Game Designer Max McCall Talks About Shamans

Game Designer Max McCall Talks About Shamans

Max McCall, a Game Designer on the Hearthstone team had some things to say about the current state of Shamans in the game.

To summarize:

  • There are three different types of Shaman decks currently popular, but they are not different enough to feel like that when playing against them.
  • Dragon decks like Priest and Warrior as well as Reno decks are good against them. If you want to win versus a Shaman, play Reno Warlock.
  • In general, about 1 in 4 of your opponents is a Shaman, which is kind of boring and they are not fine with it.
  • The problem with Shaman is not that they are winning too often.
  • Shamans are more popular than they like, and if it continues to be this way they might do something about it.

Read his full thoughts below:

Quote from Max McCall
We are keeping an eye on Shaman decks and we’ll see how they develop. We say that a lot. Here is what it means:

Okay, so: there are a few different kinds of Shaman decks:

  • There are aggressive Shaman decks that play a Pirate package and no Jade cards
  • There are slightly slower Shaman decks that play Pirates and Jade cards
  • And there are even slower Shaman decks that play the Jade cards but no Pirates

All of those decks are strong, but they are all weak against Dragon decks (like Priest and Warrior) and Reno decks. If you’re tired of losing to Shamans, play Reno Warlock. In some ways, that is fine: Shamans are popular, but there are strategies that are good against them.

In other ways, it is less fine. Collectively, Shamans are popular; you play against a Shaman about one game in four. Now, the reason that a ‘balanced’ metagame is desirable isn’t because ‘balanced’ metagames don’t have dominant strategies. They are desirable because you play against different classes more frequently, which means you have a wider variety in the types of Hearthstone games that you play. Playing Shaman isn’t a dominant strategy – again, they lose to plenty of decks – but it is still boring to play against the same class over and over again.

And even though the Shaman decks have distinct differences, those differences are small. If you played against Warlocks one game in four, but half of your Warlock opponents were playing slow Reno control decks and the other half were playing aggressive minion decks, those games would feel very different from one another. On the other hand, when you lose to Tunnel Trogg, Totem Golem, Feral Spirit three times in a row, it doesn’t matter if some of those Shamans had a Pirate package or if one of them had Jade cards. Your games still felt very homogenous and weren’t that fun especially the third time around.

The point I am trying to make is ‘classes can be problematic even though they do not win too often.’ Shamans don’t win too often. Right now, they are more popular than we’d like. If they are too popular for too long, we will do something about it, as we did when we nerfed them a couple of months ago. However, it takes time to assess whether or not a class will cause the game to feel too homogenous for too long. On release, Mech Mage and recently Pirate Warrior were more popular than Shamans have ever been – but only for a few weeks, then people discovered alternative strategies and the decks became less popular. Because we know that Shamans have weaknesses, we hope that those strategies will become more popular and drive down Shaman popularity a bit so that you play against more classes more often.

We are going to keep evaluating Shaman popularity in the near future, and if we don’t like what we see, we will change something about the metagame. Perhaps we will change a card. Perhaps we will see Shaman popularity fall and not have to step in at all. Perhaps we will wait to introduce a new set and see if that creates the metagame change we want. Either way, it is a thing we are actively concerned about and paying attention to.


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