Hi! I'm Asmodeus, Hearthstone coach and content creator. In this article I will share my take on Midrange Shaman, which is possibly the strongest deck in current metagame of Standard mode. With only a couple days remaining until the end of this month's season, I recommend this deck for your last attempt at getting the rank you desire.
There are many working iterations of shaman decks. Some focus more on totem synergy, some rely on spells or Rockbiter Weapon + Windfury finishers. In fact, there are so many versions of this deck that It might be hard to choose between them. That's why I decided to share my version of the deck and write a guide which will get you started with a good understanding of the deck and how it should be played.
This version of Midrange Shaman focuses more on developing a strong board and being proactive. The removal and situational cards are cut to the minimum, to allow for more strong minions (such as Flamewreathed Faceless). There are three main groups of cards in this deck, which will often influence your mulligan decisions.
- Tunnel Trogg
- Totem Golem
- Feral Spirit
- Lightning Storm
- Flamewreathed Faceless
- Flametongue Totem
- Totem Golem
- Mana Tide Totem
- Tuskarr Totemic
- Thunder Bluff Valiant
- Thing from Below
Spell Damage package:
- Lightning Bolt
- Spirit Claws
- Maelstrom Portal
- Lightning Storm
- Bloodmage Thalnos
- Azure Drake
These three groups have strong internal synergies, with some overlap between them. You could also consider the Flametongue Totem synergies as another package. This would include cards like: Argent Squire, Barnes etc.
When mulliganing your cards, usually, you will want to focus only on one package at a time. Decide which cards will be the strongest in the early game for the matchup you're in, and try to build your starting hand around that package. For example Tunnel Trogg package might not be the best to develop as your starting hand against a Warrior, but if you already have strong supporting cards or you're playing against a class that doesn't handle it as well as a Warrior, it's likely the best way to go.
In the current metagame, between rank 5 and Legend, this deck performed for me better than Dragon Warrior or Zoo Warlock, despite the fact that I have much more experience with those decks. I definitely recommend Midrange Shaman as a number one deck for climbing the ladder at this time.
Whenever writing or reading a mulligan guide for a deck, I'm always left unsatisfied with how little ground it covers. Mulligan is such a complex process that simply listing the cards you should keep is never enough. This is why I decided to give you a list of rules, which will help you deciding how to select your starting hand.
There are 23 cards which I would keep in a mulligan, given the right situation. Nearly everything at four mana and less can be kept if there is a good reason for it. There are too many combinations, to even begin listing them, so instead, here are the rules you should use to determine which cards to keep and which to discard.
Keep an early curve that lets you develop your minions as soon as possible. In most matchups, you'll be the beatdown. You will be the aggressor, the proactive side, and that's what you should mulligan for. The exception is a Zoo Warlock matchup, in which you should keep Maelstrom Portal, Spirit Claws and Lightning Storm. These reactive cards will always find a good use against decks like Zoo.
Focus on one group at a time. If you already have Argent Squire and Flametongue Totem then try to select other cards which work with them (such as Tuskarr Totemic or Feral Spirit), and discard cards that depend on other synergies. In other words, you want to stack your cards for the strongest synergy available.
Dodge class specific removal. Learn and remember the specific tools available for your opponents to remove your cards. If the enemy class has efficient and easy ways of dealing 3 damage, then try to open with minions that have more health. If the enemy is likely to have good AoE removal - try to build a hand that will lead to an early Flamewreathed Faceless. It's always a balance of strength vs adequacy. You can sacrifice a little of your hand's strength to play around enemy removal but you should not sacrifice too much of it. If you have a very strong opening hand at the beginning of your mulligan, don't throw it away to play around enemy cards. Only do it if you're offered a choice between two alternatives of comparable strength.
Have your decklist visible while playing. Especially in the beginning, when you don't know the list by heart, you should use a deck tracker or a simple screenshot to look at available cards. This way, you'll be able to quickly identify if the other options are worth discarding your hand or not.
Keep cards which work on their own, before cards that depend on something you want to draw. If you already have Maelstrom Portal and Spirit Claws, then keeping Bloodmage Thalnos, or throwing something away, to look for it, is fine (unless you have a stronger group synergy available for a starting hand). That's because both - Maelstrom Portal and Spirit Claws - work just fine on their own. However, if you were to keep Bloodmage Thalnos and throw away other cards, in hopes of finding the specific synergies for him, it would be a terrible move. You should never rely on drawing specific cards. Try to build your hand around a guarantee, rather than a chance. The guaranteed good will always beat the unlikely best, in the long run.
Against Druid you need to aim for the most aggressive opening possible. By putting the pressure on them, from the very start, you'll either prevent them from ramping up or guarantee getting ahead on board and damage. You need to force the Druid to make a choice between playing Wild Growth or Wrath, or make him play Feral Rage as a removal, instead of ramping up his mana with Mire Keeper. This way, you'll either deal a lot of damage early and force him into very defensive position later, or you'll stop him from gaining mana and overwhelming you later on.
The Malygos combo is irrelevant in this matchup because you should be able to kill the druid before he can assemble and execute it. You'll also force him to spend the Living Roots and Moonfire on your minions. The scariest card in this matchup is Yogg-Saron, Hope's End. Try to expand your board as wide as possible before he can play it, but be careful to not overextend right before you expect it being played.
