What was wrong with Galakrond Shaman? Quick Analysis of The Upcoming Nerfs

Behold, it’s the fastest nerf patch in Hearthstone history: four cards from Galakrond Shaman are slated to be nerfed (three class cards and one neutral), but will that be enough to shake up the metagame? And why did the deck end up being so incredibly strong after the launch? We’ve got a few ideas about both.

The Oceans Stir

Before we examine the effects of the specific nerfs, it’s worth examining in detail why Galakrond Shaman had such a stranglehold in a meta and what made it so unfun to play against. Starting with Uldum’s Quest Shaman, the class’ most effective archetypes excelled at resource generation in recent metagames, easily grinding out decks like Control Warrior which mostly aimed to remove threats without aggressively contesting the board.

In theory, there’s a straightforward way to counter decks like this which fenagle their way into advantageous late-game situations: by applying early pressure and finishing them off as quickly as possible. As it turns out, Shaman’s existing toolkit was way too effective against what would have been their natural remedy in the metagame. The Quest versions had overly powerful ways to combat wide board states by doubling the Battlecry of Sandstorm Elemental or Mind Control Tech, and it remains to be seen how problematic that archetype may end up as should it resurface in the metagame after the nerfs at some point.

In the case of Galakrond Shaman, it’s the plethora of overtuned Rush minions which made things even worse, essentially guaranteeing the deck the ability to push anyone off the board: the Mogu Fleshshaper+Mutate combo was always a potential game-ender, but the fact that Shaman’s Invoke effect immediately affects the board with Rush minions coupled with the powerhouse that is Faceless Corruptor essentially removed the opponents’ ability to count on repetitive minion damage against the archetype. Then the walls of 5/6 Taunts come up via Dragon's Pack – sometimes right on curve.

Rush as a mechanic has essentially replaced Charge in the game over time, and it is intended to promote the sort of minion-on-minion combat for board control which the developers always preferred in the game. However, the stat penalties for Rush kept going down over time, culminating in the current extreme situation where Galakrond Shaman could afford to run six card draw cards (Novice Engineer, Far Sight and Mana Tide Totem) despite not being a dedicated combo deck.

As Sottle excellently put it in a recent tweet, “Ironically, the result of rush going too far is that the decks that can successfully compete with every minion in an opponent’s deck being a high quality rush minion are non-interactive combo and play from hand style decks that don’t have minions for them to rush into”. This is what happens when the stat penalties for such a powerful effect go down: we went from Swift Messenger and Muck Hunter to Dragonmaw Poacher and Faceless Corruptor in the space of six expansions, with predictable consequences on the power levels of the game. So many neutral removal options will inevitably neuter tempo-based strategies, allowing for this kind of greedy constructs to rise.

As a side note, decks which completely ignore the board can also serve as a counter tool to this kind of a deck, and it’s no surprise that Holy Wrath Paladin was the other emerging alternative against its oppression. However, we’ve seen in the past that Shaman can easily tech in further healing options with Lifedrinker along others, and the current form of the deck was capable of applying enough pressure to have a good game even against this kind of a stalling strategy.

It’s also worth mentioning that powerful midrange-y Shaman decks always produced degenerate metagames in the past: Karazhan’s iteration was also a problem deck, and it was a very similar archetype which ruined the Doom in the Tomb event meta. (One has to wonder whether the devs would have opted for such quick changes if it wasn’t the exact same class with a very similar archetype wreaking havoc on the ladder.)

All in all, Galakrond Shaman had to be downgraded as soon as possible due to the reasons discussed above, and Team 5 took the unprecedented step to make near-immediate nerfs after the expansion’s launch. How much damage this ultimately did to the hype and their bottom line remains to be seen – from the perspective of content creators like us, we basically had to put all the usual articles and guides on hold entirely, and the permeating feeling in the community was – with good reason – that the first two weeks of Constructed play in the expansion was pretty much a waste of time.

And the Heavens Cry

So, on to the nerfs then. Based on everything we’ve discussed above, it’s no surprise the developers mostly targeted the deck’s ability to impact the board, with a few other important adjustments thrown in along the way.

Corrupt Elementalist: Now costs 6 Mana (up from 5).

