Hello, I’m Blackacre and this is my beast based midrange hunter deck that I piloted to 10th on the NA ladder. If you find this guide helpful please give me a thumbs up. It would be much appreciated.
I want to preface this guide by telling you that this is a board control deck. Your goal is to keep the board clear while applying steady pressure with minions and liberal usage of your hero power. There will be games where you dominate the board and win that way, and there will be games where you fail to hold the board and must play more aggressively. One of the biggest tests of skill in playing this deck is recognizing how aggressive you need to play in a given board state. Just remember that plan A is holding the board, but there is always the option of going to plan B when necessary.
The strength of this deck comes from its synergies. When you look at the deck list you will notice that it has a low curve. In fact, it only contains five cards which cost greater than three mana to cast. This is much lower than your traditional midrange board control deck. So how does this deck have the power level to compete in the midrange? The answer is Beasts. All of the minions in the deck, with the exception of Houndmaster and Leeroy Jenkins which synergize in their own ways, have the card type Beast. So why do we care about the Beast card type? Well the biggest answers are Starving Buzzard and Scavenging Hyena. These cards represent the engine of the deck. They give it the power level to compete with more expensive cards and the sustainability to defeat decks throughout long games.
This card is a staple in hunter decks so most people should be familiar with its power level, but my deck raises it to a new level. No longer is it simply a combo piece to be combined with Unleash the Hounds. In my deck it is a draw engine that works with almost every minion, allowing you to frequently draw your entire deck in longer games. Generally you will want to keep this card in hand until you will be able to draw 2+ cards from its effect the turn you play it. The most obvious combo is with Unleash the Hounds, but it is not uncommon to play a Starving Buzzard followed by a Scavenging Hyena and a Stonetusk Boar to draw 2 cards for 5 mana while developing your board.
This card is criminally underrated. For only two mana you get an extremely potent threat. It shares the obvious synergy with Unleash the Hounds that Starving Buzzard has, but instead of giving you card advantage it provides you with a potentially game ending threat. It is not at all uncommon to see 10+ power Scavenging Hyenas crashing in to finish games. Unlike Starving Buzzard, it is often correct to simply run a Scavenging Hyena out onto the board on turn 2. It will either draw removal, which will generally cost more than the 2 mana that you paid for the Hyena, or it will act as a threat to end the game at any moment.
Hunter’s Mark can often be a confusing card for newer players, because on the surface it is actually pretty bad. You play the card and it doesn’t actually remove anything from the board. So, after playing Hunter's Mark you are down a card, while your opponent still has all of theirs. This is what is frequently called “card disadvantage.” So why is Hunter’s Mark actually a very good card? Well, the draw engines in this deck are extremely powerful. So card advantage isn’t always a big concern. What is a concern for us is mana. Mana is the biggest limiting factor for this deck because it limits all of the powerful combos we can pull off in one turn. The 0 mana cost on Hunter’s Mark gives it a flexibility that is extremely valuable in this deck. Additionally, it synergizes perfectly with Unleash the Hounds and Stonetusk Boar to remove pesky minions for very low costs.
Flare is a controversial card. It essentially has no effect in many matchups. However, it can easily be game winning in the hunter mirror match or allow you to kill a concealed Gadgetzan Auctioneer against Miracle Rogue. So why does it deserve a spot in the deck if it is so situational? The answer involves some high level thinking about deck construction, but it boils down to the concept of deck velocity. What do I mean by this? Well,Flare only costs 1 mana, and this deck has very few 1 mana plays. So quite often you will spend your first turn casting this to do nothing but draw a card. Why is that good? The answer is the powerful synergies in the deck. By drawing a card when we wouldn't be using that mana for anything else we get closer to those synergies.
Remember all those powerful synergies I keep talking about? Well Tracking helps you find the pieces you are a looking for at the low cost of 1 mana. Yes, some of the time you will cast it and be put into the tough situation of destroying cards that you wanted to draw later in the game, but this price is easily worth paying for the card selection that Tracking offers.
