This is a pretty aggressive version of Hunter, which is good for ranking up quickly on ladder. Xixo used this deck when becoming the first EU legend this season, and used it while getting legend on NA too. I liked it, played it, and wanted to explain the deck.
Naxx helped Hunter a lot. Mad Scientist, Webspinner,and Haunted Creeper give you a lot more early board control for limited cost. Haunted Creeper is better than River Crocolisk. Scientist and Webspinner both get you another card when they die. It's not a perfect card, usually it's worse than drawing a card, but it's still pretty good. So let's get more into the changes made since Naxx.
Undertaker is a strong new card, too. It has more downside if you draw it later on. But it has a big upside if you draw it early. It's a great card if you want to play a more aggro deck. You can think of Undertaker as replacing Savannah Highmane when a faster deck is a good idea. Pick one or the other.
Finally, Naxx brought us Loatheb, which is a great card for most decks, including Hunter. Loatheb tends to be especially good in decks that want to deal damage, like Hunter or Miracle Rogue. If you play Loatheb on an empty board it has a good chance to swing for 5 damage to the face – a much better chance than other large creatures, which would often get immediately removed by spells.
Hunter is really popular right now, and in Hunter vs Hunter, Highmanes are slow and early board control is a big deal.
What other cards do Hunters run besides Highmane, which aren't in this deck? Stampeding Kodo and Tundra Rhino are also slow and somewhat situational. Deadly Shot, Ironbeak Owl, and Scavenging Hyena are also a little slow or situational. On ladder, consistency is key. With this deck, you want to get early board control, start dealing damage, and kill your opponent first. You don't want cards sitting around in your hand which could be valuable sometimes but aren't valuable now.
Finally there's Tracking. Tracking is a bit overrated. In Hearthstone, one mana is quite a lot, and Hunter has Webspinner now for turn one, or Creeper and Scientist turn one with coin. Tracking is frequently mulliganed now in decks that run it, in search of early creatures (it's still pretty nice later in the game, though). Without a dead early game to fill in, Tracking isn't as good anymore. But let me be clear: all the old complaints that Tracking discards your cards are wrong. That didn't matter, except in games that went to fatigue – but most Hunter games don't go to fatigue. However, now that we have Mad Scientist, discarding traps actually is a problem, because you can run out. The main problem with Tracking is that mana is important, and that it's better to design the deck for consistency, instead of having some situational cards which you hope to find at the right moments with Tracking.
Instead of those cards, we run two Flares to help beat other Hunters, and a Leper Gnome to help make the early game more consistent, deal damage, and synergize with Undertaker. Explosive Trap helps against other Hunters. It can also help against some other decks like Zoo. If the metagame changes and Hunter drops off, change one of them for a Snake Trap, or otherwise adjust the traps as you see fit. Running two Eaglehorn Bows can help get board control, or help kill people. It's a flexible card. A lot of Highmane Hunters were dropping it a few weeks ago, but it helps a lot in more aggressive decks.
As the game moves on, look for a chance to use Houndmaster on turn four, or possibly on turn three with The Coin. Houndmaster gives great value for its mana. But unlike most of your cards, it's situational. You need a beast out and alive for it. You won't always have that. But try to think ahead and plan things out so you'll have a beast when you want to play Houndmaster. If it works out, it can get you a big advantage.
If you keep board control into the midgame, start using Steady Shot instead of playing every creature you have. That way they can't make a comeback using an AoE spell as every deck except Warlock Zoo probably has some AoE.
As the game goes on, you may lose board control. That's OK. Keep doing damage with Steady Shot, and maybe hold them off with a Trap. Then as they build up an army to kill you, play Starving Buzzard and Unleash the Hounds. You'll draw a bunch of cards and hopefully find Hunter's Mark. You'll usually want to use the hounds to clear enemy creatures, not attack their hero, and Hunter's Mark will let you do this well even if you're out of mana. You can consider going for the hero if you're safe enough you won't die soon, and you can plan out killing them in one or two turns. But most decks early have their own burst damage so you're never safe to just ignore their creatures for a while, or else they have healing so you can't plan out a kill in the future very well.
Trading Hounds is especially important against other Hunters so they can't get a big Unleash of their own. And it's generally smart against any deck with AoE damage that could clear all your Hounds at once.
