Welcome to the Hearthstone corner. Shaman has not been the most popular character in Ranked play for a long time, making it necessary for Blizzard to release powerful cards for the class with each new expansion. Despite all these efforts, he remains one of the weaker characters — although with many excellent cards, including some of the best early-game Minions. Nowadays he tends to be played aggressively.
I am going to start by listing some of the best class-specific cards for this class, and then we will look at crafting. I won’t forget to mention the usefulness of each expansion and the cards they add to the available pool. The next section will deal with playing Shaman as a starting character — I will show you a strong deck that I have made using only basic cards. The last section will deal with the various types of Shaman decks that are to be found on the Ladder nowadays, and I will also say a little bit about the Arena.
Here we go!
What Does a Shaman Want?
Shaman’s hero power is one of the main reasons why this class can be a bit weak. It is the only character in the game whose hero power gives a random outcome, and aggressive decks find no use for Totems in general. Especially in Arena, the hero power can be a bit of a problem.
Nevertheless, Shamans have access to some great cards. Let’s have a look at them.
Tunnel Trogg is a fantastic turn 1 card that can significantly grow if not removed. It synergizes with Overload cards that Shamans regularly play – namely Totem Golem and Feral Spirit. This can make the first few turns very strong for a Shaman player. The best thing about Tunnel Trogg is that he gains a point of damage for each Overloaded crystal – not each time that an Overload effect comes into play.
Totem Golem has amazing stats for a 2 Mana Minion – it can take out practically any other 2 Mana Minion in the game and stay on board another turn.
Whirling Zap-o-matic is an aggressive Minion – it can do 6 points of damage each turn, making it an important card for aggressive Mech Shaman decks. Rockbiter Weapon synergizes with this Minion nicely – granting an extra 6 points of damage.
Tuskarr Totemic is one of those cards that can do a lot to change the outcome of the game. If it brings one of the stronger Totems, like Totem Golem, Flametongue Totem (careful about the placement), or Mana Tide Totem, it is difficult for the opponent to react to both Minions.
Fireguard Destroyer is very powerful for a turn 4 Minion – especially if you get lucky and gain 3 or 4 damage from its Battlecry. This is another Shaman Minion that can be a lot stronger this early in the game than anything that the opponent will be able to play.
Fire Elemental‘s stats are acceptable for the Mana cost, but it’s the Battlecry that counts. It can take out smaller Minions, finish wounded Minions, and bypass Taunts. Having a higher attack power than health is also nice as there are several widely played Minions with 6 health that he can take out.
Feral Spirit can be expensive if played on turn 3 (even more so on turn 2 with the coin) as it limits the Shaman to using only 2 Mana crystals the next turn. This can be really bad for tempo, but some Shaman cards take advantage of Overload effects. And then there is also Lava Shock.
Flametongue Totem works best when put together with a board full of Minions. It can also make the standard 4 Totems created by the hero power more useful. It’s usually enough of a threat to warrant a removal from the opponent.
Bloodlust is in a similar category – the more Minions it buffs, the better. Most frequently this card will function as a finisher in a Shaman deck. Pairing it with something like a Dr. Boom played the previous turn can surprise the opponent.
When it comes to Weapons, Shamans use Powermace and Doomhammer. Powermace is strong on its own, and the Deathrattle synergizes with Piloted Shredders who get played in almost every deck. In a Mech deck, this Weapon becomes even stronger as it is not necessary to plan when to unleash its Deathrattle.
Doomhammer benefits greatly from the Windfury – it can remove two low health Minions or take out Divine Shielded Minions. Add to that a Rockbiter Weapon and you have a match made in Hearthstone heaven. But beware opponents with Harrison Jones.
Shamans have a lot of damage dealing spells. Lightning Storm is on the weaker side as a source of AOE damage, but it will do great against a Zoo Warlock’s full board or an Aggro Paladin’s token-infested board.
Hex is one of the best removal spells in the game. It not only gets rid of the Minion – it also disregards any Deathrattle effects. This makes Shaman one of the very few classes to be able to dispose of Minions like Tyrion Fordring or Sylvanas Windrunner painlessly.
Al’Akir the Windlord isn’t the strongest Legendary Minion in the game as its stats are low, and it tends to be removed easily or reduced to its small body by a Silence. But it works well as a finisher if paired with Rockbiter Weapon or Flametongue Totem. If you happen to play Reincarnate, you get twice the fun out of the Charge and Windfury effects.
Neptulon is an amazing Legendary for slower decks as it is both a strong late-game Minion and an excellent source of cards. The Murlocs that he draws for the player will fill the board for the next turn or two, and they will frequently synergize together. No need for any further Murlocs in the deck for Neptulon to be worthwhile.
What About Those Neutral Minions?
