Rastakhan’s Rumble Evolve Token Shaman: The Past and Future of the Archetype

The namesake card of Evolve Shaman, Evolve, entered the Hearthstone world in spring 2016 in the Whispers of the Old Gods set. Shaman was not known for its ability to turn minions into random, more expensive minions up to that point – it had been a class with some aggro decks, some midrange Totem or Overload synergy decks, and some strange control decks built around Ancestral Spirit.

The Shaman cards players had learned to fear the most were Tunnel TroggThunder Bluff Valiant, and the infamous four-mana 7/7 Flamewreathed Faceless. The relentless onslaught of Aggro Shaman or Midrange Shaman was the name of the game for the class, and Evolve did not have an immediate impact on the field. It had to bide its time for another year, as Jade Shaman was introduced in Mean Street of Gadgetzan in December 2016, and it took over as the top Shaman deck until the Standard rotation in April 2017.

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The release of Journey to Un’Goro in April 2017 and the Standard rotation that came with it finally saw Evolve Shaman rise to the surface. The archetype had received several supporting cards over the past few expansions, and now it was ready for prime time. Evolve Shaman became a dominant force and it received even more support in Knights of the Frozen Throne, further cementing its position as a top tier Hearthstone deck. Finally, Kobolds and Catacombs in December 2017 ended the archetype’s reign, and from that moment it has been a niche deck, biding its time in the sidelines once again. It has been a playable deck all along, but its time in the absolute top tiers of the game has been in the past. The loss of its namesake card, Evolve, in the Standard rotation of spring 2018, further weakened the archetype, and it looked like a thing of the past.

However, in the upcoming Rastakhan’s Rumble expansion, Blizzard is once again introducing more support for Evolve Shaman. Can the deck rise up once again in Standard format, before it loses Thrall, Deathseer in the Standard rotation in April 2019?

In this article, we will explore the Evolve Shaman of old, the Evolve Shaman of today, and the new support the archetype will receive in Rastakhan’s Rumble, and how that might help it rise once more.

You’ll be able to find all of our pro and streamer lists on our Evolve Shaman or Token Shaman Archetype Pages!

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The Heyday of Evolve Shaman in 2017

During its two-expansion reign in 2017, the core of Evolve Shaman stayed mostly the same.

Here is Fr0zen’s take on the archetype from May 2017:

The deck has three alternative game plans that are partially intertwined.

First, it still carries the old Jade Shaman core of Jade ClawsJade Lightning, and Aya Blackpaw. Solid pressure and growing Jade Golems form a stable core for the deck.

Second, the deck runs Evolve and a number of cards that synergize well with it, Thing from Below and Doppelgangster. Jade Golems also make for good Evolve targets, providing further synergy.

Third, the deck has a number of tokens in it together with two copies of Bloodlust.

You can win through tokens into Bloodlust, you can win through Jade Golems, and you can win through Evolve – and often you end up winning with a combination of the three by first Evolving a board that is then too difficult to immediately answer, and then Bloodlusting your way to the win.

Knights of the Frozen Throne did little to change the overall game plan, but it made the deck stronger still. Here is a version Bunnyhoppor brought to HCT Summer Playoffs in September 2017:

The only major differences are the addition of Thrall, Deathseer and Saronite Chain Gang, providing further Evolve synergies.

Even though Kobolds and Catacombs gave the deck even more Evolve synergies in the form of Corridor Creeper and Unstable Evolution, the increased power level of other decks pushed it off from its pedestal, and those variants did not see a lot of play.

Evolve Shaman in 2018

With the loss of the Jade core and Evolve in the Standard rotation in April 2018, Evolve Shaman needed to reinvent itself to stay relevant. This has only partially succeeded: the deck pops up every now and then – especially at the start of every expansion – and you can still win ladder games with it, but it is not a top tier contender anymore.

At the start of Boomsday, Keema piloted this list in high legend:

Ever since the loss of the Jade package, Shaman has been looking for ways to sufficiently contest the early game. This deck does so with the help of Voltaic Burst and Earthen Might.

It has the same token elements that were present in the archetype during its glory days, including a copy of Bloodlust, and it also attempts to find good targets for Unstable Evolution and Thrall, Deathseer in the form of Saronite Chain GangCorridor Creeper, and Giggling Inventor (note that this is a pre-nerf deck and Giggling Inventor still cost five mana when it was played).

