WARNING! GIGANTIQUE (AS HARIS PILTON BAG) WALL OF TEXT HERE!
Edit: Wow! I never expected such a reception. I want to thank everyone that has seen and commented on the guide and the list! If you're here for the videos, click here and see acanadianbacon playing, or here to see Khristophesaurus Dinosaurus playing!
Hey! Name's Caio, I'm from South America playing in the US server (sorry_for_bad_Engrish.jpg), so please consider the meta analysis here as it's from NA. I'm a novice to intermediate player (around 3500 wins - play since beta, with gaps -, generally finish seasons around rank 3 and had hit legend only once, a long time ago) and I'm trying to find a deck that suits both low cost budget and good climbing. Most of the lists people post here are designed for legend meta, which can be really different from the ladder climb. Did you wonder why your N'Zoth Rogue wasn't working beyond rank 10? Well, assuming that you're a good player, the problem is precisely the ladder meta.
After a decent analysis (around 300 games or so), Track-o-bot has told me an oversight of current decks that are playing right now. For no one's surprise, the most played deck was Midrange Hunter, but with different approaches (some with Argent Squire and Dire Wolf Alpha, some with Sylvanas Windrunner and N'Zoth, the Corruptor and some even with lists very close to mine!); some of them worked better, I must say. However, the most popular class by far was Warrior (of course), with 19.2% of games, followed by Shaman (13.9%), Hunter (13.2%), Mage (11.9%), Warlock (10.6%), Rogue (9.3%), Druid (8.6%), Paladin (7.3%) and a solitary priest with 6% being the less played class (and trust me, Priest isn't that weak as the streamers mythologized).
This is actually good for midrange hunter. Warrior matchups are usually easy, as we can work around their removals with our Deathrattle (and smorc), and the Pirate-Aggro-Warrior who could complicate things for us can be dismounted with a few tricks. I have a solid 70% winrate against Garrosh and Magni, which tells us much about why I chose this deck to go in-depth. We will discuss this later.
Ok, so, after BrodanTuck post this deck here on Hearthpwn (seriously, go there and upvote his deck, it's absolutely amazing), I decided to take a closer look and create a list slightly different based on the meta. I tried his list for at least 120 games and tried to understand the strengths and weaks from that. I guess I made a decent job: Improved the winrate in 5%, which can be the difference between a rank 6 and a rank 5 player. I will not try to lecture anyone on this game, I'm just showing numbers that I discovered through patience. I can make some tips about general mulligans like "look for your Fiery Bats", but I believe there are many of those tutorials and I don't feel I'm a good enough player to materially help with that. The best advice I can give you here is: This isn't a face hunter, but don't be afraid to choose going face oftenly: You can burst down insane amounts of damage (15 on turn 6, for instance, even before Call of the Wild). Do the maths everytime you're going to attack or cast a burst spell.
Thing is, in the moment midrange hunter is the strongest deck for ladder climb given the current meta. We face so much matches that are 50-50 or even better that I can tell you to go forward with Hunter to get your Golden Epic, at least. I cannot promise you will reach Legend neither tell "wow 84% winrate" (with 20 matches played as most of people do), because that depends 1. on your skills (seriously, it's not autoplay), 2. on your luck 3. on the day you're playing (pray to avoid Midrange Shamen). What we can do is fight to achiev 55%+ of winrate (which means, efficiently, climbing up), and this is precisely why I am writing this wall of text. Keep in mind that there is a gap between rank 5 and legend and this gap depends interely on you.
Now let's see a guide through every card choice, and explain why some of cards that could be chosen aren't here. Give me your hands and let's go deeper in analysis.
Fiery Bat: Solid 1-drop, even better than old Leper Gnome - has beast synergy, 2 atack and dmg can hit minions. 2 of it, no regrets.
Hunter's Mark: Twilight Guardians and other strong taunts (like Ancient of War) were really annoying me, so I decided to give it a shot and, for my delight, it does work wonders. While isn't the best card to mulligan into, it really helps you to get board advantage, killing Darkshire Councilman, Flamewreathed Facelesses and a lot of other stuff. The advantage of Hunter's Mark is that you choose the minion you want to kill, which Freezing Trap doesn't allow you, and it can be a problem. Playing 1 of it.
Huge Toad: Kinda of same thing as Fiery Bat. Very solid 2-drop. That 1 dmg deathrattle makes difference (trust me, it does). 2 of it.
