[Guide] Thrall: Artificial Inshamanation

Posts: 991
Currently I'm playing a Master League Shaman with more than 250 games played; I've also achieved my Arena Grand Master, both of which I've earned strictly playing Thrall. My arena expenses were earned from wins in standard Ranked play (I spent $1.99 for the initial Beta card).

The basics of this deck are simple and it is both easy and fun to play. I will go over card selection in Section I and the basics of play in Section II.

This deck should be able to be played with minimal card purchase at the top level of play, additionally, it can pull off a 6 turn win.

Theory:

I played a lot of Magic: the Gathering when I was younger. I was doing quite well in league play, playing a white deck where the primary focus was animating walls (walls cannot attack in MTG). While Hearthstone CCG doesn't have walls, the Shaman can drop 0/2 totems with various buff text on them. A 0/2 totem isn't much of an offense, but that 0/2 totem can become a 6/4 totem quite fast with the correct cards.

All minions have an inherent value, easily characterized by the two numbers on the bottom of the card, Attack and Health. To get the absolute value of the card, combine the numbers and divide them by 2. If there is text on the card that adds +x/+x to another minion, this combines with the absolute value of the card. Basically, to get the most bang for your buck, you want this number to be as high as possible for the mana cost. For instance, the absolute value of a Sen'Jin Shieldmasta, (http://www.hearthpwn.com/cards/326-senjin-shieldmasta) is 4, for a mana cost of 4. The absolute value of a Defender of Argus, (http://www.hearthpwn.com/cards/542-defender-of-argus ) is 5 for a mana cost of 4. We can then get the efficiency value (EV) of a card by dividing the absolute value by the cost. The higher the value of the number, the greater value of the card. Our Sen'Jin Sheildmasta has an EV of 1, whereas our Defender of Argus has an EV of 1.2 (or 20% greater value).

The EV is a good place to start with cards, however late game, it doesn't matter at all. If you aren't playing 100% of your mana pool with every round, then EV matters less and less.

Overload. I don't suggest using Overload in a minion deck. Your spells should be within the text of your summons, rather than played from your hand. While an Earth Elemental looks amazing at round 5, it has an absolute value of 7.5 for the mana cost of 8 , 5 this turn and 3 next turn (EV 0.9375). With only one card to mitigate the devastating cost of Overload (http://www.hearthpwn.com/cards/51-unbound-elemental), and the lack of card drawing spells, your resources are better placed elsewhere.

Section I. Card Selection

I'll start at the bottom and work my way up. With a brief explanation of each. These cards are not all necessary for the deck, but give you a variety of choices and why each would be good for this deck.

0 Mana

Wisp (http://www.hearthpwn.com/cards/273-wisp) EV = infinite
The Wisp is a 1/1 minion for 0 mana. I cannot get the EV, because I cannot divide by zero. That makes this card infinitely efficient. In combination with a minion that costs 1 or 2 (coin card) this is the best card to play on round 1. Even better if you can play 2.

1 Mana

Minions:

Lightwarden (http://www.hearthpwn.com/cards/436-lightwarden) EV = 1.5+
The Lightwarden is a 1/2 with a +1 attack buff for every character healed. In combination with a healing totem's mass heal to your horde, this incredibly cheap card can become extremely deadly.

Sheildbearer (http://www.hearthpwn.com/cards/24-shieldbearer) EV = 2
The Sheildbearer is a 0/4 with Taunt. Extremely good first round play, as well as being able to absorb a lot of early damage.

Young Priestess (http://www.hearthpwn.com/cards/123-young-priestess) EV = 1.5+
The Young Priestess is a 2/1 that gives +1 Health to another one of your random minions every turn.

Those are my top three picks at 1 Mana cost, another good two cards to replace these ones with (or if you have them and not the others) would be:
Abusive Sergeant (http://www.hearthpwn.com/cards/577-abusive-sergeant)
Leper Gnome (http://www.hearthpwn.com/cards/513-leper-gnome)
They both have an EV of 1.5 and do an additional 2 damage.

Spells:

Rockbiter Weapon (http://www.hearthpwn.com/cards/491-rockbiter-weapon)
I used to use Lightning Bolt (http://www.hearthpwn.com/cards/10-lightning-bolt) until I found I was running into problems with Overload. Rockbiter does 3 damage, Lightning Bolt does 3 damage. Lightning costs 1 more next turn. Rockbiter is a good card to have in your hand on round 1, it can be cast on Thrall at any time for Charge-like damage or another minion to give it a little extra womp for the round.

