June 9, 2015
Table of Contents
Weekly Legends: Hotform’s Old School Shaman
Today, we are taking a trip back into the past – way back in the past. We’re going back to the days when Fight Night was still alive, and Goblins and Gnomes were not even a thought. Why? Because the deck-list I am going to talk about today, while incorporating some new cards, is mainly created from the Shaman decks of old. Instead of trying to play with fancy cards like Piloted Shredder or Sludge Belcher, this deck runs a lot the cards that made the classic Shaman so good. Feral Spirit, Flametongue Totem and Mana Tide Totem are all on display, and they come together to make a very strong, cohesive deck. It even has Bloodlust as the finisher of choice.
Hotform ran this deck to legend last season, and I have been shredding up the ladder with only six losses between rank 9 and 2. While it may seem midrange, this deck is a control deck that is completely focused on board control. Games will go long. You’ll want to clear when you can, and it is built in such a way that once you have the board, you will never give it back. The deck is filled with a bunch of very resilient minions, and it does a nice job of keeping your side filled. Dr. Boom and Feral Spirit are also great ways to rebound from board wipes. The Shaman hero power is incredibly strong, and another reason this deck is so good. In a deck that always needs something on board (for things like Defender of Argus and Flametongue Totem), totems are going to allow you to win many games you normally wouldn’t.
The Hero Power
I know this isn’t a card, but it is hard to understand this deck without knowing just how strong the Shaman hero power is. Patience is the key to this deck. As such, you will spend many, many turns simply making totems even though you can do other things. The old mantra of “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should” is the most important mindset to have when playing this deck. Just because you can play Dr. Boom or something like a Feral Spirit, doesn’t mean it is the correct play. Often, simply making a totem and planning for future turns is better (i.e not playing a turn seven drake so you can play it with Lightning Storm on turn eight). Those are the kind of plays you’ll have to prepare for when you play this deck at the highest level.
Remember, if you always have something on board, it is very hard to lose with this deck. The totems allow this to happen, and can be paired in so may ways. They are never dead. Each totem gives you extra, free value and they should be treated as such. While in the early game you always want to be dropping something like Haunted Creeper, Nerubian Egg or Zombie Chow, in the later turns you ‘ll want to try and sneak a totem onto the board whenever you can.
Another card this deck could not work without, Nerubian Egg is one of the most unfair cards in the deck. It gives you an insane amount of value and versatility. A deck like this (which uses a finisher like Bloodlust) always wants to have minions on the board. As such, you want to constantly play around sweepers by using either resilient minions or holding back things like Feral Spirit and Dr. Boom. I bring up the egg, because it is another tool to discourage AOE. In an aggro deck like Zoo (or when playing an aggro deck like Zoo) the egg is there to be popped early and often. However, in this deck you actually want the egg to sit on the board as a way to discourage wipes like Consecration or Blade Flurry (in fact this is one of the best tools against Rogue). The egg allows you to run out more minions than you normally would, which is why it’s more important as an 0/2 than a 4/4. Yes, sometimes you will be able to Flametongue it for huge value (like against Mech Mage or Druid) but for the most part, the egg sits on the board and exists to make the opponent think about their plays just a little bit more.
The Wolves are back, and more feral than ever. This card is perhaps the most crucial card in the deck. The reason being that it is good at every single stage of the game. Not only does it give you some much needed taunts against aggressive decks, it also puts things on the board, helps you build control and is one of the best early games plays in the meta.
The most important use for the Wolves (aside from putting out a gigantic amount of board presence on turn three) is to refill the board after your opponent uses AOE. A lot of this deck is baiting out AOE, and the wolves allow you to do that with just one card. Feral Spirit combined with a single totem instantly puts three minions on the field, and the fact that two of those minions are 2/3’s is more than enough to put you ahead.
Mana Tide Totem
Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you. There are two Mana Tide Totems in this list. Do not run one. I know it may be tempting, but it truly is not worth it. I will explain this card in the exact same way that Hotform did. It is the best card draw in the game. Yes, most of the time the totem will only draw one card, but if unanswered there is no cap on the amount of cards you can draw. It is the only card in the game that does this. However, what is also important is that, even if it does only draw one card, Mana Tide has to answered. This is the reason that this card is truly worth two slots. If your opponent spends a turn removing the totem early, you still have priority, they used removal, and you didn’t even spend a card. It doesn’t get any better than that.
The one finisher to rule them all, Bloodlust is a card that has seen fringe play in gimmicky decks from time to time. However, I’m telling you that this card is no gimmick. It is the way most games end, and it is a complete surprise that no one sees coming. You only want to run one, as two can really bog down your hand, but the reach this card gives pushes this from a good deck to a top tier one. Bloodlust is only really good when you have minions on the board, but this deck, if you’re playing it right, will always have minions. It also turns a board of 1/1s and some totems into fifteen plus points of damage that no one ever plays around. Don’t forget to play to this card, and push for damage if you want to set up lethal next turn.
