Our Evolve Shaman deck guide features the best deck list for Season 44, with Mulligan advice, strategy tips, card combos and synergies.
Evolve Shaman - like all Token decks - is a Hearthstone archetype built around the simple concept of getting many minor minions out into play, and then using various buffs to transform them into a devastating fighting force.
The general idea is that if your opponent is unable to clear these would-be threats out quickly, then they'll quickly find themselves overwhelmed - if not, in fact, completely dead. If you get a decent start, it can be very difficult for your opponent to find their way back into the match. Lose the board, however, and it can be hard to get back in the fight.
In the next of our Frozen Throne deck guides, we've highlighted a particularly strong deck list you can use in-game yourself, and also provided some Mulligan tips so you can choose a solid starting hand. We've also significantly expanded on our strategy section since Evolve Shaman became a top-tier deck, with advice for beating aggro and control opponents, and further tips on inching your win-rate up a little higher.
The Evolve Shaman archetype is now about as refined as it's ever going to get ahead of the release of the Kobolds and Catacombs expansion at the start of December. There are no changes to consider in the latest version of our guide, but do make sure you're running the latest deck list if you're catching up after a break. This is still a highly competitive deck for the ladder.
Evolve Shaman deck list and strategy
Here's what we believe to be the best version of Evolve Shaman being used right now. Remember that this deck has been sourced from an aggregator of competitive decks and is merely the most successful version of many other lists:
|2 x Evolve||2 x Bloodsail Corsair|
|2 x Devolve||2 x Fire Fly|
|2 x Flametongue Totem||1 x Patches the Pirate|
|2 x Jade Claws||1 x Saronite Chain Gang|
|2 x Maelstrom Portal||2 x Doppelgangster|
|2 x Primalfin Totem|
|2 x Mana Tide Totem|
|2 x Jade Lightning|
|2 x Bloodlust|
|1 x Thrall, Deathseer|
|1 x Aya Blackpaw|
|2 x Thing from Below|
Select and copy the long ID string below, then create a deck in Hearthstone to export this deck into your game.
Deck Import ID: AAECAaoIBJG8ApS9ApvLAuvPAg2BBOUH8AeTCfqqAvuqAqC2Aoe8AtG8Ava9Avm/ApHBAuvCAgA=
Here are some card replacements you might like to think about in Evolve Shaman:
- 1 Thrall, Deathseer / + 1 Leeroy Jenkins: Gives the deck some more surprise burst that may help you close out games against Mage and Druid that vital one turn earlier.
- 1 Thrall, Deathseer / + 1 Lightning Storm: Maelstrom Portal should be sufficient, but you might consider one Lightning Storm if you’re facing a lot of aggro.
There's nothing enormously complicated about playing Evolve Shaman, and you can gain a decent strategic understanding of this deck simply by studying the combo section towards the bottom of this page.
There's one important rule to keep in mind, however, and that this is not a pure aggro deck. Without minions on the board you're stuffed - you'll struggle to replace them without getting beaten down by the opponent, and you've very little in the way of fast damage to close down the match in the event of a total clear. Careful study of the meta, and the risks that lie around every corner, is essential if you want to truly master the Evolve Shaman.
In very simple terms though, you hope to build as wide a board of minor token minions as possible, then use Bloodlust, Flametongue Totem or Evolve to boost them up in strength and send a - hopefully - game-ending amount of damage into the opponent's health pool.
You have a little light Jade synergy to play around with in this version of the deck, but you've also got loads of low-Mana minions at your disposal too. These can be used to ensure you're developing the board further on every turn, and Primalfin Totem in particular can quickly get out of control if your opponent fails to take it off the board.
Regarding Evolve, don't be squeamish about casting it on your minions. If you've fielded lots of minor one-drops, then you are almost guaranteed to receive an extra point of Attack and Health on each one for pushing the button. Bad things can certainly happen, but you can't plan for every eventuality and that's RNG for you!