At the end of the game, use Kill Command and Leeroy Jenkins to finish them off. Watch for opportunities to play Leeroy before Unleash and you'll get two extra hounds.
If things don't go according to plan, you have two main comeback plans. Either Buzzard/Unleash, or just do all the damage you can to their hero and hope to draw more. And if you think it's necessary, don't be too afraid to Unleash without Buzzard, either to clear their creatures or to get more damage.
Alternatively, if you have Buzzard but no Unleash, and you're losing control of the game, you may need to play the Buzzard with two or three beasts from your hand (or even one if you're desperate – if you're lucky, you'll draw into more).
Also, don't be afraid to Kill Command enemy creatures when it makes sense. And don't be afraid to Buzzard/Unleash for two if you don't think they'll give you more soon.
That covers the Hunter game plan: board control early, switch to going for the kill later on at the right moment, and Buzzard/Unleash if they get a bunch of creatures out. There's a lot of nuances though, like really trying to maximize the value you get from your traps (this is tricky when you get a random trap from Scientist, but often some clever planning is still possible. See the examples below.)
Because it's an aggro deck, don't be too afraid to make risky plays that damage the enemy hero. If you're losing, sometimes you'll have to just deal damage to their hero and hope to draw a finisher. The point is, don't draw the game out. The longer the game goes, the worse your odds get. You have less late game value in your deck than pretty much any opponent, so look for the kill before you fizzle out, and play for the possibility of winning instead of trying to defend.
Traps are important for taking advantage of Mad Scientist and Eaglehorn Bow. So they're worth running even though they might get Flared.
Are Traps Good While Flare is Popular?
A good example here is playing a trap before you trade your Scientist to control the order in which you have the traps. For example, say your opponent has a 4/4 creature against your Scientist, and you have an Explosive Trap in your hand and a Freezing Trap in your deck. Before running your Scientist into the 4/4, you can play the Explosive Trap. Then when the 4/2 attacks it will die to Explosive, and the Freezing Trap will be saved for later.
How Do I Maximize My Traps
If Explosive Trap is saved first and kills the attacking minion, Freezing Trap won't go off. But it doesn't work the other way around. If Freezing Trap is played first and a minion attacks your hero, both traps go off. This means if you have your choice, it's generally better if Explosive Trap is played first (unless you really want two Bow charges).
Or suppose you really need Explosive Trap this turn. It's in your deck, but so is a Freezing Trap, so Scientist would have 50/50 odds to pull it. But if you have a Freezing Trap in your hand, you play your Freezing first, then trade your Scientist, and it will force it to find the Explosive Trap because it can't find a trap you already have out.
And you should really try to think ahead about when your Scientist might die on your opponent's turn, and if it does what he might attack with, and what the result would be for any trap still in your deck. You might then make a choice to kill an enemy creature, instead of hitting their hero, so that their creature can't potentially waste your trap.
Undertaker is a really important new Naxx card. It has a big effect on games. If you play it turn one, and your opponent plays it, and then you play something with Deathrattle, your undertaker can kill his. This gives you a huge advantage. In general, putting out creatures against Undertaker is risky and can go badly if there are any Deathrattles in hand to grow the Undertaker. When it grows, it fights other early creatures very efficiently.
A lot of control decks will use a removal spell on your Undertaker early. If they can't, it can grow big fast and win you the game. If your turn one Undertaker gets up to 3/4, that's really good; you're probably going to win. It's important for people to deal with Undertaker when it's only a 1/2 or 2/3.
Typically you want to find Webspinner, Undertaker, Haunted Creeper, Mad Scientist, Leper Gnome, and Eaglehorn Bow. You can also keep Animal Companion if you already have creatures to play before it, especially when going second.
Key Early Cards
Avoid keeping Traps. You don't want to run out of traps for Mad Scientist to find. You only have three traps, and the Scientists can find two. So it's important to look for Scientists and not traps at the start.
You can keep Flare against Hunters and Mages, especially if the rest of your hand is OK. Hunter's Mark can be kept only if your hand is already pretty perfect, especially against Priest (for Injured Blademaster/Circle of Healing or Deathlord) and Druid (for Innervate something big).
