Hello everyone. I hit Legend Rank with a Hunter Deck I constructed that runs no [card]Starving Buzzard[/card] and no Unleash the Hounds, and I'd like to share it and get your opinions on it.
Since the Starving Buzzard/Leeroy Jenkins nerfs were announced, i decided to construct a Hunter deck that won't rely on the combo for card draw, or [card]Leeroy Jenkins[/card] for burst damage, but instead on solid deathrattle synergy and consistent draws.
Since most cards in Hunter decks are similar, and most people probably know why they're there, I'll explain cards in this deck that are different from other decks, or why some cards have been cut.
1x [card]Flare[/card]: This is an awesome card, and in the mirror it can even be a win condition. However after tracking my games, only 1/3 of my games were vs hunter, and I didn't find any secret Mages past rank 5. Also I found quite a few hunters (something like 20%), that didn't run any secrets. So I decided to cut 1 to make room for some other card that will serve me well in all matchups.
2x [card]Leper Gnome[/card]: I never liked this card. However after trying it out in this deck, it fit well. 2 extra 1 drops, with synergy for your undertakers meant I was getting a 1 drop in almost every single game, and I think its really important to have a 1 drop in every single game. Otherwise once you fall behind without Buzzard/Unleash, you've probably lost already.
2x Loot Hoarder: Without Buzzard/Unleash, this 2 cards are the only source of card draw. The synergy with Undertakers is nice, and if it gets 2 damage before dying then its really good. The only bad thing about Loot Hoarders currently are that most other 1/2 drops trade favourably. However having six 2 drops, all with deathrattle almost guarantees a solid turn 2 play if you get undertaker in your opening hand, and I can't see how to play the long game without any card draw.
1x Houndmaster: Even though this card is insane, without Buzzard/Unleash there are fewer targets for Houndmaster. Also Houndmaster is one of the few cards that are not really consistent, unless you're running a beast heavy deck. Cutting 1 means I'll never be in a situation with 2 Houndmasters and no beasts, which would probably happen often with this deck.
2x [card]Sludge Belcher[/card]: A lot of Hunters run this card nowadays, cause tbh it's just too good. Great in the Mirror, synergy with undertakers, they protect your smaller minions, and with fewer card draw upping the curve seems the natural thing to do. They've worked great for me this far, and I prefer the consistent 5 drop taunt, to the slightly (even though more powerful) less consistent 2nd [card]Houndmaster[/card].
Lastly, I tried playing Hunter without the Eaglehorn Bow, but it didn't work at all. Against Priests I had a really low winrate, but now with the Bow I rarely lose.
I'd like to end this by saying that the Starving Buzzard/Leeroy Jenkins nerf certainly hurt Hunter. The [card]Starving Buzzard[/card] nerf has also made Unleash the Hounds much weaker than it currently is. However I don't think this is the end of the Hunter class by any means. Something I realized after playing with this deck, is that in the past, a lot of times I had dead cards in my opening hand, or later on in the game because I was relying on the Starving Buzzard/Unleash the Hounds combo too much. Drawing Unleash without Buzzard, or the other way around, clogged my hand in a lot of games, and Leeroy was also a card that ended up sitting in my hand for too many turns in the past. With this deck, almost no card in my hand is ever dead and I only miss the draws in long drawn out games, that quite frankly don't happen too often.
So that's all! Let my know what you think!
Thanks a lot for the positive feedback people! Since a lot of people seem to enjoy this deck, I've decided to update it with some tips for the most popular matchups along with a small FAQ.
GENERAL MULLIGAN - MATCHUP STRATEGY:
Mulligan: Throw away everything that's not a 1-drop or 2-drop. So you're looking for:
Undertaker, Webspinner, Leper Gnome, Mad Scientist, Loot Hoarder, Haunted Creeper. Exception, if you are going first and already have a 1-drop AND a 2-drop keeping either Animal Companion orEaglehorn Bow is fine. Also if you have the coin and have a Haunted Creeper, keeping Houndmaster is also a possible consideration.
