The Brewmaster: Season 4, Episode 4 (Control Hunter)

Hey guys, if you’re just tuning in for the first time, you should check out the first three installments of this month’s Brewmaster series to get caught up to speed. One, Two, Three Week four here on the Brewmaster, and I have to say things are going swimmingly. There are still some holes in the […]

Hey guys, if you’re just tuning in for the first time, you should check out the first three installments of this month’s Brewmaster series to get caught up to speed.

One, Two, Three

Introduction

Week four here on the Brewmaster, and I have to say things are going swimmingly. There are still some holes in the deck (which I will cover below) but we have moved up the ladder at quite the accelerated pace. Reno Jackson continues to blow people out over and over again, while the removal and big finishers will carry most of the games until the end. Elise Starseeker operates as the fantastic trump card that she is, and gives you a great tool when the games stretch out to fatigue. You have all of the tools at your disposal, which means can you hold your own against most decks. There are some exceptions to that, but overall this deck can really adapt to many situations and, as always, versatility is key.

Going into this month I did not know which direction I was going to take Control Hunter. The class is a very tricky one because it has a lot of tools for control decks, but those tools do not fit the way the class plays. Hunter has always been the most aggressive class in the game, and playing slower versions is no easy task. As a result, Reno Jackson seems to be the best direction to go in. Not only does the legendary explorer give you a “get out of jail free” card, but the surprise factor is absolutely through the roof. Taking advantage of your opponent’s ignorance has always been a large part of card games, and this deck does that very well.

Where We Are Now

I think we are very close to the deck’s final form. Though there are still some cards I am not completely sold on (and there are still some cards I want to fit in) it is close to being exactly where I want it to be. Honestly, this could go through countless iterations and I would probably never truly happy. Reno decks are a lot of opportunity cost, sacrificing a spot in one part of the deck in order to buff something else up. Right now the deck is obviously tuned to beating aggro (Paladin!), since that is what I face most of on the ladder. However, there are plenty of different directions you can take a list that is just a bunch of well-calculated one-ofs.

While things have been successful, this deck has two giant weaknesses: Midrange Druid and Aggro Shaman. I have been very lucky to dodge those classes during most of my climb, but they both spell a lot of trouble. Though Reno Jackson (as seen last time) is basically an auto-win against Shaman, this current list has no way to interact with Doomhammer and they have so much burst it is very hard to keep up unless you get the perfect removal. On the other hand, Druid is very tricky because you only have so much removal, and then can just keep putting down threat after threat after threat. Eventually you will not be able to kill something, and they will combo you out. I am not sure what else I would add in to combat the Malfurion, but more taunts could be a way to go.

My last note here is on the basis of removal. While you have a ton of removal cards (in fact it’s most of your deck), you really need to stretch them out as the game goes on. There are so many situations where you need to plan out how you clear and the what card is right for the current situation. Yes, Big Game Hunter is perfect for killing Dr. Boom, but there may be some games where using Explosive Shot plus a trade is better since it deals with the Boom Bots as well. However, there are also other times where you want to use BGH and save your Explosive Shot for another situation. You are only going to get to use each one of your heavy removal cards once, and you need to have a set plan for each.

Key Cards

This section will help to explain some of the cards I found to be the important so far.

Mind Control Tech

While Mind Control Tech is a very self explanatory card (play it, take a minion), I bring it up for two reasons. One, to (once again) discuss tech cards and two, to really hammer home the idea of adaptation. I have had success with this list, but that does not mean this is the optimal version. In fact, I have been constantly shifting cards from rank to rank during my entire climb. Sometimes I cut the Brann Bronzebeard package, sometimes I put in Tracking, and some games I got rid of Unleash The Hounds and Mad Scientist to make way for more control cards. Unlike most decks, where you want to keep what works and stick with it, Reno lists can be very fluid. You are never locked into one thing, and you can constantly change to respond to the matchups you are seeing at your current rank.

The other reason I chose to discuss Mind Control Tech is because it a sign of the times that comes with a little extra upside. Do not be afraid to switch up cards to combat the decks that you see. Some people are against this strategy, but I think it is a very important part of running to legend. Unlike other card games, the tech cards in Hearthstone are absolute blow-out silver bullets when used in the right way at the right time.   Secret Paladin is still very common, and I have also seen a ton of Zoo. This card punishes both of those decks, and can straight up lead to wins if used early enough or if it steals the right minion. Not only that, but it also has value against midrange decks that don’t see the 3/3 coming. Even if you cannot get use out of it in a slow control match,you can just eventually turn it into a big legendary later on with Elise.

