Hey, guys. It’s RaFive. Today we’re switching things up a little and talking about a class I haven’t covered yet: Shaman.
Shaman rates fairly low in the power rankings lately because of its bad Hunter matchup. Combine that with the bad taste left in the mouth after the horde of Sea Giant Shaman bots on ladder a few months back, and it’s no wonder Shaman’s not getting a whole lot of love lately.
After the GvG release, however, the metagame has significantly diversified, with long-languishing underperformers like Mage and Paladin finally getting a chance to shine. This has made it such that balanced, consistent decks can still get traction on ladder, even if they have a popular, suboptimal matchup. Enter Shaman! (It’s also no coincidence that this article comes out right as Thrall gets his release in Heroes of the Storm.)
For F2Pers, Shaman has long been a popular choice because of its strong, inexpensive class cards and solid, midrangey build. Fellow player WaningMoon recently placed first in the GosuCup Budget #10 with the deck I’m covering today — no epics, no legendaries, and just over one thousand dust to craft from scratch! It’s a lovely, well-tuned deck that’s ideal for laddering and easily expandable to fit the rarer cards in your collection, plus it just feels cool to play something called the “Thousand Dust Shaman.” Let’s dive in.
The most surprising thing to note about this deck is its lack of surprises. From beginning to end, it has “midrange” written all over, with a good curve, well-valued minions, a nice mix of removal and minion beef, and just one tiny bit of cheese via Bloodlust. It’s pretty much what you’d get if you told someone to sculpt a Shaman.
The impressive part here isn’t the innovation; it’s the execution. Zombie Chow, Rockbiter Weapon, Feral Spirit, Haunted Creeper, and Lightning Storm all shine against aggression, with Antique Healbot to stabilize if necessary. On the flip side, Hex, Mana Tide Totem, and Fire Elemental are all strong cards versus control. The deck also runs a lot of cards that can flexibly perform against aggression or control in a pinch, like Sludge Belcher and Lightning Bolt (can be strong against early aggression, or can be combined with Azure Drake as later-game burst or removal). Last but not least, Defender of Argus, Flametongue Totem, and Bloodlust all supercharge your totems and tokens for maximum board manipulation.
All in all, like I said, it’s an unsurprisingly-built but surprisingly well-tuned midrange Shaman. It has heals, draw, removal, and minions, in all the right places!
How to Play
Mulligan is important but matchup-dependent; you must have a sense of which cards in your deck are strong in which particular matchups. Never hold anything 3-cost or higher except Lightning Storm against aggression (Hunter and Zoo, typically), and typically don’t hold Flametongue Totem, either, unless you’re going second and have Haunted Creeper. Always hold Zombie Chow. Earth Shock is a great hold against Deathrattle aggression, but its silence is better saved versus control. Rockbiter Weapon is flexible here and not being saved as burst for Doomhammer or Al'Akir the Windlord, so use them freely — it’s great for tempo and plays head games with opponents who aren’t expecting you to have so many attack buffs.
Play is pretty straightforward. Because of Bloodlust, totems, Defender of Argus, and relatively late card draw, this is a deck that wants to stay in control of the board, so focus on clearing with efficient trades and judicious use of Hex and Earth Shock. Use your mana as efficiently as possible, and totem frequently (generally, at minimum it should be any time you have 2 mana and your opponent’s board is clear). Ovextension is your greatest bane — know what AoE removal is being run in which decks and play as conservatively as possible while still keeping pressure up; play with this deck is more reactive than most. Be particularly careful with when you roll out Antique Healbot, as it’s your only life gain.
Matchups are excellent for a completely F2P deck, and solid all-around since this is a well-tuned midrange list. My favorite part of this deck is that with Hex
, Sludge Belcher
, and Fire Elemental
, this deck is just about the cheapest way you can absolutely ruin a Control Warrior’s day. There’s just something incredibly gratifying about using 1,000 dust to take a 12,000 dust deck apart once piece at a time. Mech-Mage is another annoying, popular deck that crumbles between the utility, sweepers, and superior board control of Thousand Dust Shaman. There’s also an advantage in that Shaman just isn’t played much on ladder, currently, and most decks are not teched to respond to this deck’s most powerful plays.
The weak matchup for this deck is, predictably, Hunter. With Unleash the Hounds and Explosive Trap popular in the current metagame and lots of 0-attack 2-health tokens on your side of the board, Hunter can wreck you if you don’t draw into Zombie Chow, Earth Shock, Rockbiter Weapon, and most importantly Lightning Storm. Note, however, that you DO have all the necessary answers to Hunter in the deck; it’s just draw-dependent as to whether they come out in time to win you the matchup, which equals a “weak” matchup in Hearthstone. Secondary weak matchups are the mirror (since higher-budget Shamans can outvalue you in the long run with control-oriented cards like Al’Akir) Mirror, as well as decks that punish slower hands, like Divine Favor Paladin. The deck is balanced enough, however, that you should consider every matchup winnable in principle.
One of the nicest things about this deck is how modular it is and how it can easily adapt to become even stronger as you add cards to your collection. Doomhammer is the obvious replacement for Bloodlust, and is the single higher-rarity card that should most improve your matchups across the board. Al'Akir the Windlord is another Shaman staple that should be slotted into this deck if available, with Mana Tide Totem being the probable take-out in that case.
Other than that, the list is honestly pretty tight and most alternative picks are matters of preference rather than game-changers. Crackle
may be an acceptable replacement for Lightning Bolt
, particularly as you encounter more midrange/control higher up on the ladder. Bloodmage Thalnos
is fantastic in this deck as a more utilitarian pick for the Mana Tide Totem
is probably a bit too high up the curve to fit easily into this more midrangey deck, but you could do all right with Al’Akir replacing Mana Tide Totem
and Neptulon replacing Bloodlust
. Sludge Belcher
is a flex pick, but retains enough value independently and in this metagame that I’d be slow to swap it out. Lastly, Antique Healbot
and Gnomish Inventor
work great as-is but technically are flexible for alternative utility picks like Vitality Totem
and Piloted Shredder
(or maybe even Kezan Mystic
, if you’re in a secrets-heavy metagame).
Normally I’m not a big fan of Shaman, preferring Druid and Priest for midrange play. However, I have to say the Thousand Dust Shaman has charmed me, with its incredibly inexpensive list, variety of options, and durable minions. I’ll go so far as to say that this may be the best learner’s deck I’ve played so far. It’s dirt-cheap and focused on board control while retaining a play style that’s much more similar to most competitive decks than the specific and unusual draw-heavy Zoo style or the face aggression of Hunter. It’s also full of neutral minions that see play in many/most competitive lists, giving F2Pers crucial flexibility in building their card collections.
Seriously, give this deck a spin even if you’re a hardened veteran — it’s an incredibly diverse and powerful deck for the asking price, and I’m honored to be able to talk it up and give it some well-deserved attention. Many thanks to WaningMoon for this excellent addition to the building of a better metagame!