I do not recommend Earth Shock (http://www.hearthpwn.com/cards/77-earth-shock) or Frost Shock (http://www.hearthpwn.com/cards/233-frost-shock) due to low damage per cost.

2 Mana

Minions:

Master Swordsmith (http://www.hearthpwn.com/cards/584-master-swordsmith) EV = 1+
An essential card for the build. Can be played on round 1-2 and sustain enough damage to survive those rounds, coupled with an early Taunt will animate early 0/2 and 0/4 units.

Lorewalker Cho (http://www.hearthpwn.com/cards/456-lorewalker-cho) EV = 1.25
Lorewalker Cho is a Legendary 1/4 that makes copies of the spells cast by the opponent and you appear in each other's hands. Unchecked, he will shut down a caster deck.

Pint-Sized Summoner (http://www.hearthpwn.com/cards/54-pint-sized-summoner) EV = 1
The 2/2 Summoner makes the first minion you summon every round cost 2 Mana less. Dropped on round 1 with the coin or after a Taunt, this card can double or triple the EV of cards played afterwards. I'll discuss more in Section II & III.

Dire Wolf Alpha (http://www.hearthpwn.com/cards/305-dire-wolf-alpha) EV = 1-1.5
This is another essential card of this deck. The Dire Wolf Alpha is a 2/2 that adds +1 Attack to it's adjacent minions. Again, for animating 0/2 and 0/4 minions.

Flametongue Totem (http://www.hearthpwn.com/cards/390-flametongue-totem) EV = 0.75-1.75
Yet another must-have card for this deck. The Flametongue totem is 0/3 that adds +2 Attack to adjacent minions.

Youthful Brewmaster (http://www.hearthpwn.com/cards/247-youthful-brewmaster) EV = 1.25
The Brewmaster is a 3/2 that returns a friendly minion to your hand. This can be used to double totems if you get lucky (2 healing totems is AMAZING) and can also be used to recast Battlecry buffs.

3 Mana

Minions:

Mana Tide Totem (http://www.hearthpwn.com/cards/613-mana-tide-totem) EV = 0.5
The Mana Tide Totem is a 0/3 that lets you draw a card at the end of your round. Necessary for long games to help maintain EV by playing as close to 100% of your mana pool as you can. More cards played = more value.

Raid Leader (http://www.hearthpwn.com/cards/502-raid-leader) EV = 0.66+
The Raid Leader increases the attack of all of your minions by +1. This is another essential card of this deck. Dots more dots.

Shattered-Sun Cleric (http://www.hearthpwn.com/cards/434-shattered-sun-cleric) EV = 1-1.33
The cleric is a 3/3 that has a +1/+1 Battlecry buff for another minion. Another extremely useful animator/buffer.

Spells:

Hex (http://www.hearthpwn.com/cards/270-hex)
Hex turns a minion into a 0/1 Frog with Taunt. Extremely important if your opponent casts an extremely large minion or something early that you can't deal with because of a Taunt.

4 Mana

Minions:

Defender of Argus (http://www.hearthpwn.com/cards/542-defender-of-argus) EV = 1-1.5
The Defender is a 4/4 that adds +1/+1 and Taunt to adjacent minions as a Battlecry. Very good animator/buffer that provides cover as well. Must-have for this deck.

Ancient Brewmaster (http://www.hearthpwn.com/cards/572-ancient-brewmaster) EV = 1.125
The Ancient Brewmaster is a 4/5 that returns a friendly minion to your hand for the same effect as the Youthful Brewmaster.

Dark Iron Dwarf (http://www.hearthpwn.com/cards/128-dark-iron-dwarf) EV = 1-1.25
This Dwarf is a 4/4 that adds +2 Attack as a Battlecry buff. He is inferior to the Defender of Argus, but still a good choice in this deck.

Windspeaker (http://www.hearthpwn.com/cards/151-windspeaker) EV = 0.75
The Windspeaker is a 3/3 that can give a friendly minion Windfury. Played after a bigger minion, the Windspeaker's buff can end games. However, given that I'm aiming for the fastest kill possible, I usually opt for other cards with higher EV.

