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Why Overload is the Worst Mechanic in Hearthstone
Overload, intended to be an advantage for the Shaman class, instead is one of the main factors in the class' inability to be competitive in constructed play, largely because it works against the essential tempo of the game.
I like the 'borrowing mana from the future' idea. It should really make Shaman a mega-rush deck. However, as you say, the edge isn't enough to carry you through the next turn of low mana.
What we need to do is change the way that the mana is paid back. Here are a few off-the-cuff ideas, most of which are probably completely unworkable:
1. You choose which turn to pay back your Overload debt. It just keeps accumulating if you keep playing Overload cards until you decide to pay it. HOWEVER - You must pay it back the next turn once you hit 10 mana. In other words, Once you hit 10 mana it goes back to the current Overload mechanic.
I like this idea because it gives you more control over what happens. And by 10 mana you often have extra anyway. Also, the decision on when to take it becomes a bit more strategic.
2. Same as #1, but 10 mana you instead take all the overload points as damage, instead of mana loss. Or maybe have a choice or something.
3. Overload doesn't cost you mana next turn. Instead you burn that many cards off of your deck.
All of these ideas will push Shaman into being more of a rush class. But it seems like that's kinda what Overload wants to be anyway.
Overload is the same but also allows you to pick which totem you get next? I like this one, it gives you both a benefit and a drawback.
Overload actually hits in two turns? Probably too complicated to keep track of.
Rather than hurt you Overload gives your opponent x mana? This is probably terrible.
I like the burn that many cards off your deck one.
From what I see, I'm not surprised that most of these cards are underpowered or not actually better than the default, non-time consuming spell. It seems misguided to me to try to build the basics of a faction, the meat and potatoes of it, with something as inherently unstable as "get the benefit now, pay later". When it comes down to it, I cannot see any benefit to making a Lighting Bolt (or whatever Hearthstone's equivalent is called) more complicated because the effect is not the interesting part of the card.
I like the "pay later" concept best once you get into the superfluous mana stage, but I wonder if that wouldn't be TOO aggro-oriented, such that a Shaman Zoo deck would be so enabled by the speed of Overload that it would be irrelevant for them to pay it on turn 5 once they'd dumped their hand? Of course, that sounds like a mechanic with an actual bonus to it, right? I think what Blizzard is attempting with most of their class mechanics is a bonus for wise play (like Rogue's Combo mechanic) and a penalty for unwise play (also like Combo, because you can easily dump your hand too quickly and stall in the midgame.) The problem with Overload is that it's almost universally poor because of the overall pace of the game, which is something that I think they failed to anticipate (and why Face Hunter is so reviled but also so widely played in order to get out of the lower ranks for the first week of every season.)
I think their approach has been to create ever more powerful Overload cards to try to make the mechanic enticing. But they cut back on the overall power of the cards in the last two expansions (BRM and TGT) such that Totem Golem still isn't generally worth its cost. (TGT has been largely rejected for top-level competitive play because the cards in GvG and Naxx are so much more powerful/useful. Unfortunately, the "power" cards that were supposed to save Shaman still can't compete with the strength and speed of the current meta. My initial thought was simply that Overload needs to be removed. Not all of the classes even have mechanics that identify them. Rogue has Combo, but Mage and Warrior and Priest don't have mechanics. They have themes (Spells, self/minion damage, healing/capture, respectively.) Shaman, OTOH, has two mechanics (Overload and RNG) that are central to the class' play and neither of them are productive in the current game; similar to how Warlock's discard isn't, as most Warlock players go out of their way to avoid it, since random discard in 30-card decks is too high a price to pay for what most of the cards do.
I guess what I'd consider a proper exercise of Overload is a constant presence of the resulting effect. So, you pay Overload for Feral Spirit and next turn both wolves gain +1/+1 or you summon a third. You pay Overload for Lightning Bolt and next turn the static charge it generated hits another random enemy for 2 damage. Either of those effects means that even if you're not able to keep pace with your opponent, at least the mana you're unable to use on that next turn contributes in some way to the board state. Or something more general (in order to minimize card descriptions) such as: You play Feral Spirit and, if you choose to pay the Overload next turn, you get an extra draw at the end of your turn (thus assisting with another significant Shaman problem: draw.) Perhaps there's no choice, as I don't have a good idea in mind for NOT paying it. You'd still lose tempo, but at least you'd gain some card advantage.