As the great philosopher Socrates once said, hearthstone is fun. But it’s equally true that some cards are clearly better than others, and as a result, there is a very narrow range of decks that you will face on a day-to-day basis.
Net-decking is an easy way to rank, and particularly useful if you are new to the game and wish to learn how deck synergies work.
However, for me at least, much of the game’s fun comes from building exciting decks that no one else is using. Often, this means using bad cards, but hey, it’s all in the interest of fun.
I enjoy playing with bad cards more than good cards, because I’m a masochist. More importantly, playing with damp-squib spells and bum-minions requires developing a fresh and unique play-style. (Plus, when you win with bad cards, it feels like a true victory.)
Here, I decided to take what are arguably Shaman’s two worst cards (in Wild), Far Sight and Ancestor's Call, and try to build an effective deck around them.
I kind of succeeded. Sure, there are far easier ways to get to legend with Shaman (try aggro Shaman or the new Darwin Shaman). However, I tell you, there are zero more entertaining ways.
The aim of the deck is to get your huge minions out as fast as possible. In that sense, this could be considered a “Ramp Shaman” deck, although it also has elements of control.
The deck uses three types of cards:
- The monsters – Your win condition.
- The “ramp” spells – These are Far Sight and Ancestor’s Call. They get your monsters out early.
- The support spells – Removal, healing, and card draw. They allow you to live long enough to overwhelm the enemy with fatties.
The deck is unusual in that it contains 12 huge minions and zero small or medium ones. This may seem excessive — insane even — but it is necessary for the optimal functioning of the ramp spells.
When mulliganing, you should always aim for the ramp spells. If you are fortunate to get Ancestor’s Call pre-mulligan, then you should mulligan out all minions except for the most dangerous ones (eg. Y'Shaarj, Rage Unbound, Soggoth the Slitherer). This will ensure that you summon the scariest possible minion on turn 4.
If you don’t have Ancestor’s Call, it is worth holding onto Ancestral Knowledge (which you should use on turn 2 to increase your chance of getting Ancestor’s Call and a monster in hand by turn 4).
If facing a usually aggro/burn class (Hunter, Paladin, Shaman, Mage), it may be wise to let go of Far Sight and hold onto Healing Wave and Lightning Bolt.
In the early game, try to prevent the enemy board from snowballing too quickly. You’ll want to get rid of escalating minions like Mechwarper and Mana Wyrm before they get out of hand. Do not hesitate to fry them with a Lightning Bolt.
Managing overload will be crucial. You should always plan your next turn in advance. Don’t play Ancestral Knowledge on turn 2 if you plan to use Far Sight on turn 3. Don’t play Lightning Storm on turn 3 if you plan to use Ancestor’s Call on turn 4.
Your win condition will generally consist of overwhelming the enemy with monsters, but in terms of specifics, it will not be the same from game to game. It might be Soggoth the Slitherer locking your opponent down, or Y’Shaarj pulling out monster after monster, or Ysera gradually giving you card advantage, or Malygos + Lightning Bolt, or Foe Reaper 4000 killing all enemy minions, or Deathwing, Dragonlord creating a dragon stampede. You will know what your potential win conditions are as the game progresses, and you will have to adapt your strategy accordingly. That’s one of the challenges of this deck, but also one of the sources of its fun.
You’ll usually be able to stomp all over combo and control opponents, who will give you time to gather your monsters, and then exhaust their removals on the endless stampede, before becoming overwhelmed. Do be careful about using Ancestor’s Call against control decks, though, as there is a higher chance of pulling out a formidable minion from their hand. (Thus, try to only use the card when you have a Hex in hand).
Mid-range and C'Thun decks are 50/50 matchups. It really depends on whether or not you draw Ancestor’s Call and/or Elemental Destruction.
The recent nerf to aggro cards like Arcane Golem and Knife Juggler and the recosting of Big Game Hunter means that playing big minion decks is not as risky as it was. However, aggro/burn decks will still be your hardest matchups, along with Rogue mill decks, and you will have to plan carefully (and draw well) to win.
