Hi guys, Dorgan here. I’ve been ranked legend in each non-testing season so far but after hitting it for the third time last season, I didn’t want to just get there again the usual way. Since I read a lot in forums and on reddit and recently started streaming, I wanted to try it in a more “meaningful” way that was able to address a lot of questions and complaints that you can read every day, including:
- How to get this game started?
- I can’t win a single game because my cards are so bad!
- This game is so pay-to-win because everyone has legendaries!
- How can I improve? (Arena/Constructed)
- I need tons of legendaries or have to play Zoo!
- Should I play arena or buy packs?
So I came up with the idea of a free-to-play series, got hooked on it and finally realized it.
Free-to-Play: The “Casual” Approach
Yes, there have been free-to-play series before, most noticeably from popular streamers, but all of them had one thing in common: the players committed themselves to one specific class and tried everything to get legend without paying money. I didn’t like this concept too much because it is not the way that this game is usually played. No normal player wants to commit himself to just one class and end up with a collection of ~20 expert cards, 8 unplayable classes but a legendary cardback. So I decided that I wanted to play this game like it is meant to be played: keep all the cards you get to build up a collection that you can build multiple decks from. So I started fresh and streamed the whole series including completing daily quests, doing arena runs and last but definitely not least: ranking up.
After I played for a week and reached rank 18, I looked over my collection and recognized that I had collected a few good Hunter cards and decided to do the further ranking for this moment with the Hunter class. The packs kept providing me some Hunter cards, so I sticked to it and hit rank 4 with a midrange version of the Hunter fairly quick. However, I got stuck at rank 4 for a few days when – finally – Naxx came out. I took a short break to have a look at the meta shift and came up with more aggressive aggro Hunter version that I finally carried to legend in 3 days with 52 games and 67% win rate. Within a month, I reached legend with a fresh account and a deck that had a total crafting cost of 900 dust without disenchanting anything. I even kept the golden mana-wraith in my collection!
The decklist probably provides the right clue: Overwhelm your opponent and get him down as fast as possible!
So, let’s talk about the cards of the deck.
hunters-mark: Probably the best removal in the game. Great synergy with Stonetusk Boar, Unleash the Hounds and also Arcane Shot.
arcane-shot: With the high presence of Zoo in the ladder, I originally wanted to add two of them but just found the space for one. It can be used with Hunter’s Mark for removal, to remove a 2-health minion or just to push some more damage in.
tracking: Tracking provides options and let’s you look for either specific answers or good follow-up plays. Beginner’s usually consider it to be a bad card because it forces you to discard good cards but if you consider them to be at the bottom of your deck, the only thing that tracking does, is fatiguing you earlier. And, to be honest: you shouldn’t get to fatigue. 🙂
leper-gnome: A strong opener. It dies pretty easily but sets the opponent under pressure. If he removes it, it slows him down. If it stays alive, it’s 2 more damage each turn after it deals another 2 after dying.
stonetusk-boar: A card that I learned to respect more and more during the series. It can remove each minion through Hunter’s Mark, activate Kill Command damage for 1 mana (important, because this deck provides just a small number of beasts), deal 1 damage, remove divine shields and can draw a card with the Buzzard.
explosive-trap: Deals two more damage, provides an additional charge for the Eaglehorn Bow, can kill the opponent’s minions and synergizes also with Hunter’s Mark. Each Zoo player hates it, but be aware of the nerubian-egg.
freezing-trap: Reduces the opponent’s tempo, protects your minions or yourself and grants an additional charge for the Eaglehorn Bow. Opponents often spend a whole turn or even multiple turns to play around it which provides more time to kill them.
misdirection: For this deck, I had to craft two of them. Usually, your minions won’t stay long on your board, so Misdirection nearly always hits your opponent, providing more damage, or at least his minions. Since this deck runs multiple secrets, it sometimes gets mistaken for another trap that people try to play around. Also grants an additional charge for the Eaglehorn Bow.
faerie-dragon: Originially, I wanted two of them in the deck but didn’t find another card to remove. Provides a threat that some opponents have a hard time removing. Coined out against a Rogue, it often provides 6 damage: 3 from the hit and additional 3 from hitting it with dagger+deadly-poison.
