It is easy to pinpoint the moment when Jade Shaman became a thing: December 1st, 2016, the release date of Mean Streets of Gadgetzan and the Jade mechanic.
Shaman had already enjoyed a period of strong performance bolstered by great class cards added over multiple expansions: Basically, the class had been in such a bad shape that Blizzard kept pouring good cards into it until it became good. As a testament to the sad shape where Shaman started from, it took several expansions with great cards added to the class in each of them until Shaman rose to prominence and the era of “Shamanstone” began.
During the Shamanstone era, there were two main archetypes of Shaman, Aggro and Midrange. Upon the release of the Jade mechanic, both archetypes jumped on board. Aggro Shaman picked up the cream of the crop and included the most aggressive Jade cards, whereas Midrange Shaman morphed from a Totem-based deck into full-blown Jade Shaman as the Jade mechanic proved to be superior to various Totem buffs.
Thus, the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan era Jade Shaman was an aggressive midrange deck that had an explosive start powered by Tunnel Trogg and Totem Golem and carried on seamlessly into a powerful end-game with big Jade Golems – not quite infinite Jade Golems like Jade Druid, but still going to 10/10 and even higher with some Brann Bronzebeard action doubling the Jade-summoning battlecries.
In April 2017, the Standard rotation took place, and for a short while Jade Shaman was almost forgotten. There were new Elementals to play with, and Jade Shaman lost Brann Bronzebeard and all of its early game. However, the power of the Jade mechanic could not be denied, and Jade Shaman began its rise back to prominence in a slightly different form.
Jade Shaman in Year of the Mammoth is no longer a deck with an explosive start, but it still packs a lot of punch in mid-to-late game. It is now a slower midrange deck that revolves around generating tons of resources with Spirit Echo in order to overwhelm the opposition. There are various builds around, and it is yet undetermined whether the purely midrange variant or the more control-style variant is the superior form of the deck: the deck is never exactly fast, but it can range from a little slow to just plain slow.
As Jade Shaman is still looking for its true self, here are two different takes on it, first the more midrange style:
Midrange variant deck code: AAECAaoIAu0FlL0CDvkDgQT+BfuqAqC2At26Aoe8As+8AtG8Ava9AsfBApvCAofEApfHAgA=
To use this deck, copy it to your clipboard and create a new deck in Hearthstone.
Then, the slightly more control style:
Control style deck code: AAECAaoIAu0FlL0CDoEE9QT+BfuqAqC2At26Aua7Aoe8As+8AtG8Ava9AsfBAofEApfHAgA=
To use this deck, copy it to your clipboard and create a new deck in Hearthstone.
While some Jade Shaman variants are a little faster than others, they all share the same main win condition: Jade Golems and Spirit Echo. Generating Jade Golems and then playing Spirit Echo to be able to replay those Jade Golems and generate more of them from the echoed generator cards is the main value engine of the deck. Throw in some Things from Below, and you are also generating significant amounts of tempo.
Spirit Echo itself is a complicated card to use properly. Its proper use is explored in depth in the FAQ section at the end of the guide.
In addition to Spirit Echo, the defining feature of Jade Shaman is the Jade package. Most Shaman decks use the small Jade package, which consists of two copies of Jade Claws, two copies of Jade Lightning, and the legendary card Aya Blackpaw. They are used simply because the four Jade cards are crucial pieces of Shaman’s current early game, and once you have those in the deck, Aya Blackpaw is simply too much value to leave out.
Jade Shaman goes a step further and incorporates the other Jade generators available to Shaman. Jade Spirit is used in all Jade Shaman builds, but the most expensive Jade card, Jade Chieftain, is sometimes cut from the faster variants: instead of trying to use a seven-mana card, such builds rely on Spirit Echo to help them build Jades beyond the 8/8 statline they reach naturally. The builds running Jade Chieftain can reach Jades of up to 10/10 stats even without Spirit Echo.
Shaman has some powerful removal options available to it, and Jade Shaman utilizes them to great effect. It has to, as the deck itself lacks early game.
Devolve is a brutal card against deathrattles, buffs, and synergistic decks, such as Murloc decks. Ironically, it is also brutal against Jade Shaman itself, because the deathrattles from Spirit Echo play such a crucial role in the deck. Hex is a similar strong answer to an individual minion.
