Let’s Brew! Episode #5: Drop Dead Hunter

Hi guys, welcome to Let’s Brew Episode #5. In this series you guys vote for the deck you want us to build and we then write article explaining the build process. Hopefully by reading about how we build decks you will be able to make better decks yourself. This episodes project (narrowly) won last weeks […]

Introduction

Hi guys, welcome to Let’s Brew Episode #5. In this series you guys vote for the deck you want us to build and we then write article explaining the build process. Hopefully by reading about how we build decks you will be able to make better decks yourself.

This episodes project (narrowly) won last weeks voting: Control Hunter here we come!

Shout-outs to Newton & Stonekeep for helping with the testing and acting as a soundboard for my ideas.

And as always guys, likes, comments, questions, etc are welcome.

The Mission Statement

All Builds should start with an idea and a purposeThe idea is what we want to try to build and the purpose captures what we intend to do with it (e.g. “What does success look like?”).  Without Further ado:

  • The Idea: Build a Control Hunter Deck that utilises the card Feign Death
  • The Purpose: To build something innovative that I can ladder up to Rank 4 with.

As always, I recommend that you should always start the building process with reasonable goals in mind. This month I have set myself the challenge of hitting Rank 4 with whatever I build. Why not set the goal at Legend? Well, firstly it is 21st of September (as of typing) and I am currently Rank 8. While obtaining Legend in the time I have left is possible I think it is a little optimistic; I have to build & test the deck, write this guide, and then play hundreds of games to actually reach Legend. That sounds like a lot of work!

Another consideration for this build is that I want the games to be quick. Some of you may have read my Dragon Mage guide, that deck is fun to play and I had a decent win-rate with it this season (60+% over 60+ games), but the problem with that deck is that the games took a lot of time to complete, and unfortunately that makes the deck impractical for grinding Ladder.

In short, I want my build to achieve a decent win-rate (55+%) with relatively quick games (7-9 min average). Moreover, I want the deck to be innovative, not simply a copy of something else with a 1-to-2 card difference.

Okay mission statement complete. Let’s start building shall we?

The Research

All builds should start with research since with 20 million+ players it is never going to be the case that your idea is unique: Someone else has done it before and possibly better. Our first port of call will be searching Hearthpwn.com for Hunter decks with Feign Death in them (My Search).

Finding Feign Death Decks…

Here are a few results that caught my eye:

I looked at numerous lists for inspiration, not just the three above. The name ‘Spark’ might sound familiar to some of you, and that is probably because he used to write for HSP. As a matter of fact, here is a Hunter guide he wrote on HSP that contains a copy of Feign Death.

Another neat little trick I bet none of you knew about is that you can search for content on HSP by using the /cards/{Insert Card Name} directory. For example:

From this page we can see a list of HSP’s decks and guides that contain the card in question. By doing this I was able to find a deck guide by Yellowrambo. In the spoiler below you can check out Rambo’s & Spark’s decks without having to click away from this page (I spoil you guys rotten 🙂 ).

[spoiler] [/spoiler]

Finding Mid-range Hunter Decks…

Now that we have checked out all those Feign Death decks the last port of call is to checkout what is currently the most successful deck in that class (the closer that deck is to what you want to build, the better). For this I consulted Tempostorm’s Meta report (they currently recommend playing this list) and I also checked out HSP’s Mid-range Hunter Meta page. On this page we can clearly see a recent guide by guinie2 that achieved #1 Legend (deck list in spoiler below).

[spoiler][/spoiler]

The reason we should checkout the current Mid-range lists is twofold: Firstly, lots of the Feign Death decks we just looked at are out of date (whereas the Mid-range lists are recent), and secondly because constructed decks need to be ‘unfair’ or ‘broken’ in some way if they are to be played. Searching for the most powerful list currently known is a quick way of finding all the ‘broken’ things we can do as a Hunter. When building our deck, we want to squeeze in as many of these elements as possible.

