Decklist and Concept
Cards that didn't make the cut
Minor tips and closing notes
I have been playing Hearthstone for a long time and seen many shifts in the metagame. In recent times, Hunter has been the most powerful class given the new Naxxramas cards.
I was tired of playing Hunter mirror and losing in a rather coin flippy matchup so I sought a deck to counter them. I have tried various decks but had the most success with this Shaman deck. Built by kolemoen -- who is another high legend player in the ladder -- this Shaman deck can do great versus Hunters and Aggro while still holding its own in control matchups. The major change that was implemented in the deck is the inclusion of two Zombie Chows.
As August/October rank one Legend player, I highly recommend you consider this deck in your arsenal when you meet a lot of Hunters on the ladder. I have collaborated with kolemoen to bring you this guide!
First and foremost, it is important to understand overall game plan of Shaman in each matchup. Against more aggressive decks, your main job is answering the board; against more control decks, you are developing a board. In either case, your goal is to trade as efficiently as possible in the earlier stage. If you survive the early stage of the game well enough one of two winning conditions will develop:
- You will have overwhelming board lead in the mid-game.
- You will have burst enough to push through lethal despite the board state.
Shaman has a wide range of utilities to answer the board. In keeping with that plan, we need to be sure that our minions are also able to answer a wide selection of outcomes. Minions like Nerubian Eggs, Unbound Elemental, and Undertakers can be great but they are also too inconsistent. For example, Nerubian Eggs takes too much time to set up and you will lose very quickly to aggressive decks. On the other hand, Zombie Chow by itself is a solid one drop as well as it doesn’t require much to get the maximal value. This deck has excluded all those inconsistency and has been developed to have the most consistent and a solid matchup against everybody.
These are two ways that you can burst down the enemy's Health. One Rockbiter and an Al'Akir is 12 damage and two Rockbiters and an Al'Akir is 18 damage in a single turn. Similarly, a Rockbiter and Doomhammer is worth ten damage or sixteen with two Rockbiters. I would highly recommend using this to finish a game rather than clearing the board. It is preferable to clear the board using other spells such as Lightning Storm.
Rockbiter + Doomhammer/Al'Akir
When placing the Flametongue on a full board, think ahead on possible outcomes. Remember that you can get maximum value out of Flametongue by letting adjacent minions trade off with enemy's minions and have additional minions to use its effects. Keep in mind also that your wolves and totems will spawn on the right.
Flametongue + Minions
This combination is a clean way to clear pesky Mad Scientists or Undertakers with one shot.
Spell Power totem/Azure Drake + Earth Shock
Lightning Bolt - I think it might be possible to cut one if not both Lightning Bolts. Against aggro, Overload hurts in the early game: against control, it is not very high impact in the late game. Lightning Bolt is best in the mid game as a strong tempo play. If you want to take one out, you might want to consider a Lava Burst or second Harvest Golem.
Unbound Elemental - This is a potential substitution for Harvest Golem. Harvest Golem is better against aggro while Unbound Elemental has more upside against control.
Cairne - A great minion against Warrior and Priest. If you are facing many of these, you might consider swapping out an early game minion for Cairne.
Nerubian Egg – These are not in the deck because I feel like Shaman doesn't have enough enablers and they are too slow against aggro. Against control, they are generally good but even there they will sometimes be just dead draws when you are topdecking and don't have anything to activate them.
Argent Squire - Squires are not includes because the Zombie Chows are simply way stronger in the early game.
Undertaker - These are absent because I don't think there are enough Deathrattles in the deck to make them work reliably: this is based also on the assumption that we'd have to cut Zombie Chow for it.
Sludge Belcher - First of all, Shaman already has Defender of Argus and Feral Spirits which have about the same roll as Sludge Belchers: stalling the game. There is simply not enough space in the five drop slot for belchers. You can't cut Loatheb and Doomhammer in my opinion and the drakes are the best card draw option available for Shaman.
- I don't have very much data versus Freeze Mage but it’s one of worst matchup for sure;
- Priest is the worst matchup at 40%;
- Hunter, Shaman, and Druid are about a 65% win rate;
- Warlock is about 70% for both Handlock and Zoo;
- Rogue, Mage (non-freeze), and Warrior are about 75%;
- Paladin is the easiest matchup at 80%
Against Hunter you keep Chow, Creeper, Earth Shock, Rockbiter, Harvest Golem, and Feral Spirits. If you already have Creeper, you can also keep Flametongue.