Don't keep Starving Buzzard or Unleash the Hounds, even if you get both. I know they are a powerful combo, so it could seem tempting to keep them, but you need to play early creatures. Buzzard/Unleash is for later turns. The best time to keep Unleash would be against a Warlock Zoo deck (or maybe Shaman), if you were really sure it was Zoo not Handlock, and the rest of your hand was a good mana curve of creatures. But basically, don't keep Unleash or Buzzard and you'll do fine.
Zombie Chow, and they have healing in their deck and Taunts like Sludge Belcher, it's hard. But against control decks, if you get a good start you can run them over.
Hunter is the most popular hero on ladder right now, and this deck is strong against other Hunters. You're more aggressive than most Hunter decks, so you can get off to a better start and kill them first. Their Highmanes are too slow to matter. Explosive Trap and Flare can be strong cards here.
Be careful of Snake Trap. If they aren't doing much, they may run Timber Wolf, so try not to give them a big Unleash. And keep the pressure on, so they don't have time to play high mana cost beasts.
Also, remember to kill all their beasts when you can, so that they can't use Houndmaster well. Sometimes this means attacking their Haunted Creeper right before they get Houndmaster mana. The two Spectral Spiders aren't beasts, but the original Creeper is.
Hunter vs Hunter can be a bit random, but at least the odds will be in your favor against most Hunters. For example, this Undertaker Hunter matches up well against the slower Snake Trap Hunter.
There are three Warlock decks now: Zoo, Demonlock, and Handlock.
Zoo runs a lot of early creatures and is favored to get board control against us. In addition to lots of early creatures, Zoo usually has a lot of ways to buff their creatures, such as Dire Wolf Alpha, which can help them get board control. However, they hurt themselves with Flame Imp and Life Tap, and often walk into a big Unleash the Hounds. Plus sometimes you'll get board control, in which case you win. Running Undertaker instead of Highmane helps a lot, since Highmane is too slow here. In addition, Explosive Trap is huge and can win a lot of games against Zoo.
Since Zoo really needs board control, and doesn't run very big creatures besides Doomguard, feel free to use Hunter's Mark early on to help fight over board control. Due to running a lot of early game and Explosive Trap, this matchup is pretty good.
Impact created a typical Zoo deck.
Some Zoo decks use Void Terror, Voidcaller, and Power Overwhelming. It doesn't change the matchup that much.
Demon Warlock is a new Naxx deck. It's kind of like Handlock, but instead of Twilight Drake and Mountain Giant, it has Nerubian Egg, Void Terror and Voidcaller. It has Doomguard and Lord Jarraxus which it hopes to get out via Voidcaller. It's not that popular yet and it's still unclear how good it is. It's powerful if they get their combos. They want to Void Terror and Egg early, perhaps with Power Overwhelming, or get a free big demon from Voidcaller. If they get something big, it's OK as long as you drew Hunter's Mark. They can't get their combos to work well consistently enough. Like Handlock, they use Life Tap to help you kill them, so the matchup should be favorable.
Handlock is a great matchup. Hunter's Mark kills their giants and Twilight Drakes. Kill Command and Steady Shot go past Taunt. They will let us get in a lot of early damage, and even help us with Life Tap and possibly Hellfire. If they start playing stuff and give it Taunt, you can usually Unleash for three or four. Freezing Trap is amazing against them (Explosive Trap is weak though).
Make sure not to use Kill Command until you can kill them. You don't want to Kill Command them down to 8 HP, only to see them play two Molten Giants and Sunfury Protector. Use your other damage first, and use Kill Command at the end to bypass taunt.
Expect some AoE, try not to lose everything. Some versions run Leeroy and Power Overwhelming. On turn ten they can deal 20 damage with the Faceless-Leeroy-Power Overwhelming combo. So watch out for that when they occasionally actually live to turn ten. Houndmaster taunt or any of your traps will be good to interrupt their plan.
First, there's token Druid. Those are the ones that try to get a bunch of creatures out and run two Savage Roars and two Force of Natures. They do not run Wild Growth. They used to use Violet Teacher and Power of the Wild, but have switched to Echoing Ooze and Haunted Creeper. They run a decent amount of slow cards like Spectral Knight, Cairne Bloodhoof, and Ancient of Lore. As long as they aren't Innervated out, those cards usually come a bit too late to be a big problem. Games get decided in the turns much earlier than that.