Research Complete…

Okay, so that concludes our research phase of the build. We have consulted a variety of different lists and have observed numerous cards, strategies and ideas to toy with. We are now ready to build our first list.

Grab ur Hammer, its tinkerin’ time Baby!

#1: The Beginning

Attempt #1: [spoiler]

[/spoiler]

So as you can clearly see, this list has taken numerous elements from the decks we saw during the research phase. There are also a few ‘new’ idea’s here as well.

  • When Ball of Spiders was released a lot of players dismissed this card, mostly due to its perceived slowness. With that said however, most players also recognised that this card would probably be rather good for a Control deck (should that become a thing) due to the fact it is a card that potentially allows you to spend a significant amount of Mana over a handful of turns. Since we want to build a Control deck, it seems reasonable to experiment with such a slow card. Moreover, Ball of Spiders potentially has significant synergy with Feign Death: These two cards combined give us an Eight-Mana draw six (yes, six!) cards combo.
  • I wanted to try Gormok the Impaler for a few reasons. Firstly, he’s a 4-drop, which allows us to fill a space in our curve. Secondly, with Ball of Spiders (3 minions), dr-boom (3 minions), Snake Trap (3 minions), Unleash the Hounds, and Feign Death combos I thought this deck had a decent chance of triggering Gormok’s Battlecry consistently.

In this article I am not going to explain how I got to this first build in any more detail than I already have (the focus of this article is ‘deck refinement’). If you are looking for a more elementary guide that teaches you how to take those first steps in more detail I would recommend reading Building Innovative Decks: A Step-by-Step Guide and/or you can check out a Hobgoblin Shaman deck building guide of mine here (note: its a video guide).

The results? I took this list to Ladder and went 6-8 (43%). Those results were not good, but hey, I wasn’t too unhappy since I knew that its a new build in need of tweaking. Furthermore, I have to learn how to play the deck as well!

After 14 games I was ready to move onto Attempt #2.

#2: Less Snakes, More Spiders

The List:[spoiler]

[/spoiler]

So as you can see, there is not a lot of difference between versions #1 and #2. This was deliberate; when building decks I find it best to change 1-or-2 cards at a time rather than making 6+ changes all at once.

The changes I made were:

  • -1 Snake Trap, -2 Loot Hoarder
  • +1 Bear Trap, +2 Haunted Creeper

Why these Changes?

In lots of match-ups (especially Patron Warrior, and Druid) I felt that Snake Trap was either too easy to ‘play-around’ (e.g Trigger the Secret and then play Swipe/Whirlwind and sometimes even a liability (e.g Grim Patron). I thought that Bear Trap might be a bit harder for the opponent to exploit and the Taunt might make the deck a bit stronger defensively. On the downside however, I was initially concerned that by cutting a Snake Trap Gormok and Cult Master might be a little bit less consistent.

Also during those 14 games I frequently felt that Loot Hoarder was too easily killed, which meant that the card (while good for card advantage) wasn’t giving me a lot of board control. Meanwhile, Haunted Creeper is a stubborn little minion that will stick the board. Better yet, we still have Feign Death synergy and the two 1/1’s Creeper spawns should help improve the consistency of both Cult Master and Gormok. 

It might be worth your time re-reading the previous sentence in bold. I say this because the sentence highlights a very important and interesting deck building idea; What I am doing is cutting cards, thinking about how that change might affect the deck and then carefully adding cards that fit the overall strategy of the deck. In this particular case I identified that by removing Snake Trap two of my other cards may now perform worse than they previously had. I pre-emptively rectify this problem by replacing Snake Trap with a card that also works well with Gormok and Cult Master.

The Results? After 14 games I went 8-6 (57%). Not bad, but I still felt that this list was far from optimal. Onto Attempt #3…

#3: Feeling Sheepish

The List:[spoiler]

[/spoiler]

The Changes I made were:

  • -1 Eaglehorn Bow, -1 Gormok the Impaler, -1 Snake Trap, -1 Bear Trap, -1 Mad Scientist
  • +1 Cult Master, +1 Explosive Sheep, +1 Dreadscale, +2 Hunter’s Mark

Why these Changes?

