Our budget Evolve Shaman deck list & guide for the Darkmoon Faire expansion will teach you how to play this budget list. This guide includes Mulligans, Gameplay Strategy, Card Substitutions, and Combos/Synergies!
Introduction to Budget Evolve Shaman
Darkmoon Faire has been a big boost to Shaman – the class was near the bottom of the meta for the last year or so, and finally it made a grand comeback. The signs were already there last expansion when Totem Shaman, despite not being very popular, ended up somewhere in low T2 after all the balance updates. This time, however, it’s the Evolve build that’s been dominating. And luckily, it’s quite easy to build on budget, as the only more expensive card necessary is Boggspine Knuckles – which fits right within our budget.
The deck itself has received quite a lot of support in Darkmoon Faire (some cards don’t combo with it directly, but still work quite nicely when played here). The new cards include Revolve, Cagematch Custodian, Pit Master, Stormstrike and Derailed Coaster. With 2 copies of each, that’s 1/3 of the deck. And if you’re a budget player who likes Shaman, you’re really lucky, as it’s one of the better budget decks we have this time around and the best budget deck Shaman had in a long time. Enjoy!
Budget Evolve Shaman Mulligan Guide
Higher Priority (Keep every time)
- Surging Tempest / Sludge Slurper – Your 1-drops. Either of them is fine, to be honest, but Tempest is a bit better. The downside of Slurper is that you end up with only 1 mana on T2, which means that another 1-drop / Lackey is your only play (and not every Lackey will be a good play at the time).
- Cagematch Custodian – The best card you can keep in mulligan BY FAR. Not only it’s your only 2-drop, but it draws you your key card – Boggspine Knuckles.
Lower Priority (Keep only if certain conditions are met)
- Boggspine Knuckles – Keep vs slower decks. If you get either Cagematch Custodian or Knuckles, you also want to keep Desert Hare and Dread Corsair. Against Aggro, Keep Knuckles only with Lightning Bloom.
Budget Evolve Shaman Play Strategy
Your entire deck revolves (pun not intended) around Evolve effects. In particular, Boggspine Knuckles is the most important card in your deck, since all the plays are centered around it. What’s so great about it is that you can pre-load it on one turn and then have two Evolve effects back to back. This way, you can create some really powerful board states and win the game like that. Because Knuckles are so important, the new Cagematch Custodian is 100% the best card in your deck. For 2 mana, you get a 2/2 that tutors you your key card – it works amazingly well in all matchups. Just 2/2 that draws a card would be great, and the fact that it draws Knuckles makes it perfect. Because you have four ways to draw it (2x the card itself, 2x Custodian), you shouldn’t have a very hard time finding it, making the deck much more consistent. And then the addition of Hoard Pillagers means that you can swing even more – possibly up to 8 times, and that’s more Evolves than you will ever need.
Another way to “transform” minions is Revolve – this one works a bit differently, since it’s a mix between Evolve and Devolve. While it affects the ENTIRE board, it leaves the minions at their regular cost. But, as we’ve already established, most of the minions you play are “overcosted” for their stats, e.g. three random 3-drops are still better than 3x 1/1. At the same time, transforming your opponent’s minions can be a great way to counter some plays. The best example are buffs – for example, the card is GREAT against Paladin who has both of their Libram of Wisdom currently on minions. By transforming a minion, you just get rid of those. The budget version also uses Bogstrok Clacker, which frankly isn’t perfect, but it’s a good plan B if you don’t draw your Knuckles or you run out of durability and still have cards you want to evolve. Only 2 Evolves is kind of limiting, but it still makes it a decent combo with Desert Hare, and especially Mogu Fleshshaper.
