How to play Shaman Class – Hearthstone Strategy Guide

So you want to master the Shaman?

Welcome to the Shaman corner of Hearthstone. Shaman has been less lucky than most in the recent expansions – with the way that the game has been speeding up, and the meta (the way that the game changes as a whole through card preferences and playstyle changes) getting more aggressive, Shaman has been falling out of favor. The latest expansion, Blackrock Mountain, has boosted the class somewhat and in interesting ways but it hasn’t done enough to make Shaman hugely competitive.

Still, I like to play Shaman and I like the RNG (unpredictable outcome of a situation) of his class power. I also like all the cards and effects that make him unique. Unique is a good quality to have in a game in which players rely heavily on decks copied off of the Internet.

Let’s get on with it, shall we? In the following sections I will begin our journey below the ground by handing you the most useful class-specific cards that Shaman has to offer. There will be drumming, power animals and anything else I can think of to set the mood. We will then continue on our way by looking at a free basic deck, pointing out possible additions to it that would make it more competitive on the Ladder (the 26 ranks within ranked play). Before we go back to ground-level, leaving Shaman’s underworld forever behind, we will observe the various Shaman decks running up and down the Ladder; alas, there won’t be many. 

Shaman as a Class

Shaman’s class power summons 1 out of 4 possible Totems – all of them can be useful at different times. For some reason, I tend to get that Stoneclaw Totem everytime I need it – the Taunt effect always does a good job of stopping a dangerous Minion in its tracks. Given that Shaman tends to play cards that boost the attack power of Minions, Totems can come in handy beyond the effect that they bring in on their own.

Shaman is not popular in Arena – he has some amazing cards but as the general pool of cards increases in size, it becomes more difficult to find them. The random nature of the class power can also be a problem.

1)-Early-game-Windfury-madness-equals-a-turn-5-win.-Not-complaining

Early game Windfury madness equals a turn 5 win. Not complaining.

Shaman is the only class in Hearthstone whose cards carry the Overload effect – making cards cheaper in the turn that they are played, but costing a set number of crystals the next turn. This allows Shamans to bring out relatively strong cards early, or play more cards in a turn than they should otherwise be able to.

Shamans have it all – there will be damage dealing spells, a few strong minions, AOE (area of effect – important when running behind or having to deal with a full board of enemy Minions), removal, some weapons and buffs. Even the Legendaries are both worth having.

Minions

Let’s have a look at the Minions first. Whirling Zap-o-matic is one of my favorite 2 mana Minions. If you manage to bring it in early (turn 1 with the coin), then buff it, possibly even hiding it behind a Taunted Minion, you will be dealing ridiculous amounts of damage from the start – the Windfury really comes in handy. Feral Spirit isn’t a Minion, but let’s pretend – this card brings in 2 Taunted Minions early on in the game, making it a great card in Aggro (aggressive from the get-go) match-ups. The Overload can be painful, though.

Unbound Elemental doesn’t see a lot of play nowadays, even if it can grow quickly in an Overload heavy deck. I was curious whether it would become more popular with the advent of Lava Shock but so far it hasn’t been the case. Fireguard Destroyer is a wonderful 4 mana Minion from the latest expansion. It can be ridiculously strong for turn 4 if you are lucky with the RNG. Fire Elemental is another card that makes it into near every Shaman deck – it’s a strong Minion and the 3 points of damage always come in handy.

I was wondering whether to include Earth Elemental in this list as practically no one plays it, given the heavy Overload, but since we now have a way of reclaiming Overloaded crystals, not to mention the possibility of synergizing Earth Elemental with Ancestral Spirit, I have decided to put it in. 7/8 with Taunt on turn 5 is sick – the good kind of sick.

Weapons

Hammer time. Shaman’s most famous weapon is the Doomhammer – it’s relatively expensive but has a lot of charges and Windfury, which make it strong. Rockbiter Weapon synergizes with it like maple syrup and pancakes. Doomhammer is very susceptible to Harrison Jones and can cost you a game through giving your opponent an insane amount of card draw. You have been warned.

Rockbiter Weapon is not a weapon per se but it can be used as one – it will be equally happy being used by a Minion or your character. It’s cheap for dealing 3 points of damage and works wonders for early game removal, or to increase the attack power of a Windfuried Minion (Al’Akir the Windlord for example). Powermace is lovely as it is, but it also boosts a Mech with its Deathrattle. Lovely addition to an Aggro mech deck, or any mech deck, really.

Spells

Shaman has been given a lot of damage-dealing ability. This can be boosted by the Wrath of Air Totem, not forgetting Azure Drake, who is a frequent guest in Shaman decks. We have Earth Shock – in most match-ups this card is better kept for the Silence effect. We also have Lightning Bolt, Crackle and Lava Burst. Let’s not forget Lava Shock, which frees up Overloaded crystals this turn and the next. Synergize this card with Overload heavy cards like Neptulon for best results.