A 1/1 with charge for 1 mana sounds bad, and the truth is that it would be if it wasn’t a Beast. This card is all about being cheap and synergistic. With hunter’s mark it allows you to kill a pesky minion for 1 mana. With Kill Command it allows you to get the full 5 damage for only 1 extra mana. With Starving Buzzard it cantrips for only 1 mana. With Scavenging Hyena it allows you to grow it for only 1 mana. And with Houndmaster it can act as a 3/3 taunt creature with charge for only 5 mana.
The inclusion of Freezing Trap marks a departure from the Beast synergy of the rest of the deck. However, it does synergize with the Eaglehorn Bow. Yet, that synergy is not the main reason for its inclusion. Freezing Trap is the only trap to make this list because it is never a dead card. Sure, it is at its best in those situations where your opponent has innervated out a turn one Chillwind Yeti or has just dropped their turn four Mountain Giant, but it is also fine when it simply acts as a life gain spell. This deck has a powerful midrange game that needs some time to set up and Freezing Trap helps provide the time needed to do so.
I probably don’t even need to explain the inclusion of this card. The power level of this two mana spell is extremely high. Our deck thrives on having beasts and this card can often create four or more of them for only two mana. This card might be the most degenerate thing in all of Hearthstone. Every hunter deck should include two.
Silence is always a valuable effect. The potential applications are too numerous to list. However, the current Meta has even increased the value of silence with the emergence of cards like Sunwalker, Ancient of War, and Sylvanas Windrunner. The fact that Ironbeak Owl is also a Beast makes the card an automatic inclusion in the deck.
6 damage for 3 mana over 2 turns is a solid conversation rate. The fact that this damage can be increased with traps only makes it better. So why do we only run one copy? The answer is twofold. 1st we only run two traps. So that synergy is less powerful. 2nd we are a board control deck. The so called “Face Hunter” can afford to run two bows because all of that damage is being directed at the opponent’s hero. In contrast the Beastacre deck often uses the Eaglehorn Bow to remove minions from the board, and doing that takes a toll on our life total. Using more than 2 or 3 weapon attacks to remove minions from the board can often lower your health to the point where you can easily be burst down by your opponent.
Other than Unleash the Hounds, this might be the best card in the deck. I know that sounds a little crazy, but Animal Companion is an extremely solid card. It doesn’t have the high potential of some of the combo cards in the deck, but it is never bad. All three of the potential beasts it provides are under costed at only 3 mana. This is the only card that I never mulligan in any matchup and I would probably run 4 of them if I could.
There can be no denying the situational nature of Deadly Shot. Against aggressive swarm strategies the card is not particularly valuable. However, even in those worst case scenarios it can buy you time to setup the combos you need to win, and in slower matchups the card can be devastating.
Kill Command is a very versatile card. In this deck the card will almost always translate into five damage for three mana to any target of your choosing. That is a conversation rate that easily justifies inclusion. You will often find that the five damage is spent removing a Chillwind Yeti or some other pesky minion, but don’t forget it can go to the face as well.
When you have a Beast to target Houndmaster represents 6 power and 5 toughness for 4 mana. That is an extremely under costed card. Luckily this deck has no shortage of beasts to target, so Houndmaster is very powerful. The taunt that is given can also be valuable. Just make sure you don’t set up a situation where you can lose to a The Black Knight or a Big Game Hunter.
6 damage for 4 mana is already a very strong conversation rate. The fact that Leeroy’s supposed downside of giving your opponent two minions is often turned into an upside with Unleash the Hounds means that it is even more powerful in a hunter deck.
NOTE: I have been frequently asked what card would be a good replacement for Leeroy Jenkins if you don't have him yet. A 2nd Eaglehorn Bow would work fine in this slot. Just make sure not to take too much damage using the bows to remove minions.
The fact that Savannah Highmane is only a rare card is extremely misleading. We all expect rares to have a lower raw power level than epics and legendaries, but that isn’t the case here. Consider Savannah Highmane when compared to its closest legendary equivalent Cairne Bloodhoof. They both cost 6 mana, but the Savannah Highmane starts with a 6/5 body as opposed to the 4/5 of Cairne Bloodhoof. After the deathrattle you get 4 power and toughness from the Savannah Highmane and 4 power and 5 toughness for the Cairne Bloodhoof… So the Savannah Highmane actually has MORE total stats than the Cairne Bloodhoof, and to top it off that Savannah Highmane is a Beast. Moreover, the deathrattle of the Savannah Highmane actually summons 2 more beasts. Pro Tip: If you cast a Starving Buzzard and then suicide your Savannah Highmane you will draw 2 cards when the deathrattle summons the 2 beasts.
