We’ve all been there: pick up a little early game momentum against a Hunter, only to have a Secret stutter your decision making. With an incorrect read on your part, the Hunter’s deceits can dissolve your advantage and leave you playing catch up, which is why today we’re going to talk about the best protocol to trigger the Hunter’s tricks!
First Things First
Of course, understanding how best to minimize the potential damage and disaster of Secrets relies on first knowing what is possible within the Hearthstone card pool. So, before we talk strategy, here’s a quick breakdown of what the Hunter is capable of:
• Explosive Trap: This trap deals AOE damage – which can wreck a horde of your small minions – AND damage to your hero. Trigger with caution, especially if you’re playing a deck like Zoo with lots of low health minions.
• Freezing Trap: A Freezing Trap is the bane of your mana expensive, big attack minions. Sure the minion that sets it off returns to your hand, but it’s more expensive the second time around, and you miss out on immediate damage and board presence. Be careful of setting off a Freezing Trap with a 9 or 10 cost minion as that will render it unplayable.
• Misdirection: Similar to Freezing Trap, Misdirection is the kind of trap you don’t want to set off with a heavy hitting minion, because it might end up attacking a character on your side of the board.
• Snake Trap: Attacking an enemy’s minion with this Secret cast will spawn three 1/1 Snakes for your opponent – this might not seem like a lot, but it can certainly swing the tides of battle, especially if the Hunter has a Starving Buzzard in play.
• Snipe: Snipe will heavily damage the first minion you summon, so make sure that it’s small enough that you don’t care about losing it, or big enough that it can live through the shot!
Now that you know what you might be up against, it’s time to devise how best to play around it – some counters will vary between classes, so this guide is comprised of mostly neutral cards and general strategy on how to take down and defeat the hated (and sometimes misunderstood) Hunter.
Survey the Board
Did the Hunter spend any resources last turn to bring your big minion down to 2 health, or are you sitting on a couple of 2 or less health minions? Chances are you’re about to eat an Explosive Trap. Do you have only one big minion on the board? Look out, because that’s probably a Freezing Trap or Misdirection. Does the Hunter have a minion on the board?
Tread carefully, or else you might find yourself tripping a Snake Trap. More often than not, the board state alone will be enough to reveal what’s to come, or in the very least help you rule out certain Secrets.
When triggering many of the Hunter’s Secrets, the minion or character attacking is quite significant, so be sure to select who makes the first strike wisely. For the most efficiency when triggering Misdirection, always attack with your weakest strength minion. Fortunately, this is frequently your cheapest minion, making it the prime target to set off a Freezing Trap too.
However, if you suspect a Freezing Trap, attacking with a battlecry minion like Defender of Argus which will allow you to recycle strong abilities. If you run into an Explosive Trap and all of your tiny minions perish, fret not! Your board is now less susceptible to getting a max value hounds unleashed on it, and you can start to repopulate it with stronger minions.
If you went for the face and the pesky Secret still remains, then you can be sure that you’ve got a Snipe or Snake Trap to play around. To minimize the damage of a Snipe, it’s best to test the waters with a small minion first – a Leper Gnome is usually a good choice, because not only will it diffuse the Snipe but it will also deal 2 damage to the Hunter for 1 mana.
If face attacks and minion casting beckon no secret, then you’ve narrowed it down to Snake Trap. While three 1/1s might not seem like much, it’s quite satisfying to blast them away with a spell like Consecration, Arcane Explosion, or Fan of Knives. Or, you can even cast your own Unleash the Hounds after triggering a Snake Trap for extra value doggies!
To Proc or Not to Proc
When it comes to combating Hunters, especially of the “always attack face” variety, triggering a Secret that fuels extra damage in the form of Eaglehorn Bow durability is generally something you want to avoid. If you can’t knock out the weapon with Acidic Swamp Ooze or Harrison Jones, it might be a good idea to sit back and wait a turn to proc a Secret, as to not give the Hunter extra damage potential.
Use your best judgement in these situations – in general the sit back and wait tactic is a little stronger if you’re piloting a long game Control deck rather than an Aggro deck that needs to finish the match quickly. Sometimes if you know it is a Freezing Trap and you have a big minion you want to keep on the board, it may be better to cast a small throwaway minion and wait until the next turn to swing with the small minion so that you can keep board presence with the big minion.
It’s amazing what counters can be constructed when the opponent’s hidden information is in your hands. Be careful though: while in general the protocol taught in this article will help you unravel what’s to come, a bluff or a suboptimal draw on the Hunter’s end could end up throwing off your read. As a good rule of thumb, always expect the worst possible outcome based on the available cards, and work backwards from there! And last but not least, happy hunting the Hunters!
Article by Chris D.