Deck of the Week – Yogg’s Rage Unbound
Kyle “EndBoss” Smith
Decklist #1: The Starting Point
Decklist #2: Turning it Back Around
Decklist #3: The Final Product
Play & Mulligan Advice
This week I am going to change up my normal formula a little bit. Each week, I spend a bunch of time scouring the internet to find under-the-radar, yet competitive decks to play, and to feature for my readers. In order to do so, I often have to go through a couple decks before I find one I am comfortable putting my name behind. Of course, in the course of this journey I will sometimes find a deck that intrigues me, yet that I don’t feel is strong enough in its current version. Today, I am going to be taking you along the journey I took with one of these lists, starting with the list I found online, and finishing with an inarguably far more awesome list of my own design (note: the justification behind it being “inarguably” far more awesome is because it features twice as many Old Gods).
For anyone who is just interested in the final list, you can feel free to drop down to the bottom of the article, where my recommended list is posted, along with my testing data. However, if you are interested in learning how to get better at making your own creations, or if you are interested in learning how to tweak existing creations, I will share some of my process for brewing competitive decks.
Decklist #1: The Starting Point
The original deck that I was planning to write about is Amnesiac’s Ancestral N’Zoth Shaman list, which you can see on your right. Apparently, Amnesiac climbed from legend rank 1600 to rank 250 with the list.
Before anyone asks, Ancestral Spirit, unfortunately, does not allow a non-deathrattle creature to come back with N’Zoth. If it did, this deck’s power level would be utterly insane, with Earth Elementals coming back to join N’Zoth’s army of the dead. That having been said, Earth Elementals that regenerate are still quite powerful. Additionally, the deck’s actual deathrattle minions are still fantastic Ancestral Spirit targets, as you will get two copies of those minions from N’Zoth if both versions of them die. This can make Chillmaw or Sylvanas pretty crazy powerful Ancestral targets, in matchups where their only solution is to kill them them (ie. Not transforming them with Hex or shuffling them with Entomb).
So, why am I not featuring this awesome, and powerful list? Well, the bottom line is that, while I felt like the deck had real potential, it had some glaring weaknesses. The first thing you have to do when tweaking a list is to identify what parts of the list worked and what parts didn’t, so let’s do that now:
Hallazeal the Ascended + Elemental Destruction: While this also works with Lightning Storm, the Elemental Destruction combo is the same cost and far more punishing for any sort of aggro list, and most midrange lists. I have gotten numerous rage-quits from opponents after playing this combo. It’s like playing Reno Jackson and Lightbomb in the same turn. They usually lose all their dudes, you end up at full health, and you have a 4/2 or 4/1 Hallazeal left over.
Healing Wave: This list is constructed with only one minion under 5 casting cost (Mana Tide Totem), so it wins Healing Wave fights pretty consistently, and 14 life gain is backbreaking in games where you have retaken control of the board and your opponent is trying to push through the last few points. This card along with Hallazeal and your AoE (“area of effect”) cards makes this a great comeback deck.
Stormcrack and Earth Elemental: These are the deck’s other powerful defensive cards. Stormcrack is by far the best early game defence the deck has. Being able to kill an early Totem Golem, without losing tempo, is very strong. Being able to kill a mid-game Azure Drake while gaining a bunch of tempo is even better. Meanwhile, Earth Elemental is just huge, and if your opponent doesn’t have a premium removal spell for it, it will dominate most board states. In matchups like Zoolock or Tempo Warrior, playing Earth Elemental and then immediately playing Ancestral Spirit on it, is pretty much game over.
What Didn’t Work
The deck falls too far behind in the early game: This deck is great at playing from behind, but not enough to make up for the fact that you are almost always playing from behind. Lightning Storm and Elemental Destruction are great comeback cards, but you don’t want to be playing them too early, because their overload drawbacks make it too easy for your opponent to reapply pressure. If you are forced to play Elemental Destruction anytime before you hit 5 mana, and have a Lava Shock to unlock your crystals, then you are in desperation mode and will probably lose. You essentially give your opponent two turns to reload the board, and then you are right back where you started, except with a lower life total and one less Elemental Destruction. Due to this downfall, I found the aggro matchups to be much too weak. I was always scrambling to set up a big comeback turn, and came up short far too often.