General Rules: There are some general rules that apply to almost all matchups. I want to address them first so that this section isn't repetitive.
The first rule is keep Animal Companion in your starting hand! I mean it; this is the only card that I keep in literally every matchup. The card simply offers too much value for 3 mana, and is useful in all games.
The second rule is keep Unleash the Hounds. I have already talked about how degenerate this card is, and even in the matchups where it isn’t at its best, the card is still powerful. So baring special circumstances you want to keep one of these in your opening hand. Now lets look at the specific matchups.
- Hunter Mirror
The hunter mirror match is fairly atypical. It generally eschews board control and focuses solely on aggression. As such, we need to mulligan accordingly. This is one of the matchups where Unleash the Hounds is at its weakest. The key cards in the matchup are Eaglehorn Bow, Flare, Scavenging Hyena, Animal Companion, Houndmaster, and Stonetusk Boar. While most of these cards should be self explanatory, the Stonetusk Boar requires a little extra understanding of the matchup. The so called “Face Hunter” variant aims to play a Leper Gnome on turn 1 of the game. This can be an absolutely devastating play if left unanswered. In fact, a turn 1 Leper Gnome will generally win the game if not answered immediately. That is why we need our Stonetusk Boar. It is not a perfect answer, but it does the job.
- Control Warrior
This matchup is generally considered unwinnable for standard hunter, but thankfully we are not standard hunter. In fact, we have a very strong matchup against Control Warrior thanks in large part to one card, Savannah Highmane. Savannah Highmane is an absolute nightmare for Control Warrior to deal with. As crazy as it sounds to keep a 6 cost minion in your opening hand, that is exactly what I recommend. Deadly Shot is the other key card in this matchup. If you can save it for their 7+ drops that is great, but don’t be afraid to use it to remove an Armorsmith if you have no other way of removing it efficiently.
We don’t have as strong as matchup against Handlock as the so called “Face Hunter” due to our less aggressive nature, but we do also have some tools for the matchup they don’t. The biggest of these is Deadly Shot. We will always want to keep these in our starting hand to help deal with their turn 4 play whether it be a Mountain Giant or a Twilight Drake. Freezing Trap is another card we should keep as it does a very similar job to the Deadly Shot in this matchup. If we don’t have access to either of these cards then Hunter’s Mark will do the job as well.
Winning against Zoo is really all about Unleash the Hounds. As such, we want to mulligan aggressively for combo pieces or cards that help find combo pieces. Scavenging Hyena, Starving Buzzard, and Tracking are all worth keeping in your opener, but otherwise we just want to look for that Unleash the Hounds.
- Midrange Shaman
The proclivity of Shaman towards flooding the board with totems means that our Unleash the Hounds combos are at their best in the matchup. As such, Starving Buzzard, Scavenging Hyena, and of course Unleash the Hounds are important cards to keep.
As opposed to standard hunter, we actually have a very solid matchup against Druid. As such, we aren’t worried about going to the midgame in this matchup. What we are worried about is Innervate into a turn 1 or 2 Chillwind Yeti. This type of hyper aggressive start from the Druid can put us at too much of a life deficit to overcome. So we need to mulligan with this potential in mind. Important cards to keep are Deadly Shot and Freezing Trap.
- Miracle Rogue
This matchup is all about applying steady pressure to their life total. The Miracle Rogue takes time to setup and we need to use that time to lower their health to manageable levels. Liberal use of Steady Shot is advised. The key card from their deck is the Gadgetzan Auctioneer. This must be killed ASAP. Rogue players know this and they will generally wait to play the Gadgetzan Auctioneer until they have Conceal to protect it. Luckily we are packing a card that doesn’t care about Conceal… Deadly Shot. Yep, Deadly Shot does not target, and therefore it is the perfect answer to the Gadgetzan Auctioneer. Keep this in your opening hand.
- Tempo Rogue
This matchup can be a bit tricky. However, as with all matchups where the opponent aims to control the board, we always have a trump card in Unleash the Hounds. Mulligan for it and other combo pieces aggressively.