Today I'm going to talk about the Shaman, the unique traits of the class & its standing in the meta.
Before I started playing Hearthstone back in Closed Beta, I had been playing the World of Warcraft TCG competitively for the past 6 years. My favorite class to play in the WoW TCG, and the one I found the most success with was Shaman. The combination of strong burn spells, weapons, and totems was very appealing and really fun to play.
So naturally, when I first started playing Hearthstone I was immediately drawn to Shaman. My goal is to highlight the good and bad aspects of the class, and suggest future improvements.
The Hero Power : Totemic Call
The Shaman hero power is very unique compared to the rest of the classes in Hearthstone because it is the only one based around RNG. Every other class has a consistent hero power that you can build your deck around, and create specific strategies around. The problem with Totemic Call is that you consistently wind up in situations where a specific totem can make or break the game for you.
There are times you will be hoping and praying for Wrath of Air Totem at that critical moment you need a Lightning Storm to clear the board. There are moments you will need Stoneclaw Totem to protect a minion or block a big attack from your opponent. There are even occasions where you will want Healing Totem to make favorable trades/protect your minions, and Searing Totem to trade with a 1 health minion.
It is very difficult to set up rolling a specific totem at exactly the right time. So while there are times you will hit the totem you need, it is more likely that you will get a different one. The RNG aspect of Totemic Call and the lack of totem support at the moment (sorry but Totemic Might doesn’t count) makes the Shaman hero power one of the weaker ones in Hearthstone. My hope is that Blizzard gives Shamans more totem support in the future, or each class another option of a hero power.
The Overload Mechanic
One of the first things that is most apparent when you first start playing Shaman is the Overload mechanic. Overload is unique to Shaman, and forces the player to not only focus on the turn at hand, but the one after as well. When I started playing back in Closed Beta, most, if not all Shaman decks contained Lightning Bolt, Feral Spirit, and Lightning Storm. Now, after the release of Goblins vs Gnomes and two Adventure Modes, these cards are seeing less and less play. The reason for this is that the power level of cheaper minions has increased, which makes it harder to justify the inclusion of cards that restrict what you can do on the following turn.
The way I look at Overload in the current metagame is “high risk, marginal reward.” Some of the stronger Overload spell cards such as Lightning Storm and Crackle also have RNG elements that can be devastating if they don’t work out for you. Most of Shaman’s strongest Overload minions like Fireguard Destroyer, Earth Elemental, and Neptulon are all potentially susceptible to Big Game Hunter. When you invest so much in your cards, only to have them easily countered by your opponent, you won’t win many games.
We can infer from the inclusion of Lava Shock in Blackrock Mountain, that Blizzard realizes that the Overload mechanic needs a boost in order to be competitive. The problem is that one card isn’t enough to fix the problem. It’s clear that Blizzard wanted to balance cards with Overload to be powerful, but not too powerful. However by doing so, they’ve almost made it more appealing to play other classes with slightly weaker cards that have no drawback.
Is Lightning Bolt really better than Frostbolt, Quick Shot, or Dark Bomb? Is Lava Burst better than Kill Command or Fireball? These are the questions you should ask yourself when you decide to play Shaman over another class. My hope for Overload is that they either: treat it as an experimental theme for the first two sets and move on to something else, or up the power level of overload cards.
Shaman in the current format
I’ve been very critical of Shaman up to this point, but not everything is gloom and doom for the class. Mech Shaman has made quite a splash since GvG came out. It’s had a consistently solid showing on the ranked ladder, and Team Archon has found a lot of success in tournaments with it. The deck struggles to catch up if you fall behind on the board, but sometimes it can just have explosive draws that outright win you the game. It’s a great choice if you start running into a lot of Midrange Druid on ladder.
As recently as this past week, someone posted a new Legend Midrange Shaman list on the Competitive Hearthstone Reddit as well. I feel like Midrange Shaman is in an odd spot in the format right now because of the prevalence of Patron Warrior, Face Hunter, and Oil Rogue. Each of those matchups are pretty tough, but if Handlock, Control Warrior and Mech decks come back into popularity Midrange Shaman could be a good option for you.
Overall, there are a lot of negatives when analyzing the current state of Shaman, but I’m confident the next expansion will return Thrall to his former glory. What cards do you think would help Shaman? Should Blizzard move away from the Overload mechanic, and try a new theme for the class? Let me know in the comments below and thanks for reading!