When I was playing the deck I frequently found myself losing games to big late-game minions owing to the fact that the deck ran so few hard removal options. If, for example, a Dragon Priest buffed a card with Velen’s Chosen or just played Ysera I frequently found myself without decent options. With this experience in mind I knew I wanted to add Ironbeak Owl and/or Hunter’s Mark to the deck, but initially I was not sure which of these solutions I wanted to try first.

I was also losing games to the Aggro decks as well. I thought that Dreadscale might be a good idea; it’s a decent card in its own right and you can build a deck around the effect as well.  Once I knew I wanted to experiment with Dreadscale all the other ideas kinda ‘feel into place’.  So for example, above I mention that I wanted to add Hunter’s Mark or Owl to the deck but wasn’t sure which one to try. Well, adding Dreadscale solves that issue since this card has clear synergy with the Mark (e.g. Dreadscale + Hunter’s Mark is a two-card three-Mana hard removal combo). Basically, the deck makes the decision for me.

With Dreadscale in the deck, I thought this might be a good time to experiment with Explosive Sheep. These two cards work well together (e.g. Sheep + Dreadscale = Five-Mana Three-damage board clear combo), the Sheep also (sort of) works with Hunters Mark and, far more importantly, works great with Feign Death (Feign Death + Explosive Sheep =  Four-Mana Four Damage board clear).

Adding four cards requires four cuts. Initially I thought the easiest thing to do was reduce the number of secrets, and If I cut secrets I can perhaps get away with cutting some of the Secret synergy cards as well (e.g. Scientist, Bow). With these cuts in place, I could now add all the cool things I want to try.

I did however make one more change on this attempt: With the addition of the Marks I was concerned that by lowering the curve and adding situational cards I could harm overall consistency of the deck (will I run out of things to play?). To counteract this potential problem, I decided to add a second Cult Master for additional draw power. Gormok as an obvious candidate to cut; it’s a 4-drop for a 4-drop and moreover without Snake Trap Gormok probably wouldn’t be as good as it previously was anyway. As a general rule of thumb if you lower your curve without changing your archetype you should always consider adding card draw. 

The Results?   I went 13-10 (57%) with this version on the deck. More work clearly needed to be done…

#4: Feeling Very Sheepish

The List:[spoiler]

[/spoiler]

The Changes I made were:

  • -1 Dr. Boom, -2 Haunted Creeper
  • +1 Mad Scientist, +1 Bear Trap, +1 Explosive Sheep

Why these Changes?

Remember that when explaining my research I said that constructed decks, in order to be viable, usually need to do ‘broken things’. Well, fetching 2-mana secrets for ‘free’ with Mad Scientist is a good example of something ‘broken’ that Hunter can do. In short, I felt that it was a bit silly to run a deck with only one copy of stupendously broken card (i.e. Mad Scientist), thus I decided to bring back the second copy and an extra secret alongside it to improve consistency.

After play testing I was still losing a lot of games to Aggro. I reasoned that I was losing not because the deck lacked the tools but because I wasn’t drawing into said tools consistently enough. The second sheep then, was my way of increasing the odds that I get to wipe the enemy board.  I also theorised that the second sheep could add a new combo for beating Control decks too: 2x Sheep + Feign Death is a Six-Mana Eight-Damage board clear.

To make room for these new shiny things I had to make cuts elsewhere. In the end I decided to drop the Haunted Creepers, this was because without support cards Kill Command or Houndmaster I frequently felt that I could drop Creeper on Turn Two and it would do almost nothing; It doesn’t trade quickly & cleanly (which in Aggro match-ups typically means I take lots of damage), and nor is it a threat the enemy feels compelled to remove. Meanwhile, Sheep is a two-drop that will clear almost all enemy Turn Two plays.

