Only six days have passed since the release of Descent of Dragons, but the Hearthstone balance team has already announced plans for a nerf targeted at Shaman. While the speed of this response is unprecedented, we believe it’s absolutely necessary to ensure the long-term vibrancy of Hearthstone’s ladder system.
Blizzard, We Have A Problem
If you’ve queued ladder over the last few days, you’ve no doubt been terrorized by the strongest deck in the game: Galakrond Shaman. A quick look at the statistics should be enough to convince you of the list’s power. Galakrond Shaman currently boasts a winrate over 61% across all ranks. This trend is replicated across individual ranks, too:
- Legend - 57.84% (sole occupant of Tier 1)
- Rank 1 - 54.59%
- Rank 2 - 54.36% (sole occupant of Tier 1)
- Rank 3 - 55.89% (sole occupant of Tier 1)
- Rank 4 - 58.01% (sole occupant of Tier 1)
- Rank 5 - 60.59% (sole occupant of Tier 1)
Galakrond Shaman wins against everything. Literally. This may well be the most astounding matchup spread we’ve ever seen. Not only does Galakrond Shaman win, it dominates. Let’s take a look at Galakrond Shaman’s winrates against the ten most popular decks on Ladder:
- Galakrond Quest Shaman - 55%
- Highlander Mage - 59.5%
- Secret Highlander Hunter - 62%
- Holy Wrath Paladin - 42.7%
- Deathrattle Rogue - 58.6%
- Galakrond Rogue - 60.9%
- Pirate Warrior - 65%
- Quest Druid - 72.2%
- Aggro Combo Priest - 56.4%
- Control Warrior - 72.3%
Most of these matchups are downright lopsided, an insult to the ideal of balance.
Truth be told, there are perhaps two “counters” in the metagame, but only one is a true counter: Holy Wrath Paladin. Holy Wrath beats Shaman in about 43% of cases (over a sample of 6,200 games between five and Legend), but because it loses to almost everything else, we still wouldn’t call it viable. Outside of Holy Wrath Paladin, Quest Hunter is the only deck in the metagame to even come close, breaking even against Galakrond Shaman with a winrate of 50% over 4,100 games between five and Legend.
Galakrond Shaman is too powerful, which means, as it usually does, that Galakrond Shaman is too popular. At rank 1, Galakrond Shaman represents an astounding 46.5% of the meta. That’s frankly obscene, and things only get slightly better elsewhere.
- Legend - 24.02%
- Rank 1 - 46.55%
- Rank 2 - 38.96%
- Rank 3 - 31.92%
- Rank 4 - 23.85%
- Rank 5 - 14.72%
- Rank 6 - 25.34%
- Rank 7 - 19.88%
- Rank 8 - 17.28%
- Rank 9 - 15.09%
- Rank 10 - 11.72%
What’s truly surprising is how well-represented Galakrond Shaman has become lower on the ladder. Most dominant decks emerge at Legend, then filter down the ranks over the course of a few weeks as word gets out. Galakrond Shaman has already bucked this trend, instantaneously becoming a force at ranks 6 and below. We rarely see such saturation at lower ranks so early.
Above rank four, every match is a Shaman mirror. At least it feels that way, so ubiquitous is the cry of “Double the power, double the storm!” Nothing could be more stultifying, but it’s downright insulting after the Evolve meta.
Galakrond Shaman’s overwhelming power also means fewer players are venturing out on the Standard ladder. We’ve already observed a plateau in player activity (and remember, it’s only six days after the release of Descent of Dragons). No doubt many of us have been driven to Wild, or back to Battlegrounds. This is likely the worst possible way to have kicked off Descent of Dragons, but here we are, mired again in Shamanstone. It’s clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that Galakrond Shaman is suppressing what could be a diverse meta.
Why Shaman Puts The S In S-Tier
Galakrond Shaman is the best tempo deck in the meta, capable of pumping out terrifying boards turn after turn. But it’s also the best control deck in the meta, in large part because it’s blessed by a keyword generally reserved for Warrior and Hunter: Rush. In fact, Galakrond Shaman proves that Rush is the most powerful keyword, outside of Charge, in the game.
Under normal circumstances, minions must wait, and players must be patient. Summoning sickness is the fatal flaw by which most minions in Hearthstone are marked. Shaman doesn’t have to worry about that anymore. Thanks to the power of Invoke, most of Galakrond Shaman’s key cards circumvent their fatal flaw and make an immediate impact on the board state; these are no longer potential threats, but active ones. Add [Hearthstone Card (Faceless Corrupter) Not Found] to the mix and Shaman becomes uniquely proactive in its game plan. With an endless stream of rushing tokens, Galakrond Shaman can control the board state more efficiently than any other list, setting up its big power plays in Dragon's Pack and Galakrond.
