Fel Hunter: A Look at Hunter in the Post-GVG Metagame

I got the inspiration for this deck after watching Reynad play a similar list on his stream. I decided to modify the list and add in more of the mechs for consistency. Check it out!

Introduction

Hello Everyone, My name is Chinchillord, and this is my first article for Hearthstone Players. I hope you all enjoy it!

I have been playing Hearthstone since beta, and have hit high ranks consistently throughout my journeys into the dark world of the Hearthstone ladder. I am also a Mathematics student in college, and, though I’ve focused more on general analysis for this article, in the future, I plan to provide some numerical analysis for Hearthstone decks  and strategies in future articles (assuming all you readers enjoy this one).

So Goblins Vs. Gnomes has been out for a while now, and as much fun as I’m sure we’re all having theorycrafting and trying out new decks, I’m sure there are some of you who are now looking less to experiment, and more to rank up in the ladder. This can be difficult, however, when most classes’ playstyles and optimal builds post-GVG are very much up in the air, but there is a class that is so broken, especially for ladder play, that no amount of tinkering by the Goblins or their counterparts the Gnomes can destroy its viability: the Hunter. After finally finishing up my finals for the semester, I’ve had some great results with the deck so far! I’ve jumped from rank 15 to 5 in a matter of only about 3 and a half hours of gameplay, and I’m shooting to get even higher here in the next few days.

I got the inspiration for this deck after watching Reynad play a similar list on his stream. I decided to modify the list and add in more of the mechs for consistency and also the Black Knight and Ironbeak Owl to help finish games. The deck also takes a slightly more midrange approach than it would have before GVG. This is because of the nice sticky 4-cost deathrattle minions and Fel Reaver, which give you a bit more mid-late game durability. Rexxar has been a huge force on the ladder and in tournaments since the early days of Hearthstone, and GVG does nothing to change that. In fact Blizzard has provided Hunters with a huge array of tools with the release of GVG that allow hunters to have an even stronger early game and also have a bit more reach in the late game. Let’s take a look at some of them and see how they interact with old hunter staples.

General Strategy

Hunter decks tend to take a very aggressive approach to the game, and this iteration of Hunter is no different. Your standard approach to matches should be burst your opponent down as fast as possible by playing strong early game minions and finishing with Savannah Highmane and Kill Command. Though a lot of aggressive decks have a tendency to burn out very quickly, Hunter has a bit more reach due to access to direct damage through Kill Command and Steady Shot, which provide direct damage to the enemy hero even through the biggest of taunts, and through the notorious stickiness of the Savannah Highmane, which is difficult even for dedicated control decks to remove due to its deathrattle.

Don’t underestimate this deck’s trading potential though! Between its weapons and the durability of the mechs, you do have the ability to make some solid trades. Just remember that ultimately, board control does directly win the game: depleting the opponent’s health to zero does! I really enjoy the aggressive playstyle of Hunter, and I like the ability to be able to disrupt my opponent through traps and weapons, while still being able to do major damage and control the board.

http://imgur.com/xhU3JlN,hKGCkIg#0

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(Pictures of my ranking and w/l ratio from ranks 9-5)

Card Analysis

Undertaker

The Undertaker is probably the most broken card that has ever been released in Hearthstone, and Hunter is the class that can best utilize his effect, especially in the early game. There are several reasons for this: first and foremost is the Webspinner. Hunter is the only class with access to their own one-drop deathrattle minion, which, given the right hand, can quickly snowball the game in your favor. Even though other classes were given access to Clockwork Gnome, increasing those class’s abilities to buff up their undertakers very quickly, Hunter’s early undertaker charging is still greater than other classes, and can allow for some absolutely sick undertaker charging (as I will describe in more detail later in the article). Another reason is that Hunter cards synergize very well with other solid deathrattle minions, namely Mad Scientist (due to the strong hunter secrets) and Haunted Creeper (due to its beast classification). Though you generally are just going to throw out your undertaker with other deathrattle minions without any deep thought, there are a couple of more creative ways to play your undertakers that I will discuss in more detail later in the article.

Leper Gnome

As much as this guy claims to feel icky, since the release of Naxxramas, it’s more likely that the person who has to play against him feels infinitely more icky  than the gnome himself. The main reason to play this guy is to buff your undertaker with his deathrattle. However, the direct damage of the deathrattle is a nice effect as well in a deck that seeks to burn down the opposing hero’s health as fast as possible.

Clockwork Gnome

More or less the same as his counterpart, the Leper Gnome, except that he gives you a spare part! Yay! Though generally spare parts will be dead cards in your hand, there are a couple of interesting interactions you can do with them. Here are a few:

  1. Time Rewinder/Undertaker/Deathrattle minion

Use Time Rewinder to return a cheap deathrattle minion to your hand to buff undertaker twice!

