The Grand Tournament is awaiting us this month and Blizzard has already released some exciting new cards. As a Shaman addict I am rather sad about the current state of the class (even though I was recently able to climb into Top EU legend for a bit) and hope that The Grand Tournament will finally boost my favorite class back into tier 1 range. Ultimately, we will have to wait until all 130 new cards of the expansion are revealed but so far it really looks as if Shaman will receive a significant buff.
The new expansion will have the theme of hero powers and a new keyword called “Inspire” that activates a certain ability or a bonus every time you make use of your hero power. I suspect that Shaman will be one of the classes that benefit the most from such a theme because the new Shaman cards revolve around a new “Totem” tribal. Since the Shaman hero power supports and interacts that new archetype, its hero power will supposedly gain the most from hero power improving mechanics such as casting (multiple) hero powers for 1 mana. However, without further ado let’s dive into the brand new class cards that have been announced already and discuss if they are strong enough to support a new era of Shaman decks:
Even though this card isn’t particularly flashy, it is an extremely powerful one. With 3/4 for less than 3 mana (1 overload mana is a bit less expensive than 1 real mana because you pay it later and in the early turns 1 mana is a bigger percentage of your total mana available), it is a slightly cheaper Spider Tank which is already a very playable card. In addition, the 1-3 mana spots in Shaman were in dire need of good class cards for a long time.
There aren’t many good neutral 3-drops and Feral Spirits prevent Defender of Argus, Piloted Shredder and Fireguard Destroyers on turn 4. So you either need real 3-drops or more 1- and 2-drops. That’s why Fireguard Destroyers didn’t really buff Shaman even though it was an insane card in isolation because Shaman already had good 4-, 5-, and 6-drops available and having a good mana curve is really important in a class that has to plan several turns ahead with the overload mechanic.
This one is a little bit harder to evaluate. As a 3-mana drop it definitely fits great into the current Shaman decks’ mana curves but with 3/2 stats for 3 mana it is clearly too expensive for its raw stats and the dissection of his ability is not necessarily trivial. Thrall’s hero power summons one of the ordinary totems for 2 mana but that doesn’t cost a card. If you compare the Mage hero power with Moonfire for example, then you will quickly realize that the cost of a card is a tremendous one of up to 2 mana. SO the value of a random ordinary totem will likely settle somewhere between 0 and 1 mana. However, Tuskarr Totemic can summon ANY totem which includes Flametongue Totem, Mana Tide Totem and the new Totem Golem that we already discussed. Consequently, we will get a totem that is worth at least 2 mana on its own (granted, you won’t be able to place your Flametongue Totem perfectly but it is still great value) in about 42.85% of the cases (3 out of 7 totems).
So if we calculate the ability conservatively (40%*2mana value+60%*0.5mana value), then the ability is worth about 1.1 mana of value. A 3/2 vanilla creature, i.e. a creature without any card text is worth slightly below 2 mana since you would usually expect something like Knife Juggler for 2 mana. Additionally, we get some more value from synergetic effects in a totem tribal deck and from the fact that the 3 mana spot is the hardest to fill in our Shaman decks currently. So my conclusion for this card is that you will play it in a totem centric deck for sure but it will not be one of the cards that will push you towards playing the archetype.
Thunder Bluff Valiant
The most obvious comparison to this card is Quartermaster which pushed Paladins back into viable back when Goblins vs. Gnomes was released. With just +2 attack instead of +2/+2, the buff is clearly significantly weaker. However, Thunder Bluff Valiant can buff an entire tribe of cards and not just Silver Hand Recruits. Moreover, the 3/6 body on Thunder Bluff Valiant itself as opposed to the 2/5 stats on Quartermaster are definitely a big difference. 3 attack kills a lot of things that 2 attack does not (most notably Grim Patrons). At the same time, Shaman does not have an equivalent to Muster for Battle to get a large amount of buff targets on the board in one turn. Because of that, Thunder Bluff Valiant will probably end up being a bit weaker than Quartermaster. But given the central role of Quartermasters in nearly all Midrange Paladin decks these days, that doesn’t exactly make Thunder Bluff Valiant a bad card. It will probably be an important piece of the Totem Shaman archetype.
Draenei Totemcarver is a Frostwolf Warlord that costs 1 mana less and can only be buffed by totems instead of all minions on the board. As is, it is tough to say whether you will be able to reliably have 1-2 totems on the board by turn 4. My inclination would be that this will only be the case if Shaman gets another cheap totem card like Totem Golem as you cannot afford to simply hero power too much in the first few turns. Furthermore, the 4 mana spot is easily the most competitive one in Shaman with Piloted Shredder, Defender of Argus and Fireguard Destroyer which are arguably better than at least a 5/5 vanilla creature, anyway.
One thing that people keep asking for when discussing the weaknesses of Shaman is card draw. I will state my opinion on this straight up: I don’t think it is one of the things currently holding back Shaman. Azure Drakes fit better in Shaman decks than in most other classes’ decks, Neptulon is an Ancient of Lore on crack and Mana Tide Totem isn’t exactly a bad card draw engine either. I don’t think Ancestral Knowledge is going to be any good because I think you will want to fight for board control as much as possible and paying a bit less than 4 mana for 2 cards isn’t exactly cheap if you compare it to Arcane Intellect. You won’t be able to play Ancestral Knowledge in the earlier turns since that is the time in which you want to snowball your totems and in the late game I would much rather play Neptulon and Azure Drakes instead of it.
I am happy to see that Blizzard is giving the Shaman class some love and I will be excited to play around with this new archetype (Totemic Might anyone?!). Ultimately, we will have to wait until all cards are released. We still haven’t seen the epic and the legendary card of Thrall and especially with a tribal theme, every single additional totem card can mean a lot. One thing I would like to see is an easy way to deal 1 damage for Shamans. If you remember my discussion of the cost of a card then you know that Earth Shock and Frost Shock are not a good ways to deal 1 damage. If we get that as well, then the Shaman class should be in a fantastic spot.