Let’s have a look at the best Neutral Minions for a Shaman player.
- Defender of Argus (Shamans tend to play a lot of Minions, not to mention Totems, which makes the buff very useful)
- Azure Drake (card draw is helpful to Shamans while the added spell damage helps spells like Lightning Storm)
- Sylvanas Windrunner (this is a strong Legendary for most characters)
- Haunted Creeper (for decks that count on buffing Minions, this Minion is nice to have due to its stickiness)
- Loatheb (good stats for the cost and the effect protects the board from enemy spells for an entire turn)
Goblins vs. Gnomes
- Piloted Shredder (best neutral 4 Mana Minion in the game)
- Fel Reaver (excellent in aggressive decks where losing cards won’t hurt as games finish very quickly)
- Dr. Boom (the best late-game Legendary in the game, useful in all but the most aggressive decks)
League of Explorers
- Jeweled Scarab (Shaman has a large number of very useful class-specific 3 Mana cards which is why this card usually discovers something useful)
- Sir Finley Mrrgglton (for aggressive decks where the Shaman hero power has no use, and a different one suits the deck strategy better)
- Brann Bronzebeard (Shamans use a lot of Battlecry Minions, especially nice in decks sporting Rumbling Elementals)
To Craft or Not to Craft
With all of the Hearthstone expansions that are available, it makes sense to prioritize. With Shamans, this can be a bit problematic as there are strong cards in almost every expansion.
As always, the Classic card set is more or less essential as it has cards like Lightning Storm that Shamans can’t replace. Naxxramas has several strong early-game cards but nothing class-specific. Then there is GvG that brings in all the Mechs and makes Mech Shaman possible. Add to that Crackle, Powermace and Neptulon. Blackrock brings Fireguard Destroyer and Lava Shock and The Grand Tournament once again introduces a whole array of incredibly strong cards – Totem Golem, Tuskarr Totemic, Thunder Bluff Valiant. Then there is League of Explorers with Tunnel Trogg, Rumbling Elemental and two strong Legendaries.
When choosing which expansions to pursue, it’s helpful to think about the type of deck that you are going for. Mech Shamans have an easy job – GvG is the place to go. Midrange and Face Shamans have a harder time – the cards that make these decks strong are spread out all over the expansions so it may take a while to collect them all.
As far as crafting goes, I tend only to craft Legendary (and to a lesser extent, Epic) cards, always starting with strong Neutral Legendaries. Given that the most useful Shaman cards are in so many Expansions, this character may be the one where it makes sense to craft cards of a lower rarity. That is if you want to specialize in playing Shaman. Having an idea as to which cards would be most useful in the type of deck that you want to play is a lot of help. You should also have a look at how many wings of an Adventure you need to unlock to get the cards that you want. Sometimes it can be a big investment.
Now we will have a look at a basic deck that will hold its own against players with a bigger card collection.
Starting Shaman Deck
As soon as you make it to level 10 with Shaman, you will have access to all of the necessary cards. This deck is strong enough to give you a chance against players with larger card collections so that you can amass a collection of your own to continue the climb. Replace cards with better ones as you get access to them.
- 2x Acidic Swamp Ooze
- 2x Bloodfen Raptor
- 2x Raid Leader
- 2x Razorfen Hunter
- 2x Shattered Sun Cleric
- 2x Chillwind Yeti
- 2x Dragonling Mechanic
- 2x Sen’jin Shieldmasta
- 2x Frostwolf Warlord
- 2x Stormwind Champion
This deck takes advantage of Shaman’s class power and aims to play a lot of Minions and Totems, buffing them to gain an advantage on the board and then finish using Bloodlust. While it’s better to play Minions early in the game, as soon as the board is at least a little bit secure, Totems created by the hero power can start coming too. Flametongue Totem and Raid Leader, as well as Rockbiter Weapon, will allow you to take out bigger enemy Minions. It’s not a good idea to use any of these buffs early in the game to damage the enemy hero directly. This deck is not fast enough to be played aggressively, and it’s better to wait with buffs until you get something out of using them. Stormwind Champion is another useful buff inducing Minion, this one comes into play in the late game and buffs the entire board.
Shattered Sun Cleric is another way to make favourable trades. It’s best to play it so that it surprises your opponent on the same turn rather than preparing a situation that he can play around.
Frostwolf Warlord is another way to take advantage of a large number of Minions – as soon as you have two other Minions on the board, he starts being cheap for his stats. With this deck, you should aim to have him as large as possible.
Fire Elemental is one of the best Minions in the game – the damage that it deals can bypass Taunts and take out or finish enemy Minions.
It’s best to keep Hex until it’s needed – wasting it early in the game when playing against a deck full of late-game Minions can cost you the game. The best thing about Hex is that it discards Deathrattles too.
