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. Frozen Throne brought it some more tools and the Death Knight Hero card, Thrall, Deathseer. Unfortunately, Kobolds and Catacombs did very little for this style of deck opting to go down a more Totem based path for Shaman that requires more support in future expansions.
Evolve Shaman did pick up Unstable Evolution, but currently it’s not powerful enough to bring this deck back into the upper tiers. Corridor Creeper is another good addition and makes for a great Evolve target.
Update: Evolve Token Shaman (March 2018 – Post Nerf)
The nerf patch didn’t help Evolve Token Shaman. It was already a weak deck before it, and removing Patches the Pirate, while nerfing Corridor Creeper definitely didn’t help. As much as it’s not a high tier deck, it should still be playable on the ladder, and it’s the only deck that still runs Corridor Creeper for the sake of Evolving it.
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)
- Fire Fly – After Patches nerf, there was no longer a reason to play the early Pirate package, and so Fire Fly is the only 1-drop in the deck, making it a very high priority keep. Thanks to the multiple bodies, Flametongue Totem synergy etc. it’s the best card to mulligan for.
- Jade Claws – Another great card – the weapon lets you clear some early game minions, while the 1/1 can also threaten some trade, and it starts the the Jade train early (so your next Jade cards get more powerful).
- Maelstrom Portal – Another high priority keep against Aggro. Most of the fast decks run some small minions to clear with it. Works best against Dude Paladin, you can often answer a big part of their early game with this one card.
- Corridor Creeper – Yes, even though it’s nerfed, dropping down a 0 mana 2/5 is still a nice tempo boost. Not to mention that it pairs very well with the Evolve.
Lower Priority (keep only if certain conditions are met)
- Primalfin Totem – If the rest of your hand is good (e.g. Fire Fly + Jade Claws). This card can snowball really well, but only if you’re ahead – if you’re behind, it will only summon a single 1/1 and get cleared.
- Flametongue Totem – With Fire Fly. The ability to trade up with your Fire Flies is nice, but don’t keep Flametongue if you don’t open with one – it can sit dead in your hand if you fall behind.
VS SLOW DECKS
Higher Priority (keep every time)
- Fire Fly – Still, the only 1-drop in your deck. You don’t need it to contest the board as much as to start creating the board and putting pressure. 1/2 minion doesn’t feel like much, but every single point of damage counts.
- Jade Claws – Similarly, Jade Claws is good tool to develop the board. It’s not as good as against Aggro, but Control decks also often have some early drops that you want to clear (like Northshire Cleric against Priest). And getting those Jades early is also good, as you will often get to 4/4 or higher vs slow decks.
- Primalfin Totem – Unlike vs Aggro, slower decks often don’t develop aggressively in the early game, which makes Primalfin Totem much better. It will roll for a few turns if everything goes right, giving you a lot of extra tempo in the longer run.
- Corridor Creeper – While it will be a little slower than vs Aggro (since your opponent is usually having less minions), you should still be able to get it quite quickly. And when you do, a single Evolve can win you the game. But even if you don’t have Evolve, having a free 2/5 to reload is not the end of the world.
Lower Priority (keep only if certain conditions are met)
- Evolve or Unstable Evolution – With Corridor Creeper. If you get a nice start, you can usually play the combo around Turn 4-5, and getting a random 8-drop can win you the game if your opponent can’t answer it.
- Flametongue Totem – With Fire Fly. Can push a lot of early damage, but can also be useless if you don’t have a fast start.
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). 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 ever-present Defile).
Playing versus aggressive decks, your main win condition is simply keeping the board control at all times. In those matchups, the person who has the board advantage usually wins. For your deck, board advantage might be even more important than for the other Aggro decks, as cards like Flametongue Totem, Bloodlust or even Evolve tend to be useless if you’re behind.
