Hello, my name is Olzhas (Ole) Batyrbekov known online as Naiman. I am 27 and I live in Almaty, Kazakhstan. I started playing Hearthstone nine months ago. Before Hearthstone I used to play World of Warcraft and WoW is the main reason I decided to stick with the Hunter in Hearthstone. I’ve been Legend every season -- this year I was #1 EU January, #2 EU February, #4 EU March -- and I’m moving my way to the competitive scene representing Team Dignitas.
What Makes Hunter Work?
The focus of this article will be my thoughts on Hunter’s future with the release of Blackrock Mountain. Before we can get there, however, I want to establish what makes the current Hunter decks tick. First and foremost is the Hero Power. Lots can and has been said about Steady Shot but its reach potential and consistent pressure can't be underrated. Hunter has also always had a strong tempo game. With efficient removal -- Hunter's Mark, Kill Command, and Arcane Shot -- strong class synergy and traps, Hunter is usually able to stay ahead once they take the lead. Finally, Hunter provides access to some exceptional class cards. Animal Companion, Eaglehorn Bow, Houndmaster, and Savannah Highmane are all contenders for "best in slot" card at their respective mana costs.
Featuring the pride of the Midrange Hunter
Problems Hunters Face
Despite its strengths, there are some holes in Hunter's game plan which we can look to hopefully fill with Blackrock Mountain. Since the nerfing of Starving Buzzard, Hunter has really suffered in terms of card draw and refilling their hand. Webspinner, Flare, Cult Master, and Loot Hoarder all represent card draw options but none of them are especially exciting. Crowd control and sweeper effects are also lacking at the moment. Explosive Trap and Juggler-Unleash see play but these can only really manage low Health boards. Finally, there is no healing effect in Hunter. With no option to heal after stabilizing Hunter is usually forced into taking a more proactive role in the late game.
Given these strengths and weaknesses, there are two viable types of decks for Hunter: Midrange Hunter and Face Hunter. While there are some off color builds on the ladder -- Spell Power Hunter, Control Hunter, and Beast Hunter -- these decks are at least one tier below Midrange and Face in power level and consistency.
Cards to Help
Now let’s take a look on key cards from Goblin vs Gnomes and Blackrock Mountain which help Hunters.
Goblin vs Gnomes
- 1. Glaivezooka – A perfectly fit for Face Hunter to increase its damage and to get more value from its sticky minions like Haunted Creeper, Mad Scientist.
- 2. Piloted Shredder – Midrange Hunters were lacking a good turn four card on an empty table, especially on turn 4. Shredder also happens to be one of the best new minions.
- 3. Dr. Boom – The card which is currently played in pretty much every deck is also an awesome addition to Midrange Hunter. It puts lots of pressure on the opponent when curved out on turn 7, more than most decks.
- 4. Gahz’rilla – I was eager to use this card in Midrange Hunter when it was announced. Unfortunately, Gahz’rilla is almost impossible to get value off due to removal. Dr. Boom’s stats, in comparison, also make Gahz’rilla pretty weak. I'd consider Troggzor a better card for Midrange Hunter.
- 5. Feign Death – I was experimenting a lot with this card but couldn't find a spot for it in my Midrange decks. Nevertheless, this is the only class card which I liked in GvG.
- 6. Steamwheedle Sniper – A pretty good card with good stats but it loses to Mad Scientist and Knife Juggler in the two-drop slot. Midrange Hunters already have a very full two-drop slot and it’s not possible to fit in this card.
- 7. Jeeves – This card can be used in Face Hunter but in my opinion the 1/4 body on turn 4 isn’t what Face Hunters are looking for.
- 8. Hungry Dragon, Blackwing Technician – Putting these cards into Midrange Hunter can get one of the strongest turn 3/4 plays in the game. Getting this curve along with a two-drop in your opener, however, is rather unlikely.
- 9. Volcanic Drake – This card has synergy with Unleash the Hounds, Haunted Creeper’s Deathrattle effect, and Snake Trap. It may, therefore, be a tool for Midrange Hunter to fight against aggro decks. I’m sure this card will see play on turn three on occasion.