If you can get board control early, then go for their hero in the later turns when they drop big stuff, and you can probably finish them off. If they get control of the game early, you can expect to die to Force of Nature and Savage Roar long before you kill them with Steady Shot. But don't worry too much – you have five 1 mana creatures against none. You've got good chances to run them over.
A popular token druid list right now is by StrifeCro: + Show Spoiler +
Second, there's ramp Druid. These guys use Wild Growth and a lot of Taunt creatures like Sen'jin Shieldmasta, Sludge Belcher, Druid of the Claw, Ancient of War, and possibly also Sunwalker and Cenarius. Recently, they haven't been running Healing Touch. Play out your early creatures, attack them, Hunter's Mark the first big Taunt in your way, and kill them. They're too slow, it's a good matchup.
A popular ramp Druid right now is by Dog.
Against Druid in general, try to Hunter's Mark what they Innervate to get the advantage. But watch out for Keeper of the Grove. That's one of their best cards, especially if they get it out early with Innervate, The Coin, or Wild Growth. And it's not a very good Hunter's Mark target! An early 2/4 creature which also kills one of you creatures can really mess up your plans. Hopefully you can fight back with Houndmaster. Or maybe after it attacks one of your creatures, use Eaglehorn Bow to finish it off.
Games against Priests can be really lopsided. If they get a good start with Northshire Cleric, Undertaker, Zombie Chow, and Power Word: Shield, you might not be able to ever do much. But if you get a good start, you can crush them too as they sit there with nothing efficient to do and sometimes just pass turns by healing themselves for two.
Watch out for Shadow Madness on your Webspinner or Haunted Creeper that you just used Houndmaster on. It will turn on your own Houndmaster and give the Priest the benefit of the Deathrattle. You also have to worry about Shadow Madness anything to trigger your Freezing Trap. Similarly, play around Cabal Shadow Priest later in the game.
Hunter's Mark is a key card if they are playing with Injured Blademaster/Circle of Healing or Deathlord. But many of the smarter Priests aren't using those currently, because Hunter's Mark is too common.
Priests can run Holy Nova, Wild Pyromancer, Unstable Ghoul, Auchenai Soulpriest/Circle of Healing, or even rarely Baron Geddon for AoE. They won't have all of these. Try to figure out which type of Priest deck they are running, so you can plan accordingly.
A lot of Priests run Sludge Belcher, which is an annoying card to deal with, but it isn't game-changing if you're already doing well.
Some Priests run Holy Fire, which can mess up your plans to finish them off, and help them win a damage race. It's a ten point swing in a race to kill each other. The more you see aggressive cards like Undertaker and Loot Hoarder, the less likely they are to run Holy Fire, but there's no guarantees.
The best Priest deck list with Naxx cards still isn't figured out yet. How good this matchup is really depends on which cards they are using, which varies a lot. It can go either way. But overall I'd say this is a bad matchup.
Shamans make too many creatures, so Buzzard/Unleash is really strong. The better Shaman decks -- such as Xixo's-- will have a good amount of burst damage, and will have a chance to kill you. Hex and Earthshock help them against Highmane, but that isn't a problem for us
Our deck is faster and is good at running Shaman over. Get board control so that making totems won't be very useful for them. Shamans really want board control so their totems don't just die for free immediately. They also need board control to get use from Flametongue Totem, Defender of Argus, and Manatide Totem.
If you somehow get behind, Shamans often can have a lot of creatures out without killing you very fast, making them very vulnerable to Buzzard/Unleash.
Watch out for Lightning Storm. If they kill too much with it, it's one of their best ways to win. Once you're ahead and they have no creatures out, use Steady Shot instead of playing every creature, so Lightning Storm won't win them the game.
Paladins are usually control decks. They'll have Guardian of Kings, Holy Light, and Lay on Hands to heal with. They'll have some taunts like Tirion Fordring. They're too slow. Kill them! And if they make a bunch of 1/1s with their hero power, Unleash is strong. I don't see many Paladins on ladder lately, but I think it's a pretty good matchup.
