In early September, I qualified for the North American Regional Finals on the back off my friend Xixo’s Shaman deck. Xixo was one of the few people willing to play Shaman in a Hunter dominated metagame -- and along with some other players like FaKe -- he brought the class to a new level of success. Going into my preparation for Regionals, I knew I wanted Shaman to be one of my classes.
I tested different lists for a few days and Al’Akir kept getting stuck in my hand early. I found myself thinking “man, I wish this was a Doomhammer” more than once, and so, the Double-Doom deck was born. I changed some cards and threw in double Lava Burst because in my mind an Aggro Shaman deck seemed fun. I didn’t expect much, but the result was an extremely powerful deck that posted high winrates and was unknown to my opponents.
While the deck only went 4-2 for me at Regionals, Xixo and Savjz later took the deck for a run at the SeatStory Cup 2. Xixo placed in the top four -- only being stopped by Savjz -- who won the event and went on an impressive 10-0 with the Shaman deck.
Double Doomhammer is now common at tournaments. Cards like Harrison Jones and even Acidic Swamp Ooze have risen in popularity in response. Despite the hate, the deck continues to see play in recent events: such as the World Championships at Blizzcon. In October, I was able to reach third place in Legend with the help of this deck and I feel it is still a great choice for laddering and tournaments alike.
Haunted Creeper – The best two drop Hearthstone has to offer for Shamans. This card is seven stat points for two mana and almost always sticks around for a turn or more. This synergizes incredibly well with Flametongue Totem and the Deathrattle helps you play around board clears. You almost always want to develop this minion quickly and then play removal afterwards.
Unbound Elemental vs. Harvest Golem – While the Unbound Elemental is definitely less sticky than Harvest Golem and more susceptible to board clears. In return, he presents a much larger threat that must be immediately dealt with. Unbound Elemental might just die sometimes; but when he doesn't, he can grow to be a monstrous minion for only three mana. In a more control heavy metagame, Unbound Elemental is worth the risk. If you expect to face tons of Warlock and Hunter, Harvest Golem may be more worthy of the spot.
Lava Burst – Fireball’s red headed stepchild. In the past, this card was turned down as too clunky to be played in competitive Shaman decks. In this deck, however, the ability to hit face goes right along with the theme of bursting our opponent down. Lava Burst isn’t at its greatest when used as removal, but it can double as removal in a pinch. This is more of a lategame card and is replacing other more situational cards like Harrison Jones and Black Knight, so the deck remains consistent.
Doomhammer – The flagship card of the deck. I run two thus making this deck different than other Shaman lists. This isn’t because I want to jam someone’s face with a Doomhammer sixteen times -- despite how fun that sounds -- but rather to increase the chances of drawing the first one. Doomhammer is a very powerful card, in a vacuum it does more damage than any other burn spell. It also has the utility of being the only Windfury weapon in the game letting it combo with Rockbiter Weapon for burst. Doomhammer also clears out multiple small minions with ease. Doomhammer is very flexible and extremely strong for its cost. The only issue is it completely delays your minion development and usually for two turns.
Loatheb – This is not an option in this deck. It’s more than just a “good card” for a deck like this: it’s often vital to your winning push. Loatheb lets you essentially skip your opponent and take two turns in a row. If your opponent is being greedy with their board clear, thinking they can hold off for one more turn, Loatheb punishes that by instantly winning the game. Another key to playing this deck correctly is dropping Loatheb on the optimal turn: this is sometimes just on-curve; but sometimes you have to pass up on making a 5/5 because the effect is too necessary later in the game.
Bloodmage Thalnos, the second Azure Drake, the second Lava Burst, Unbound Elementals, Defender of Argus
Alexstrasza, Mana Tide Totem, a second Gnomish Inventor, Harvest Golems, Harrison Jones, Sludge Belcher, Al'Akir
Alexstrasza – One of my personal additions that I tested on ladder. I was inspired to add this card after playing with Tarei’s Miracle Rogue deck and constantly healing myself to 15 against Hunters and laughing as they conceded immediately. This card gives you a defensive heal -- something no one expects a Shaman to have -- or an offensive push and huge body in control matchups. The only downside to this card is that nine mana is clunky with all of your Overload effects. You will need to have a weaker turn before you can successfully cast Alexstrasza.
Mana Tide Totem – This is a card I do not personally like as I feel it doesn’t fit the list. Mana Tide is a very grindy card advantage minion. You want to play it at a time where it cannot be killed and can slowly draw you extra cards. It presents no threat to the board and is a dead card against aggressive decks. I much prefer cards like Gnomish Inventor over it. Feel free to add Mana Tide Totem, however, if you find yourself playing many Paladins, Priests, or Warriors.
Harrison Jones – As cards like Doomhammer become more and more standard, Harrison Jones becomes similar to a second Black Knight: a high-risk, high-reward card for specific matchups. I have played Harrison before in Shaman and it can definitely win you a few games on its own but I favor more consistent cards that work in every situation somehow.
