Hey guys, if you’re just tuning in for the first time, you should check out the first four installments of this month’s Brewmaster series to get caught up to speed.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, we get a bonus week! Normally The Brewmaster (soon to be “The New Standard”) normally stretches four weeks. However, February threw us off our game, which means we get to do five. Instead of continuing with another look at Reno Hunter (which I think was pretty extensively covered over the last month) I wanted to take a look into another Control Hunter that had been on my mind for a long while: Dragon Hunter. Dragons are a very common core for a lot of decks, and each class brings something different to the table. When it comes to Hunter, you get an extremely strong removal package that can help you both control and back up your board of strong minions.
Every week I try to discuss something different regarding the climb to legend, and this week I want to talk about switching up lists. While it is an unpopular opinion in Hearthstone, I am all for changing up your deck as much as possible. This includes both small tweaks as well as your list as a whole. I am all for brewing (as is the point of this series), but it definitely takes work. You need to constantly try new things over and over until you get it right. However, if you are on the outskirts of brewing, or if something isn’t working (even from rank to rank) don’t be afraid to go for a complete overhaul. In this case, Reno got me to two and ended up at three. Not a bad run, but I wanted to change pace to go the entire way. I still Control Hunter, it just looks a little different.
Where We Are Now
Dragons. And man, would Kibler be proud. This deck was a strange idea I had that I had been wanting to try for sometime. While normally I would stick to the same list I have been playing out through the whole season, since I had some extra time I decided to cap off my run with something different. I still wanted to keep to the Control Hunter theme, but I thought I would move away from Reno Jackson. The climb with the deck went well, but it stalled out between rank 2 and 3. For the last part of my run, I thought I would try to finish with something new that also fell into the control shell. Enter the dragons.
This list is a hybrid version caught between two worlds. On one side you have the classic dragon list, running a solid midgame that quickly blends into the later game finishers. However, on top of that you have a solid control list running all of the removal under the sun. As stated in previous versions of this month’s run, one of the biggest problems that I have seen with Control Hunter is keeping board presence via minions. Yes, you have a lot of removal, but there are so many sticky minions and combo pieces in the meta, that usually doesn’t matter. Though it works in some other TCG’s, you just cannot afford to be reactive in today’s day and age. Every deck in Hearthstone (from Druid to Warlock to Paladin) has some sort of burst, and unless you can reliably heal up constantly, you are eventually going to succumb to it. Dragons are a great option for Hunter because they give you some very strong board presence that also pairs nicely will all of your removal.
This section will help to explain some of the cards I found to be the important so far.
I could not talk enough about this card. Hunter’s Mark is one of the best removal options in the game, and one of the first spells I put into my Control Hunter list. While it does not get as much mileage here as in the “all in” control builds with cards like Wild Pyromancer, you still have Unleash the Hounds and Dreadscale to do a lot of the heavy lifting. Completely unconditional is very rare in Hearthstone, but it is very important these days. Almost every single deck, from aggro to midrange to control, runs some sort of big minion. Those come in all shapes and sizes, but it means that no matter what you are playing there is going to be some card that you have to kill. Hunter’s Mark allows you to adapt to any situation, and gives you a free (free!) way to deal with anything your opponent has.
The other reason I wanted to discuss this card is because of how good it is in a deck that runs minions. In things like Reno or classic Control Hunter this card is simply a removal card. While you are still first and foremost a control deck, there are many times when you can subtly switch to the midrange game and try to out-tempo your opponent as best you can. As Hunter’s Mark costs no mana, it gives you the chance of adding to the board while also clearing in the same turn. That is incredibly powerful when pushing for damage, and it is also very strong in games where you just want to be ahead on board for either control or priority. For instance, being able to use Blackwing Corruptor on your opponent’s Druid of the Claw is very strong, as is trading into a Dr. Boom while putting down your own big threat.
While I am by no means in love with this card, Deadly Shot serves a very specific and very important purpose. Every control deck in Hearthstone has to have access to some hard, no-nonsense removal. Control Priest has Shadow Word: Death, Warrior has Execute, and the list goes on. Yes, you have Hunter’s Mark, but in a deck like this one you need to pack in as many removal spells as you can. Being able to clear a big threat is never a bad play. It is worth noting that Deadly Shot is a little worse than most hard removal because it cannot target, but that does not mean that it is a bad card. It just means it takes a little work to use.