5 Mana

Minions:

Earth Elemental (http://www.hearthpwn.com/cards/124-earth-elemental) EV = 0.9375
The Earth elemental is a 7/8 with Taunt and 3 Mana Overload. Despite my worries about Overload, I keep one in my deck. You have to be extremely careful about how you play it, especially against instant kills and frog/sheep.

Frostwolf Warlord (http://www.hearthpwn.com/cards/604-frostwolf-warlord) EV = 0.8+
The Warlord is a 4/4 that receives +1/+1 for each of your minions. Extremely powerful and extremely efficient. He will decimate your enemies. Must-have card.

Stranglethorn Tiger (http://www.hearthpwn.com/cards/338-stranglethorn-tiger) EV = 1
The Tiger is a 5/5 with Stealth. It cannot be attacked until it has attacked first, nor can it be targeted with spells. Good late game damage.

Spells:

This is just here to say that I DO NOT recommend Bloodlust (http://www.hearthpwn.com/cards/256-bloodlust). Too many games I get stuck with this card, dead in my hand.

6 Mana+

Sea Giant (http://www.hearthpwn.com/cards/614-sea-giant) EV = 0.8+
The Sea Giant is an 8/8 for 10 mana that costs 1 mana less for every minion on the battlefield (not just yours). He becomes extremely efficient pretty quickly.

Ravenoldt Assassain (http://www.hearthpwn.com/cards/518-ravenholdt-assassin) EV = 0.857
The Assassain is a 7/5 with Stealth. Extremely good late game damage.

Lord of the Arena (http://www.hearthpwn.com/cards/414-lord-of-the-arena) EV = 0.916
The Lord of the Arena is a 6/5 with Taunt. Large blocking units are the cornerstone of late game defense/offense.

Stormwind Champion (http://www.hearthpwn.com/cards/310-stormwind-champion) EV = 0.857++
The Champion is a 6/6 that gives all friendly minions +1/+1. This is simply one of the best buffs in the game. This is another must-have card for this deck.

Almost any of the other legendary cards are also good to replace my choices with, however, they can be very situational cards.

Section II. Basics of Play

So you've assembled a Shaminion Deck, and now you want to put it to good use. In this section, I'm going to break down the fundemental play.

The Draw:

On the initial draw, you want to make sure you have a frist round play (this isn't always possible).

With NO coin, cards to keep:
Wisp
Sheildbearer
Lightwarden
Young Priestess
Rockbiter Weapon (if no 1 mana minions are in your hand already)

If you have any of these cards kept, you want to keep any other cards that cost 4 or less with the exception of Hex.

With coin, cards to keep:
Master Swordsmith
Flametongue Totem
Pint-Sized Summoner
Dire Wolf Alpha

You can also opt to not play your coin on round 1 and save it for later. The same applies with before, you also want to keep other cards with a cost of 4 or less after you have kept one of the previous cards.

Play everything you can your first turn. If you have 2 Wisps and a Shieldbearer, then get that all out. The more the merrier. The Flametongue totem is the best 2nd/3rd round play.

A round 1 or round 2 Pint-Sized Summoner will win you the game quite fast if they cannot kill it. Play it on round 1 vs. any opponent other than Valeera.

Don not be afraid to use Rockbiter Weapon do attack any minion they play early, the damage to you will be minimal.

Maintaining Efficiency:

I touched on this earlier, and I would like to further iterate on this subject.

For every subsequent round following round 1, if you are not playing 100% of your mana pool, then you are falling behind. This can best be achieved by playing a totem along with the other card that you would play. Considering most of your cards have buffs that rely on other minions present to deploy, a totem is never a wasted play. A good way to achieve efficiency is to always add up the minions mana values before you play them. If you have 7 mana, then a minion that costs 3, another that costs 2, and a totem is a good play. Having a healing totem in play constantly will help to keep your horde alive.

Hex makes you lose efficieny. Period. It should only be played on an enemy minion that has an EV value greater than the values of your 3 mana cards or only when there is no other play or if you have extra mana.

Buffs and Unit Placement:

It is always good to play your non-buffing minions first and positioning can be vital. Totems are always cast on the far right. Adjacent buffers can be used to great advantage because of this, for both cover for the non-discriminate buffs and defense against bigger units. Non-discriminate buffs are those that effect everything regardless of their position (Raid Leader and Stormwind Champion). Adjacent buffs have a constant buff like non-discrimnate buffs, however, they only apply it to the minions next to them (Dire Wolf Alpha, Flametongue Totem). Regular units either have a Battlecry buff or no buff at all.