Did somebody call the doctor? (no not Voodoo Doctor?!) I am not including Dr. Boom in this section to discuss how good he is. Everyone already knows that. Rather, I am including him to say that he operates exactly like Feral Spirit does more than as a giant finisher. More often than not, you don’t just want to slam Boom. Rather, you want to wait until your opponent has used a board clear before dropping him. Of course, he does really well following a Fire Elemental, but it is important to remember you don’t just play cards because you can. Patience is the ultimate virtue with this deck, and Boom is a great exercise in this. The only time I will slam him down regardless of board is when I’m pushing for lethal: the Boombots love to hit my opponent’s face.
If my record with this deck is any inclination, there are only two really bad match-ups: Demonlock and Face Hunter. However, the popularity of those decks has died of late. Here’s a breakdown the five decks that I encounter most on ladder:
Much to my chagrin, Hunter still pops up now and then. It is a deck that you need to be ready for, because if you aren’t you will quickly lose. Starting with minions is much more important that removal. If you don’t have early drops (like Zombie Chow or Haunted Creeper) always mulligan away things like Lightning Bolt or Rockbiter Weapon in order to find them. Anytime you face a Hunter, you have to assume it’s Midrange. For this reason, Hex is also a good keep for Savannah Highmane, but only if you have some other early action.
I have yet to lose to a Druid, and that is because this match-up is very favored. If you just play out your minions, Defender and Flametongue your totems, and use removal, you are very unlikely to lose. Druids have a very hard time dealing with swarms of small minions, and a deck that can reliably play one every turn is just a nightmare for them. Crackle should exclusively be used for midgame threats like Druid of the Claw, Sludge Belcher, Ancient of Lore, because Hex needs to be reserved for bigger threats like Sylvanas Windrunner, Ancient of War and Dr. Boom.
One last note: If you have a turn one or two play, always keep Mana Tide Totem to run out on turn three. This is a tempo play that will basically win you the game. If they spend their turn four killing a 0/3 that didn’t even cost you a card they will fall pretty far behind.
While not completely favored, the only loss I have to Oil Rogue was to some wise-guy playing Malygos. Feral Spirit, Haunted Creeper and Nerubian Egg are the best cards in this match-up. The Egg, especially when placed behind taunts, really shuts down their board wipes. Creeper does a good job of this as well. On the other hand, the Wolves force really awkward removal, such as an early Blade Flurry or Eviscerate. The main goal of this match-up is, as always, to keep your health up, make them answer your threats, and always remove their minions.
Lightning Bolt and Rockbiter Weapon are must keeps here, as you always want to be able to kill off a turn three Earthen Ring Farseer or SI:7 Agent. Keeping their board clear is also a good way to make sure they can’t shut you down with Loatheb.
Though not quite as popular as it used to be, Mech Mage is a deck that like Hunter, you need to be ready for. This is another matchup that falls greatly in your favor. Mech Mage is a deck that does not do well with swarms of minions, and Zombie Chow or an early Haunted Creeper/Flametongue Totem combo will take the board and never give it back. Feral Spirit is amazing here, and Defender of Argus serves as a way to both stop aggro and buff your minions to kill off their creatures.
Similar to Rogue, it is always a good idea to keep Lightning Bolt or Rockbiter Weapon as these kill Mechwarper. Hex is at a premium in this match, and should only be saved for their huge minions such as Dr. Boom, Archmage Antonidas and Piloted Sky Golem.
Though Control Paladin is a relic that has long been lost to the sands of time, Midrange (now with more Quartermasters) is most certainly not. This is a 50/50 match-up that comes down to a couple of key cards. Lightning Storm is extremely important, as the way you lose most games is through them buffing their recruits. Fire Elemental is also extremely strong, and kills most of their mid game threats. Here, you want to play as a strict control deck, taking away their minions while adding to your own board. They will use Consecration, but if they have to do it on a board full of 1/3 totems, Haunted Creepers and Nerubian Eggs, you will most likely win the game.
As always, I will start out by going over the “always keep” cards you want to mulligan for. These are Zombie Chow and Haunted Creeper. Nerubian Egg gets added to this list if you also have a Rockbiter Weapon or Flametongue Totem to go with it.
Feral Spirit is an auto keep against Druid and any aggro class such as Hunter or Mage. I will keep Mana Tide Totem against most control classes (Paladin, Priest, Druid) but only if I have something to play on turn two before it. A general mulligan rule is to always get rid of anything that costs four or more, even when you have The Coin. You need to start your curve early with this deck, and keeping high cost cards is not in line with this plan.
Unless you’re playing Mech Mage or Rogue, it is never right to keep Lightning Bolt or Rockbiter Weapon. I will also never keep Hex unless I’m playing against Midrange Hunter, and even then you need to have something to play on turn one or two to make it worthwhile. Flametongue Totem is only kept with the Egg or a Creeper. The last thing I will say about mulliganing, besides to always aggressively try to find your early threats, is never keep Earth Shock or Crackle. Both of those cards are exclusively for the mid game, and are not worth having early.
As always, thanks for reading/watching Weekly Legends. I hope you guys are enjoying the series, and until next week, when we finally explore what Rogue can do, may you always start the game with Zombie Chow.