Control Shaman is quickly becoming my favorite deck in the current Standard meta. The playstyle and the deck’s strength in the current meta made me want to share the concept with more people. In preparation for this guide, I have played over 200 Control Shaman games in recent seasons, most of which I streamed on Twitch at Jaredpullet.
Control Shaman Core:
The deck core of Control Shaman consists of 24 of the best control tools from the Shaman class. I can’t recommend playing this version of Control Shaman in the Standard meta without access to these cards. Four cards I consider core are possible to replace, though this comes at a high cost.
These four cards include The Fist of Ra-den, Instructor Fireheart, and two copies of Far Sight. These tools drastically improve the deck, but you can replace them in a budget version. While significantly worse, and unlikely to be high-legend worthy, it is possible to succeed.
Build options & tech cards
Because Control Shaman is a deck built to beat the meta, it is important to adjust to what the meta comprises at any given day. Above I have listed 28 cards that I wouldn’t take out personally. After the core cards, this leaves us with two cards that I am switching pretty much every day.
The remaining spots exist to beat the prevalent decks at any given time. Just some of the tools I commonly included during my time learning the archetype include The Lurker Below, Swampqueen Hagatha, Kobold Stickyfinger, Archivist Elysiana, Wandmaker, and the Serpentshrine Portal. In the matchup section below, I explain how each of these cards functions to improve certain matchups.
Control Shaman Example Decklists:
Jared list 1:
The general strategy of the Control Shaman
Control Shaman has one primary way to win: outlast the opponent’s resources. And it does this very well. There are some games where you will need to transition to a different gameplan, but this will be dictated in-game by the board- and hand-state, usually in conjunction with discovered options.
Because Control Shaman gets its wins (most of the time) by accounting for your opponent’s resources, you must understand the other decks in the meta and what and when you will have to account for in the game—knowing if you can use some removal willy-nilly or if you need your opponent to develop a bit more before you can wipe the board. It dictates whether you should or shouldn’t play Tidal Wave into a board that has just three of your totems.
Because I have only recorded fifty games this season with Control Shaman and played against 20 different deck archetypes, I based the matchup information on both data and feel. I will preface the specific matchup discussion with the general gameplan against the broader types of deck and supplement that discussion when needed in specific class breakdowns.
Aggressive decks (7-1), Control Shamans breakfast.
Aggressive decks are excellent matchups for Control Shaman. Face hunter, Stealth Rogue, Weapon Rogue, Aggresive Demon Hunter, Token Druid are all matchups we love to see. The main path to victory here is to stay alive long enough to get to your 8-mana healing plays, Tidal Wave and Walking Fountain.
When these cards come down against an aggressive deck, you generally win the game. Sometimes, you might have to play Diligent Notetaker and Witch’s Brew on turn four to get to this point. Other times it means Scheming a board with two 3/1s. Your goal is to get to turn eight, even if you need to play low value clears. If you are on the coin, try to preserve it to get to your eight mana cards early.
In these matchups, we are looking to keep clears and healing—tools like Hagatha’s Scheme, Devolving Missles, Groundskeeper, and Lightning storm. I would keep Fountain/Tidal Wave on the coin if I had two of the four cards mentioned.
Possible tech choices for a meta dictated by these decks: The Lurker Below, Serpentshrine Portal, Wandmaker (I would also opt for Marshspawn over Vulpeera in this scenario because the body is important and you are playing spells every turn anyway against these decks)
“Play lots of cards on one turn” decks (20-9)
I am not sure if it is appropriate to lump these decks together, but they all require a semi-similar approach. I am mainly thinking of Soul Demon Hunter, Cyclone Mage, Secret Rogue, and Libram Paladin. These matchups on paper are good for Control Shaman.
These decks like to invest many resources in one turn, and our deck is built mainly to punish high investment turns. Hex, Devolving Missiles, big healing plays all serve to negate a big investment turn from the opponent. However, some of these decks’ random generation can be tough for Control Shaman, mainly because our resources are limited.
When the game starts, we can account for everything in the opponent’s deck. But if they acquire high-value cards through generation, we may not have the answers. It is very important to understand how your opponent’s resource generation might defeat you against a particular deck and do your best to discover resources through Instructor Fireheart, Vulpera Scoundrel, or Marshspawn. In addition to this, duplicating resources through Diligent Notetaker is another great option.