Maelstrom Portal is the key anti-aggro card that can nullify an early Pirate board, for example. It is also one of the main reasons to include Bloodmage Thalnos in the deck: clearing slightly stronger boards often requires some spell damage, and while spell damage is sometimes available from Wrath of Air Totem, the Shaman Hero Power is an unreliable source of spell damage at best. With Bloodmage Thalnos in the deck, the likelihood of being able to answer a Living Mana board increases significantly.
Shaman has even more area-of-effect damage available to it in the form of Lightning Storm and Volcano. Lightning Storm can at times be clunky because of the overload, but it also shined in some matchups. Volcano, on the other hand, is a powerful comeback mechanic, as it can destroy a pair of big minions or a wide board of small ones, but it is not useful if you have any meaningful board of your own. The use of these tools varies based on player preference and the prevalent meta.
A slow deck needs one more thing in addition to a powerful win condition and comeback mechanics: healing. You cannot afford to be slow and unable to heal yourself out of reach. Jade Shaman features powerful healing options in the form of Hot Spring Guardian and Jinyu Waterspeaker. If needed, they can even be replayed with the help of Spirit Echo, as long as you have some way to destroy them after giving them the deathrattle.
When you are not sure what deck your opponent is playing, you typically need to mulligan for the most aggressive option: you have more time to find the right cards to play against a slower deck, whereas against an aggro deck you need your answers immediately.
You generally try to avoid letting a Token Druid build a wide board that they can then buff. Therefore, Lightning Bolt, Jade Claws, and Maelstrom Portal are high on your list of cards to keep. Also keep Devolve, as it can remove any buffs if Druid gets a dream start.
I also tend to keep Bloodmage Thalnos with Maelstrom Portal, as there are not that many one-health minions in Token Druid, and that spell damage is often useful.
Midrange Hunter is a board-centric deck that really wants to keep some beasts on the board. Jade Claws and Maelstrom Portal are brutal against Hunter’s early game, as is Devolve to remove beast synergies, deathrattles, and buffs.
Secret Mage will come at you, and they will come at you hard. As their minions are mostly 2/3s, many of you early-game answers are inefficient on their own. Lightning Bolt and Jade Claws are your best tools, and you can keep Maelstrom Portal with Jade Claws to deal that three damage.
Paladins typically start out with a bunch of Murlocs. Lightning Bolt and Jade Claws can contest their early board, and Devolve can wreck their synergies before things become too bad.
Priest is almost certainly a bit slower matchup where you can afford to keep early Jade cards. I also like to hold on to a Devolve to remove their buffs.
You need to be fast to beat a Quest Rogue. Early Jades give the best chance to succeed, and a Devolve can throw their quest completion off-track.
Token Shaman mostly has minions with more than one health, so Maelstrom Portal is not that effective. On the other hand, you have a couple of turns, so it is still worth keeping to look for spell damage to go with it. Jade Claws is your best early-game card here.
You are looking for your regular anti-aggro toolkit of Lightning Bolt, Jade Claws, Maelstrom Portal, and Devolve.
Maelstrom Portal is the single most important card against a Pirate Warrior. It is followed by Jade Claws. I also like to keep Jade Lightning for Frothing Berserker and Devolve to mess up Pirate synergies.
Tech Cards and Replacements
With only two legendary cards, two epic cards, and one card from One Night in Karazhan, Jade Shaman is not a hugely expensive deck to build. That said, those few more expensive cards are painful to replace.
Maelstrom Portal is a crucial piece when facing full-on aggro decks: it wipes out early Pirates and gives you a minion to keep contesting the board. It comes from the first paid wing of One Night in Karazhan, so it is not hugely expensive to acquire. Given its prevalence in all Shaman decks, I highly recommend acquiring the card if you want to play Shaman as a class. If you really need to replace it, you can run Lightning Storms and Volcanoes as your area-of-effect package, even though they do not have the same early effect on the board.
Bloodmage Thalnos is a flexible and powerful legendary card. Providing both card draw and spell damage, it has found a spot in many decks. If you replace Maelstrom Portals, Thalnos becomes less important, as that buff to Maelstrom Portal is the most important reason to run it in Jade Shaman. If you have Maelstrom Portal but no Thalnos, you can replace it with Kobold Geomancer. If you have neither, you can go for something completely different, probably related to survival against aggro, such as Fire Fly or Tar Creeper.