This nerf greatly slows down the deck in more ways than one. It takes more time to generate the two 2/1 Rush minions to impact the board state, has an adverse effect on Dragon's Pack shenanigans and makes it longer to “upgrade” Galakrond. Like the other adjustments below, it’s not meant to be a card-killer (and even has a minor benefit with Mutate): rather, it’s the cumulative effect which is intended to bring the archetype to heel, allowing other decks to shine.

Sludge Slurper: Now has 1 Attack (down from 2).

This is a big one and makes a lot of sense. We all knew Sludge Slurper would be a premium Shaman card from the moment it was revealed, and it made its way into every single archetype of the class. It does everything: synergizes with Overload, triggers multiple Battlecry effects, happens to be a Murloc and can often immediately impact the board if you get the right Lackey. The card will still fulfill all these roles going forward but won’t be able to contest the board as effectively (which is especially important on the first two turns), making this a fairly efficient change.

Faceless Corruptor: Now has 4 Attack (down from 5).

Going from 4 Attack to 5 is a very important break point for this kind of a card – just ask Darius Crowley. Having to double-trade into a single minion more often is a pretty big downgrade, but the card is likely going to stick around in faster decks because of its incredible ability to make use of any kind of token left behind on your side of the board. It’s not a card-destroying nerf (which is nice to see), and will have its impact on Galakrond Shaman as a cumulative effect.

Mogu Fleshshaper: Now costs 9 Mana (up from 7).

With this change, the Mogu+Mutate combo went from trivial to challenging, both by requiring a wider board on the opponent’s part to pull it off and limiting the Shaman player’s remaining options alongside it due to the cost increase. It’s quite possible that certain lists will omit this combo going forward for more Quest value or a different kind of board impact, especially with all the neutral Rush tools still available.

We’re looking forward to the shift in the metagame once the balance update goes live. Maybe then, the Descent of Dragons experience can begin in earnest.


Luci Kelemen is an avid strategy gamer and writer who has been following Hearthstone ever since its inception. His content has previously appeared on HearthstonePlayers and Tempo/Storm's site.

Check out Yellorambo on Twitter!

Leave a Reply


  1. Sparkz
    December 20, 2019 at 8:11 am

    As a Rank 8 wild player, ive seen like 2 Krond Shamans, but what im really happy about is the nerf to Mogu and Slurper…

    Slurper: just like they said, contesting the board too effectively, it was just a better cable rat for Shaman’s quest-jade-wock.

    Mogu: The 8 drops generally have better stats, but the key part is the effect aspect, many of the 10 drops are just big bodies, and big bodies matter a lot less in wild. Their battlecry is their effect, and the effect synergy is king.

    A personal taste, Cards with cost reduction like Mogu, should evolve based on the cost spent to play the card…

  2. Skaro
    December 19, 2019 at 6:38 am

    A good analysis. I think a lot of their decision must be guided by the data they collect, and although no-one expected something like sludge slurper, it is clearly a highly performing card and the small changes that they make just tune a decks winning power down a couple of %’s.
    This seems better to me and I agree that it limits a deck without killing it. As less people play shaman, or edit the decks focus, because they are being killed on turn 6/7 changes all things around it.

  3. Danjo5240
    December 19, 2019 at 5:36 am

    Thank you for this comprehensive write-up. I agree with almost everything in here, save for two points.

    First up, Mogu Fleshshaper being moved to 9 mana will delay it coming out quite as quick, but overall feels like a buff. Rather than the chance of low rolling a 1/1 Hireek, players are now guaranteed a 10 mana minion, most of which are not small statted. A low roll on Mogu/Mutate now will, at worst, be a 5/5 Phaoris.

    Second, Faceless Manipulator being moved down to 4 attack does virtually nothing to hurt Galakrond Shaman, but it does hurt every other class that’s been battling against its’ oppressive Dragons Pack wall. Dragon Pack is where a nerf should have been targeted, lowering the buff to +1/+1 or +1/+2. Keeping it at +3/+3 basically keeps Shaman right there at the top, now with competitors losing the tool of Faceless Manipulator to help remove it.

    • Taznak
      December 19, 2019 at 11:32 am

      Mogu Fleshshaper’s mana cost increased enough it’s just 1 mana below Sea Giant. Sure, Fleshshaper has Rush so you can trade into something, but Sea Giant has the advantage that you don’t even need to combo it with Mutate.