This deck runs two forms of removal. Small-minion AOE to deal with swarm decks or hordes of fast minions, and targeted removal meant to take down your opponent’s real threats. Deadly Shot is interesting because, while it belongs to the latter, it requires the former to be good. Though sometimes you can YOLO a shot and hope to take out a Dr. Boom, most of the time you want to carefully plan when and how you are going to use the spell. For instance, saving an [card]Unleash the Hounds against swarm Zoo so you can clear the board before shooting down their Sea Giant or Doomguard. Those type of plays are needed to play this card correctly, and they really can be the difference between winning and losing. You want to keep your opponent’s board cleared more often than not, and this card is one of your best options to do so.
One of the few cards that made the jump over from Reno, Brann Bronzebeard packs a serious punch in this list. Like Zoo, this is a deck that uses Brann for overall tempo rather than one set purpose, which makes him quite scary. Versatility is very important, and you want Brann in decks that can get as many uses out of him as possible. Anyone who has played or faced down Dragon Priest knows how good the swinging dwarf is with dragons, buffing up cards like Twilight Guardian or causing Blackwing Corruptor to hit with its ability twice. All of that is on display here, making him one of the most important cards. Though against aggro you can run him out on turn three, you usually want to wait until you can get some extra mileage out of Brann. He is a premium card, and should be saved for as long as you can. The number one use you want to look for is Antique Healbot, but he has a ton of different modes. This deck does not run too many battlecry minions, but it does have enough where the dwarf has very a positive impact (sometimes it can swing the game). Just know, above all else, he is hear to heal.
Back to the idea of hard removal, Rend Blackhand is a very good ability on a very, very (very) bad body. Though I can easily see why this card is not run in most conventional dragon decks, I believe the tricky state of Hunter’s removal makes this an auto include in this list. An 8/4 is nothing to get worked up over. Even though it can supply pressure from time to time, it cannot fight with a Big Game Hunter, and it also happens to get hit by most removal spells in the game. Even so, the more I played this list the more I realized there were a lot of cards that I needed to answer that I simply couldn’t. And, most of those cards happened to be legendaries. Rend may not be the most exciting card in the game, but he does a wonderful job at allowing you to stretch out your removal and save some of your premium kill spells. Resource management is one of the most important elements to any successful control deck, and Rend is the epitome of that management.
The legendary orc is in this deck because of the exact same reason that Deadly Shot and Hunter’s Mark are: they remove a big threat. This list is largely board control based, meaning once you lose board you quickly fall behind. Yes, you have access to a lot of AOE, but almost all of it is for small minions and it gets worse as the game goes on. That means you need to have as much big creature removal as possible. Rend is that removal, but also comes with the added bonus of an 8/4 body. When playing the orc you should never hesitate to kill off one of your opponent’s cards. While things like Ysera and Ragnaros the Firelord are priority number one, killing even smaller threats like Loatheb or Emperor Thaurissan can be a big swing. Almost every top-tier deck runs a legendary creature, and having more means to clearing those out is exactly what you want.
Anytime you are playing a dragon deck you are going to have to choose your finishers. This is a very important part of building because there are a ton of viable large dragons in the game, which range from Chromaggus to Onixia to even Malygos. Each card serves a unique role and can be the right choice based on the way the deck is constructed as well as the meta that it is constructed in. For me, I chose Alexstrasza over the others because of one thing: healing. Even with Antique Healbot and Brann Bronzebeard, games can get away from you very, very quickly. It is very easy to run out of answers and then suddenly be facing down a board of another two powerful threats. You constantly need to be on top of your health, and being able to reset to fifteen can save your from all sorts of burst and powerful combinations.
Another reason I love Alex is because of her versatility. Being able to do two different things with one card will always be one of the most powerful things in Hearthstone. Yes, resetting your life to fifteen can be very strong against aggro, and can save your from burst decks like Midrange Druid or Freeze Mage. However, being able to just suddenly cut your opponent’s life total in half can also lead to a lot of wins, especially in a deck like Hunter. As you can see from the early Druid game in the videos, there are a lot of games where you get into situations where you slowly tick your opponent down to zero by steady shotting every turn. Alexstrasza can help with this by putting your opponent in range of lethal or setting up the start of the gameplan. Not to mention, she also comes with her own 8/8 body.
The matchups I am saw the most during my climb.
This is a matchup that falls readily into our favor. Not only do you have access to Mad Scientist, Unleash the Hounds and Explosive Trap, but you also have enough big removal to stop most of their later threats. Just as with Reno Hunter, this deck is heavily stacked towards taking down Secret Paladin by shutting off their early game. While I did want more board control through my minions, you need to be able to handle the swarms that can easily overrun a lone Blackwing Corruptor or the like. Furthermore, your big removal is going to have a ton of different targets, and you really need to stretch it out as long as possible. There are many times where you may want to kill one of their mid-game threats with premium removal, but it is almost right to save that removal for Dr. Boom, Mysterious Challenger and Tirion Fordring.
