Hello friends, I’m Shudogin. I’m very excited to share with you all my first article on Hearthstone Players, the Chemo Hunter. I have played Hearthstone since early Beta, and have enjoyed it immensely. I typically focus on more control oriented decks, but I thought I would share the deck I used to grind the ladder this season. This hunter deck’s goal in life is to offer an answer for the “cancer” aggressive decks recently swarming the ladders. I wanted a deck that could consistently win versus this style of deck, as well as offer quick games so I could rank up faster. I have seen great success with this deck, going from rank 9 to rank 1 in one day, with an approximate 68% win ratio, even from rank 5 to rank 1.
After Goblins vs Gnomes was released, I began to look at the Mech-heavy early game meta, and thought about what intrinsically counters it. I also wanted to make a deck that was capable of climbing the ladder quickly. AoE damage has always been highly effective versus aggressive decks, such as Warlock zoo, and, in my case, the early rush mech decks. I experimented with several anti-aggro decks, but finally settled on this aggressive hunter deck.
Hearthstone has always been a game with one goal, which is reducing your opponent to zero health. The hunter class lives for this moment, with huge snowballing aggressive cards. Everything about the hunter’s class cards and hero power scream aggression. This deck unlocks hunter’s full aggressive power. By using self-replacing and hard to remove early game minions, we can apply a fair amount of face damage, followed by a barrage of high damage finishing spells and minions. Additionally, by also incorporating several forms of board clear with explosive-trap and unleash-the-hounds we can ensure that our often aggressive opponent does not play many of his own minions to slow us down.
This deck is unique in the fact that it replaces the hunter staple, the freezing-trap. These guys have done a lot of work for us hunters in a control oriented meta, but it is time we gave them a breather in this new aggressive meta. Traps as a whole are a staple in hunter decks because they traditionally allow a massive tempo swing on the board, in addition to powering up the eaglehorn-bow.
To take the freezing-trap’s place, are the incredibly aggressive explosive-trap and snake-trap. These traps are what allows this deck to essentially disregard your opponent’s board, and go for face. By running double explosive-trap, even the most aggressive ‘cancer’ mech deck or Warlock zoo is going to lose most of its steam. Even in a matchup versus a control deck, sometimes that extra board clear or 2 face damage is huge.
The reason that a single snake-trap is included is twofold. First, there is the blatant 3 damage on the board, which can be a huge tempo swing versus other aggressive decks. Having three relatively free damage on the board can be just what is needed to remove an opponent’s undertaker. Additionally, these extra 1/1 often bait out removal, allowing our stronger minions to be stickier.
The aggressive nature of this deck is reflected from the beginning, with the undertaker start. While the Undertaker comes from Naxxaramus, nobody is questioning his value even in a Goblins versus Gnomes meta. The Undertaker’s value is even further maximized in a hunter deck, because of all the beasts and hunter specific cards that have deathrattle effects.
Using tracking in this deck allows us to get just the right card for our situation. Tracking is an aggressive late-game card that masks this deck’s overall lack of draw. Because it is only a one cost spell, Tracking allows us to not only draw the card we need, but also play it.
Naturally, in keeping with our theme, the next inclusion is a pair of leper-gnome. These dudes are sick, literally. Not only do they allow for a power play on turn one with coin undertaker, but they also trade well with turn two 3-2’s, and put some initial damage on your opponent’s face when he clears them.
webspinner is another pair of great hunter cards, in that they also allow the turn one coin undertaker power play, and are self-replacing. Once again, this gives us pseudo draw. Out of the 26 possible beasts that Webspinner’s deathrattle gives, exactly 50% are 1 or 2 drops, which really leads to a great synergy with houndmaster. Even without Houndmaster, these extra beasts are perfect to be dropped on turn 3 or 4, which are typically slower turns for this deck.
haunted-creeper is an especially strong pick in this deck. If your opponent has not managed to clear your undertaker by turn 2, this is where the game begins to get out of hand. Even if the deathrattle on the Haunted-creeper is not being used to power up an Undertaker, this guy gives you a ton of tempo, simply because it requires your opponent to essentially remove 3 minions. Additionally, because the creeper is a sticky beast, it makes an excellent houndmaster target.
mad-scientist is almost an auto-include in any hunter deck. When Naxxaramus released, Mad Scientist was considered one of the strongest cards in the expansion. It essentially functions as a deathrattle for the undertaker, card draw, innervate, and playing the card that was just drawn. Particularly versus other aggressive decks, Mad Scientist will very often be the swing in our favor we need.