Beating aggro opponents
Whoever owns the board owns these match-ups, so shut their board down and don't let them get it back up again. If you can make a trade that leaves a friendly minion standing, do it. Look to cards like Jade Claws to shut them down as well. Consider too the importance of even damaged friendly minions in the context of Flametongue Totem. The more you have alive on the board, the more work you can do.
If you have the board advantage and enough Mana to play it, RNG will often favour you playing Evolve and gaining the upper hand that way - not always, but often enough that it should be the correct play to make. On the subject of upgrading - and unlike Shaman decks of old - Bloodlust is not your sole means of getting over the finishing line. That means you can use it to clear up a problem, get a little extra hero damage in using the rest of the board, and still leave something out in play that can fight another day.
Beating control opponents
Remember when we said earlier on in this guide that you were not an aggro player with Token Shaman? We still mean it, but you should be prepared to push just a little harder and faster against the slower opponent, especially if you haven't got a Devolve on hand. Just be mindful again that you don't have a lot of fast damage in this deck, so you need to keep your board alive at all costs.
We discuss this play further down in the combo section, but it's important to remember that Doppelgangster minions all count as five-Mana minions. That means that Evolve will gift you three minions that cost 6 Mana. The outcome of all this can be very random, but there are some incredibly high-value minions in that bracket and this can prove to be a real heartbreaker for the opponent - especially if they've blown their mass removal already.
More great Shaman guides:
Strategies against each class
Druid - Is there a strategy here other than pray and hope for the best? With the overwhelming power of Druid decks on the ladder right now this is always going to be a tough - but not impossible - match-up. It’s all about staying ahead of the Jade production machine, so fight for the board early, take every point of damage you can find and save Devolve for when they over-commit with taunt minions and Jades.
Hunter - This should be a pretty easy match-up. Most importantly, keep your board clears in your opening hand so you can wipe out all their little minions. If you're sensible about how wide you go on the board in order to play around Unleash the Hounds (or bait it into a Maelstrom Portal), then there’s little the Hunter will be able to do once you’ve fully established board presence.
Mage - If you see the Mage Quest on turn one then you have to accept that you’re on the clock immediately. Play aggressively and whittle down your opponent’s health pool as fast as you can before those devastating board clears and one-turn-kill strategies come into play. Also, if the Mage tries to stall you with the Frost Nova and Doomsayer combo, it’s not incorrect to remove it with a Devolve to save your board.
Paladin - With Midrange Murloc Paladin putting up an impressive fight against most popular ladder decks there’s the potential for this to be a tough matchup. Nevertheless, Devolve is your friend here for shutting down the huge Gentle Megasaur plays. Many of these decks also lack the room to run the Equality and Consecrate combo, so you should be safe to play minions more freely. Do watch out for Sunkeeper Tarim, though.
Priest - Heavy control Priests can be a bit of a problem with their constant string of answers to your threats on the board. One solid approach is to overwhelm them from the early stages and give them more problems than they can actually deal with using their huge selection of removal tools. You can also test for removal and exploit any weaknesses you find. No Shadow Word: Death on your Thing From Below? Dump bigger minions. No Dragonfire Potion on turn six? Go wide and look for a Bloodlust.
Rogue - Rogue has slipped a long way down the rankings since the “glory” days of Quest Rogue, so it’ll be a big surprise if you come up against any sneaky backstabbers on the ladder. If you do see them though, it’ll most likely be a new variation on the classic Miracle Rogue, which is all about reducing their Gadgetzan Auctioneer value by taking it out as quickly as possible. Here’s where holding back a Jade Lightning can come in handy. Note that Aggro and Tempo Rogues are becoming more popular.
Shaman - Token Shaman mirror matches often descend into a ridiculous back and forth of Evolves and Devolves on either side of the board. Whether you or your opponent gets lucky usually determines the winner here. Therefore, you’ll want to save these cards for as long as you possibly can. Don’t throw them out as freely as you might do elsewhere, and try to bait your opponent into using theirs early on lesser boards. Whoever wins the mind game here, wins the match. It's that simple.
