Verdict and Analysis of TGT Impact on Shaman

Analysis of Druid, Hunter and Mage Analysis of Paladin Analysis of Priest Analysis of Rogue Analysis of Shaman (you’re here) Analysis of Warlock and Warrior (coming soon!) In this series I want to talk about how TGT cards have impacted each of the classes. Analyze the new cards, see whether they are seeing play or […]

Introduction

In this series I want to talk about how TGT cards have impacted each of the classes. Analyze the new cards, see whether they are seeing play or not and judge whether the class was improved with the TGT or not, as well as the latest sample deck lists of these classes. I’ll give one of the three final verdicts:

  • Positive – The class has significantly improved with TGT – either the new, very strong archetypes were created or the old ones has became better.
  • Neutral – The class received positive changes, but they are rather small – no new archetypes created or they aren’t very strong and the old ones were only slightly boosted or got cards that are similar in strength to the current ones and can be used as a tech/alternate choices.
  • Negative – The class got close to no good cards, no new viable archetypes were created and the old ones also didn’t get a lot of alternative card choices.

Hello again! 6 out of 9 classes are already covered and this time I’m going to look into another one – Shaman.

Overview

Another class that was considered pretty weak before TGT. The Midrange and Control builds were nowhere to be seen, from time to time you’ve encountered the Mech Shaman – probably the only viable Shaman archetype, but the deck was little gimmicky and not that consistent. Has anything changed with TGT? Seemingly, yes. But in reality, not much. Shaman is second class that was showcased on the TGT reveal stream. Blizzard has decided to make more synergies related to Totem tribe. This way a deck called Totem Shaman has been created – it’s a Midrange deck which takes advantage of those synergies. The deck, however, vanished as quickly as it was created. After couple of days people started playing serious decks again and it turned out that Totem Shaman is not that strong. It’s better than old Midrange, definitely a step in the right direction. But is it enough? Besides that, TGT has introduced a Shaman card draw (which sucks a little, but more about it later), healing (finally!) and some crazy removal/weapon. Let’s start by going through the new spells and weapon.

P.S. Shaman is my least played class (I’ve played only ~200 Shaman games in total since I’ve started 2 years ago), I just don’t like it. So I might be wrong in some cases. But I think that I’ve learned enough from playing against them and watching Shaman games that my analysis should be accurate.

