Welcome to my first ever officially Hearthstone Deck-Tracked Hunter Guide!
My name is DragonKing, (almost completely) free-to-play Dutch HearthStone player ever since the release of Naxx -God, how time flies.
More about me (and my passion for the game):
I'm Luuk, 20 year-old Dutch student, and long story short: I've always loved to play videogames. And to be a little bit more specific: especially competitive games have always attracted me, because of my own competetive spirit (pun intended). I've put about 800 hours in Riot Games' League of Legends, peaking at Diamond IV in Season 5, but apparently around double the amount of hours put in Hearthstone. By which you can assess the game as my all-time-favourite. Highlights in my not (yet) professional career have taken place around Goblins vs. Gnomes, rushing to Legend with Midrange Hunter, The Grand Tournament, taking Midrange Combo Druid to the next level, and Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, abusing the sheer power of Dragon Priest.
Anyways, enough about me, let's set our sights upon the game. Hunter. The so-called SMOrc-class. Been a very discutable class when the Face-is-the-Place was a big issue in the game. I've never really been a huge fan of it to be honest. I'd always prefer to build more Control-oriented decks, and have always craved for a competitive Control Hunter list. That's why I really loved the Dragonz'Rilla list lHlakai posted a couple years ago (also see http://www.hearthpwn.com/decks/400374-dragonzrilla for the amazing guide).
When Reno came around, I was exclusively trying to build a decent Reno Control Hunter decklist. Another reason why I love the new Highlander cards from Saviors of Uldum. I will definitely be posting my take on Highlander Hunter sometime in the near future too, but I'm currently trying out my own version of the new Secret Hunter list. Time to get to the point right now.
Secret Hunter. Always been around. From Mad Scientist to Cloaked Huntress. And from Lesser Emerald Spellstone now to Project 9. Quite different builds over time, even though the core has always remained the same: Secretkeeper, Eaglehorn Bow, some strong Midrange cards like Animal Companion and Unleash the Hounds, and -obviously- some of the strongest Hunter Secrets that are available in the game.
- Explosive Trap (1x): One of the more mediocre Hunter Secrets, often ending up very clunky when not properly timed. But when played in the perfect moment, it can offer you the swing-turn you need to escape from a daunting board of small drops. More often than not used for just the Secretkeeper, Sunreaver Spy or Eaglehorn Bow proc;
- Freezing Trap (1x): Similar in power level to its Classic brother Explosive Trap, but instead of a small board clear, Freezing Trap offers a single target hard removal. Albeit on your opponent's turn. As with Explosive Trap, timing is key. If timed right, it can really mess up your opponent's game plan when you are the one ahead on board. The reason I only run 1 copy is the fact that it can actually turn out pretty badly for yourself too, especially since Murloc Pal and Battlecry Shammy are very popular right now. And because of another, more recent addition, which is...;
- Pressure Plate (1x): Very cool new Secret, which I've actually managed to fit in my list quite well. Effect is very similar to Freezing Trap, but this one only procs when your opponent casts a Spell. Thing is, many classes cast Spells pretty regularly (with the obvious exception being Murloc Pal, which only runs 4). I decided to cut my 1 copy of Deadly Shot for this Secret, because of the mere reason that Deadly Shot becomes pretty much useless when you already have one on a stick, hanging above your head (or your opponent's, as a matter of perspective). Also, the new art of Deadly Shot is just an utter shame, so I'm even more satisfied with the swap;
- Rat Trap (2x): Ohhh Rat Trap. How I love you. Sùch a beautifully designed card. I think the card this can be compared to the most is actually Cat Trick, which I really loved too back in the day. In Control matchups it's kindof like a restriction on your opponent: they just CANNOT play more than 2 cards a turn to deal with your board, or otherwise they just practically lose. I've had so many times an opponent finally found a way to deal with my current board and avoid Lethal, only to trigger my Rat Trap and be killed next turn anyways. Or concedes. Same result.