Spirit Echo is the main value-generator of the deck and one of the main reasons to play the deck in the first place. If you started with a list that cut Jade Chieftains, you can add them for some additional Jade cards. If you started with a list that did not include Stonehill Defenders, they can also add some value-generation to the deck.
Aya Blackpaw was one of the three legendary cards that defined the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan metagame. It is the centerpiece of all Jade decks, and very difficult to replace. After thinking long and hard about what could possibly rival it in the power it provides, the only option I could come up with is Bloodlust. Obviously a completely different card, but still a card that can close out games for you.
There are still many differences between Jade Shaman lists, so I will try to discuss some of the non-core cards that appear in some of the lists here.
The early game package. Some of the more control-oriented Jade Shaman lists simply do not run any meaningful early game. However, if you want to go all control, there are other options available in the Shaman class, such as N’Zoth Control Shaman. If you want to have early game in your deck, there are a few options to choose from:
- Lightning Bolt. You are already running Maelstrom Portal anyway, so you have an answer to low-health minions. Adding Lightning Bolt can give you an answer to many of the three-health minions in the metagame, such as an Innervated Vicious Fledgling from an Aggro Druid. It also provides you with a bit of reach in the late game.
- Fire Fly and Flametongue Totem. Another option you can try to contest early boards is the Fire Fly and Flametongue Totem package. Fire Fly is an immensely powerful one-drop, and Flametongue Totem can both help you take value trades early and late, as well as make Thing from Below cheaper.
- Primalfin Totem and Flametongue Totem. A more totem-oriented early-game package can run Primalfin Totem to generate tokens to contest an early board and Flametongue Totem to buff them up. Really helps to discount Thing from Below.
- Bloodsail Corsair, Patches, and Flametongue Totem. The small Pirate package has been popular at times, as it gives you yet another way to contest early boards as well as some weapon removal. However, whenever Golakka Crawler is popular, this package tends to do more harm than good.
- Note on Flametongue Totem: Many of these packages include Flametongue Totem. It is a key piece to any minion-based early game, but many Jade Shaman lists simply do not have enough cheap minions to support it. As soon as you add some, no matter which ones, Flametongue Totem becomes a much more attractive addition.
The area-of-effect options. You always want Maelstrom Portal as Shaman. Always. Even Aggro Shaman runs it. However, there is a lot of room to tweak the rest of the package to your liking. The heaviest decks run two copies of each Devolve, Lightning Storm, and Volcano, but this can often result in awkward situations where you are stuck with a bunch of area-of-effect spells in hand and no pressure. The selection of spells and how many you run depends on the meta and the rest of your deck.
- Devolve is a wonderful spell. Deals with buffs, deathrattles, synergy minions. Does not actually remove the minions though, so if you’re looking at an upcoming Savage Roar and Bloodlust, it will not save you. You will want at least one copy in a slow Shaman deck, such as Jade Shaman.
- Lightning Storm is a basic area-of-effect spell with a significant overload component. It is great against Aggro Druid and Aggro Shaman, but less effective in many other matchups. Some Jade Shaman decks opt to cut it completely.
- Volcano is a heavy-hitting comeback spell. It can clear even big minions, and late in the game it also allows you to develop your own board afterwards. If you have many early-game minions, and are thus good at keeping the board, Volcano becomes less attractive. If you run few early-game minions (and go for Lightning Bolt instead, for example), Volcano becomes more important.
Stonehill Defender. Stonehill Defender can be a strong value generator in many classes, Shaman being one of the classes that benefit from it the most. With powerful class Taunt minions such as Earth Elemental and Al’Akir the Windlord being offered more likely than neutral minions, Stonehill Defender can really deliver some value.
Tar Creeper. If you have problems with aggressive decks, Tar Creeper remains a strong defensive option. It sees play in a wide range of decks from Jade Druid to Quest Rogue, so it is not only for Elemental decks.
Bloodlust. Any Shaman deck can always consider running one copy of Bloodlust as an additional finisher. It can steal some wins, but on the other hand it can also sit dead in your hand at times.
