Another week, another deck…Wait, what? I mean…same deck, different list. While my first foray into Control Hunter was a bit premature (blame the calendar, not me) I finally got a chance to take it to fresh ladder. Things went alright, but not anywhere as close to alright as I would of hoped. As I stated in my last video, I was hoping to make an “all removal” list that just slowly ground down my opponent through constant killing and large minions. That went well, but, as I expected, I found myself getting 2-for-1’d too often for my liking. I would spend two spells to kill one thing, and suddenly I would be low on cards without an answer to the next threat my opponent had. This was a persistent problem, and the number one reason I would lose games. Answering three things wasn’t useful if I would just die to the fourth. I needed more threats and more ways to play defensively. As such, I turned to an old friend.
When playing my control build I found myself in a very unfortunate middle ground. I did not have enough late game and big threats to hang with the heavier control decks, but also not enough cheap removal and healing to survive aggro. While the late game threats were easy enough to fix, the healing was much more of a problem. Aggro makes up a good portion of the ladder and if you don’t have a handle on those matchups you are never going to progress. I needed healing, so I went into the tank (as mentioned in my last video) and teamed up with the best healer of them all.
Where We Are Now
Reno Jackson. That pretty much sums it up. Reno is a card I have been championing since the early days of LOE, and it is a card that really makes control possible for classes outside of Warrior and Priest. Yes, you have to run a bunch of random one-ofs, but there are so many good silver bullets available to Hunter that really doesn’t matter here. That was something I was noticing the more I tinkered with the original deck, so many cards I wanted to play were just for a certain matchup here and there. Hunter has a lot of conditional removal and a lot of really strong minions for certain matchups. That slots the class very nicely into the Reno build. When making a Reno deck (something I have quite a lot of experience with from my early days with Reno Shaman) you really need to make each and every card count. While Hunter is not a control class, that is something it can do very, very well.
It is very hard to be a control deck in today’s Hearthstone meta. Not only do the aggro decks have a ton of sticky minions and quick burst, but midrange decks just keep getting stronger and more resilient. Reno is one of the only ways you can play it because the healing back to thirty is a true catch up mechanism that instantly puts you ahead (or back) into any game. It also takes the sails out of almost all aggro decks and is a straight up win condition against things like Aggro Shaman and Face Hunter. Even in Control vs. Control games I have won plenty of matches by waiting until eight or so fatigue to drop Reno down and reset my health. He is a very interesting card and one of the few ways you can fall behind as a control deck and still win the game. That versatility, combined with the fact that Hunter already is a class of silver bullets, is what made me go the route of the legendary explorer.
This section will help to explain why certain cards are in the list, what I think about them, and how they’ve performed so far.
When switching over to Reno I immediately thought of Brann Bronzebeard. The reason being that the dwarf has some amazing synergy with a bunch of the cards I was already planning to run as tech cards in this list. One of the most important mechanics I wanted in this deck was discover (which will be covered further below). That played right into Brann. In addition, he also some really nice synergy with Defender of Argus and is a really clutch heal with Antique Healbot.
Reno Jackson decks are all about stretching out your resources and being able to get the most out of every card. While most of the cards in this list are powerful on their own, Brann Bronzebeard turns them into value machines. This is exactly the type of card you want in a deck like this, something that can be played in its own right (a 2/4 for three) that also has a ton of different interactions all throughout your list. The legendary dwarf is a very important piece in this deck that helps with both healing and card advantage, two of the most important parts to a solid control build.
As mentioned above, when playing Control Hunter I could not get discover out of my head. Not only is the ability versatile, giving you a ton of different options to a ton of different situations, but it also lets you play more cards in your deck without actually having those cards take up slots. This revelation came during a game against a Tempo Mage who was just horribly out-valuing me due to his double Ethereal Conjurer. I found myself in awe about how much card advantage he was getting from just one or two extra cards. Those cards kept his hand fresh while also putting 6/3’s on the board that I had to spend removal on. That made me realize I needed discover. Not only did it have a natural combo with Brann Bronzebeard, but it also gives you that constant source of advantage control is looking for. Jeweled Scarab is in this list, giving you a ton of removal options to battle control, but Tomb Spider is much more relevant against most matchups.
Tomb Spider, much like Ball of Spiders, is a great way to put some bodies onto the board and then turn them into more bodies. While sometimes you are not going to get big finishers (I once got three one-cost beasts to choose from) more often than not you are going to get at least something solid out of the arachnid. In that way, this card places a 3/3 onto the board (which conveniently trades with the first half of a Piloted Shredder) while also netting you another threat to use later on. Sometimes that is going to be a end-game beast and sometimes it is going to be a solid midrange creature, but it is almost going to be two threats of some kind or another. That puts the pressure on your opponents and usually eats some removal that would normally be saved for your larger finishers.