Sludge Belcher – A common addition to some Shaman decks given the popularity of Hunters. Seven points of Taunt-Health is nothing to laugh at and this beast is a tough minion to crack. That said, against control decks he presents a slower threat and every deck is made with Sludge Belcher in mind as a card to counter. He still remains decent option against a very aggressive meta though.
Al’Akir – Personally I loathe this card. It will usually take more than 12 turns to get an optimal time to play Al’Akir. He is a very lategame card which doesn’t fit with cards like Lava Burst. Al’Akir isn’t a bad card if the game goes to a topdecking phase. The ideal gameplan for this deck, however, is to smash through quickly. The Al’Akir + Rockbiter combo is more of a dream than anything and Al’Akir will usually be used a value minion. My current opinion is that he is heavily overrated. s heavily overrated.
Feral Spirit. If your opponent plays very few minions (e.g. Miracle Rogue), a load of spells can get stranded in your hand with no practical use. One of the most important skills of playing Shaman is finding the most ideal situations to use your spells.
In general, your early game should be about developing the board and saving your spells to help secure a midgame push. Later in the game you will be looking to force the offensive using cards like Lava Burst and Rockbiter Weapon to burst your opponent down.
To this end, we almost always want to mulligan away situational spells unless the matchup specifically calls for the card: such as Hex against Handlock.
The answer is almost always. This is an aggressive deck and you will very rarely be looking to play for a long game. If you are behind on board, you should always be looking to make a swing turn to take over board control. You want your opponent responding to you. Hit face as much as reasonably possible while playing around cards you expect your opponent to hold. You will have to take risks with this deck: Lava Bursting face while ignoring a Chillwind Yeti late in the game will happen a lot.
When am I the beatdown?
This concept applies to Hearthstone in general but is accentuated in a deck like Shaman that is half minions and half spells. The general idea is that, while minions do not have Charge, spells do. Playing your spells after you develop minions, therefore, creates bigger swing turns. This goes right along with the strength of the Overload mechanic: create a powerful turn while sacrificing a bit of next turn.
Minions first, spells later
One of the most important parts of the playing this deck is knowing when to play the Doomhammer. If you jam it on turn five, you can’t Fire Elemental on turn six. If you play it too late, its impact on the game becomes lower and now you have to worry about cards like Acidic Swamp Ooze and Harrison Jones! It’s hard to nail down the best situation to play Doomhammer, but you want to be ahead on board and have a very solid plan for the next two turns.
Earth Shock, Rockbiter Weapon, Haunted Creeper, Flametongue Totem, Unbound Elemental, Feral Spirit
Lightning Bolt, Hex, Lightning Storm, Gnomish Inventor, Loatheb
Lightning Bolt, Bloodmage Thalnos, Lava Burst, Defender of Argus, Doomhammer, Azure Drake, Fire Elemental
Almost always mulligan away
Lightning Bolt is intentionally listed twice. This card is very commonly going to be thrown away in the mulligan phase but sometimes you need an early answer. Lightning Bolt tends to make early development awkward due to the Overload. Try to avoid using it early game.
Keep Haunted Creeper, Flametongue Totem, Feral Spirit, Unbound Elemental, Hex
Druid decks come in various types but generally their power is based in Wild Growth and Innervate. Hex lets you deny some of the Innervate power plays but leaves you behind in tempo if the Druid draws an early mana accelerator. It is important to build a board presence early on and make it resilient to Swipe, Wrath, and Keeper of the Grove when possible. Druids lack strong board clear and play their threats one at a time making Flametongue Totem pretty valuable in this matchup. Toward the late game, make sure you use Feral Spirit, Argus, and your Hero Power to keep Taunts up to survive against the Force of Nature-Savage Roar combo. That said, it is sometimes necessary to not play around this combo to win.
Keep Haunted Creeper (+Flametongue), Earth Shock, Rockbiter Weapon, Feral Spirit
Hunter is generally regarded as one of Shaman’s worst matchups. This is true, but the Hunter's edge in the matchup is overstated. With the Doomhammer-Lava Burst build, your winning line is usually to overtake board presence and burst the Hunter down before he can burn you out with Kill Commands and Hero Powers. Sometimes the Hunter will have draws you simply cannot beat but that is one of Hunter's main strengths. Look for early removal and Taunts to control the board until you can draw into a game-swinging Lightning Storm. Try to save Hex for Savannah Highmane if it would otherwise beat you.
One card that can also change the matchup is Alexstrasza. With Alexstrasza, you can forget about having to burst your opponent and go into complete survival mode. If you can survive and heal to 15 while the Hunter has only a few cards, a win is almost guaranteed.