King's Elekk: I thought this card would be removed from the deck after I realize it's useless, but I was wrong: it helps A LOT against control, and actually it can help against aggro because I usually mulligan into my lowest cost cards and this gives me some curve (and I drew a few Huge Toads from it as well). Also, it ain't useless when you discover you're facing a combo worgen: this can mean you just won the game. Surprisingly, the current best option is running 2 of it.
Knife Juggler: I was running Flame Jugglers, because they're better as a 2-drop than lil'Knife, but the Unleash the Hounds combo is so great that made me rethink and Knife is actually better in this deck (by very few deviation, but still). Knife Juggler efficiently helps you to 1. turn the table against zoo and aggro shamen, and I literally didn't lose A GAME for them when I combo 2. put pressure and lead to missplays from weapon-based classes - isn't uncommon to see them afraid of Knife Juggler, removing him instead of more dangerous things such as a Huge Toad that will grow up to 5/4 taunt next turn and 3. synergyze with other cards that put more than 1 minion in the board. I strongly recommend you run 2 of this little guy.
Quick Shot: Core removal, finisher and hope-giver. When you exhausted all the options in your hand and the oponent is still at 8 life points, you will draw a Quick Shot, play it in his face and draw into a Call of the Wild. Trust me. You WILL. 2 copies of Quick Shot.
Animal Companion: Insane value for 3 mana. One of the best 3-drops in the game. P.S. Huffer wants to go face. P.S.2: This card has more deviation than Call of the Wild (I won more games I played it than I games I played CotW). This should mean something. 2 of this.
Deadly Shot: Tricky "tech" card. It helps a lot against annoying Frothing stupid Berserkers and those sole Sylvanas trying to sneak something. Also helps against C'thun-based decks (although if you're using it to kill C'thun something is wrong at his side). But it does very little against aggros and zoos, so please mulligan it off asap if thats the case. I didn't had much faith in this card when I saw on original Ganja_farfar's list (again, please click here), but it really helps. For my tryouts, given the current matchups, it's better run this than run Argent Horserider. But of course 1 copy is enough.
Eaglehorn Bow: Core card. Good to kill 3 health minions, smorc face and oftenly kill yourself out of shame for playing cancer hunter and losing to Divine Shield pally (you will lose to it, anyways). True story. 2 of those.
Kill Command: Finisher, removal, has synergy with beast to insane value, low mana cost, trickiest card to play, mage, tank, dps, assassin. The bread and butter from your deck. Run 2, of course.
Unleash the Hounds: I was very skeptical of playing 2 UTH without 2 Knife Jugglers as the original list suggests, but turns out it works - it just doesn't do wonders, but works. I believe this card is very helpful for badmatches and it can work as a tech and finisher from time to time - a turn 6 Leokk + UTH can be devastating. Because of this card alone I decided to optimize it's effect and play with 2 Knife Jugglers, as I already described. Great card. Running 2 of it.
Houndmaster: I personally don't like cards that doesn't surpass our vanilla test, but have to make an exception with this guy (and many others here, it appears). Tried to remove one from the deck, deck went worse, apologized to Houndmaster and put back the second copy. The list has so many beasts and hitting 4 is so sweet that taking him out isn't an option, even without his good pal Carrion Grub. It's a key card against Worgen Combo. Please don't put it on Misha if you're facing a worgen combo. Back 2 running 2.
Infested Wolf: This card is so good! Seriously. So good. The 2 tokens it leaves are both beasts, btw. Mini Savannah Highmane. Much love, but won't give it a hug. Ew. Infested. 2 of those.
Stampeding Kodo: Let us remember what this big guy kills: Tunnel Trogg, Mana Tide Totem, Flametongue Totem, Doomsayer, Knife Juggler, Bloodhoof Brave, Acolyte of Pain, Northshire Cleric, Leokk... Plus it has a very solid 3/5 body that can be made into an amazing 5/7 taunt because it's a beast. No, seriously, play with one of this guys, it really does wonders.
Stranglethorn Tiger: I KNEW it would be a time everyone would realize how amazing this five-mana-five-five-stealth is! My group of friends has a thing about the number "55", we believe it appears everywhere, and here it is! It procs your Kill Commands, it's a beast and super hard to remove in the turn he's played! And keep in mind that you CAN target him with Houndmaster while he's stealthed. Running only 1 because of mana curve.
Savannah Highmane: Best beast ever. Super high deviation and a pain in the ass of Garrosh. Go forward to playing 2.
OK I'm tired. Wow such texts. I didn't even revised. Ok. Yet we have still more. Sorry for fatiguing you guys out - it's my strategy to win. It really is: stop now and look in the mirror, look how beautiful you are. Go grab some coffee (or even some sleep: what time is it by now?). Go play some soccer. Did you vent? Good job. Ok. Let's go.