  1. Pig Protection:

Use Rusty Horn to give one of your lower damage or less valuable minions taunt to protect your piggy (Huffer! No bacon today!

  1. Tanky Highmane

Turning a Highmane into a 5/6 (with Reversing Switch) or 6/6 (with Armor Plating) puts it out of range of some key removal cards, such as Holy Fire, Lava Burst and Bloodmage Thalnos-buffed Swipe.

Webspinner:

I really enjoy cards like this that let you play things that aren’t in your deck. It allows you to have fun with cards that you may not normally use. A lot of people complain about the RNG aspect of the card, but the strength of the card lies less in randomly giving out broken cards, but rather in providing a deathrattle to buff the undertaker while still preserving your card advantage.

Haunted Creeper:

Ever since its release, Haunted Creeper has been a staple in most decks, primarily due to its insane stickiness. Even though it doesn’t do much in the way of damage, having a deathrattle that summons other minions and having these minions in the form of two different bodies makes removing a Creeper extremely inefficient. For example, even a Rogue, the class that probably has the best removal for Creepers (in the form of Backstab and the hero power) has to spend 2 turns (one for Backstab and Wicked Knife), 2 mana, and 3 health (1 for attacking each Spectral Spider and 1 for the face damage from the remaining spider after the initial Backstab and hero power) and one card (Backstab) to remove what at first appears to be a very unintimidating minion. It also has a deathrattle to buff our good friend the Undertaker.

Mad Scientist:

This card is another one of the Naxxrammas cards that is just completely broken. In addition to having a respectable body for 2 mana. It also draws a card for you and puts it into play. Plus it has yet another deathrattle that can be used to gain value from the Undertaker. The one downside to its deathrattle is the randomness factor of not being able to control what secret you put into play when it dies. This is why I play only Freezing Trap, because it guarantees that whenever my Scientist dies I’ll get to return the next minion my opponent attacks with to their hand. Oh annnnnnndddddd deathrattle again.

Glaivezooka:

An awesome card that very well synergizes with the aggressive playstle of Hunter. However, I prefer to only one run because it conflicts with other strong turn 2 plays ( Mad Scientist, Haunted Creeper, and double one-cost deathrattle minions) and also is pretty much only good for face damage due to its 2-attack value. Generally, this value is either too low (it’s kind of a waste to kill a 1 health minion with this) or too high (a lot of 2 and 3 costs have 3 or more health).

Freezing Trap

This trap is so much better in my opinion than the others that I make it the only one that I run in order to guarantee that I get it from my Mad Scientists. It protects your early game minions, and can shut down expensive late game minions like Sylvannus Windrunner if your opponent has no other minions on the board to activate the trap. One thing I have noticed while using this card is that it can be worth it to use your weapon to take out a useless minion in order to freeze a higher value minion. For example, the other day I used my Glaivezooka to take out a Silver Hand Recruit in order to force my opponent to attack with his Piloted Shredder, causing it to get frozen.

Ironbeak Owl:

I use this as a tech card because the metagame is full of things that can be silenced. Make sure not to play this guy too early, because you may need him to silence some scary taunters late game. Alternatively, he can be used to silence your own Fel Reavers in order to prevent yourself from being burned to death.

Animal Companion:

Though the effect can be unpredictable, each of these minions is worth much more than their 3-mana cost. I prefer this card in the late game, however, due to the fact that all 3 of the minions can have amazing value at this point, since the Piggy can be used for removal or finishing damage, Misha can protect key minions, and Leokk can provide huge burst if you have decent board control.

Eaglehorn Bow:

Eaglehorn Bow is one of the most valuable weapons in the game. It can clear almost any minion that can be played prior to turn three, which makes it an invaluable asset against other aggressive decks. Also, don’t be afraid to attack with it even if you can’t get the durability increase, especially against late game oriented decks, because you have to close out the game as quickly as possible against those decks before they start to stabilize.

Kill Command:

Never keep this in your opening hand. It is used solely for the late game either to kill a key enemy taunt minion (Sludge Belcher, most likely) or to push for lethal in conjunction with your hero power. I also tend to hold these until the last possible moment in order to make sure that I use them at the proper time, and also to catch my opponent off guard by bursting them down at the very end of the game: as often as it happens, no one ever really expects a double Kill Command finish.

Mechanical Yeti:

Everyone knows how useful Chillwind Yeti is, and now we have one with a deathrattle! Though not quite as strong as the Piloted Shredder (in my opinion) the undertaker synergy and trading capabilities of the yeti make it a solid pick, especially against mech decks, which it tends to trade very well with (Spider Tank is two short of killing it, and Tinkertown Technician, even when buffed, is still one short of killing it). I run two for consistency.