But of course, you do need something to combo with the Knuckles – otherwise it would make no sense. In fact, the deck runs a bunch of options. The best one by far is Desert Hare, reminiscent of the Gadgetzan’s Doppelgangster, which was the base of oldschool Evolve Shaman builds. Desert Hare summons 3x 1/1, but since each of them costs 3 mana, evolving them gives you three random 4-drops. And while it might not sound like much, suddenly summoning e.g. 3x 4/4 for 3 mana is really nice. Pit Master is a bit similar, but it’s 3 -drop + 2x 2-drop, so the end board state is a bit weaker (but on the other hand, the card is better standalone, since it summons 1/2 + 2x 3/2 after Corrupting, which is quite nice). Other two synergies are cards that you can play for cheaper, but have a higher base cost – Dread Corsair and Mogu Fleshshaper. Corsair is notably free after playing Knuckles, so you get a random 5-drop for 0 mana. In case of Mogu, it’s much harder to get it down to 0 mana after the nerfs, but just playing it for 4-5 mana and then getting a random 10-drop is often good enough. A card that combos well with Mogu and is good by itself is Derailed Coaster – since the deck is quite minion-heavy, you should have at least a few at the time in your hand. Summoning a bunch of minions makes Mogu cheaper, and those 1/1’s can be evolved into random 2-drops, also making a nice board swing. And finally, even Hoard Pillager is a solid target – you’d rather have a random 5-drop than a 4/2.
And that’s your main strategy. While against Aggro your biggest concern is actually staying alive and different small minions, removals etc. come handy (e.g. Stormstrike works really well vs Aggro, letting you clear two minions with a single removal spell), once you stabilize you will still want to start doing your Evolve combos to swing the game around. With this deck, the real game usually starts after you equip Boggspine Knuckles – usually on Turn 5, but sometimes a bit sooner with Lightning Bloom. Ever since then, most of your turns are devoted to making a solid board and evolving it. Still, one thing to keep in mind is that some of your opponents might play AoEs, so you don’t want to play too much. For example, dropping Desert Hare + Dread Corsair to evolve is already enough most of the time – you end up with strong enough board (4x mid-sized minion) that throwing in let’s say Mogu would be too much. In case your opponent drops a big AoE, you might find yourself out of resources to continue the push. Also, try to not use your Knuckles swings willy-nilly – this is again more of a concern vs Control (because against Aggro you need the tempo and even evolving a single minion can be enough). For example, if you already evolved your board once, next turn you don’t have to swing against (unless the outcome was particularly poor). That’s because – again – if your board gets AoEd and you’re caught without Knuckles, even if you have some minions that are good targets in your hand, you can’t do much without the weapon. The only exception is if you already have a Hoard Pillager ready to replay Knuckles, but that’s going too deep into specific scenarios.
Future Card Replacements for Evolve Shaman
To be frank, there isn’t much to replace when it comes to Evolve Shaman. Like I’ve said, Boggspine Knuckles is the only important Epic card – other than that you can get away with no other Epics / Legendaries. Still, there are some you can use to improve your deck a bit, especially in terms of value.
When it comes to Epics – Far Sight is a good one. The deck is quite weak when it comes to cycling / value generation. At the same time, it’s quite combo-oriented, so hitting the right card can be very beneficial (as you can fit it into your turn much easier). Sadly, there are some really bad targets (like Lightning Bloom), but you have to live with that. Another Epic that people sometimes play is Sea Giant, but I’m honestly not a big fan.
In case of Legendaries, there are two you can run. First one is Instructor Fireheart – a general, value-oriented Legendary. While dropping it on 3 as a 3/3 that gives you a spell is good enough (really, many decks have played Vulpera Scoundrel, which is just worse), the card gets really good later in the game, where you can chain a few cheap spells you get from her and get a lot of value AND tempo. The second one is Inara Stormcrash, which in this build is just a generic, good Legendary – no specific combos, but she works really well especially vs Control (adding some extra damage to the mix – but you probably don’t want to Evolve her).
Also, you could try replacing Derailed Coaster with Faceless Corruptor. Both versions seem to be doing similarly right now, so you can test either and pick the ones that works better for you (including in the budget build – here you can also replace one with the other).
Here’s an example full build you can work towards: