Ever since Whispers of the Old Gods’ release, Shaman decks have been absolutely dominating the meta. While it may not be Secret Paladin levels of strong, it is certainly coming close. It has dominated the tier lists since Standard’s launch, and even the professionals are commenting on how strong Shaman is. When I interviewed Hotform at Good Game Con, he stated that one of the new Shaman cards is his least favorite from the new set, and when I prompted him regarding the state of Shaman he said: “I bring the Shaman deck, it’s a good deck. I do think it’s a little overplayed,” tactfully alluding to the power level imbalance within it.
Why is Shaman so strong at the moment?
There are a few factors that go into why Shaman is so much better than the other classes. The first is that Standard’s launch got rid of very few good Shaman cards. In fact, one of the most notable losses for them was Vitality Totem, since it indirectly buffs Tuskarr Totemic when it is no longer a possible result. The only other card they lost was Crackle, which wasn’t a huge loss overall. Even before Standard Aggro Shaman had become a strong deck, and Crackle was the only card that it lost, while other decks lost a whole host of cards, including Sludge Belcher and Antique Healbot, counters to Aggro Shaman.
With Shaman poised to be so dominant post-Standard, people waited with held breath to see how Shaman would be nerfed. Except it wasn’t. In fact, the strongest card from all of Whispers was given to Shaman, a four mana 7/7 – the card that Hotform referenced as his least favorite card from the set. Now Aggro Shaman found itself easily trouncing nearly all competitors, running the strongest one, two, and four drops in the game, in a very Secret Paladin-esque fashion.
However, despite Aggro Shaman’s dominance, players found that Midrange Shaman was just as good. As it turns out, there was a second incredibly good card that Whispers gave to Shamans, which was Thing from Below. This card not only has incredible potential to quickly snowball games, it also synergizes off of Tuskarr Totemic. Now Tuskarr Totemic has a three in seven chance of getting an incredibly strong totem and it provides further bonuses to your deck. Currently it feels as if you are playing from behind every time you face off against a Shaman because of all these massive threats.
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How to counter Shaman?
Every class has its weakness, right? Well as it turns out, Shaman doesn’t. There isn’t a deck that can comfortably both counter Tunnel Trogg and Totem Golem while also getting ready to counter Flamewreathed Faceless, at least not reliably. The decks that seem to do best are other very fast decks such as Zoolock and Tempo Warrior, but even these fast decks are barely favored against Shaman.
The mulligan problem is one of the major reasons that Shaman is overpowered. For example, a Warrior will very rarely keep Execute in his opening hand, as it is typically used as late game removal. However, if he wants to play around Flamewreathed Faceless, it is a good card to keep. But then he not only doesn’t have another chance to search for his early game cards, he is also holding a dead card if his opponent doesn’t play Flamewreathed. Now the Warrior is playing with an inefficient card in hand, while the Shaman is hardly bothered since it has so many other value cards to pick up the slack.
What can be done
It is fairly obvious that Shaman is overpowered, and needs to be toned down. So what needs to be changed? Well, I previously wrote that Doomhammer is one of the cards that seems as if it will be nerfed, and certainly should, back before the nerfs were announced. When I talked to Hotform, he agreed, saying that “the biggest problem was Doomhammer, they didn’t nerf Doomhammer at all”. Doomhammer alone often represents 16 face damage over a few turns, with a potential for far more with Rockbiter Weapon. If Doomhammer were to be nerfed, and Flamewreathed Faceless also was toned down slightly, it feels as if Shaman would still be a very competitive deck without being at the level of ridiculousness it stands currently.
Alternatively they could bring Big Game Hunter back specifically for Flamewreathed, but I feel as if that may not happen any time soon!