The full Fractured in Alterac Valley set has been revealed and it's time to look at all the new cards and look at how Shaman will be doing this expansion. We'll be breaking each of the Shaman cards down.
- You can see all the new cards in our Fractured in Alterac Valley guide.
- Our deckbuilder will let you theorycraft your own decks using the new cards before the expansion arrives.
- You can simulate pack openings in our Fractured in Alterac Valley Pack Opening Simulator.
- Don't forget to take part in our Tavern Crawl to earn on-site cosmetics!
Keep in mind that this is an early look at the class before we've been able to play with the new cards, so while we try to be as accurate as possible in our predictions of what is to come, no one can perfectly predict the Hearthstone meta.
Shaman Deck Themes in Fractured in Alterac Valley
Unlike the United in Stormwind set, Shaman appears to be focused on just one direction this go-around: Freeze! Frost spells! A third cold reference! Will this singular approach lead to more than just memes and dreams, for an archetype Blizzard hasn't bothered with since Knights of the Frozen Throne? Time will tell, but one thing is certain: Winter is here, and it's cold! (whoops wrong class)
Bru'kan of the Elements
When you don't know what to do with your second copy of The Runespear.
Well... Shaman does have one thing that isn't related to the Freeze archetype, and that is the Hero card. Functionally speaking, Bru'kan of the Elements's Battlecry is like a combination of Kalimos, Primal Lord's Elemental Invocations with Siamat's choice system: you choose one of the Hero Power options, then choose one of the other options for your second Element. Fire Invocation's Fireball to the enemy's face, while you add to the board with Earth Invocation? Sounds like a plan! After this, the Hero Power rotates through just like Dr. Boom, Mad Genius.
Kalimos is one of my favorite cards from the past, so naturally a new one piques my interest. And, in all honesty, the Legendary minion will be headed to the bench: you lose the 7/7 body, sure, but:
- A. there's no Elemental requirement for the Hero card, and
- B. just about everything else is simply better.
It's not a win condition on its own, but this is a card you can run in almost any non-Aggro Shaman deck, benefiting from its versatility and (revolving) value.
R.I.P. Kalimos, you will be missed... except I might still play you in a dedicated Elemental deck ;)
"He's an Elemental." "...but he looks like a bear." "I said Elemental."
With the Hero card out of the way, let's get that snowball rollin'! And why not start with the main event: the board fill payoff for all the Frost spells you're gonna play? The Frozen Stagguards are nothing to sneeze at, being almost as good as Water Elementals. A 6/6 body mass-generating copies of a 3-cost minion is a pretty good play for 7-mana, as long as the condition is manageable, so... is it? Windchill is a solid card all on its own (more on that later), and Sleetbreaker creates more Windchills, so we say yes. If a board full of Freezers combines with Cheaty Snobold the way we think it does, this is your end-game: stall, stall, and stall some more, then burst 'em down for the win.
If we have concerns about this card, it ultimately boils down to the fact that the Stagguards are not as good as Water Elementals. That +2 Health could make all the difference, when we've got cards like Shield Shatter, Soul Rend, Chaos Nova, and Flamestrike in the Standard set ready and willing to wipe out your board. That would make for a sad Shaman.
Ironically (thankfully?) has nothing to do with mana-cheating.
To be frank, this card's usage might live or die on how Freezing is coded in Hearthstone. If you can "refreeze" a target that's already Frozen, and thus re-proc Cheaty Snobold's effect, that would be bonkers. Imagine a board of those Frozen Stagguards inflicting essentially double damage to the enemy's face with each attack: that's what we call a "win condition" in the biz. Slap this down and win some games.
Even if it won't work like that, Cheaty Snobold can still be a fine card: you can clear with Snowball Fight!, Snowfall Guardian, or Windchill, or throw some damage into the opponent's face via Glacial Shard or Invocation of Frost in Wild. It just won't be as... cool *puts on sunglasses*
Little rascals to play with sold separately.
