Hearthstone’s Journey to Un’Goro expansion cards have all been revealed, and now is the time to really start theorizing over upcoming decks.
One of the most straightforward decks to predict is Elemental Shaman. Blizzard has added a ton of Elemental cards to the game, especially for Shaman, and building this tribe deck looks fairly simple and straightforward.
However, in reality there are quite a few choices to make.
In this post, I will examine the elementals available for Shaman, and theorycraft an Elemental Shaman deck around them.
New Shaman and neutral Elementals and their synergy cards
There is a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get on with it.
I like Glacial Shard. It is a neutral 1-mana 2/1 Elemental with a battlecry to freeze an enemy. In other words, it can freeze either a minion or the hero. It can try to secure a good trade in the early game, and even a little later in the game the freeze effect can be used to postpone an awkward situation. That 1 Health is not too impressive though.
Fire Fly is a neutral 1-mana 1/2 Elemental that gives you another 1-mana 1/2 Elemental to your hand as a battlecry. Because most elemental synergies require you to have played an Elemental on the previous turn, the ability to create these cheap Elementals to play and fill up your curve is very useful. Unless other Elementals are so plentiful that you never need more activators, I expect Fire Fly to see a lot of play. At the very least, Hunters will play it to complete their quest faster.
Air Elemental is a Shaman 1-mana 2/1 Elemental that cannot be targeted by spells or hero powers. Cards such as Faerie Dragon and Soggoth the Slitherer have shown that this is a powerful ability, but I have my doubts about the Air Elemental, mostly because of that 1 Health. Ironically, Druid and Rogue can easily deal with it with their Hero Power, whereas neither was really willing to hit head first into a Faerie Dragon multiple times. Still, I see that this card has potential to see play.
Volatile Elemental is a neutral 2-mana 1/1 Elemental with a deathrattle to deal 3 damage to a random enemy minion. As the early Elementals are quite weak, there can be a niche for this damage, but overall a 2-mana 1/1 looks weak.
Fire Plume Harbinger
Fire Plume Harbinger is a Shaman 2-mana 1/1 Elemental with a Battlecry to reduce the cost of Elementals in your hand by 1. Despite the horrendous statline, the effect is very powerful, it’s a Fire Plume Emperor!
This card outlines the gameplan of Elemental Shaman: low pressure on the first couple of turns into increasingly powerful plays from turn 3 on.
Thunder Lizard is a neutral 3-mana 3/3 Beast with a battlecry to Adapt, if you played an Elemental on the previous turn. It can be a powerful play on turn 3, as it can come out as a 3/6, 4/4, or a 3/3 with Divine Shield, but not all Adapts are that good.
Even though you will get a good adapt most of the time, I don’t expect Thunder Lizard to see play in Elemental Shaman. Turn three is too early to break your Elemental chain, there is better stuff coming on four.
Tar Creeper is a neutral 3-mana 1/5 Elemental with Taunt and +2 attack during your opponent’s turn. On your opponent’s turn, it’s a Sen’jin Shieldmasta for one less mana! And Sen’jin is not a bad card itself!
Tar Creeper plays a key role in allowing the Elemental Shaman to start stabilizing and contesting the board after its slow start.
Igneous Elemental is a neutral 3-mana 2/3 Elemental with a deathrattle to add two 1/2 Elementals to your hand. It can be used to generate more Elemental synergy enablers, but on turn 3 it is a big tempo loss, so I’m unsure whether it will see play.
Falling behind for three turns in a row is hard, but it can be a consideration if you need more Elementals and are perhaps ready to play it off-curve. On the other hand, a fairly straightforward curve deck such as Elemental Shaman may not want to play cards that are meant to be played off-curve.
Hot Spring Guardian
Hot Spring Guardian is a Shaman 3-mana 2/4 Elemental with Taunt and a battlecry to restore 3 health. Alongside Tar Creeper, it forms the beginning of the roadblock Elemental Shaman can build. Many people are tempted to pick one or the other, but I believe both are good enough to see play, as starting to stabilize on three will be of huge importance.
Tol’Vir Stoneshaper is a neutral 4-mana 3/5 with a battlecry to gain Taunt and Divine Shield, if you played an Elemental on the previous turn. It is a key reason to not break your Elemental chain on three: you really want this guy out on four. A very powerful card, even though it is not an Elemental itself, so it will break your Elemental chain.
Fire Plume Phoenix
Fire Plume Phoenix is a neutral 4-mana 3/3 Elemental with a battlecry to deal 2 damage. The statline is pretty bad, but it does have an immediate effect when it hits the board, and considering that you have most likely played a taunt on three, it might be able to finish off a wounded enemy minion if it lands on curve.
It’s not one of my favorite Elementals, but looking at the mana curve available for an Elemental Shaman deck, I think it will see a lot of play.
Servant of Kalimos
Servant of Kalimos is a neutral 5-mana 4/5 Elemental with a battlecry to discover an Elemental if you played an Elemental on the previous turn.
If you go for a Tol’Vir Stoneshaper on four, you cannot drop this fellow on curve, but it is going to see a ton of play. The ability to Discover is a big deal in maintaining the resource base of Elemental Shaman, not to mention that you are likely to be able to pick a very good card from it.
Frozen Crusher is a neutral 6-mana 8/8 Elemental that freezes itself after it attacks. In practice, it can only attack every other turn. I am not convinced the big statline justifies such a major drawback, and the mana cost is a bit high to run even with classes who have silence effects. I don’t expect this to see play.
