You work with the spirits of the world to lead your party through danger, calling on your spirit companion to aid your allies and hinder your foes. Unlike other leaders tied to their gods, military training, or arcane powers, you serve the wild and primal forces of the world. Your spirit companion acts almost as another member of the party, aiding your allies while letting you act on a wider range of the battle field than most other leaders. This also means that your tend to stay farther in the back lines than any other type of leader, preferring your companion stays on the front line for you. Depending on the type of spirit companion you have you may help your allies do extra damage, heal more, stop enemy movement, or grant extra attacks. Prepare well since adventure awaits.
Red: Don’t take this, there is always something better
Purple: Might be useful sometimes, but there are almost always better options
Black: Good enough
Blue: Good choice and might be the best depending on different factors.
Sky Blue: Almost always one of the best choices
Gold: Must Have. Given out very rarely and usually for specific builds.
I am more conservative in my ratings in this guide than a lot of other charop guides are, so many powers and paragon paths for instance that get black or blue ratings are still pretty good. Shamans are very build dependent when it comes to making choices for stats, powers, feats, and paragon paths.
Sources: PHB: Player's Handbook; PHB2: Player's Handbook 2; DP: Divine Power; PP: Primal Power FRPG: Forgotten Realms Player's Guide; MM: Monster Manual; MM2: Monster Manual 2; AV: Adventurer's Vault; AV2: Adventurer’s Vault 2; D#: Dragon Magazine #; MOTP: Manual of the Planes; PHBH: Player's Handbook Heroes; MP: Martial Power; MP2: Martial Power 2 AP: Arcane Power; EPG: Eberron Player's Guide; DS: Dark Sun Handbook; PsP: Psionic Power
Thanks to everyone who contributes! If you do contribute try to include sources since there are so many books and dragon magazine articles now it is tough to know where these things are from and readers (including me) may need some help.. Lastly a favor to ask, if you respond to another person's long post please just quote the relevant parts and if you post a complete build or something similar try to hide it in a spoiler box(["sblock=title] text [/"slblock] without the quote marks) since that will make the handbook less cluttered. Also if you note any minor errors/typos let me know via private message.
So Why Play a Shaman?
The Warlord is good at granting extra attacks and damage, the Cleric can heal like crazy, the Bard gets to multiclass a lot, and the Artificer gets to spread surges: What do Shamans offer?
Your spirit companion: This makes the shaman the most interesting class to play as far as tactics go. If you like the challenge of controlling and using powers from your own character, your spirit companion, and possibly a second conjuration along with some zones all at once, then the shaman is probably the right class for you. It also gives you great range, with the ability to target enemies and help allies 21 squares away starting at level 1
Well Rounded Leader: the shaman is decent at all parts of being a leader. Clerics usually lag behind other leaders in ally movement and granting attacks, warlords are often not that good at healing etc., but shamans are decent to good at every thing from granting saves to ally movement. Also their at wills, encounter powers, and paragon paths are all pretty well balanced against each other so it is easier to make up for deficiencies in your leader skills than with other leaders. That makes it easy to go for whatever theme you want without worrying much about making a character that does not contribute.
Can Minor in Any Roll: You will always be a leader first, but you can minor in defender with protector spirit, minor in striker with stalker spirit, and minor in controller with world speaker. Watchers get to double up on leader and they are the best leader for helping ranged allies. And with 3 different secondary stats to pick from for the class, almost any race can be a good shaman.