Generally this deck is pretty well equipped against Hunter. Unlike other decks, you will almost never lose to an Undertaker opening because of the six one mana removal spells Shaman has access to. This is also one of the matchups where Zombie Chow shines the most since it is extremely strong against their early game minions.
If you are able to win the early game against Hunter you will most definitely also win the match. Their Highmane can easily be Hexed and then it’s game over. Even if you don't have Hex, you can normally put up Taunts and race them.
The most important element of this matchup is that it is important to play around the traps. I would highly prioritize Earth Shocking Mad Scientist as that card gives Hunter too much value otherwise. If they have the bow up with a trap, it is often better to not attack and wait until your board is big enough to be able to kill them in one or two turns. Triggering a Freezing Trap on a Defender of Argus, however, is something that can often lock down the game. Make sure to calculate all the possibilities of trap and play around it. For example, always test the trap with the lowest value minion. Furthermore, if you don’t have a clear for Snake Trap, avoid hitting the minion and instead test the trap by attacking the hero.
Against Zoo keep Lightning Storm and the same cards as against Hunter.
This matchup is even better than Hunter because you have more time to stabilize since they lack Hunter's burst. Once you have board control and Taunts up the game is basically won. This is the other matchup where Zombie Chow is at its best.
Other than that, just try to trade as efficient as possible and use your mana well. Often times it is better to play minions than to use removal spells. Try to get the maximum value out of spells in the later turns as opposed to spending them early when you still have minions. In terms of timing your Lightning Storm, it is often worth taking an extra hit to bait out more minions: be patient with it.
Prioritize hard removal spells such as Earth Shock and Hex in the mulligan phase. Earth Shock is the best possible Twilight Drake answer while Hex is essential against early giants. This is probably the only matchup that I will mulligan Zombie Chow.
I would be hesitant to use Hex on Twilight Drake when you don’t have Earth Shock because you will have to save Hex for giants later. Even if the drake is big, try to handle it without burning a Hex.
This matchup is fairly decent given that Shaman has right utilities to deal with big threats that Handlock puts out. The development of the board has gotten more difficult after Naxxramas as Sludge Belcher and Loatheb are extra threats that are a nuisance for Shaman to deal answer.
In this matchup it is very hard to dominate Warlock with board advantage. You should instead try to develop a winning combination of burst damage while not losing too hard on the board. Ancient Watcher and Shadowflame can be a six mana combination that will wipe out Shaman’s board so I would be aware of that play.
Against Rogue you keep Chow, Creeper, Rockbiter, Lightning Bolt, Harvest Golem, Feral Spirit, and Loatheb. The reason you keep bolt in this matchup is that you need an efficient answer to their 3/3s as they otherwise trade very favorably against your 2/3s.
Generally there are two ways to play this matchup: either race them using Doomhammer and Al'Akir as finishers or try to grind them out by killing their stuff minions on sight. You will have to decide based on your draw early and play towards that goal.
In general you want to pressure them early so that they have to use their spells without Auctioneer. The most common way to lose this matchup is letting them Auctioneer-Conceal when you don't have Loatheb or the burst to race them.
Against other Shamans keep Chow, Creeper, Lightning Storm, Rockbiter, Feral Spirit, Harvest Golem and Flametongue if you have creeper. Some people keep Doomhammer but I think it is more important to have a good early game since Doomhammer is often times not good when you are behind.
The mirror is all about board control and you always want to clear all their totems to not give them Flametongue or Argus value. Once a player has established a strong board a Lightning Storm is the only shot at a comeback. This is why it is extremely important to win the early game and force your opponent to have the storm. Even if they have it, the one who has to play the first storm is at a disadvantage the longer the game goes. When you have board control you should obviously try to make your board as resilient to storm as possible since this is the only way your opponent can get back into the game.
Against Warriors you keep Zombie Chow, Creeper, Feral Spirit, Harvest Golem, and Earth Shock for the Acolytes of Pain. If you already have some early game cards, keeping Azure Drake is an option since the matchup is rather slow and you don't want to run out of steam.