Another problem will be Secret decks. Against Mage, you may have trouble if they’re running Mirror Entity, because you have no weak minions to play. If you ever find yourself in this situation, you should try to only summon minions using Ancestor’s Call until you have a Hex in hand (and enough mana to use it) so you can immediately neutralise the copied minion. Alternatively, if you have no other minions on the board, but your opponent does, Sylvanas Windrunner would be a good play. If they have no other minions on the board, but you do, Ragnaros the Firelord might be a good choice.
Against Paladin, beware of Repentance. If you suspect your opponent has that dastardly Secret up, play Sneed's Old Shredder, or if they have good minions on the board, Sylvanas. (If you have a handful of dragons, you should obviously play Deathwing, Dragonlord).
Now, let’s take a look at the card choices.
Lightning Bolt – I regard this as a superior spell to Crackle, as in practice costing 1 mana less is better than the potential to do an extra 1-3 damage (which never works out like you want it to). It is best used with Malygos, but can also remove problematic early game minions like Tunnel Trogg and Mana Wyrm.
Ancestral Knowledge – This provides welcome card draw, and increases your chances of getting Ancestor’s Call by turn 4. However, it shouldn’t be played on turn 2 if you have Far Sight in hand.
Lava Shock – This is probably Shaman’s best direct damage spell, not just because it clears your overload, but also because it is the highest damage spell without an overload cost. Try to maximise the number of mana crystals unlocked by playing it after a series of overload spells, or after an Elemental Destruction.
Lightning Storm – Used mainly to clear up tokens, so your big fatties can focus on hitting face or taking out more threatening enemy minions. Not to be used on turn 3 unless absolutely necessary.
Far Sight – As we all know, this is normally a horrendously bad card. It’s probably horrendous in this deck, too. But here it can also sometimes win you the game. There are twelve big minions in this deck, so the chances of drawing one of them with this (and getting to play it 2-3 turns earlier) is about 40% per card. Even if it doesn’t pull a big minion, it will still help to have a cheap spell (such as a 0-mana Healing Wave) in your mana-intensive later turns.
Elemental Destruction – This usually clears a mid-game board (including those of evil Mech Mages), preparing the way for your big minions. The overload cost is ridiculous, so this spell should only be used before a Lava Shock, or when you are absolutely desperate.
Hex – Arguably the best single-target removal in the game. Silences and removes everything, replacing ugly enemies with a cute little frog. The frog can sometimes be a problem in this deck, as you don’t have many ways to deal direct damage, and so will sometimes be forced to trade a big minion into it, essentially wasting their attack that turn. However, the benefit of having a combined silence and removal far outweighs this slight drawback.
Healing Wave – Given the lack of early game minions, this spell is essential for surviving versus aggro. Since 8 mana is the average cost of a minion in this deck, you are almost certain to heal +14 with each use, so it’s best to use it when below 17 Health (but watch out you don’t get OTK’d). Versus control, if your hero is in no immediate danger, Healing Wave can instead be used on one of your monsters.
Ancestor's Call – Like Far Sight, this is generally a terrible card. However, the whole purpose of the deck is built round it. And it certainly has its benefits. The fact that it puts your opponent’s minion into the battlefield is often considered a big negative, but it can also draw out minions without their Battlecries (such as Ironbeak Owl, Antique Healbot, etc), depriving your opponent of options. Plus, if this card gets Y’Shaarj or Soggoth out on turn 4, it’s gg.
Emperor Thaurissan – Since you have so many costly legendaries in this deck, the Emperor will allow you to play them a turn (or maybe two) earlier, and open up combos such as Malygos + Lightning Bolt + Lava Shock. Unfortunately, Thaurissan cannot make this deck financially cheaper.
Sylvanas Windrunner – You will already have heard a lot about the Banshee Queen, and for good reason, because she’s one of the best legendaries in the game, messing with your opponent’s head and forcing them to make awkward trades. Great with Ancestor’s Call as she will immediately threaten to steal the minion pulled from your opponent’s hand.
