Hello everyone! Today, I’m going to talk about one of the best and my absolute favorite deck in all of Historic: GW Fauna Shaman. GW Fauna Shaman is an evolution of the GW CoCo archetype I’ve been enjoying for months now and I can safely say this is the best iteration of the archetype so far. If you’re interested in seeing the first iteration of the list, you can check out the linked article. Furthermore, here’s an update to GW I made right after the Uro ban, pre Fauna Shaman for reference as well.
I really enjoyed my original list, but it had a few issues I wanted to rectify. First off, although The Great Henge was obviously great in the deck, not having many creatures to cast off of it on turn 4 was not ideal. With that, I wanted an additional green 2 drop and the best I found at the time was Merfolk Branchwalker. Now I’ve received a lot of flack for playing Branchwalker, but it was honestly pretty good! Either it was a slightly better Elvish Visionary when I had a land on top, or a 3/2 slightly better scry one, both pretty decent creatures.
The second issue I was having is I wanted to focus less on Henge, despite it being really good, and more on disruptive creatures. It’s not that Henge isn’t great, it’s more that I need a good plan for when I don’t draw it. I initially played
The last issue I had with the deck is I felt that I didn’t have enough to do with my mana in the late game. The deck thrummed early on, but as the game dragged on, which they tend to do as this wasn’t a particularly fast deck, my spells would start getting outvalued compared to my opponent’s. I added Vivien to the deck to help combat this issue, and although Vivien was a solid card, it never felt amazing.
With all of that, I felt the deck was definitely improved, but was still missing something. The deck was great when my creatures lined up with what my opponent was doing or I had a really proactive start, but I had no way to influence that which wasn’t a dealbreaker, but definitely awkward. Then, with the help of Chris Kvartek and some inspiration from Aaron Gertler, we figured out that Fauna Shaman would be the perfect fit for the deck. It gave the deck a mana sink, a good 2 drop to cast immediately off of Henge, and most importantly, consistency. If you can find your best creature every turn for the rest of the game, it’s very hard to lose.
With that, Chris and I got to work on a list that we were both super happy with, and he almost submitted for the Kaldheim Championship. Let’s take a look.
Fauna Shaman has been an absolute gas to play with and has made the archetype feel so much more powerful. Having access to either silver bullets or just repetitive annoying cards for the opponent is just so powerful despite how innocuous Fauna Shaman may seem. Since Fauna Shaman is such an integral part of the deck and the strategy itself is relatively straightforward, before I dive into the matchups I’ll go into when you should tutor for each creature.
Mostly for when you need a land in a pinch. You can also fetch it if you want a way to cast a Henge.
Excellent against Sacrifice to get out Valkmira or good against decks looking to cast expensive non-creatures like Sultai or UW Control. This will be one of your more common tutors.
When you need to kill a Giant.
It’s extremely rare, but if you need to attack with your Lovestruck Beast and you don’t want to tutor up another Lovestruck, you can get this.
Also extremely niche, but if you want a cheap creature to cast and you don’t want Scavenging Ooze, you can find another Shaman. You can also tutor for a Shaman if you’re afraid the one you have is going to die, or if it’s literally about to die.
Scooze is a great target when a lot of creatures have died, you need a cheap creature to cast, or you want to interact with the graveyard. This will be a relatively common tutor target.
99% of the time you’ll want this to destroy an artifact or enchantment. There will be some scenarios where you need to gain life in a pinch, but those situations feel very rare over getting some interactive creature.
If you need a big body for Henge or otherwise, LSB is a great target. Furthermore, this can be a 1/1 to help other LSB’s attack.
This is obvious, but if you need to interact, this will be the main way to do it. As an aside, against creature decks you can just tutor an Apparition every turn which is nuts.
99% of the time you’ll be tutoring this to stop opponents from doing sacrifice shenanigans, but sometimes you want extra lands and a body. That being said, I have yet to tutor for Yasharn just for the land drops and the body.
My favorite tutor target and the most underappreciated one. Angel snagging anything your opponent could have feel great especially since very few decks have removal for it. With Angel’s Embalm ability, a really common line I do is to tutor for Angel, then pitch Angel with Fauna Shaman to find something else. This gives me a creature I want, and some card advantage as I have an Angel of Sanctions to bring back for future turns! Mind you, this is a token so it doesn’t work with Henge, but it’s still pretty powerful to functionally draw a card by pitching this. This will be a very common tutor target and wouldn’t be surprised if a second copy eventually finds its way into the list.
