In total, the Year of the Raven has been a good one for Shaman players. The Witchwood expansion catapulted the class to the highest ranks of the meta thanks to game-changing cards like Shudderwock and Hagatha the Witch. Shudderwock Shaman in particular terrorized the community, not least because of raw power level as well as animation length.
However, expansions from 2017 played an important role as well in terms of building these dominating archetypes; the introduction of the Elemental minion type featuring heavy support synergies gave the Shaman class multiple tools to theorycraft decklists.
Sadly for Shaman players, these synergies will be gone with the upcoming Standard rotation. The nerf to Flametongue Totem and the Hall of Fame Rotation including Genn Greymane leaves Shaman with very little flexibility going into the Year of the Dragon.
Will Shaman have to completely rely on class cards from 2019, or could we see new core packages emerge to redefine the iconic Hearthstone class?
Shaman’s Lost Cards
Journey to Un’Goro
The Journey to Un’Goro has been a really special one for Shaman players. The introduction of the Elemental tribe not only fit with some already existing archetypes; it also complimented Shaman’s core fantasy of wielding the powers of the elements.
This may be one of the reasons why the Elemental Shaman archetype became so incredibly popular especially amongst more casual players. However, the core list itself was never able to really pick up the pace in terms of meta game competition.
There are still numerous class cards that found a place in Shaman’s top tier deck lists though, for example Primalfin Totem in Even Shaman or Volcano in every control-heavy list. And let’s not forget about the incredible neutral cards like Fire Fly, Tar Creeper or Stonehill Defender.
These early- to mid-range minions helped Shaman in particular because the class really didn’t have a whole lot of minions to play in those stages of the game. Losing those staple cards will leave Shamans in a disastrous place in terms of early board contention, and one can only hope that they will get somehow compensated for these losses during the Year of the Dragon.
Knights of the Frozen Throne
Everything Un’Goro was for Shaman, KotFT was not. If it wasn’t for Thrall, Deathseer, not a single Frozen Throne class card would have seen competitive play throughout the last two years. And yes, Snowfury Giant may have played the starring role in a very niche archetype called Overload Shaman, but every other card has been a complete and total dud. But why?
Well, Team 5 decided to try making Freeze Shaman a thing. It would take a whole other article to dive into the design decision and the legendary failure behind the Freeze keyword on Shaman cards, but looking at the core values of the Shaman class up to day it is actually incredibly easy to explain why Freeze Shaman didn’t work out.
First and foremost, Freeze itself is an effect that extends the game. When you try to combine the Freeze effect with other effects that rely on tempo, a stat increase for example, you do the actual opposite of what the Freeze effect wants to do. Cards like Moorabi want you to freeze the board, but you give up so much tempo and card space in your deck if you do so.
As always, the theory behind certain archetype synergies may seem solid, but Freeze Shaman never even came close to being a playable deck, and that makes KotFT an expansion that Shaman exclusively needed for neutral minions like Saronite Chain Gang, Prince Keleseth and – of course – The Lich King.
Kobolds and Catacombs
The delve into the Kobolds and Catacombs expansion rewarded Shaman with a ton of interesting cards. First and foremost, Grumble, Worldshaker made an appearance to supplement existing Elemental Shaman archetypes. Another Highlight
Later on, it supported the reign of terror of Shudderwock Shaman as one of the key combo pieces in the deck. Together with Healing Rain, those two KnC cards helped Shaman to piece together a dominating list, making the meta game as one-sided as never before after the release of the Witchwood expansion.
Besides those two cards, Team 5 tried to push other very interesting archetypes. First there is Totem Shaman; Windshear Stormcaller in particular raised the interest of OTK specialists, but sadly this card never saw any serious play. The same goes for the rest of totem-synergetic cards, and that leads us to the second archetype, Overload Shaman.
As already said earlier, Overload Shaman found an interesting niche within the class. Overload showcases a core mechanic for Shaman, and Shaman players have been begging for synergy spells and minions to get rewarded after reserving their precious mana. Sadly, Overload Shaman never really got close to climbing the tier lists due to lack of reliability and permanent board presence.
The usual honorable mention will go to Unstable Evolution, a card that did not only help out funky Shaman decks building ridiculous board states but also made the Shaman Deathknight Hero card a lot better than it actually was.
Shaman’s Upcoming Archetypes
One of the most polarizing Hearthstone archetypes could raise from the dead again: Shudderwock Shaman. And yes, we know, nobody wants to see neither jaws nor claws, but the chances that the upcoming expansion will feature some high-value Battlecry cards are incredibly high. Apart from that, a majority of the control-heavy Shaman package remains and awesome cards like Bog Slosher and Haunting Visions are waiting in the wings.
However, the core iteration of Shudderwock Shaman loses alot of its toxic combo pieces, and with cards like Grumble, Worldshaker or Zola the Gorgon gone we may be able to reinvent the identity of Shudderwock, which in itself has a creative and unique effect to it. Together with Hagatha the Witch this list should be able to still stay highly relevant in the later stages of the game, and – depending on the new sets – could be able to dominate the meta through infinite value yet again.
This may be one of the most anticipated archetypes in regards to the upcoming rotation. The Boomsday expansion added a ton of highly synergetic cards like Thunderhead and Voltaic Burst that enable Aggro Shaman to maintain board pressure while throwing tons of damage at your face through classics like Lava Burst and Doomhammer. The changes to Flametongue Totem may have been not only an Even Shaman nerf for Wild, but also a very cautious restriction in case Aggro Shaman spirals out of control.
During 2018, the deck had to run its head into hyper-control and heal-heavy archetypes; but as the new Standard year will decrease power level as a whole, Aggro Shaman could become reliable enough to perform insanely well!