The Comprehensive Showdown in the Badlands Preview

Data Reaper Report - Shaman

Cactus Cutter

A 2 mana 2/2 that draws a spell is already quite strong and would see play in most Hearthstone decks. Cactus Cutter has an extra bonus if you play the spell on the same turn, getting buffed into a 3/4 taunt, which is pretty nuts. Nature Shaman could realistically activate Cactus Cutter in the mid-game at a high percentage of the time.

But even if Cactus Cutter is always a 2/2, we just can’t see any ‘normal’ Shaman passing on it. Unless the deck has a very specific deckbuilding restriction that dissuades us from including the card, Cutter feels like an auto-include.

We don’t even care that it’s a murloc. That’s just nice flavor.

Score: 4


The rule of Quickdraw cards is that they need to be strong enough to be playable even at their baseline form. We think Dehydrate passes this test, being a 3 mana deal 4 damage with lifesteal, offering Shaman a slightly bigger Drain Soul. You’re content to kill an opposing 3-drop with this on curve.

But if you do manage to play it on Quickdraw, Dehydrate turns into a stronger Eye Beam. What’s great about mana discounts on Quickdraw is that they don’t heavily affect your planned turn. Rehydrate is the best example, being cast for free, but Dehydrate costing 1 mana is also strong. This is a nice card to draw from Cactus Cutter.

Should be a staple for defensive Shaman decks.

Score: 3

Living Prairie

An active Living Praire is quite strong. A couple of 3/3 rushers are worth about 4 mana by themselves, so having a threatening 5/4 body alongside them makes up a very good package for 5 mana.

The condition is what’s going to limit the card, to some degree. Since the card is completely useless if it’s inactive, Prairie is only worth playing in an Elemental deck that’s quite consistent in churning out an Elemental every turn. This is further emphasized by the general direction that the tribe is headed towards in the rest of the set.

If we thought Elemental Shaman was going to be nuts, we’d probably rate it higher, but we double down on our dislike of telegraphed tribal decks. Mech Rogue be damned.

Score: 2

Amphibious Elixir

Elixir is split into two effects. The first part is a Flash Heal. The second part discovers a spell. Flash Heal is a fringe, constructed-level card. A 1-mana discover a spell would never see constructed play unless it had a specific bonus or synergy. Elixir has no synergies beyond a Nature tag.

However, cards always carry a hidden cost… of being a card. Whenever you play a card, you are not just spending mana, you are also spending a card. If you combine two cards together and sum up their mana costs to create a single card with both effects, it will always be stronger. The reason is that you’ve spent one less card to get the same effects.

So Amphibious Elixir, despite being quite basic, is a good enough card for a defensive minded Shaman deck. Considering that Highlander Shaman is getting support, and it needs 30 different cards to make a competitive list, it’s likely that Elixir will be one of them.

Score: 2

Minecart Cruiser

This is a 3 mana 4/5 rush in an Elemental Shaman deck, as we’re assuming it’s permanently active in the archetype. The overload is an absolute killer, so Cruiser cannot reasonably be played in any other deck. A 4/5 rusher that costs you a total of 5 mana is just not okay.

How strong is a 3 mana 4/5 rusher? It’s quite good, but it doesn’t blow our minds. Perhaps we are desensitized by the past exploits of Wildpaw Gnoll. Admittedly, Cruiser doesn’t require us to pass turns in the early game, trading cards while in disguise, but it’s obviously nowhere near as good as one of the strongest rush minions of all time.

This card is going to be as good as Elemental Shaman is, for better or worse.

Score: 2

Giant Tumbleweed!!!

Shaman looked at Priest’s Harmonic Pop and decided it doesn’t want to choose. For an extra mana, you get to deal the 6 AOE damage and summon the 6/6. That sounds like a good deal.

For a defensive Shaman deck that doesn’t have the removal plethora of Priest, this is quite an important addition. Giant Tumbleweed clears almost every relevant minion in the mid-game, while developing a sizeable threat that sparks a needed swing against faster decks. The combined denial of initiative/gain of initiative is very high for a 7 mana card.