TGT Shaman Spells/Weapon

  • Ancestral Knowledge – People have asked to add the Shaman’s card draw mechanic for so long and finally Blizzard has listened. But as it turns out, it’s not as great as Shaman players would like it to be. It’s a pretty generic one – since the Arcane Intellect can be taken as a baseline for pretty much anything that draws 2 cards, it can’t be much stronger. But the problem is that the total cost is actually higher. 4 vs 3 is a really big difference. The fact that it’s 2 + 2 instead of straight 4 can be good and bad. Drawing for one mana less allows you to get a “power turn” – for example when you’re at 8 mana and you draw into Fire Elemental, you can still use it. If you had Arcane Intellect instead, you couldn’t. The bad thing is that your next turn is crippled. 2 mana overload may be insignificant in the late game, but in the early stages of the game the card is basically unplayable unless you play a specific deck that doesn’t care about overloading too much (like OTK Malygos Shaman). It has pretty nice synergy with another spell – Lava Shock, which can get rid of all the overload. If you run both of those it’s not that bad, but the problem is that Lava Shock is bad in a standard Shaman deck, you have to run a lot of high overload cards to make it useful. So all in all, Ancestral Knowledge is not bad. But I honestly think that if it was 2 mana + 1 mana overload it would still be balanced. After all, the total cost would be the same as Arcane Intellect. Just like Lightning Bolt vs Darkbomb, the same mana cost, but split through two turns. I don’t hate this card, it has some uses, but it’s not the card draw Shaman really needed. If you compare it to cards like Northshire Cleric or Ancient of Lore (draw engines for other classes), you can clearly see that it has some problems. I even think that the standard Arcane Intellect is just better.
  • Elemental Destruction – I love this card! I mean, it’s not that good, it’s very niche and works only in certain decks, but it’s just cool. Awesome AoE that’s really cheap – it can easily wipe the whole board as early as turn 3. 4-5 damage is huge. The problem is that you either skip your next turn completely or you’re heavily overloaded. Even at 10 mana, 5 overload hurts. Another problem is that each expansion adds more sticky and hard to remove minions and players tend to use those. Like instead of Chillwind Yeti they’ve started using Piloted Shredder in GvG. Or Haunted Creeper is one of the more popular 2-drops. It means that even if you “wipe” the whole board, usually something still sticks, and since you have to skip your next turn, you’re in bad spot. Lava Shock really saves this card – if you combo two, you can get 4-5 damage AoE + 2 targeted damage for 5 mana, without any overload. But once again, this spell doesn’t really fit the standard Midrange Shaman. It’s much better fit into a gimmicky OTK decks that want to stall the game as long as they can. Maybe in future if more overload cards/cards that benefit from overload are going to be created, this one is going to be an go-to Shaman board clear mechanic.
  • Healing Wave – Another thing that Shaman has lacked, which was strange. Shamans were known for their healing spells in the Warcraft lore, yet in Hearthstone the only heal spell they had was Ancestral Healing. Remember how I compared Priest’s new Flash Heal to Paladin’s Holy Light (Priest’s one is much better)? Here the direct comparison is Druid’s Healing Touch. At the base, those cards are pretty much the same – same mana cost, Shaman’s one is healing for one less (7 vs 8 is not a big difference). But Shaman one can get a lot more value – if you win the Joust, you get 14 points of healing. It’s almost half of your health total. That’s pretty crazy. Any problems? Well, first one: you have to win the