Lastly, I decided to cut the ‘over-powered’ Dr. Boom. Even though he is a great card with decent Feign Death synergy I ended up cutting it mostly because he was the only Big Game Hunter target in the deck.  By cutting him, the plan is to make Big Game Hunter a ‘dead draw’ for the opponent.

The Results? I went 5-9 (36%). With such a low win-rate I was concerned that I had taken a step in the wrong direction. But upon further examination of the games I decided that these results were more a product of misplay’s, variance, and bad match-ups rather than a sad indictment of the deck. Anyway, onto attempt #5…

#5: Fuck you, Christmas Tree!

At the time I felt that my list was getting close to optimal, from here on out most of my changes would probably be minor meta tweaks rather than fundamental changes to the core of the deck.

The Changes I made were:

  • -1 Cult Master
  • +1 Flare

Why these Changes?

Remember that in build #4 I added the second Cult Master because I feared that the double Hunter’s Mark might run me out of cards. The idea was that the second Cult Master would enable me to ‘power-though’ any awkward hand I may receive with more draw. Well, after further testing I felt that the second Cult Master was excessive, but initially I was unsure what to replace the second copy with.  I began to ask myself: “Do I want card draw (from a different source)?”, “Do I bring back Dr. Boom?”, “Do I just play any decent 4-drop?”

When faced with open-ended questions like these I usually like to replace ‘like for like’. For example, with two Cult Masters in the deck I rarely hurt for card draw. But what happens if I cut the Cult Master and play something that doesn’t draw cards, might I hurt for card draw then?

“If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”

The deck was doing fine for card draw with double Cult Master, but it is entirely possible that I would struggle for cards by only running one Cult Master. Thus, I figured that the best compromise was to simply try to replace the Cult Master with some other card that also draws cards. At first I was thinking about something like Gnomish Inventor or Azure Drake, these cards will (on average) draw me fewer cards but they also come with a stronger and more ‘spam-able’ body. After thinking about the issue a little longer I thought that now was probably a great time to start tailoring the deck to beat the current meta. Two cards immediately sprung to mind:

  • Harrison Jones
  • Flare

Jones is nice a really nice way of countering a Weapon Heavy meta. I figured that this change would help versus Warrior, Control/Mid-range Paladin, in the mirror, and to a lesser extent Secrets (a.k.a ‘Christmas Tree’) Paladin. Jones would also be great versus Rogue and some Shaman builds, but I felt that this shouldn’t factor into my considerations owing to the fact that these classes hardly feature in the current Meta.

Flare obviously does a great job against Secrets classes and the ability to remove Stealth occasionally comes in handy (e.g. it countering the Shade of Naxxramas Strategy of ‘Combo/Ramp Druid’). While Jones is good in the Mirror and against Secrets Paladin I felt that Flare would be more powerful in both match-ups (remember also that in addition to Secrets some Hunters are now running Stranglethorn Tiger). And Finally it is worth pointing out that almost all versions of Mage run secrets and Tempo Mage is popular on Ladder right now.

In short, I think that Flare is a better ‘Tech choice’ for the current meta since it targets a number of the popular decks and hits harder than Jones does in some of the match-ups (e.g. Secrets Paladin) as well.

The Results?  I went 6-2 (75%) with this version (Ranks 8-7). Not bad, but what change(s) shall we try now?

A Second Opinion

I think so far in this Let’s Brew Series we have neglected to talk about the value of getting input from others.Handlock wasn’t made a top-tier deck by one dude in his basement. Rather, the one dude in his basement lit the initial spark, the deck was then played and tinkered with by countless others. It is the monster it is today due to the community continually experimenting with it.

So the advice I have to offer you is really simple:

  • Step (1): Find someone you respect
  • Step (2): Ask them to give you their ideas
  • Step (3): Listen, consider, respond
  • Step (4): Experiment

To get that much-needed input from others you can try posting on Forums, asking Friends/Streamers/Pro’s, post on Reddit (e.g. threads like this one), or whatever. What did I do? Well, I asked my fellow HSP writers to check it out on our discussion boards.

