Content of the article: "Why is Shaman so bad? What can be done to fix it? A discussion."
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With Shaman receiving yet another buff recently in Totem Goliath it still appears Shaman is in a really rough spot. If you take a look at HS replay it's the second worst performing class across all ranks and at higher legend, the best performing archetype is Totem Shaman which has a sub 50% win rate. So why exactly does Shaman suck so much, and what can be done about it?
To understand why it sucks now it's important to take a look at when Shaman has either been dominant or an extremely solid Tier 1 or 2 class. The following archetypes were extremely powerful:
- Quest Shaman (Major contributors: Galakrond, Shudderwock)
- Aggro Shaman (Major contributors: Thunderhead, Spirit of the Frog, Doomhammer/Rockbiter)
- Evolve Shaman (Major contributors: Desert hare/Evolve, Spirit of the frog)
- Mid Range Shaman (Major contributors: Tunnel Trogg, Totem Golem, Thunder Bluff Valiant)
- Aggro shaman (Major contributors: Tunnel Trogg, Doomhammer/Rockbiter)
- Even shaman (Major contributors: Genn Greymane, Thing from Below, Flametongue Totem)
- Shudderwock Shaman (Major contributors: Shudderwock,Grumble, Lifedrinker, Saronite Chain Gang)
Why does Shaman suck?
Lack of Win Condition:
It has no clear win condition. If you look through the Standard collection there is just no realistic win condition available to Shaman. Big shaman’s only real support is Muckmorpher with the only great hit being Scrapyard Colossus and Colossus of the Moon.
Aggro shaman is lacking the early game to compete with most other decks. Lightning Bloom and Voracious Reader can lead to some good early board states, but it is just too inconsistent and can be met easily by other early based decks such as Mage/Rogue.
Draw is extremely lacking in shaman. You have Far Sight, Mana Tide Totem and then neutral options such as Voracious Reader, Loot Hoarder, and Novice Engineer. When other classes have access to cards like Secret Passage, Cram Session, and Overflow it is very challenging for the class to compete.
Overload is a Failure:
Overload as a whole has been a failure as a mechanic for Shaman. Its downside is almost always too large a cost in respect to its early payoff. Take a look at the infamous 4 mana 7/7 in Flamewreathed Faceless (yes it had an actual name). It's a War Golem you can play on 4 and you only Overload for 2, and yet this card was mainly good because of Tunnel Trogg. When Tunnel Trogg rotated this card became unplayable unless it was played in conjunction with Genn Greymane. Unless overload has a significant payoff such as Thunderhead or Tunnel Trogg it basically never succeeds.
The Hero Power flat out sucks:
The hero power sucks. Shaman's hero power is by far the worst in the game; it's random, unreliable, and many of the totems are just flat out useless in many scenarios. Also with the way the game has evolved with every class having access to a 1 mana 2/2 aggressive minion and plenty of other 1 mana 1/2 value generating minions it's nearly impossible for a Shaman to stick an early totem. This is a huge problem when Blizzard is trying to push archetypes like Totem Shaman where it's nearly impossible for them to stick anything against any aggressive archetype and they can never keep board.
How do you fix Shaman?
Historically the only way shaman has been relevant has been to, well, break the game and give it just flat out broken cards. Tunnel Trogg, Shudderwock, and Evolve come to mind. The Galakrond invokes were all grossly undercosted/over statted, and Spirit of the Frog was effectively Auctioneer with conceal for 3 mana that also tutored so yeah these cards were pretty bonkers. This has to be done to make up for the absolutely useless and garbage Classic/Basic set of cards Shaman has. Here is a list of “good/playable” shaman cards in this set:
- Earth Shock (fringe tech card)
- Far Sight (lackluster draw)
- Lighting Storm (borderline bad AOE)
- Mana Tide Totem (lackluster draw)
- Doomhammer (one of Shamans strongest cards, insane damage output)
- Rockbiter (very powerful with Doomhammer)
- Hex (mediocre hard removal)
- Bloodlust (100% reliant on new expansion cards as it requires good early game Shaman does not have access to in the Basic/Classic set)
- Lighting Bolt (decent burn option but not great)
- Lava Burst (decent burn option but not great)
There are a few more you could maybe debate in Fire elemental and Al’akir but realistically when was the last time those cards were relevant in a Tier 1-3 deck in the past 2 years? Let's compare this to Rogues Classic/Basic set (one of the strongest classes) and there “good/playable” cards:
- Backstab (staple in nearly every rogue deck and one of the best tempo spells ever)
- Deadly poison (versatile weapon buff)
- Sap (one of the best tempo removals in history)
- Fan of knives (decent AOE and draw, sees occasional play)
- Preparation (used to be broken, now just very good)
- Shadowstep (extremely powerful card used through HS history)
- Eviscerate (very powerful burn and tempo removal)
- Edwin van Cleef (arguably the most busted legendary ever in the classic set, has stolen more games than any card in HS history)
- SI:7 Agent (decent tempo minion, sees play quite often)
- Shiv (decent draw and damage, has seen a good amount of play)
You can see the disparity in the power level, and this is common against the other consistent performing classes like Druid, Mage etc.
What Changes Need to Happen?
In order for shaman to not suck without brute forcing the class with overpowered cards every single rotation, which typically leads to the community revolting against the class in general (i.e. Evolve shaman/Galakrond shaman), the class flat out needs a rework. Its base set needs to be revamped, Overload as a whole needs to be reworked or abolished, and the Hero Power needs to be changed.
There is a good chance of this happening next year. The team has already talked about a change to the Classic/Basic set potentially happening next rotation hence why they haven’t replaced the most recent Hall of Famed cards such as Leeroy Jenkins and Spellbreaker.
What I’d like to see is Overload remaining in the game but the downside of it being much less extreme. For example have Lightning Storm only Overload for 1, Doomhammer for 1, etc. I would rework the hero power so it's no longer random. You could let the player discover their first hero power, and then the totems would summon in a set way afterwards. It could be done alphabetically, or just shown in a chain. This would give the player a lot more strategy and influence on the usage of it and could set up for some interesting games. You could also eliminate the discover option and have the totems summon in a set way from the get go, perhaps starting with Seering Totem and so on. Lastly give shaman some kind of card draw in line with the other classes in the game, whether it's a tutor effect like we’ve seen in the past with Storm Chaser (4 mana Elemental that draws a spell that costs 5 or more), or maybe Ancestor’s Knowledge (2 mana draw 2 cards Overload 2) and reduce the Overload by 1 mana. Shaman feels like it needs something more than 3 mana draw a card.
I thought this would be an interesting topic to cover since shaman has been so bad for so long now in Standard, and we’ve seen so many buffs lately to the class with little to no effect occurring. Unless we see a new Shudderwock, Spirit of the Frog, or Tunnel Trogg next expansion, it is likely shaman will be in this spot until major changes occur to the class, perhaps at next year's rotation.
TL:DR: To make Shaman playable without introducing over the top broken cards every rotation, the Basic/Classic set needs a rework, Overload needs to be scaled back or abolished, and the Hero Power needs to be non random or reworked.
- Is Trick Totem Good? Lets do the math.
- Got really bored so decided to list my predictions for the Classic and Basic Set upcoming rework. Let me know how you feel about these potential changes.
- Tavern Brawl this week is… “The Outlandish Burndown” (June 24, 2020)
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