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Hearthstone Classic players are on the cusp of unearthing a unicorn deck no one noticed 7 years ago

Hearthstone Classic Shaman class
(Image credit: Blizzard)

Hearthstone Classic rewinds time to June 2014, when the card game was much simpler and closing a match often ended with Leeroy Jenkins smashing into our opponent's faces. You'd think most of the best decks had been found at the time...but that's not the case. A new contender that no one noticed seven years ago has emerged, and it's a class you probably wouldn't expect.

In their first Classic Data Reaper Report, the folks at Vicious Syndicate have spotted two Shaman decks that no one was using back in 2014, but are now killing it in the Classic format. The new builds are based on the familiar Midrange Shaman archetype—which did see a lot of play back in the day—however, it's been modified to be far more aggressive.

So, while Thrall is still very much rocking his original archetype, it's now showing signs of splitting a couple of different playstyles. These decks cut beloved neutrals like Argent Commander and Chillwind Yeti to maximise chances of finding a lethal combo earlier. First, we have Aggro Burn Shaman, which is stacked with low-cost, aggressive cards like Leper Gnome, Knife Juggler, and Leeroy Jenkins. This build has all the tools to cut down your opponent's health fast with help from its Rockbiter Weapon/Windfury combo, and burst damage that's buffed by Azure Drake and Bloodmage Thalnos.

(Image credit: Blizzard)

Next we have Burst Midrange Shaman, which shares similar core cards to the build above, but feels a bit safer to play thanks to its Taunts, AoE spells, and additional card draw. This deck also runs Hex in case your opponent drops a beefy Taunt like Ancient of War or Tirion Fordring on the board.

It's clear that we haven't seen everything Shaman has to offer yet, but as VS outlined, these decks tend to perform better in the higher ranks. I struggled to get off the ground with Aggro Burn Shaman when I tested it out in Bronze. For the most part I was just a few HP shy of clinching wins against Face Hunter and Freeze Mage—damn you, double Ice Block—but I can see how a better player could find ways to jam in that extra damage.

The Data Reaper report highlights that "Shaman seems to have very powerful tools that were previously underutilized. What’s more is that Shaman is nowhere near solved as a class, and on top of further improving its established deck, has the potential of birthing a true unicorn deck that was never discovered."

Shaman is nowhere near solved as a class, and on top of further improving its established deck, has the potential of birthing a true unicorn deck that was never discovered

Vicious Syndicate

It's exciting to think that there are more Tier 1 builds buried in the Classic format, just waiting to be uncovered. What's most surprising is that a previously mild class like Shaman is the first one to pull ahead and shake up the meta. At present, Midrange Shaman is resting in Tier 2 [behind Miracle Rogue], but VS reckons "the class carries top tier potential, with an extremely well-rounded matchup spread that exhibits no real weaknesses." It's refreshing to know that even when stripping the game back to basics, established bullies like Rogue can be knocked off their pedestals.

While 2014 wasn't exactly the Dark Ages with regards to discovering powerful decks, these discoveries are being made in Classic in part because it's now much easier to see which setups are performing well thanks to newfangled deck trackers and the reams of data shared by sites like Vicious Syndicate and HSReplay. Seven years on, the most dedicated players are also pretty adept at tuning their builds, so this could well be the first meta-breaking refinement of many.

As PC Gamer's guides writer, Emma is usually juggling several games at once. She loves competitive first-person shooters like CS:GO and Call of Duty, but she always has time for a few rounds of Hearthstone. She's happiest when she's rescuing pugs in Spelunky 2.