the swiss army knife that is Zilliax) should be enough to combat the more aggressive decks from the new year.
The deck plays really defensively and seeks to outvalue the opponent by generating a lot of value and card advantage, while removing enemy threats. The deck uses a lot of high-value and high-cost cards, so the main objective during the early and mid-game is to survive and draw into your late-game threats, while clearing the opponent’s board. This list is not afraid to draw into fatigue too quickly, mainly because of the new Legendary minions Chef Nomi and Archivist Elysiana that will be explained in detail below. If you survive until the late-game stages of the match and you have access to your deck’s threats and defensive spells, the only way to lose would most likely be an OTK (or just standard bad luck).
- Sludge Slurper: A new addition to the class, this is a pretty powerful 1-drop that provides extra value, giving you 1 out of 5 possible Lackeys in your hand. It trades relatively well in the early game, but it does have 1 Overload, so if you drop it in the first turn of the game you will not be able to follow this up with anything meaningful, but that disadvantage dissapears really quickly, since the Lackeys are all 1-mana 1/1s that provide tempo or value. The Lackeys are Ethereal Lackey, Faceless Lackey, Goblin Lackey, Kobold Lackey and Witchy Lackey.
- Doomsayer: A staple of slow decks in general, the classic 2-drop epic helps your early game defensive strategy by slowing down the opponent’s development, or at the very least absorbs 7 damage for 1 turn, givng you another chance to clear his board.
- Witch's Brew: One of the three ways to heal in the deck (the other two being Omega Mind + AoE and Zilliax), this new epic spell restores 4 health to any target, but can be re-cast in the same turn, which means you can recover 8 health for 4 mana.
- Omega Mind: A rarely-used epic 2-drop, this limits the amount of healing cards that you need, since once you’re at 10 mana you can recover to full life with one AoE spell and shut down aggressive decks altogether. Of course this is not enough on its own, so Zilliax and Witch's Brew are included, to help you get to 10-mana relatively safely.
- Electra Stormsurge: This powerful 3-drop has been featured in a lot of Shaman decks during the past year and with good reason. Being able to duplicate a spell you want to cast can turn the tides of a match or simply let you snowball a game out of your opponent’s control. Main reasons to use this would be an AoE spell, like Lightning Storm, or card draw, like Far Sight or Haunting Visions. You could also combine this with the new healing spell Witch's Brew if you are desperate for some extra health gain.
- Proud Defender: A new 4-mana neutral drop, it is very similar to Tar Creeper, but comes a turn later with one extra health and attack. Its ability to get an extra 2 attack if you control no other minion can be triggered often enough, but will rarely make any significant impact.
- Hagatha's Scheme: We may have lost Volcano to the rotation, but its direct replacement can prove to be more flexible that its predecessor. Although you need to have this spell in your hand so it upgrades every turn, until you need it, it deals a flat amount of damage to all minions, which makes it a lot more consistent. Another plus is the absence of Overload, which lets you follow this up with a threat on the following turn.
- Safeguard: Hey, it’s Sludge Belcher, but worse. Still, a 6-mana taunt that requires at least two attacks can be really helpful in a lot of scenarios and the Mech tag is quite relevant, with the inclusion of Zilliax in the deck.
- Swampqueen Hagatha: The second version of Hagatha is here before the first one is even out of the rotation and if you are looking for value, that’s what she gives you. Being able to create a 5/5 threat that casts two Shaman spells (one targeted the other one at random) is a really powerful one, which you can strengthen even more by drawing her with Jepetto Joybuzz.
- Archivist Elysiana: Another intersting addition from the upcoming expansion, 8 mana 7/7 helps you avoid fatigue for a good amount of turns. This new legendary minion let’s you discover 5 cards and replaces your deck with 2 copies of each (10 cards), even if you are in fatigue territory and your deck is empty. It is worth noting that you can discover Archivist Elysiana herself with this effect, which can make any fatigue strategy nearly impossible to pull off against you.
- Chef Nomi: The beloved Warcraft cook is finally here and he is not messing around. This will literally be the card you will be praying is the last one in your deck, since his ability requires your deck to be empty. Being able to develop a board full of 6/6s when both players have probably used most of their cards is extremely good and you can follow that up with Archivist Elysiana, getting 10 more cards to play with in your deck and avoiding fatigue.
- Hagatha the Witch: A staple of Shaman decks since her release, the original Hagatha is a must-include for any Shaman deck that loves getting value and drawing out the game and her AoE is the icing on the cake. You may want to hold onto your minions if you are planning to play her in the next couple of turns, unless you cannot afford to not develop something on the board.