Another point of attention is the fact that in the early game, this does actually NOT get triggered at all (except for sometimes vs. Spell Mage or Lackey Rogue going second, thus having The Coin). Which means a guaranteed Sunreaver Spy or Hyena Alpha proc in the early game. And if it does get proc'd early game, that's not bad at all either of course. Just a great card, one of 2 Secrets I'm satisfied with enough to actually include 2 copies of them. The other being;
- Snake Trap (2x): Just like Rat Trap, a great Secret to abuse and proc your Secret-based buffs from. Also a very solid inclusion in today's Tempo / Board-centered Meta. Not really much more to say actually. Except for the fact that I apparently acquired one Golden copy of it, like 4 years ago. So yeah, that's cool too. Maybe just crafting the whole deck in Golden once I got enough Dust;
- Snipe (1x): Last, but not least (well, kinda least), Snipe. Yeah. Snipe. Can be great, can be VERY clunky too. It's always very satisfying when it actually hits something like a Stargazer Luna or a Missile Launcher. Unfortunately this only happens in 1 out of say 20 games. Still, a decent enough Secret to at least run 1 copy of, mostly just to add to your Bow charges.
Now, for the non-Secret Secret cards, we've got ourselves quite a dense package, consisting of very powerful cards from very different expansions. I won't be diving too deeply into them all individually, since I'm probably already way past the 1000 words mark, but I'll just give a short description / justification of the card inclusions:
- Secretkeeper (2x): Card speaks for itself, she keeps all Secrets. Very safe. One of the few cards I actually love the updated art from, would probably look great in Golden too. Always mulligan for her, she's just a must-deal-with, otherwise she can single-handedly snowball games for you. Auto-include 2 copies in any Secret list;
- Sunreaver Spy (2x): A very simple but cool (and pretty darn strong) 2-drop from Rastakhan's Rumble, Sunreaver Spy can make for very early game snowballs too. Especially when you're on The Coin. Coin out a Secret your opponent can't trigger in their 2nd turn, and you got yourself a Turn 2 3/4. Without Overload. OPieOP;
- Eaglehorn Bow (2x): Needs VERY little explanation too. Actually decided to craft this in Golden a couple months ago, since it's just such a great card. I can think of very little Hunter decks that don't run this card, so I'll just leave it with that, and dive deeper into the Mechanics underlying this card in the Mulligan section;
- Masked Contender (1x): Another cool addition from RR, Masked Contender can create quite the Tempo swings too. Two main reasons why I only run 1 copy of it are: 1. Hunter's 3 Mana spot has always been very contested, and 2. It can become pretty awkward when he pulls an unwanted Secret out of your deck. Still a cool card, and often times a very strong Turn 3 play when a Secret is up;
- Hyena Alpha (2x): Yeah... I don't really know what Blizzard was thinking when designing this card either. I'll just say I immediately thought of it as a decent replacement for both my Lifedrinkers. That's about it. Very, VERY strong Turn 4 play alongside a Secret, and actually such a strong play that I've even found myself playing it slightly off-curve, i.e. when top-decking it on T5. It's just that good. Probably being nerfed anytime soon, so till then, definitely abuse the sh*t out of it, because it looks (and sounds) pretty damn neat too. And kindof reminds me of The Lion King, now that Simba has left the Meta;
- Subject 9 (1x, obviously): Another magnificently designed card, which is just thé perfect fit for Secret Hunter. It's a 5 Mana 4/4 Beast (!), which returns you each and any of the steam you might have lost by Turn 5 after a very strong curve. It's just bonkers. I love it. Flavour-wise, art-wise, power-wise. 10 out of 10 stars.
Now, for the 'Spells' part, I've actually decided to keep the mid-/late-game Spell package, just because of the sheer power-level of Zul'jin. I'll look into each card seperately, but will (try to) keep it short too:
- Animal Companion (2x): Double auto-include in any given Hunter deck I've ever played/ stumbled upon. With the single exception being Mech Hunter, but that's because they got a mechanical version of Misha now. I just love this card though. And I love the fact that I've got 2 Goldens of it. Completely for free. For years already. It's one of the few more RNG-based cards in the deck, but the great thing about this card is, often times you can just either manage the RNG, or just play the game out in such a way that any of the Animal Companions is a positive outcome. Which it often times already is. Really one of my favorite cards of the Basic set, and I've got quite some more arguments for that matter, which are out of proportion of this guide;