Defender of Argus
While many of the cards in this list are self-explanatory, I think Defender of Argus deserves a special mention because I don’t think the deck would work without him. Yes, he is just one (or two) taunt, but he is pretty essential to staying alive. Just like in Renolock, having access to the extra taunts can be gamebreaking against a lot of decks. This was a late addition to the list, but something I found I needed more and more as the games went on. The reason is that having large minions does nothing against aggressive decks. While it is good to have big creatures on the field, they can be mostly ignored by fast minions. Getting a way to taunt them forces your opponent to fight through large bodies. Also, because it gives you two taunts, it is more resilient to silence then things like Sludge Belcher.
Defender of Argus also brings up a very interesting point about deckbuilding in general, which is always try to see your weaknesses. Even when you are winning or ranking up with a deck, you should constantly think about the cards that are beating you, the things you can’t answer, or the games you almost lose. I came to defender when I kept thinking “man, I could use more taunts”. That is a very simply thought, but it was a weakness of my deck and something that I needed to change. Anytime you are tweaking a deck (and you can really tweak this deck) you want to always make sure you have all of your bases covered. This will make your more consistent and give you the best chance at winning games.
The first of two finishers I want to discuss, Ysera is an extremely important end-game threat. It has been quite a long time since I have said those words, but the more I tested different finishers (and man did I test a lot of different finishers) the more I wanted the dreamer. The reason is that there is just nothing like Ysera in the game. As mentioned above, I really wanted a deck that could slowly grind down my opponent and then end the game with finishers. While I do have a good amount of powerful finishers, they all were either easily dealt with or just didn’t do quite enough when they came down. Even Ragnaros, which was excellent with all of the ways to clear out small minion in this deck, would either get Big Game Huntered or just hit the wrong thing too often.
Ysera is the ultimate finisher. Yes, she is very slow. However, that matters much less in a deck that has a ton of removal and can heal back up to 30. A 4/12 in itself is very hard to kill, and those stats also dodge a ton of removal. That in itself is enough of a reason to run her over other finishers. However, Ysera’s ability is also incredible because having her out for more than one turn is usually going to end the game. Not only does she give you some great tools to use against midrange, but she also is a control killer. Just understand you never want to recklessly run her out. She is very valuable and should be saved for the end of the game when you have run your opponent out of resources. She is here as a trump card, the attrition that enables you to grind out the game.
Just as with everything else, Arch-Thief Rafaam was chosen for a very specific reason and plays a very important role in the overall build. While aggro and weak mid-game are two reasons that control struggles in today’s Hearthstone, other control decks are also a problem. The reason is that most control decks, especially Priest, Renolock and Control Warrior, are very hard to kill. They have a critical mass of powerful cards, and if you try to go toe-to-toe with their removal and minions you are most often going to lose in the long run. Those decks make a living sitting at mid-game health, and in order to beat them you need some burst. While it may not be apparent at first glance, Arch-Thief Rafaam is that burst.
Just how Control Warrior runs Grommash Hellscream to threaten other slow decks, you can use Rafaam to keep your opponent’s honest. This card is essentially against some of the more grindy classes like Renolock and Control Priest because of lantern of power (give a minion +10/+10). Most people will be drawn to Mirror of Doom to get a board full of mummy zombies, but know there will often come a time in any game where your opponent cannot remove one of your minions. When that happens, being able to do ten damage is very, very relevant. This is the best burst a non-warrior Reno deck has, and it acts just like the charging orc does. This does not mean you always need to take the ten damage, but it should be your primary mode against most slow decks. However, the versatility of being able to make a board full of 3/3’s and doing ten damage is also quite relevant from time to time.
These are the five matchups that made up almost all of my games in my climb. I want to focus on how you need to adapt to the most popular decks, so I’m not going to bother with fringe lists.
Still the king of the ladder (though for only a few more months) Secret Paladin is a very tricky matchup. That does not mean it is unwinnable (it is actually right around 50/50) but it means you have to really be on your game here. One unfortunate thing about Hunter is that, for all of its conditional big-game removal, it lacks any real AOE. You have Explosive Trap, Dreadscale, Powershot and Unleash the Hounds as your way to clear the board, and that’s it. All of those cards are great against early cards, but they get worse and worse as the game goes on. Your AOE is completely based on one or two damage and while Explosive Shot does fine in a pinch, you just cannot reach the health of the stronger minions that Secret likes to play. As such, you need to leverage your minions in this matchup and try as hard as you can to some type of board presence early on.
Another big part of this matchup is getting the most out of your big removal. Big Game Hunter , Deadly Shot and Hunter’s Mark can all do wonders at stopping things like Tirion Fordring, Dr. Boom or a buffed Mysterious Challenger if you use them in the right way. Any time you have solid removal you should try to save it for those cards and do your best to find other ways to clear out the early cards. The only exception is a minion wearing Blessing of Kings, which sometimes you just need to get rid of.
