Journey to Un’Goro Deck Tech: Jade Elemental Shaman

Hearthstone’s Journey to Un’Goro expansion has been out for a week now, and we have the first insights into how the meta is going to turn out, even though new decks still appear on almost daily basis.

In this deck tech, I will take a look at Jade Elemental Shaman. I have already explored pure Elemental Shaman, but going for a hybrid approach that sacrifices some consistency of elemental synergies for added power of Jade cards is an option many players prefer.

Jade Elemental Shaman

This is the latest list I have been playing with:

The gameplan of the deck is similar to that of pure Elemental Shaman: the ability to create one wide board after another and close out the game with powerful synergy minions and optionally Bloodlust. The Jade version is better at attacking and being proactive, but has fewer taunt minions to throw down as roadblocks in front of pure face decks. As most decks tend to do more than just hit face all the time, the Jade version is a more solid performer overall.

Early game and area-of-effect damage

The Jade package helps a great deal when it comes to early game. Some people have also chosen to use just Jade Claws to have access to an early weapon to control the board, but this list runs the basic package: two copies of Jade Claws, two copies of Jade Lightning, and Aya Blackpaw. This enables up to 6/6 Jades and more early board control or damage from Jade Claws weapon and a four-damage spell and a scaling body on board for four mana as compared to Fire Plume Phoenix’s two damage with a fixed 3/3 body.

The deck runs a rather minimal area-of-effect damage package with two copies of Maelstrom Portal and only one copy of Lightning Storm. The Jade package enables better board control and reduces the need for area-of-effect damage: some people have even chosen to cut Lightning Storms entirely, but there is one copy in this list.

Tokens and Bloodlust

The list is heavy on token generation: Fire Fly (perhaps the best one-drop in the game right now), Igneous Elemental (especially useful token generator in Jade Elemental Shaman as you lack natural synergy cards), and Stone Sentinel are cards that can generate board presence quickly.

When you have board presence, there is one obvious big finisher: Bloodlust. Bloodlust has won me a ton of games. I originally teched it into the deck against Taunt Warrior, but it can also help against Quest Rogue moments before they gain board control. Still, I think running one copy is enough: having no minions but two Bloodlusts in hand is a terrible feeling.

With this more token-based approach, Flametongue Totem is a key card, and it is often great in the early game as well, as Fire Fly has more chance of survival than I expected with a number of one-attack minions around. Flametongue Totem can help with early trades with Fire Fly and Tar Creeper, and it is of course very good later in the game when you have multiple tokens on the board and can chain them with the Flametongue Totem buff.

Card draw and resource generation

Elemental Shaman has limited card draw. In this list, there is Bloodmage Thalnos that can also help buff up the area-of-effect damage spells and one copy of Mana Tide Totem. I have also experimented with Spirit Echo, a card that gives your existing minions a deathrattle to return to your hand upon being destroyed, and it is a promising card that could definitely see play in an Elemental Shaman list. It could also see play in a pure Jade Shaman list, as it can enable bigger Jades, especially when combined with Aya Blackpaw.

In addition to card draw, there is also some resource generation in the form of Servant of Kalimos. The Servant has actually turned out to be the most powerful card in the deck. It often offers you another copy of Kalimos, an Earth Elemental, or Al’Akir the Windlord, and it can also offer another copy of itself, creating yet another card as you get a new pick when you play that one.

Another option for further resource generation is Stonehill Defender, which has a good chance to offer you another Shaman Elemental, as Hot Spring Guardian, Earth Elemental, and Al’Akir all have taunt. It is good in the mirror as well as against Midrange Paladin and Taunt Warrior, but not so good against more aggressive decks so I chose not to include it in this list. Overall though, it can fit Jade Elemental Shaman even better than pure Elemental Shaman, because there are no four-drops that require elemental synergies in the deck.

Taunts

Because the Jade package makes Elemental synergies more difficult to activate, Tol’Vir Stoneshaper is not as reliable an aggro stopper as it is for pure Elemental Shaman. This means that Jade Elemental Shaman does not have access to as wide of an assortment of taunts, but it compensates for this with more active removal.