Strategy: The goal of this deck is to get your opponent at low life pretty quickly (turn 5-8), through early board presence and finish the game off with Highmane, Kill Command and Hero Power. Whether you're going face or controlling the board depends on a lot of things, which would take me too long to write. 2 quick tips though are:
1) Always check how much damage you have available in the following 1-3 turns from your i) Board, ii) Cards in Hand (e.g. Kill Command), iii) Eaglehorn Bow and iv) Hero Power. If summing up that number leads to lethal, and your opponents deck doesn't have a lot of outs, it could be correct going face!
2) Always take into account your opponents next turn and what his possible plays are. Check his mana and consider what cards he can possibly play to counter your plans. This can help you decide between 2 possible plays in your turn. HOWEVER... With this deck you're gonna have to take risks. You can't play around everything and sometimes it's correct to do a play that might instantly lose to a certain response but at the same time gives you the best possible chance to win the game. A STRENGTH of this deck, is that it's really fast, and your opponent won't have enough time to draw into the best possible responses so don't be afraid to sometimes play into them.
AGAINST WARRIOR - PRIEST - PALADIN:
Mulligan: In these matchups the only difference to the rest, is that I keep Eaglehorn Bow as long as I have at least a 1-drop.
Strategy: I listed these 3 matchups together, because they're the toughest matchups for this deck. Actually vs Priest I have a really high win-rate, but that's probably a coincidence. All 3 decks have amazing counters. Northshire Cleric, Zombie Chow, Cabal Shadow Priest, Armorsmith, Unstable Ghoul, Cruel Taskmaster, Wild Pyromancer combos and Aldor Peacekeeper (vs our Savannah Highmanes) are all amazing cards vs this deck. Not to mention all 3 decks have a ton of healing. So what do we do?
Vs Priest: Turn 1 Northshire Cleric is bad news. If you have Eaglehorn Bow or Animal Companion don't play anything till you can get rid of it without giving him cards. If you don't have either then try to to set up a board that will give you good chances of at least giving him only 1 card, till you can remove it. Consider Hunter's Mark if he uses Power Word: Shield on his Cleric.
Vs Warrior: Webspinners and Leper Gnomes can get directly countered by Cruel Taskmaster or Armorsmith. Play into that if you have no Undertaker turn 1. Sometimes this will lead you to get ran over, but you're probably losing this matchups anyway if you don't take that risk. In this matchup Eaglehorn Bow and Highmanes are our win conditions, so keep the Bow in your opening hand. Consider keeping a Highmane as well in your opening hand if you're going second and already have at least a 1-drop and a 2-drop.
Vs Paladin: This is probably the toughest matchup for this deck. Play risky! Fortunately Haunted Creeper is a good minion vs Paladin early on which may allow your other threats (Leper Gnome, Loot Hoarder, Undertakers) to survive a few turns before Wild Pyromancer combos and consecration come into play.
AGAINST SHAMAN - DRUID - MAGE:
Mulligan: Same as General Matchups above.
Vs Shaman: Shaman is actually less tough than Warrior, Paladin or Priest but is actually the toughest matchup than anything else with this deck. WAIT... wait a minute. Shaman!? I thought Shaman get's destroyed by Hunter! Without Starving Buzzard/Unleash the Hounds this matchup can quickly become a NIGHTMARE if you fall behind on the board early on. Earth Shock and Feral Spirits are also extremely annoying to face. Thankfully Shamans have 1 big weakness vs our deck. They have no healing! YAY! Explosive Trap helps a bit vs Shamans and in this matchup I value Face Damage highly. Hunt them down!
Vs Druid: There are 2 possible Druid decks you're gonna face. Token Druids or Ramp Druids.