The Boomsday Project gave the deck a new Evolve tool: The Storm Bringer. Unlike all previous Evolve tools, it does not care what minions you transform, a lowly token is worth the same as a high base cost Corridor Creeper. This enables the deck to take a slightly more token-based approach and threaten either a Bloodlust turn or a huge random Legendary minion turn.

Alas, this has not been enough to make Evolve Shaman a top tier deck.

Evolve Shaman Support in Rastakhan’s Rumble

With Rastakhan’s Rumble, the archetype is getting some new support. Will this support, together with The Storm Bringer, be enough to bring renewed success? Let’s take a look at the cards.

Krag'wa, the Frog is an interesting minion. As a Battlecry, it returns all spells you cast on the previous turn to your hand. It can be a great tool to get another copy of The Storm Bringer and it has great synergy with Unstable Evolution, as it returns all copies you cast last turn to your hand. How about going for an Evolution spree for several turns in a row? Powerful stuff.

Zentimo can also get a lot done with Unstable Evolution, casting it on three targets at once. Given a sufficiently large board, this is a fast-track to evolving it all.

Big Bad Voodoo is a new take on the Evolve mechanic. Instead of working immediately, it works as a Deathrattle. Potentially very powerful, if silencing the target is not an option. It only targets a single minion though, so it is not quite a Soul of the Forest when it comes to protection against board clears. However, this can be overcome at least somewhat with Zentimo, with which you can Voodoo up to three minions at once.

Haunting Visions is a more tangential upgrade. It can help you discover removal or more Evolve spells, but it is not directly involved in beating down the opponent. If there is room for it in a deck, it can be a powerful addition.

Likkim is a potential answer for Shaman’s traditionally weak early game. If there are enough Overload cards in the deck, it can help you build up your board in order to have good Evolve or Bloodlust targets.

Totemic Smash is another potential answer to both the early game and to token generation – dealing two damage or, thanks to its Overkill effect, one damage and summoning a basic Totem.

There are also some potential Neutral Evolve targets in the set: Scarab Egg (or rather the Scarabs that come out of it), Sightless RangerRabble Bouncer, and Former Champ all offer options for token boards and Evolve targets.

Evolve Shaman in Rastakhan’s Rumble

The biggest question facing Evolve Shaman in Rastakhan’s Rumble is why to choose it over the alternative Shaman builds. Even Shaman and Shudderwock Shaman have been solid decks, and neither is losing anything, because it is not yet the time for rotation. Theorycrafting on new decks is mostly focused on Malygos decks or other burn decks thanks to Shaman finally getting another spell that can go face in Totemic Smash.

If tokens and Evolve stay together – and the combination of The Storm Bringer and Krag'wa, the Frog does give them some incentive to do so, the end result could look something like this:

I could not find a way to fit in Overload synergies. Perhaps there is a way to do that or to build a pure token list with Overload and without Evolve though.

A pure token list could look something like this, although I think this might be a bit too one-dimensional right now: not fast enough to be a pure aggro deck, and not enough tricks to make it as a slightly slower deck.

Finally, Evolve Shaman could forget about the tokens and go for a more midrange approach, something like this:

This deck combines Overload synergies with Evolve effects, but for the most part ditches the tokens.

It is unlikely that any of these decks are good out of the box. However, they demonstrate the choices Shaman will need to make if it will pursue Evolve or token strategies. You can think of the decks as consisting of various synergistic packages. These builds showcase the Overload package, the token package, and the Evolve package. Can all three fit in a single deck? I could not find the way yet, but perhaps the way will become more clear after the release. If you need to pick and choose, a lot depends on the meta.

Tokens can be great if there are no answers to wide boards, but in Boomsday the only successful token decks have been Token Druid (which is able to Deathrattle its entire board) and Odd Paladin (which generates value out of thin air with its Hero Power). Can Shaman replicate either infinite minions or irremovable minions? I think the strongest chance to get there is with a mix of tokens and Evolve effects, but time will tell.

Old Guardian

Ville "Old Guardian" Kilkku is a writer and video creator focused on analytic, educational Hearthstone, and building innovative Standard format decks. Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/c/OldGuardian Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/old_guardian

Check out Old Guardian on Twitter or on their Website!

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One Comment

  1. Raymond
    December 2, 2018 at 2:49 am

    Thanks for the article. Good to see my favorite decks of old.

    For the next 3 months instead of using Thrall and the Deathbringer, I think Shaman is going to abuse Shudderwock and Keleseth and Hagatha in these builds.