      Fleshshaper is probably still a little better than Sea Giant, but the two are close enough that the Fleshshaper change is undoubtedly a big nerf, IMO.

    • TardisGreen
      December 20, 2019 at 8:03 am

      If you take a look at the two post-nerf Gala Shaman decks on the front page, you will see that neither one of them even run Mogu.

      The nerf is real.

      • Nikpan19
        December 20, 2019 at 10:18 am

        But was it deserved it? The card would be good but not broken if it couldn’t evolve to 8-drops… A discounted card should keep its cost for evolve effects. That would have solved many problems and some nerfs could have been avoided. I mean there is no reason to run this card now (without mutate) comparing it to sea giant. But as it was before it could easily be used in board flooding decks only for its body + rush. And it wouldn’t be broken if it couldn’t evolve into 8-drops

        • TardisGreen
          December 20, 2019 at 10:49 am

          That would be a major change to the mechanics of the game, something the developers are not willing to do. I think the nerf is good.

          • Nikpan19
            December 21, 2019 at 1:42 am

            Though i can’t understand why they don’t want to nerf the mechanic instead of nerfing, otherwise, balanced cards. It s not healthy for the game. The nerf seems good right now, but what if in later expansions they want to print more evolve and/or token synergies? Then the problem may be even bigger. And why this mechanic should restrain them from printing other nice cards

  4. Joeydungee
    December 19, 2019 at 4:58 am

    I really appreciate your sober and realistic response to the nerfs. After reading a lot of the comments on the patch article, I didn’t want to post there, for fear of being chastised.

    I think what people wanted were either flashy nerfs to shaman (dragons pack now costs 8, or something) or nerfs to other cards.

    It may have been too early to nerf a deck that seemed “unbeatable”, which is why these nerfs are more low-key, in order to hamper the deck without killing it.

    This reminds me of the Dr. Boom hero card nerf. At first, many hated that it was only a two mana change, but then control warrior was a lot less powerful/prevalent.

    • KingCucumber
      December 19, 2019 at 8:33 am

      I agree, The nerfs are defenitly not killing galakrond shaman but making it significantly weaker which in my opinion is a good thing. In the past, The nerfs often made decks almost unplayable which made a lot of players unhappy because they couldn’t play their decks anymore.

      I am quite happy with the nerfs even though shaman is still quite strong.

    • OldManSanns
      December 19, 2019 at 5:56 pm

      I dunno, man. I mean: I’ll readily admit to being way too salty and emotionally invested against Shaman right now, so you’re absolutely right to be skeptical of me and others with comparable mindset. At the same time: you compare to Control Warrior. Pre-nerf Control Warrior was never unbeatable; it just had positive winrates against most other ladder decks. As I recall, it had negative winrates against decks like Rez Priest, Dire Frenzy Hunter, Pogo Rogue, etc, and there weren’t that many decks it dominated (i.e., >60 win rate) besides aggro. It was a good deck, but it was far from God-Tier.

      The thing that makes me really bitter right now is that we got a lot of neat new toys for niche decks like Treant Druid, Dragon Paladin, and Cyclone Mage, and now we’ll probably never see them beyond a few meme YouTube videos. All because this damn archetype infested the ladder Day 1, and now its power level is essentially the bar for competitive play. Sure, we’re seeing other archetypes start to evolve–but they are things like DR Rogue and refined Pirate Warrior, which look like they might be even worse! Maybe you are right that this was a reasonable patch in the grand scheme of things, but please don’t deny me my righteous indignation that it didn’t go as far as I would have liked to see. 🙂

      • Joeydungee
        December 20, 2019 at 9:02 am

        I think you’re right, old control warrior has nothing on this shaman deck, but I think people reacted similarly when Dr. Boom was only nerfed by 2 mana (instead of a change to battlecry or its hero power or something).

        Also, I agree with you that it sucks that shaman was the only class to take a hit (aside from the manipulator, who affects other decks as well). Aggro decks for warrior, rogue, and hunter were already strong, but now their closer to shamans power level, making everything else unplayable.

        I’ve resorted to casual for my home brews, and yet I still face tons of DR rogues and aggro hunters.

        What i meant to say before was that I’m generally happy with the nerfs, cause it gives other decks a chance against the aggro horde, but I also think there will be more changes to come after the holidays

  5. TardisGreen
    December 19, 2019 at 4:28 am

    Excellent read.