Fast start is most important – if you fall behind in the early game, you might have hard time coming back. Your only comeback tools are Devolve, which is great, but does not always work like you’d want (as there is A LOT of variance there), and Maelstrom Portal – amazing card, one of the best cards in the fast matchups. if you need two AoE damage, you can also try rolling the Spell Damage totem first – but it’s not always worth to take the risk if you don’t absolutely need to.
Against fast decks, you can try doing the tempo Evolve move. If you end up with a nice board in the early game, instead of waiting to combo the card with Doppelgangster, you can simply play it to evolve a few 1-2 mana minions. Unless you low-roll terribly, it should generally be a nice buff to everything you have. Even better if you can drop a Corridor Creeper before Evolving – random 8-drop is a huge body to trade with.
Don’t be greedy and just clear everything they play. Go for the face only if a) there is simply no good trade on the board (either you’ve already cleared everything or the opponent has dropped something you can’t easily deal with) and b) you’re really close to lethal and have a clear way to finish the game. Let’s say that you can put your opponent down to 6 and you have Jade Claws + Jade Lightning in your hand. In a case like that, going aggressive can really pay off, especially if you can’t easily get the board control again.
In faster matchups, Bloodlust is often used to clear the board not to finish the game. If you have a bunch of 0-1 attack minions, you can Bloodlust in order to trade up. Use it whenever you have a good opportunity – don’t keep it, because you might not be able to use it effectively later.
Thing from Below is great mid/late game card in those matchups. A rather common mistake is, however, keeping it early in the mulligan. The card’s powerful when you get it down to 2-3 mana or lower, possibly 4 if you want to “break even”, but in faster matchups, you don’t use your Hero Power as much as in slow matchups, so getting it down low might be a bit difficult. Once it’s low, however, 5/5 Taunt not only puts a nice wall, but is also aggressive enough that you can push for the damage while feeling safe behind it.
Evolve combos aren’t as powerful in fast matchups, because you usually have to constantly clear the board. That said, Doppelgangster + Evolve is still a nice board refill. Keep in mind that you don’t always want to play minions BEFORE Evolving, even though it would seem logical. For example, if you need Taunt on the board, because you’re low on health, you can first Evolve / Thrall and only then play Saronite Chain Gang or Thing from Below. 100% sure Taunts are often far more valuable than random higher drop.
Control decks tend to be more difficult opponents, because instead of playing only versus the board state, you also need to constantly play around variety of different removal cards that they might be holding onto. Playing vs Control basically means playing around AoE as well as you can by not overextending and having ways to refill the board at all times.
Early game should generally be very straightforward. Just play whatever early game cards you have, clear their small drops (if they have them), and go face. Early mid game is a good time to bait out the first AoE from your opponent, like Hellfire or Duskbreaker. You want to play enough for your opponent to feel threatened (especially going into Turn 5 – Bloodlust turn), but not enough to have no refill. Hero Powering is often good in the early/mid game. If you have a significant board going into Turn 5 and your opponent decided to not AoE (or he doesn’t have one), it might actually be a good time to push the Bloodlust / Thrall, Deathseer. Let’s say that if you get 15 damage Bloodlust, even if you don’t kill your opponent, it’s often just worth it, as you might never have another good opportunity to play it.
Mana Tide Totem is also a good way to bait either a single target or AoE removal. Play Mana Tide on a board with 2-3 other small minions, but nothing crazy. In order to stop the totem from drawing you card every turn, it’s very likely for your opponent to AoE it down. Which is great for you, as you didn’t really lose much, but your opponent is one AoE down.
Timing of your Evolve effects is really important vs slower decks. You probably don’t want to Evolve a bunch of Totems into 2-drops, because they will still be easy to take down. Your aim is to have bigger Evolve turns. In the early game, the best time to use Evolve is with Corridor Creeper. If you can combo those two together, it should be worth it, as getting a random 8-drop around Turn 4 can be devastating for your opponent (think about Rogue getting a big Edwin VanCleef – it can often win the whole game). Other good cards to combo with Evolve are obviously Saronite Chain Gang and Doppelgangster.
