November 11, 2016
Table of Contents
Aggro/Tempo Shaman Guide: The Art of Going Face
Aggro Shaman was one of the most powerful decks in the past, with cards at over-the-top power levels like Tuskarr Totemic and Rockbiter Weapon that eventually got nerfed to tone down the dominance of the deck. Most people then moved on to Mid Range Shaman and the aggro Shaman decks eventually died down in the meta with so much weapon removal floating around making it hard for the deck to be effective. When the season started some pro players gave the deck a shot yet again with some tweaks and it seemed to be working quite well.
One of the major reasons why the deck is so good right now is due to the fact that people have stopped running tech cards for Flamewreathed Faceless like Mulch due to the popularity of Mid Range Shaman, or simply have stopped mulliganing for the hallowed 4 mana 7/7. It is one of the strongest plays you have on curve and it can really deal some massive damage across the turns if left unchecked. Recently Zalae hit legend with a no Flamewreathed Faceless version of the deck that has a lot more draw power to avoid running out of steam and relying on topdecks to finish off the opponent. I will put up the decklist in a separate section to help you choose between a number of builds. Let’s head to the card choices section of the deck and move onto the subsequent sections to get accustomed to the deck.
Let’s go through the generic inclusions in the deck before moving on to unorthodox inclusions and tech cards in the following section that pro players like Zalae and Astrogation have tried out in their lists.
Argent Squire: A perfect tool for putting in some chip damage and allowing you to have some resilience to clears. It is very good with cards like Flametongue Totem and allows you to clear off low health minions as well in conjunction with your other cards. It is also good for filling up overloaded turns, allowing you to develop it when you have very little mana to work with.
Lightning Bolt: One of the multiple spells that double up as both removal and burn. It is perfect for controlling the board in the early game so that you can get in repeated damage with your board, and it can also be used for finishing off your opponent when he gets low on health. It is effectively a 2 mana spell that deals 3 damage but the cost is distributed across two turns.
Spirit Claws: Since we run the spell damage package and have 3 minions that buff the attack of this weapon along with your hero power that can potentially bring out Wrath of Air Totem for buffing the weapon. The card is particularly good for dealing with enemy early game and clearing out low health minions, it can also be used as an aggressive tool allowing you to deal a maximum of 9 damage from each of the Spirit Claws.
Tunnel Trogg: The card that made Aggro Shaman exist in the first place, it is a great minion for developing massive amounts of pressure against any deck at all. If left unchecked it can deal more than 10 damage alone in any game. With so many taunts available in the deck Tunnel Trogg can evade weapon kills and keep pushing in massive amounts of damage. It can also value trade with 3 and 4 drops if it gets big enough, allowing you to shut down their tempo.
Bloodmage Thalnos: Thalnos has a lot of synergy with the deck and it’s extremely powerful. You can save it as a guaranteed source of spell damage to burst down your opponent after assembling burn spells in your hand and shooting more than 10 damage in one turn with the help of Bloodmage Thalnos. You can drop it when you have a bad hand to cycle through to your other cards or drop it to get value out of your Spirit Claws and clear a threatening minion. It is one of the most used legendaries in the game right now and if you do not have him, I heavily recommend making him due to the sheer number of decks he is used in right now.
Flametongue Totem: One of the most powerful totems in the whole game, being able to push out 4 damage instantly if you have 2 minions on board or simply using it for trading up with big threats on board makes it a valuable card. Board positioning in the deck is extremely crucial because of this one card and you need to place your minions to get the most value out of Flametongue Totem even when you don’t have it in hand. You always need to position your minions correctly because it often happens that you topdeck the card and end up being in an awkward spot and make incorrect trades.