Shaman’s Invoke ability is oppressive because it acts as a near-universal answer to any board state. No wonder Galakrond Shaman is suppressing what could be some of the most powerful decks in the game, including Pirate Warrior, which received an incredible new tool in Ancharrr, and Deathrattle Rogue.
Repealing The Invoke Tax
Perhaps even more important, however, is how Shaman’s Invoke ability balances out the inherent weaknesses of the neutral Invoke cards, Devoted Maniac and Shield of Galakrond. On their face, both minions are under-statted for their cost. This tempo loss comes in exchange for a benefit in the future: a fully-powered Galakrond. But because Shaman’s Invoke summons Rush minions, the full benefits of Invoking aren’t deferred to the future; they’re felt immediately, in the present. In reality, Invoke is a tempo gain for Shaman, rather than a loss. Tempo is king in Hearthstone, and initiative is queen. It’s always been this way, and no one does it better than Galakrond Shaman.
To top things off, Shaman is the only EVIL class to receive a double-Invoker, Corrupt Elementalist. Why Blizzard was so generous we’ll never know.
Invoking Galakrond usually comes at a cost, not only in mana, but also in cards. Normally, it’s a one-to-one ratio - one card equals one Invocation, which makes Invoking your Galakrond a relatively slow process. Only in Shaman is this sensible formula forsaken, because Corrupt Elementalist Invokes twice with a single card.
Thus Shaman is able to Invoke more efficiently than any other class, ensuring that Galakrond is fully-Invoked on curve more often than not. And despite the obvious power increase brought by Descent of Dragons, two 8/8 minions are still extremely difficult to answer on turn 7, especially when they can clear the board with Rush and are accompanied by a 5-attack weapon.
The Best Payoff In The Game
Dragon's Pack adds insult to injury. Outside of Galakrond himself, Dragon’s Pack is the payoff for Invoking, a card that summons two 5/6 spirit wolves with Taunt if you’ve Invoked twice. That’s a ridiculous tempo play in its own right - 10/12 in stats, with Taunt, as early as turn 5. But thanks to Corrupt Elementalist, which satisfies the condition on Dragon’s Pack by itself, playing the spell on curve (if you have the Coin) or on turn 6 is easy.
Dragon’s Pack alone ends the game against many tempo decks, and, since it can come down so early, it’s hard for control decks to clear, too, evading the wrath of Handlock’s Crazed Netherwing, Highlander Mage’s Flamestrike (and Reno the Relicologist) and Galakrond Priest’s Mass Hysteria.
No other EVIL class was given an Invoke payoff card this powerful, at least in terms of bare tempo. Warrior’s payoff card, Scion of Ruin, while an excellent tempo card in its own right, only summons 9/6 in stats (and usually comes down later than turn 5). Rogue’s Umbral Skulker (which adds three Coins to your hand) adds +3/3 to a Questing Adventurer or +6/6 to an Edwin VanCleef. Veiled Worshipper (Warlock) and Fate Weaver (Priest) are tempo-neutral, if not slight losses in today’s Standard metagame. In comparison, 10/12 in stats is monstrous.
Shaman’s Galakrond package is overturned, plain and simple. Thankfully, Blizzard has recognized this fact and plans to act swiftly. We don’t want to see Galakrond Shaman obliterated, though some players surely do. What we want is a vibrant, diverse meta in which numerous strategies, including but not limited to Galakrond Shaman, can succeed on their own terms. As it stands, Galakrond Shaman is both jack and master of all trades.
Honorable Mention: Faceless Corruptor
We know Shaman is getting a nerf, because Blizzard told us so, but if we had to guess, we’d expect changes to come for Faceless Corruptor, too. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, since the card is obviously overturned. Corruptor summons 10/8 in stats, with Rush, as early as turn 5. That’s obscene, and far too good for most players to pass up.
No doubt Blizzard still has flashbacks from the days of Bonemare, when massive tempo swings off the back of a neutral minion were far too common. Like Bonemare back in the day, Corruptor has made its way into almost every metadeck, at least the ones that care about tempo. It’s currently the most-played card in the game, appearing in 52.8% of decks. That sort of representation is likely to make Blizzard uncomfortable.
This week’s Meta Report was a bit different, but we thought it was necessary to address the elephant in the room. As far as fixes go, increasing Corrupt Elementalist’s mana cost could be a start, but it might not be enough. Adding an Overload effect is an interesting option, because it would delay Dragon’s Pack at least one turn. Or Blizzard could go nuclear, fundamentally altering the package’s flavor by removing Rush from the equation.