The last card worth mentioning is Acidic Swamp Ooze, probably my favourite basic card. Against classes that play Weapons – Warriors, Paladins, Hunters, Rogues, and some Shamans, this Minion will work wonders. It’s a good idea to keep this Minion in your hand until it can take care of a troublesome Weapon. Figuring out which Weapons are common in different decks is a good skill to develop for its proper use. Against characters who don’t have access to Weapons, this is a standard turn 2 drop.
Look What I Found on the Internet
Shaman has had a hard time competing against other characters until all of the strong cards that he has received in each expansion stacked up.
Mech Shaman appeared from the Goblins vs. Gnomes expansion – an aggressive deck that plays various Mech synergies, including the unyielding Powermace. With Minions like Whirling Zap-o-matic, this deck could do a lot of damage very quickly. Added to that were several strong damage-dealing spells that could finish games. A little later Fel Reaver started appearing in these decks and with a lot of success. This deck is not as popular as it used to be, as it counts on finishing games quickly and runs out of cards against decks that are good at surviving. Given how popular Reno Jackson is, as well as Brann Bronzebeard and Antique Healbot combos, this deck may have a hard time finishing in time. Playing against it, it’s best to be aggressive in removing enemy Minions and watch your life total carefully. Surviving for long enough is the way to go unless you can deal damage quicker than the Mech Shaman.
Face Shaman is a more recent version of an aggressive Shaman deck. It swaps Mechs for the strong early-turn Minions that the recent expansions introduced. Added to that are the usual damage dealing spells and a few other Minions you know very well from Face Hunter – Knife Juggler, Leper Gnome, Abusive Sergeant and some Charged Minions. Sir Finley Mrrgglton takes care of the hero power which is utterly useless for such an aggressive deck. Playing against it follows the usual strategy when facing aggressive decks. They always run out of steam.
Midrange Shaman comes in several different shapes. What stays the same are the strongest Shaman cards, but there is variation in how the other cards synergize. You can do this in such a way as to take advantage of Totem synergies – Thunder Bluff Valiant will buff a board full of Totems, or of Battlecry synergies – using Rumbling Elemental and Brann Bronzebeard. Some players dispense with both variants and rely on buffs alone – Bloodlust and Flametongue Totem. When playing against Midrange Shamans, it’s helpful to keep on checking what you are up against – if your opponent brings in a Thunder Bluff Valiant to a board full of Totems, you are in trouble. Equally, it’s a good idea to remember Bloodlust and never leave the opponent with a big board. Shamans tend to have a very hard time catching up if you dictate the tempo, but once they are in the lead, they find it easy to overrun you quickly. It’s always a good idea not to allow them to take the lead.
The last type of deck I am going to mention is Malygos Shaman. As the name reveals, this deck uses a single Legendary, Malygos, as its winning condition. Once again, this is made possible by the many strong damage-dealing spells at Shaman’s disposal. This deck is easy to identify by the few Minions that it carries – it will have Emperor Thaurissan to lower the cost of cards for Lethal once the player collects all of the necessary cards in his hand but very little else. There won’t be any of the usual early-game Shaman Minions. The way that this deck wins is by using Ancestor’s Call to summon Malygos followed by a stream of powered up spells. The trick to playing against this deck is not to get to that late game point where the Shaman player has all of the necessary cards. This is done by forcing the Shaman to use up all of his resources in removing your threats. This deck doesn’t tend to have adequate resources to withstand constant pressure.
Shaman is a weak character in the Arena. Unsurprisingly the hero power is the biggest culprit – you really have to look for buffs to make your Totems useful. In Arena, it’s also the higher rarity of some essential cards like Lightning Storm, as well as of all of the Weapons (with the exception of Stormforged Axe), or Thunder Bluff Valiant. Another problem is that in Constructed, the Overload effect can be taken advantage of due to some cards synergizing with the effect. In Arena, it’s harder to make these synergies happen.
I have to admit to still being a little bit disappointed with Shaman despite all of the various ways in which he can be played. It’s not that he doesn’t have great cards. It’s primarily the hero power, as well as Overload. Lava Shock simply isn’t enough to make Overload painless. This is a shame as I have always wanted to play a slower Shaman deck – there are so many cards that I would like to be playable (The Mistcaller comes to mind). Also, Reincarnate – that card has brought more fun into my Hearthstone games than any other. Sadly, as it is, Shaman primarily lends himself to aggressive play, and that’s not the play style that I enjoy the most in Hearthstone.
Nevertheless, with the way that Hearthstone is going to change in the coming months – with older expansions becoming obsolete in Standard mode, Shaman may become stronger and more capable of competing in a slower meta.
I hope that you have found this guide to be helpful and that you discovered something in it that you can use. I hope that you have as much fun playing Shaman as I have had. See you on the Ladder.