If a highmane hits face, the hunter will win
#1 Legend EU Mid-Range Hunter Deck Guide (Weekly Updated)
About the decklist
This is the decklist I used from regular (non-legend) rank 4 straight to #1 Legend EU. During the climb my winrate was approximately 75-85% percent. This deck seems to counter most popular "meta" decks really well (except for oil rogue). It's total cost in dust is 2980 (+ Naxx cards).
I. General Strategy and Card Choices
This particular hunter decklist relies on maintaining board control while applying pressure on your opponent and then finishing him off with the burst damage cards.
I.I) Possible Replacements:
I.I.I) If you are facing a lot of control matchups:
You can take one eaglehorn bow, one sludge belcher and kezan mystic out of the deck and add ragnaros, hunter's mark, sylvanas or harrison jones.
I.I.2) If you are facing a lot of aggro the original decklist should be fine
I.II) What can I replace [insert card name here] with: I.II.I) [Dr. Boom] - as we all know, this card is at least slightly overpowered, so it is difficult to replace. Generally, you should go for another 7+ mana creature instead. Ragnaros is probably he best option but, Sneed's Old Shredder and even Kel'Thuzad might be viable.
I.II.II) [Loatheb] - this card also has a unique effect attached to it, so you are going to lose a small percentage of your winrate if you replace it. Other options for this slot are: harrison jones, hunter's mark and ragnaros, depending, on what type of decks you are facing on ladder.
II.I) Good card combinations:
These combinations have been mentioned multiple times in all kind of guides already, nevertheless I'm going to give a quick overview of them for new players.
Knife Juggler + Inleash the Hounds/Haunted Creeper/Snake Trap
This little gnome is no joke. Generally, you should try to keep him in your hand (since it's diest to almost any removal) until you can ensure that he juggles are going to get value (or if you need to apply pressure on your opponent).
Coining out haunted creeper on turn 1, and then playing a knife juggler on turn turn followed by trading your creeper into your opponent's minion is usually a huge tempo swing.
If your opponent has 3(4)+ creatures on board, unleash the hounds is a game changer when combined with this guy.
Playing a snake trap followed up by a knife juggler is good too, although it telegraphs what secret it is.
II. Useful Tips & Tricks
There are several things that you should keep in mind when playing this deck:
1.1*) During your first 2-3 turns, try to deceive your opponent into thinking that you are just another face hunter.
Current meta is full of our "bad" brothers - face hunters - to the extent that an average player assumes you are one of them as soon as he (or she?) sees Rexxar which means he mulligans accordingly.
We can try to support this illusion since our early drops are very similar to face hunter's slow start:
It pays off later on when you can safely play a highmane since your opponent has wasted his removal (for example, executes, shield slams, hexes or even saps) and silences (owl, keeper of the grove, earth shock) just to prevent the damage your 2-3 mana drops might deal. It also might force him to play defensively/off curve rather than trying to maximize the efficiency of his turns.
1.2*) When playing against aggressive decks, make them think you run explosive traps. Explosive traps are extremly dangerous for you opponent if he has two or more creatures with 2 or less on his side of the board. It means that you can easily play a snake trap and make him think it's an explosive one.
Consider this scenario: you are playing vs a zoo warlock. He has two flame imps out. Your side of the board is empty. You play a haunted creeper/knife juggler/animal companion and develop a trap. In his eyes you are a face hunter, and they run exclusively explosive traps. If he ignores the creeper and it's an explosive trap, he probably loses the game, since it's too much of a templo loss.
What can he do? Trade.
And that's exactly what we trying to achieve. The snake trap gets triggered, and our board presence sthrengthens greatly.
1.3) Don't play it too slow against control decks.
When matched up vs a control deck like priest, warrior and paladin or vs a slightly heavier curve mid-range deck like those of druids, paladins and sometimes warlocks/shamans you will often be able to take board control early on. Then it becomes really tempting to win the game through board control and outvaluing your opponent. It is possible, but most of the time it's not needed.