Savannah Highmane

The lion is back, and stronger than ever. The more I played this deck, the more ways I wanted to contest the board. I believe this to be very important because, not only does it allow you to play the midrange game in a lot of situations, but it also enables you to get the most of your removal. As stated, you need to make each one of your spells count. You cannot just burn a card each turn, hoping to keep pace because you will eventually run out of answers. Rather, you need to have strong minions that can clear on their own and push you further toward your bigger finishers. Sylvanas Windrunner is a fantastic midgame card that controls the board very well, but I wanted something else to go alongside her.

Savannah Highmane is probably Hunter’s best card when it comes to both raw power and board control. No matter what version of control Hunter you are running, you probably don’t want to go into the class without packing two of these. The lion can trade into a ton of larger minions, and then keep on fighting after it dies. One of the most important things about playing Reno decks is the ability to play cards that are good in all matchups. There are very few situations where you don’t want to get the six drop onto the board because of how sticky and resilient it is. It also has the added bonus of being such a huge threat. That means your opponent is going to often trade their minions or burn removal to get rid of the lion. That stalls the game, buys you more time in a lot of situations, and also opens up room for your larger threats to come down later.

Reno Jackson

While everyone knows exactly who Reno Jackson is and what he does, you have to always remember there is very little to no chance that your opponent knows you have him in your deck. I have long talked about how important surprise is. It is a very underrated element of Hearthstone, because almost everyone knows what everyone else is playing. In an age of the internet and information, people are going to be ready for every deck they face. Anytime you can throw a wrinkle into the mix, you should. Reno Jackson is not just a wrinkle, he is a wrench that can dismantle an entire machine. Most people in Hearthstone love to get aggressive, and there are plenty of games where they will get careless or make bad plays for the final push to lethal. If you can suddenly power back up to thirty health out of nowhere during those times, the game is almost always going to be yours.

Playing Reno Jackson is not an easy task, because, similar to Alexstrasza, you need to time him right. Sometimes you just want to get him down to buy you extra turns against combo (such as when facing Midrange Druid or Murloc Paladin), sometimes you want to use him as your win card (Face Hunter and Aggro Shaman), and sometimes you need to wait until the last possible second to get as much value as you can (Control Priest and Control Warrior). Either way, you always want to get him down at times when your opponent is out of cards to get the most out of his ability. When you have him in hand you can be much more relaxed with your plays. This does not mean you should be sloppy, but that you can spend more time taking damage to advance your board because you can just go up to full health if things get bad.

Ragnaros the Firelord

Good ol’ Rag. The firelord is not a card I particularly like in a vaccum. It gets killed by Big Game Hunter, is dependent on RNG, and is not good against the large number of swarm or deathrattle decks that seem to permeate throughout the meta. However, Hearthstone is not played in a vacuum. Despite its inherent weaknesses, Ragnaros does a very good job of both applying pressure and removing minions. Those minions may not always be the ones you want, but I have had numerous games where I won because of rag pinging off an opposing finisher. That chance is more than worth using him for his potential power against slower decks. He is also extremely strong in a deck like this one that runs so much small minion removal. A one in three or one in four to kill an Emperor Thaurissan or Dr. Boom is not that great. However, if you can or play AOE to make that a one in two chance, the odds are much better.

This card took the place of Ysera, another extremely powerful, grindy finisher. While the dreaming dragon was phenomenal at certain times, I just felt like she didn’t quite do enough with her dream cards. Yes, Awakens and Dream were both fantastic, but some games I would just get a couple of minions, which really did me no good. I wanted a card at the end of the game that could do a little more than just net me extra cards, and Rag fit the bill perfectly. He immediately impacts the board when he comes down, and is also a giant threat that can take over the game on its own. Just remember that he also represents eight damage a turn. You are a control deck, but that does not mean you need to be passive. I won more than a few games by putting down Rag onto an empty board and letting him get in for eight.

 

Matchups

The matchups I am seeing the most at my current rank.

Secret Paladin

When first building Control Hunter, this was the deck I set out to beat. I think I have largely succeeded in that plan by running every single anti-Paladin card I could. Though it may seem a little bit over the top, since you are only running one-ofs, you need to reliably draw one of your AOE’s early on. Dreadscale, Explosive Trap, Powershot, Unleash the Hounds, Mad Scientist and Wild Pyromancer are your anti-Paladin package. Look for all of those cards and keep as many as you can. Paladin is a deck chock-full of sticky minions, and you want to have access to as much removal as you possibly can. As the video shows, even having all of the answers is not enough to stop Uther sometimes. However, it gives you a much better chance that just being passive. You need to remove everything they play because if Paladin ever gets board you can start to slip behind very quickly.

As everyone knows, once you hit turn six Paladin shifts from a small-midrange minion deck to a slew of giant finishers. Their only really big threats are two Mysterious Challengers alongside Dr. Boom and Tirion Fordring as their biggest threats. While Tirion is incredibly annoying because you do not run a silence (meaning they are going to get the deathrattle) you need to have at least one or two big removal spells to kill the finishers when they come down. You have many tools for this (Hunter’s Mark, Gladiator’s Longbow, Big Game Hunter) so make sure to save those cards for the end of the game. Not having an answer to one of Paladin’s bigger minions is not an option.