Jade Druid – Bad
Against Jade Druid, you are the beatdown. Jades will eventually grow so big that there is nothing you can do to remove them: Devolve often makes things worse, and Volcano can only kill a single big Jade. On the bright side, Druid also has a hard time removing all of your minions, and going wide on the board can just overwhelm them.
Jade Druid wins if it survives long enough and stabilizes on the back of its Primordial Drakes, Earthen Scales, and ultimately Gadgetzan Auctioneer to get a big Jade train rolling. Jade Shaman wins by going wide on the board and racing the Druid down.
Aggro Druid – Good
Without a board, Aggro Druid cannot do anything, and Jade Shaman is great at removing boards.
Devolve is a superb card in this matchup as it can remove all the buffs and cripple a Living Mana board. If the Druid has cards and mana remaining, there is the risk of Savage Roar though, so keep that in mind when using Devolve.
Midrange Hunter – Good
Midrange Hunters really love their beasts: Crackling Razormaw and Houndmaster both rely on beast synergies, as do Kill Command and Scavenging Hyena. Try not to let them have beasts on the board, and Devolve any wide deathrattle boards to deny deathrattle value. Hex on a Savannah Highmane is brutal. You have many ways to deal with everything the Hunter can throw at you, and some healing to buy time against their Hero Power.
Discover Burn Mage / Freeze Mage – Bad
Try to apply pressure on the Mage. You just have to get them low fast enough to start popping those Ice Blocks or you will lose to the burn. Healing is best saved after Alexstrasza whenever possible, and from there you can try to get more healing with Spirit Echo. The problem is that Mage will try to avoid playing minions that you could use to kill off your healing minions in the late game and just burn through your health instead.
Secret Mage – Bad
Secret Mage is a lot more hectic matchup than other Mage decks, and cards are not saved for the end-game here. Their early three-health minions can be difficult to answer, and Counterspell can be difficult to deal with as well.
Thanks to Jade cards such as Jade Spirit, you can often deal with Mirror Entity, and Secret Mage wants to play minions so you are able to get value from Spirit Echo as well, but these upsides are not enough to turn the matchup into a favorable one.
Control Paladin – Good
This is a matchup where Spirit Echo shines: Control Paladin is good at clearing boards, but cannot prevent deathrattles from going off. Constant pressure and wipe-proofing your board with Spirit Echo can be too much for the Paladin to handle.
Midrange Paladin – Neutral
Midrange Paladin has an explosive Murloc-powered start followed up by one or more copies of Sunkeeper Tarim, Tirion Fordring, and Primordial Drake.
You need to survive the Murloc rush first and then start to pressure the Paladin, but Sunkeeper Tarim, especially if it comes in multiple copies thanks to discovers, really threatens big Jades. Paladin will try to race you, so even though you can Spirit Echo Jade cards back to your hand, you are also getting hit in the face while struggling to replay your minions.
Murloc Paladin – Good
Murloc Paladin just comes straight at you and tries to kill you. Blessing of Kings and Gentle Megasaur are threats from Turn four and they often also have a Spikeridged Steed for Turn 6, so there are plenty of buffs around.
Luckily, you have a ton of answers to buffs with Devolve and Hex as well as area-of-effect damage to clear the board. Once you stabilize, it will be smooth going from there.
Dragon Priest – Bad
This battle of two midrange decks favors the Priest, who can take your best cards and turn them against you: while Hex and Devolve are powerful, they are also some of the best counters to your deck, and Drakonid Operatives are looking for those cards to use against you.
The high health of Priest’s minions makes them difficult to remove, and it is easy to lose tempo in this matchup. You will win if you can ramp up the Jades and exhaust the Priest’s removal.
Control Priest – Good
Control Priest cannot pressure you in nearly the same way Dragon Priest can, and it also cannot as reliably copy your best cards. Big Jades will run the Priest out of removal, and Hex and Devolve take care of whatever the Priest can play.
Silence Priest – Good
Facing Hex and Devolve, Silence Priest is in trouble. Silence Priest usually builds up one or two big minions, but you have the tools to wipe out all of their buffs and just roll over them with Jade Golems.
Quest Rogue – Bad
You need to be fast and hit them in the face a lot. Trade only when needed: just before they complete the quest or on high-value targets, such as Novice Engineer. Most of the time though, you are too slow to challenge the Quest Rogue. After they complete the quest, Hex and Devolve are useless. This is the worst matchup for the deck.