Shaman’s AOE needs are well served by Lightning Storm, which is interesting in that it doesn’t deal a set amount of damage – dealing either 2 or 3 points of damage to each enemy Minion. As with the other damage-dealing spells that Shaman possesses, this one can be boosted.

Hex is simply amazing for removal of otherwise hard to remove late game Minions and pesky Legendaries. Not only does it take them out – it also disregards their effects and Deathrattles as if they were dirt on its boots. 3 mana is very little for taking out a big Minion.

The most useful buffing card is a Totem – yes, you guessed it, we are talking about Flametongue Totem. It likes to boost other Totems, Windfuried characters, eggs… In other words, just about anything that moves. When Minions come into contact with this card (on either side, I must add), they instantenously become ferocious and deadly – even if previously they couldn’t hurt a fly.

Card draw for Shamans also comes in the guise of a Totem. Mana Tide Totem is nice in bringing in 1 definite card at the end of the turn that it has been summoned, but at 3 health, it can be very easily removed.

I decided to include Ancestral Spirit and Reincarnate in this section – they don’t get used much apart from specialized decks built specifically around their effects. For example, an Earth Elemental with Ancestral Spirit is a huge force to deal with if your opponent doesn’t carry any Silence effects. Equally, a deck full of Deathrattle minions can wreak havoc with a well placed Reincarnate – I am especially fond of doing this with Kel’Thuzad and ending up with 2-4 Kel’Thuzads by the time I am finished. Think Baron Rivendare or Sylvanas and you start getting the picture of what’s possible.

These decks are often too unpredictable and too slow, especially nowadays when so many decks are too quick for you to get to a point where such plays are feasible. Still, I have rarely had more fun that with these types of decks.

2)-If-your-hand-is-empty,-call-Neptulon,-he-will-fill-it-right-up

If your hand is empty, just call Neptulon: he will fill it right up!

Legendaries

Let’s visit the Legendaries – I like them a lot and I hope that you will too. Al’Akir the Windlord is boosting with effects – so much so that it’s difficult to believe that there is enough space on the card for all of them to fit. He isn’t so special without them – 3/5 for 8 mana is really nothing to tweet home about. Al’Akir can work well as a finisher given that he’s got Charge and Windfury. Be very careful against decks that run a lot of Silences.

Neptulon came to join the Shaman stables with the Goblins vs. Gnomes expansion (GvG). At first, he was thought to be useless by many, as his effect seems to be aimed at working in a Murloc deck (and those don’t work great nowadays, even with the other new Murloc synergizing card that Shaman received from GvG), but he is actually pretty great if you think of his effect as giving you 4 card draw, not mentioning that the 4 new Murloc cards are likely to synergize with each other. The 3 mana Overload can be problematic, but luckily Murloc cards tend to be cheap.

Starting Shaman Deck

Below I will list a deck built entirely out of basic cards. I will use cards that are available from the start, as well as class-specific cards granted for reaching level 10 with Shaman. This is simple to do in Practice mode. I will also give a brief explanation of how the deck works and point out some basic strategy.

We will then briefly look at some possible additions and improvements to the deck, counting our dust in order to figure out which cards to craft first.

3)-This-deck-plays-a-lot-of-Minions,-the-class-power-helps-too,-then-uses-cards-that-take-advantage-of-a-full-board

This deck plays a lot of Minions: the class power helps too, and then it uses cards that take advantage of a full board.

Class-specific

Neutral

This is a strong starting deck that plays in sync with Shaman’s class power. The aim is to put down a lot of Minions (which the class power greatly helps to do) and then use cards that either buff those Minions, or drop a Frostwolf Warlord to get an insanely strong Minion that the opponent won’t be able to take out.

When summoned, Razorfen Hunter and Dragonling Mechanic both bring in a buddy to join the fight, which can be handy if you are planning to use Raid Leader, Stormwind Champion, or Frostwolf Warlord next turn. Same logic applies to planting a Totem onto your board – numbers count. Especially when you can finish the fight using Bloodlust – another card that likes to see your board nice and full. Remember – it’s quantity that counts, not quality.

Using Flametongue Totem at the right time is very important as your opponent will do everything in his power to take it out next turn. It’s a good idea to wait until it’s protected or until it does a lot of damage in a single turn.

Rockbiter Weapon is best used to take out an early turn enemy Minion – given that the deck can be a tad slow in the beginning (with just two 2 mana Minions), this can come in handy.

Hex is best kept in hand until it’s truly needed – it’s such a strong card that any wise opponent will count on you to have it in your deck. Don’t get lured into using it too early if you can help it, and wait for a strong late game Minion before using it if you can.