Piloted Shredder:

More sticky deathrattle minions! As I’m sure you’re aware by this point, sticky minions are a big deal in the world of Hearthstone and this guy is no exception. He has reasonable stats for a 4 drop and after his deathrattle is taken into account, he’s worth around 5 mana, since he will generally go even with a 3 cost and then summon a two cost. Another cool thing about his deathrattle is that 2-cost minions are, as a general rule of thumb, really boring. This reduces the RNG factor in this guy, and makes his deathrattle more consistent.

Fel Reaver:

This is possibly my favorite card from Goblins Vs. Gnomes. His stats are RIDICULOUS for a 5-drop. 8/8 is on par with many legendaries, in fact, he can go even with the various giants and even the great Ragnaros the Firelord. However, his effect can be very scary for the person who plays him. In Hearthstone, where your deck size is only 30 cards, 3 cards is a tenth of your deck. However, functionally you’re burning even more than that! At turn 5, you’ll have drawn 8-9 cards, which means that you could theoretically have 1/7 of your deck burnt each time your opponent plays a card. This is a scary prospect, and you should make sure that your opponent can’t burn through your entire deck, because even though the burn damage is irrelevant to an aggressive deck like this, the inability to draw cards is not.

I once played against a priest who used Circle of Healing and Power Word: Shield to burn through my entire deck, and though I was able to endure a couple of points of damage here and there, I had no cards that I could use to close the game out, which led to my opponent’s victory. This is why I like the card so much. It has potential to be a very cheap card, but if you mindlessly throw it out, a smart player with the right hand can turn it against you to instantly wreck you; plus, I have this sick sense of humor, where I love watching my deck burn away while knowing that it’s all for naught since I have an 8/8 out turn 5 (or 4 with the coin) and plenty of damage from my hero power to finish off my opponent. I was initially running two of these, but then switched to one in favor of The Black Knight. Running two can clog up your hand and forces you to rely on the Reavers, which is not a good thing since they are out to destroy you just as much as they are your opponent.

Savannah Highmane:

There isn’t a whole lot to say about this guy. He’s just another solid, sticky deathrattle minion that is used to help you close out the game.

The Black Knight:

I just recently teched this guy in and he has been awesome! He’s a HUGE help in the Druid matchup and helps to push you to the finish by taking out some annoying taunters (Sludge Belcher).

Mulligans

The general strategy here should be pretty obvious: keep your Undertaker and any cheap deathrattle minions that you have. However, there are a few considerations to make:

  1. What sort of removal does your opponent have?

If your opponent has good removal for one drops (like Mage and Druid hero powers) it may be best to mulligan your 1-drops in order to shoot for something harder to kill, like a Mad Scientist, or a Haunted Creeper, or even a Mechanical Yeti or Piloted Shredder. Don’t do this though if you have an undertaker that can be buffed using your 1-drops!

  1. Do you have the coin?

If you can coin, you should be more willing to keep things like Eaglehorn Bow, Piloted Shredder, and Mechanical Yeti, because they can be played earlier to give you a tempo advantage. However, don’t keep more than one of the latter two, and make sure to plan out your plays before hand to make sure none of them conflict with each other.

Also, I generally keep my undertakers in my hand even if I don’t have other deathrattle minions because there’s a good chance I’ll draw into one after mulliganning the other cards, and I can also use it to bait out removal if I have another card I want to protect, such as an Animal Companion.

Possible modifications

-1 Mechanical Yeti:

The Yeti isn’t quite as aggressive or sticky as other cards in the deck, and if there’s something else that you really wanna use he can be dropped.

-1 Piloted Shredder:

While this card is very sticky, his main body (the 4/3) is extremely easy to remove

-1 Animal Companion:

Early game, Animal Companion can be a very unreliable card, and though it is nice to have one for late game still, 2 may not be a necessity.

-Fel Reaver:

This modification I’m a bit more hesitant about suggesting due to the strength of Fel Reaver, but if you are too put off by his effect or you haven’t had time to build up your GVG collection to the point where you have 2 copies yet, then you can drop him and count on your Highmanes to get you through the late game.

+hunters-mark:

This can help you to take out scary minions later in the game, but it reduces your consistency since it can be a dead card in your hand for a long time.

+1 Unleash the Hounds:

Though it isn’t nearly as strong as it used to be due to the amount of sticky minions that dominate the metagame, if you desperately need board clear, this isn’t a bad option. It can also be combed with Timber wolf.

