Many cards in M11 have been discussed. However, one has been discussed more than any other. That card is Fauna Shaman. While many think Mana Leak is more influential, the Shaman is a much more interesting card to look at. Personally, I think the Shaman will be the most influential card for Standard out of M11. While many people have discussed various brews with Fauna Shaman, I think it is much more interesting to look at its overarching impact on Standard one card at a time.
Cheap Removal: Lightning Bolt, Terminate, Journey to Nowhere, Flame Slash, and Doom Blade should see a lot more play with the printing of the Shaman. While Path is technically a cheap removal spell, Pathing a Fauna Shaman allows those decks to cast turn 3 Bloodbraid or Vengevine, which present even bigger problems than the Shaman itself. Oblivion Ring should also go down in popularity due to its inability to kill the Shaman, especially on the draw.
Lotus Cobra: There are arguments for gains and losses for Cobra because of its interaction with Shaman. First of all, they obviously fit the same slot in the curve. The Shaman is more powerful and thus might take away from Cobra. On the other hand, they are both creatures that demand removal. In a Fauna Shaman deck, you want as many of these as possible. Lastly, as I said above, I believe cheap removal will get more popular. This should hurt Cobra. Overall, I think the printing of Fauna Shaman will lead to Cobra seeing less play, but I could certainly see decks that would want both.
Knight of the Reliquary: This card was probably one of the best cards in Standard before Shaman’s printing, and only gets better after. First of all, it is a very reasonable tutor target on turn 3 if your curve involves turn one Bird turn two Shaman. Second of all, it is another must-kill creature. Because the value of must-kill creatures is on the up and up, I believe Next Level Bant should become less popular. The one argument for continuing to play Next Level Bant is to punish people for playing too much removal and overreacting to the Shaman.
Cunning Sparkmage + Basilisk Collar: Not only are both of these tutorable with Shaman, (Stoneforge-Collar) but both of these cards also tend to be good against Fauna Shaman decks. In addition, these cards are good against decks that are light on removal, meaning Shaman is likely to live to set up the combo in the mathcups you want it.
Birds/Noble Hierarch: These cards both would probably be in most decks that play Fauna Shaman to begin with, but it is worth noting their synergy. Birds and Hierarch are normally terrible lategame topdecks, but Shaman happily turns them into the best creature in your deck.
Mythic: Obviously this isn’t a card, but I do think it is worthy of mention. Decks that are reliant on creatures like Mythic are going to have trouble dealing with all the cheap removal that is going to be running around. It is most likely better to go in a direction with a lower curve that is less reliant on mana critters.
Ancient Ziggurat: This is one of the best cards in Standard. Yes, I realize it sees basically no play. This is the best way to play turn one accelerators without playing 10+ Forests and destroying your mana base. You should be playing a ton of creatures in your Shaman decks anyway, so why not get rewarded for it? This card should singlehandedly change the way people build manabases. Again, this is another argument for not playing a deck that likes Planeswalkers like Mythic.
Bloodghast/Vengevine: Obviously, creatures that like being in the graveyard are good with Shaman. Against control decks, you can sit on a Shaman and just keep pitching Vengevine and tutoring for a second Vengevine.
Tectonic Edge: This is a card that doesn’t exactly get better with Fauna Shaman, but I do think is underrated in Fauna Shaman/Knight off the Reliquary decks. Obviously, you are the favorite to win in general when Knight lives, but there are some matchups where untapping with Knight is not as relevant. Blue White and Turboland are two such matchups. Edge is very powerful in both matchups and being able to make Knight good against these decks is very relevant.
Baneslayer Angel: As Brad pointed out in his article, this is the single best creature to have live in Standard. Obviously, it isn’t great against Blue White Control or Turboland, but it is still probably going to be one of the most common Shaman targets.
Linvala, Keeper of Silence: Soon she should get a lot more popular, since she is a great target for Fauna Shaman and is great against Fauna Shaman decks. If the format is going to revolve around Fauna Shaman as I predict, Linvala will be one of the biggest Shaman targets in the format.
Sovereigns of Lost Alara: I think these will be somewhere in the middle. I think they might see more play in decks, but less 4-of play. The biggest problem with them in Fauna Shaman decks is that if the deck isn’t playing Jace, the Conscription is going to be a terrible draw. Most Shaman decks are going to cut Cobra, meaning Sovereigns will be hard to cast, and it there will be no way to brainstorm them away. It is worth noting that the manabases of Fauna Shaman decks (even Naya versions) should be able to cast Sovereigns. You can get as many as 21 sources without playing more than 1 Island (4 Misty 1 Island 4 Birds 4 Hierarch 4 Cobra 4 Ziggurat) which is more than enough for a main color, let alone a splash of one card.
Putrid Leech: I think this card is once again weak, and possibly even worth cutting from Jund again. Decks now have a bunch of cheap creatures that demand removal. This means that turn two is often going to involve Jund casting a removal spell. I would not be surprised if playing cards like Doom Blade and additional removal means Fauna Shaman will have no chance of living and start setting up Baloths and Vengevines to fight through Jund’s Blightnings.
Blightning: This is another loser. People keep saying Obstinate Baloth is going to ruin Blightning, but I think the Shaman may be just as big of a problem. Once Shaman gets active, Blightning becomes a dead card because the Shaman always threatens to tutor up Vengevine or Baloth. I think if you play the extra Doom Blade version, Blightning might be reasonable, but this is definitely another card that seems worth looking into cutting from Jund. It is possible a build where Bloodbraid always cascades into removal would be interesting in the Shaman-filled metagame.
I think I’ve covered most of the big changers in standard with Fauna Shaman’s printing. However, I haven’t fully covered how I would build a Fauna Shaman deck. I really liked the looks of Brad Nelson’s Naya build, but I think some changes could be made to it based on my observations. Here’s what I am planning on bringing to a local PTQ this weekend:
UW out: 4 Sparky 1 Baloth 1 Slayer 1 Mystic 1 Collar 3 Flame Slash
UW in: 4 Ruinblaster 3 Escort 1 Realm Razor 1 Qasali Pridemage 1 Thornling
Jund out: 4 Sparky 1 Mystic 1 Collar 3 Flame Slash?
Jund in: 1 Lin Vala 3 Baloth 4 Ruinblaster 1 Thornling
GW Decks Out: 4 Vengevine 1 Baloth 1 Baneslayer?
GW decks in: 1 Lin Vala 4 Burst Lightning 1 Qasali Pridemage
Red Out: 4 Vengevine 4 Sparky
Red in: 3 Baloth 4 Burst Lightning 1 Lin Vala
Turboland out: 1 Baneslayer Angel 1 Baloth 1 Stoneforge 1 Collar 1 Flame Slash
Turboland in: 4 Ruinblaster 1 Razer
I feel like this deck is one of the best Fauna Shaman decks in the format, and one of the best decks against opposing Fauna Shaman decks. It has a very tight base and has Sparkmage to attack opposing Fauna Shaman decks. The Blue White matchup (which was the biggest problem for Naya decks in the past) gets a lot better since Cobra was pretty weak against Blue White and Shaman can just keep getting Vengevines to grind them out.
While there are many powerful cards in M11 inlcuding Titans, Mana Leak, and Destructive Force, I truly believe that Fauna Shaman will not close be the most played card from M11 in Standard. It is a two drop that takes over games if it doesn’t die, and is in a color that supports it very well. It would be a Shame(an) if people did not have F(a)un(a) with this powerful card.