Ultimately, I am not comfortable playing a list, or recommending a list, that is so weak against Aggro Shaman, Midrange Hunter and Zoolock. My overall record with the deck was 5-7 at the time that I stopped running it. That having been said, I was intrigued, and started working to see if I could shore up the weaknesses, while keeping the strengths.
Decklist #2: Turning it Back Around
I tried a couple of versions before I got here, but this was the best of my attempts to amend Amnesiac’s build, before I changed directions.
Now, you could probably consider this list to be a pretty drastic change in direction, too, but the core elements of Amnesiac’s list remain, including the N’Zoth package, and the full boat of Ancestral Spirits. There is a concept in Magic the Gathering deckbuilding called a “win-more card”, which essentially refers to cards that look impressive while you are winning, but don’t actually get you any many wins (ie. You win games more impressively, but don’t actually win more games). In this list, I dropped several of the cards I considered to be win-more cards, in order to make room for some early board control. Faceless Manipulator is one of those cards, in my view. It is very powerful late game, and lets you do crazy stuff like copying Chillmaws to set up a N’Zoth that puts three or four 6/6 taunters into play (assuming you managed to also Ancestral Spirit one or two of those). Manipulator feels very good when you are winning, but very bad when you are losing. For instance, if you are losing against Zoolock, nothing worth copying is going to stay on your side of the board for long enough to get copied, and copying your opponent’s Voidwalker or Darkshire Councilman is getting you precisely nowhere fast.
In place of these win-more elements, I substituted some early defence. Totem Golem has certainly proven itself in standard. Normally, he is used offensively, but in this deck he basically does what Zombie Chow used to do in control decks: he is bigger than most minions for his cost, and he helps hold the board for a couple of turns so you can get your gameplan set up. Lighting Bolt was also an easy inclusion. Gaining tempo is what Bolt does, and that is exactly what this deck needs. Bolting a turn 1 Tunnel Trogg, Mana Wyrm or Flame Imp will absolutely turn losses into wins.
The last major addition was Bloodmage Thalnos. If you have ever prayed for a Spell Damage Totem before throwing your Lighting Storm on the board, you know why this guy is good in here. He also helps a Lighting Bolt kill a Totem Golem, and when he isn’t useful, he cycles you into something that hopefully is.
Oh, and I also added a couple of 7/7’s for 4…not sure how much justification those need.
One of the downsides of these changes is that it made Healing Wave less reliable. You now have three 2-drops that will probably lose a joust for you. I dropped Mana Tide Totem in order to help limit the number of early drops, but, overall, I think that the additions far outweigh the downsides. You still win most Healing Wave jousts, and, regardless, I needed to lean on the card far less because I wasn’t dropping down so low in life before making my comeback. The deck started to fight back much better against aggro, while still maintaining most of its ability to overpower decks in the late game.
So, why did I ultimately turf this list? Well, before I get there, please allow me a short rant:
*Beginning of Rant*
Those who have been reading my articles for a few weeks know that my background in card games comes from playing competitive Magic the Gathering for over 15 years. Hearthstone has a lot of similarities to Magic (basically it appears to have been designed to be a faster version of Magic that can be played on a smartphone), but due to it being a computerized game, the online strategy content is very different. Most Hearthstone strategy content is largely based around the huge amount of data that can be mined. As a game with physical cards, Magic has never had anything near the level of access to matchup data that Hearthstone has.
The downside of this data focus, however, appears to me to be a lack of content that actually helps players understand deckbuilding strategy. I haven’t seen a single online article for Hearthstone talking about how to build a deck. All of the content is just people posting successful lists with win-rates or achievements, and sometimes with a description of the role of certain cards in those lists. This is the strategy-content equivalent of giving people fish, as opposed to teaching them how to fish.
Win-rates in articles have their purpose occasionally (and you will notice, that I use my win-rates in this article), but they should be used as part of the process. Win-rates are inherently variable. If you are a Hearthstone pro with a ton of practice with an archetype, you will put up far higher results with a deck than an average player picking that deck up. Moreover, it is utterly unrealistic to practice 50 or 100 games with a deck for every card you change, in order to have a big enough sample size to demonstrate for the internet whether that card change was beneficial.