Garg is easy, if your opponent can’t beat it easily, find this. Decks like Jund and Gruul can really struggle with this big idiot.
Although Hushbringer is anti-synergy with some of our deck (The Great Henge and all our ETB creatures), its important to help shore up some of the harder matchups like Goblins and Angels. They can really struggle to win through this so it’s been worth it so far.
If you want your opponent’s non-creatures to be taxed, but you don’t specifically want Reidane, Thalia’s your gal.
Ceratops has one job and one job only, make Blue mages sad. GW was struggling to beat UW, but with 3 copies of Shifting Ceratops, the matchup has astronomically improved. If you’re playing against UW, try not to run out Ceratops when you already have a large board as they can really only kill it with Wraths and most lists only play 1-2 Cast Out.
One of my favorite parts about this deck is that the list doesn’t need to be stagnant. Since it’s a toolbox deck, you can tailor it towards any new metagame. Here’s some cards to consider including for the future.
For all your protection needs. I think Doggo is a little too underwhelming and Shepherd of the Flock mostly does the job better.
If Black decks see a major uptick, this can definitely see play. I don’t think it’s good enough against Sacrifice to warrant it right now, but I wouldn’t blame anyone who wanted it there either.
I don’t know what this would be good against, but you never know.
We initially played this as a cool way to interact instant speed, but it ended up being too niche for our tastes. That being said, it could find its way back into the deck if more decks look to interact with you. For example, this synergizes extremely well with hard to kill threats like Shifting Ceratops or for spicy turns with Skyclave Apparition (bouncing this with the trigger on the stack gives you a free exile).
Archon is absolutely killer against Auras so I wouldn’t be surprised if this will end up just finding its way into the deck sooner than later with how well it performed at the Kaldheim Championship. If that still doesn’t warrant it’s inclusion, the introduction of the Storm cards into Historic with Strixhaven will definitely make this a necessity.
Looking through your library isn’t really a thing in Historic, but keep in mind this card exists.
If you want an additional effect that removes creatures, this is your card.
If you need more creature interaction, but want to be better against small creature decks. We’re already pretty good against those strategies so this has seemed unnecessary, but I wouldn’t rule it out.
This old favorite is great against decks like Elves, but right now feels too narrow for Historic as Yasharn does most of the same job, but better.
If something like Burn randomly becomes super popular, this card is excellent against it. This can also be decent against the future storm decks as they’ll have to kill this first to win with a Grapeshot or Tendrils of Agony, but I think Archon of Emeria does that job better.
Really good at grinding other creature matchups out, but this deck is already pretty good at that so it seems unnecessary right now.
Great against more controlling black decks as this is a colossal threat against them.
If for whatever reason you want a tutorable way to get rid of an entire graveyard in one shot.
Really good if Artifact based decks become popular.
This card sucks, but look at his grinning face!
This can go in Shifting Ceratop’s slot if it ever seems like it would be better.
Very unlikely, but if the mirror ever becomes prevalent, King Kong can do some serious work.
If small creature decks become way more popular this could potentially see play, but seems mostly worse than Elder Gargaroth.
MATCHUPS AND SIDEBOARDING
JUND FOOD (SLIGHTLY FAVORED TO MODERATELY FAVORED)
|+1 Reidane, God of the Worthy||-4 Lovestruck Beast|
|+1 Knight of Autumn||-1 The Great Henge|
|+1 Yasharn, Implacable Earth|
|+2 Elspeth Conquers Death|
The Food matchup mostly revolves around one thing, and that’s
JUND COMPANY (MODERATELY FAVORED TO HEAVILY FAVORED)
|+1 Reidane, God of the Worthy||-4 Lovestruck Beast|
|+4 Baffling End||-1 The Great Henge|
|+1 Yasharn, Implacable Earth||-2 Collected Company|
|+2 Elspeth Conquers Death||-1 Fauna Shaman|
This matchup is more or less the entire reason to play this deck. Between Skyclave Apparition, Yasharn, and Reidane, you can effectively close off most of their avenues to win then randomly find a way to kill them. It gets a bit more complicated post board when they get access to Noxious Grasp and Korvold, but the matchup dynamic stays relatively the same.