Newton responded with a few ideas. Here’s a snippet of that conversation:

  • Bear Trap (2 Mana 3/3) in a mid-range/control deck seems lacklustre.
  • Explosive Sheep seems odd since you only have one activator for it.
  • Powershot seems better than Explosive Sheep as it’s more consistent.
  • You have a lot of high drops without any life-gain, which might be an issue against rush decks.
  • I think you should really be playing 2x Tracking as it’s insane in a control (combo too) deck; Helps find Flare and other 1-of’s.
  • Hunter’s Mark seems like a 1-of to me.

Now, as it so happens I don’t agree with everything Newton said here (I like the Sheep 🙂 ). But hey, he’s a strong player and it would be wrong of me to outright dismiss his ideas: If I was just going to ignore his advice why ask for it in the first place?

Alright. So what idea(s) can we take from this?  Well, Newton could be right about Tracking, it is potentially a strong card that would make cards like Flare way more consistent. He also thinks Hunter’s Mark should be a one-of. If we look back at the Mid-range Hunter list that got #1 Legend (see research section above) that deck was only running one Hunters Mark, could this work for us a well?

#6: With a Little Help From Isaac

The List:[spoiler]

[/spoiler]

The Changes I made were:

  • -1 Hunter’s Mark, -1 Bear Trap
  • +2 Tracking

Why these Changes?

In the second opinion section [Isaac] Newton made a few suggestions and these changes are in line with what he thought I should try. With Tracking we might have to be a little bit careful about milling ourselves (if that’s a problem we can always cut a copy), but on the plus side we should be able to curve out way more consistently (e.g. on Turn 4 we can search of a 5-drop, if we are missing one), and get all those lovely Tech cards at critical moments.

Dropping the Bear Trap will probably make Mad Scientist a little less useful (because we are less likely to trigger the Deathrattle) but on the plus side we are certain to get Freezing Trap when we need it. Furthermore, playing Two Mad Scientists with only two secrets is an idea with precedence (example list).

The Results? I went 4-1 (75%) with this list (now Rank 6).

In one of the games I was playing against Dragon Priest. By the end of the game I was on 3 fatigue and won by the narrowest of margins (my Webspinner‘s fished me a Tundra Rhino + Lost Tallstrider). In short, what I am saying is that Fatigue in the very slow Control Match-ups (i.e. Priest, Warrior) double tracking is burning a lot of cards and that is a problem. With that said however, in the aforementioned Priest game I was able to play tracking, fish for Feign Death and then steal his Ysera on the same turn with sylvanas-windrunner, without that combo I probably wouldn’t have survived to Fatigue!

Another cool feature of playing tracking in the deck is that if I happen to draw my secrets before I draw Mad Scientist I can always ditch the useless 2/2 minion when tracking. In short, with Tracking I feel that running only two secrets is perfectly fine. Furthermore, I didn’t really miss Bear Trap.

In all, I guess what I am saying is that Tracking is a bit of a risk in some slow match-ups (due to fatigue) but that is a price we pay for adding a considerable amount of power to the deck (that power comes from consistency).

On the downside though, during those five games I really missed the second Hunter’s Mark. I want to add it back in.

#7: Mark my words

The List:[spoiler]

[/spoiler]

The Changes I made were:

  • -1 Tracking
  • +1 Hunter’s Mark

Why these Changes?

By dropping one copy of Tracking I get a good chunk of consistency but reduce the Fatigue problem in some of the super slow Match-ups. This change also affords me the room to squeeze in the second copy of Hunter’s Mark.

The Results? I went 7-7 (50%) with the deck. In honesty, I was very disappointed with these stats; 50% at Rank 6 is abysmal (for me). But far worse still I’m starting to run out of ideas; if the deck isn’t working now it’s probably never going to work, sigh. 🙁

#8 Well What Now?