It’s a good idea to take advantage of Shattered Sun Cleric‘s Battlecry on the turn that you summon it by using the Minion being buffed to take out a Minion previously safe, or survive an encounter it wouldn’t have otherwise.

I love Acidic Swamp Ooze. It is a good idea to keep it in hand against characters who use weapons – that’s Warriors, Paladins, Rogues, Hunters and Shamans. Against classes that don’t use weapons, it can be played on turn 2. Knowing when to play this card is a valuable skill to develop, so it’s useful to be able to predict which weapons your opponent will be carrying.

4)-Full-board,-lot-of-minions,-huge-Frostwolf-Warlord---that's-how-we-do-it

Full board, lot of Minions, huge Frostwolf Warlord – that’s how we do it.

New Cards to Get

There are a lot of cards in Hearthstone now, given that we already have 3 expansions behind us. Consequently, I will not list every single card that you may find of use – there are too many for me to list and my fingers may fall off from all the typing. I don’t want that, and you don’t want that. My fingers don’t want that (they are somewhat attached to the rest of me).

Instead, I will list the most popular cards and all the cards that would significantly boost the basic deck above. I will distinguish these cards based on whether they come from Classic, Naxxramas, GvG, or Blackcock

Classic

  • Earth Shock (used for the Silence effect, as well as cheap removal against those first Aggro Minions)
  • Feral Spirit (a bit pricy the next turn with 2 Overload but fair against Aggro)
  • Lightning Storm (essential against quick Aggro decks, especially Zoo)
  • Mana Tide Totem (not the best card draw in the game but the only one Shaman’s got)
  • Doomhammer (solid 2-hitter, likes to be boosted with Rockbiter Weapon)
  • Al’Akir the Windlord (good finisher, especially if boosted, becomes somewhat puny if Silenced)
  • Big Game Hunter (with Dr. Booms running amok, the BGH is never out of work)
  • Defender of Argus (if you play your Shaman by placing a lot of minions, there is no better thing to do than to buff ’em and give them a Taunt effect – guess who does that best?)
  • Azure Drake (solid Minion at 4/4, boosts damage dealing spells, which Shaman always runs, but also gives some much needed card draw, which Shaman lacks)

Naxxramas

  • Zombie Chow (for slow Control decks, this is often the first line of defence)
  • Sludge Belcher (best Taunted minion in the game)
  • Loatheb (if lacking in Legendaries, this one will do, useful for board protection and to stop imminent spell use)
  • Kel’Thuzad (works very well in Shaman decks, great late game Legendary and a real pain in the ass for your opponent) 

Goblins vs. Gnomes

  • Crackle (good damage for the cost, who doesn’t like a little RNG?)
  • Powermace (buffs a random Mech at death – works best in Mech decks; using the Deathrattle on the card below is a sick combo to pull)
  • Whirling Zap-o-matic (amazing minion at 2 mana, can be a huge issue for your opponent very early on, especially if buffed)
  • Piloted Shredder (hard to remove)
  • Antique Healbot (Shamans are not great at healing, if planning to play a longer game, this is the healer to pick)
  • Dr. Boom (he is good, let’s give him that, he is also everywhere – even if a BGH gets him first, there are 2 bombs left behind)
  • Neptulon (I love Neptulon for the much needed late game card draw, he is expensive, though, especially the Overload, and he can be easily taken out by a BGH)

Blackrock Mountain

  • Lava Shock (the damage is nothing to write home about but unlocking your current and next turn crystals for no cost, well, that is priceless)
  • Fireguard Destroyer (amazing turn 4 minion, if you are lucky, you have 7 attack power at turn 4)
  • Emperor Thaurissan (if lacking in other Legendaries, this one will do, great value if you have a hand full of cards, perhaps not so useful for Shaman, but still great)
  • Chromaggus (not a bad Minion, out of range of a BGH, can work as a great source of card draw if that’s what’s needed)
  • Nefarian (great late game Minion if no others are available, the 2 spells are instant value, their usefulness greatly depends on which character you happen to be facing)

I have left out almost all of the Mech type cards from the list – they all work great with Shaman if you want to run an aggressive deck – be it Midrange or pure Aggro. It’s a good idea to run the other Mech synergy cards if you are planning on utilizing your Mechs – Shaman has a few. Even Fel Reaver can be played with great success – it’s a beast of a Minion to take out.

5)-Mech-shaman-likes-to-finish-quick---Minions,-spells---whatever-gets-the-job-done

Mech Shaman likes to finish quick – Minions, Spells… whatever gets the job done.

I have also left out some other cards – namely both of the eggs (from Naxxramas and Blackrock), both of which work well in a deck built around placing a lot of Minions and buffing them for victory – eggs are great at surviving AOE, giving you a new Minion to play next turn.

