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Welcome to If the Spirit Moves You: A Shaman's Handbook! This is my first shot at a handbook, so don't be gentle. Playing a shaman is a lot like being in charge of England during the 19th and early 20th centuries: whenever you flex your power, the stuff that happens happens somewhere else. The shaman class is dominated by the use of its spirit companion, and this makes for a leader that is profoundly different from the cleric, warlord, and bard. With any luck, this guide will not only inform you about the choices you make when you build your character, it'll have some tactical or strategic tidbits that allow you to better understand and play the shaman. Enjoy!
Ratings Found Within This Handbook Red: A red power is either 1) made obsolete by a power within the same class and level or 2) or a trap option. You have to be really bad to be a red power. Purple: A purple power will normally be outclassed by most of the other powers of its class and level, but unlike a red power could be useful in an unusual situation or as part of an unusual build. Black: A black power is good enough you won't get glared at for using it, but not so good as to cast skepticism on other choices. Powers that are solid but unremarkable or are role-players will often be considered black. Blue: A blue power is very competitive for its level, and should be strongly considered by any shaman with the ability scores to support it. Sky Blue: A sky blue power is first tier. Unlike the other colors, a sky blue power compares favorably not just within its class and level, but with comparable powers in other classes, and therefore serves as a draw to the shaman class.
Credits lordduskblade, for general layout and some of his opinions ppaladin, for the title and responding to lots of rules questions so I don't have to Ghostpilot, for mudman! Everyone who replied to this thread in some capacity
Companion Spirit As with many classes, all shamans have to make a difficult and irrevocable choice before beginning their career. The two official shaman builds are the bear shaman and the panther shaman: all shamans choose one of the two, and many shaman powers key off this choice.
Protector Spirit: You draw on the strength of the bear (or a similar protective spirit) to protect, enhance, and rally your allies to victory. Protecter spirit shamans are called "bears," and are the bane of Steven Colbert. Pros: More health/healing surges than most leaders Cons: An awkward armor class issue
Stalker Spirit: You call on the stealth and cunning of the panther (or a similar stalking spirit) to position, empower, and guide your allies to victory. Stalker spirit shamans are called "panthers." Pros: Excels at slaying bloodied foes Cons: Minimal healing
Archtypes I here propose 4 general shaman builds, but throughout the handbook I will be almost exclusively referring to bears and panthers. This is not to say non-conventional builds are inferior, but just to reserve brainspace and make generalizations easier.
Bear Channeler: The Bear Channeler is the default bear shaman, using his high Constitution to heal and protect allies standing next to the spirit companion. Bear Channelers have the bear's share of healing and protective shaman evocations, but contribute only marginally to the party's offense.
Panther Channeler: The Panther Channeler is the default panther shaman, using his high Intelligence to empower and mobilize allies standing next to the spirit companion. Panther Channelers may struggle with healing if they don't receive support from elsewhere in the party, and lack the explosive nova potential of some other leaders. However, they receive consistent bonuses against bloodied foes, helping your striker friends drop enemies sooner than would normally be possible, especially elites and solos (who might be "bloodied" for a long time).
Caster Shaman: A Caster Shaman tries to select powers that are useful when the spirit companion isn't nearby, and is influenced less by his choice of spirit companion than other shamans. Caster Shaman's experience more flexibility in practice but less flexibility in power selection, and will often dabble in either Bear or Panther powers to fill wholes. Caster Shamans play more like wizards or clerics than most shamans, but even they cannot eschew the spirit companion completely. They are useful in smaller groups, where you will rarely get more than 1 ally adjacent to the spirit companion, or against particular dungeon masters, who might penalize the party for grouping together.
Wis-spike Shaman: A Wis-Spike Shaman grabs the full 18 pre-racial in Wisdom, and therefore has fewer points to spend enhancing his secondary ability score. Wis-Spike Shamans benefit from heightened accuracy and ridiculous skill checks, but suffer for weaker rider effects on their powers. They also have a bit of a glass jaw.
Class Features Protector Spirit (bears only): The bear shaman's boon has his spirit channel extra healing, something similar to Healer's Lore except dependent on the secondary ability score. Bear shamans are a little more straightfoward to play than panther shamans - they more closely resemble cleric-like leaders and have powers that are either less subtle or more self-contained. Stalker Spirit (panthers only): The panther shaman's boon has his spirit channel a bonus to damage rolls against bloodied bad guys, helping finish them off. Panther shaman powers frequently require more forethought than bear powers, but carry potentially huge rewards in a party prepared for them. Healing Spirit: Your leader healing word. Has the advantage of providing a little healing without spending a surge and being able to heal multiple allies at once, but the disadvantage of caring about your spirit companion and not being able to load a lot of healing on a single character with great speed. Speak with Spirits: Personally, I find this awesome. It keys of your Wisdom, which will (probably) start as a +4 bonus and scale to a +8 or +9 bonus, on any skill check, every encounter. You can either fake being trained in a skill for a little while, or supercharge something you're already good at. You can even jump over pits with less fear than usual.
Panthers have an easy time with their ability scores: crank INT and WIS, get above a 10 in CON, and do the rest to taste. Bears have more trouble, so I'd like to mention them briefly here. Bears have the option of cranking CON and WIS, but doing so will leave them with a detrimentally low Armor Class. The easiest solution is to suck it up and buy a 12 or a 13 STR and Chainmail proficiency, but races with a bonus to DEX or INT have the option of starting with a 16 in either of those two stats. This second option works best in the heroic-tier, as you'll be unable to scale your AC properly and maintain a decent Constitution modifier.
Strength: Not very important most of the time, but Athletics is on your skill list and you might want to be able to carry stuff around. If they lack both Dex and Int, bears might give this a second look, to qualify for chain. If you're doing a 16/16 point buy, a 12 in here will qualify you for chain when it really starts to matter in paragon.Recommended: 10-13
Constitution: For bears, this is your secondary ability score. For panthers, it'll probably still be your third highest score. Bears should boost at every opportunity unless you're aiming for a particular feat that demands a different ability score. Recommended: 12-16
Dexterity: For panthers, this is partially redundant with Intelligence, and so you should boost your Constitution before looking here. Bears have the option of investing in this instead of intelligence. Recommended: 8-12
Intelligence: For panthers, this is your secondary ability score. For bears, you'll want at least a modicum of either this or dexterity. Panthers should boost at every opportunity unless you're aiming for a particular feat. Recommended: 12-16
Wisdom: Your primary ability score. Wisdom fuels your attack powers and many of your support powers, and you should increase it at every opportunity. Recommended: 16+
Charisma: Congratulations, shamans! You're one of the game's very few classes with exactly 0 Charisma-based skills on your class skill list. This is your designated dump stat (apparently all that spirit-talking leaves you a little out of touch). Recommended: 8-10
My take on races is a little more academic than some. First, you get a color based on your ability scores bonuses: a bonus to both primary and secondary ability scores puts you on blue, a bonus to primary but no secondary or a bonus to both secondaries puts you on black, a bonus to one secondary puts you on purple, and whiffing puts you on red. Then, I look at the racial features, which may bump you up or down one rank. I think this works for the shaman, I'm not advocating it for universal application. Now, onto the races...