Highlander Shaman should be all over this. So should any Control Shaman deck that looks to win late.

Score: 3

Trusty Companion

A 2 mana 2/3 buff is Doggie Biscuit, but if you buff a minion with a tribal tag, you get to draw another minion of the same tribe. This is a cracked buff for a tribal deck, even stronger than pre-nerf Hand of A’dal in terms of stats and effect. Every single tribal deck is going to run it from now until the moment it’s rotated.

The main caveat is that you need a sizeable tribal package to take advantage of Trusty Companion, but it is a bit more versatile than being strictly a buff card for tribal decks. You can use it as a soft tutor in non-tribal focused decks or run it in a deck that happens to run multiple packages of tribes.

For example, you have an important, minion-based win condition that happens to have a tribal tag. If you run a couple of cheap minions with the same tribal tag, you can increase the likelihood of finding your win condition by buffing those cheap minions with Trusty Companion.

Ironically, this card might be weaker on average in Elemental Shaman because playing Trusty Companion on turn 2 resets your Elemental chain. You’re still going to do it, but it does have a slight anti-synergy element.

Score: 4

Walking Mountain

This minion is massive. Gargantuan. Enormous. The next step from Walking Fountain. A Walking Mountain. 9-mana 4/16. Overload (2). Rush. Lifesteal. Mega Windfury: It can attack four times in a single turn, for those who don’t know.

If Walking Mountain comes down to the board, the opponent’s board is likely to be devastated, while the Shaman gains a significant amount of life. This minion is a huge recovery tool.

The problem is that it comes at a major price. it costs a total of 11 mana, coming down no sooner than turn 9 if it’s played from hand. It’s clear that for Walking Mountain to be leveraged optimally, we need to find a way to cheat it out too. The best candidate here is Thunderbringer, in what is likely to be a package with Glugg and another big beast. Walking Mountain’s best fit is in a “big” deck. But even in this deck, it’s hard to cheese it out early.

There’s a chance Walking Mountain is good enough to be played in Highlander Shaman for the sake of recovery, but at this point, you might consider Yogg-Saron to be a stronger late game comeback card.

We love this card. We want to make it work. But it’s not going to be easy.

Score: 2

Doctor Holli’dae

The Doctor is Shaman’s highlander payoff. It’s a 5 mana 4/5 that equips a massive 2/9 weapon in Staff of the Nine Frogs. Every time you attack with this weapon equipped; you summon a Frog with taunt. The Frog’s stats start out at 1/1 and increase by 1/1 on every subsequent swing, from a 1/1 Frog to a 9/9 Frog on the final charge.

Doctor Holli’dae is a huge pile of damage and value. We’re talking about an 18-damage weapon that summons a total of 45/45 stats in taunt. This card is extremely powerful over a long, drawn-out game.

The key phrase is drawn-out, because Holli’dae’s impact in the average Hearthstone game is not going to be near that. If the average game of Hearthstone lasts 8-9 turns, then you’re very unlikely to make full use of the weapon in most games, even if you draw Holli’dae on curve. You could justifiably argue that it’s enough for you to swing 4-5 times for the weapon to already be worth it. It’s obviously not a bad card if you see through some of its benefits.

But since the weapon is extremely backloaded in terms of power, Holli’dae gets worse the longer it takes for you to draw it, more so than other highlander payoffs since its immediate impact is very minor. The comparable incremental highlander payoff is Spirit of the Badlands. Kurtrus goes bam. Theldurin goes bam. Elise goes bam. Rhea goes bam a turn or two after dropping to the board.

This makes us wonder whether Highlander Shaman needs to gear itself to tutor Holli’dae with the help of Prescience. Otherwise, it’s a strong value card over a long, drawn-out game, but nothing close to a reliable win condition or a powerful swing turn by any means.