Always keep in mind the fact, that there are only 3 really big threats in your deck (2 highmanes and dr. boom) which means that you are going to lose board control eventually and if it happens on turn 8+, gaining it back is almost impossible. Apply pressure while you can, go face when you are given the opportunity and then seal the game with kill commands.
Ideally you want to make your opponent switch to a defensive strategy and play a survival game while you are accumulating burst damage in your hand.
1.4) Don't try to rush your opponent down
Whatever deck he is playing, forget what your face hunter brothers told you, you need to get extremely lucky to kill you opponent before turn 6. Trying to quickly finish the match usually leads to unfavorable trades and inefficient use of resources. Moreover, nowadays many decks run one or even two healbots which might single-handedly counter this aggression.
*When you are playing at high ranks, opponents might not fall for these tricks if you have revealed webspinners.
III. Mulligans / Strategies specific to matchups
III. I) Good Matchups:
III.I.I) Vs Control Warrior:
Cards that you can keep in your staring hand: haunted creeper, mad scientist (not more than 1), eaglehorn bow (not more than 1), animal companion, piloted shredder (not more than 1 if you don't have the coin) and one savannah highmane (especially if you have the coin).
You also might consider keeping webspinners if you already have eaglehorn bow in your hand, since it usually brings an armorsmith down to 3 health or forces the warrior to play one of his cruel taskmasters.
The key cards in this matchup are: savannah highmanes, piloted shredders and a well timed hounmaster. It's very difficult for warrior to remove a highmane without taking a lot of damage, same comes for shredder and even for the hounmaster if you buff, lets say, a haunted creeper.
Don't overextend into brawl. Having 10 power on board (2-4 creatures) is usually more than enough.
Don't play freezing traps too early, unless you need to regain board control. This type of warrior tend to run a lot of big legendaries, which makes freezing traps incerdibly valueable later on.
Always keep in mind, that if warrior has an "ok" draw, he is going to eventually regain board control so your goal is to bring him to something below 10 health before it happens.
III.I.II) Vs Grim Patron Warrior:
From my personal expirience about 20-25% of warriors in the current meta are running these combo decks. The majority still plays classic control warrior. Assuming, that we do not know what kind of warrior we are playing against at the mulligan stage we keep the same cards as in III.I.I However, savannah highmane might be not as good, so generally I prefer keeping it only if I have the coin or both 2 and 3 drops.
III.I.III) Vs Combo Druid:
Cards that you can keep in your starting hand: webspinner, haunted creeper, knife juggler, mad scientist, animal companion, piloted shredder (not more than 1 if you don't have the coin). You can also keep one copy of eaglehorn bow if you have a 1 or 2 mana drop.
Generally mid-range hunter has an edge in this matchup, however you shouldn't ever let the druid take board control early on. It becomes extremely difficult to win if druid is the one picking trades. Use all of your resources (i.e. kill commands, bow charges, traps) to prevent this from happening.
III.I.IV) Vs Paladin:
Here you are looking for the following cards: webspinners, haunted creepers, mad scientists, unleash the hounds (not more than 1). If you alrady have a 2 drop creature in your hand, you might aswell keep an animal companion or a shredder.
Try to avoid using unleash before paladin plays muster for battle. Besides, knife juggler + unleash is a game changing combo in this matchup so you might want to hold on to your juggler if you have other acceptable plays.
Don't use the owl before Tirion Fordring is played unless it is the only viable play.
Clearing 1/1 tokens that he summons is a big deal since there is no explosive trap in the decklist + they can activate freezing traps. However, dont do this with your 5+ mana drops.
III.II) Mediocre (50/50) Matchups:
III.II.I) Vs Face Hunter:
Recently there was a lot of discussion whether this decklist is good against face hunters or not. My winrate vs face hunters is something in between 55-60%.
Cards that you can keep in your starting hand: webspinner, mad scientist, haunted creeper, ironbeak owl, kezan mystic. If you have a 1 or 2 mana drop (or coin) you can keep one animal compaion. If your hand is really good (2 or more 2 mana drops and a coin, you can keep one sludge belcher).