Against Warriors you will normally be able to get board control until turns five or six. Until turn five they will have to use their removal very inefficiently before eventually running out. At that point, they will play one of their big legendaries and Hexing it will give you a big tempo advantage. Once you are far enough ahead, play around Brawl as much as possible since it is their only way to get back into the game. Most games will end with a Rockbiter combo on Doomhammer or Al'Akir.
Against Priest you keep Zombie Chow, Rockbiter, Lightning Bolt for Clerics, Creeper, Hex for Blademaster-Circle, Golem, and Flametongue if you have Chow or Creeper. Don't keep Feral Spirit since they matchup terribly against Dark Cultist.
You can also gamble on keeping a Mana Tide Totem since sometimes Priest doesn't have a turn three play and Mana Tide is normally safe until turn six. Drawing that many cards will normally win you the game. Since this is your weakest matchup it may be worth the risk.
If you are facing the Control Priest you will normally have to take some calculated risks and be rather aggressive. You will normally lose a value battle to them since they seem to have infinite board clears and Cabal Shadowpriest. Whenever you get to turn six do all your plays with Cabal in mind. If you have a good Cabal Shadowpriest target when they are hitting six mana, play Loatheb instead of Azure Drake since Loatheb matches up better with the shadowpriest in the unfortunate case that they have it.
If you are against the Deathrattle Priest, it is very important to gain early board control. You can out grind this type of Priest deck so play safe once you are ahead on board. Do not over commit into a board clear.
Against Druid keep Zombie Chow, Haunted Creeper, Feral Spirit, Harvest Golem, Hex for Innervated plays, and Flametongue if you have Creeper.
This matchup is all about getting a board control early. Whoever gets a lead on the board will be able to snowball the game to victory. Always keep the possibility of Force of Nature-Savage Roar in mind once you reach turn nine. Very often the Druid will use the combo to clear in this matchup. You can use your Hexes rather liberally in this matchup since most of them only play one Cairne and maybe one Cenarius: the rest are midrange minions.
I would say that this is one of the harder matchups but it all depends on how much ramp they get. If they have a Wild Growth/Innervate/Ancient of Lore hand there is usually not much you can do.
Against Paladin you keep Zombie Chow, Creeper, Feral Spirit, Harvest Golem, and Flametongue.
Paladin is a very good matchup in my experience because most of the time they will let you get board control early and then try to clear your stuff all at once. You need to be patient and never overextend into an Equality. Mana Tide is the mvp in this matchup because -- if they don't have a silence -- it will force an Equality on an otherwise nonthreatening board.
Against Paladins you will very often win with a Rockbiter combo since they try to be greedy allowing you suddenly burst them down. Save Hexes and Earth Shocks for their big minions. As long as you have board control you should be able to kill all of their midrange minions efficiently with the help of Flametongue and Doomhammer etc.
This is a very difficult matchup. You should Zombie Chow, Creeper, Feral Spirit, Flametongue, Mana Tide, Doomhammer, Loatheb, Harvest Golem, and Earth Shock for Doomsayer.
This is a very bad matchup since you don't have any heal and most Freeze Mages are running six Freeze spells at the moment so it is very hard to kill them.
Your best chance is to have an aggressive start with Haunted Creeper and Flametongue. Them not having a Frostbolt for the Flametongue is a good way to steal a win: this is why we keep it in our opener. An early Mana tide can be good since they can't just Freeze it but have to kill to prevent you drawing your finishers.
Doomhammer is another card that can give you a chance since it is 16 damage they cannot Freeze efficiently. If you have Loatheb you should either use him after Alexstrasza so the Mage can't kill you, or when you have a board that will be able to kill the Mage -- or trigger the ice block -- next turn so that they cannot Freeze it. Keep in mind, however, that Frost Nova may still be castable at eight mana.
When you have the choice of playing a card with overload, always think about how that will affect your options for next turn.
Against control, try to save your Rockbiters for burst combos if possible. Use them as removal against aggro.
When placing your minions on the board always think about the possibility of Defender of Argus or Flametongue even if you don't have it in your hand at the moment. In general you want to place Deathrattle minions on the side so you can chain your Flametongue.
Against certain decks try to play around Big Game Hunter by not buffing anything to seven or more. There are no natural Big Game Hunter targets in the deck so don't give them any.