Left side of the field------------Right side of the field

Non-Discrimnate Buffs | Regular | Adjacent Buffs | Totems


Say your opponent has a quick 8/8 (*) they have played and you've only managed to get out a Shieldbearer (#) on your left, your Flametongue Totem (@) in the Middle and 4 totems on the right (1,2,3,4)

Here's what the field would look like:

*

----------

#@1234

Now to deal with this 8/8, you can attack with your totems in sequence. Totems are typically 0/2, but #1 in his position is getting a +2 buff from the Flametongue Totem. When #1 dies after attacking, #2 moves into position next to the Flametongue getting the +2 buff. And then #3 and then #4. You can imagine once they've all gotten +2/+1 how dangerous this can be.

I try not to give my adjacent or non-discriminate buffs Taunt, if I can help it, to help keep them out of the line of fire. Also, to help protect my hero, I always try to have a Taunt in play.

Hero Specific Play Style:

This section is to further help your game against the various heroes, I hope I can provide some extra insight to what you will be dealing with.

Vs. Thrall, the Lesser Shaman:
Efficiency war. Pure and simple. If you get out ahead and you're playing your max efficiency as hard as you can, the other will lose. Round 1/2 Summoner if you can. Take care vs. direct damage and AoE spells (and laugh at him a little for Overload), try to keep the health of you minions buffed over 3 early game and over 4 late game.

Against Jaina, who never really stood a chance:
Take full advantage of the fact that her fireball costs 2 and only does one damage. Round 1/2 Summoner if possible. Use smaller units for fodder and buff big units. Do not let her keep any minions in play with + Spellpower. Pray for a 6-7 turn win, after round 7, all of your minions with less than 5 health are at extreme risk. If you can keep some of your big stuff alive, however, this should be an easy win.

Dueling Valeera, pray to god:
Currently I lose 75% of Ranked games vs. Val. Do not play anything with less than 2 health for round 1 or 2. Right now, as it stands, a Valeera with a good deck is nigh impossible for a minion deck to overcome, they have a lot of small damage and card draw and AoE as well as Minion control that they will dominate your summons with. Stealth cards help. Burst as fast as you can and hope they don't get a hand full of no cost damage.

Trapping the Hunter, Rexxar:
I used to have a lot of trouble against Rexxar. Round 1/2 Summoner. I was trying to sacrifice as little as I could against his Explosive Trap by holding onto cards and not playing them until after I had made the trap go away. This was a bad move. He would still get ahead and I would still lose 2-4 minions at a time. So I stopped attacking him and just played max EV and turned 100% of my damage onto his minions. After I get some good Health buffs and a healing totem in play, I unleash the fury. I haven't had trouble with Rexxar since.

Malfurion, half and half:
Malfurion is a Mix of the Priest and the Warrior. Round 1/2 Summoner can work but I don't suggest going for it, he can give himself damage most of the time to deal with it. Malfurion can get out really big units really fast. Smaller minions with Taunt can be used to misdirect his minion damage and a pocket Hex will ruin his day. His strength lies in building up for the future rounds, so get out everything as fast as you can and tear him apart.

Garrosh, and the long-game:
Garrosh is quite like Malfurion. Get out lots of minions and buff them fast. Round 1/2 Summoner can be good. Be prepared for late game and drop a Mana Tide Totem once you have a couple minions with Taunt.

Anduin, heals until dead:
Anduin has a cool bag of tricks that can't seem to get itself to work vs. a Shaman. Round 1/2 Summoner. His EV is bad and his units just aren't as good as they could be. Play his minions first, then him.

Playing against the Paladin, Uther:
Uther plays a lot like the Shaman. His direct damage and AoE spells aren't the greatest, he will rely on minion buffs. He cannot do 2 damage to a unit during round 1, so drop the Summoner if you can. He has a 2 dmg AoE that costs 4, so be careful around round 3-5, defensive summons first, if you can. Use weak units to deal with Divine Shield.