Cards tested and taken out:
Flame Juggler: He IS good and he IS a better 2-drop than Knife Juggler, but in overall matches, Knives guy simply does more, even being a turn 5 drop. Unfortunately to this artist of the streets, he isn't a beast, so it means low synergy with our deck and, to keep it simple, has no point in a meta that everything that would remove Knife Juggler would remove Flame Juggler too. Plus, most of 2 drops that you will play against against is x/2, so Knife Juggler can efficiently remove 'em while giving more control of his ability and not hitting an unintended Acolyte of Pain. Deviation: -6,7%. Cards took out for the tryout: Knife Juggler.
Freezing Trap: Chose this after considering my options and guess what? Freezing Trap acts like a Deadly Shot against some Frothing Berserkers (I saw a lot of those), can effectively lead to missplays from other midranges (mage, hunter and shaman) and builds a lot of tempo against aggro. The downside here is that it can complicate things against C'Thun decks, especially Warrior - they may have some trouble to make their C'thun hit 10 and this can help them up. Yet, Hunter's Mark feels better - Trap got me a deviation of 4,6%, but I really have to deal with those annoying taunts, so I'm playing Mark right now.
Argent Horserider: Let's make everyone scream, but NO, HORSERIDER ISN'T GOOD FOR THIS META. The super aggro version of this deck struggles much more against faster aggros or good controls. This puts in the same page Dire Wolf Alpha, Abusive Sergeant and Argent Squire. If you want to play with these, I really feel you should look into warlock decks. With these cards, we lose the advantage we got against warriors and even some aggros as well. I don't recommend it. Deviation of -32.5%, played it instead of Deadly Shot and Freezing Trap.
Carrion Grub: Oh, the beloved Grub, best friends with Houndmaster to create a huge problem for OTKs and aggros. In theory it's great. In game, not so much. First of all, everyone knows that if you're playing grub, you have a Houndmaster ready. Second, it doesn't add much when you don't combo him because of his low damage. Third, it's a bad draw in almost any moment of the game. Fourth, you will always mulligan him into any 2 drop because they're simply better. It's a solid turn 7 card (being played already with Houndmaster), which is the curve this deck lacks, but it's so rare to get to play him specifically on that spot that it doesnt change much. Has a very weak deviation: -43.5%. Card took out for the tryout: Freezing Trap.
Azure Drake: Yes, I tested him, and no, things did not went that bad. For many that are skeptical about how good he is, he won me a few games due to his card cycling and spell damage. His body is ok and actually his only weakness is decisive: He ain't a beast, mon! It's simply better to play ANY 5-drops that are actually beasts than playing Azure Drake, which is a shame, because I really liked him in the deck. Well. Numbers are cold, I guess. Deviation of -16.7%. Card took out for the tryout: Houndmaster.
Tundra Rhino: He isn't bad, he isn't good, but sure as hell he's ain't ugly. It's the most decent replacements for 5 drops. I felt that the 2 damage + taunt Houndmaster provided me was better, and I wasn't mistaken: It does more considering the meta we are into. It has a different function if compared to Stampeding Kodo, so I removed a Houndmaster here, for a deviation of -5.5%.
Sylvanas Windrunner: I love her from the bottom of my heart, but she's just too slow. It's easy to play around her and she actually does nothing against super aggros, who are, after all, our worst matchup besides midrange shamen. Deviation: -43.7%. Card took out for the tryout: Stampeding Kodo.
N'Zoth, the Corruptor: Oh, yea. Someone appeared with the idea of putting him, because of so many deathrattles and such. No, don't play him in this list. Just don't. Numbers speak for themselves: Deviation of -100%!!! Took out a Stampeding Kodo to test him.
Yogg-Saron, Hope's End: You think I'd forget him? Of course not. He's my favorite card in the whole game and, as the deck has 12 (!!!) spells, I thought... "Why not?". Because, well, nop. It's too slow and the deck doesn't feed him enough to be a game-winner. It helped in one or two times in like 20 games. Don't have the deviation recorded because my game started to disconnect in the middle of the matches, thus bugged Track-o-bot, unfortunately. But I can guarantee that it isn't worth it.
