A month or so ago, Shaman was considered a dead class – now it’s perceived as one of the strongest! You can find it both on ladder and in tournament settings: during the last Dreamhack, 12 players in the Top 16 had Shaman in their lineup! In terms of playstyle, Token Shaman very much resembles the Midrange Shaman decks we all hated back in the Year of Kraken, so it will feel familiar. With Crystal Rogue nerfed into oblivion, this is currently one of the best decks to climb the ladder! Token Shaman is a flexible list with decent chances against the whole field.
Token Shaman is a flexible deck that can play defensively against aggro, but also stand its ground against slower lists like Taunt Warrior, Jade Druid, or Control Paladin. Our deck sports incredible board flood potential and can quickly recover from wipes. When facing aggro, control the board and get out as many minions as possible. Using cards like Flametongue Totem, we can find great value trades! Thing from Below can also be a key card, as it allows for incredible tempo swings in mid- to late-game. And any time the opponent doesn’t have an answer to your board pressure, a single Bloodlust could instantly end the game!
It’s worth mentioning the Doppelgangster + Evolve combo at this point. Against faster decks, these two can instantly produce huge board pressure, and even a two-turn kill in combination with Bloodlust! Against slower decks, this combination forces out strong removal and board clears… making it easier to stick smaller minions afterwards! Devolve is also one of the “ace cards” in this deck, providing an answer to Taunts and Deathrattles as well as “tribal” synergies like Pirates and Murlocs. Devolve is fantastic against Paladin’s Murloc-filled boards, as well as denying value from Spikeridged Steed or Tirion Fordring.
There isn’t too much to discuss here. You always want to find 1- and 2-drops to create board presence as soon as possible. Key cards are Primalfin Totem, Flametongue Totem, Fire Fly, Jade Claws, and Bloodsail Corsair. If you expect your opponent to be aggro, keeping cards like Devolve or Maelstrom Portal can also be considered (assuming you have minions to play alongside them).
Token Shaman Inspiration
Before we discuss the core of the deck and tech choices, let me show you some lists from pro players. As you can see, there are some differences between them!
Jade Package (2x Jade Claws, 2x Jade Lightning, Aya Blackpaw)
All of these cards are incredibly valuable. Jade Claws and Jade Lightning serve not only as removal, but also as board presence. Aya is a sticky minion that makes the other Jade cards stronger. Not putting her in the deck when we already play four would just be crazy!
2x Fire Fly
A very powerful 1-drop… no wonder it’s in every Un’Goro aggro deck! Synergizes well with Flametongue Totem as well as Evolve. A cheap, well-statted minion that generates additional value. What more could you ask?
Not much to explain here. This is one of the most valuable cards in your deck, as it can easily push additional damage or make big trades while demanding an immediate answer.
Crazy good for board control. Not only can it remove multiple minions, but it also generates one for you! Core when playing against aggro decks like Pirate Warrior, Aggro Druid, or in the Token Shaman mirror.
It’s because of this card that the deck came to be! If it sticks to the board for multiple turns, the Totem generates tons of value. It combines well with Flametongue Totem while also decreasing the cost of Thing from Below.
A much more flexible card than is usually perceived. Obviously works as the finisher with all our board presence. But don’t be afraid to use it as a board clear or to get through core threats (e.g., Tirion).
The reason why early Hero Power is decent. Playing Thing from Below for three or four mana can be a game-changing tempo swing!
Without the cards mentioned above, the Token Shaman archetype would not exist. The Pirate package and the Doppelgangster + Evolve combo aren’t truly essential. But while you can play without them, putting the pieces together makes for a more flexible, well-rounded deck. Now let’s talk about the most popular tech choices!
Doppelgangster + Evolve Package
A sweet 6 mana combo that lets you instantly build a threatening board and overpower slower matchups. While there are some bad 6-drops (looking at you, Big Time Racketeer!), the average outcome is three 5/5 minions that can produce 24 damage with Bloodlust!