Chillmaw – The Frosty One has Taunt, so she will cool the heat of aggro and burn decks. What’s more, she’ll often clear the board when she dies, taking out armies of Grim Patrons and Quartermastered Silver Hand Recruits. Finally, being a Dragon, she can be summoned for free by Deathwing, Dragonlord.
Foe Reaper 4000 – This cyber-scarecrow is adorable, and I always wanted to use him, but in traditional decks he is far too slow. Here, however, he works well. Since he has 9 health and is immune to Big Game Hunter, if you get him out on turn 4, he will often boss the board for a few turns, eradicating your opponent’s board presence and winning you the game.
Ragnaros the Firelord – A living apocalypse whose name you will know well. If you get him out with Ancestor’s Call, he might just destroy the enemy minion drawn out by the spell. If not, he’ll take out another enemy, or blast the face.
Chromaggus – Solid card-draw engine who will panic your opponent and force them to react. He also combos with Ancestral Knowledge and Far Sight (though in the latter case the copied card does not get the cost reduction). Most importantly, Chromaggus is a Dragon, so he improves the consistency of Chillmaw and Deathwing, Dragonlord.
Sneed's Old Shredder – Death machine that can win trades with Loatheb and Thaurissan, and if it isn’t silenced or transformed, will require a minimum of two removal spells/trades from your opponent. Sure, the minion it gives might be Sir Finley Mrrgglton. But it might also be…
Soggoth the Slitherer – This hunky heart-throb is probably the most durable minion in the game, and highly unlikely to be removed within a single turn. If you manage to get him out on turn 4 (with Ancestor’s Call) or turn 6 (with Far Sight), it’s probably gg. If you get him out on turn 9, or turn 10 (with Y’Shaarj), it’s probably still gg.
Malygos – There are several reasons for including Malygos here. Firstly, he is a Dragon, so makes Chillmaw and Deathwing, Dragonlord better. Secondly, his stats mean he is hard to kill. Finally, he massively improves your board clears and burn spells. You shouldn’t really use him with Elemental Destruction unless you absolutely have to, as it will do 9-10 damage to Malygos himself.
Ysera – The Queen of the Emerald Dream has the same durable stats as Malygos, is also a Dragon, and gives you great cards for this deck like a 5 damage board clear and yet another Dragon. If she remains on the board for longer than a couple turns, which is often the case, she’ll also give you victory.
Y'Shaarj, Rage Unbound – The “Rage Unbound” refers to the salt of your opponents when they concede. This is the minion you want to aim for with Far Sight and Ancestor’s Call, and he comes out on turn 4 more often than you’d think (in every case, winning the game). Unfortunately, minions he pulls out don’t get to use their end-of-turn effects on the turn they are summoned. But it usually doesn’t matter: whatever minion he pulls out will be a nightmare for your opponent, along with Y’Shaarj himself, and most opponents won’t be able to deal with both in the same turn. He also sounds like he is literally going to rip out your opponent’s spine and stab them with it.
Deathwing, Dragonlord – A 12/12 like this guy will win pretty much every trade, and seriously hurt the face. But that’s not the only reason he’s here. The real reason is that there are 4 other big Dragons in this deck, so Deathwing will usually summon at least one of them when he dies (as long as you don’t play your Dragons before then). If he pulls out two Dragons, your opponent will have a hard time removing them both. And if he pulls out three, it’s time to emote “well played”.
This is one hell of an expensive deck, and most of you will be missing cards. If this is the case, you should try to retain the ratio of 40% big monsters and 60% spells, to ensure optimal functioning of the ramps.
The cards that are essential to the deck are Ancestor’s Call, Healing Wave, and of course big monsters. Far Sight is a sub-par card that doesn’t need to be in the deck, but I wanted to include it for fun. If you want to make the deck more competitive, swap out Far Sight with one of the cards listed below.