Here we are! At the end? Not quite, my dear. Not quite. Let's take a look through our matchups, what can we do and how:
Aggro Shamen: Easy win. I made 11-0 against them, and I feel it's the easiest matchup for this deck because they run out of gas in the first Misha we bring on. We outdamage them as well. (100% winrate)
Dragon Warrior: Same as above. They have so many tough calls here; I believe that if they chose to push face instead of trying to trade against our faster, better, harder and stronger minions, they would go better. Nevertheless, none of the 10 people I played against had a chance. 10-0 so far. (100% winrate)
C'thun Druid: It's funny because you'd think it would be hard to bypass a Dark Arakkoa, but we have Deadly Shot. Simple matchup, unless they unleash hell with that 5/100000 taunt tree, but it's rare. (90% winrate)
N'Zoth Rogue: I thought it would be a harder matchup than it actually is. One of the few rogues that won against me played THREEEEEEE Reno Jackson (through Shadowstep and poison from Xaril). We simple punish their playstyle by going face and winning turn 7, like (not so) good ol' times - mulligan aggressively! (75% winrate)
Tempo Warrior: This can be tricky, but I feel we have tech enough to break their spine. Warrior in general pains to surpass us. Good matchup. (75% winrate)
C'thun Warrior: I know exactly what to do against 'em as I roll a C'thun warrior myself, so maybe thats why the matchup wasn't hard. I faced lots of them, btw. Good matchup. 70% winrate.
N'Zoth Paladin: Normally, an autowin. Of course the can have a hand from the Gods and curve perfectly (Lightlord into Tirion into N'Zoth), which screws us. But still a good matchup, with solid 70% winrate.
Ramp-Yogg Druid: If they Yogg and Yogg yoggs them, we lose. We can also lose if they Astral Communion and draw something really annoying, but most of all Deadly Shot can solve this little issue. Otherwise... Good matchup, 65% winrate.
Worgen Combo: Tricky matchup, but mostly we can deal with him. As I do play CancerWorgen as well, I know that midrange hunter is one of the worst matchups for the deck, so this leaves us in the good matchup area. I had 65% winrate, but probably because I missplayed.
Midrange Hunter: The deck I faced the most. I feel our version has a slighty advantage in mirrors because of the many insanely aggro not-so-face hunters - they instalose for Knife Juggler's combo. Yet, whoever draws better wins, of course. Normal matchup. (55% winrate)
Zoolock: Gosh, everytime I see a warlock, I pray it's zoo and not Reno (because I'm not good enough to play around Reno, I admit it). Yet zoo isn't a properly good matchup. You can put your tricks out against 'em, and the times you do it, you won. But there are times you won't have enough tempo, or he will draw so much better, or he will play better than you - trust me, it happens. Normal matchup with 55% winrate.
Pirate Warrior: The most annoying warrior. Normal matchup thanks to Knife Juggler. 50% winrate.
Token Druid: Pray for curve draws, pray for him having bad draws, mulligan correctly, don't overextend and keep praying. Tough matchup with 40% winrate.
Tempo Mage: Tricky matchup, but I got that bad winrate due to missplays. As I'm confident you're a much better player than me, shouldn't be so hard. Though, I have to put my experience here: Tough matchup. 40% winrate
Divine Paladin: If you can coin into combo, you just won the game - he won't have a thing to friggin' divine shield. Otherwise you probably lost. They're good against us. Tough matchup, 35% winrate.
Midrange Shamen: Get ready for having a hard time. Very tough matchup - 25% winrate. I do not have any advice here. Deeply sorry. Four mana seven-seven.
Hallazeal from Hell God Knows How Much I Hate You Shamen: Impossible to win. 0% winrate and I played them quite a lot.
I played against many other decks, such as control and dragon priests, freeze mages, patron warriors, Renolocks and stuff, but didn't had enough games to determine how good is the matchup actually. Most of all went well.
Now now, young one. Here we finish. The conclusion is this deck is incredible for costing so little and being so good at ladder - 68% winrate total right now. If you have a few dust to spare and don't mind playing cancerhunter, go for it. It's worth your time.
Thank you so much for reading. I'd be delighted to know if you liked my effort here, and the simpliest way to state it is to rate this deck. You are absolutely invited to downrate it if you think it deserves; but if you think it's worth a upvote, please do so! I also love to comment and argue about my choices, but keep in mind that I'm not a pro.
And to finish it, here are my thanks: To Ganja_Farfar for making me know the original list, which is awesome, please click here to see the original idea; to DrWallombee, for having so much patience with my bad English and awful social skills; to the Hearthpwn community (yes, you!) for being so friendly!; and to Firebat because of this video where he teaches on how to record your matches and improve your scores.
Well! Again, thanks for reading and I'm anxious to see if there will be any feedbacks.
And the videos!