Races with Write-Ups Bladeling: +2 Wis, +2 Dex. Bladelings can make decent bears, who'll have a high enough Constitution to support blade storm and can boost Dexterity instead of Intelligence. Bladelings, however, make poor panthers - they get very little besides the Wisdom bonus here.
Deva: +2 Wis, +2 Int. Deva have the right ability scores for panther shaman, and support that with an aggressive (in a back-row self-defense sort of way) suite of racial features.
Dragonborn: +2 Str, +2 Cha. Dragonborn whiff on ability scores, but their proclivity towards Constitution (which can fuel their breath) makes them passable bear shamans, and the Strength can at least help there.
Drow: +2 Dex, +2 Cha. Drow whiff on ability scores, but at least their racial power can key off Wisdom, can grant combat advantage to your ranged powers, and Darkvision goes at least as well on a spirit-obsessed party leader as it does on anyone else. The best thing I can say here is your spirit companion probably looks like a spider.
Dwarf: +2 Wis, +2 Con. Dwarves are the Deva of bear shamans. Unlike most of your peers, you'll actively want the bad guys to take whacks at your spirit companion, because you have excessive healing surges and ways to access them.
Eladrin: +2 Int, +2 Dex. Teleporting and Trance are both neat features to have on the spirit-talking shaman type, but you've got some catching up to do without a bonus to Wisdom.
Elf: +2 Wis, +2 Dex. Its very possible I'm giving the pointy-ears too much credit by putting them alongside dwarves and deva, but elven accuracy is real good. You'll benefit from the mobility as well, since your move actions serve double duty as spirit navigation. Elves can go to either type of shaman.
Genasi: +2 Str, +2 Int. Somehow, coming from the astral sea makes you an awesome primal shaman, but coming from the elemental chaos blows chunks. In any event, a genasi's usually strong racial powers are not good enough to save them here.
Gnoll: +2 Con, +2 Dex. Ability scores point you towards a bear shaman, but you're missing Wisdom and you really don't want to be charging around. Playable, but hyenas are a different kind of animal.
Gnome: +2 Int, +2 Cha. Panthers like staying out of sight, and the gnome is quite good at that. They don't have much else going for them, however.
Goliath: +2 Str, +2 Con. Go be a barbarian or a warden, please. If you insist on staying in the back row, I suppose you can play at being a bear shaman, but you should consider charging the front-lines once in a while anyway, stone's endurance and all. Perhaps there's a melee shaman build here.
Half-Elf: +2 Con, +2 Cha. Dilettante has quite a lot of options in the Wisdom-based power department, but half-elves are missing Wisdom and Charisma is useless. I'll have to think about them more.
Half-Orc: +2 Str, +2 Dex. Whiffs the ability scores, and likes charging and getting bloodied - things shaman don't generally want going on. I'm not saying it's unplayable, but...
Halfling: +2 Dex, +2 Cha. Whiffs the ability scores, but has a suite of mobility-enhancing and defensive racial features to compensate somewhat. Just mind having a spirit companion larger than you are.
Human: +2 Wis. Shamans will like the third at-will and the defenses, and the bonus feat is particularly useful for bears who want to pick up chainmail. A very solid pick, but doesn't have the all-cylinders-firing feel of devas and dwarves.
Minotaur: +2 Str, +2 Con. See goliath, but add charging.
Shifter (longtooth): +2 Str, +2 Wis. A strong candidate for bear shamans, who both want the strength and can put the racial power to decent use. I wonder if you and your pet look alike?
Shifter (razorclaw): +2 Dex, +2 Wis. Comparable to their longtooth cousins, but only if you're using that Dexterity for something.
Tiefling: +2 Int, +2 Cha. You've got Intelligence, so I cannot in good faith paint you red, but you really don't have much else going for you.
Shadar-Kai: +2 Dex, +2 Int. Shadar-kai would be real cool if you re-skinned the shaman to key off the shadowfell rather than the plane formerly known as the prime material, and let the powers key off Int instead of Wis. As is, they're mediocre, but have a solidly protective racial power.
Class Skills Shamans are trained in 4 skills, but two of these are taken (Nature, and realistically Perception). Therefore, you have 2 skills to tinker with. Shaman skills fall in one of the following category: physical, knowledge, wisdom-based. They will be listed in that order, rather than alphabetically.
Athletics: You're hopefully not vaulting tables mid-charge to wail on the bad guy with a big hammer, but bears who bump their Strength could do worse than this.
Endurance: Generally speaking, I'd take Athletics before this, which means it won't be on many shaman's lists (human bears are the exception). That doesn't mean it's useless, just that the shaman's skill list doesn't suck and they don't get many of them.
Heal: Keys off your high Wisdom, and so if you buy training in it most of the DC 15 functions will be automatic pretty quickly. This is more useful than it first appears, because shamans sometimes have trouble awarding as many saving throws or healing surges as they'd like. This skill gives you at-will options for both, albeit at a cost. If you do pick up this skill, retrain it out sometime in paragon tier, as you'll meet DC 15s and 20s 100% of the time without it, relegating it to disease control (which is somewhat less common).
Insight: Not as useful as Perception, but consider this before you go fishing for the various knowledge skills.
Perception: There's really no reason not to take this - it's a class skill for you and you've got a high Wisdom.
Arcana: Panthers will find this useful, especially if they pick up Ritual Caster at some point. Bears will probably pass.
History: Probably the weakest knowledge skill, but a panther might take it just to round out the party's collection.
Nature: You're stuck with this, but it's a reasonably useful skill that keys off your primary ability score, so you're probably happy with it anyway.
Religion: Depending on your choice of rituals (if you have any, that is), this might be better or worse for you than Arcana. Certainly worth considering for panthers.
Other Skills Acrobatics: See stealth/thievery, below, but then remember that you'll definitely want both of those before you consider this, and you have a skill you'll never take.