This is mainly played to help against aggro, but it can be very strong against control as well! The “Discover a minion” effect gives lots of flexibility. Best picks would probably be Al’Akir, White Eyes, Earth Elemental, and of course Thing from Below.
Helps ensure you don’t run out of cards, because applying pressure is the name of the game for Token Shaman. Since you play some cheap Taunts, it’s occasionally possible to stick a Mana Tide for multiple turns. Also helps decrease the cost of Thing from Below!
One of the newer additions that works more or less as well as in Zoo Warlock. As you generate a lot of tokens and fill the board, it’s easy to play Sea Giant for a relatively low cost. That huge 8/8 can win the game singlehandedly if timed well. Try to bait hard removal like Execute first, to give the Giant a chance.
In a meta full of Aggro Druids, Mages packing Doomsayers, and Purify Priests, you simply can’t skip it! Double Devolve lets you deny synergies and get rid of key threats like Tirion… or even push lethal after Devolving a wall of Taunts.
Murloc Package (2x Bluegill Warrior, 2x Murloc Warleader, Finja, the Flying Star)
The earliest versions of Token Shaman used the Murloc Package instead of the Doppelgangster + Evolve combo. However RDU qualified for the 2017 Spring Championship with this variant in his lineup, so it’s not completely out of the question! Most pros at the moment choose a more standard approach and don’t include the Murloc Package.
The Killer Crabs (Golakka Crawler, Hungry Crab)
If you face enough Murloc Paladins or Pirate Warriors, these two are always an option. Note that Hungry Crab can also work as an answer to Primalfin Totem. If you plan to participate in tournaments, including at least one Golakka Crawler can be a good meta call since many people bring aggro lineups.
One of the newer additions to the deck, currently being tested by a few pros (for example RDU and Hoej) who cut a Stonehill Defender. Barnes has historically been played in decks with more Deathrattle synergy. In Token Shaman it’s a powerhouse with Evolve, since the 1/1 token keeps its original mana cost!
- Bloodlust is the key to victory, whether as removal or to kill your opponent. Treat it as the most important card in the deck. Keep counting damage, and use it at the most opportune moment.
- Remember minion positioning! Like Zoo Warlock, Token Shaman rewards proper positioning to get the most from Flametongue Totem… or avoid being demolished by Meteor!
- It’s OK to Evolve something other than Doppelgangster if you’re in a good spot for it! Evolving your smaller minions can help build a more resilient board and avoid mass damage. You’ll even occasionally get strong enough minions to push for lethal on the following turn! Just keep in mind that evolving 1-drops can give you Doomsayer…
- Try to hold Devolve for your opponent’s key turns. You can almost always tell what deck you’re facing in the first couple of turns, which will let you time it correctly. I think it’s most important against Aggro Druid’s Living Mana and Paladin’s Spikeridged Steed. With the perfect Devolve, you can dismantle your opponent’s game plan and make them concede straight away.
- Use your resources sparingly. The deck has enough token generation to constantly flood the board, so try to force removal like Consecration, Volcanic Potion, or Swipe and keep regaining board presence. As mentioned, Bloodlust is key… but it requires a strong board position, and that’s probably the biggest challenge with the deck!
Token Shaman is definitely a great deck for anyone who enjoys a board-centric playstyle. While many people are experimenting with slower Shaman lists using Spirit Echo or a bigger Jade package, Token Shaman is still the strongest variant for now. Hopefully this guide helps clarify the card options, as well as the basics of its play! Knowing just how much pressure to commit to board can be very tricky to learn, so don’t hesitate to ask your coach if you’re serious about climbing the ladder!
Right now, Token Shaman is listed as the second strongest deck according to Tempo Storm and the third strongest deck according to Vicious Syndicate, so it’s definitely worth trying if you’re aiming for Legend. And if you prefer to play control (or just want to understand the opposition), check out my guide to Jade Druid here! It’s a bit older, but still very relevant. Thank you for reading, and best of luck in your Hearthstone adventures! Feel free to reach out with any comments or feedback!