It's Bouncing Blade with the Freeze component, guaranteed to kill something while locking out most of the board if-not everyone. You wouldn't want to use this when you have a major board yourself, obviously, but when your side is empty you're looking at Frost Nova with some additional damage thrown in. If it combos with Cheaty Snobold correctly, then you could be looking at some major clearing power: Snobold will be the one doing the killing, so Snowball Fight! should continue going until it accidentally gets a kill on its own. That's a two-card, 6-mana combo, though, so how practical it is remains to be seen.
Still, if this archetype is to survive the cold Hearthstone wilderness that we know and endure, it needs to be able to hold off the Pirate Warriors of the world. This might be able to help do that, and that has to be worth something.
People be crackin' jokes until an 8-mana minion with Mega-Charge comes out.
Before we get into how good this card is or isn't, let's do some research! Here are all the potential 8-drops in Standard that can have an immediate impact on the board despite being Frozen:
That's 3 out of the potential 11 Shaman or Neutral 8-mana minions available in the Standard pool. If we're being generous, we can include Troll Centurion (for it has Rush, and thus will unfreeze sooner), Plagued Protodrake, and Arcane Devourer (both of which at least have something that is not a wasted Battlecry). That brings our total to 6, or roughly half. Still, we'd rather have one of the three mentioned above, which is just a measly 27% of our options. This means we risk whiffing, and Freeze Shaman - for all its stalling power - doesn't have that kind of time.
In Wild, the math explodes in both directions, increasing the number of minions we would want to receive but weighing us down with many more that we don't. The Lich King or Ragnaros the Firelord might be great targets; Tortollan Primalist or The Boogeymonster... not so much.
Do deer-popsicles even have paws?
For 4-mana, Wildpaw Cavern will give the player 9/12 in stats across three bodies and three turns. That's nothing to scoff at, especially since the Frozen Stagguard can Freeze to boot. Unlike most of the other objective spells, this doesn't ask for any additional commitment or required synergy; you're just... given a minion. Thrice. The spell isn't super flashy and won't close out games on its own, but the slight loss of tempo can turn into incredible value. We don't know if the objective is absolutely a requirement for the furthering of Freeze Shaman, but you can't go wrong with it either; it might even see play in a more general Control Shaman.
You get a Windchill! And you get a Windchill! Everybody gets a Windchill!
Sleetbreaker is a premium 2-mana body with the Elemental tag, and all the synergy that comes with it. The minion gives you the aforementioned Windchill, a spell that Freezes and draws you a card. As we'll get to below, that's a high quality reward, so more of it can only be a good thing. If Freeze Shaman takes off, this will be the sauce that ties the whole meal together. Not as exciting as a free car, but we'll take two.
"He guards the snow." "Like, all of it?" "All of it."
This is quite the statement play. Frost Nova those pesky Pirates while you drop what could be a 6/6 or better; what's not to like about Snowfall Guardian? It's not like you need your Cheaty Snobold to attack much, either, so you might as well include him in the mix for an additional +1/+1 and a bunch of clearing damage. Freeze Shaman needs threats to end the game with, or it's just stalling for no reason: this is one of those minions.
His dental insurance must be amazing.
2-mana "Deal 3 damage" is the standard, but we moved beyond the simple Darkbomb. While Frostbite does not have anything to do with Freezing on its own, it can be a solid card for the archetype. Many early game minions have 3-Health, meaning the Honorable Kill should be easy to trigger. The effect - increasing the Cost of your opponent's next spell by (2) - has no time-table; it'll sit there annoying them until they find the time (and mana) to deal with the consequences. For 2-mana you didn't just simply clear a minion: you messed with their tempo, or locked them out of a combo. If you're going first, you might even have denied them access to The Coin, further disrupting their options. You don't need to time your Cult Neophyte and risk whiffing; you just set it and forget it!
This is a lot of words to say that Frostbite comes with a lot of potential, and if all else fails...you can always go face.
It's all fun and games until it feels like thirty-below...