- 10. Quick Shot – A very powerful addition to Face Hunter. I’m sure that this card will be the most played card from Blackrock Mountain during the first two weeks of April.
Cards That Hurt
All in all, there are 11 good to playable cards for Hunter in these latest two expansions. Keep this number in mind because next up are cards that can help counter Hunters.
Goblin vs Gnomes
- 1. Antique Healbot – This card was a huge addition to all classes which helps them survive the Hunter’s Hero Power.
- 2. Illuminator, Tree of Life, Light of the Naaru, Seal of Light, Vitality Totem, Mistress of Pain, Shieldmaiden – All of these cards help their respective class live longer against Hunter.
- 3. Kezan Mystic – This card wasn’t widely used in January when GvG came out. By February, this card became my most hated card. It’s impossible to play around this card every single turn which makes this card Hunter’s worst nightmare.
- 4. Mechwarper – After the nerf of Undertaker, this card became the go to early drop to generate tempo. Unfortunately, Mech Hunters are no good.
- 5. Hemet Nesingwary – I’ve only seen this card come off Unstable Portal, but the whole idea of such a card is funny.
- 6. Goblin Blastmage – One card which can ruin our board in a second, very dangerous against the many minions of Hunter, such as Haunted Creeper tokens.
- 7. Muster for Battle, Coghammer, Shielded Minibot – Paladin's early board control minions, weapons, and Taunt can all efficiently trade.
- 8. Velen’s Chosen – This card wasn’t popular in January but now almost all Priests run two of this card. It is hard to pass Deathlord-Velen’s Chosen for both Midrange and Face Hunters.
- 9. Tinker’s Sharpsword Oil – The rebirth of Rogues after Auctioneer’s nerf does not bode well for Highmane.
- 10. Darkbomb, Imp-Losion – Warlock's early board control spells which turn that matchup from great to close.
- 11. Emperor Thaurissan – An awesome card for control decks to bring down their mana curve.
- 12. Grim Patron – A minion which can get really annoying with buffs.
- 13. Hungry Dragon and Blackwing Technician – Already described above but the thing is that other classes can fit in more dragons to make these cards better than in Midrange Hunter.
- 14. Dragonskin Sorcerer – A sticky minion which can get very powerful if it’s not killed fast enough.
- 15. Flamewaker – A very strong early board control minion.
- 16. Gang Up – A cheap Echo of Medivh effect and one we will see a lot of from aggro Rogues.
- 17. Twilight Whelp, Fireguard Destroyer, Axe flinger, and Flamewaker – Sticky minions for early board control.
- 18. Demonwrath – A little bit less effective spell than Hellfire but the stats are good. This card will fit perfectly into Handlock.
- 19. Revenge – A good crowd control card to even further increase Warrior's durability.
These are just some of the new cards that can give Midrange a hard time.
Taking into account that Blackrock Mountain has 31 new cards and Goblin vs Gnomes brought 120 cards, I’d say that both expansions will make Midrange and Face Hunters’ games much harder. There are far more -- and better -- cards coming in to battle Hunter than help it. One of the particularly damning aspects of most of the new cards is how quickly they come down. One of Midrange Hunter's major edges was its ability to sprint out in front of its opponent. Some of the new cheap minions and removal has all but taken this away. If you refer to the beginning of the article for Hunter’s key abilities, you’ll realize that Hunters will be left only with the Hunter’s Mark after Blackrock Mountain comes out as a unique effect.
In February my latest Midrange Hunter finished the season in second place and the same deck was played by Renmen to the top of the rankings in March. I’m sure that people who like to play Midrange Hunters will come up with more controlling builds to fight the meta. To touch on Face Hunters, they will be still strong and annoying.
While a return to a two mana Buzzard to help Midrange Hunter is still a long shot of a dream, just please don’t nerf Savannah Highmane and Hunter’s Mark!