Control Priest is not just here to stay, it is the premier control deck of the meta. They have a ton of AOE, very strong minions and some of the best spot removal Hearthstone has to offer. That spells very bad news for you, because they are the king of Control vs. Control matches. That does not mean this game is going to be unwinnable, but you have to be ready to go very, very long. There are two parts to playing Control Priest. The first is doing your best to beat them in card advantage and the second is to play around Entomb. In terms of card advantage you want to make the most out of your discover cards and only play one big threat a time to limit the potential of their AOE. This entire game is going to be about hand size and who has the advantage going into fatigue. If you can hold back some of your bigger threats and slowly run them out of removal you should be able to take this one down.
You only run a few finishers in this list, and if they get Entombed you are most likely going to lose. Not only does the six mana spell take Priest off of fatigue, but it is basically a Mind Control that also allows them to get use out of battlecry. The way you play around this card is knowing which threats you want them to Entomb and then try to bait them on those cards instead of bigger threats. The two cards you want to prevent from getting taken are Ysera and Sylvanas Windrunner. Ysera is your only real end-game card, and you need to be able to use it as your eventual trump minion. Do not play her if Priest still has an entomb left at any point in the game. They will not expect the dragon and are most likely to use their removal on smaller threats throughout the game. Arch-Thief Rafaam is also worth mentioning because it can give them some really nice late-game options if they take it during fatigue. However, it is not quite as bad as the other two.
While Renolock is quite popular these days, it is nowhere near as popular as its aggressive counterpart. Zoo is all over the ladder and, much like Secret Paladin, is very tough due to your lack or strong AOE. While you can usually control the early game here, it gets much more challenging once you start moving into turn four and five. Zoo will start to get big, and if your don’t get big with them you are going to be in a lot of trouble. You need to get the board as soon as you can, and then just trade each turn until you reach your bigger threats. Mad Scientist is the best opener you can have as the Explosive Traps really slow Zoo down. Even if they try to play around it, they will usually be stalling out, which makes the game go longer (which is good for you). Just know that you should always try to play a big minion onto the board during turns five, six and seven if you are not in immediate threat of dying.
Also like Secret Paladin, Zoo runs a bunch of small minions that build into bigger creatures. Do your best to save your premium removal for things like Dr. Boom, Doomguard and Sea Giant. Getting hit by any of those is almost always going to be a loss if you don’t have Reno Jackson at your immediate disposal. If you have to use your removal early on, then try to get the board before turn seven and beyond. This will give you a way to trade up into those minions and stop them from ever becoming a real problem.
The most recent deck to pop up across the ladder, Freeze Mage went from being nowhere to everywhere in just a few days time. While bad news for many of the popular decks on the ladder, it is very, very good news for us. Not only am I currently teching a Flare, which helps push that last damage through, but Reno Jackson and Brann Bronzebeard /Antique Healbot are both incredible here. The way you beat Freeze Mage is knowing when to use your healing. To do this, you need to predict when they are going to use their heavy burn or when they are going to use Alexstrasza. The life-bringing is a huge threat, and you need to have some type of removal with her (otherwise she will negate your healing). Once that is done, do whatever you can to climb back up past fifteen health. You want to use healbot for this first, because they are not going to expect Reno Jackson. Try to save him for when they throw a large chunk of damage at your face.
As you can imagine, this is not an easy matchup. Midrange Druid is a deck that plays its game so well, if you stumble or have a bad draw you are going to fall behind. And, once you fall behind you are going to die to the combo. That is one of the biggest problems with this deck. Not only do most of the early game cards do nothing against Druid, but they can wait you out, even through Reno Jackson[/card]. This game is about an un-interactive as Hearthstone gets, with you just trying to heal and clear to stay above fourteen health. While you can often do this for a while, there will come a point where they wear you down. Because of this, be as stingy as possible with your removal to get the most use out of it as you can.
Healing is important in staying alive when facing Malfurion, but taunts are much more important. Sludge Belcher and Defender of Argus are your two best tools for surviving this match, and you want to get them down anytime you can starting at turn eight. The reason they are so strong is that, barring a Keeper of the Grove, Druid will usually have to commit some damage (or one of their combos) to clearing, which buys you time and gives you more chances to stay alive. It is also important to note that Druid has a rough time dealing with most of your mid to late game minions. If you ever have a window to drop something like a Savannah Highmane or Sylvanas Windrunner, even if you think they will use removal to clear it, you should do so.
While I normally do not tweak a deck this much, I am really enjoying the prospect and build of Control Hunter. Going in such a strange direction with a class is very fun, and makes me look at a lot of cards in a different light. While big (BIG!) things are on the horizon for this wonderful game, I am still I the present for the time being. As such, I am going to keep working this deck as much as I can to see what works and what doesn’t. Until next time, may you always be rich.