As for the monsters, I playtested this deck with almost every viable legendary, and found that the twelve I eventually chose are the most effective. But there are others that worked, which I have included below:
Reincarnate – Since this is a combo card, it would be unwise to add two to this deck. But one might prove effective, and more importantly, entertaining. It can heal your damaged minions, unsilence your silenced minions, and unbuff buffed enemies. It also combos with many of the big legendaries: Sylvanas, to steal an enemy minion; Sneed’s, to give yourself a free legendary; Chillmaw, to trigger a 3 damage board clear; Deathwing, Dragonlord to play all dragons from hand; Kel'Thuzad, to create another Kel’Thuzad; and Al'Akir the Windlord to turn him into a Mega-Windfury ninja-assassin with two Divine Shields.
Crackle – Some people despise this card because of the heavily RNG damage range, and I am one of them. However, in the absence of other cards, it can be used as a 3-4 damage spell (4-5 with Wrath of Air Totem), and will rarely disappoint. Plus, with Malygos it will do 8-11 damage for 2+1 mana. Not too shabby.
Feral Spirit – Although power creep of early game minions has reduced the effectiveness of this card, it is still good at stalling the enemy, if used prudently. Against aggro or zoo, this is best coined out on turn 2. Although doing this will shut down your turn 3, the wolves are most effective as early in the game as possible, as they can stop aggro and zoo from snowballing out of control. Coining it out on turn 2 will also leave your turn 4 free to play Ancestor’s Call. Against control decks, the wolves are best used to create late-game speed-bumps, making it harder for enemies to destroy your monsters, or your face.
Flamewreathed Faceless – A 7/7 on turn 4 is pretty damn good, though the overload can hurt. Fortunately, if the Faceless is summoned using Ancestor’s Call or Y’Shaarj, you won’t have to pay the overload cost. If you don’t have any Facelesses, you could always use Earth Elemental instead, which costs more but has +1 Health and Taunt.
Doomhammer – This fabled weapon would be a solid choice in this deck as it’s great for removing tokens and frog taunts, leaving your monsters to get busy beating face. A natural addition if you’re also using Rockbiter Weapon (and Al’Akir).
Cairne Bloodhoof – A trusty minion that is really two minions, each of which can take out two Piloted Shredders or Azure Drakes. Although pulling him with Ancestor’s Call isn’t the greatest value play, his ability to destroy most early minions means he’ll certainly help with mid-game board control.
Troggzor the Earthinator – Although this guy is seldom seen in decks, he is rather underrated. Even if he is immediately removed with a spell, he will summon a 3/5 minion that immediately pressures the opponent. And if he isn’t removed, he’ll lock down your opponent’s spell-casting or overwhelm the board with dangerous mid-game minions.
Baron Geddon – If you are facing a lot of token spam, tech this bad boy in. He’ll keep the board clear of little guys, so your other monsters can focus on destroying more worthy foes.
Kel'Thuzad – Although the unhinged necromancer is ineffective on an empty board, he’ll increase your opponent’s heart-rate if summoned by Y’Shaarj, or behind Soggoth. He is, however, best played on a turn in which you destroy one of your own minions in a trade.
Al'Akir the Windlord – One of the most versatile minions in the game, who can be used as a board clear, a hard Taunt, and a finisher. He proved effective in the deck, and I would’ve loved to keep him around, but there just wasn’t enough room. He works well with Ancestor’s Call as he can attack twice straight away, oftentimes removing the enemy minion that was drawn out. He can also take out multiple small minions, which this deck sometimes has difficulty with. If adding him, it may be a good idea to throw in a Rockbiter Weapon, so he can also function as a Hero-killer.
This deck is not built to win tournaments. It will take time to get to grips with, and you will lose games.
With that said, I think you’ll be surprised by how effective it is when used well, and with enough time and skill you can even use it to rank.
I have been playing the deck for a while now, and feel it is well-refined. However, if you have any suggestions to improve the deck, or any crazy stories about games with it, I would love to hear them.
In any case, I hope this deck will inspire you to take a look at bad cards in your collection, and make them awesome.