Stealth/Thievery: Using a background and a multiclass feat can arm you with both of these, and if you're a +2 Dex race you can easily start with a 14 Dex. These skills are pretty useful, but that's quite a stretch to pick them up (razorclaw shifters rejoice!).
Dungeoneering: The only Wisdom-based skill that wasn't on your skill list, if you have the opportunity to pick this up incidentally while multiclassing, I'd strongly consider it.
Bluff/Diplomacy/Intimidate/Streetwise: This isn't your job, and you have plenty of better options to boot. Consider Insight, which can frequently act as Diplomacy in skill challenges.
Author's Note: Because there are so many of the darn things, I will not be listing every feat. Generally speaking, only those feats who are particularly useful to shamans, or fluctuate widely from their normal value when on a shaman, will be listed.
Incidentally, by level 15 you must take Implement Expertise by hook or by crook. You value the NAD-boosting feats (Paragon Defenses, Robust Defenses, and friends) quite a lot.
One other thing I want to mention here rather than there is your polearm. Shamans have the opportunity and the Wisdom (though not likely the Dexterity unless you're a Bear shaman) to pick up the Spear Push / Polearm Momentum (requires MC fighter) / Polearm Gamble line of feats, and they seem rather helpful. On the other hand, the opportunity cost is quite high. This is something you could consider building a shaman around, but I'm not going to mention them again individually later. A sort of "Primal Implement Proficiency" that could get your polearm an implement could make this cool.
Heroic Protector Spirit Adept: Allies gain a +1 bonus to NADs while adjacent to your spirit. The bonus is untyped, and the boost is solid, but most bear shamans have more important feats to take early on. Shared Healing Spirit:Healing spirit's extra dice can extend a square further from your companion. If you have 3 or more melee combatants in your group, you probably won't need this. Its worth noting that due to the wording of the protector spirit's boon, if a bear uses this feat to heal an ally not adjacent to the spirit he won't be able to apply his Con modifier as extra healing (the epic feat Mighty Spirit, below, fixes this). Spirit Speaker:Speak with spirits can go to an ally. This is sky blue if you average more than one skill challenge per section, but has minimal combat application. Stalker Spirit Adept: Shifting as a free action every turn is good, both offensively and defensively. Many shaman powers let your spirit channel this type of mobility, so getting it as a feat frees up your power selection immensely. Rate this lower if your party only has 2 dedicated melee combats, or if your 3 melee combatants tend to spread out.
Paragon Guardian Spirit: The bear paragon feat is cute, but 1) you might have other paragon feats you want first, and 2) sticking your spirit next to a fallen comrade likely means it isn't helping where the action is. Nimble Spirit: This on the other hand is solid, and available to both kinds of shaman. Dismissing your spirit is still a minor action, but re-summoning him as a free action wherever you need him on the map is golden. In addition, it lets you ignore the wrath of winter at-will power completely. Consider this a must-take if you plan on tactically locating both offensive and defensive channelling powers.
Epic Mighty Spirit: Your channelling powers now have some reach. Doesn't apply to debuffs on the enemies, and so its stellar for bear channelers but only mediocre for most panthers.
I'm only going to consider feats for races that were scored at least a black earlier. If you're building a shaman from an un-optimized race, you're probably making a build that won't benefit from a conventional analysis anyway.
Bladeling Improved Blade Storm: The issue with this power is it can shoot your allies. On the other hand, it wipes out minions for you and multiple dice of damage + ongoing 5 is not an insignificant amount of damage to real monsters as a minor action. A powerful power, but only if you can sustain yourself on the front lines.
Deva Potent Rebirth: Enhance your damage when you get knocked out, on a leader? Pass. Radiant Power: If your party lacks access to radiant damage this might be useful to you. Generally speaking though, power attack is not your thing. Auspicious Lineage: Depending on how conservatively you use your racial power, this may or may not suit your fancy. Ascendant Lineage (paragon): Encourages you to gamble with your racial power more often. Just beware that turning a hit into a hit will still consume the power. Transcendent Lineage (epic): Yet another way to improve your racial power. I don't think you can justify spending three feats on the thing. If you're curious, this feat without Auspicious Lineage yields an average of 4.47 on the roll, while Auspicious Lineage by itself yields 4.5. While lower on average, this feat is less likely to roll a 1 or a 2. Astral Renewal: (paragon): If you're in an environment heavy on radiant or necrotic damage, this is pretty solid. Otherwise pass.
Dwarf Gold Dwarf Pride: If you get knocked down, and you get up again, you gain a bonus to attack rolls. You really don't want to get knocked down in the first place. Shield the Fallen: You increase the defenses of a bloodied, unconscious, or helpless ally. If this worked for your spirit, we'd be in business. You're more of the back-line type. Dodge Giants: For heroic, know thy DM before selecting this. Gets better in paragon and epic. Dwarven Weapon Training: If you're making some kind of melee bear shaman, this feat will help get you there. Dwarven Durability (paragon): This is excellent for bears, but panthers should check that their Con first.
Elf Wild Elf Luck / Elven Precision: A +2 bonus to a particularly important attack roll once per encounter is a good feat, but you don't need me to tell you that. Wood Elf Agility / Light Step / : Both of these give you not insignificant utility, but don't help you too much in combat Running Shot (paragon) : I don't see attacking while running very useful to you.
Human Action Surge: Make room for this eventually, but it's not urgent in heroic. Stubborn Survivor / Human Perseverance / Action Recovery: As the person trying to keep everyone else alive, it's important you don't succumb to nasty conditions yourself. Coupled with the shamans relatively limited saving throw granting ability, these have more utility to you than usual.
Shifters Blurring Claws / Gorebrute Charge: Offensive boost when bloodied. Not what you want to be doing. Wild Senses: This feat only provides 1 less point to initiative than Improved Initiative does, and makes you a much better tracker. If you ever track (you're already trained in Perception with a scaling Wisdom modifier, remember) , consider it. Beasthide Shifting: Resist 2 to everything when you become bloodied, on the other hand, might actually help keep you alive when you need it. If it shaves off 6-8 points of damage per encounter, that probably justifies the feat. Cliffwalk Shifting: You can haz climbing. Burst of Savagery: This feat wants you to sacrifice your defensive benefits in exchange for a one-shot damage increase and some temporary hit points. Not what you want to be spending feats on at this point.
The Usual Suspects: Implement Expertise, focus on picking up your available racial / class feats. For bears, Armor Proficiency (chainmail).