The ironbeak-owl is included in this deck to give us the reach we need versus taunts. When the arcane-golem comes out, the only thing that will rain on its parade is a taunt. The Ironbeak Owl is too strong to be left out. I initially only included one owl in this deck because it acts essentially as strong removal, but the higher I climbed on the ladder, the more I realized that I needed two of these. Many times winning or losing the game will come down to being able to silence a huge taunt.
When I started playing this deck at rank 9, I did not feel like it needed additional draw. As I rose to higher ranks, I began to see a decent amount of Control Warriors. With the meta in its current shape, I found that loot-hoarder was too good to pass up. In a more aggressive meta, the Loot Hoarder would be a relatively dead card. As Control Warriors continue to be extensively played, I can only say good things about running a single Loot Hoarder. While the Loot Hoard does still die to whirlwind, it is at least self replacing, increases our odds of an ever important savannah-highmane on turn 6, powers up the undertaker and can be used to bait out brawl.
The eaglehorn-bow is another MVP in this deck. This weapon is essentially our shut-down card. Early in the game, this weapon allows us to clear off threats that cannot be ignored from the opponent’s side of the board. mechwarper, buffed undertaker, dire-wolf-alpha, they all die with one swift hit. Mid game, the Eaglehorn Bow used in conjunction with our hero power allow us to deal 5 face damage a turn. By having this weapon equipped, when an opponent decides to trigger a secret, he not only receives the secret’s negative effect, but also essentially allows us to deal another set of free damage.
animal-companion is one of the cards that you either love or hate. Ultimately, whether you get a 2/4 that buffs the rest of your minions, a 4/4 taunt, or a 4/2 with charge, each of these minions is worth more than the 3 mana cost of the card. There will be times that you pull a Leokk on an empty board, or a Huffer when opponent has a taunt out, but in the end, this card’s value is too good to pass up.
kill-command is an amazing card for finishing a game. The reach this card gives is incredible. Whether clearing a sludge-belcher, or using Kill Command as a lethal 5 damage to the face, I cannot imagine any hunter deck not drafting this amazing card.
Including unleash-the-hounds is another reason this deck consistently beats mech and other aggro decks. Because most of the time we are prioritizing doing damage to our opponent’s face, and not trading our board for theirs, it is not uncommon for our opponent to build up a large board. unleash-the-hounds uses their tempo for us. This card allows us to either force them to make the uncomfortable choice of trading into 1/1 creatures, or allowing us to take down a priority target on their board.
arcane-golem is what allows us to consistently administer a coup de grâce with this deck. The drawback of Arcane Golem is that it gives your opponent some extra leverage if played too early. Arcane Golem can be played in two ways. The Arcane Golem can always be safely used as a finishing blow. An extra mana crystal does not help a person with 0 life. On the other hand, the Arcane Golem can be used as a pressure technique versus other aggressive decks. If we are using Arcane Golem to pressure our opponent, it is incredibly important to think through what an extra mana crystal will get them. If we have a fairly well-developed board on turn 5, versus a mage, it would be a terrible mistake to play an Arcane Golem, allowing the mage to flamestrike us on next turn. On the other hand, in a match versus another aggressive deck, playing an arcane-golem forces them to deal with it, and very possibly gives us the extra damage we need to pull off a win.
houndmaster once again demonstrate the focal theme in this deck, great value. As a 4 drop, the Houndmaster not only gives us a very scary body on the board, but also protects itself behind a now even scarier beast. This can be used to prepare our side of the board for a savannah-highmane. Similar to the arcane-golem, this card gives us an incredible amount of pressure on the board very cost effectively.
The savannah-highmane allows us to play offensively. Because it summons another two 2/2 beasts when it dies, simply having it on the board puts our opponent in a very awkward spot. Even if the opponent has control of the board, this card either allows us to punch through their final defenses, or simply prepare lethal. Most of the time, the game is over if they do not have a solid answer to this card.
Playing this Deck
The idea behind playing this deck is to kill our opponent. No really, let me explain. Basically, all of our minions have particularly good synergy. Because of this, in an optimal case, our opponent is forced to trade with us, while we do damage to his face. Eventually we reach a point where we can use our strong finishers to completely reduce our opponent to dust. Possibly the most important tool to doing well with this deck is understanding what you are playing against. Most games played with this deck are decided during the Mulligan, turn one, and turn two. If done correctly, this deck can snowball out of control in most matchups.
Because of explosive-trap and eaglehorn-bow, we can take out our opponent’s high threat minions, all while continuously doing damage to our opponent’s face. I will outline what I consider high threat minions in the class specific matchups.
In our perfect world, we always want an undertaker and lots of small deathrattle minions to power him up, followed by our larger threats. Whether playing with coin or not, always throw away all cards that cost more than two, or are a spell. The only exception is that it is rarely correct to keep an eaglehorn-bow, if we have the coin, and only in certain matchups, outlined in the class specific matchups. When playing with the coin, we want to power up our Undertaker as much as possibly, or in the case that we do not have an Undertaker, put out our high priority minions. As a general rule, we will want to keep these minions, in this order of priority.