Games against Cyclone Mage, for instance, usually go to fatigue and are determined by how many of their Astromancers were able to hit the graveyard before I could Hex/Missiles them, which are the main target for these spells in this particular matchup.
We are looking to keep Hagatha’s Scheme, Devolving Missiles, Hex, and Torrent in these matchups. If I had two of these, I would also keep a Far Sight or Fist of Ra-Den.
Possible tech choices for a meta dictated by these decks: Swampqueen Hagatha, The Lurker Below, Wandmaker
Why Control Shaman is not happy to see tempo and Highlander decks
I just wanted to mention that decks that play out threats, turn by turn, are hard for Control Shaman. Highlander decks automatically do this because of how they built their deck. If Control Shaman catches on, people will likely learn to spread their higher value resources over multiple turns, which would hurt Control Shaman’s viability. But, for now, Highlander decks are not common, so there is not much to worry about.)
Possible tech choices for a meta dictated by these decks: If these decks were running the meta, Control Shaman would be a poor choice.
Control Shaman Vs. Control decks (9-3)
Control Shaman is generally good against other Control decks because the class’s general bane turns around to be its greatest strength here: our card draw is terrible! For decks like Dragon Control Priest and Control Warrior, we have an abundance of removal to address their threats.
We honestly don’t even need Elysiana to win in fatigue because both of those deck draw more than us. Try and play one mana spells with The Fist of Ra-den up because the only minion it can generate is Reliquary of Souls, which shuffles Prime into our deck, which helps us with Fatigue. We out-control any other popular control deck right now, so we often win these games.
The exception to this is Priest running Galakrond, which causes the matchup to be virtually impossible to win due to the additional resource generation. Thankfully, they have all dropped that card! I am not sure if Quest Druid will stick around, but their threats are finite as well, and we line up pretty well against them (again, unless their Ysera puts out one or two big bodies over four or five turns, we may be in trouble).
In these matchups, we are looking to keep Hagatha’s Scheme (except when playing against Warrior), The Fist of Ra-den, Far Sight, Vulpeera Scoundrel.
Possible tech choices for a meta dictated by these decks: Archivist Elysiana, Kobold Stickyfinger against Bomb Warrior, and Swampqueen Hagatha
Specific Matchups insights for Control Shaman
Demon Hunter (quite favored)
Control Shaman crushes Demon Hunter for the simple reason that we can out heal the damage they can put out. We also have more ways to clear boards and big minions than they have to populate the board. Because of that, we can play our removal without hesitation.
The Soul Demon Hunter can win if we don’t get to our healing. The Demon Hunter decks’ squishy minions come out early, so it is not uncommon to play an early Hagatha’s Scheme to get rid of them. However, this leads to not having much of a board to play Tidal Wave into later. You may opt for Tidal Waving away two of your minions just because you are trying to protect your life. Fountain can be tricky to play late because smart Demon Hunters won’t toss down small minions to trade into for you. Try and keep your life high, count the possible damage form hand they can have, and you should win often.
Notes against Soul Demon Hunter: I like to take Frost Shock when offered off Vulpeera Scoundrel and Instructor Fireheart and even pair it with Notetaker. Locking them out during even just a turn or two in the midgame can be a game-changer.
Outlasting Cyclone Mage as Control Shaman
Playing against Cyclone Mage is both fun and frustrating. On paper, we have an answer for everything, unless they get a miracle situation and get Chenvaala, a couple of 5/5s, and a Giant down by turn 4. I always want a Hagatha’s Scheme upgrading and a Torrent or Hex in my hand from the get-go. Multiple Solarian Primes are a way Control Shaman can lose. The other is Evocation, but there isn’t much to influence there. Because of that, Devolving Missiles and Hex should immediately deal with any Astromancer. They will play more than one Astromancer, so you need to make sure you can account for it. Usually, one Prime hits their deck, which we can often survive, but we cannot survive three.
