The Elephant in the Room
Updated with Kel'Thuzad
With the release of the Curse of Naxxramas, Shaman got a very cool and synergistic new tool in Reincarnate. With a strong set of early removal, Shaman was already well equipped to play a midrange style and Reincarnate only helps in this position. The core concept of this deck is to contest the early game and grind out value in the mid to late game with Reincarnate and key Deathrattle minions such as Cairne or Sylvanas with an honorary mention to Baron Rivendare.
This deck, while powerful, is pretty greedy and has some poor matchups: Miracles, for example, is very tough. That said, it dominates control decks and it provides openings for some very fun combos.
Traditionally not the best matchup for Shaman and a class that is quite popular on ladder currently. If you Hex carefully this deck should be able to out grind the Hunter and their Savannah Highmanes with your Deathrattles and Reincarnate. The trouble is, however, this becomes more difficult the more you play into an Unleash the Hounds / Starving Buzzard combo. This deck is better against Unleash than some other Shaman variants due to the lack of Feral Spirits, but you should still be careful about activating your Hero Power.
If Hunter is a recurring problem for you on the ladder, the first card to cut would be the Haunted Creeper. Despite being a resilient threat against most other decks, the Creeper is a liability against Unleash. A potential substitution for Haunted Creeper would be Acidic Swamp Ooze if the Secret Keeper-Traps deck is what you are facing. Harrison Jones could work in this slot, but it is arguably too slow as you need to kill the Bow early since this is their main source of damage.
Reincarnate is the card being built around in this deck and the Deathrattles -- and the Legendary ones specifically -- are its supporting cast. Cairne and Sylvanas both take over games in an instant when targeted with a Reincarnate. Despite not having a Deathrattle, Al'Akir can also win games or dig you out of a hole if needed.
Baron Rivendare is another key card in this deck and can produce some incredible results. For example, if you can trade off a Cairne with Ancestral Spirit and a Baron out you will net two new Cairnes and two Baines. Baron Rivendare does, however, also work well in more common scenarios. A very common play for this deck is a turn three or four Baron and a suicide attack with Haunted Creeper to generate four 1/1s. This legendary 1/7 is also capable of making double 4/4 Nerubians off your Nerubian Eggs.
Speaking of Nerubian Eggs, this deck is not short of ways to break out your 4/4s without needing to use a Reincarnate. In addition to the common Defender of Argus, Shaman has access to Rockbiter Weapons and Flametongue Totems to enable an attack from the Egg. With Reincarnate on an Egg, however, it is important to note that the respawned minion cannot attack the same turn. If your plan is to Reincarnate a second turn Egg on turn three, save the Rockbiter Weapon for the next turn because it will not be able to attack post-reincarnation.
In addition to healing your own minions, Reincarnate has many utility uses:
- you can heal your own minions;
- you can make Van Cleef a 2/2 or Twilight Drake a 4/1;
- or remove taunt buff from Sunfury or Defender of Argus to get lethal;
- you can unsilence and heal it at the same time;
- you can Reincarnate an enemy Death Lord to get a creature out.
Note: You shoud be careful if you do chose to Reincarnate a Death Lord since you lose any Battlecry effects. It may not be the best use of Reincarnate if you have other options; but if you don't have good alternatives, you can hope for something big.
In order to make room for all of the Deathrattle synergies, there are some staple Shaman cards missing from this list. Here is the rationale for their absence.
Argent Squire: This is a decent card which helps with board control early and works pretty well with Defender of Argus and Flametongue. Overall it makes the deck less greedy. Argent Squire can help make secure the early game but it is very underwhelming late in the game when we want to be casting more powerful spells.
Mana Tide Totem: Is a very good card but may well be too greedy. It is also slightly unnecessary with high curve and power level of the deck. In testing games were rarely lost due to not having enough cards.
Unbound Elemental: Possibly the most notable exception, however, we really aren't running much Overload. Unbound Elemental doesn't have synergy with the deck and something had to be cut from normal Shaman to add new cards.
Feral Spirit: This card simply doesn't have the required synergy with the rest of the deck. Furthermore, we already have two Defender of Argus for Taunt, the taunt totem, and Al'Akir. The overload can also be annoying since we are trying to curve into bigger threats.
Harvest Golem: A three drop without Overload and a Deathrattle seems pretty solid for this deck. Harvest Golem is good with Baron Rivendare out, but his Deathrattle is not good enough to earn a Reincarnate. Cards had to be cut and Harvest Golem simply did not make it this time.
Leeroy: If you want a more aggressive build, note that Leeroy can be reincarnated, granting six extra damage for two mana. While this doesn't fit with this current deck, you could make a standard aggressive Shaman deck with Leeroy, Sylvanas, and Reincarnates but no Ancestral Spirit, Baron Rivendare, Cairne, or Al'Akir.
Adding Leeroy would most improve the matchups against Miracle, most aggro decks, and maybe Handlock. The downside is that Leeroy can be a dead card when what you need is board control and Reincarnates sit around in your hand more frequently with the Leeroy version.
Loot Hoarder: This is a card to include if you want to be less greedy and it has applications in many matchups. The power of Loot Hoarder is clear as it helps find Lightning Storm, Hex, or whichever Deathrattle-Reincarnate part you are missing. Loot Hoarder also draws twice with Baron Rivendare and can be Reincarnated to cycle Reincarnate in a pinch. Loot Hoarder was a contender for a slot in the main deck, but only as a one of and Bloodmage Thalnos is much better.
Death Lord: While he has anti-synergy with Baron Rivendare, he does protect your totems well so you can build up an army for Flametongue Totem. This seems best against Zoo and Miracle. Both of these are poor matchups.
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An extended testing session vs. monk playing various decks
One specific example of Reincarante doing work