If Freeze Shaman is to be anything more than a meme this time around, it'll be Windchill making the dream come true. 1-mana "Freeze a minion" isn't great - Freezing Potion is better than that - but the "Draw a card" is what makes this spell truly special. Shaman needs more drawing power - they're willing to run Far Sight, a 3-mana spell just to draw a single card! This, on the other hand, can cycle itself on the cheap, while stalling out your opponent and proccing your eventual Bearon Gla'shear play. Blizzard said "We want Windchill to be worth it so much, we'll include Sleetbreaker so you can Windchill your Windchill while you Netflix and Windchill." We're paraphrasing, of course, but the fact remains that a good card you can run in your deck four times should never be underestimated. You might even run Wandmaker just for the slightest chance of pulling more of them!
Quick thoughts for every Neutral card from Fractured in Alterac Valley with the word "Freeze" or "Frost" in their text:
- Popsicooler: Too slow. The Deathrattle can be exploited in other classes; the Shaman doesn't care about that.
- Snowblind Harpy: Not bad. Freeze Shaman has no healing, so 5 Armor isn't the worst thing. But if all goes according to plan, you should be stalling your opponent out such that you don't need to worry about your Health.
- Icehoof Protector: A bigger Voodoo Hexxer. Probably not worth the Cost/effort.
- Ice Revenant: The most appealing Neutral for Freeze Shaman, especially in Standard. Windchill and Sleetbreaker can quickly ramp this up.
- Herald of Lokholar: Draw is always nice; the body and Cost...not so much. We're (hopefully) not that desperate.
Theorycrafting Shaman in Fractured in Alterac Valley
The Shaman only has one mindset in this expansion, so if we want to play with the new cards, we'll have to lean into it:
Featuring a whopping 20 cards from Fractured in Alterac Valley, this is a rough draft of Freeze Shaman in Standard. Most of our best minions are Elementals, so a side-package of Kindling Elemental and Granite Forgeborn will help play them out faster. A copy of Rustrot Viper holds down the fort in case we run into The Unstoppable Force or The Immovable Object, although we can always try to Freeze them out. We don't have many options in Standard, so it is what it is for now. We think leaning harder into the Elementals might be the right call, but then it won't necessarily be a Freeze deck anymore :/
Conversely, Alterac Valley Shaman might look a lot more fun in Wild:
Invocation of Frost marries the Freeze archetype with Galakrond, the Tempest, which will hopefully lead to more board control and greater threats to end the game with. Zentimo can make our 1-cost spells triple in value, while Shudderwock can bring it home with a fresh board and a Frozen opponent. This deck drops the 4-mana bodies of the Standard deck in favor of Kazakus, Golem Shaper, both to make space and to better synergize with Shudderwock.
Closing Thoughts on Shaman in Fractured in Alterac Valley
We can only hope that, this time around, Freeze/Frost Shaman will be more than a recurring joke. The class has devoted an entire expansion to making the idea workable, with a much higher level of power and synergy than when we last saw it in Knights of the Frozen Throne.
Speaking of which, you'll notice that we didn't include old cards like Ice Breaker or meme-master Moorabi in our Wild deck. Sadly, we think they're just too low in power level (and/or too high in Cost) to justify their inclusion. With Freeze Shaman being given a chance at redemption, could this lead to such cards making an appearance in next Year's Core set? Perhaps with a buff or two, a 4/4/4 Moorabi or 2-mana Ice Breaker could see a new shot at life. This is all wishful thinking, of course, but as someone who created custom Freeze Shaman cards and expansions for the last few years, I know now that all it takes is one person out there to make the effort. Don't let your memes be dreams, kids.
Be sure to share your thoughts on the Shaman in the comments! And as always, stay frosty.
More From Fractured in Alterac Valley
We've got more class reviews that you won't want to miss! Don't forget that you can see all the cards coming in the expansion in our Alterac Valley Expansion Guide and if you want to test your luck, you can head on over to our pack opener to crack some packs.