- Jepetto Joybuzz: One of the most interesting minions in Hearthstone history, this 8-drop is simply going to win you the game, most of the time. The ability to draw 2 minions and make them 1-drops instantly means you can include a lot of valuable Battlecries in the deck, which this deck does. Playing a 1-mana Swampqueen Hagatha and immediately play the Horror you created can give you an insane tempo swing. Most of the minions in the deck are included for their battlecry effect, so reducing them to a 1/1 body is not as relevant as making them cost just 1 mana.
Main Strategy & Goal
Early and Mid-Game
The deck does not contain any meaningful early game minions, so you are most likely going to spend those turns drawing into your bigger threats and clearing your opponent’s board. Sludge Slurper can help you for the first couple of turns and Bloodmage Thalnos can give you a small boost for your Lightning Storm or Hagatha's Scheme. Haunting Visions can be used in conjunction with Lightning Storm or Far Sight early on, or just on its own if you need to find something to play.
When you get to the mid-game a couple of new taunts, Proud Defender and Safeguard, are going to help you slow down the pace and protect your health total. Hex continues to be the best single-target removal in the game, rendering any big threat or sticky minion completely useless and Zilliax can really mess things up for aggressive decks, by trading 2-for-1 and healing you for a good amount.
This is where the deck starts to take off. Entering the late-game lets you have access to your powerful Battlecry minions, which can provide an insane amount of value to your hand, letting you play card after card with no end in sight. Although the deck does not contain too much card draw, you can often generate some extra through Haunting Visions or by getting it and Far Sight back with Krag'wa, the Frog. You can also use Electra Stormsurge to double down on a Far Sight draw and you will most likely want to use Jepetto Joybuzz as soon as possible, to maximize the chances you draw two good late-game Battlecry minions with his effect. If you need some healing to stabilize, Omega Mind can really help you with that, often requiring just one AoE spell to get you back to full life.
The two versions of Hagatha, Swampqueen Hagatha and Hagatha the Witch, help you get some tempo and value respectively. The new, upcoming version lets you discover 2 Shaman spells and you are then given a 5 mana 5/5 Drusvar Horror with the effect: “Battlecry: Cast [the two discovered spells]. If you choose a targeted spell during the discover phase, you will be able to select a target when you play the Horror, but only one of the discovered spells can be targeted. As usual with these kind of effects, you do not pay any mana to cast the spells, but you DO get locked out of mana if you cast a spell with Overload.
The deck really shines when you get close to fatigue. After you draw your last card Chef Nomi fills your board with 6/6 elementals, giving you a total of 42/42. The 6 health on her and the elementals puts it outside the range of most AoE spells, making it really hard for your opponent to have an answer to her. But even if your opponent manages to remove that gigantic board, Archivist Elysiana lets you discover 5 cards (you can discover her in her own effect), then fills you empty deck with 2 copies of each card you discovered, for a total of 10 extra cards.
In these matchups you will be looking for AoE and card draw, as well as your best early game minion, Doomsayer. Getting Hagatha's Scheme in your starting hand can be crucial, because it will let it upgrade quickly so you can wipe the board without hoping for a highroll. Bloodmage Thalnos can boost an early Lightning Storm and draw you a card and of course having one of the deck’s taunts in hand is essential, while in most cases Hagatha the Witch can just put the final nail in the coffin and lock the enemy out of the game. In detail, you are looking for:
- Doomsayer, Sludge Slurper, Hagatha's Scheme, Lightning Storm, Proud Defender, Safeguard, Zilliax, Hagatha the Witch
Against slow decks
These matchups give you a lot more time to draw through your deck and actually enjoy the deck’s gameplan. Card draw is the number one priority here, with Electra Stormsurge + Far Sight/Haunting Visions being one of the best mid-game combos for the deck. One of the cards you could hold onto is Jepetto Joybuzz, since you want to play it as early as possible against a slow deck, before you draw your late-game threats normally. AoE should not be an issue here, although you will likely need to have the safety of a Hex in your hand. Specifically you’re looking for:
The introduction of a lot of value-oriented late-game minions is something that a Control Shaman list loves, mainly because of the best single-target removal in the game, in Hex, and the good amount of AoE that the class has at its disposal. The list includes a couple of old favorites, like Hagatha the Witch and Electra Stormsurge, but it also includes a couple of overlooked cards from recent expansions. If the deck can manage to survive against aggressive decks with the limited amount of healing available in early turns, it should be really good against other slow decks and most importantly, really fun to play!