Gul'dan, Warlock and You:
Don't be afraid to hurt yourself, he isn't. He will get every card he wants to play really fast. Play max EV and don't attack his minions unless they have Taunt. He will likely give you another 6-8 damage in the first 5 turns, and you have a deck that usually kills in less than 10. This will be a fast game.

Thank you if you took the time to read through my guide. I hope I will be making revisions of it in the near future.
Edited by chumly on 8/27/2013 4:47 PM PDT
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Posts: 93
Great information, I just got my Key and so far I have really liked the shaman so far. Got some work ahead of me to build up the cards for the deck.

Again, Thanks.
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Posts: 135
Good read. Currently stuck with mostly basics, and have been playing a totem/minion beatdown.

Also having the most trouble with Rogue decks.

However, currently my playstyle tends to involve high attack, low health units and razorfen hunter types. I might try shifting to just getting more bang for my buck and seeing if this improves anything.
Edited by LunaSaint on 9/5/2013 2:51 PM PDT
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Posts: 747
while i see how bloodlust might not always be useful, with 4-5minions its 12-15 damage for 5, including even silenced totems and sheep. with windfury minion it gets to 18 extra damage, often a win button.
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Posts: 953
I think it's dangerous advice to encourage people to always use all of their mana every turn. In the early game, yes, you should use as much as you can, but you must always be on guard for sweepers. If I've got board control and at least 3+ minions on the field against, say, a Mage coming up on turn 7 or a Paladin at turn 6, I shy away from dropping any more. No reason to hand them more card efficiency just so you can have more mana spent.

Also, running a minion-centric deck and then recommending 0 Bloodlusts is just anathema to me. If you absolutely, positively hate BL then just run 1. At least that way once you draw it you know you're not getting another. But it's a huge damage card, able to swing the board tremendously or to finish off an opponent in the midgame before you have to slog into topdecking.

Aside from that, I think you're overvaluing:
Wisp - the fact that it costs a card is too much; only really decent in Rogue decks for combos
Lightwarden - relies on RNG to be remotely efficient
Young Priestess - dies on deploy to at least 2 classes, 3 if you count Paladin since you don't really want to trade; dies immediately to anything else
Lorewalker Cho - not sure that he's bad, per se, but you'd better be damn near spell-less if you want to run him
Both Brewmasters - You have a couple of decent Battlecry minions and you can do some totem shennanigans (if you can spare the mana), but they seem just okay, not great, in a deck like this

You're tremendously undervaluing burn spells (at the very least Lightning Bolt and Storm, but I'd run 2x all 4 of the non-Shock spells), Fire Elemental, and Feral Spirit. I know Overload looks pretty nasty, but it's basically swapping a future turn with your current one, and it's largely irrelevant in the end game.

Obviously, you've had some success with this, but I think it could be even stronger if you lean a little more into the Shaman suite of spells.
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Posts: 262
I agree a little with what Tangmc was saying above me, however I like the inventiveness of the deck and if you made it to master it must be decent. I'm at 22 wins and Platnimum 1 and have no doubt I'll make master real sooner (Ive been playing cockatrice version for a bit).

About your valueing of cards, I think is interesting, I'll have to re-read. But I think you need to consider this, and Tang made mention of it. You don't always want to play all your mana, and in the right deck Overload is gives huge gains with no loss generally (such as mine). If I get a Earth Elemental out on turn five after baiting out a hard removal because I run steady strong creatures (say like an overloaded Elemental that gets +'s with each overload). I don't need much mana the next turn, because I'm good, I can just blast and hex the other guys minions with the 3 mana I got next turn, its not a punishment. Same for turn 3 Spriit Wolfs. It usually forces your opponent to do a 2v1 to get rid of them all, so you come out ahead. Earth elemental can be looked at that way also in most decks. If you want to remove him, he's a easy 2v1, sometimes 3.

I'll post my deck tomorrow, Its a mid-range bruiser deck that can be played defensively or aggressively. Its got a lot of options and control.
Edited by Zargash on 9/6/2013 5:02 PM PDT
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Posts: 767
Superb guide!

One thing though. The title makes it seem as if the thread is a simple guide to just your deck, when in fact this thread is a great resource for any player interested in a Thrall deck. I recommend editing the title to something more universal.

Requested sticky.
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Posts: 251
While I do disagree with most of the cards you picked (no Spirit Wolves? Really?), I appreciate the effort you put in. Good guide for new players.
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