The more important aspect of testing and tuning a deck is how the deck feels. You want to be able to play with the deck and understand how it wins certain matchups, what cards are helping your strategy, and which ones are not (or are “win-more cards”). You only develop this sort of feel through experience and practice, so I would encourage everyone reading this to try building and adapting decks, make mistakes, maybe don’t make legend for a month or two, and try to learn the skills to build your own decks. This is ultimately how pro players break metagames, and how you can consistently post high finishes at tournaments week in and week out, while having a full time job and switching decks every week (which is what I did for years playing Magic).
My article series highlights under-the-radar lists that, by definition, will not have as much raw data on them as any of the tier 1 or 2 lists you will see on Tempostorm. I would encourage people reading my articles to take my analysis, and take the decks that I present, and work with those decks to see if they can be improved. I do not mean these articles to be just another net-decker’s resource. I want these articles to provide an insight into the depth of strategic options that are out there, and to show players how you may be able to gain a strategic advantage by attacking the game from a different perspective.
Of course, my other goal is to help players avoid feeling as if the game is getting stale, because they are sick of grinding each month with, and against, the same decks, so if you just want to pick up the decks I write about and netdeck them, that is perfectly fine as well. I do hope, however, that in playing these different strategies it will help broaden your understanding of the strategies available within the game, and maybe even help you play top level decks better.
So, the reason that rant is placed here, is because I stopped playing decklist #2 when I had a 6-3 record with it. Obviously, it is a small sample size, but it is also a very solid start with a brand new list (typically your win rate should improve as you get the hang of playing the deck). So why did I drop the deck when the early win-rate showed it was worthy of further testing? Because the deck was powerful, but didn’t feel optimized.
You not only want to look at the number of wins and losses you achieve, but also at the quality of those wins and losses. Are you losing close games that might have been won with tighter play? Or, do you feel like you are stealing wins due to poor play by your opponents? And, maybe most importantly, are there elements within the list that do not feel are pulling their weight?
In this instance, I felt like there was a significant element of the deck that was not pulling its weight, in particular, the N’Zoth package. Despite adding Bloodmage Thalnos, there are still only 4 deathrattle minions in the deck (there were 3 in the original Amnesiac version, plus whatever you copy with Faceless Manipulator). N’Zoth just didn’t feel powerful enough for a 10 mana legend. A 5/7 that brings back one Cairne or one Chillmaw is fine, but not the dominant force he usually is.
So, I started thinking through the list, and trying to identify what worked and what didn’t. If I wasn’t going to be running N’Zoth, why not try substituting another Old God in its place. My first thought was Y’Shaarj, who loves to be in a deck that only plays beefy minions. This meant removing Totem Golem and Bloodmage Thalnos, which would also make Healing Wave more consistent again. I plugged Feral Spirit in to help me with the early game, so as to have a minion presence without actually playing any minions that cost less than Flamewreathed Faceless (who I am pretty comfortable flipping with Y’Shaarj). Then I counted up my spells and realized that there was one more God who fit very well in this deck, and list #3 was born!
Decklist #3: The Final Product
Yup, I built a competitive deck that manages to feature both Yogg-Saron and Y’Shaarj! You will notice that literally every card in the deck at 3 mana or below is a spell, and everything at 4 mana and above is a minion. As such, Healing Wave wins duels very consistently, Y’Shaarj only flips gas, and Yogg usually has 9 or more spells saved up by the time you play him. As far as Y’Shaarj flips, the smallest minion you can flip is Hallazeal (4/6) or Sylvanas/Thing from Below (5/5) while you have a 40% shot of flipping a big taunter (either Thing from Below or Earth Elemental).
I liked Ancestral Spirit, but it felt like more of a one-of than a 2-of card. One Spirit can randomly be very powerful, but two will often tend to leave you short on ideal lines of play against Shaman players with Hex, or other classes with similar effects that negate the deathrattle. Having your Earth Elemental with Ancestral Spirit get hit with Sap really sucks. That having been said, Earth Elemental with Ancestral Spirit against Warrior or Warlock is brutally effective.
The deck has tested very well for me so far, and feels strong across the board. You can see my testing data here. The deck put up a 62% winrate overall over 60 games between rank 6-3, but I should note that my winrate did increase significantly once I got more comfortable playing the deck. I was 13-12 with the deck after 26 games, but I was 16-4 in my last 20 games.
