Shaman and Warrior have been the two ugly classes in Kobolds and Catacombs. The types that you feel a little awkward to touch, or maybe just sad that they simply cannot perform to the level everyone else can, no matter how hard they try. For Warrior, there is at least some comfort in that there is always Fibonacci, who will figure out some way to make it work no matter what – and we took an in-depth look at the prospects of Warrior recently – but Shaman has been lost in a maze of Evolve randomness and some attempts to make Jade Golems or Elementals work for a long time.
There have been some moments of hope here and there, some lone tweets about short win streaks with Shaman, but in the long-term, they have never lasted. But now the Standard rotation is almost upon us. Old cards leave, new cards come in. A fresh start, full of hopes and dreams! Can The Witchwood help Shaman?
Shaman in Kobolds and Catacombs
To understand where we come from, let’s take a look at where Shaman has ventured over the past few months. These are the best decks that the class had to offer during Kobolds and Catacombs!
Evolve Shaman is the most popular and the most successful Shaman archetype. It is the only archetype of the class to consistently reach over 50% win rates, in fact. For the past two months, by far the most popular individual deck list has been this one:
It’s a basic Evolve Shaman deck. You can go for tokens and Bloodlust, but for the most part your win condition is going for a powerful Evolve, for which the deck provides multiple potential setups: Doppelgangster, Thing from Below, and Corridor Creeper are all excellent Evolve targets. You can also try to make Thing from Below and Corridor Creeper cheap or free and combine them with Thrall, Deathseer.
The second-most popular Shaman archetype has been Jade Shaman. Kobolds and Catacombs provided the deck with some new cards in Murmuring Elemental, Rummaging Kobold, and Grumble, Worldshaker, allowing Jade Shaman to create bigger green men than ever before. Purple played this list on ladder:
The deck is able to build big green men while transforming any potential resurrect targets of the opponent with Devolve and Hex, leaving only ruin in its wake. That is what it hopes to achieve anyway, but in practice it is easier said than done. While the deck has some smooth games with Jade Golems and sometimes even gets to use Coldlight Oracle to mill unsuspecting control decks, its win rate did not hold up after its game plan became widely known. Off-meta decks can win with the element of surprise, but once figured out, they need to stand the test against opponents who know what you are doing, and that is much more difficult.
People had high hopes for Elemental Shaman when Journey to Un’Goro was released. However, it turned out to be another early-days Dragon Priest: a curve deck that plays reasonable cards but cannot do anything spectacular to actually win a game. The cards in it are not bad. They just have not been good enough.
Experimentation on Elemental Shaman has largely ceased. Here’s Kibler’s take from two months ago that features all the cards that should be the power plays of the deck: Fire Elemental, Blazecaller, Servant of Kalimos, Grumble, Worldshaker, Kalimos, Primal Lord, and Murmuring Elemental. That’s a bunch of potentially good cards. They simply have not been able to do enough broken things to survive the pre-rotation meta.
Other Shaman archetypes
Wait, are there more? No, I was just kidding with the heading.
There have been, once upon a time. Aggro Shaman, for example, survived for years in various forms, and still has some tools, such as Lava Burst, Rockbiter Weapon, and Doomhammer, which can potentially deal a lot of damage. There used to be Midrange Shaman decks too, back when Thunder Bluff Valiant was in Standard.
Finally, there is one other. A name heard in whispers, but rarely seen. The Giant Spellstone Shaman that crushes the competition with the power of Snowfury Giant, Ancestral Spirit, and Lesser Sapphire Spellstone. It is so rarely seen that there are no established deck lists.
Just because no other Shaman archetypes have seen play recently does not mean that they do not exist, just waiting to be found, or more likely waiting to be enabled by some new cards.
Shaman in The Witchwood
Well, that Kobolds and Catacombs overview was quite sad. The Witchwood will be better, right?
Let’s first take a look at what happens to the Kobolds and Catacombs archetypes in The Witchwood and then move on to search for potential new archetypes for the new meta.
All current Shaman archetypes run a small contingent of Jade cards and Evolve Shaman is no exception. It also loses a number of other cards:
- Jade Claws
- Jade Lightning
- Aya Blackpaw
- Maelstrom Portal
- Thing from Below
So, that just happened. Early game, gone. Main Evolve spell, gone. Main board control tools, gone. Main Evolve targets, gone.
But hey, we’re not here to give up this easily. There’s still Unstable Evolution and there’s still Thrall, Deathseer. Even with Evolve gone, the Evolve mechanic is still there. There’s also Corridor Creeper for a target.
It’s time to turn to The Witchwood for reinforcements!
Unfortunately, there are none. No early game. No Evolve targets.
Fine, now I’m ready to give up on this archetype. Good night, Evolve Shaman.
I have a feeling that this is not going to go any better. I wonder why.
Jade Shaman loses:
- Jade Claws
- Jade Lightning
- Jade Spirit
- Aya Blackpaw
- Jade Chieftain
- Maelstrom Portal
- Coldlight Oracle
- Jinyu Waterspeaker
I guess building a Jade Shaman without Jade Golems is not going to work.
We are finally getting somewhere! Elementals are mostly from Journey to Un’Goro, so they are not rotating out. Also, Elemental Shaman was never bad as such, it just wasn’t as good as other decks in the meta, and many of those decks will lose a lot in the rotation.
Obviously, Elemental Shaman will lose a bunch of things too:
The Witchwood also seems to be more kind for Elemental Shaman than for other Shaman archetypes:
- Blazing Invocation – Lots of Elementals have Battlecries, you have a good chance to Discover one with this.
