Shpungo’s guide to Zam
Author’s note: This guide isn’t a substitute for the real deal. The best way to improve at anything is just actually doing it and Zam is no exception. But you can’t learn to fly a plane without someone showing you the controls first, unless you’re a genius. Or you’re ok with crashing a lot of planes.
Oh and though the guide is 3 parts, only 1 and 2 are required. That’s all for now folks, thanks for reading and have a great day <3
Patch #66 Update: Hax’s attachment is now barrier instead of research and the meta is too fast to justify Uno. As a result, Hax will be retired from the list in favour of Think Twice. I’ll leave its section in the guide though in case the meta slows down and you want to try running it in your list, as it’s still fairly viable, especially in longer matchups.
After winning the All Stars tournament with Zam, I noticed a lot of people asking for my Zam list and even got to watch Prof Icicle playing it on stream, which was an honour~
However, the deck didn’t really gain any traction and I feel like this is mostly due to the fact that, well, it’s just not that easy to play. So I decided I’d make a guide for anyone interested in learning the ropes or just seeing what the hell is going on in my brain.
To preface, this is the current decklist: https://skyweaverdecks.com/decks/124
So without further ado, let’s get into the guide
Part One: The Combo
Step one to playing the deck is knowing which cards you need in order to perform the combo. Obviously Zam is a must. However, unlike most combos, the rest of the combo is entirely variable depending on how much damage you need to push. In aggro games you’ll generally have to pull the trigger early and just throw out the combo asap. Meanwhile on the opposite side of the spectrum, in a control matchup, your opponent’s health may seem nigh insurmountable and you’re going to need every single combo piece available in order to chunk down their ridiculously high hp.
The optimal combo turn is as follows:
Zam – Electron – Illusion (targeting Electron) – Salvage – Century Key – Victory
Adding two Electrons alongside your salvage almost doubles the amount of spells you can output in a single turn, so the above combo is what you need to do if you’re going for the maximum amount of damage. However, as I mentioned earlier, you aren’t always able to pull off the ideal combo and you often won’t even need to. Thus, I’ve comprised a table of what kind of damage output you can generally expect to see based on the ingredients you have. This isn’t factoring in for any other random spells you’re likely to have at this point, but rather a general estimation based on my experience playing the deck
|Combo Pieces||Damage Output|
As you can see, if your opponent isn’t playing a control deck that’s stacking a major amount of health, the deck is pretty capable of bursting opponent’s who are at anywhere from 10-25 health without employing the full combo. And this isn’t even accounting for all the other random crappy spells you’ll have lying around in your back pocket.
Part Two: The Game Plan AKA How do we actually get there?
Now obviously 50 damage in one turn is pretty damn attractive, but it’s going to take a bit of work getting there . Depending on luck of the draw and your opponent’s list, you can pop your Zam anywhere from turn 7 to 12. The exact timeframe mostly depends on your opponent’s list; with aggro decks generally forcing you to pull the trigger by turn 10 or sooner while many control lists will make you stall for as long as possible in order to draw every piece of the puzzle for maximum damage.
- Choosing the optimal starting hand
What looks like a good starting hand can vary wildly between matchups, so step one to picking your cards is always looking at what hero your opponent is playing. Aggressive matchups will require significantly more crowd control and removal, while a control deck will let you play a lot more greedily (though beware of overdrawing!)
Generally speaking though, you’re looking for cards that will enable you to draw and play Magnanimous. The deck functions at 200% power when you get his -1 cost to literally every spell in your deck, so getting this bad boy out is a number one priority. In regards to picking your opening hand, this could include:
- Keeping units in your hand alongside Tempest Brew in order to maximise your chance of pulling Magnanimous with it.
- Keeping every possible card draw in order to thin your deck as much as possible.
- Keeping Giza for the 50/50 of pulling Mag or Zam.
- Keeping Rosewater Charm or Take Root in order to boost your mana for an earlier Mag granted you feel confident you’ll have him in hand by turn 4-5
Now that we’ve picked the perfect opening hand, it’s time to actually start the damn game. Playing Zam is 80% managing resources, 10% losing to hero armor, 10% wishing you were playing an easier deck and 100% missing lethal. So this means you need to know how to prioritize what cards you can and can’t afford to dump out of your hand at any given moment in order to manage your resources. Against aggro you’re going to be constantly expending resources to keep yourself alive while vs control you need to know which cards you can safely dump to avoid overdrawing. You can never afford to play Salvage or Zam because without them, you lose. Electron as well is almost always a keeper. But the 14 one cost cards in your deck? Frick em. Contrary to what you may believe, the combo doesn’t actually rely on playing a ton of spells. Its key component is mostly just Salvage, alongside whatever other garbage happens to be around. This means that all your one cost spells are fairly expendable and you’re free to use them at your leisure in order to not die and not overdraw.