Of my matchups, the most important two to note are my 8-4 record against Shaman, and the 8-3 record against Warrior. Against Shaman, two of my losses were against Control Shaman builds, which happened to be even greedier than my own, while I was 8-2 against aggro or midrange lists. Against Warrior, I believe two of my losses were against the one-turn-kill list (essentially a powered up version of my list from last week), with one win against that deck. The deck crushed Dragon Warrior, and also managed to beat Control/C’Thun Warrior consistently.
One note on the matchups, the tracker has me at 6-4 against Hunter, but I think it is probably a 50-50% matchup. The games are very tight, and I felt like I either got a little fortunate, or managed to outplay opponents for a couple of my wins. Hunter can put on a lot of consistent pressure. It is difficult to find the right balance between patience and action. Timing your AoE effects is very important. As usual, Call of the Wild is their biggest swing card. If you have a high enough life total to survive a Call of the Wild, then you can often totally wreck them by responding to it with Hallazeal + AoE effect.
Play & Mulligan Advice
My biggest piece of advice with this deck is to practice with it. You really need to get a feel for how your curve flows. You need to be able to plan your curve several turns in advance, because you have so many overload cards. Messing up your sequencing by not planning ahead will cost you games, and wasting a Lava Shock too early will cost you games.
Compared to List #2, you no longer have Totem Golems to hold the fort early, but the additions of Lightning Bolt and Feral Spirit to Amnesiac’s original list provide enough early defence to preserve your life total into the midgame where your big dudes and area of effect spells can take over.
Against both Zoo and Aggro Shaman, keep Lightning Bolt, Stormcrack, Feral Spirit, Hex, Lightning Storm and Lava Shock. You also keep Elemental Destruction, if you have Lava Shock, but you usually don’t want to be playing Elemental Destruction early in any of your matchups, so I will often send it away if I don’t have Shock. If you do not have Lava Shock, then Destruction’s role is to either be played on about turn 7 or 8, backed up by an Earth Elemental or Flamewreathed Faceless, or to be played alongside a Hallazeal. The only time you play it before that point is if you have Lava Shock, or if you are desperate, because locking down 5 of your mana for the next turn is just too punishing on your tempo before that point. Also note, that you will often end up throwing Lava Shock at your opponent’s face just to unlock your mana for the next turn. This is totally fine.
Against Shaman, try to hold your Hexes for Flamewreathed Faceless, if you can. He is by far their biggest toughness minion, and all your other removal is damage based. Faceless is a particular concern because he will always survive an Elemental Destruction (if he’s at full strength), and has a 50% shot of surviving a Destruction/Lava Shock combo, if you don’t have Spell Damage Totem.
Against midrange decks like Hunter or Druid, you want similar cards to the aggro matchups. One difference is that I will often send back Hex. Hex is strong, but you don’t want to be using it too early. Ideally, you want to have Hex for Savannah Highmane against Hunter, or against big minions like Dark Arakkoa against Druid, but those don’t come down until turn 6, and you don’t want to be holding it all that time. I would much prefer to have the other removal spells early, so I will usually mulligan towards those. I will only keep Hex if it is the only removal spell I have in my hand, so that I don’t accidentally end up with no removal after mulligans.
Against control, you have lots of big powerful threats, along with premium removal spells that allow you to grind them out. You have so many big threats that warrant premium removal that your opponent will often run out of premium spells before you even get to playing game-ending threats like Y’Shaarj. As usual, Yogg also has the ability to steal wins from any deck if you fall behind. Also, remember that Hex is the last removal spell you want to play to deal with an opposing minion. Hold it for big stuff like Ragnaros, Tirion or Sylvanas that are tough to kill with damage based effects. Sylvanas, in particular, is a punishing card against you, since you have so many big bodies for them to steal. Also, keep in mind that it is often a good idea to hold a big dude like Earth Elemental until turn 7 if you have an Ancestral Spirit and are playing against Warrior or Paladin. Neither of those classes can easily deal with that outside of multiple premium removal spells or Sylvanas (hence holding on to your Hexes).