Miracle Rogue – Neutral
Unlike against Quest Rogue, Hex and Devolve are playable cards, even good ones. The Rogue will try to burst you down and you try to neutralize all their threats, heal up and taunt up, and roll over them with a wide board.
Elemental Shaman – Neutral
Big Jades against big Elementals makes for an even fight.
Elemental Shaman has an advantage when it comes to Devolve, as they do not rely on Spirit Echo and most of their minions come with a battlecry, so a Devolve may even boost their stats.
On the other hand, Jades will get bigger than Elementals as time goes on.
Token Shaman – Neutral
There is one thing Token Shaman hates: area-of-effect damage, and you have plenty of that available.
Token Shaman does have an advantage regarding Devolve: yours is mostly ineffective, whereas theirs is strong.
Pirate Warrior – Neutral
Early draws are crucial in this matchup. If you find Maelstrom Portal and they go for one-health Pirates, things look good. If you cannot find the early answers, Pirate Warrior will rush you down.
Spirit Echo is generally too slow in this matchup, but if you are on the edge of survival, it can become the most important card in the deck by copying taunts and heals.
Taunt Warrior – Neutral
Against Taunt Warrior, you are the beatdown. The Warrior will attempt to stall and then finally overwhelm you with their Hero Power. What makes it worse is the fact that the Warrior has a lot of removal from Whirlwind effects to Sleep with the Fishes to Brawl and Execute.
Keep threats on the board but do not overextend – you can wipe-proof your board with Spirit Echo though. However, the worst-case scenario is the one where Warrior completes the quest and is able to Brawl the board afterwards, so do apply sufficient pressure to force Brawls before the quest is completed.
Do not be afraid to use Hex for tempo – you need to be pushing that damage through.
When is the right time to use Spirit Echo?
When to use Spirit Echo is one of the key decisions when playing Jade Shaman, and it is a highly complex decision.
The best targets are Aya Blackpaw (two more Jade Golems) and Thing from Below (potentially free 5/5), but game state and matchup greatly affect the decision to use the card. For example, if you are facing an opponent with transformation capabilities (Hex, Polymorph), it is often a good idea to play Spirit Echo on a board of multiple lower-value minions than go all in on Aya that then becomes an extremely attractive target to transform away to prevent the deathrattles from triggering.
Furthermore, in some matchups you may need additional healing more than additional threats, in which case Hot Spring Guardian and Jinyu Waterspeaker become priority targets.
Jade Golems themselves are also decent Spirit Echo targets, especially the medium-sized ones, say, from 4/4 to 6/6. They are minions with reasonable stats the do not take all of your mana to play, so you can weave one in while you also do something else on the turn.
It is also important to pay attention to your hand size when playing Spirit Echo. Will you overdraw if the board is cleared? Does it matter? You can trade away some minions before playing Spirit Echo to not get them back, and you can also occasionally trade away a minion after playing Spirit Echo and replay it on the same turn – this strategy can also be effective when facing opponents who may transform your minions.
Finally, it is good to remember that there are two copies of Spirit Echo in the deck: it is unnecessary to go for maximum value and take big risks when you can ensure that you have sufficient resources available to retain tempo by sacrificing some of the value and play Spirit Echo even if you do not have the best possible targets available.
When do I use Mana Tide Totem?
Mana Tide Totem is a card that can let you snowball to victory if unanswered. However, there are multiple considerations as to when to play it.
Obviously, if you can hide Mana Tide Totem behind a Taunt minion, that’s great. The Taunt minion will protect the Totem and potentially let it draw multiple cards. Note that some decks run removal that can target the Mana Tide Totem in the mid-game, such as Book Wyrm from Dragon Priest and Stampeding Kodo from Midrange or Control Paladin.
Mana Tide Totem can also be a great play on an empty board, especially early in the game. Many opponents may not be able to remove it from an empty board.
You also need to consider the tempo aspect: playing a 0/3 minion does not exactly strengthen your board. If the battle for the board is at its peak, you might want to play cards that immediately affect the board state instead.
I wrote this guide for Hearthhead, they have a large number of deck guides including this one – you can check them out here. Republished with permission on my personal blog.