- Earthen Might – An incredibly powerful buff card! Play Fire Fly on turn one, make it a 3/4 on turn two while gaining a random Elemental.
- Bogshaper – Draw more Elementals.
- Hagatha the Witch – Play Elementals, get spells. Play Bogshaper and play spells, draw more Elementals.
- Witch's Apprentice – Get on the board, get a spell. Or two if you are already Hagatha.
- Shudderwock – Repeat all of your Battlecry effects.
With all these new cards, there is probably more than one archetype lurking here. I’m not sure if you actually want to play Shudderwock in Elemental Shaman, those Fire Elementals and Blazecallers could get a little out of control. I’m also not sure if all Elemental Shamans want to play Hagatha the Witch, although Elemental Shaman is a really good shell for Hagatha, so at least one variant probably will.
Elemental Shaman still does not necessarily do a lot of broken stuff. However, having a reliable transform effect in Hex is good in the predicted Warlock-heavy meta, and being able to potentially get more of them from Hagatha the Witch in the late game sounds even better.
Finally, a Shaman archetype that shows promise!
Here is a theorycraft of what an Elemental Shaman running Hagatha could look like:
The deck plays the solid Elemental game and has Hagatha to give it more power in the late game. With Earthen Might and Flametongue Totem, perhaps the time is even right for Wax Elemental to see play in Shaman. (Shoutout to my Twitch viewers for the suggestion)
Shudderwock OTK Shaman
While there may be control shells that run Shudderwock, I’m a bit skeptical about those. You need to be careful with your Battlecry effects to make good use of the card, as they are fired off in random order and with random targets.
However, there is one thing Shudderwock can certainly do right now, and that’s one-turn kill.
Here’s what a Shudderwock OTK Shaman could look like:
The OTK combo is set up as follows:
- Play at least one Saronite Chain Gang
- Play at least one Lifedrinker
- Play Murmuring Elemental and Grumble, Worldshaker it back to your hand. It now costs one.
- (Alternative: Reduce the cost of Murmuring Elemental with Fire Plume Harbinger. You still need to play Grumble, Worldshaker before the combo turn, but you can use it on other minions or even on an empty board.)
- Play Murmuring Elemental and Shudderwock for 10 mana.
- You will have at least one 1-mana Shudderwock and one 1-mana Murmuring Elemental in hand. Play Shudderwock the following turn as many times as needed for the kill. Play Murmuring Elemental first on the kill turn unless you have two or more Shudderwocks.
As with all OTK combo decks, the real question is how you survive long enough to complete your combo. The combo pieces are clear and the rest of the deck needs to be filled with removal and card draw suitable for the meta.
What the right mix will be, we do not know yet. Some people are planning to use Bogshaper and Unstable Evolution to tutor for minions from the deck, and many plan to use Sandbinder. Some also try to Discover combo pieces with Blazing Invocation, but the large number of Shaman Battlecry minions makes that unreliable at only around 6% to Discover a specific Shaman Battlecry minion, such as Shudderwock, and 25% to Discover one of the cards used in the combo.
Giant Spellstone Shaman
Perhaps Spellstone Shaman can become a real deck in The Witchwood? The competition loses things, whereas the key combo of Spellstone Shaman remains intact: Snowfury Giant, Ancestral Spirit, and a fully-buffed Lesser Sapphire Spellstone for a board of four 8/8s with Deathrattles to resummon them.
Here is an early theorycraft of what the deck could look like:
It is not good to single-mindedly go for the Giants, when sometimes even Earth Elemental will do.
It remains to be seen whether Control Shaman can make a comeback in this form in the slightly weaker post-rotation meta.
The Shaman Quest, Unite the Murlocs, is still available in Standard, and if the meta slows down a bit, perhaps a board-flooding Murloc Shaman can work. There’s even an Echo Murloc in The Witchwood – Ghost Light Angler!
That said, the Shaman Quest suffers from a fundamental problem: it is meant for an aggressive deck, but that aggressive deck needs to find the time to play a one-mana spell that does nothing early in the game. In a mature meta, it is unlikely that a deck with such a fundamental problem can find success, but perhaps it can get something done in the early days of The Witchwood.
Here’s one board-flooding take on what Murloc Shaman could be like:
It still needs to play the Quest, and its board is fragile, so I have no great expectations for the archetype, even though it has a better chance now than ever before.
The Witchwood brings Shaman hope, that’s for sure. Both new Legendary cards, Hagatha the Witch and Shudderwock, are powerful. One is a value engine, the other is a big swing or potentially a one-turn-kill. Coming from a meta where Shaman has at best been able to defend itself but has not been able to find reliable win conditions – the only real one being getting a good Evolve in the early-midgame – these powerful late game cards could be exactly what Shaman needs.
However, Shaman is also losing most of its own early game and does not get much in return for that phase of the game. Now that it has some value at the top end, can it also still defend itself early on?
I theorycrafted a few Shaman decks for this article: Elemental Shaman, Shudderwock OTK Shaman, Giant Spellstone Shaman, and Murloc Shaman. There are some potential archetypes out there. I think some kind of Elemental Shaman with Hagatha looks the strongest right now, but the power of an OTK combo deck should never be underestimated either. The rest look a little weaker.
What about you? Have you built any potential Shaman decks for The Witchwood yet? You can do so with our deck builder! What Shaman archetypes do you think will be the strongest, and will any of them be fully competitive?