Alchemist: You don't have a Ritual Caster feature, which makes alchemy a little more attractive as you're not ignoring a class feature to pick it up. Armor Proficiency (chainmail): As I talk about elsewhere, many bear shaman will want to pick this up. Combat Reflexes: Powers up your spirit companions opportunity attack. If they do this often, consider this, but it depends on your DM's tactics somewhat. Coordinated Explosion: This power seems cute in the context of powers that create a burst around your spirit companion, who will likely be near your allies. Distant Advantage: This feat synergizes well with powers that let your spirit companion generate flanking, a luxury other casters tend not to have. However, its not universally useful - check your powers. Jack of All Trades: With speak with spirits, you can be quite good at quite a range of things. Melee Training: I mention this because 1) you get those cool spears you might as well try to use, 2) you have no true melee at-wills, and 3) this lets either you or your spirit companion make meaningful opportunity attacks, which is a hefty amount of soft controlingl/defending. Ritual Caster: Unlike clerics and bards, you don't get a class feature for this. Its possible you'll be stuck in a party without a controller doing your rituals, so you might be stuck picking it up for your group. Timely Respite: This might as well be a dwarf racial feat. In any event, this feat lets you distribute your limited number of heals and saving throws to your party instead of to yourself, which could be useful. Toughness: I strongly encourage panther shamans to take this feat, which combined with a high Intelligence score keeps you from being too squishy. Bears, with their heightened healing surge numbers, probably can do without. Ditto Durable. Tribe of the Bloodied Spear: As far as I can tell, this feat powers up your spirit companion's opportunity attacks. It also gives your allies the ability to power up their Agile Opportunist feat. If you're not spending too many feats on armor or multiclassing, this could be nice, and is my favorite of the tribal feats. Weapon Expertise: Many shamans will get by without this, taking Implement Expertise instead. However, if you're using Melee Training + Tribe of the Bloodied Spear type stuff, you'll need to pick this up at some point to stay competitive.
The Usual Suspects: Paragon Defenses, Psychic Lock, strongly consider Reserve Maneuver (depending on paragon path), racial/class feats,
Back to the Wall: I could be wrong about this, but I believe "melee attack rolls" includes those powers with "melee spirit 1" range. If so, you get a lot more mileage out of this then most, because you can position yourself against a wall and your spirit wherever he needs to be. Blood Thirst: See above about melee range, but synergizes well with panther shaman's class features. Great Fortitude / Lightning Reflexes: Many shamans will be doing an 18/18 stat spread at level 1. Given that, a feat that boosts your off-defense may give you more mileage than Paragon Defenses. Then again, maybe not. Psychic Lock: If you have haunting spirits, take this.
The Usual Suspects: Robust Defenses, Epic Fortitude/Reflex/Will
Blind Fight: This feat is difficult to work as a shaman, because its very unusual for you and your spirit to be adjacent to the same enemy, and even then you probably don't want to be using most of your powers in the melee. Epic Resurgence: Right now, shamans have to jump through some hoops if they want a higher critical hit range. If they get implement critical range enhancers in Primal Power, expect this to increase in value. Primal Resurgence: Folks who rely heavily on daily zone creation powers in particular should probably pick this up.
There are 6 shaman at-will attack powers. 3 are offensive in nature, 2 are defensive, and 1 teleports your spirit. Many shamans will want one offensive power and one defensive power. Assuming you're not human, panthers will likely want either defending strike or watcher's strike, while bears will flock over haunting spirits. Humans should consider taking haunting spirits or wrath of winter, as they provide spirit-free (or spirit-freeing) options.
Defending Strike: Channel a +1 power bonus to AC. Bears pass because they already have protecting strike, but panthers will find it the defensive at-will of choice.
Haunting Spirits: As the only at-will that doesn't care about your companion in any way, many shamans, particularly bears and particularly shamans who find their spirit "off-tanking" frequently, will like this feat. Panthers may get less mileage out of this because it's sometimes redundant with stalker's strike. Creates a pretty nifty debuff spell with the Psychic Lock feat.
Protecting Strike: Bears are stuck with this one, but fortunately it's pretty solid. Attacks will and can potentially generate quite a lot of temporary hit points (2 or 3 times your Con mod in an ideal situation). Panthers pass, because it's inferior to defending strike with a low Con.
Stalker's Strike: Panthers are stuck with this. It attacks Fortitude, but gains a bonus to the attack roll against bloodied foes and does a whole d10 of damage. More importantly, generates combat advantage. Bears will probably prefer Haunting Spirits for this type of attack.
Watcher's Strike: The third (and final) offensively-oriented at-will, grants an untyped bonus to attack rolls, and is therefore good. Unlike righteous brand or lance of faith, the bonus applies to any bad guy, but you need an enemy to attack near the allies you want to give the bonus to.
Wrath of Winter: Attacks Fortitude, but lets you move your spirit companion adjacent to the target. It's the only at-will that is neither clearly offensive or defensive in nature, and so humans will like it but other races may not have room. Moving your spirit companion isn't normally too big a deal, but if you have a stickler DM this might be better for you. It becomes really bad when you get Nimble Spirit. Incidentally, it gets better if your party relies on cold damage.
4 powers at this level, 3 of which are channelling. Curiously, the shaman career starts off with the non-channelling powerful being the most powerful.
Call to the Ancestral Warrior: Channel a +2 power bonus to all defenses. This is a significant boost to either a single defender or multiple strikers, but is basically a suped-up version of one of your at-wills. Bears find it contributes little that protecting strike doesn't already provide, so this is most useful on panthers who didn't choose a defensive at-will.
Call to the Ancient Defender: Channel a +5 bonus to all defenses against opportunity attacks. This is more useful than call to the ancestral warrior when and only when you need to beat a hasty retreat. However, it attacks Fortitude, and since you're probably targeting a brute or a soldier with the attack, you can't rely on it very strongly.
Thunder Bear's Warning: Channels your Constitution modifier as resistance to all damage, and bears give someone temporary hit points equal to the same. Unlike most channeling powers, you don't have to target an enemy adjacent to the spirit companion, and so for bears this might have the most promise of the three defensive channelling powers available at this level, but I can't rate it as blue because of...
Twin Panthers: It's very rare for you to want a striker-type power, but this one is too powerful to ignore, even for bears. You make two attacks (in effect form, meaning you choose the second target after you've seen the result of the first attack), and if either hit, your spirit companion channels combat advantage for melee attacks. This is the only level 1 multi-attack power for pure caster-types in the game, and the rider effect is not insignificant. Panthers take it without question: the additional bonus of a large attack bonus against bloodied bad guys translates into you killing off wounded targets throughout the heroic tier.
