Shaman has been the most played class on ranked ladder for quite some time now, and it continues to dominate in all levels of Hearthstone. Aggressive Shaman lists are just as common at Rank 20 as they are in competitive play. The level of consistency that aggressive Shaman lists bring has put the deck on top, all alone, for quite some time now. Blizzard recently announced the next wave of nerfs to the game, Shaman being one big focus. The approach to theses changes was not what many players had in mind, however the changes will still (hopefully) have the desired effect the developers intended.
The first card being nerfed is “Rockbiter Weapon.” A huge reason Shaman has seen such dominance in the recent past is because it’s absurd early game minions and flexibility. Cards like “Tunnel Trogg” and “Totem Golem” combined with early game removal, such as Rockbiter, means Shamans almost always control the board early. The real strength of rockbiter is its flexibility. Combined with “Doomhammer” it provides a 10 damage burst for low mana, AND has the flexibility of removing ⅓ minions – arguably the best stat line for mana in the game – on turn one. Because rockbiter is, and always has been an auto include in every Shaman list, it needed a change.
Rockbiter Weapon is now 2 mana.
What does this mean? Well Rockbiter is by no means bad now. Because of the synergy with “Doomhammer” one of the best cards in the game, the 10 damage burst is still a threat. However this does remove some of its early game flexibility. It can no longer be used to kill another “tunnel trogg” turn one, before it ramps up or is protected by taunt. The removal of this early game threat will hopefully help shaman seem more fair in the early stages of the game.
Will “Rockbiter Weapon” still see play?
I believe it will, just more for combo use.
The next change comes to the 3 drop “Tuskarr Totemic.” Tuskarr is another minion that sees play in most shaman decks because of its potentially huge power swing. If you summon a “Totem Golem” or a “Mana Tide Totem” the stats you are getting for 3 mana are absurd. Because of this tempo swing, Tuskarr, a card meant to fit into the Totem archetype, is seeing play in nearly every list. To fix this problem, Blizzard lowered the potential power spike on turn 3.
Tuskarr Totemic summons a random BASIC totem.
What this change means is the stats you will get on turn 3 are significantly lowered. Basic totems are almost of no help to any Shaman list besides exclusively Totem Shamans. If Tuskarr Totemic does see more play in Shaman lists, it will be in that archetype.
Will Tuskarr Totemic see play?
If it does, it will be in Totem lists, however it may still be too weak even for these mid range totem decks, in which case the card will see little to no play.
“Abusive Sergeant” isn’t a Shaman card, however it fits perfectly into many of the aggressive lists, like Zoo or Shaman, so I figured I’d touch on it in this article. Abusive is being changed because it is massively over represented in aggressive lists, and is an auto include because of its great stat line and it’s battlecry, potentially 4/1 of stats for just one mana is unprecedented. Abusive is great partially because it’s battlecry, but also because it’s flexibility to be played on turn one on an empty board, and threaten many 2 cost minions. The dual use of the card means it’s an auto include in aggro lists.
“Abusive Sergeant” is now a 1/1 stat line
This change means the card will now be used mostly for its battlecry in heavy minion based aggressive decks, not just an auto include in aggro lists. It also means playing it on turn 1 is a much weaker play, seeing that it doesn’t contest 3/2 minions played on turn 2. However not all 1/1 minions are bad, many, including “Swashburglar” still see lots of competitive play, which means hope for Abusive.
Will “Abusive Sergeant” see play?
I think it will still be a strong inclusion in heavy minion aggro decks, and its change to 1/1 stats won’t heavily affect the card.
The changes Blizzard made for Shaman, and Abusive, show they plan to slow the meta down. The flexibility of cards is what seems to have changed, and it seems they want aggressive cards to be more niche, not just auto includes in all lists. Will these changes work? They definitely will have some impact, however I’m not sure they are enough to dethrone Aggressive decks, or Shaman in particular, as many variants of Shaman still thrive in this meta.