The other part of Secret Paladin is trying to remove their midgame. It is very easy to focus on Secretkeeper and Knife Juggler or to fear Mysterious Challenger or Dr. Boom. However, those cards can only do what they do because of how strong Paladin’s midrange minions are. Sludge Belcher, Loatheb and Piloted Shredder are all really big threats that, when paired with things like Coghammer or Blessing of Kings, can really bring the pain. These are the cards you want to trad away with your minions because you really don’t want to burn key removal on them. Also remember that you do not have an Ironbeak Owl in this deck, meaning you are going to have to deal with Tirion Fordring‘s deathrattle at some point during this contest.
If my videos were any indication, this deck does surprisingly well against Druid. Malfurion is as good as he ever was, but he also lacks any real AOE or strong spot removal. If you can begin your curve early, you can really use that presence to dictate how the game goes. In addition, your early cards and hard removal enables you to play the tempo game in this matchup. That means you can get down something that is hard for Druid to remove (such as a Twilight Guardian and Mad Scientist) and then slowly grind them down by removing all the threats they play via Explosive Shot, Blackwing Corruptor, Hunter’s Mark and Deadly Shot. Druid is not a class that enjoys playing to their opponent. They would always rather have you work to answer their plays and then use that to build towards their combo. However, utilizing your minions can really take them off of their game.
The overall theme of this match is remove, remove and remove again. You have a slew of trump cards that will take over the game when played. Just about any big minion that survives though Big Game Hunter can crush Druid because, even if they do have a silence for a finisher like Ysera, you still have a huge body that you can use to clear. The best way to do that is by making sure Druid never gets anything to stick. I would view this matchup in the same vein as Oil Rogue, where even letting one 3/3 or 2/2 can lead to a quick loss.
In addition, always try to save Alexstrasza for as long as you can. The life-bringer puts you one health above the dreaded Force of Nature/Savage Roar combo, but only if your opponent has an empty board. The main mode for this card is going to be to use her after your opponent has committed some burst toward your face. That may not always happen, but if you can survive a combo hit, or some crazy Swipe/Druid of the Claw turn, you want to clear while also using Alex to heal back up
Always back and forth between the edges and the middle of the meta, Zoo is one of those decks that does one thing really, really well. It controls the board better than anyone around, which makes the aggressive Warlock extremely tough to deal with. As with Secret Paladin, the most important part of this game is having access to some type of AOE, and then using that to stretch out your bigger removal for their end-game threats. Explosive Trap, when set up correctly, can absolutely crush Zoo. The same goes for your bigger removal spells, especially when the game begins to fade into the later turns. Always try to save some form of removal for their topdecked Doomguards, Sea Giants and, of course, Dr. Boom.
Force Zoo to play minions and utilize resources to clear your board. Despite all of the fluff, at your base you are a Hunter that runs a lot of big minions. Though that is put into a control shell, it is impossible for your opponent to know that. Rather than risk dying to Kill Command or flurry of burn, they are going to play this game safe and take out all of the big minions you put down. To do that, they need to expend valuable resources (Power Overwhelming) or play their buff minions like Abusive Sergeant or Dire Wolf Alpha. Though it may not feel good to get your minions cleared, the more things they commit, the better your AOE gets. Zoo is a deck that has access to a lot of cards, but you can run them low by making them spend so much energy getting rid of your threats.
One of the pillars holding the game aloft, Priest is the best control decks around. Beyond their hard removal and rather large minions, Anduin runs a ton of extremely reliable (and seemingly endless) board clears. This means they are almost always going to have an answer for anything that you can play. To beat that, you need to be very careful of what minions you play each turn, as well as how many. Over-extending will lead to a loss more often than not, and you never wan to add more to the board than you need to. Furthermore, since this is no longer Reno and I am no longer running Arch-Thief Rafaam, the deck has no real end-game burst. Instead of just running Priest down, you are going to have to grind them out as best as you can. Play one big threat after another while also using your removal to play the few minions they have. Forcing Priest to burn their AOE or premium removal on non-premium targets is how you win this game. It is all about getting a big minion to stick. That is not an easy task, but forcing Priest to stretch their removal while keeping their board clear is the way you will get it done. As soon as they are out of Entombs, feel free to get Ysera down.
Well, can’t say we didn’t try. Four star rank one is very good (I am currently still at rank one), but I really wish I had finished the push on stream. Alas, it was not meant to be, but such is life. It has been a wild (get it?) ride, but as you can see from the videos, I am more than ready to move into the world from standard. I am taking next week off, but we will be back after with a ton of new analysis on the coming format. Until then, may your thoughts be happy and your days bright.