Against Token Druids trading the board will usually end in defeat cause most of their minion trade really well with our minions. So what do we do then? Token druids have 1 weakness vs our deck. They lack a good answer to Highmanes other than 2 cards in their deck, 2x Keeper of the Grove. Hopefully they don't draw GODLIKE and you can get some face damage early, forcing uncomfortable plays for the rest of the game. PS: Echoing Ooze is the most annoying minion in their deck early on. If you can't trade well with it, just ignore it. Q_Q
Against Ramp Druid, Hunter's Mark is one of our win conditions. Yes, this 0-mana card is incredibly strong vs Ramp Druid decks. In this matchup also try to maximize damage done from your Hero Power so that Kill Command can potentially give you lethal.
Vs Mage: If it's Freeze Mage, then you just got yourself a star. Freeze Mages are borderline terrible vs this deck but Hunter in general. If you have Flare, save it for their Ice Block on the turn you get lethal. You will probably get them in lethal range by turn 8 making Alexstraza kind off irrelevant, but even if you don't they will struggle keeping themselves out of lethal range from Eaglehorn Bow or Kill Command.
If it's Aggro Mage then controlling the board will most of the times be the correct line of play. Good news, most of their minions trade evenly/favourably for us, and playing around Mirror Entity should be a piece of cake for this deck.
AGAINST ROGUE - WARLOCK - HUNTER:
Mulligan: Same as General Matchups above.
Vs Rogue: Now that Leeroy is nerfed most Rogues will play Forsen's Miracoli Rogue, or strange Deathrattle/Aggro variants. Against Miracle the strategy is simple. Early board presence, face damage, finish with Eaglehorn Bow, Kill Command and Savannah Highmane. I would probably save Flare for concealed Gadgetzan Auctioneer unless you hand is terrible. The only tricky part of this matchup is when to play Loatheb. If you have alternative plays save him for when he plays Gadgetzan Auctioneer until turn 8-10. If you don't then just play him. Also if you're really ahead on board it's also correct to play him as it will guarantee a lot of face damage.
Against Aggro Rogue control the board. They can probably kill you faster than you can with Cold Blood/Shadowstep. Good news is that the consistency of this deck should give you early plays on turn 1-2, so controlling the board shouldn't be too hard. Also cards like Sludge Belcher are amazing vs this deck.
Vs Warlock: Warlocks on Ladder are gonna be either Zoo variants or Handlock variants. Against Zoo try to keep their board clear. Zoo is a "snowbally" deck. Without Starving Buzzard/Unleash the Hounds there's probably no coming back if you fall too far behind. Kill critical minions like Undertakers, and flood the board. Prefer to play minions rather than Hero Power almost always. The Hero Powers lead to a unique matchup, that favors the Hunter the longer the game goes. Keep that in mind when considering whether to trade or go face.
Against Handlock this deck performs really well. Handlocks want to be at a low Health Total and they want to life tap to get value out of their cards. This is great news for us. Hero Power as much as possible and keep cards like Kill Command to finish them off. Between Hunter's Mark and Kill Command almost always prefer Hunter's Mark to remove a minion cause Kill Command is actually the win condition in this matchup. Set up a situation where after they drop their Molten Giants you can finish them off in 1 turn (2 turns max) with your Kill Commands/Hero Power. Handlocks are also usually really slow in the early game, giving you easy early game board presence with only 1 out for them, Hellfire. Keep in mind. THE EARLIER YOU GET THEM AT A CRITICAL LOW HEALTH TOTAL, THE HARDER FOR THEM IS TO PLAY MOLTEN GIANTS. Their comeback is playing Molten Giants, healing and taunting ON THE SAME TURN. If they only have 5-6 mana, even if they get a cheap Molten, they won't be able to do anything else on the same turn.