Maelstrom Portal: With spell damage synergy in the deck, including 2 copies of this cheap AoE spell to preserve your board state is an absolute necessity. Unlike other Shaman AoEs, you do not have to worry about overload and it is a disposable card as well since you can use it to generate a 1 mana minion versus decks that are extremely reactive in nature to keep applying pressure. A lot of people save it strictly for AoE but against certain decks you almost never get value out of Maelstrom Portal and you can use one of them for board presence if your board state is looking weak. It is quite good against one of the known bad matchups for the deck as well – Zoolock, allowing you to combat the deck quite easily.
Rockbiter Weapon: I’ll be honest when it comes to this card, it does not feel as strong as it used to be as a removal spell. Its primary usage is with Doomhammer, allowing you to push massive amounts of burst damage through the Windfury effect. While the mana increase does not feel too relevant with the Doomhammer combo, it does feel slow when using it as a removal spell on turn 2 or later unless you have a lot of floating mana.
Totem Golem: A card that felt too slow at launch due to the other weaknesses of Shaman as a class, is not one of the most hated card in the game due to the fact you have a lot of other early game cards that support the inclusion of Totem Golem in every Shaman deck. It is a very strong card and allows you to have synergy with cards like Tunnel Trogg and Thing from Below.
Argent Horserider: A resilient Divine Shield minion that allows you to get some chip damage in and it’s very hard to deal with for non ping classes and requires multiple resources to be deal with more often than not. It is very good with Flametongue Totem, allowing you to get an instant 4 damage in to the enemy health pool or to kill off a 4 HP minion.
Feral Spirit: One of the strongest Shaman class cards and it lets you put out 4/6 worth of taunts for 3 mana and 2 overload. It is your strongest play on turn 3 and it is a great follow-up to Tunnel Trogg, allowing the 1 drop to hit face repeatedly against board heavy decks and be protected by the Spirit Wolves.
Lava Burst: One of your finisher spells that can also double up as removal. Unless you are behind or have very high level threats to deal with, the spell almost always goes face. The deck is designed to push out a lot of damage in the early game and Lava Burst helps you close out the game quite efficiently.
Flamewreathed Faceless: It is your biggest minion and it’s very hard to deal with on curve for most decks. Even if you are able to connect face with one of these for full damage, you are most likely going to win the game. The card is particularly good against Druid, which happens to be a popular class right now.
Azure Drake: Azure Drake has great synergy with your other spells and buffs up your Spirit Claws as well. It is perfect for cycling through your deck and being able to draw into answers or threats through the card, while also having great spell synergies makes Azure Drake and extremely popular card. It is the most played rare card in the game right now due to the dual value it offers and it fits right into the Spirit Claws version of Aggro Shaman.
Doomhammer: Doomhammer is one of the most aggressive weapons in the game even though it’s so high costed. The ability to combo it with Rockbiter Weapon allows you to push anything between 10 to 16 damage in one turn depending on how many Rockbiters you use with the weapon. A great thing about the deck is that it is very resilient to weapon removal and you can almost always bait out removal through Spirit Claws before proceeding to push out massive damage with Doomhammer. Even without the Rockbiter combo you can dish out 4 damage every turn for 4 turns in a row. It’s not only good for pressure but I also helps you take out multiple minions against decks that flood the board allowing your minion to be preserved.
Thing From Below: While we do not have as much totem synergy as Mid Range decks do, it’s still a great performer in the deck. I was heavily skeptical about the card in this deck but it worked out just fine for me.
Unbound Elemental: A good card to include in any overload heavy deck. While it is quite bad when you are topdecking, but when you have follow ups or drop it on curve it can be really good in the deck. The first legend on NA this season used Unbounds in his list and they performed quite great. I have tinkered with the card quite a bit and have found a lot of success with it but there are times it just fizzles.
Lightning Storm: More of a meta call and I recommend running it to beat Shamans and Zoo if you happen to be facing them a lot these days like most people. With so many 3 HP minions floating around, Maelstrom alone doesn’t quite cut it and Lightning Storm helps out a lot with that.
Hex: One of the strongest spot removals in the game and if you happen to be facing beefy cards like Ancient of War or lategame heavy decks a lot then you can consider running it depending on whether you want to go for an attrition based build with more board presence or a full on face plan and lots of burst.