+1 Loatheb:

Loatheb can be a huge play that can instantly turn a game in your favor; however, he is slow and if you play him at the wrong time, then he can be completely useless. He is great against spell-based classes though, so he definitely isn’t a bad pick

+Tracking:

Yay! Consistency! Tracking can be nice to pull out some key cards, but if you do use it, make sure to mulligan it away at the beginning. The one mana is better used on a 1-drop, and Tracking is more useful late in the game,

+Other traps:

Explosive Trap and Snake Trap can also be effective, though they will decrease your Mad Scientist consistency.

+gahzrilla:

Though he is a bit on the slow side, he can be a very scary creature and can serve a similar purpose to that of the Savannah Highmane, though he is much more vulnerable to hard removal.

+ Sylvanas/Feign Death:

This is a fun little combo that when played at the right time can win you the game, but it’s a little bit on the slow side, and it’s somewhat unreliable. I could see this being better for a control hunter style deck.

Matchups

Though it is hard to say specifically how to play against each class due to the lack of establishment due to all the newly introduced cards, I can give some general tips.

Warrior:

Do damage! Your goal is to rush them down as quickly as possible before they can stabilize with armor. Don’t play your Fel Reaver until they’ve played at least one Execute (Highmane, you at least still get the deathrattle), and save your Ironbeak/Hunter’s mark (if you play it) and Kill Command to get past Sludge Belchers. For mech Warrior, try to use Eaglehorn Bow to take out their minions, and Freezing Trap to slow them down.

Shaman:

Do not flood the board! Remember that Eaglehorn Bow can be used to take out the wolves from Feral Spirit, and don’t play a Highmane if they haven’t played a hex yet. If Murloc Shaman becomes more popular, put in an Explosive Trap and possibly an Unleash the Hounds.

Rogue:

Don’t play Undertaker if you can’t buff it up to 3 health because otherwise it’ll get instantly removed by Backstab. Also be careful of their AOE removal in the form of Blade Flurry and Fan of Knives. For mech Rogue, try to make advantageous trades, and watch out for a surprise Goblin Auto-Barber on a coined out knife, which can be used to take out your Mad Scientists, Haunted Creepers, and unbuffed Undertakers.

Paladin:

Paladin could take the place of Priest as Hunter’s new hardest matchup. Be VERY careful of Scarlet Purifier and try not to let their board get out of control, or their buffs (especially Coghammer) will snowball them to victory.

Mirror:

Focus on trading over face damage unless you have a way to protect your minions (like if you give your Yeti taunt with a spare part). Also, remember that you can spam cheap cards to burn out your opponent if they have a Fel Reaver. Also, save the coin to put out a bigger threat like a Fel Reaver of your own or a Savannah Highmane.

Druid:

Freezing Trap! Innervate can put out big threats early, and then Freezing Trap can throw them right back into your opponents hand, costing even more than before! In light of this, try to get a Mad Scientist, and possibly even keep a Freezing Trap if you have it. Also, if you see a lot of Druid, throw in a Hunter’s Mark to help take out their big taunts.

Warlock:

Zoolock can be annoying, but Eaglehorn Bow and freezing trap give you a solid way to deal with their threats. Surprisingly, Hunter actually beats Zoo in the late game due to Kill Command combos and Steady shot. Demonlock is actually a very favorable matchup, but make sure to play around Hellfire and Shadowflame.

Mage:

Mage’s removal can be extremely annoying. If you have the means to buff an Undertaker up to 4 health, make sure to set that up before playing it in order to avoid Frostbolt.  Also make sure to pay attention to whether or not your opponent has played the coin, so you can know when the Flamestrike is coming.

Priest:

And finally, the Priest. Priest is known for having a good matchup against Hunter, and GVG has brought Priest even more tools for destroying hunters, such as Shadowboxer and Shrinkmeister, which allows Cabal Shadow Priest to steal many of your cards. Don’t play Webspinners or Haunted Creepers if they have a Northshire Cleric, or they’ll get a ton of draw off by attacking and then healing.

Just be patient and hero power until you have something bigger. Also never flood the board, or you’ll face the flames of a Wild Pyromancer, the degeneracy of Shadow Madness, or the cleansing strength of a Holy Nova. Also, don’t let them burn away your deck when you play a Fel Reaver. In fact, if you have a Highmane, it would probably be best to use this to bait out a Shadow Word: Death, prior to playing your Reaver.

Conclusion

As mentioned above, Hunter has always been a strong contender in the Hearthstone metagame and the new cards add a lot to the deck and make it a lot more fun to play. Though there are many other strong decks that exist right now, Hunter is a time-tested deck that is certain to remain a strong contender in Hearthstone, especially for ladder play. Thank you all for reading my article. If you have any questions, comments, or want to talk to me or play some games, shoot me an email at [email protected]. Good luck in new meta, and enjoy Goblins Vs. Gnomes.