At this stage of the build I’m feeling a bit depressed about it all; the results are poor and I’m running out of ideas. It took me a long while before I figured out what my next experiment should be: Cut the Webspinner’s.

You may remember that in Attempt #2 I added Haunted Creeper but in Attempt #4  I cut them primarily because I felt that the card frequently ‘did nothing’. This begs the question:

“What exactly is Webspinner doing for me?”

Sure, it fits the theme of the deck but “is it trading with 2-drops?” No. “Is it directly winning games?” No. “Is setting up powerful combos?” No. “Is it a good ‘value’ card?” Not especially. “Does the deck desperately need a 1-drop minion?” I don’t think so.

Without Kill Command‘s, Houndmaster‘s, etc Webspinner is often just a 1/1 that draws a mediocre card. What If I replaced the Webspinner’s with 2-drops? Two mana cards are significantly more powerful than one-drops in most cases and are usually only slightly slower (when played on curve). Basically, I was thinking that by giving the deck more 2-drop’s I make the deck only a tiny bit slower but potentially add a lot of power.

Now, this guide is already 4,000+ words long and so I’m going to start skipping experiments and stuff because if I continue at the current pace I would probably end up with a document the size of a novel!

Let’s just say I briefly experimented with cards like Knife Juggler, kings-elekk, and so on. Most of these cards I was not too excited about playing (Knife Juggler, for example, performed a lot worse than I was anticipating). 

At this point I was still chatting to Newton and he was still a fan of running two copies of Tracking. You may recall that I took the second copy out because I was concerned about losing to fatigue. But then I had a little brain wave: In match-ups where I feel it will go to fatigue I can always just not play the tracking!

In a round-about way this demonstrates a really hard problem you sometimes face when deck-building; sometimes you have the right idea in terms of what cards should be in the deck but then you fuck-up and cut them because you fail to understand how you should play your own deck!

I cut the second tracking because of something that could happen (i.e. lose via Fatigue) in about two match-ups. But if I just play the deck differently in those match-ups (i.e. chose not to play tracking) I can circumnavigate this issue. Now sure, this plan leaves me with a ‘dead card’ in those super-slow match-ups, but in all other match-ups the second tracking could significantly improve consistency.  This trade-off is most likely worth making.

The second brain wave was adding Explosive Trap.

Explosive trap is another good card versus Aggro, and since it is a Secret it also makes the Mad Scientists a bit more powerful (e.g. Feign Death + Mad Scientist is now, once again, a decent combo) as well as Hunter’s Mark (e.g. Explosive Trap + Mark combo). Those reasons, while good, is only a fraction of the story; By adding Explosive Trap I theorised that I also made Explosive Sheep  more consistent as well!

Imagine, for example its Turn 4 and the enemy has several minions with 3-4 health on the board. Normally you would want to clear with Feign Death + Explosive Sheep but there will be times when this combo is not in hand. Well, Explosive Trap + Explosive Sheep can work together to clear the board! If they go face then suddenly all the minions are in range of the Sheep, and if they clear the Sheep but refuse to attack the face then presumably the combination saves us a lot of health.

Once again, this is an example of me finding solutions to problems by seriously and deeply considering how I play the deck; by spotting a theoretical combo, I’ve found a way to make several of my cards work together (for a better understanding of this topic, please see my discussion of ‘strategical synergy’ here).

In summary:

The List:[spoiler]

[/spoiler]

The Changes I made were:

  • -2 Webspinner
  • +1 Explosive Trap, +1 Tracking

Why I made these changes is explained above. 🙂

The results? I played a tonne of games with this version of the deck, I went 53-38 (58%) at Ranks 5-to-3.  A 58% win-rate at this rank isn’t too bad but it is below what I would want for a typical Legend climb (when going for Legend, I want a win-rate of at least 60% at these ranks…it takes too long otherwise).