What do you think? How will Blizzard nerf Shaman? What decks will rise to the top of the meta if the Shaman nerfs are effective? Let us know in the comments!
Does anyone else remember when Shaman was a laughing stock? I do.... 😢
Well, idk, ok, maybe it's because I'm playing around at trash rank ~15, but I actually didn't have any problems against galakrond shaman with galakrond miracle rogue. It's what most of the enemies are, and I did not lose even a single game against them.
Is the deck really that OP?... Treant druid and pirate warrior seem much better to me (against rogue)
You aren't going to run into an deck that oppressive at low ranks because everyone using it is ranking up. The people who are using it and not ranking up are either so bad it doesn't matter what they play or don't have enough cards/dust to make the deck properly.
Yes, I have the same experience with my highlander Mage deck, no issues dealing with Shaman... at rank 14... I chalk it up to people netdecking who don't know how to use the deck.
I think one nerf that would go a long way is to remove the word "twice" from Corrupt Elementalist, no need to touch the stats. That alone would go a long way in defusing this situation. That and making the last stage of Galakrond give 6/6s instead of 8/8s should be sufficient.
Kind of funny that i wasn't really sure what to play but i had most od the cards for Quest Galakrond Shaman so i made up a list and turns out it's OP so i haven't really played anything else aside from pirate warrior. It's kinda disgusting. I also got a golden Nithogg and decides to play that despite many thinking its bad. Works pretty well if you can double the battlecry, and otherwise just baits removal so i kinda like it so far. Curious what exactly they plan to change to balance this.
You know it's bad when Blizzard releases an announcement 2 DAYS after the launch saying "upcoming balance patch coming next week"
LOL I'm holding off on playing Galakrond until that happens, I'll stay happy with my mid range overload shaman
This may be a bit off topic, but a meta like this makes Legends of Runeterra look better and better. I can't wait for the beta in a few weeks hopefully. I'm sure Blizzard will deal some hefty nerfs to Galakrond Shaman, but that would still leave Quest Shaman to deal with. LoR will certainly have it's own balance issues, but at least they will be new. HS expansions lately have felt like slightly new twists on mechanics they've had for years. Is anyone else ready to move on?
Guys i dont wanna break your whole thing, but while corrupt the waters stays like it is, shaman is gonna stay overpowered. Brann on steroids every turn is just too much value and tempo and pressure for any deck to deal with. Most likely change (and what i think they will do) is change the heart of vir nal effect from "all battlecries this turn trigger twice" to -> "your next battlecry this turn triggers twice".
Only possible way that card isnt toxic in the meta for another whole year and a half
That would probably nuke the quest. Probably best just to increase the requirement to finish up the quest from 6 to 8 battlecry minions.
Better to just simply not print good battlecry cards for shaman. Or HoF Mind Control Tech.
Increasing the requirement by two wouldn't hurt the deck at all. For one, there are plenty of battlecry cards that add battlecry cards to your hand (most notably lackeys, but also any bouncers/copy to your hand minions also count), so increasing the requirement by two would only delay them by a turn or two. Plus, the deck isn't overpowered because they get the quest so early and overwhelm you with tempo (it is partly that) but most of the time they are able to win because they have so many ways to recover and continue to apply pressure throughout the entire game due to the quest reward. So pushing back the quest by only one or two turns wouldn't stop them.
Making the hero power only affect the next battlecry would be fair though. You say it would just kill them, but no, it would however stop them from getting double lackeys into double discover a spell into double two cost minion, and now they have a full board and hand just from playing a single Sludge Slurper. It wouldn't kill the quest, it would just stop shaman's from getting stupid amounts value in a single turn. You could still use the quest, but you would have to play less, bigger battlecries, instead of spamming hundreds of little ones. With this change, you could still get value from your quest, you just have to be smarter, and more conservative about it.
Without the quest completion I think its fair to say that quest shaman is mostly dead. At that point its a highroll Mogu Fleshshaper (by far the most oppressive card in SoU) mutate combo or get your prayers from ethereal lackey.
Quest shaman actually starts with pretty weak tempo and until their quest completion, can't actually push anything aside from Mogu Fleshshaper. That was why quest druid destroys the deck. I think by increasing the quest requirement from 6 to 8 or 9 substantially weakens the deck enough for most mid range decks to get through. That is, of course, if quest shaman remains to be anything after this nerf.
It was oppressive early in SoU but mellowed a little until the Doom in the tomb event. Its not easy to pilot this deck and its far from being the best deck in the meta then. There's no need to push it that far off the edge.
I agree wholeheartedly.
Great suggestions in the comments. My favorites:
1) Hero power is 1/1 Rush instead of 2/1 Rush.
2) Add Overload (1) to BOTH Invocation of Frost and Corrupt Elementalist.