Warlock - Chances are in the current meta you will not be running into many Warlocks at all. Zoo is practically dead, so you’ll likely be facing the newer control Warlock variant. Drawing from the Handlock of old, this means they’ll have a slow start, so you’ll want to get as much damage in early on as you can. Save Devolve to get past large taunt minions and don’t over-commit into Shadowflame or Hellfire.
Warrior - Pirates are still about, so here’s where teching in a Lightning Storm can come in handy if Maelstrom Portal proves insufficient. Even with the Pirate package in Token Shaman their deck is faster than yours, so don’t expect to rush them down first. Play the control game to begin with, before transitioning into big Evolve swings. Elsewhere, Control Warrior is rising in popularity and can be tough to face too. You’ll want to kick up the tempo in this match-up because there’s little chance of winning the late-game if you fall behind.
Here's Hearthstone pro Kolento to show you how it's done:
Evolve Shaman Mulligan guide
If you just want a very quick snapshot of how to transition the Mulligan phase, then here's what you should be keeping against specific opponents right now. This is of course subject to change given the emergence of a new meta post-patch. We'll revise this advice in the next update, but much of what we're suggesting here should carry forwards.
If you want to gain a deeper understanding of why precisely you would keep hold of these cards, take a look at the breakdown just below the list. These tips explain the reasoning for holding onto each one, and how you can maximise their effectiveness in any given match-up.
|Druid||Fire Fly, Bloodsail Corsair, Flametongue Totem, Jade Claws, Primalfin Totem|
|Hunter||Fire Fly, Bloodsail Corsair, Jade Claws, Maelstrom Portal, Primalfin Totem|
|Mage||Fire Fly, Bloodsail Corsair, Flametongue Totem, Jade Claws, Primalfin Totem|
|Paladin||Fire Fly, Bloodsail Corsair, Flametongue Totem, Jade Claws, Primalfin Totem|
|Priest||Fire Fly, Bloodsail Corsair, Flametongue Totem, Jade Claws, Primalfin Totem|
|Rogue||Fire Fly, Bloodsail Corsair, Devolve, Flametongue Totem, Jade Claws, Primalfin Totem|
|Shaman||Fire Fly, Bloodsail Corsair, Flametongue Totem, Jade Claws, Primalfin Totem|
|Warlock||Fire Fly, Bloodsail Corsair, Flametongue Totem, Jade Claws, Primalfin Totem|
|Warrior||Fire Fly, Bloodsail Corsair, Flametongue Totem, Jade Claws, Primalfin Totem|
Here's a closer look at each of the key keeps in the chart above, with a little extra insight on each one.
1. Bloodsail Corsair: Represents incredible value on Turn 1, especially if it pulls Patches the Pirate onto the board for free as well.
2. Fire Fly: Although it's not as strong as the Pirate above, this card does at least provide you with further fuel in your hand. If you get the second Elemental out into play as well, you have the option to drop an early Flametongue Totem onto the board and push hard with two otherwise very weak minions.
3. Flametongue Totem: Useful in matches where you face an early big obstacle and need to push through it before you become overwhelmed. It's particularly useful in slower match-ups where the opponent is fielding larger minions after you've had a chance to build at least some presence of your own.
4. Jade Claws: The value of this card speaks for itself really. Not only do you get a weapon that you can use to chip an early two-Health enemy minion off the board, you also get yet another minion on the board that can benefit from a buff. Don't worry too much about the Overload penalty as you have a lot of cheap minions to play in this deck.
5. Maelstrom Portal: This card obviously provides you with a spectacular advantage against aggro decks. Most notably it can also be combined on Turn 4 with Devolve, which will very often shut your opponent out of the match and keep them out for good. Plan ahead, don't get too greedy, but do think about the options you have to really mess with your opponent's head here.
6. Primalfin Totem: Precisely how much value you manage to obtain from Primalfin Totem is a little questionable, and so you only really want to hang onto this one if the rest of your hand is looking solid in its own right. Even if you don't get too many minions out of this totem, it will very often force a hard removal from your opponent - and you'd rather have it hit this than one of your Sea Giants, for example.