Watch out, they'll run Equality, Wild Pyromancer, and Consecrate. Don't lose everything. Remember they have heals and Taunts, so don't rely too much on a plan to get lethal damage, since they'll probably mess it up.
Mage isn't very popular, and all the Mage decks recently run Mad Scientist and use secrets. We've get two Flares. This is very sad for Mage, which is probably the main reason Mage is unpopular.
Mage can be aggressive or control. If it's control, we're really good at killing them, so we're favored (and cards like Frost Nova and Flame Strike aren't particular good against us). If they're aggressive, that's a bit harder. Play for board control early on as usual. If they run Undertaker and get ahead, they could win, but you've got a good chance to get board control yourself. If they don't run Undertaker and a lot of early drops, you're favored to get board control. And anyways, you have two Flares, so this is a great matchup.
Control Warrior is your worst matchup. Armorsmith, Unstable Ghoul, Cruel Taskmaster, Acolyte of Pain, Fiery War Axe, and possibly Zombie Chow will make the early game hard. Sludge Belcher, Alexstrasza, and Shield Block will make things hard later on. And there's a good chance they run Harrison Jones to kill your Eaglehorn Bow (and probably draw two cards, right after triggering a trap).
Savannah Highmane is a good card against Warriors, but you don't have it. Just try to get off to a good start. You can win, but if they get control of the game early then it might get pretty hopeless with Buzzard/Unleash being the only realistic way for a comeback. If they refuse to play many creatures so you can't Buzzard/Unleash for your comeback, then what you can do is play Leeroy/Buzzard/Unleash for nine mana. Then even if they only had one or two creatures out, you'll still be drawing three or four cards.
You have a good matchup against Rogue, especially Miracle Rogue. Leaving out Highmane, Kodo, and Rhino really helps here since sapping Highmane is a big reason why Miracle Rogue beats other Hunter decks. Bow and traps both help. Flare is OK as it can be used against conceal. But most of all, the more aggressive the Hunter version, generally the better it does against Miracle Rogue. Miracle Rogue is a slower deck than you, but it can't heal much, so just rush it down before it can kill you.
You do want to pay some attention to board control early on, especially against some of the new Miracle Rogue versions running Zombie Chow and possibly other creatures like Loot Hoarder and Defias Ringleader. As the game moves on, try to find the right moment to start just attacking the enemy hero and pushing for the kill. Though you'll often have to get distracted to kill Gadgetzan Auctioneer, if they start getting desperate and play him out. Leaving him alive will let them have all their mana to play a low of spells in a row and could turn the game around, so you'll usually want to kill him whenever you can, unless you're also really desperate and need to ignore him to set up lethal damage for the next turn.
Some Rogues run Alexstrasza now. If get to Alexstrasza on an empty board, they'll often win. If you're low on cards (which you will be on turn nine unless you got off a good Buzzard/Unleash) you can get locked out of the game, since you can't do 15 damage that quickly anymore. And if you start to get them low again, they may Shadowstep Alexstrasza to heal up to 15 again.
However, you can often kill them before turn nine. And if you can't, as long as you have some creatures out and your burst damage still in hand (e.g. Leeroy Jenkins, Kill Command, and perhaps an Eaglehorn Bow out), then they still might have to deal with your creatures instead of playing Alexstrasza. If you have five damage of creatures out and a bow with one charge, and they play Alexstraza, then it only takes one Leeroy or Kill Command to finish them off.
Here is Firebat's Rogue with Zombie Chow and Alexstraza
Here's a very standard Miracle list: + Show Spoiler +
Flare and the Traps. If Hunter and Mage are unpopular, you can run just one or even no Flares. If Hunter and Zoo are unpopular, you can change the Explosive Trap to Snake Trap. If you remove a Flare or two, you can add a fourth trap, or any cards that you think would be good in the new metagame. (For example, if everyone starts letting you do big Unleashes, you could add a Timber Wolf.)
If you don't have Leeroy, use an Arcane Golem, a second Houndmaster, or a fourth trap. But understand that you will be at a disadvantage. Leeroy improves the deck. The rest of the deck is very cheap, so you should get it all, although you do need to have Naxx cards.
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