Aggro Shaman, or Face Shaman, is one of the most recent deck archetypes introduced into Hearthstone. While it traces its roots to Mech Shaman, it was the League of Explorers and especially the Tunnel Trogg that was released in it that gave life to this highly aggressive deck.
The early story of Aggro Shaman was covered on Liquidhearth when it was brand new, but it has since evolved, especially so in the past few weeks, so it is a good time to take a look at this cheap and effective deck.
When the deck was covered on Liquidhearth, builds still had two distinct directions. Luffy’s Overload style and Reynad’s more mech-based approach. In the next few weeks after the article, Luffy’s core emerged victorious as a faster and more stable variant.
The common version of Aggro Shaman
For quite some time, the common build of Aggro Shaman remained unaltered and the deck was considered mostly refined.
The outstanding debate was whether to use Knife Juggler, Flame Juggler, or Whirling Zap-O-Matic as your two mana minion: Knife Juggler was a middle-of-the-road choice; Flame Juggler was a stickier and slower alternative; and Whirling Zap-O-Matic was a card that could really bring the pain if it happened to stay alive.
The deck, however, was not without issues. The basic gameplan required early minion damage to enable burst finishes with spells and Doomhammer. When the draws were in order, the deck could steamroll many of its opponents. But things could also go wrong. Never finding Doomhammer, or topdecking non-charge minions when you needed burst, could easily result in a loss.
The Shaman Hero Power presented another problem as totems had very little synergy with the rest of the deck. Sir Finley Mrrgglton was sometimes able to help. Usually the Aggro Shaman would look for the Warlock Hero Power with Druid and Hunter being suitable alternatives. When you would be presented with Rogue, Priest, and Warrior, however, would not look good.
There were various attempts to alleviate these weaknesses. Elemental Destruction could be teched over a two-drop to potentially clear the board and buy the Shaman player a couple of more turns to find lethal. More chargers were also tested. Wolfrider and Arcane Golem made occasional appearances to improve the chances of topdecking that final burst. The charge approach also needed more silence effects, so Ironbeak Owl could be run alongside Earth Shock. Finally, a way to leverage the Shaman Hero Power was sought after. Flametongue Totem was considered the best candidate, although it too could fall short if topdecked when the board was already lost.
Getting closer to the solution: cutting Ancestral Knowledge and Lava Shock
The evolution of Aggro Shaman took a step forward with the cutting of two relatively slow and ineffective cards. Ancestral Knowledge and Lava Shock were able to provide utility at a high cost and were only useful in some mid-game scenarios. Elemental Destruction played well with Lava Shock but it too began to fall off in popularity. Without Ancestral Knowledge and Elemental Destruction, the value of Lava Shock was no longer sufficient to warrant a slot in the deck.
All the while, neither Chakki’s Haunted Creepers nor Nostam’s Arcane Golems proved to be a winning formula at the Americas Winter Championships even though Nostam managed to reach the finals. Aggro Shaman was not considered a success and — after appearing in the lineups of two players out of eight at the Americas Winter Championships — none of the players brought one to the Europe Winter Championships.
The story of the deck was not yet over though. The next iteration would appear from Orange:
Replacing card draw with Loot Hoarders and now finding room to include the high-value Piloted Shredders into the deck, Aggro Shaman was transformed into a more minion-based deck that could also win a board control fight. This also prompted the removal of Earth Shock in favor of Flametongue Totem, as now this powerful buff card could finally have enough targets, thus also boosting the efficiency of Shaman Hero Power in case a better Hero Power could not be found.
The new approach also settled the old two-drop debate: Flame Juggler was best able to support the new strategy and proved to be superior to Knife Juggler and Whirling Zap-O-Matic.
The SK take: Powder’s Aggro Shaman at Insomnia and BlueStacks Invitational
The next real success story for Aggro Shaman came at Insomnia57 and the BlueStacks Invitational. At Insomnia57, Powder piloted a new version of the deck all the way to the semi-finals where he narrowly lost to Dog. BlueStacks was the redemption tournament for Powder’s Shaman as he defeated Rdu in the finals.
What’s more, the deck was just not a part of Powder’s lineup. It was a powerhouse that was able to steamroll opponents.
The deck is an evolution from Orange’s list (they often practice together): Earth Shock is back in and both Loot Hoarders and Piloted Shredders are gone. Those value cards were replaced with another copy of Flametongue Totem and two Gilblin Stalkers.
This list is the smoothest Aggro Shaman has been to date. Two Flametongue Totems and two Gilblin Stalkers enable you to choose whether to hit face or trade as needed. The Flametongue Totems also make the Shaman Hero Power much more useful in the deck in case you cannot find Finley.
Compared to Orange’s list, it is both faster and stickier in the early game which leads to a smoother battle for board control. With the silence effect back in, you can more often choose whether to trade or go face.
This deck is also highly reminiscent of Chakki’s list at the Americas Winter Championships. Both decks share the same basic idea of choosing your trades and being sticky on the board right from the start. Powder’s Flame Jugglers and Gilblin Stalkers, however, end up doing a better job at it and better serve as midgame draws than Chakki’s Knife Jugglers and Haunted Creepers.
Aggro Shaman in Standard
Aggro Shaman looks to be in a good position for the upcoming Standard format. Powder’s list, for example, loses the two copies of Crackle and Gilblin Staker. While losing Crackle would have been a big deal for the original Aggro Shaman list, the loss of a single spell, while it will still hurt, is no longer as significant now that the deck has evolved towards a more minion-based approach. In terms of that minion based approach, the departure of Gilblin Stalker may lead to a downgrade or an upgrade depending on what two-drops come in Old Gods.
The Curse Trials tournament — still our only real touch point with Standard — showcased the importance of Crackle to the spell-based Aggro Shaman quite well. Eleven players out of sixteen chose to bring Aggro Shaman but, excluding mirror matches, Shaman had a miserable record of 13-22. None of the players brought this newer minion-based build, however, as it is a recent development.
The biggest threat to Aggro Shaman in Standard might actually be Shaman itself. Blizzard has revealed three new Shaman class cards from Whispers of the Old Gods that are among the best cards revealed so far: Master of Evolution, Thing from Below, and Hallazeal the Ascended. They push Shaman towards a more midrange style of play. The history and state of Midrange Shaman was recently covered on Liquidhearth, and with the cards revealed since, it looks like that story is about to continue. If Midrange Shaman becomes as powerful as it promises to be, it might push Aggro Shaman out of the spotlight even if Aggro Shaman also remains a viable deck.
This article was originally published on Liquidhearth. I am the original author of this article. Republished with permission here on my personal blog.