3) Change Battlecry to 1x 4/4 Rush, 2x 4/4 Rush, 4x 4/4 Rush
4) Even with all that I think you still nerf Dragon's Pack to 6 mana.
5) Take this opportunity to nerf Mogu Fleshshaper to 10 mana.
6) Nerf Faceless Corruptor to a 3/2, making it a slightly worse neutral version of Restless Mummy, an already excellent card.
1) Change Priest Galakrond's hero power to: Discover a Priest Minion. It would still likely suck and be untenable in the meta, but at least I wouldn't be playing Lightwell on turn 15 with no follow-up.
Instead of Buffing Priest Galakrond, try running Princess Talanji. She makes some amazing tempo swing turns summoning all those minions you've been collecting.
This doesn't really solve the problem of getting bad minions like Lightwell or Test Subject (or, to a lesser extent, Spirit of the Dead), which mostly act as a dead card and add no real tempo value even if you cheat them out of your hand.
There are also a lot of conditionally useful minions that you'll be annoyed to get even if they are tempo-positive. Examples include Dead Ringer and Sand Drudge and Zerek, Master Cloner. These are all worse than vanilla if your deck isn't built to leverage their effects, and you can't possibly build around all such effects in a Galakrond deck. (Special callout to Quartz Elemental, which is better than vanilla but has anti-synergy with losing the Lesser Heal hero power when you become Galakrond.)
I have tried. Oh, have I tried.
if something like your bonus happens, i would be glad if they buff the mage quest, by far the worst quest
2) probably also fair, but I'd rather Frost was just a straight-up 2-mana card so it's not just a free removal against pretty much any 1-drop in the game.
3) not sure if that wouldn't make it even more powerful, given that it would end up with the same amount of stats except more flexible distributio
4) that wouldn't change much because in most cases that's when you play it anyways (right after Elementalist...unless they actually add Overload there, which would somewhat balance it out). I'd rather the downsize the wolves to 4/5s (aka +2/+2) since most decks in the meta don't have accesss to 6 damage removal.
5) that or applying to friendlies only (and maybe going down to 6-mana so it can still be played for 0 in a best case scenario + the benefit of it not being as broken of a Mutate target)
6) I'd rather they jsut nerf the health down to 2 or 3. Thee problem with Corruptor is the amount of stats in puts in play that need to be dealt with (after they most likely cleared your board). By reducing the Health they'd still be a decent comeback mechanic for token heavy decks, but much less effective as an actual aggressive play.
oh and for you Bonuns....don't. So far Galakrond Priest seems weak, but it could become amazing in any meta where outressourcing your opponent is important, and I don't want another Rexxar/Dr. Boom situation. Delivery Drone has proven that having the choice out of 3 minions will usually give you an outcome to swing the current situation in your favour and Priest has a fairly szeable collection if decently sized minions. Wouldn't want them to throw those out every turn while you struggle to even stay on the board.
For what it's worth, I'm not totally convinced that your comparisons are fair.
I think "Discover a Priest Minion" is inherently a lot weaker than the other two hero powers. In the case of Deathstalker Rexxar, you got to build unusually powerful cards by combining effects that would typically not be together in the interest of balance. If his hero power had simply been "Discover a Beast," he would not have been nearly as oppressive. In the case of Dr. Boom, Mad Genius, there really is no bad mech because every mech has rush. Add to that the fact that several mechs in standard have removal effects (Omega Devastator and Dyn-o-matic for example), and you get a hero power that makes controlling the board trivial. By comparison, Priest minions are often weak and rarely generate the kinds of tempo swings you'd see with Deathstalker Rexxar and Dr. Boom, Mad Genius.
Now, there is some math to suggest that discover could be dangerous. Today there are 41 Priest minions in standard, and if we assert that about 25% of them are generically good (e.g. Catrina Muerte, Murozond the Infinite), then you'd have a shot at picking one of these good minions about 58% of the time. Those are pretty good odds and could make for some major swing turns, but many of those are still at or under vanilla in terms of stats. Even the ones that might provide a lot more tempo above their costs probably can't impact the board immediately (e.g. Murozond the Infinite and Princess Talanji can create big boards, but don't automatically clear your opponent's stuff). So there are lots of cases where getting a high power minion still doesn't auto-win you the game.
All that said, while discover doesn't scare me all that much, I think I'd be satisfied with simply removing some minions from the random pool for Galakrond, so you wouldn't be stuck getting total garbage like Lightwell. Any buff is generally unlikely, but I do think a buff would be important to make this hero power viable - right now it's incredibly easy to get garbage minions like Lightwell or hyper situational minions like Sand Drudge that are hard to get value out of in a deck that isn't built to use them.