This level has the first of the shaman's series of zone creation dailies, alongside some not insignificant healing potential.
Blessing of the Seven Winds: Zone creation. This zone lets you slide each creature within it without an attack roll or a save, and so has tremendous possibilities (including triggering multiple Agile Opportunists as a minor action every round, later on). It's hard to justify over spirit of the healing flood, but consider retraining for it once your party's healing surge values get a little higher.
Cleansing Wind of the North: Grants saving throws with a huge bonus as an effect. It's great when it's good, but spirit of the healing flood is much more consistent. This gets better if you're the only leader in the party - shamans sometimes have a hard time granting saves.
Spirit of the Healing Flood: Stop. This power lets your entire party regain 10 hit points without spending a healing surge, in addition to wiping out a burst of minions (something shamans don't normally get to do) and providing token regeneration while bloodied. 10 hit points is more than most character's surges at this level. So this is like a mass cure light wounds with riders. Don't be afraid to use this one like a utility power after a combat. Be aware, however, that this power loses its appeal around level 6 or so, when 10 hit points becomes appreciably less than a normal healing surge.
Wrath of the Spirit World: A lot of offense, and a lot of prone. If you're the only leader in your group, you probably need blessing of the seven winds. If you're willing to dable in more controller-type powers, however, this gives you a significant control element with not-irrelevant damage.
Four powers here, split evenly between encounter and daily frequency.
Bonds of the Clan: Encounter. Take some of your friend's damage onto yourself. Bears, with their copious amount of healing surges, might decides they like this better than spirit of life, but it's not a sure thing.
Spirit Call: Encounter. Move your spirit and all your zones around as a minor action. When you first get this power at level 2 and have spirit of the healing flood, it doesn't do very much for you. But later in your career, when you have a roster of daily zone conjuration spells, this is indispensable.
Spirit of Life: Daily. Ally within 10 regains health as though he had spent a surge. Compares favorably to cure light wounds, mostly because you can use it from a range.
Spirits of Battle: Daily. Your daily zone conjurer option at this level, this creates a huge zone that grants a +1 untyped bonus to attack rolls. I'm reluctant to call it bad (untyped!), but I think the other options at this level are better. On the other hand, if you take the Spirit Tempest paragon path, retrain into this - it enables mass party heals with Healing Guides, surpassing the other options at this level.
All channelling powers here, though two of them don't have spirit range (lightning panther spirit, rimefire spirit). You've got offensive, defensive, and a mobility option here, and none of them blow the others away.
Call to the Savage Elder: Channel a power bonus to damage rolls equal to not your Intelligence, but your Wisdom. Bears in particular should not overlook this. Party's with multiple strikers or multi-attacking strikers get more mileage.
Lightning Panther Spirit: Channel the ability to shift as a minor action (panthers also channel Wild Step). This is "probably" the pick at this level, as mobility is a new category of channeling for you, but the "kill the bad guys" options at this level are tempting.
Rimefire Spirit: You deal a bit of fire and cold damage, and your spirit channels vulnerability to your foes. Better than call to the savage elder in parties with lots of casters, and dealing two damage types is cool. Also has the advantage of letting you attack something not adjacent to your companion.
Spring Renewal Strike: One ally adjacent to the spirit spends a healing surge, but has to land an attack against Fortitude to work. If the person you want to heal is adjacent to brutes and soldiers, this becomes problematic, but conversely this is better if it's your only Fort-targeting power to date.
Earthrage Spirit: Prone a close blast, and as an effect apply "prone whenever hit by an attack (save ends)" to each target. Think of this power in terms of the action-economy. If you hit two or three initially, and each of your allies hits once before all the saves wear out, you've netted between 6 and 8 move actions. Now, compare this net to the mobility provided by spirit of the hawk's wind. I 'think' hawk's wind is better, in part because of its incidental attack, but you could make a case for this, especially with rogues in the party who want the CA from proning.
Spirit of the Hawk's Wind: Zone creation. This zone deals radiant damage and blinds on the initial attack, which is pretty significant. The zone itself creates a tremendous amount of mobility - shifting 4 squares enables easy retreats and bonecrushing offenses, and remember you can move the zone around. Competitive with war chieftain's blessing if you like your dailies more toolbox and less nova.
Spirit of the Shielding Fire: You grant fire resistance and temporary hit points to an ally, as well as a firey shield around him that discourages attacking. The potential damage incentive (roughly 11-14 points on a hit, when you get it) probably isn't large enough to scare away things that are going to deal meaningful damage anyway. On the other hand, pop this on your party defender and watch the bonus damage build up as the enemy is put between a rock and a flaming place. In adventure-ending battles that don't feature a single BBEG, this might edge out War Chieftain's Blessing.
War Chieftain's Blessing: Incidental attack, plus creates an encounter-long +2 untyped bonus to attack rolls against the bad guy. If you're the kind of guy who likes your dailies to center around taking out the BBEGs, this is your pick.
Four options here, only one is an encounter. This level is dominated by sudden restoration, which is the shaman's primary saving throw dispenser.
Blessing of the Iron Tree: Bloodied ally gains resistance 5 until end of the encounter. It'd be much better if you could use it at the start of the fight, rather than the ally being half-dead before it comes into play. As is, it's certainly useful, but I don't think you can take it over sudden restoration as a daily.
Spirit of Dawn: Zone creation daily. This one lets allies ignore cover and concealment (including total, which is unusual at this level) when attacking enemies within the zone. It also messes with enemy's stealth checks. I once had a DM who loved gnome skulks, and so this would have been useful back then, but in general it doesn't beat the power to beat at this level: sudden restoration.
Spirit of the Keeper: Gives you a backup healing word, and your spirit companion channels protection from combat advantage. If the healing didn't cost a surge, I'd consider it more than I am.
Sudden Restoration: The only encounter frequency at this stage, this power grants two allies a saving throw. Shamans don't get as many saving throw options as warlords and clerics do, so you have to take this unless you have a specific reason not to.
As you select your third encounter power, its important to review the balance of offensive, defensive, and mobility-increasing powers you have so far. There is a good option in each of those categories at this level, and so you should select a power that either reinforces your theme or fills a missing role.
Call to the Blood Dance: Channel increased critical hit, and panthers also channel increased damage (untyped). Very offensive, and potentially very spiky. The offense option at this level.