(a brief note on experience: A lot of the deck concepts may be unfamiliar at first and it can be a lot to take in at once. However, playing this list is a lot like learning an instrument. With time and practice, 90% of the techniques here will become muscle memory and you’ll be able to breeze through games without breaking your brain. Just remember, except for geniuses, everyone sucks starting out. You’ll get better as long as you keep trying, I believe in you 💜)
Playing the Game
Ok now you (potentially) understand a few of the deck’s basic principles, so how do you play it? Well, a lot of the game is just sitting on your ass throwing spells at whatever minions your opponent tries to smack you with, until you can eventually shoot them directly in the head. Prioritising mana efficiency is a total non-factor and all you need to do is stay alive, draw cards, play Magnanimous and then draw your combo. That’s really all there is to it. No big fancy set up.
No bells, no whistles. Just play Mag, draw zam, play spells. If you’re feeling fancy you can reduce the cost of Salvage and illusion using Orchid and Tragic Poet, or even make Electron a 0 cost using Fish. But really, those are all decisions that you make from game to game and aren’t a complete necessity.
Overall once you understand the basic fundamentals of the deck, like what cards to prioritize and what steps you need to complete in order to do the combo, playing the deck becomes a lot simpler.
Optional Variant: Running Hax
If the Zam doesn’t get em, then Uno will. That’s all it’s there for. Plus it goes through armor so it gives you a better chance vs Dracomantium. Unophobia will naturally accumulate damage as you play an ungodly number of one cost spells throughout the game so there’s no need to focus on it. In some games, especially against control, you might want to guarantee getting Unophobia by killing Hax yourself (the Zaps off Tempest Brew help with this.) But in an aggro matchup you probably don’t care enough. It’s also worth mentioning that pulling Hax off of Dual Boot is pretty sad, because nobody wants two Unophobias.
Part Three: Extra for Experts
And now for a list of the synergy potential of every card in the deck with the other cards in the deck. No, seriously, I’m just going to infodump all the relevant scenarios that often come up with each of the cards in the list. This bit isn’t at all necessary so if you’re not a total nerd, feel free to stop here. And hey, if you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading! Hit me up on discord at Shpungo#5518 with any feedback or whatever and good luck Zamming <3
Ordered based on their order in the deck builder
(Dump worthy means you can throw away this card if you’re in danger of overdrawing)
|Card Name||Potential interactions/Optimal usage|
|Alight||Alight will pull Forcefield, Sphinx Mask, Giza, Tempest Brew, or Zam. Meaning that two of its pulls are cards that will draw you more cards; making Alight a strong deck thinner. In addition, two of your pulls are units so it’s ideal to play this before Tempest Brew if you’re searching for a Magnanimous.|
|Canny Mask||There is zero mulligan synergy in this list. Canny Mask is really just here for when your hand is a total brick. Worth noting that after you play magnanimous, the 1 cost cards in your deck will become hax, tragic poet, charkram, cross reference, and fish. In addition, if you’re feeling really frisky, you can actually pull off a dumb play with canny mask where you use it to put Zam back into deck from hand and hoping to god your mulligan gets you Dual Boot and no Zam. Then you can Dual Boot Zam for massive mana cost reduction. Usually there’s always gonna be another unit in deck though so this strategy generally has about a <10% chance of working.|
|Century Key||Easily the most expendable part of the combo. Having 7-10 damage on your hero is super sexy and all but when push comes to shove, you can afford to dump Century Key early in order to stay afloat and control the board vs aggro.|
|Eye Spy||Always play Scorch before this if you have the option. The fact that this is a metal card makes it slightly more valuable than most of your 1 cost spells, thought it’s still expendable.|
|Forcefield||Forcefield has three main applications. Removing roots from your hero after Take Root, shielding your hero before trading after you’ve buffed up your attack, and dumping this out of your hand when it’s too full. Also synergises with water rune. Pretty much a first pick for dropping from your hand when things get tight though.|
Patch #66 Update: I’ve retired Hax from the list in light of a far more aggressive Meta and Hax’s nerf. I’m leaving this here though as future changes may cause it to become viable again. And hey, if you find yourself needing to win more control matchups, feel free to experiment with this in your list
Sometimes a game winner, sometimes totally irrelevant. Like I mentioned earlier, it sucks to get this with dual boot, so ideally play Dual Boot when Hax is not in deck or there are so many minions that Hax is unlikely to get pulled. Very much worth mentioning that Hax is basically the best way to remove roots from your hero. Also, when Uno is deck, Seek will pull it; which is generally bad.