Ragnaros the Firelord: Ragnaros in Aggro Shaman? Yes! In the tempo style decklist I’ve posted below it does a great job in the lategame should games go too far. An Ukranian redditor used the deck in Aggro Shaman and hit top 1 legend in the early days this season. The decklist sacrifices one Doomhammer and Rockbiter weapon to fit in Ragnaros and more board presence in the deck. It is meant for more tempo style decks and definitely does not go into the all out aggression gameplan.
Statistics and Deck Variations
I got my last 35 stars for the Legend climb this season with the main decklist and maintained a winrate of almost 80%. Although, it was early in the season and I did face a lot of lower ranked players by up to 7 ranks, which won’t be the case if you climb at this time of the season.
These decks have all been used to hit at least rank 8 Legend on either NA or EU this season by professional players and ladder grinders. I myself used the main decklist to hit #12 legend before climbing to top 10 with Handlock this season. Check them out and let me know what you think about them, they are all tried and tested variations that worked well for them at top legend ranks. The surprise factor of the decklists does help out a lot since the meta is mostly centered around Mid Range Shaman and not aggro variants.
Aggro Shaman in Wild
Here are is a Wild decklist I used to hit Rank 3 so far in just 3 days of casually playing the format. The deck has been performing quite well. I also have a sideboard deck for this list with Piloted Shredder in place of Flamewreathed Faceless. I have yet to come to a conclusion which 4 drops is better because the matchups have been very spread out and the meta is not very stable so far till rank 3 and i am facing all kinds of decks with no clear dominant decks.
Mulligans and Tips
Like most aggressive decks you want to keep your 1 and 2 drops always in hand and only keep bigger minions only with a great curve. Here are the cards you should be looking for:
- Argent Squire
- Tunnel Trogg
- Totem Golem
- Spirit Claws
- Feral Spirit (with coin and 1-2 drops)
- Flamewreathed Faceless (against Druid, Tempo Mage with early drops)
- Doomhammer (against Warrior and Priest)
- Flametongue Totem (with a perfect curve leading to Feral Spirit on turn 3)
Here are some tips I would like to highlight based on my own experiences during my climb to Legend.
- Trade when necessary but do not try to get into the attrition game for too long because you will eventually not be able to out-value your opponents.
- Try to bait out weapon removal Spirit Claws to make sure your Doomhammer gets maximum value.
- Don’t play too hard into cards like Revenge or other AoEs without having any sort of follow-up. However, if you can make reads that your opponent does not have AoE, you can afford to go all in.
- Save burst spells in hand instead of throwing them at your opponent every turn. Saving a small combo with Thalnos or a Wrath of Air totem helps out a lot.
- Make changes to your deck based on your matchups, a simple inclusion of a removal or AoE can can make big differences.
- Keep counting your total burst damage and outs when you fall behind to make your decision-making easier when it comes to using burn spells on minions.
Spell/Malygos Druid: Malygos Druid and Token Druid are quite easy matchups. Since most of them do not run Mulch anymore, at least that’s what I experienced – Flamewreathed Faceless becomes the MVP in the deck and it can deal some serious damage to Druid players. The only way you lose is through crazy Innervate turns or if you have a bad board in the early turns. They almost never have clean answers to most of your threats, allowing you to speed through the matchup and dispatch them in less turns than usual.
Control Warrior: This matchup can be quite difficult if they are C’thun Warrior but N’zoth or Classic Control lists are not very hard. Their best chance at a comeback against your burst is by getting the board stabilized and dropping Justicar Trueheart early enough to push out of contention. The good thing about this matchup is that both Mid Range Shaman and Aggro Shaman nearly the exact same cards, so they focus more on controlling the board and tend to be negligent towards their health pool allowing you to burst them down before they realize you are Aggro Shaman. The only dead giveaway is the Flamewreathed Faceless, which by the way if not removed can win you the game outright in cases.