One thing to note against control is that, while you have more big beefy creature than they have premium removal, your minion count in general is rather low. It is important to make sure that you do not overextend into mass removal effects like Brawl, because you only have 11 minions total in your deck (plus Feral Spirits). Your opponent will get 2 of your minions with Executes, 2 with Shield Slam, and others with various combinations of cards. If you also let him get 2 or 3 minions with each of his Brawls, you will run out of minions before you run him out of life. It is often correct to play one or two big minions at a time, so as not to overextend, until he has played his second Brawl. Also, this is a reason why, against Control Warrior, you might want to use spells to remove creatures instead of trading.
Just a reminder on Healing Wave, particularly in Control and sometimes Midrange matchups, do not forget that it can also be used to heal a minion. You have lots of beefy minions in here, and if your life total is not being pressured significantly by the midgame, you are often better off attacking a Flamewreathed Faceless or Earth Elemental into an opposing 5 or 6 power minion and then healing it back up to full. This effectively lets you use Healing Wave as a removal spell in matchups where board control and preserving your threats is more important than your life total.
Against Miracle Rogue, Elemental Destruction gives you an out to concealed Auctioneers, so hold onto one for that purpose, if you can. Holding onto the Destruction/Hallazeal combo is a great way to answer a big explosive turn followed by Conceal. Rogue has two Saps, which are very good against you, and are the reason why I only had a 3-4 record against Rogue. However, outside of Sap, they have to use multiple cards to deal with literally every minion in your deck. The most important Hex target is usually Edwin VanCleef, so try to hold it for this purpose, as your damage based removal has trouble with a big Edwin. One of my losses came because I got trigger happy with my Hex and had no solution to a 12/12 Edwin that followed. Generally, if the Rogue deck gets a strong tempo start backed up with Sap, you will lose. If the Rogue deck has a relatively slow start, and is using Sap defensively (most often on a Flamewreathed Faceless), then you will be able to win. They have a lot of trouble attacking through Earth Elementals, and have relatively few game winning threats, while you have removal that works through Conceal, as well as ways to recover massive amounts of life.
Of the legends, Hallazeal is the most indispensable. I would absolutely not play this style of deck without him. His interaction with your AoE effects wins games that you have no business winning.
While the deck is really built in order to optimize Yogg and Y’Shaarj, the deck can function without one of them, although if you are dropping both you should probably just play a different deck.
There really is no card that substitutes for Sylvanas, but if you absolutely need to take her out I would sub-in either Master Jouster or Fire Elemental. They both fit a similar spot on the curve, and can both help control various board states, albeit usually not in quite as effective a manner.
As far as the Epics, if you do not have Elemental Destructions or Earth Elementals you should not play this deck. Far Sight on the other hand can definitely be substituted out. Far Sight is a good card that helps you set up powerful burst turns (and pumps Yogg), but, as you can see above, my list #2 didn’t use them, and I don’t think they are required. The trick here is that you don’t want to substitute a minion into those slots, if you do take it out. Lava Burst is the only 3 drop option that comes to mind, which would be a decent option, although the 3 slot is pretty full already, so you can definitely look elsewhere on the curve. Rockbiter Weapon could be a viable option to help in aggro matchups, but does little against control without Doomhammer. You could use a single Ancestral Knowledge, but I am hesitant to use any more overload cards than there are already. The other option would simply be to play something higher on the curve, like Fire Elemental or Master Jouster.
This article has certainly gone longer than my usual ones. I hope you guys enjoy the final product, and I also hope that you will benefit from getting an insight into the steps it took to get there. If you guys want to see more of this type of article, or if you want me to do other articles in regards to deckbuilding or tweaking techniques and theory, please feel free to drop a comment on the reddit thread here. And, of course, any questions or comments you have, feel free to drop them on the reddit thread, too, and I will endeavour to respond to as many as I can.
In other news, our first EndBoss online Hearthstone tournament is actively taking sign-ups. It will be running on August 6th, 2016. In celebration of our inaugural tournament, entry is free, and we have put up the entire $100 prize pool ourselves, so check it out on the Events page here, and sign up before slots fill up. This tournament will fill up fast, and this early bird notice is being shared with my readers a day before the publication date!
Also, if you are in the Toronto area and are interested in Counterstrike (or have friends who are), our first live viewing event is coming up this weekend (July 30th) for the ELeague finals. For details, you can check our event page here.
Tune in next Tuesday, when I have another fun and powerful list up my sleeve. And, if you are interested in receiving an email when a new article is posted, sign up to do that below! We do not sell subscriber information. We only use your info to tell you when new articles are posted.