Tempo Mage

While Freeze was king earlier this month, Tempo Mage has rocketed back in a big, big way. While they can control the board very well, like so many decks in the game, they are extremely weak to Reno Jackson. This is because they are an aggro deck with a very limited amount of damage. They play a bunch of early game minions, and then use those to build into Frostbolt and Fireball. Because of this, healing can really hurt them, and healing up to thirty is back-breaking. The plan here is not necessarily to kill them before they kill you, it’s just to outlast them long enough until you can strike it rich. Once that happens they will usually be card starved with no damage in hand, and the game quickly ends in your favor. Just note you need to make your own moves to control the board. In the video I made some really big misplays, which shows how important board control is against Tempo.

The most important part of facing down Tempo Mage is to kill their early game as fast as you can. All of their minions fit together like cogs in a machine, feeding off of each other and making their deck more and more powerful. If you can destroy one of those cogs, be it a Mana Wyrm, Sorcerer’s Apprentice or Flamewaker, the machine starts to fall apart. However, if you have a turn or two where you can do nothing, they will quickly overwhelm you. Also be aware that, like so many aggro decks, Tempo Mage likes to ramp into bigger minions. Save removal for Dr. Boom and Archmage Antonidas, but don’t be afraid to use resources on their midgame as well.

Zoo

Renolock and Zoo both seem to flip-flop in popularity a lot of the time. For now, the aggro Warlock is on top and ready to bring down all who stand in its path. This is one of the most 50/50 matchups you can play, and the goal is to run them out of cards. Zoo is as only as good as their handsize, and while the board is priority number one, getting them to a point where they have to tap each turn can really run them low on steam. That is not going to happen until the later parts of the game, but if you make use of your AOE you should get there. Stalling is all that matters in this match, and you need to be careful with your life. Zoo is a tempo deck, but it has a lot of ways to do damage very quickly. Power Overwhelming and all of Zoo’s buffs can turn any minion into a large threat. Try to count those cards because that will tell you how careful you need to be towards the later stages of the game.

Just as with Tempo Mage, the other part of this game is to keep their board as clear as possible. Zoo loves to run sticky, deathrattle minions which completely disrupt your AOE. To combat this, get your own minions onto the board and pop their deathrattle whenever you are trying to set up a clear. Even something like a Nerubian Egg can be a huge problem because it gives them ways to keep hitting you after a board wipe.

In that same vein, try to get as much stuff onto the board as you can. Not only will this help you trade in Zoo’s minions, but it will force them to spend some of the time clearing, which allows you some extra turns to draw more answers to the things they play. Also note that Zoo is one of the few decks that can beat you through a Reno Jackson. You are going to be at a low life total at some point during the game, and you want to look for opportunities to drop the explorer. Putting him down into a full board might buy you a turn or two, but it is a temporary fix, not the solution. Try as hard as you can to get him down when Zoo has very few minions at their disposal.

Control Priest

This is possibly the most fun matchup you will see. Control Priest is a deck that loves to go long, and you should plan to go long right along with it. Elise Starseeker and Reno Jackson are the two most important cards in this game, because each are going to allow you to win in different ways. You need Elise in order to stack up enough threats to put the game out of reach of Priest’s removal, and you need Reno Jackson to survive fatigue and jump back to thirty in case things go wrong. Perhaps the most important part of this match is to make sure that Reno does not get Entombed. You never want Priest to be able to reset their health, nor do you want them to be able to gain extra life towards the end of the game where every lifepoint counts. You have the ability to bait out Entomb on your other less serious minions, but you typically also want to protect your Sylvanas Windrunner from the card if possible.

Priest is not a deck that runs too many threats, which means you are not going to be under a lot of pressure throughout this match. As a result, you are most often going to see most (if not all) of your deck. Beyond Elise Starseeker and Reno Jackson, your two other big threats are Ragnaros the Firelord and Arch-Thief Rafaam. Ragnaros is a removal spell a lot of the time, which can be used to take out a key finisher or big minion before he dies (and he will die). Try to get him down when you have the best chance of removing a large threat. On the other hand, Rafaam can either supply burst if Priest is dipping low, or he can give you an army of 3/3’s if your opponent is out of AOE. Both cards are key to winning the long run, and they both can be fantastic when used at the right time.

Conclusion

I have to admit, this is my favorite Brewmaster yet. Not only do I just love Reno and the style of deck he gives credence to, but I also greatly enjoy the different card choices I have had to make throughout my testing. I will never tire of tweaking decks, and this one allows for so many different playstyles. I am hoping this can make the final push in the week-plus that I have left, but only time will tell if it happens (I am hopeful). Until then, may you always draw your curve.