starving-buzzard: This card helps enormously to get you the cards that you need. Nearly always played together with Unleash the Hounds or at least a Stonetusk Boar to dig for cards and (re)gain card advantage. Sometimes also a good enabler for the additional damage of Kill Command.
eaglehorn-bow: Probably the most important card in this deck. If you can manage to equip it early and play it together with secrets, it provides a lot of damage that can either be used to kill the opponent faster or to protect your own minions. If you see a lot of acidic-swamp-ooze or harrison-jones on the ladder, make sure to use your first charge right after equipping it.
animal-companion: Gets you always get a very valuable minion for 3 mana. Huffer (4/2, charge) often provides another 4 damage and a threat that must be removed while Misha (4/4, taunt) slows your opponent down and sometimes also provides damage. Leokk (2/4, +1 attack for all friendly minions) is sometimes useless but is harder to remove than Huffer, has good synergy with Unleash the Hounds and can provide additional damage when you already have minions on the board.
deadly-shot: A card that I didn’t want to cut off from the midrange version. It can kill a concealed gadgetzan-auctioneer and remove big taunt minions.
kill-command: Damage that you need to kill your opponent. Especially great against opponents with big taunts (Handlock, Druid) that are already low on health. Sometimes also a great removal to either protect your minions of give you the opportunity to surpass taunts.
unleash-the-hounds: A card that most opponents hate and try to play around, so don’t commit too much to big card draws with Starving Buzzard. Especially useful against aggro decks and Shamans but also useful against two big creatures to draw two more cards, remove some of them with a Hunter’s Mark and leave some minions on the board. Also activates Kill Command damage.
arcane-golem: Basically a Huffer with downside. Provides 4 damage and a threat on the board. Shouldn’t be used too early since your opponent basically gains a free wild-growth. But if you can set up lethal damage for the following turn or don’t expect your opponent to get great benefit from the extra mana: go ahead!
wolfrider: 3 fast damage. Easily removed but nevertheless a threat on the board.
Stategy, Matchups & Mulligans
Kill your opponent! Try to put early pressure on the board that forces your opponent to react and doesn’t let him establish his board. Always count your possible damage and try to set up lethal damage as soon as possible without overcommitting. Try to use your mana as efficient as possible and remember that your hero power also provides a lot of damage over the long run. For example: If you want to use a Wolfrider at turn 4, consider if using your hero power and a 2-drop instead is the better option. You can still do 3 damage with the Wolfrider next turn and use your hero power again, providing a lot more damage. Nevertheless, if you expect bigger taunts that you don’t have an answer for, bringing the damage as long as you can is also a valid option.
Be aware of all tools your opponent might come up with to either stop your efforts or regain health. Most people are netdecking, so you should know the common decks and their options. Use your secrets to either delay your opponent or to get even more damage at him and to recharge your eaglehorn-bow for extra damage. Using the bow requires a little bit of planning because your opponent might not trigger your secret at the following turn. Always consider when you might need to use your charges without destroying the bow. Also try to keep the right answers to likely plays of your opponent. At some point, try to draw into the last cards you need through the Buzzard+Unleash combo and clear possible threats with the least possible resources. Use your Trackings if you have spare mana or if you are in desperate need for a specific answer.
Matchups & Mulligans
Try to aim for early threats like Leper Gnome or Faerie Dragon. Animal Companion is also a card that should be kept, because it provides good board presence in turn 2 or 3. Always keep the Eaglehorn Bow! It synergyzes well with all your secrets, provides additional damage against control decks and can clear minions from aggro decks while protecting your own minions. Always toss back your Arcane Golem, Stonetusk Boar and Wolfrider. Unless stated otherwise, Unleash, Buzzard, Arcane Shot and Kill Command should also find the way back in your deck. If you have to toss back many cards, keeping a tracking to get what you need is a good idea. Toss it back if you already have a good opening and probably no spare mana in the first turns.
The most frequent class on my way to legend. Always mulligan for Zoo because you can’t afford not to. This is a tough matchup.
Additional mulligan: explosive-trap, arcane-shot & unleash-the-hounds. Usually, faerie-dragon just dies to one of the 2/1 and should be tossed back if you are not prepared otherwise.