AURAS (SLIGHTLY UNFAVORED TO EVEN)
|+4 Baffling End||-2 Scavenging Ooze|
|+2 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben||-3 Reidane, God of the Worthy|
|+1 Knight of Autumn||-2 Yasharn, Implacable Earth|
Unfortunately, the Auras matchup is not going to be the most interesting. It’ll mostly come down to if you have enough interaction to kill their 2 drops or not. Grinding them out isn’t really an option as Kor Spiritdancer mostly trumps all, but beating a
|+4 Baffling End||-2 Scavenging Ooze|
|+1 Reidane, God of the Worthy||-2 Fauna Shaman|
|+1 Knight of Autumn||-2 Yasharn, Implacable Earth|
The mirror will be all about two cards: The Great Henge and Collected Company. It’s going to be all about who can set up a scary board presence and keep their opponent from doing so. Baffling End can help to keep their board state in check, Reidane can slow down their Cocos and Henge on the front half while being a huge headache on the Valkmira end. Your opponent’s will likely have Luminarch Aspirant over Fauna Shaman which can make their starts more explosive, but doesn’t give them the ability to grind that this version has. Furthermore, our 5 drops will be very difficult for most other lists to deal with so they give us a leg up as well.
AZORIUS CONTROL (EVEN)
|+1 Reidane, God of the Worthy||-4 Skyclave Apparition|
|+2 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben||-2 Yasharn, Implacable Earth|
|+1 Knight of Autumn||-1 Angel of Sanctions|
|+3 Shifting Ceratops|
As I said before, this matchup used to be relatively difficult until we included Shifting Ceratops. In the post board games, finding Ceratops, and plenty of them, will be your key to winning the matchup. The game ones are definitely challenging, but you got substantially better after board which makes the matchup feel pretty even. As an aside, this board plan also works quite well against Sultai Ultimatum as well.
TIPS AND TRICKS
- This deck doesn’t play an excess of lands so playing Kazandu Mammoths early is perfectly acceptable. For example, I wouldn’t risk missing a land drop just to potentially playing it out as our fuzzy friend.
- If you are facing a deck where both halves of Reidane are good, generally I’ll just leave it up to what makes my curve better.
- Even against decks that Giant Killer seems mediocre, too often I saw players (definitely not Chris) board out Giant Killer only to get killed by an unexpected creature. With that, I try to never board this out.
- Most players miss that holding up mana for Scavenging Ooze rather than playing out another spell can be right more often than one might think. I have no strong metric for when it is right, just consider it more often than maybe you normally would.
- Try to save your Knight of Autumns until you can kill an artifact or enchantment with it (in matchups where applicable). I made the mistake of being impatient and running it out earlier only for my opponent to play an enchantment a turn or two later.
- If you have a Great Henge in hand, generally I highly prioritize getting that online before anything else. Most decks can’t beat Henge easily so getting it out early is the easiest way to win.
- When in doubt with Elder Gargaroth, I go for drawing the card. It can find you a power spell or a random creature that can be turned into something better with Fauna Shaman.
- The old version played Luminarch Aspirant which incentivized your Companies to be cast on your main phase, but since we don’t play that, you can happily wait for the opponent’s end step.
- In matchups where you’re unsure how to board, just keep in mind you don’t want to board out too many Company targets. Generally, I like to keep around 28 and will only go as low as 25-26.
- Be careful with timing your Thalia as all your non-creature spells are very expensive. You don’t always need to run it out as soon as possible, but for what it’s worth, playing them earlier is generally better.
- This deck is a midrange deck first, not a beatdown deck. Against most strategies that aren’t looking to go way over you, you can generally cobble together a win if you’re patient.
- Elspeth Conquers Death is at it’s best in matchups where your opponent is looking to kill your creatures, not exile them. In Standard, ECD is acceptable at just the exile mode, but in this deck, you really need all 3 chapters to go off for it to be worth it. With that, it wouldn’t be crazy to bring a copy in against UW to randomly snag Teferis.
- If you need to board in Hushbringer, don’t board out any of your Skyclave Apparitions. Although it’s anti-synergy, Skyclave is still excellent against those strategies.