Class Specific Matchups
Knowing how to play versus each class is critically important to having success with this deck. These are the classes I played against most on the ladder, ordered by most common occurrences.
Because there are two popular versions of Warlock, I will address them both.
This deck has been a staple of Hearthstone. Warlock zoo is an extremely aggressive deck that attempts to trade with any other minions on the board, and then kill their opponent.
We know that they are going to try to establish board control early, and our one drops played by themselves are fairly weak. In this particular matchup, we value the undertaker the most, followed by mad-scientist, followed by haunted-creeper.
With the coin, we would optimally like to have more minions on the board than they do. This means that on the Mulligan we value undertaker, webspinner, and leper-gnome the highest, followed by mad-scientist and haunted-creeper.
We want to gain early board control, and get some damage in on our opponent’s face. Against zoo, we mostly need to put our opponent on the defensive, making him trade into our minions. The only minions we really care about trading into ourselves are minions that offer him removal, such as knife-juggler and dire-wolf-alpha. Beyond that, our traps will stifle his aggression, and give us tempo as we prep for our lethal combo.
This control deck relies on dropping huge late game threats on the board as early as turn 4. As long as we focus on doing consistent damage early, this is usually a fairly easy match.
Mulligan for this matchup as aggressively as possible. Make sure to not overextend on turn three, if he has a target for Shadowflame, or if you are in Hellfire range with your undertaker. Beyond this, play around the zero cost molten-giant taunts when he hits 10 health. I usually like to hold the handlock around 13-15 health, before going in for the kill.
Mech Mage is really the only mage incarnation that requires more thought.
Generally Mulligan for this matchup aggressively. If you have the coin, this is one of the cases where I keep my eaglehorn-bow. By keeping your Eaglehorn Bow and coin, it is possible to kill his mechwarper on turn two, shutting down his source of aggression. Even without the coin, it is important to kill his Mechwarper when he drops it, otherwise he will end up with a huge tempo advantage.
Note: I did play against two freeze mages, but only when I was high on the ladder. If you encounter this matchup, I had great success silencing his Doomsayer with my ironbeak-owl.
Mech rogue is one of the best matchups for this deck.
Similar to Mech Mage, when playing against Mech Rogue Mulligan aggressively. In addition to keeping the eaglehorn-bow if we have the coin, the mad-scientist particularly shines in this matchup. This is because many of Mech Rogue’s early game minions are vulnerable to explosive-trap.
Control warrior is definitely our hardest match. Getting a good undertaker Mulligan is critical to winning this matchup. In addition to have a strong Undertaker start, we need to put out as much damage as possible. When playing this matchup, I usually use my arcane-golem to put more pressure on the warrior. The longer this match goes, the more likely the warrior is to win, so we need to win this hard and fast.
Druid is another challenging match, but definitely winnable. Once again, Mulligan as aggressively as possible. While druids do have a lot of removal, we can usually out tempo them for the win. A turn 6 savannah-highmane is absolutely amazing in this matchup. If you face a fair amount of druids, it would be reasonable to swap unleash-the-hounds for hunters-mark.
These were the most common decks I played against on the ladder. Learning how to play against Zoo and Mech Mage were fairly frustrating, but once I figured out how to Mulligan and which minions were important to remove, these matches turned to being in my favor.
Deck Tech Choices
Depending on common matchups you are seeing in your ranking, it can be very beneficial to “tech” your deck versus them. These are some of the most successful alterations I found.
Versus more Control
This deck was designed to succeed in the post Goblins vs Gnomes aggressive environment. That being said, if you are seeing more control decks, it would be easy to swap out an unleash-the-hounds for either another ironbeak-owl, or hunters-mark.
freezing-trap is a viable tech option in the place of either an unleash-the-hounds, or snake-trap.
loot-hoarder could be swapped in place of leper-gnome, or possibly snake-trap if you are commonly dealing with Control Warrior’s whirlwind.
Versus Mirror Matches
During my time on the ladder post Goblins vs Gnomes, I did not see many hunters. If I saw more hunters, I would have swapped out hunters-mark and a houndmaster for two flare. Being able to destroy the enemy’s secrets would be huge.
This face oriented hunter deck has been extremely strong in my laddering experience thus far. Besides offering fast matches, it does extremely well dealing with the heavy aggression on the ladder. In the future, I would love to write a more in-depth turn by turn analysis of some of my common matchups. If you have any questions, feedback, or suggestions, feel free to e-mail me at [email protected], or comment below!