Stormwatcher is a neutral 7-mana 4/8 Elemental with Windfury. Like all other low-attack, high-health Windfury minions that cost a lot, I don’t expect it to see play.
Stone Sentinel is a Shaman 7-mana 4/4 Elemental with a battlecry to summon two 2/3 Elementals with Taunt if you played an Elemental on the previous turn. That’s a total of 8/10 stats over three bodies for 7 mana. Helps you defend, goes wide on the board. I believe this is strong enough to see play.
Blazecaller is a neutral 7-mana 6/6 Elemental with a battlecry to deal 5 damage, if you played an Elemental on the previous turn. This card is nuts! Same mana cost as Firelands Portal. Saman amount of damage as Firelands Portal. Always summon a 6/6. An automatic 2 off in all Elemental Shaman decks.
Kalimos, Primal Lord
Kalimos, Primal Lord is the Shaman class legendary minion. It is an 8-mana 7/7 Elemental that casts an Elemental Invocation as a battlecry if you played an Elemental on the previous turn. You can choose the Elemental Invocation to be cast from among:
- Deal 3 damage to all enemy minions
- Fill your board with 1/1 Elementals
- Restore 12 health to your hero
- Deal 6 damage to the enemy hero
I have reviewed Kalimos in full before, so let’s just recap that it’s very, very, very good.
Ozruk is a neutral legendary minion. It is a 9-mana 5/5 Elemental with Taunt that gains +5 Health for each Elemental you played on the previous turn. Notice that this is played, not summoned, so curving from Kalimos that fills your board to Ozruk still only counts as one Elemental played.
Ozruk can be pretty powerful, but it requires you to have summoned at least two Elementals on the previous turn: at 5/10 it’s just an expensive Ancient of War, but at 5/15 or 5/20 it’s getting to a point where it requires hard removal.
I think Ozruk will see experimentation at least, but it is not an automatic inclusion to an Elemental deck, because growing it big enough requires a fair bit of resources.
Old cards that receive the Elemental tag
Overall, 18 old cards are receiving the Elemental tag.
For an Elemental Shaman deck, the most significant ones are:
- Unbound Elemental (unlikely to see play as there is hardly any overload in Elemental Shaman)
- Earth Elemental (a strong taunt option, although heavy overload price)
- Fire Elemental (a great fit)
- Al’Akir the Windlord (potential finisher)
- Frost Elemental (the effect is still good, but competes with Fire Elemental)
- Baron Geddon (strong effect, but might not fit a board-centric deck)
Building an Elemental Shaman
The gameplan itself looks crystal clear. The first turns will be weak, but from turn 3 on taunts will first help you stabilize and then powerful battlecry effects will start to turn the board to your favor.
There are still a few ways to go about fulfilling this plan, and some important questions lie ahead.
To totem up or not to totem up
One of the most powerful Shaman cards recently is the Thing from Below. Often coming out even for free in the late-game, slamming down one of these in addition to whatever else you’re doing is always a big tempo swing.
But can Elemental Shaman fit in Thing from Below?
I have been trying to work on a list that would include Flametongue Totem, Mana Tide Totem, and Thing from Below. This would help with card draw, getting better trades with your weak early-game minions, and achieve stronger tempo swings in the late game with free 5/5s.
On the other hand, you weak early-game minions are likely going to be traded away before you can drop a Flametongue Totem to help them out, and you are generally playing on curve anyway, so finding that 2 mana to spend on the totem might not be possible.
Mana Tide totem is great if you can hide it behind your taunt in the mid-game, but again you really want to be playing on curve.
Finally, unless you have some Totem cards in your deck, Thing from Below does not get enough discounts to be worthwhile.
So far, I have not been able to find a satisfactory way to include those cards in the deck. Mana Tide Totem can work alone, so it would be the easiest one to find a spot for.
Card draw and area-of-effect spells
Without Mana Tide Totems and Azure Drakes (which is rotating out), Elemental Shaman’s card draw is pretty abysmal. Basically, you are down to Servant of Kalimos generating additional Elementals and Bloodmage Thalnos boosting your area-of-effect spells a little while cycling itself.
With a slow early game, area-of-effect spells seem to be crucial in order to get a foothold on the board. Maelstrom Portal and Lightning Storm are the obvious candidates, but it would also be possible to consider Volcano. The downside is that Volcano deals damage to the entire board just when you’re about to stabilize, so even if it is a board clear, it gives the initiative right back to the opponent on the following turn.
Devolve is another option to consider, as it can help break synergies (Pirates and Southsea Captain) as well as make cheap, big minions much less intimidating (Bittertide Hydra, Flamewreathed Faceless). If the Paladin legendary quest and Galvadon ever becomes a thing, Devolve can deal with that, too.
The list itself
That said, here is my first draft of an Elemental Shaman. The deck starts out slow, begins to contest the board with its powerful minions and area-of-effect spells, and ultimately overwhelms the opponent.
I have chosen to include one copy of Glacial Shard as another cheap Elemental activator that can also help stall the game if needed.
There are some Elementals I have chosen not to include, but that could see play in some other lists. Air Elemental, Igneous Elemental, Earth Elemental, Al’Akir the Windlord, and Ozruk at least are cards that I can imagine seeing play in some other lists.