Call to the Howling Storm: Lightning & Thunder damage, and rather than channel an ability, you just let one of your allies shift 5 squares as a free action. The mobility option at this level.
Thunderstorm Spirit: Lighting & Thunder damage, and channel extra lightning and thunder damage. If you run into these vulnerabilities more often than every third encounter or so, or if you're not a panther shaman, this is better than call to the blood dancer. In case of a tie, this one attacks things not adjacent to your spirit companion.
Winter Wind Spirit: You channel a tremendous bonus to AC, basically. Benefits from not having being stuck in spirit-range. Like the other good bear powers, this one attacks Fortitude, unfortunately. Then again, if you've been avoiding defensive options so far, you likely don't have any powers that attack Fortitude, so having just the one could be a good thing. The defensive option at this level.
Lots of offensive options at this level, with 1 free basic attack / round being the power to beat.
Ancient Warlord's Inspiration: This basically generates a basic attack as a free action for one of your allies once per turn. Very solid offensive buff that lasts the entire encounter, rather than singling out a single enemy. Makes the actual warlords jealous. Worth mentioning that this is a shaman conjuration that's not a zone, and is still affected by spirit call.
Clever Trickster Spirit: First one enemy is slowed and grants combat advantage (save ends), and then another is (save ends again). It only effects one enemy at a time, and by level 9, slow isn't what it used to be. The combat advantage applies to ranged attacks though, so I suppose you could set up a nova with this, but ancient warlord's inspiration is probably better for general offense.
Raging Storm Spirit: Daily zone creator. This one creates a huge burst within 10 as the incidental attack, which should not be overlooked. Your allies deal 1d6 extra thunder damage while attacking an enemy in the zone. You need to trigger this three or four times for it to add up to more than the attacks provided by ancient warlord's inspiration, so this has more utility in a party with a ranger.
Spirit of Autumn's Reaping: Necrotic damage, and imposes vulnerability to everything until a save. It also has the effect of your team regaining 5 hit points, but that's a pretty small amount by this point. The vulnerability is not likely to add up to more damage than ancient warlord's inspiration, but I suppose if you need the healing it's a reasonable compromise.
1 incredibly versatile encounter power and 1 incredibly versatile daily power here make for a difficult decision. I don't normally like using multiple sky blues in one section, but I feel its appropriate here.
Primal Gust: The name sounds like a bounce spell, and like a bounce spell this provides tremendously versatile use. Trigger Agile Opportunists (1 level away, anyway), maneuver your allies or yourself, or even grab an enemy and throw him somewhere further away, next to your defender, or into a hazard without an attack roll. As a minor action, with a range longer than most of your attack powers. You'll enjoy using this every encounter for the rest of your life.
Rock Shield Spirits: One of two daily zone creators here, this one creates a small zone that grants a +2 power bonus to AC and Fortitude. Its really hard to justify a +2 power bonus to two defenses over concealment (see below).
Spirits of the Shadowed Moon: The second (and superior) daily zone creator at this level, this one grants concealment and hiding opportunities. Almost strictly better than rock shield spirits (worse when, for some reason, your party already has concealment).
Spirit Summons: You gain a second spirit companion for the rest of the encounter. This is huge. It makes many of your channelling powers and class features much, much more powerful than they originally were. It's stronger than either of the zone creators at this level in part because the Spirit Tempest, whose the one that really cares about zones, benefits from the second conjuration just as much. More explosive but less frequent than Primal Gust.
Sacrificial Spirit:Dragon magazine comes up with a powerful healing option as a daily - the team regains a healing surge. This power is best used out of combat as a sort of "party durable" feat. As such, there are times this wont contribute to actually winning a fight, which is why I rate it lower than some others at this level.
Paragon tier kicks off with a roster of battlefield-warping spells at the encounter frequency. Two spirit options (one defensive and one offensive) and two spell-like evocations (one mobility and one restorative) ensure that any shaman has a good pick here.
Call to the Indomitable Defender: Channels a significant amount of resistance for a turn, but has the normal bear drawback of being a spirit attack against Fortitude.
Call to the Laughing Fortune: Channels a limited re-roll ability, potentially with a huge bonus to the new attack roll. This is an excellent offensive power, both as a modular boost or as part of a coordinated nova. If you've got a PH2 or a Primal thing going, this power is particularly synergetic with the Barbarian's Storm of Blades, also a level 13 power. Note that you can use it with ranged powers - make the attack, and then move the companion next to your ranger/warlock/sorcerer. Note also that the re-roll can apply to an attack made against any creature - not just your target.
Howling Gust: One of two non-spirit options at this level, this power rearranges both an enemy and an ally. Forced movement of only 2 squares isn't as powerful or as scarce as it was in heroic tier, and the teleport's usefulness is limited by spirit concerns and being contingent on the hit.
Spirit of Cleansing Light: This power is deceptively good, in my opinion. First, you make an attack vs. will against two creatures for three dice of damage - quite a hit for a shaman's incidental attack. Second, on a hit, you grant a saving throw. As I read it, this means you're very likely to grant one saving throw and can possibly grant two, each with a bonus.
None of the powers at this level excite me terribly, and none are zone creation options.
Guardian of the Primal Copse: Despite the name, this is a powerful debuff option. If you can land the implement-based attack vs. Fortitude, the target uses the lowest of its defenses - usually a debuff of 2-3 points and frequently more. Can be used as an impromptu daily nova, particularly if the save-ends duration sticks for more than a round.
Searing Wind of the South: A large incidental attack coupled with lots of limited free sliding radius. I don't think it provides enough mobility for a one-shot effect, but I'm sure someone has a great story about this. Now that you're paragon, you have Agile Opportunist to think about, and this plays very nice with that. This might be better than guardian of the primal copse if it can generate 3 or 4 free attacks all at once.
Spirit of the Wolf Pack: Yet another incidental attack+effect evocation, the wolf pack generates combat advantage and a little extra damage until the bad guys make their saves. Unless you've got multiple rogues or some other such nonsense, I prefer the two options above.
Storm Guardian Spirit: Incidental attack, plus one of your allies gets extra damage and pushing against the target for the rest of the encounter. It would take a lot for this buff to deal more than the sudden bursts of damage created by this level's other options, but has potential with multi-attackers who can abuse both the extra damage and the push effect (if ranged).
Four powers here, split evenly between encounter and daily frequency.
Fate Weaver's Shield:Sanctuary as a minor action, 14 levels later. I personally never seem to get much mileage out of this kind of effect, but its hard to dismiss a minor action encounter power. Timing with your allies is crucial to get the most mileage - you can't apply this one to yourself.