Aggro and Midrage Shaman
As with most mirror matchups between two proactive decks looking to curve out - the player who goes first will have a huge advantage. The way to win this matchup, is to force your enemy to trade into your minions 1 for 1. Prioritize developing your board, even if it means taking more damage early. The one with the board will dictate the trades, and if you can do that, you can win the game. Pick up any value trades you find (trades where enemy minions die, but yours survive), to force your enemy into expending some resources and mana on finishing your creatures off.
If you're going second, you might want to look for a swing turn setup. Reduce the cost of your Thing from Below and prepare a Spell Damage Lightning Storm or Maelstrom Portal. Having The Coin in your hand can help you with reclaiming the board control that way.
Tempo Mage is another deck against which you should consider keeping your reactive cards. Lightning Bolt can be absolutely crucial here. Mage will always have more removal than you, so inevitably he'll end up with a board control at some point. Use a combination of Spell Damage, AoE and Lightning Bolt or Spirit Claws to remove Mana Wyrm and Flamewaker from behind the Mirror Image
With average draws from both players, the match might evolve into a value game, so after the early game, be generous with Totemic Call
Dragon Warrior does not draw many cards early and their hand can be very inconsistent. You should test it first by developing your early board as you'd normally do, and see how good their answers are. Flamewreathed Faceless will often be the key to winning this matchup. Dragon Warriors have a tendency to use their Execute very liberally, and most Midrange Shaman decks don't play Flamewreathed Faceless, so after seeing at least one Execute, slam the 7/7 down on the board and with it's help you should be able to reclaim the board control.
Whenever possible, you should expand your board as wide as possible. There is no danger of Brawl or Revenge and even Deathwing is being cut from this deck in favor of The Curator
Control Warrior is as close to a counter for Midrange Shaman as it gets. Double Brawl, Revenge, Baron Geddon and plenty of other removal, can slow the game down by a lot and stop you from developing a meaningful board. There is no way or reason to try and play around all of it, but you should still look for plays which are less vulnerable to the common removal. For example - when starting with The Coin, you might want to keep double Tuskarr Totemic, as it requires multiple Fiery War Axe swings to kill it. If you have other options for early plays, you might also discard Tunnel Trogg and play it when you draw it later in combination with another Overload card.
The matchup against Hunter is similar in execution to the Shaman matchups. Again the player who goes first has the advantage, but there is even more importance on having a card to play on turn one. Always keep in your starting hand something to play on your first turn, so that you can control the board and be on the proactive side, while forcing your enemy to make trades.
Your goal is to get enough of an advantage before turn 8, to be ready and prepared for Call of the Wild. Ideally you want a bunch of totems on board and a Flametongue Totem ready in your hand, or a double Maelstrom Portal/Lightning Storm with bonus Spell Damage.
The difficulty of this matchup is proportional to the number of Doomguards drawn by the Warlock. Without them, you'll be able to win the board control through the use of Maelstrom Portal and Lightning Storm.
Fortunately for you, the vast majority of Zoo Warlocks does not know how to play this matchup properly and will leave you with openings to punish them and take over the board control, so even against Doomguards, you should still be able to win if your draws aren't bad. The trick is to wait as long as possible before using your AoE.
The matchup against Paladin can be very frustrating if their draws are very good. It is similar to playing against a Priest. If they draw their answers, there is virtually nothing you can do, but if they dont, then there is nothing they can do. Your job is to put a strong pressure on the board from the very start and develop your board as much as you can, without going totally all in. Expect Equality combo and Consecration clears but don't be afraid of them. The way to beat them is to keep the pressure on and keep developing a big board because time is their friend. You will have to balance playing around the AoE against developing a strong board, and similarly to what I was saying about mulligan, you can sacrifice a little of your power to play around enemy spells but don't sacrifice too much.
Trust me, you have no chance to win in the late game against a Paladin, so don't be upset when he removes everything you play, turn after turn. It's still correct to be proactive and pressure from start to finish.
Tips & Tricks
Here are some additional tips and pointers for playing the deck correctly:
Roll before spell. Whenever you're planning to cast a spell and use something with random summoning effect - summon first and then cast the spell. Totemic Call, Tuskarr Totemic and Barnes have a chance to give you Spell Damage or some other minion, which might affect what you're ultimately going to do this turn.
ALWAYS think about placement. Minion placement is incredibly important in a deck which plays Flametongue Totem. Keep your expendable minions and totems near the middle or the right side, while keeping the minions you wish to conserve and don't want to buff them, on the left. When playing Barnes or Tuskarr Totemic, always put them on the left side of the first minion you'd want to buff with Flametongue Totem.
Consider multiple turns when playing Thing from Below. It is often beneficial to delay playing Thing from Below in order to fit other cards in the first turn, reduce its cost, and play it the next turn, enabling you to fit another card with it. Cards and abilities which summon totems, can be considered as costing 1 less mana when played with Thing From Below. It's an easy way to plan your turns. If you have 5 mana, and your Thing from Below is currently at 4, it means that you can either Flametongue Totem or Totemic Call. Reducing the cost rather than playing the minion right away is even twice as effective if you have two of them in your hand, and in that case, each totem card costs you effectively 2 less mana.
Be opportunistic with Spirit Claws. Because your spell power minions are easy to remove and your enemy will be aware of their threat, you should take advantage of having the bonus attack on your weapon whenever it's available, even if it's just hitting the enemy face (unless you're in a value match where you need to conserve your resources).
Barnes goes first. If you plan on using your hero ability in the same turn as Barnes, play the card first in case you get Thunder Bluff Valiant out of it.
I hope you found this guide helpful and good luck in the last minute ladder pushes! Share your opinions or questions in the comments below, I'm always happy to answer them.
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