Evolve Shaman tips combos and synergies
Here are all of the most vital card synergies contained within this version of the deck:
- The first Pirate you play in each game will drag Patches the Pirate into play as well, but only if he's in your remaining deck pile rather than your hand. Don't forget to use this damage before hitting End Turn either!
-The following cards all have synergy with the Jade Golem mechanic: Jade Lightning, Aya Blackpaw and Jade Claws. Your first summoned Jade Golem is a 1/1 minion, the second 2/2, the third 3/3 and so on.
- Bloodlust increases the Attack value of every minion on the board by 3 points each. This - alongside Flametongue Totem - represents your major source of burst damage.
- Thing from Below costs one Mana less for each totem you summoned earlier on in the game. It makes no difference whether these totems were created from cards or your hero power!
- Evolve has particularly important synergy with Doppelgangster in this deck. This card costs five Mana to cost and summons three minions onto the board that are each classifioed as a five Mana minion. That means that dropping Evolve onto the board will reward you with a total of three six-Mana minions - incredibly value and a play you should always be thinking about.
- When Thrall, Deathseer is played, every minion on the board will be transformed into something costing two Mana more. Your new hero power will turn a targeted minion into something costing one Mana more.
Evolve Shaman tips and tricks
While there's no substitute for experience with the meta in Hearthstone, the following tips should help you improve with the deck in pretty short order.
- Know the signature board-clear spells for each hero, and ensure you do not over-extend right before they might have access to it. Always think about what your worst-case scenario would be, and play to mitigate the impact of it as much as possible. It's very hard to mount a comeback with this kind of token deck, and it pays to be conservative.
- Following on from the tip above, try to think about how your Jade Golems can be protected from imminent board clears, or how they can at least frustrate your opponent into getting an inefficient clear. You don't have a lot of Jade synergy in this deck, but you may be able to creep a minion or two's Health over the danger zone using a later card like Aya Blackpaw.
- Watch where you drop your Flametongue Totems. It's always possible you'll need to sacrifice a few minions to get past a roadblock. You'll want the buff to cycle onto the next cheap minion as you trade, so line your minions up carefully so as to benefit from this efficiently.
- If your opponent is likely to be playing Taunt minions, it's worth holding back your Devolve until you have a few of these problematic obstacles in front of you. You can only ignore the opponent's minions and focus on their Health pool if you can reach it, after all! Remember, you are not a pure aggro deck...
- When playing Stonehill Defender onto the board and selecting your minion, try to find something that fits your curve nicely so you can keep fielding cheap minions while having something you can shore your defenses up with shortly afterwards.
- Once you've got a relatively broad board in play, start doing your maths to see how close you are to lethal at the start of your turn. If you're close but not quite there, it might be worth popping Bloodlust. If your board gets wiped you'll have nothing to boost, and you'll wish you'd used the opportunity while it was there. Experience will help you make the right decisions in time.
- Don’t be afraid to be a little greedy and delay playing Thing From Below. While it might be incredibly tempting to add a 5/5 body to the board at a massive discount, consider if you can do more with it later on. If your opponent isn’t threatening anything on their side of the board, then just save it for when you need to fend off some damage. Or, if you can, time it with a Doppelgangster and Evolve play for an additional seven cost minion and a larger tempo swing.
- Keep in mind that Jade Lightning is your only direct spell removal so be careful when you decide to use it. Is there a situation where you can trade up using lesser minions buffed by a Flametongue Totem or Bonemare? If so, consider that approach instead and save the Jade Lightning for a target that would eat up your minions or when you have some additional spell power to boost its damage.
- Think about how you can gain the most value from your Mana Tide Totem. If your opponent has a couple of cheap and unremarkable 1/1 minions on the board then it may be tempting to go for the Maelstrom Portal. If it’s not urgent to remove them though, the extra turn of card draw can cycle through to a vital piece of your deck sooner. The Maelstrom Portal clear will be just as useful next turn!
This article contains additional reporting from James Pickard.