Forge the Chains of Life: Immediate Interrupt that triggers when an ally fails a death saving throw to save him. The upside is that this is two free healing surges outside of your turn. The downside, however, is that your ally has to actually have been out of commission long enough not to roll a death save, but to actually fail one. That restriction is too much for me at this level, despite being a sucker for free healing surges.
Spirit Binding: Your other encounter option at this level, spirit binding extends the duration of channelled effects by a round. I particularly enjoy stapling this to your new toy, call to the laughing fortune, but I'm sure there are other, more imaginative, applications.
Spirits of the Dancing Zephyr: Spirit Tempests are now self-aware, this is your zone creation option at this level (and you didn't get one at level 15). Its a huge zone, you can move it around, and the effect is a lot of free shifting that doesn't cost you actions. Its a nice zone to have, especially when you like zones, but the encounter powers at this level are decent for non-Spirit Tempests.
By the upper paragon tier, some effects that were cool at lower levels (prone, debuffs of less than 4 points) are not as impressive as they once were, and you have a full roster of choice powers already. This makes power selection increasingly difficult and build dependent. That said, I've been knocking on bear powers this entire handbook so far and they finally get a great one at this level.
Call to the Lashing Behemoth: Knocks prone, and your spirit channels the ability to knock prone. Solid, but at upper-paragon you might want more oomph than proning.
Shackles of the Mountain: Implement option, attacks two creatures, and on a hit lets your spirit companion channel an AC debuff. One reason this is nice is that you don't have to hit the target you want to debuff, and you get two rolls for the hitting. On the other hand, you're not likely to get a debuff of more than 3-4 points, and won't always get that much, and it only debuffs AC.
Spirit Bond of Vengeance: This is a thinking evocation, a power that rewards you for putting some effort into its set-up. First, you hit the enemy with your spirit companion. Second, you need to position your spirit companion next to non-target enemies. Third, those enemies need to get whacked by your allies. For each that does, you deal a die of damage, sans Wis mod. This power will necessarily be very spikey - sometimes you just did the incidental damage, and other times you'll wipe out a pack of poorly-positioned minions, and throw extra damage for each one of said minions.
Spirit of Spring's Renewal: Bears rejoice! You get an evocation in your build that not only doesn't attack Fortitude, but attacks Will! Lots of extra hit points per surge spent is nice too. Easy to use (not a spirit attack), solid incidental damage, and a desirable effect.
Great Bear Guardian: A daily power that creates a conjuration, rather than a zone. Forced movement on a miss is a cute effect too. The bear conjuration complements your spirit nicely in giving you physical battlefield control - it can flank, it occupies a square, and it can make fairly nasty opportunity attacks.
Horns of the Undefeated Khan: The undefeated khan grants you an incidental attack with a notably huge range, and grants you and your allies a huge nova, and even saving throws, and then even free shifting. Remember kids, the khan's never been defeated. If you or your DM frown upon party-mini-novas at the daily frequency, look elsewhere - this power unravels encounters.
Spirit of the Shield Breaker: The incidental attack on this power is unusually strong, with 3d12s of damage and a save ends penalty to AC, potentially with aftereffect of a save ends penalty to AC. The conjuration itself grants a continuous power bonus to damage rolls, seeming to have lost some of its luster (compared to bear guardian, above) in exchange for said curiously strong incidental attack. This might be better than the undefeated khan if your DM likes solos and elites too much, but the khan's untyped bonus to attack rolls and "reset button" of free shifting and saving throws make it more applicable in a wider variety of situations.
Tendrils of the Fate Weaver: The incidental attack slows and denies combat advantage to a single bad guy until he makes a save (which has a penalty), and the effect makes one of your allies sticky if the ally is attacked, rather than when the ally attacks. I prefer the other options at this level.
The shaman comes out of the box with four class-specific paragon paths: the Disciple of the World Serpent; the Ghost Panther; the Great Bear Shaman; and the Spirit Tempest.
Disciple of the World Serpent This paragon path is a bit of a hybrid, giving you some controller features and your companion some defender ones. It is sub-par as a pure leader path, but worth considering if you're a role-dabbler. I'm unsure whether this is intentional or not, but this paragon path really shines in "serpentine" dungeons and corridors.
Grasping Spirit: Your level 11 feature makes the squares around your spirit difficult terrain. This is awesome when you can block a narrow passage, but doesn't make your companion much stickier in a wide-open area. Somewhat campaign dependent.
Spirit Shaman's Bounty: Your action point gives your spirit companion some serious extra healing power, without costing you your extra action. Panther shamans in particular might be lacking on the healing, making this attractive.
Spirit Venom: Gives all your daily attack powers an aftereffect of "take 10." Profoundly un-impressive, in my opinion, especially regarding 10 damage isn't all that much at level 16.
Serpent's Rebuke: Your encounter attack power immobilizes a single target, and is noteworthy for not being a spirit power. Has a rider of "minions stay the hell away from that guy," which is not super useful.
Seal of the Serpent: Encounter utility power. Lets someone not only ignore cover/concealment, but actually ignore line of sight restrictions as well. You have to target the enemy when you use the power, however, which probably does. If you find yourself wishing you could fire around corners more often than daily, I suppose this is your utility power.
Crush of the Serpent: Guaranteed to slow or immobilize a single target, and deal some not-insignificant damage. Attacks fortitude. Not impressive for a daily power of this level.
Ghost Panther This paragon path plays up the non-attack power aspects of the panther shaman, and can be immensely powerful in a stealth or skill-challenge heavy environment. As far as combat encounter go, however, its inferior to your other options.
Ghost Panther's Wisdom: Give the team +5 stealth. It's either awesome or useless depending on your style, but don't forget sometimes you just staple it to the rogue or ranger during skill encounters.
Ghost Panther Action: Generate lots of combat advantage whenever you take an extra action. Panther shamans have lots of ways of generating combat advantage already - this builds on that theme.
Panther Ancestors: Your mother was a panther? HUGE bonus to Acrobatics, Athletics, and Stealth. Don't forget you have speak with spirits. You take over the Stealth duties, can leap tall buildings in a single bound, and move around the battlefield like nobody's business. This wasn't your style before you had this feature, but now you should probably try to get some use out of it.
Predator Spirit: Your encounter power has your spirit channel weakened to bloodied enemies. Frankly, I think you'd rather just kill the bloodied enemies, which panther shamans are quite good at, but this is nice to have against elites and solos, who tend to get particularly nasty once bloodied.