Notes against Cyclone Mage: I like to take more transform effects off my discover cards, also I like cheap cards. Randomly generated secrets can derail us because we have no idea knowing what they are, but we also will need to play a Tidal Wave to survive. Getting some spells that let you test secrets can be useful, but I would say it is still secondary to getting spells to a known inevitable threat that you don’t feel like you can answer.
Teching Control Shaman against Bomb Warrior
Bomb Warrior is an interesting challenge. It kind of comes down to how quickly you can draw the bombs. We can out heal the bombs if they all explode before, say, we have five cards left in our deck, and in that scenario, we can out heal Gala swings until they fatigue. But some games, all the bombs wait till the end to explode at once, or multiple bombs explode before we get our healing.
Bomb Warrior does not run many minions because that we can easily deal with their minion threats. It just comes down to how efficiently we can recover from the turns we absorb a lot of damage. I have heard someone that Soul Demon Hunter and Bomb Warrior are kind of similar decks. However, the difference for us is that we can anticipate when the damage is coming from Demon Hunter, but not from Warrior’s bombs.
Notes against Bomb Warrior: Healing is how we win. Diligent Notetaker into Witch’s Brew is a great play. Try to maximize Groundskeeper value. Try to play one mana spells with Fist up to shuffle in Reliquary Primes. I also was able to win against a Bomb Warrior by discovering Vivid Spores and pairing it with Notetaker (and a minion or two from Fist) and switching to the beatdown role. Bomb Warrior can’t deal well with layered boards like that because they don’t have many minions to help trade.
Paladin (Broom is favored, Pure is even)
We do a really good job dealing with early big threats through Missiles, Torrent, and Hex. The problem is that these all come back after Liadrin. Additionally, Divine Shield could be problematic because we don’t have many minions to pop shields. For this reason, we are looking to get rid of Murger Murgurgle with a transforming effect because Murgurgle Prime is pretty hard for us to handle.
Try to transform minions with Libram in the early game and transform them again after Lady Liadrin. Pair Hex with Notetaker if you can. There will be games where you will have to waste an AOE just popping some shield and taking a lot of damage the subsequent turn. Pure is harder because of Lightforged Crusader. Liadrin is generally manageable, but Crusader can stretch us too thin.
Notes against Paladin: If Paladin was more prevalent, I might consider running Headmaster Kel’thuzad in the tech spot. Off the discover effects, I am generally looking for Hex or Plague of Murlocs (sometimes a great response to a wide board with divine shields).
Is Miracle Rogue favored against Control Shaman?
I only have three games against Miracle Rogue (1-2), and I am not sure if we are favored or unfavored. Of course, the problem is not Questing Adventurer or Edwin VanCleef; the deck exists to address those cards. The issue is that Secret Rogue is so good at generating a ton of value.
When I look at Miracle Rogue on paper, I feel that Control Shaman is favored, but I am not confident about my assessment. Just try and always have an answer for high-value plays your opponent will try to force. Be sure to have a Devolving Missles or Hex to deal with Edwin VanCleef, Questing Adventurer, and Shadowjeweler Hanar. The wide boards they create are easy to clear for our deck. The Dragon’s Hoard decklist is harder for us because of the potential large threat that we can’t necessarily account for.
Notes against Miracle Rogue: Don’t give them any extra value that would be relevant to them. Play around Plagiarize as much as you possibly can. We don’t care if they get an Earthquake, but we care if they get Fist of Ra-Den and three Witch’s Brew.
Defeating Control Dragon Priest as Control Shaman
I think there is enough information in the Control section above to account for playing against Control Priest. Their deck is very predictable. They have 2 Draconic Studies dragons, a few more dragons generated from Draconic Studies, and other than that, they have small boards that you can deal with easily. Try and pair Notetaker with Hex to address the big dragons they generate.
Notes against Control Priest: You will not have many good turns to play Murozond the Infinite. So know that if you play The Fist of Ra-dan late, they will play Murozond the Infinite. They will likely get something like a Fountain when they decide to play it, so just be sure you can address whatever they might be able to steal.
The Control Priest likely has to play out their acolytes throughout the match, so I would usually wait to play The Fist of Ra-dan until after I have seen Murozond the Infinite and their Cabal Shadowpriest’s. Don’t play Far Sight, as you win this game once you are both in fatigue.
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