Secret Hunter: Aggro Secret Hunter is not big of a threat and you can race them quite easily thanks to the massive wall of taunts you can create and the burst damage you have access to. However, if Mid Range lists stabilize or taunt up with Houndmaster it can get very difficult for you due to spot removals like Hex not being present in most Aggro Shaman decklists. You need to be extremely aggressive in the matchup and burst them down before they can start pushing out their big minions. I did not face Mid Range Hunters (non secret versions) at all and all of my encounters were against secret decks. If you face Mid Range lists a lot, please let me know how the matchup fares for you.
Zoolock: Zoolock is an even matchup in my experience and having the board tempo in your favor can win your games. With tools like Spirit Claws and Maelstrom Portal being in the bag for dealing with their board flood, this historically bad matchup isn’t as bad as it was before and you can apply some serious pressure. Make sure you do not get punished by things like Defender of Argus and always keep their best possible plays in mind before making yours.
Rogue: Both Malygos Rogue and Miracle Rogue are extremely favored for you since they do not have any form of lifegain or taunts to keep your board in check. The only card you need to think about is Sap and having follow ups to sapped Flamewreathed Faceless is a must, else you will lose tempo heavily. The only way they can win is by beating you in tempo and setting up a massive Edwin VanCleef, other than that it’s as easy as it gets and they will not be able to stop you from killing them in less than 7 turns most of the time.
Tempo Mage: It’s a favored matchup for the deck since they do not run weapon removal, heal or taunts. The board heavy versions with Water Elemental can get problematic but the burn version of the deck is much more popular and you should not have too much trouble against the deck in general as long as you do not let their 1-3 mana minions stick on the board.
Freeze Mage: A favored matchup for the deck yet again. While Mid Range Shaman struggles against Freeze, you will have a much easier time since you are not completely reliant on your board and have plenty of burn damage and weapons to proc their secrets and force them into less than optimal plays to survive.
Paladin: Aggro Paladin will never be a problem if you have early game because Maelstrom Portal is extremely powerful against them and you will be able to zerg them down without issues. However, against control decks it’s a race to turn 8 because that is when they drop their comeback 8 drops and you want to kill them off before that. Managing your burst damage is extremely crucial and you do not want to take them to low health with all of your burn and then get punished by their healing. Planning two turn lethal can be really tricky and you need to approach the matchup carefully even though it is favored for you.
Priest: Priest is an extremely favored matchup since you can burst them down even if you lose the board. The presence of 4 health minions in the deck also tips the matchup in your favor and allows you to push insane amounts of damage against them.
Mid Range Shaman: Since they have so much AoE removal you need to be extremely aggressive. Most of these decks also run weapon removal so it is correct to bait it out before picking up the Doomhammer to burst them down. It is definitely one of the tougher matchups for the deck but it is definitely winnable on a consistent basis if you play it right. Since you have a lot more aggression you will be able to close out games with your burn damage and weapons before they are able to bulk up their board and kill you. Do not trade unless it is absolutely necessary and try to push in as much damage as possible by turn 4 or 5.
Ladder Experience and Closing Thoughts
I believe it’s a really powerful deck in the meta with multiple pro players using it to top legend ranks despite Mid Range Shaman being the king of the meta. Despite all of the nerfs, all matchups are winnable if you have the right aggressive start and follow ups in the mid game. Try out all of the variants of the deck posted above and let me know which one works out the best for you. I’ve been having a whole lot fun climbing ranks with the main decklist and a huge shoutout to Sempok for helping me out with the Wild decklists and for working on the Standard list which he hit #1 Legend with on NA! I’ve used the deck in Wild to get some quick gold for the new expansion and the decklists have been performing quite well. I’ve been alternating between the 2 Wild lists I posted and have hit Rank 3 so far while the primary decklist took me to a peak of Rank 12 legend on Standard.
Let me know how you do with the decklists, looking forward to hear from you and if you have any queries, feel free to ask me in the comments below!