As always, there are too many Legendaries to mention – Sylvanas Windrunner, Harrison Jones, The Black Knight, Ragnaros the Firelord and with Blackrock behind us, many more. A lot of these can work well in most decks, some of them have effects that work well in specific decks or in specific meta situations – for example The Black Knight used to be very common when everyone was running lots of Taunts, but has fallen out of favor since.

 It’s always a good idea to consider where your deck is heading – Shaman is relatively versatile. The type of build that you are going for will also determine which Expansion is most useful – there are lots of useful Classic cards, and GvG is essential if you are planning on playing Mech Shaman (who may very well be the strongest choice at the moment). Naxxramas is bursting with useful cards, while Blackrock doesn’t offer all that much in comparison – there are some great Legendaries and one amazing Minion, but the rest is not that much of a help.

 As always, I tend to craft Legendaries and Epics only – cards of lesser rarity tend to come around eventually and it can be annoying to craft a large number of them (which costs a lot), only to see most of them in the next 10 packs that you open. Obviously, the choice is yours.

Most Common Deck Types

I like Shaman a lot so it saddens me a little that I see so little of him on the Ladder. Nowadays, I primarily see deck builds utilizing Mechs, other types of decks are harder to find. These decks tend to be very aggressive and if stopped early on, they tend to do badly. They tend to run a fair amount of damage-dealing spells, so be careful about your life total when facing them – a Taunted Minion won’t save you from a spell.

Shaman has a fine stable of late game Minions – counting the 2 great Legendaries, so he gets played slower too, you’ll find that a Control deck is a definite possibility. It’s not very common to see these types of decks, especially in the current climate of fast play and aggressive decks.

I personally enjoy taking advantage of the attack-boosting qualities that Shaman can employ, utilizing such cards as Defender of Argus – I enjoy playing for a large board, taking advantage of Nerubian Eggs and the new Dragon Eggs or Haunted Creepers – all of these Minions are wonderfully difficult to remove off the board as they spawn more Minions. To that I add all the best cards that Shaman has and other characters don’t, including the Legendaries.

6)-Kel'Thuzard-and-Reincarnate-on-turn-10-has-to-be-one-of-my-favourite-plays-in-Hearthstone

Kel’Thuzard and Reincarnate on turn 10 has to be one of my favourite plays in Hearthstone.

There are various other synergies built into Shaman’s class-specific card set, but they tend not to be played much the further you make it down the Ladder. For example, I greatly enjoy playing Shaman decks built around various Deathrattle synergies, Ancestral Spirit and Reincarnate. It’s too gimmicky to work well against time-tested decks, or the new fast builds that are coming out of the woodwork, but it’s so much fun.

Shaman has been gifted with a Murloc card in GvG, as well as Neptulon, yet Warlock stays as the only viable Murloc class, not even viable enough to show up often, or even at all these days. This type of deck is so rare that it almost never sees the light of day.

Conclusion

I feel that Shaman is one of those few characters in Hearthstone that have been somewhat shortchanged with the recent expansions. The old builds that were common around the time of Classic and Naxxramas have more or less disappeared, being replaced by a very set type of deck built around Mechs. I don’t feel the same amount of consistency with this deck that I feel with some of the other recent decks that I have been playing.

I was hoping that Blackrock would revitalize the class, but so far that has not occurred – the new 4-mana Minion is great, but Lava Shock is less useful. All in all, Shaman is seeing less play and what gets played often comes down to Mechs. With Paladin having close to 5 different viable builds at the moment, and other classes often not far behind, it seems a shame that Shaman would be a class not equally enhanced, lacking options for creative and competitive play. Given that Shaman doesn’t do great in Arena either, these times are not at all kind to him.

7)-Battles-in-Hearthstone-sometimes-take-on-epic-proportions

Battles in Hearthstone sometimes take on epic proportions.

I hope for a change in the future, though. I hope that Blizzard decides to even things out somewhat, giving Shaman a couple more cards that he needs in order to make him playable in all the various ways that he has been in the past, possibly even making a deck built around Reincarnate viable. Now that would be something.

In closing, I wish you all the luck in making Shaman work for you. I tend to have a lot of fun with this class, even if I rarely take him out for a spin when climbing the Ladder. Keep an eye on Al’Akir – he has a habit of charging off. I’ll see you on the Ladder.

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Pavel Oulik
Author: Pavel Oulik View all posts by
Pavel is a graduate in Economics and Business, as well as a lover of books, stories and writing in general. He lives in the Czech Republic, which isn't only known for its beer. He played Magic the Gathering back in the day, entering the intricate world of Hearthstone around the time of the Naxxramas expansion. Pavel's biggest dream is for a future world of mature and dignified conduct within the online gaming community.

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