Joust. If the 14 heal was guaranteed, it would be auto-include in pretty much any non-Aggro Shaman deck. But winning the joust is not always that easy. In Midrange Shaman you probably run Zombie Chows, maybe 2-drops like Haunted Creeper, Flametongue Totem, Totem Golem? Yeah, there is quite a high chance that you’re going to “joust” the 1-3 mana minion, meaning it’s easy to tie with even the fastest decks. And tie means loss. To make the heal really good you need to run a really slow, Control deck or you need to have only big minions (e.g. if you play Malygos deck and you don’t put any smaller guys you are almost guaranteed to win the joust). Second problem is that the healing often isn’t needed against Control decks. In slower matchups, Shaman loses the game by losing the board control, not being rushed down. This one doesn’t help him with board control at all – and once he loses the board control, even 30 points of healing mean nothing when enemy has a lot of damage on the board – it just stalls the game. Another thing is that Healing Wave might be a little redundant with Antique Healbot. It really depends on the deck you play and how often you’re winning the joust, but if you have a Midrange deck you might want to play Healbots instead. Yes, Healing Wave might heal you for 6 more, but with Antique Healbot you get a 3/3 on the board, and as we all know, Shaman really needs the board to do something.
  • Charged Hammer – Honestly, it’s pretty hard to judge the card because I have never played with it and I have NEVER played against it. I’ve only seen it couple of times on Savjz’s stream when he was playing “Zeus Shaman” deck. The card is obviously… gimmicky. It’s hard to not call it that way. It’s very, very slow and shows the value only in the long games. It straight up sucks against fast decks, because most of time you won’t even get the new Hero Power before the game is over or almost over. “Deal 2 damage” Hero Power is good, especially if you can target it. Just like Hunter’s Hero Power, it gives you an additional win condition in a long game. The problem is that two classes that you’re most likely have long games against are Priest and Warrior and both of them can negate your Hero Power with theirs if you decide to go face. The fact that you can target it makes it much better. Still, there are quite a few problems. First one is how slow it is. You first need to play the weapon for 4 mana. The weapon is bad – it’s 2/4 weapon for 4 mana, you won’t likely kill anything with it on turn 4 (maybe if some 2-drop stuck to the board from previous turns, but that’s it). After that, you need to spend 3 turns after turn 4 to attack with it before you get the new Hero Power. I mean, you can theoretically switch out the weapon with another one, but that’s not really worth it – if you played it on turn 4 and replaced on turn 5, it’s just like you’ve played a Shadowform. Which we all know is not that amazing because of how slow it is. It means that you’re most likely going to get your new Hero Power around turn 7. But that’s the time when big drops come into play. Your new Hero Power is still very weak against big Legendaries. As it turns out, it’s sometimes even better to Totem – Stoneclaw Totem is really good in the late game, as it can absorb tons of damage. If let’s say Dr. Boom‘s main body has to run into it, it’s like healing you for 7 or protecting your other minions from dying. Healing Totem might also put your minions out of range of other stuff. The standard totems don’t really suck that much in the late game as some people think. Obviously, most of the time, the 2 damage Hero Power is better – but is it worth to sacrifice so much tempo in order to get it? I don’t think so. I think the card is decent and it has some potential, but is just waaaay too slow to be played seriously.