The strategy against Zoo differs a lot from usual matchups because you will see yourself under a lot of early pressure. Sometimes you will have to use your Unleash very early, even without a Buzzard. Try to kill everything that comes on the board and try to get a good hit with your Explosive Trap. Don’t use it for just one minion but be aware that Zoo has many ways to get minions out of the danger zone. Sometimes, you have no choice, but if a defender-of-argus would threaten your life total, get it off earlier. However, the trap doesn’t have to kill all the minions, since it’s a great set-up for an Unleash that clears the board. Try to be aware of the nerubian-egg. Best case is having an answer to the 4/4 after your trap hits.
Don’t hesitate to use Kill Commands for 3 damage to kill an opponent’s minion or to use a Hunter’s Mark on a Knife Juggler to kill it with an unleashed hound. As soon as you can establish some kind of control when the tap-decking begins, you’re able to threaten their life while they are helping you out to do the same. At this point, using a Freezing Trap or a Misdirection can be extremely helpful to establish more safety regarding your health pool. Nevertheless, don’t hesitate to use them early to survive the pressure.
If you know that you are up against Handlock, the mulligan becomes obviously different.
Additional mulligan: Some kind of answer to big stuff (hunters-mark, deadly-shot) along with face damage (kill-command).
You will get a Handlock low pretty soon. The art is to get the final blow. Kill Command is a key card in this matchup because it provides a lot of damage even with taunts on the board. Don’t rely too much on your Freezing Trap or your Misdirection. Usually, Handlocks have time, so they just play their taunt givers (sunfury-protector or defender-of-argus), pass the turn and activate your traps with the small guys. Try to set up your lethal damage but always consider their main option for a comeback: molten-giant, earthen-ring-farseer and siphon-soul. This matchup requires a lot of anticipation, because you don’t want to be up against a lot of big taunts without being able to get through. Usually, you don’t want to put them down to a level where there can drop two taunted Molten Giants on the board (unless this sets up lethal damage, of course). Always track for Kill Commands, because you will need them. If you can’t afford to take any more time, just try to go through and hope that no double-molten+taunt will be played. 😉
Additional mulligan: Some kind of answer to big or early stuff (hunters-mark, deadly-shot, freezing-trap, also Misdirection)
Druids usually start pretty slow, so try to set up early pressure with a good opening. If they use an early Innervate use your Freezing Trap or Misdirection and continue to hit him. Try to remove his big taunts as soon as possible and continue hitting him. Since Druids tend to play one big guy per turn, don’t try to maximize your Unleash. If you can get 2 cards from Buzzard+Unleash and can clear one of them with your Hunter’s Mark, it’s fine. If you’re up against a Druid that runs a lot of big taunts (turn 4 senjin-shieldmasta, turn 5 druid-of-the-claw, turn 6 sunwalker, turn 7 ancient-of-war), you will have a hard time. Try to break through, send them back with Freezing Traps and set up lethal as soon as possible. Be aware of possible taunts and a 5-health heal from ancient-of-lore.
Additional mulligan: deadly-shot (Miracle), explosive-trap (Aggro)
Miracle Rogues usually start slowly which gives you time to pressure them early. If you go second, try to get a Faerie Dragon and use it! They can’t use backstab on it and usually their first option to clear it, is turn 3 through dagger+deadly-poison which provides another 3 damage. Don’t play a Leper Gnome with it because it is a great target for Backstab and combo enabler for si7-agent. Animal Companion is usually okay, though because it either provides more damage (Huffer) or can’t be removed by a Backstab. Try to pressure him to play cards to protect himself. If he gets an Auctioneer out, kill it as soon as possible or set up lethal for next turn if you’re sure that he can’t kill you. Most of them run no taunts, so all the damage you hold can usually hit their face. Deadly Shot is a great answer to conceal to deny Miracle Rogues their card draw.
Aggro Rogues are significantly faster. Try to keep the board as clear as possible and set up your traps. Use a Freezing Trap or Misdirection to protect yourself from a big charge combo but be aware that they will attack you first and could get misdirected at your own minions. This can be good, if you have something bigger on the board, but it’s bad if there is just a Buzzard or a Boar. This matchup is basically a rush and mostly decided by the faster pace and the final blow.