The key cards in this matchup are: mad scientists (you need them to gain tempo through freezing traps), kezan mystic (stealing an explosive trap usually if game ending), haunted creepers (can trade 2 or even 3 for one, especially with a knife juggler to support them).
This matchup is a race. Even though you are going to trade early on, later in the game (turns #3-4+) you have to let your inner face hunter out and kill your opponent faster than he kills you. Don't be afraid to kill command face when you are given the opportunity. Same goes for the bow. There is no need to try and get these extra charges from your traps, just keep pressuring your opponent as much as you can. Usually you kill the face hunter the turn before he can kill you.
I'm going to add a more in-depth analysis of this particular matchup as soon as possible.
III.II.II) Vs Mech Mage, Tempo Mage and Zoo Warlock:
Cards that you can keep in your starting hand: webspinners, haunted creepers, mad scientists, knife jugglers, snake trap (if you have a 2 mana drop), one eaglehorn bow, one animal companion. If you hand is good (have a 2 mana drop and a coin), you can keep a shredder. Kezan mystic is also a keep (only vs mages).
In these matchups there is no need to rush. You can outvalue your opponents and win through board control. There is almost nothing a mage can do against a highmane. The best option for him is probably freezing the lion with a spare part or frostbolt and going face, trying to outrace us. However, it usually doesn't work out well for them. Play this matchup slowly, pick good trades, establish a strong board and then kill you opponent in two or three turns.
The key cards in this matchup are: mad scientists, animal companions, haunted creepers and unleash the hounds (in combinations with knife jugglers).
If you have a coin, a knife juggler and unleash in your hand, you might let your opponent overextend, play 4+ creatures on board, while you develop a bow, a haunted creeper or a snake trap, and then coin out the juggler+unleash combo on turn 4.
III.III) Bad Matchups:
III.III.I) Vs Handlock:
Fortunately, there are almost no handlock in the current meta thanks to the facehunter SMOrc club. However, you can occasionaly run into one of them. Most of the time it means, you are going to lose. We run only one silence, no hunter's mark and no bgh, which means giants and drakes are going to be a pain in the ass. There are two ways of playing this matchup:
1) bringing handlock down to 16-18 health (so that he can't play double molten and taunt them up on the same turn), and then building the board (and accumulating burst damage in hand) until you can kill him in one turn or
2) yolo SMOrc, imagine you are a face hunter, faceroll as hard as you can, go face, and hope that he will run out of answers.
Generally, I prefer the first strategy, but if your starting hand is aggressive and you believe in the heart of the cards (i.e. you are good at topdecking), strategy #2 might be more beneficial.
Cards that you can keep in your starting hand: haunted creeper, ironbeak owl, mad scientists knife juggler, animal companion, pioted shredder (2 if you have the coin), one savannah highmane (if you have the coin and you hand is already decent).
III.III.II) Vs Oil Rogue:
Remember the handlock matchup? This one is probably just a little bit better. Rogue is favored, since playing highmanes is extremely risky because of possible sap. This matchup is similar to face hunter matchup - it is also a race. If you can bring the rogue down to 10-15 health before he clears the board, you are probably going to win. So overall facehunter strategy is applicable for us.
Cards that you can keep in your starting hand: webspinner (not more than one), haunted creeper, mad scientist, knife juggler (only if rogues doesn't have the coin), eaglehorn bow, animal companions, piloted shredders (not more than one unless you have the coin) and loatheb.
Key cards in this matchup: Loatheb, Piloted Shredders, Eaglehorn bow, Sludge belchers.
Kill commands and unleash the hounds might be important too.
Generally, you goal is to establish the board control as soon as you can and start hitting face. Trading with rogue is ok early on, but later (turns 4-5+) it's usually better to go face and try to seal the game asap.
About the author
This guide (and decklist) are presented to you by Tarrok, a Hearthstone player from Russia. Tarrok is starting his own stream on Twitch (twitch.tv/tarroktv). The channel is going to be devoted primarily to educational ranked play with commentary in english.