TGT Shaman Minions

  • Totem Golem – This card is really cool. I mean, it has vanilla 3-drop stats and a total cost of 3 mana, but you can get it out one turn earlier. Having your 3-drop on your turn 2 is a big advantage, since it challenges pretty much anything opponent might have played. If it trades 2 for 1 with smaller drops, it can easily get a lot of value. The only problem is that it makes your turn 3 worse – you have 2 mana again, meaning you can only play the 2-drop or Hero Power. But in some cases, playing 2x Totem Golem in a row (on turn 2 and 3) can contest the board so well that the overload doesn’t even matter. Good thing about Totem Golem is that he’s, well, a Totem. It means that later in the game he might get buffed by a Thunder Bluff Valiant for example, or if you by any chance use the Totemic Might, you might give him 2 free health. All those little synergies push him into a very good early game card which doesn’t suck in the late game, very solid.
  • Tuskarr Totemic – More Totem RNG in Shaman? As it turns out, this RNG is not that bad. Because even the worst case scenario doesn’t suck. There is a 1/2 chance that you’re going to get some of your standard (Hero Power) totems – which isn’t the best thing ever, but doesn’t suck hard. Having a 3/2 + 0/2 Taunt for 3 mana would be rather balanced. But the “unbalanced” begins now – there are 4 other totems you can get: Vitality Totem, which is probably weakest of the 4, but can still get some value in Aggro matchups. Flametongue Totem – everyone knows how crazy Flametongue can be, it’s a great card and you basically get two 2-drops for 3 mana. Mana Tide Totem – getting this one can lead to a huge card advantage if enemy doesn’t have a way to deal with it. And it always cycles for one card, meaning you got your Tuskarr for free (card wise) + it absorbs 3 damage (enemy can’t leave it). Totem Golem – this one scream value. You have 1/8 chance to summon a Totem Golem, which sometimes just outright wins you the game. 3/2 + 3/4 for 3 mana, in one card. And you don’t even get overloaded. Tuskarr Totemic is a really cool card, pretty much every Shaman deck runs it now, even without the totem synergies (it’s a nice bonus, but it’s definitely not necessary). That’s because in the worst case scenario this guy is fairly costed and in the best it’s broken. Also, if you play this guy, remember about placement – Totem spawns on the right of him, so you want to place him on the left of target that you’d like to get Flametongue buff (in case you get one).
  • Draenei Totemcarver – Kinda similar to Frostwolf Warlord. It costs 1 less mana (which is big), but works only on totems. In a totem-based deck, it’s decent. The problem is that it doesn’t really offer anything besides the stats. No effect, no Taunt, no anything. On turn 4, it’s usually a 4/4 or 5/5. 5/5 for 4 is good – better than vanilla 4/5, but not impressive. Later in the game, you can get it out as 6/6 or 7/7 pretty easily, meaning it works nicely. But then again, in the late game, you can as well run the Sea Giant and you’d get a lot of opportunities to get him out for 3-4 mana. Obviously it doesn’t fit the non-totem based decks, it has the synergy with Shaman’s Hero Power no matter what, but it’s not enough to make it good. Frostwolf Warlord is not good enough Constructed card and I think it’s the same for this guy, for the same reasons. It’s good if you’re already ahead on the board, but offers nothing if you’re behind. Also, getting it over 6/6 makes it vulnerable to Big Game Hunter.
  • Thunder Bluff Valiant – Probably the reason why Totem Shaman became at least semi-viable. This card is really good by itself. When the minion’s base stats don’t suck and he has a very good effect – it’s really nice. 3/6 for 5 aren’t the best, but it’s definitely not bad. The 6 health makes it awkward to kill with a lot of classes. And when it sticks to the board, Shaman can get crazy value. Each time you Hero Power, your totems (including the freshly summoned one) get +2 attack. It makes Shaman’s Hero Power even bigger threat than before (enemies were already removing all your totems, now if you play Shaman they are even crazier about it). It’s like Flametongue Totem‘s effect that’s permanent. Even on one or two totems it’s really nice, but if you manage to hit 3 or more, enemy is going to have really hard time coming back. If it sticks to the board for the couple of turns, it can win the game, because it gives complete board control until he’s removed. Having 6/2 Totems for example makes you clear everything enemy plays for free or pushes for a lot of damage. You can clearly see how strong this guy is. It’s the Totem Shaman’s main win condition in the slower, value games. The card’s only con is probably that it’s slow – you often don’t want to play it before turn 7, because only then (if you can Hero Power on the same turn), he’s guaranteed to get value. Thunder Bluff Valiant also doesn’t really help when you’re already behind on the board – but he’s not that bad, even dropping a 3/6 for 5 might trade for something if you don’t expect it to get more value.
  • The Mistcaller – Oooh, Legendary! I think Mistcaller is really cool. At the first sight, it looks broken. It buffs every minion in your hand and in your DECK by +1/+1. It means that when you play him, you future turns get stronger. It’s a pretty big investment, however. You play a 6 mana 4/4 that has no immediate effect. Comparing it to Fire Elemental, which is 6/5 and can instantly kill something, well, it’s very slow. The effect is very good – having +1/+1 on everything can make your trades much better. A 3/4 Zombie Chow or I don’t know, 4/7 Thunder Bluff Valiant sound really nice. But as we all know, it can’t be that perfect. The fact that it’s slow ruins the card in faster matchups – you don’t want 4-5 turns to start really getting value, you want instant board impact. In slower matchups, Mistcaller is good, but still not great. The problem is that it often doesn’t matter whether the minion has +1/+1. Your bigger stuff still dies to Execute or Big Game Hunter, no matter what. The fact that your Dr. Boom is 8/8 instead of 7/7 is also not a big deal, enemy won’t likely have to put more resources into killing it. If the game goes really long and you get him out early, it gets a nice value, but it’s not as impressive as it would look at the first sight. That’s yet another problem with Mistcaller – if you get him out on turn 6 in a long game, that’s cool, but if he’s in the last 10 cards of your deck the value he’s going to get is really low even if the game goes to the fatigue. I like the concept and the card itself, I could see it being ran in some sort of Control Shaman, but it’s not too impressive right now. I won’t say it’s bad, because it’s not – it’s just average.

TGT Neutral Minions

Honestly, I had really hard time finding some neutrals that work well in the Shaman. Totem Shaman decks didn’t use any of the TGT neutrals, and I didn’t see any additions to Mech Shaman too. But I’ll list some cards that have potential synergy with Shaman class.