Keep Earth Shock, Rockbiter Weapon, Haunted Creeper (+Flametongue), Lightning Storm (vs. Aggro), Doomhammer (vs. Freeze), Hex (vs. Midrange), Loatheb
Mage has three different builds with the most popular on ladder being Freeze Mage. If you don’t know the type of Mage you are facing, just mulligan away the situational cards. Loatheb is a card you always want to keep against Mage but you might have to hold onto it for a while. You are the beatdown against any type of control Mage. Doomhammer helps greatly in this race since it out-damages every other card in the game. Hang onto Earth Shocks and Hex for Doomsayers if you need an answer or use them liberally on Mad Scientists and Acolytes/Loot Hoarders if you have multiple copies in hand. Your win condition is usually pushing damage coupled with a well-timed Loatheb to lock the Mage out of the game.
Keep Haunted Creeper, Feral Spirit, Unbound Elemental (+Lightning Bolt), Loatheb
Paladin is actually a fairly easy matchup with the burst Shaman list. The Paladin is looking to take the game very late and grind you out of cards. The best counter to this is to make a very aggressive push -- hopefully with Loatheb -- to stop board clear. Always be mindful of the Paladin board clears and put them in a situation where no play is really that great. They will always prefer clearing your board over playing a Taunt minions since you have ways around that. When playing Loatheb, remember that Wild Pyromancer and Equality can still board clear for 10 mana.
Keep Rockbiter Weapon, Lightning Bolt (if no Rockbiter), Haunted Creeper, Flametongue Totem, Feral Spirit, Unbound Elemental, potentially Lava Burst if the rest of your hand is solid
Priest is one of this deck’s worst matchups; but even still, the matchup is very winnable. Generally, this matchup is similar to Paladin but the Priest will present more threats and has more powerful board clears. You will want to control the board early -- removing Northshire Clerics and other threads -- before a Doomhammer push for lethal. Alternatively, you can actually fatigue a Priest by playing for board control the whole game. This strategy is only preferable if the Priest gets the lead early game and is playing the more midrange Deathrattle heavy list. With two Doomhammers, you have tons of board control ability and Priest struggles to push for lethal even when you fall below 10 Health. This matchup has tons of cards to play around, and you will want to try to, but sometimes the best play is to go all in on the board and make a push.
Keep Rockbiter Weapon, Haunted Creeper (+Flametongue), Unbound Elemental (+Lightning Bolt), Feral Spirit, Loatheb
Rogue is another class that is more responsive to the cards you play. This can be troublesome if you draw a hand full of spells and cannot be the aggressor. You are the beatdown in this matchup and will be playing whatever you can and smashing the Rogue’s face as hard as possible. Make your board resilient to Deadly Poison-Blade Flurry when possible, but otherwise push hard and hope they don’t draw Preparations!
Keep Rockbiter Weapon, Haunted Creeper, Unbound Elemental (+Lighting Bolt), Feral Spirit
The mirror matchup is all about the board. While you should have some concern for your Health total, do not be afraid to put all eight charges of Doomhammer into minions. Remove everything your opponent drops and develop a resilient board. You should only go face when your opponent’s board is completely clear or you have a clear route to lethal within a turn or two. Some Shaman decks run Zombie Chow and other early drops which can make the early game rough, but running two copies of Doomhammer and Lightning Storm let you swing the board back your way in the midgame. Be very conservative with your Lightning Storm: the sooner you use it, the more pressure your opponent can put on you.
Keep Haunted Creeper, Earth Shock, and Rockbiter Weapon. The rest of your hand is context dependent and you should change based on which type of deck you expect to face.
Vs. Zoo - Haunted Creeper (+Flametongue), Earth Shock, Rockbiter Weapon, Lightning Storm, Feral Spirit (context based)
Vs. Handlock - Earth Shock, Hex, Flametongue Totem (context based), Haunted Creeper (context based)
Warlock - Try to be knowledgeable about the type of Warlock deck you are most likely to face at your rank. In recent games at high legend rank, I have found Handlock to be much more popular than Zoo. This is likely to change as ranks go down and Zoo is very popular the beginning of the season.
Zoo is likely this Shaman’s worst matchup as they will eventually out draw you and overtake the board. You want as much early removal as possible. Cards like Doomhammer and Fire Elemental are the keys to swinging the game around. You will almost always be stabilizing at five to ten Health and hoping to dodge Soulfires and Doomguards for the rest of the game.
Handlock, on the other hand, is an excellent matchup. With so much burst damage packed in your deck -- along with Hex and Earth Shock to deal with the Handlock threats -- the Handlock is constantly on the defensive. Mulligan hard for your removal and look to setup a lethal that gets around Molten Giants. A major card to play around is Hellfire.
Keep Haunted Creeper, Flametongue Totem, Feral Spirit, Unbound Elemental, Gnomish Inventor, Loatheb
Warrior will be playing very few minions early but they can easily steal the early game with help from Cruel Taskmaster and weapons. This matchup is quite good and you generally just want to keep flooding the board so that you win the Brawl even if they have it. The more draw cards you play, the better your chances. Use your Earth Shocks on Acolytes liberally to deny the Warrior cards and you will easily beat them in card advantage. Be sure to play around Baron Geddon in the late game.