Hearthstone: Boosting Your Shaman

Hearthstone is out now on both PC and iPad. With new players joining the battle each day, Shacknews is closely examining each of the game's nine classes and learning how to play with all of them from the perspective of Chatty. Next up is Thrall, the Shaman.
For some players, success in Hearthstone means filling the field up with as many effective minions as possible. Perhaps no class fills this need more than the Shaman, whose Totems (provided by both his 'Totemic Call' Hero Power or through individual cards) provide enough versatility to make him one of Hearthstone's most dangerous classes to go up against.

Why the Shaman?

For players that don't like to specialize in high-end minions or high-mana gambits, the Shaman is perfect. Thrall can hit players hard in early stages, thanks to his numerous cards that utilize the Overload ability, which borrows Mana from the next turn. Players can create a dangerous deck out of mid-tier cards, as Chatty's bling1bling noticed. Junktown reels off the benefits of a good mid-tier Shaman deck. "The idea is that you use the cheap Shaman spells to control the board early and then use the burst damage of Windfury, Doomhammer or [Al'Akir the Windlord] to end it before too many late-game bombs put it out of reach. You just need enough dudes to keep things under control and do a bit of chip damage." The Shaman can also play his Totems to his advantage, with each one serving a different purpose. Healing Totem, in particular, is essential to help keep minions on the board, especially against Mages that like to try and chip them out with her Hero Power. If Thrall draws the right Totems, he can be nearly unbeatable.

Notable cards/combos

The Shaman's cards are often a gamble, especially the ones that rely on Overload. To succeed with Shaman is to have the foresight to plan turns out well in advance. This is part of the reason that posters like dextius and nem00 don't opt for this particular class. "Managing the Overload mechanic can be tricky," said poster smax. "Playing that cheap, effective spell this turn means you might not be able to do anything decent next turn. The class takes alot of forethought and planning." But there are some real strategies that revolve around Overload cards. Feral Spirit will summon two 2/3 Wolves with Taunt, creating a potent early obstacle for opponents. smax likes to supplement this play with either Flametongue Totem (which ups surrounding minions' attack power by 2) or Mana Tide Totem (draw one card at the end of your turn). With two Taunt wolves flanking these Totems, their effects can be used to their fullest. As for potent early combos, smax likes to open with what he considers to be one of the strongest opening salvos for any class in the game. He points out if a player has the Mana Coin on the second turn, that person can use it to summon Unbound Elemental (2/4, gain +1/+1 when playing a card with Overload) nearly off the bat, while using Feral Spirit on the next turn to suddenly fill the field with overwhelming force. But not all of the Shaman's cards rely on Overload or Totems. The Fire Elemental is among the strongest class-specific minions in the game, boasting high 6/5 stats and a 3 damage Battlecry that can deal some serious damage, if not outright clear out an opponent's high-tier minion. Those looking to control opposing minions can also take advantage of Hex, which is the quickest way to remove a potent threat.

These are some of the Shaman's cards, many of which rely on Overload

Deck strategies

Poster smax is the adamant Shaman user among Chatty circles and he's meticulously put together a strong deck filled with neutral minions that make the most of Thrall's Totems. While Totems don't have any offensive power initially, Defender of Argus will quickly change that. Adding attack power and Taunt to surrounding Totems makes this neutral minion an invaluable ally, especially if those Totems are high-health ones like Mana Tide Totem or Flametongue Totem. The former, in particular, is immensely useful to smax's deck. "Card draw can be problematic," he acknowledges. "Mana Tide, Shaman's class card draw tool, is tricky to use. It has to stay around longer than one turn to be effective, otherwise it's just a bad Novice Engineer. However, if you can get it behind a Taunt and keep it alive, the card advantage it gives usually wins the game. This is also part of the reason why every Shammy also runs Azure Drake." Another useful neutral minion is Knife Juggler. At a low 2 mana for 3/2 stats, he's a threat on his own, but his effect that damages a random foe for every summon is insanely powerful. And yes, Thrall takes advantage of this effect with his Totems and with Feral Spirit. But smax's ace in the hole just might be an assuming boost known as Rockbiter Weapon. At one Mana, it adds three attack to a character, which might seem like an innocuous buff. But when combined with Doomhammer and Al'Akir the Windlord, both with Windfury abilities, it can be a potential game-changer. "With Rockbiter, Bloodlust, cheap overpower creatures, direct damage spells, etc. you can finish your opponent or wipe the board unexpectedly," concludes smax.
For more class strategies, check out the other installments of the Hearthstone: Why I Play series.