At the same time, a card that you don’t want to Evolve is the main body of Aya Blackpaw, as having a Jade Deathrattle is good. It becomes a good Evolve target if it’s Silenced, though, as a random 7-drop is much better on average than a 5/3. Unstable Evolution can generally be used during most of the times you can use Evolve – but unlike Evolve, Unstable Evolution works much better if you have 1 or 2 minions you want to transform. It’s not every effective on the wide boards.
When it comes to Thrall, Deathseer, it’s really powerful, but generally difficult to combo with Doppelgangster etc. on a single turn. You can be more liberal with it. Since it adds +2 to the cost, even 1-drops and 2-drops are generally worth Evolving with Thrall – you can create quite a menacing board from the totems. Even if your board dies, you still get an upgraded Hero Power.
The Evolve Hero Power can add a lot of tempo and value to your plays at the same time. The best case scenario is having something quite big on the board already, trading with it (but making sure that it survives), and then Evolving it. Not only you can clear something, but also “heal up” the minion even if stats of the new drop will be similar.
Games are usually finished by overwhelming your opponent on the board – e.g. Doppelgangster + Evolve when he has no way to clear them usually wins the game. Just like him having no AoE (or being too greedy) against a big board of small minions, which you can use with Bloodlust. Alternatively, if you get him low, you might also be able to close out the game with Jade Claws and Jade Lightning – but remember that your deck is not burn heavy and relies heavily on the minions to do 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.
- 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.
- Unstable Evolution is the new card in this deck from Kobolds and Catacombs. When you play it, it will return back to your hand allowing you to play it until you end the turn. This is best used when it’s the last card in your hand or you have a particular card that could really benefit from a couple of upgrades. This can be a pretty weak play if it’s the only thing you are doing the entire turn, so be careful not to evolve up your cards right into a big AOE.
Evolve Token Shaman Card Substitutions
Evolve Shaman is a pretty tight list, and its normal version runs some expensive cards. You can generally cut them and play a more budget version, but keep in mind that the deck will suffer.
- Unstable Evolution – It’s cool to have another way to Evolve minions, but it’s not necessary.
- Thrall, Deathseer – Even though it seems kind of necessary, your normal Hero Power also combos quite nicely with your deck. Thrall is great, but you can play the deck without it.
- Aya Blackpaw – Aya rotates out soon, and if you still don’t have her, it’s not a good timing to fill that gap in your collection. Since you want to run the Jade Claws & Jade Lightning anyway, not having Aya will hurt, but you can still do without her.
- Corridor Creeper – Funnily enough, I’d say that this card is most necessary out of the bunch. Even though it’s not good by itself, the fact that it still Evolves into a random 8-drop makes it game-winning in so many situations. It’s one of the highest win rate cards in the deck.
And here is the list of the cards you can substitue the ones you’re missing with:
- Second Unstable Evolution & Bloodlust – The easiest way to fill the gaps is to look at the cards you already run 1 copies of and add a second copy. In case of this specific list, those would be Bloodlust & Unstable Evolution.
- Jade Spirit – Since you run some Jade mechanics, having another Jade card is not that bad. It can snowball in the late game, and the main 2/3 body is also a good Evolve target (because a random 5-drop is usually much stronger).
- Volcano – While it might seem counter-intuitive, some builds do run Volcano simply because you will end up falling behind vs aggressive decks quite often. And having a way to come back on the board (as Maelstrom Portal often doesn’t cut it) can be solid.
- Barnes – But why? This deck doesn’t seem to have a lot of good Barnes targets. As much as it’s true, you run Barnes mostly for the Evolve synergies. Rolling let’s say Corridor Creeper doesn’t seem good, but if you can combo it with Evolve, you end up with a random 5-drop and a random 8-drop on Turn 5 – it’s a bit like DYI Spiteful Summoner!