#9 The Last Idea

So, as mentioned above I played a large number of games with the current version and I learnt a lot about the deck during that time. While the deck felt pretty good most of the time it did frequently suffer from bad draws and clunky hands. The worst offenders were the Explosive Sheep.

Solving the Sheep Problem?

During testing there was numerous situations where the Explosives Sheep would sit in my hand doing absolutely nothing (I don’t exaggerate). It crossed my mind on several occasions that maybe I should drop to one Sheep and then maybe replace the second copy with an Explosive Trap. Such a change would still leave me with plenty of fire-power versus aggressive decks and against Control it would reduce the chances that I get a really clunky hand. While this idea sounded good, I decided against it primarily for two reasons:

(1) I like having a 2:1 secret ratio. The probability of drawing Freezing Trap is 66% under normal circumstances. During games I can use these statistical probabilities to my advantage. By adding another Explosive Trap what secret I draw from Mad Scientist is no longer predictable, it’s a coin flip.

(2) I was concerned that maybe I was under some sort ‘cognitive bias’ spell. There were plenty of games where I would, for example, play Tracking and find sheep for the clutch board clear. If I drop down to one sheep these sorts of situations occur half as often as they currently do.

As you can tell from point (2) above I was concerned that the Sheep were doing a tonne of work in lots of games but the situations where the Sheep failed I was, for some reason, remembering more often. So if we assume that running double sheep is correct what else could we do to avoid those awkward situations?

Well, one possibility is to cut something else from the deck and make the Sheep more consistent by adding more triggers. For example, Turn 4 Unstable Ghoul + Sheep would likely do 3 damage to the enemy board. The fact that Ghoul is a Deathrattle minion is just a nice bonus (i.e. Feign Death Synergy).  The real problem with such a change however is; “What do you cut for make room for Ghoul?”  The deck-list is rather refined now, it’s not easy to figure out what card–if any– should be cut to make room for a Ghoul.

I thought about this problem for a good while. Eventually I decided to go with the third option; Leave things as they are. At the end of the day bad draws sometimes happen, perhaps this just the price we must pay for having really powerful combo’s in the deck.

In short, swapping out one Sheep is always at the back of my mind, it’s certainly a change that makes some sense and maybe it is something I will experiment with in the future. But for now, they both stay.

Is Sludge Belcher correct?

One of the great things about deck building is that you can think about problems anywhere. As it so happens I was in the shower when this idea hit me:

“Is Sludge Belcher that great for me?”

At first glance it might seem like Sludge Belcher is an excellent minion for the deck. I mean, its a really strong card (which is why it is played in most decks) and moreover it does have some synergy with Feign Death. For these reasons then, of course it should be in the deck!

The above logic captures how I thought about Belcher for a long time, but after reflecting on my games I realised that the Feign Death synergy was really weak, so weak in fact the synergy is almost inconsequential. Thus, I should simply consider Sludge Belcher a good minion.  Since Belcher is ‘only’ a good minion, might we find something equally good to replace it with?

“What About senjin-shieldmasta?”

Senjin is a decent minion that potentially has some synergy with the deck. In my Synergy article (here) I talk about something I call ‘curve synergy’. I will not go into the nuances of that idea here but Basically my deck runs lot’s of 6-drops and so by replacing Belcher with Senjin I potentially add a new Turn 10 combo to the deck: 6-drop (e.g. Ball of Spiders) + Taunt. Might this combo be more powerful than the synergy Belcher has with Feign Death? The answer is that I’m not sure, but I think it is worth testing.

Without further ado I present to you my final experiment:

The List:[spoiler]

[/spoiler]

The Changes I made were:

  • -1 Sludge Belcher
  • +1 Senjin Shieldmasta

For this experiment I didn’t cut both Belchers, I rather cautiously decided to leave one in. This was partly due to the fact that I was at Rank 3 with a reasonable win-rate; if I want to try for Legend it’s probably best not to make any drastic changes.