- Hunter's Pack (1x): Cool new refill-card, which isn't really in line with Hunter's class identity (triggered?). Was initially thinking about adding 2 copies, but the deck already runs enough refill/drawing options, so it would kindof become overkill. Now that I've experimented a little with it, I must say the card does prove itself worthy of at least one spot, but maybe not in this particular decklist. Can explain this in more detail if anyone asks, but will keep it with this for now. I've decided to just stick with 1 copy because I can't really think of any replacement that actually makes the deck stronger;
- Kill Command (2x): No comment, just Kill Command. I Commanded it to Kill all Commants... Commends, uhh... Comments;
- Unleash the Hounds (1x): Cool card, been hotfixed and nerfed and then buffed and nerfed again (...?). Now it's just decent. Especially vs. the more aggressive decks, which are pretty prevalent in today's Meta, as I mentioned before. Key is, again, the timing. You want to wait long enough with Unleashing the Hounds until you can actually get the most value/damage (which is Hunter's language for value) out of it;
- Marked Shot (2x): Very neat card too. The obvious replacement of Flanking Strike post-K&C rotation, sacrificing some Tempo / Board presence for Flexibility / Utility (and 1 more initial damage, which can at times make a huge difference, when i.e. targeting a Misha or buffed up Hench-Clan Thug. Just a very solid removal Spell, both when ahead as well as when behind on board;
- Baited Arrow (1x): Very niche card. That's why running one copy is just perfect. Running 2 would make for way too many awkward hands, but you want to have at least one just because of the sheer Tempo it creates. It's obviously very comparable to Fire Elemental, but can come out one (or 2, with The Coin) turns earlier, which can be a game-changer. Lovely card too. 'Cause dinos. R.I.P. Un'Goro 2K19, you will be missed;
- Unleash the Beast (2x): One of the best cards to play alongside Zul'jin. It's removal. It's board presence. It's a Beast. It's even recastable. Heck, what's it not?! Always good to play, can think of very few situations in which you don't want to play this. Definitely play it before your Zul'jin, if you can afford it. It's worth it;
- Zul'jin (1x): The Daddy of Hunter. Rexxar's Papi. Okay, I'll stop, before I become perma-banned from the site. What more can I say, though? This card is just nuts. Utter nuts. It's a controlled Yogg-Saron, Hope's End. Well, a little more controlled. But that says a lot. Now that Yogg's been Reborn in Mage (already suffering from Post-Puzzle Box Stress Disorder), Hunter isn't the only class with a -potentially- great comeback card anymore. Still, it's the best you can hope for. It's just the best.
Okay so, I guess that covers the whole decklist. Now for the Mulligan Guide, specific Matchups and Card Replacements, I must say very honestly that I'm not really prepared to give the exact perfect Mulligan / Matchup strategies yet. But will definitely add them, once I've got more data / attention for the decklist is sufficient enough. I'll give a general Mulligan advice though:
- Being first: You always want that Secretkeeper. Only 1 though. If you got her in your mulligan, you just want to hard-mulligan for any Secret. If you already have a Secret in mulligan too, you can search for a 3-drop in Animal Companion, Eaglehorn Bow, or Masked Contender. Sunreaver Spy generally is worth a keep too, already for the pure fact that you won't draw her later in the game. I'd only keep Subject 9 in a matchup I know for certain that it's gonna be playable / survivable till Turn 5. Which often includes Mage, Druid and Warrior;
- Being second: As mentioned, you want to go all-in for the Turn 1 The Coin + Secret, Turn 2 Sunreaver Spy. So hard-mulligan for that in any and every game. For the rest it's quite similar to your mulligan when being the first to play. Aside from being able to play both Secretkeepers on T1, often times resulting in a Hero Power Concede from your opponent's side. Also, if you got the T1-3 curve already, you can look for a Hyena Alpha or Subject 9.
- Side note: I generally always mulligan away any removal spells (i.e. Unleash the Hounds, Kill Command, Marked Shot, Baited Arrow, Unleash the Beast) and refill cards (Hunter's Pack, Subject 9 -except for when I already got my early curve / in heavy Control matchups-, and Zul'jin).
So, that's about it. At least for now. I'm very, very curious to see what you guys think of the list, as well as from my guide. Have put quite some time and effort in it, so a like / comment would be lovely! Thanks a lot for reading, and apologies for any inappropriate puns (I kindof hear that a lot, so I guess I'll apologize in advance this time, hope you guys can handle all the cringe). Any questions? Just post 'em here, I'll make sure to answer them ASAP!
Have a good one, and, as they say: Let the Hunt begin!
DragonKing (IGN: DragonDrake#2375)
P.S.: I added proof of my Rank (currently being 5, but still climbing), although none can actually deduct from that screenshot that I made that Rank with this particular deck. But I guess that's a common use here. Also, added a screenshot of my Hearthstone Deck Tracker, which can be considered a little more reliable. And yes, it's real. 70% Winrate over 46 games. Quite amazing, isn't it? ^^/