Great Cat's Dodge: You shift 3 as an immediate interrupt... after the attack has already missed you. Not comparable to the other shaman PP utilities.
Ghost Panther Spiral: Huge zone creator daily, significant rider damage, and aggressive teleporting as a minor action for you and your friends. Sort of a shame you can't have this and be a Spirit Tempest at the same time, this is a nice power in a sub-par paragon path.
Great Bear Shaman This paragon path helps your spirit companion transform into a defender in its own right, while enhancing the spirit's ability to improve your allies.
Great Protector's Prowess: Damage bonus against marked enemies? If you've got ways to mark thinks yourself (see below) or multiple defenders in the party, this can be pretty good with multi-attackers, but the damage bonus is pretty small and doesn't scale, so it's not worth jumping through hoops for.
Great Bear's Action: Your friend attacks as a free action when you take your extra action. Boring, but effective.
Looming Presence: Your level 16 feature makes your spirit channel a huge bonus to opportunity attack rolls. If you have him sitting next to someone who wants to make the opportunity attack, its good, but that scenario may not come up as often as you'd like, and the feature doesn't help the spirit's own attacks.
Bear Fang Defense: Your method of marking. Big damage for its level and role, with the promise of more. Your spirit goes RAWR! Bear in mind this attacks fortitude.
Galvanizing Bellow: Your allies shift as a free action yayz! Does what it does well, and is an encounter minor action.
Call to the Great Bear: Your spirit gets huge and hits the bad guy, who becomes super-marked (save ends). Kinda cool, but lacks the encounter-wide reach of shaman zones.
Spirit Tempest The Spirit Tempest focuses on the shaman's conjurations and zones (aka: his "spirits"), maintaining one or more in every combat encounter and deriving additional benefits from them. Nothing in this path sucks, but nothing is positively game-breaking either. Its more than a solid choice for any type of shaman, and is probably the default in-class option.
Spirit Wind Action: When you action point for an action, your spirit companion teleports adjacent allies a little ways. Not spectacular because the range is fairly short, but this is solid benefit that doesn't consume your action point. If you're a bear shaman, you might not have this kind of mobility-generation at all, making this more useful.
Healing Guides: The distinctive feature of this paragon path, Healing Guides dramatically improves your healing spirit by allowing bonus healing dice and bear shaman spirit boons to heal multiple allies without them spending surges, so long as you have a friendly conjuration or zone next to them. To maximize this power, you'll want at least 3 or 4 large-area zones, so you can maintain one in every fight for the day. There is some debate as to exactly what extra healing this feature provides, so check with your DM.
Spirit Combatant: Essentially makes all enemies always grant combat advantage to your spirit for your at-wills. You get this sufficiently late in the game that your at-wills don't come up as much as they used to, and its not generally too difficult to get combat advantage with your easilly-re-conjured spirit companion. That all said, +2 to attack rolls is +2 to attack rolls that you might not otherwise have.
Spirit Tide: Your level 11 encounter attack power has your spirit attack will for a couple dice of damage. More importantly, on a hit you deal damage to each enemy within 5 squares of the target - an excellent minion clearer, and capable of dealing quite a bit of total damage spread out amongst multiple non-minion foes. No significant rider effects, however, weaken this power somewhat.
Spirit Flow: Your level 12 utility is an encounter power that swaps the position of your spirit and an ally, with a huge range. This lets you teleport your ally as a minor action, not a move action, and has a menagerie of applicatiosn both in combat and out. Works especially well when summoning your spirit is a free action. Be creative.
Spirit Storm: Your paragon path daily is a zone creator, to go with your Healing Guides feature. It deals good damage against will in a large area as the attack, and the zone grants an untyped bonus to attack rolls and damage rolls against a single target, as well as a limited form of teleportation. This is your "BBEG" zone, freeing up your lower-level dailies and utility to power up Healing Guides throughout the day.
Putting it all Together: Party Role, Tactics, and Strategy
The Simple Defensive Manuever. When you want to use a channelling power to help your allies defense, you want them to move first, and then place your spirit after they're positioned. If you delay your turn until immediately after your friend's, you can ensure that no bad guys will take their turns against your unprotected friends. Bear shamans in particular could get in the habit of delaying in this manner, giving their allies freedom of movement and protection at the same time.
The Simple Offensive Maneuver. Many of your offensive powers single out an enemy for attack. In this case, you want your spirit companion to land the attack, and then as many of your allies as possible to take their turns between yours and the target's. You can use delays and readied actions to set this up, creating a one-time inefficiency early in the battle in exchange for a streamlined attack plan in each subsequent turn. This works best for panther shamans, who rarely break the groove to use a defensive power.
The Shoot n' Scoot. For several of your channelling powers, you can make the attack against one enemy and then move your spirit companion adjacent to the allies whom you want to receive the bonus. Check the wording on the various powers to ensure this works, but it can be more useful than either of the simple maneuvers above when the bad guys aren't exactly where you want them.
The Minor Action and You. The use of your minor action will be dominated by summoning and dismissing your spirit companion, and so you will tend to value other minor action abilities lower than, say, fighters do. Be aware of what opportunities you could create using this action every time your turn comes around. After you get Nimble Spirit, it may sometimes be to your advantage to use a minor action at the end of your turn to dismiss the companion, preparing to summon him later at a moment's notice.
The Turret. The turret is the name I've given to a common technique of giving up your move action in order to dismiss and re-summon your spirit companion in the same turn. This only applies to the heroic tier. In part because you bring a melee friend (the spirit) with you, and in part because you encourage melee characters in the party to support, a shaman often has plenty of meatshields between him and the bad guys, which allows him to pick a spot and control his spirit from there. Beware, however, that many of your non-spirit powers only have a range of 5.
Extra Spirit Companion Mileage. Sometimes your spirit companion does things when he's not channelling your attack powers, mostly through either occupying a square or being able to make opportunity attacks. In addition to plugging one-square wide holes, he can effectively ward off passages as wide as three squares, doing a mini-fighter impression. This is particularly scary against minions, who can neither risk the opportunity attack nor effectively attack the spirit companion. You can position him in a mock-flanking position, preventing the enemy from effectively shifting and retreating. Conversely, you can use him to prevent an ally from being easily flanked. Lastly, having a spirit companion next to you makes it much easier to run away from a bad guy - the enemy cannot chase after you without provoking an attack from the spirit companion. Shamans who make use of non-channelling powers in particular need to be aware of the position and potential usefulness of their spirit companion in these situations.