Matchup details

The meta is still evolving, so these are quite hard to predict for the long term. Nonetheless, some observations on the current meta can be made.

Pirate Warrior

Pirate Warrior is a favored matchup. Fire Fly, Maelstrom Portal, and Jade Claws are the most important cards to keep, and Flametongue Totem can also help if you have some early minions to go with it. If you already have something for the early game, keeping a Jade Lightning to take out a Frothing Berserker can also be worth it.

Taunt Warrior

Taunt Warrior is an unfavored matchup. You need to be the aggressor and build one board after another and try to push for that damage. Look for a good minion curve; area-of-effect damage is not important early on here.

Hex needs to be used for tempo, and Kalimos is often six damage to the face, as Warrior has so many ways to clear a board of 1/1s. Once he uses Sulfuras, the Warrior can only heal with Shield Block. Therefore, if you have enough health left, you may be able to use direct damage effects on the Warrior’s face and win through that. If you’re still missing a bit, try to go wide on the board first and then finish off with direct damage.

Quest Rogue

Quest Rogue is an unfavored matchup. Look for early game: Fire Fly, Jade Claws, Maelstrom Portal, Flametongue Totem. If you’re on the coin, playing both Elementals from Fire Fly with the coin into a Flametongue Totem on two can help you get off to a good start. Tar Creeper can also help by protecting your damage dealers.

You need to get the Rogue low enough so that you can race him when he completes the quest. Focus on face damage, smart trades on the best bounce targets (Novice Engineer, Swashburglar), and if necessary trading a bit just before the quest is completed to buy more time. Fire Elemental, Blazecaller, or even Kalimos with six damage to face can close the game. Thanks to the Jade Package, you have a bit more burst in Jade Lightnings as well as the growing Jade Golems, so you are able to be more aggressive than a regular Elemental Shaman.

Midrange Hunter

Midrange Hunter is a favored matchup. Look for early game again, especially Fire Fly, Jade Claws, and Maelstrom Portal. If you have no other way to remove Hunter’s minions, a turn two Maelstrom Portal (or turn one if you’re on the coin) is perfectly acceptable even on a lonely Jeweled Macaw: you really want to deny the possibility to play Crackling Razormaw on a beast on turn two.

Even if things don’t go your way at the start, Lightning Storm and Hex can still bring you back into the game. Hex is best used on Savannah Highmane, but you are sometimes forced to use it on a big Scavenging Hyena.

Midrange Paladin

An interesting, quite even, and highly value-focused matchup. Most Midrange Paladins run some kind of Murloc package for their early game, as Hydrologist is such a good card. Thus, you will need to be able to answer their early game and then transition to a value-based game afterwards.

Paladin is most likely going to pick up a Getaway Kodo from Hydrologist, and save that to play with a big minion. As Shaman, you have plenty of tools to deal with this: Hexing a minion before killing it returns a frog to their hand, and using one of the many battlecries to pick off a weak minion before going for the obvious target can give the Paladin an extra Silverhand Recruit instead of an extra Tirion.

With Stonehill Defenders on the Paladin’s side, he can pick up extra class taunts in basically every game, so you may have to face two or three Tirions or Sunkeeper Tarims. As Spikeridged Steed is also seeing a lot of play, there are more good Hex targets than you have Hexes in the deck. Try to pick your Hex targets carefully, depending on what other cards you have available to deal with rest of the threats, and remember that Sunkeeper Tarim can show up at any time to turn both boards into 3/3s.

Conclusions: All-around performer

Jade Elemental Shaman strengthens the early game of the Elemental Shaman deck with the Jade package while still achieving late-game power with Jade Golems and selected Elemental synergies.

It sacrifices some consistency for more power, and is not as defensive as a pure Elemental Shaman. It has higher performance overall, but as the Jade package takes five card slots from the deck, it is more difficult to tech for a specific meta. From another point of view, one could argue that Jade Elemental Shaman does not need to be teched for the meta as hard as a pure build, as it has a wider range of tools already available.

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