|Hydrate||Mmmm thorsty. You can sometimes use this to overdraw your opponent in control or combo matchups which is sweet. Also, it’s generally not advisable to Hydrate at the end of your turn. Like seriously. Don’t do it. The drawback of drawing your opponent 3 cards is not worth it when they get to use them more proactively than you.|
|Mind Rune||Genuinely a total life saver in some scenarios. Dazed is extremely good to put on a massive enemy minion. Generally though? This card is extremely expendable. It does kind of synergise with Water Rune but that doesn’t happen often.|
|Mulch||Elderwoods is nice but when you’re at risk of overdrawing just chuck this shit out and don’t worry about getting value.|
|Rosewater Charm||Obviously good for the combo. But also VERY good for playing on turn 3 then playing Magnanimous on turn 4. Hell, if you had Take Root, Rosewater and Mag in hand, you can play Take Root + Rosewater on 2 mana (using mana pot/potion) then play Mag the next turn. This can lead to quickly running out of cards in hand if you don’t have any draw, but it is pretty poggers.|
|Sphinx Mask||Dump worthy. You can Illusion this for more healing if you’re desperate.|
|Tragic Poet||This isn’t actually about hitting lots of spells, but specific ones. Ideal targets are Salvage and Illusion but feel free to dump this if your hand is full. Or if you just need banner. It’s nice to have the cost reduction, but not massively necessary.|
|Water Rune||Frozen increases your damage output on a Zam turn massively if your opponent has a high health unit, or one with armour. Or you can just use this to deal a 4 damage punch to an enemy unit need be. The vapors is also very nice, and when applied to electron before a playing metal spell you get a free proc.|
|Charkram||Dumpworthy but bear in mind you have to play the fFremander too otherwise you’re not losing hand size|
After you play Magnanimous, its targets become Charkram, Fish and Take Root. You will frequently ood playing this after Mag though, but that’s fine.
|Think Twice||The most recent addition to the deck after the Hax nerf. Think Twice is a strong deck thinner that can give you a copy of Mind Rune, Cross Reference, or Illusion depending on which one is left in your deck. Think Twice always pulls the lowest cost mind spell, so you can plan in advance depending on which one of these you’re going to get a copy of. Mind Rune is strong as it gives you banner and can apply dazed, making it the best defensive option. Cross Reference gives you a lot of draw which is very nice and the most consistently good option. Illusion, while being the worst pull, is still fairly decent as it guarantees you’ve at least drawn one piece of your combo. Also, Think Twice can clear roots from Take Root off your hero, which is neat.|
|Electron||Oh my god always play the zaps off of these first before doing anything else. Half of learning how to play Zam is by making the mistake of overriding your own zaps when u get trigger happy with the metal spells. Worth noting that this is the ideal target for fish and is guaranteed if you’ve drawn Tragic Poet and Giza|
|Fish||Thins the deck. Good if you can hit Electron, Curious or Zam. But it’s not here for that specifically.|
|Giza||You always keep this in the opening hand. Fucking great card, sometimes worth running into enemy units just to get the Zam or Mag draw.|
|Take Root||A little more clunky ever since Seek stopped giving your hero an attachment. It’s still a good card though as mana ramp is very valuable for your combo, just keep in mind the roots won’t always be easy to remove if you don’t have Forcefield or Think Twice in hand.|
|Illusion||Other than Electron, this can target Royal Mummy for heals or Curious for turbo draw. This is also a not super necessary part of the combo, but if you want to go for maximum damage you can’t go without it. Two Electrons is what pushes the damage ceiling to absurd levels.|
|Orchid||Similar to tragic poet, the cost reduction of this is nice but is more about specific targets than going wide. However it also works great to tide you over before hitting your Mag|
|Seek||The cost reduction on seek isn’t massively important, its mostly just about deck thinning. This can hit tempest brew, dual boot or salvage. Obviously hitting salvage is IDEAL because it takes 2 mana off your combo. But this deck has a lot of ways to reduce spell cost so it’s not a real priority.|
|Volcanic Potion||Regrettable that it reduces your max mana, but you really can’t get better value for your mana as far as clears go.|
|Curious||So this guy is hear to draw because sometimes you just have fuck all draw. You can go insanely far with curious if you have a perfect hand but more often than not curious will function as 1-3 draw. Also worth mentioning curious is Dump worthy when things get tight. Sometimes you get totally fucked when your left most card is something like uno or zam. Curious is maybe the most expendable card in the list? I’ve been saved by the draw too many times to drop it though…|
|Dual Boot||So this is honestly just draw most of the time. You can draw Zam with this which is always fun, but generally you won’t be planning combo turns around it. Drawing hax is the only bad option when playing this, so always be wary of that.|
|Salvage||It’s easy to make the mistake of dropping this pre-combo. But it’s so important to the combo and have 3 dead cards in hand makes hand management suuper rough. You really want to just play this when you play zam.|
|Tempest Brew||Worth noting that if Hax gets zap it can easily kill itself for guaranteed uno and Tragic Poet can kill itself for spell cost reduction.|
|Magnanimous||You wanna play this shit as fast as possible. Your roughest games will be when Mag is in the bottom of your deck.|
4 thoughts on “Shpungo’s guide to Zam”
“Dump worthy”. Should be my gang name.
lool so true, maybe when OB starts you’ll be able to gather a dump worthy army👀
Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you penning
this post and the rest of the site is also really good.
thanks a lot for the feedback, I’m happy to have helped by sharing my skyweaver knowledge lol <3