Additional mulligan: unleash-the-hounds, starving-buzzard, explosive-trap
The Buzzard+Unleash combo holds great value against a Shaman. That way, their hero power work directly in your favor and cards like feral-spirit put even more minions on the board. The wolves can be annoying, that’s why you shouldn’t hesitate to use your Explosive Trap to weaken them. The Eaglehorn Bow is also a great way to deal with them. Shamans usually don’t run heals, so going face is a good idea most of the time. The only card that you should be aware of is the defender-of-argus. If you’re missing answers on two taunted minions and clearing them seems affordable, do it. This matchup should be in your favor, although it can get tricky if the Shaman draws perfectly into a mix of cheap removal and sticky stuff that you miss the answer to.
I haven’t encountered many Paladins, but they definitely provide a tough matchup. If you rush them down, be aware of the lategame since they usually run guardian-of-kings, lay-on-hands and tirion-fordring. This way, they can get great heals, regain card advantage or set up a sticky taunt that can also put some pressure on you. Usually, setting a trap slows them down but doesn’t provide too much value because they try just to run their silver-hand-recruit into it. Setting up an Explosive Trap together with another secret can be useful. Don’t forget the heal of the truesilver-champion if you count your damage. They often hit your face to get the heal off. Also don’t put too much on the board since they usually have great board clear abilites with equality, wild-pyromancer and consecration. But if your only chance is overcommitting, well, then do it. 🙂
Warrior / Mage / Priest / Hunter
Haven’t seen many of these, so I can’t provide much info here. If you run into a lot of Mages and Hunters, you probably want to add a flare and also mulligan for it, especially against Freeze Mages. The matchup against Priest and Control Warrior can be pretty tough, because both classes run good cards for a comeback. Try to pressure them as soon and as hard as possible. If you’re up against Freeze Mages, don’t forget about their alexstrasza that they can use either for damage or for heal.
Obviously, this deck is pretty cheap. You shouldn’t have to do budget replacements.
I’m not a great deckbuilder in theory, I have to try cards out to evaluate their value in certain decks (the first version of this deck ran a secretkeeper which was almost useless). Nevertheless, one obvious addition is leeroy-jenkins. The most obvious card to replace him with is probably the Arcane Golem which shouldn’t affect the style of the deck too much because you often want to hold back your Golem, too. Other than the golem, Leeroy also provides some synergy with Unleash the Hounds that can be used for further damage, more card draw or just to clear the whelps. Leeroy could also replace one of the Wolfriders although I would have to try this. Side note: replacing the Arcane Golem with Leeroy would increase the crafting cost for this deck to 2400.
Cards that could also be considered are flare (as stated above), a second Faerie Dragon, a second Arcane Shot and timber-wolf but they didn’t fit my playstyle respectively the matchups that I were up against. Cards that could be removed are most likely the Arcane Shot, one Stonetusk Boar, maybe the Deadly Shot and maybe a Misdirection, although I’m not sure about this.
Other considerable cards are typical aggro cards: argent-squire, abusive-sergeant and elven-archer but they didn’t fit either my playstyle or my taste. Other cards might also be possible, but since I built the deck from an existing collection, I didn’t think too much about other expensive cards. Nevertheless, feel free to experiment and come up with your own version. 🙂
I have received a lot of positive feedback for this run. Most players found it pretty motivating and a good resource to refer to regarding the questions and complaints that I wanted to address. It is definitely possible to hit legend without many legendaries, even with a class that is considered to be weak in the current meta and even without being a “pro” (I have a normal day job and a wife) or commiting the whole collection to one specific deck. Furthermore, it is possible by just using the free-to-play options that the game provides within a short period of time.
This deck, even with a dust cost below 1000 (for comparison: the normal Zoo deck costs about 1500 dust, even more if you include meta cards like blood-knight), can provide a lot of pressure and win against slower decks that need to set up their position. Although it seems very straightforward, it still needs focus and planning to finally get the killing blow which often seems just a few points of damage away.
Thanks for your attention. Feel free to ask your questions or provide feedback regarding this deck or the series. I will be happy to respond to them. Also feel free to link the resources to people who ask for help or complain about the amount of legendaries in the game. 🙂 I wish you the best of luck reaching your goals with this deck and of course in the game in general!