Vs Hunter: This matchup is probably the most dependent on starting hands. Games vs Hunters in my experience are almost over by turn 3. Whoever gets board control early on and pushes enough face damage is almost always the winner. 2 things to keep in mind however when playing this matchup. 1) Try to play around turn 4 Houndmaster when possible. This Card has insane value when combo'ed with a Beast. 2) Always count how much damage you have and how much damage they can possibly have in the following turn when deciding between multiple plays. Sludge Belchers are our best friends in this matchup as they can take up to 12 damage from Highmanes while your smaller minions go face.
Q: What is your opinion on Tracking and why are you not running it?
A: I LOVE Tracking. I'm a ladder player for the most part, and constistency is the #1 thing I look for, when constructing a deck. There are 3 reasons why I'm not running Tracking in this deck. 1) Without Starving Buzzard/Unleash the Hounds, It's really hard to come back when you're behind. That makes having a 1-drop on turn 1 a necessity. I'd rather increase my chances of getting a 1-drop in every single game, than playing Tracking on turn 1, since if I do, I'm probably really behind anyway. 2) Tracking is amazing in combo-decks. When people ran Starving Buzzard, Unleash the Hounds, Timber Wolf, Stonetusk Boar, Scavenging Hyena etc, you often had 1-2 parts of a combo and was missing the rest. Playing tracking there meant you could get the missing parts of the combo you wanted. This deck doesn't really have any combos though. This deck is more about consistent plays. What you want is playing 1-drop on turn 1, 2-drop on turn 2 etc, so tracking actually doesn't help all that much. 3) In any deck with Mad Scientist I don't think Tracking is a good idea. You'll often have to track over traps, making your Mad Scientists lose value. THAT DOESN'T MEAN TRACKING CAN'T BE GOOD WITH THIS DECK IN MANY SITUATIONS! All it means is that, on average, the value out of Tracking in this deck is not enough to earn a spot.
Q: What about -Insert Card Here- in this deck?
A: There are a lot of cards that can work with this deck. The reason why I didn't choose them over the ones I did, is consistency. Ironbeak Owl, Stonetusk Boar, 2nd Houndmaster, Stranglethorn Tiger, 2nd Flare, Snake Trap etc, are all cards people recommended. With little card draw, situational cards often either clog your hand or find very little value.
Q: When do I go face, and when do I trade the board?
A: I can't really answer this question without writing 5 pages full of text on this subject. I hope the strategy tips above can help with some situations. As I've already mentioned somewhere in the comments below, Lifecoach mentioned in a recent interview that it takes him 2-4 weeks to fully understand a deck, so give it time and you'll probably figure it out yourself.
Q: How did you hit Legend with this deck? I played X games and dropped X ranks. This deck is GARBAGE!
A: I reached rank 4 before I started playing this deck. After that it took me ~35 games to reach Legend. It worked for me, so I decided to share it with other people that loved Hunter and were annoyed at the incoming Leeroy Jenkins / Starving Buzzard nerfs. I can't guarantee that anyone else playing this deck (or any other deck for that matter) will achieve the same results. I had already hit Legend x4 time in the past before this season so my level of play is enough with this deck to get there. If you didn't get there then I suggest thinking more before you play a card, try to find common mistakes in your gameplay or just give it time. With this deck, just like any other, it's possible to go on a losing streak if you get bad draws, while it's also possible to go on a big winning streak. My last 15 games before I got Legend went 0-4 and then 10-1. If I had given up after my losing streak, I would've probably not seen the potential of this deck.
Q: Not enough CARD DRAW!
A: This is something a lot of people mention. It's true, if a game goes longer than 10-12 turns then you'll probably run out of cards. However most of my games either end by that point, or my Hero Power is enough to finish the game. There's no good/consistent way atm to include more card draw in this deck (other than Loot Hoarders), however I am trying out some cards atm that can perhaps give this deck better chances in longer games. Feel free to suggest your way to include more card draw in this deck, rather than just pointing out ^_^ I never claimed this deck is perfect, that it only has good matchups or that improvements cannot be made.