  • Eydis Darkbane / Fjola Lightbane – Shaman could have a nice synergy with Valkyries, because the class has couple cheap spells you want to target at your own minions. Ancestral Healing, Rockbiter Weapon, Ancestral Spirit, Windfury. You probably don’t want to run those spells JUST to buff the Valkyries, so in reality you’d likely have like 3-4 spells in your deck that they synergize with. But it’s still fine. I think Eydis is the stronger one here, because those buffs don’t affect the stats permanently, meaning the Divine Shield doesn’t get as much value as the 3 random damage. Still, Fjola + Rockbiter can be a nice combo. Thanks to the Divine Shield, you might clear a 6 health minion without Fjola dying. Another strong combo is Eydis + Rockbiter Weapon + Windfury – on empty board it deals 18 damage to the enemy Hero.
  • Gormok the Impaler – If Shaman has the board control, he tends to have a lot of small stuff there. Meaning it’s quite easy to get the Gormok value. It’s like a better version of Fire Elemental when it works. The problem is, once again, that if Shaman loses board control, he can’t really do much and Gormok works exactly like that. Doesn’t do anything if you don’t already have board control. And as we all know, everyone hates Shaman totems and enemies try to kill them no matter what, especially since Thunder Bluff Valiant is a thing. Still, 4 damage from Battlecry is very good if you manage to meet the requirement.
  • Master of Ceremonies – Shaman is probably the class that has easiest access to Spell Damage. Not only because Shaman decks usually run Azure Drakes, but he has 1/4 chance to get Wrath of Air Totem (more if you already have some other Hero Power totems on the board). A 6/4 3-drop sounds really fine. The problem is that 4 health is low – if it was 4/6 instead, it would be great include. But as it turns out, 4 health is pretty easy to take down even in the early game. And 6 attack doesn’t matter if you trade into 2-drops and 3-drops. In reality it often is just a Spider Tank because they take the same amount of damage before they are killed and they can (with really few exceptions) get the same trade into enemy 1-drops and 2-drops. It might work better in the late game, 6 attack might threaten a lot of face damage or trade up into something, but it’s hard to say that the minion is crazy. Once again, just a pile of stats, and “pile of stats” minion don’t usually work in Constructed.
  • Mukla’s Champion – Just like in Paladin, Mukla’s Champion has nice synergy with classes that spawn minions with their Hero Powers. It means that if you use the Hero Power, the new totem (along with all other minions on the board) gets +1/+1. I think Mukla’s Champion is much weaker than Thunderbluff Valiant because of the stats (4/3 vs 3/6), but if you’re looking for another (possibly budget) option or you don’t run totem-centric deck, Mukla’s Champion might actually work in some cases.

Verdict & Closing

Final verdict: Neutral

I can’t say that Shaman didn’t get anything good this expansion, because he got a lot of nice stuff. Even though spells and weapon are pretty gimmicky and situational, the minion’s quality is actually high. On the other hand, I can’t say that Shaman got much better as a class. It did improve, yeah. Midrange Shaman was previously nearly unplayable and now you can see it from time to time in Constructed and even in some tournaments. It’s not the worst thing ever. But it’s still far from being “good”. Just like a lot of people I’ve also thought that Shaman is finally going to make a comeback and be good in TGT. It’s probably still the worst class in Constructed right now, even though it has improved quite a bit. Maybe 1 or 2 more expansions and things will actually move forward for the Shaman. That’s why my verdict is Neutral – the class improved, but that improvement definitely wasn’t enough. Like I’ve said before, I’m not a Shaman expert so I won’t try to speculate what the class really needs. But one thing is sure – if the class is considered one of the worst for a loooong time already, something needs to be done.

Example TGT decklists: Midrange/Totem Shaman, Mech Shaman, Malygos Shaman

That’s it for the Shaman’s analysis. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, feel free to leave them in the section below!