Score: 3

Skarr, the Catastrophe

Skarr is the top end win condition for Elemental Shaman. Its baseline power is pathetic, being a 7 mana 7/7 that deals 1 damage to all enemies. However, for every turn in a row you’ve played an Elemental, the damage goes up by 1.

If you’ve played elementals on six turns in a row, from turn 1 to turn 6, a turn 7 Skarr deals 7 damage to all enemies. That’s a Mordresh-level of effect, and the card can keep scaling further and further later in the game, with no limit.

However, it’s enough for you to miss playing an Elemental on a single turn to completely reset Skarr back to dealing 1 damage. For Skarr to be a viable threat, you must keep playing Elementals every turn and never stop until it comes down. Any reset to the count makes Skarr a very tame threat, which can irreversibly set you back.

This is why Elemental Shaman is likely to become a very telegraphed deck. It cannot do anything but play Elementals. The deck needs to go fully into elementals. Any non-elemental card that’s meant to be played on curve, whether it’s a spell or a minion, is almost a non-starter.

Skarr is a strong card in a completely parasitic Elemental Shaman, but there’s nothing else to do with this legendary. You either go elemental or go home.

Score: 2

Final Thoughts

Showdown in the Badlands Set Rank: 6th

Overall Power Ranking:  8th

Shaman’s irrelevance during most of TITANS is crying out for an end. Can Shaman’s Badlands set reignite interest in the class? Lots of neat things have emerged, but some question marks remain.

Part of the Shaman’s set focuses on a tribal elemental deck. You probably know this already, but we’re not great believers in aggressive tribal decks, to the point we often have a blind spot to their potential power. Mech Rogue has proven to be far more versatile and flexible than we thought it’d be, but we still struggle to see Elemental Shaman displaying those characteristics.

The deck’s synergies are based on playing an Elemental every turn. Otherwise, you can’t make use of Skarr, the deck’s primary finisher and most powerful card. In such a deck, Skarr is very comparable to Mordresh. The neutral Azerite Giant is also likely to be included, further emphasizing the requirements from this deck. Elemental Shaman could be a strong deck through its raw power of numbers, but if raw power alone isn’t enough, it might get exploited due to its predictable play pattern.

Thankfully, Shaman is not all-in on one tribe. A lot of nice defensive cards have been introduced in this set, improving the class’ survivability. The question is where Shaman’s finishing potential comes from.

Nature Shaman could come back, with a leaner and more efficient curve that accelerates its game plan. If this archetype re-finds success, Shaman’s late game will recover.

The other option is in its Highlander deck. A Highlander Shaman has great survivability and stability, more so than a Nature Shaman deck, but its ability to close out games is questionable. Doctor Holli’dae is a big value bomb, but one that takes a long time to convert into a big advantage. It is very incremental in nature. As you’re noticing from our write ups, many Highlander decks are faced with a similar question.

We hope Shaman can solve its late game, because we think it is key for the class to become an attractive choice again. Having a consistent win condition is elemental.

1 Comment

  1. The problem with the DK rune system is less that it’s “too restrictive” and more that there is not enough incentive to run decks that aren’t mono-rune. This is less of a problem with Frost-Unholy since there is some support for deathrattle decks there, but there is no reason at all to run a Blood-Frost deck, and the only Unholy-Blood archetype that currently exists (Handbuff) isn’t interested in running Maw and Paw or A Fistful of Corpses. It’s true these two cards don’t really make sense in their current iteration but a better solution would be to design them to also work in a potential Blood-Unholy archetype rather than just knocking off an Unholy rune and calling it a day.

    The way the rune system should ideally work is that the more general, building-block type cards should have one or no rune. The more runes a card has, the more powerful and specialized it should be. However, two-rune cards should still be designed to work in multiple archetypes. With that in mind, Reska, the Pit Boss is a good example of a well-designed two rune card since it synergizes both with the corpse-heavy Rainbow DK and the UUF Deathrattle DK. If neither of those archetypes pan out and they “buff” Reska by removing a Frost rune I’ll be pretty disappointed, since that’ll create even less incentive for players to try out interesting rune combinations.

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