The results? I went 6-7 and dropped back to Rank 4. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the change is bad, it is a small sample size and variance is a thing; many more games are needed before I can fully assess this change. And besides, if the change truely were for the worse that would be okay too (in Let’s Brew episode #3 I explain why deliberately making your deck worse can help you improve it).  But anyway, I think it is about time I bring this article to a close.

My Ladder Climb: Statistics

During the September Season I peaked at Rank 3 3 stars with this deck. My statistics for the deck are below:

So the top section of the above graphic is every single game I’ve played with this deck this season, all versions from ranks 10-3. The second section is all my games from Rank 5, using versions #8 and #9 of the deck.

From my experience I think the match-ups for the deck currently look a bit like this:

  • Great Match-ups (70% +): Ramp Druid, Token Druid.
  • Good Match-ups (60%+): Tempo Mage, Mech Mage, Control Warrior, Dragon Warrior, Handlock, Demonlock, Warlock Zoo.
  • 50/50 Match-ups (50%): Midrange Hunter, Mid-range Paladin
  • Unfavoured Match-ups (40-49%): Secrets Paladin, Mid-range Shaman, Grim Patron Warrior, Control Priest, Hybrid Hunter, Freeze Mage
  • Heavily Unfavoured Match-ups (39% or less): Dragon Priest, Face Hunter, Aggro Paladin.
  • Unknown: Rogue, Mech Shaman, Echo Giants Mage.

For Tournament players the super strong Druid Match-up is noteworthy since Druid is frequently part of a best-of-3 Conquest line-up. Moreover, lot’s of people are also running Handlock (which is another good match-up for the deck) to counter Patron Warrior. Ergo it just might be the case that this deck could perform very well against two-thirds of your typical conquest line-up.

How to Play the Deck

So after reading this article there are probably a few of you out there interested in take this deck for a spin. For those people I have included a video guide: the first part of the video is me talking about some of the cards and the ideas behind them and the second part of the video is me thrashing a Secrets Paladin. If I can be bothered I may upload a few more games at some point.

Enjoy 🙂

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_uvm4hAkJEc

p.s. I don’t normally sound like that; the high-pitch voice is the result of me speeding everything up. 🙂

Conclusion

For this brew I tried to build a viable Control Hunter deck that used Feign Death. I set myself the goal of hitting Rank 4 (hit rank 3 = pass), with a 55+% win-rate (56% win-rate = pass) and with quick games (9 min game average = borderline pass). In short, I have achieved everything I had set out to achieve and for what its worth I think that there is some version of Control Hunter out there that is viable.  With that said however, I do feel that this deck is a slightly worse Midrange Hunter. But hey! there is still more experiments to be done!

Anyway, I think it is time to conclude this rather lengthy article. Hopefully you have found my Control Hunter journey entertaining and informative; I tried my best to detail the theory & practice that goes behind testing and building decks. The only thing left for you do is take the deck for spin yourself. And who knows, maybe you will find a way to make the deck even better than I was able to.

For me this is the end. But for the deck? The journey has just begun. 🙂

Next Episode

Normally this section would have a bunch of selection of different projects and we would ask you to vote on what you would like us to build in the next episode. However on this occasion we have decided that, since the vote was so close, the next episode will be ‘Hero Power Mage’ by Stonekeep. He is a summary of what you can expect:

Hero Power Mage (runner-up two weeks in a row) – Stonekeep

Mage deck based around Hero Power and Inspire. Using cards that boost your Hero Power’s damage, reduces the cost etc. and the ones that benefit from you hitting the button. The deck plays rather grindy game, the strategy is to out value your enemy and then crush them thanks to the card advantage. Using cards like Coldarra Drake or Fallen Hero to make your Hero Power stronger, Fencing Coach or Maiden of the Lake to make it cheaper and topping the list with strong Inspire effects like and Kodorider to win the value game.

References & Further Reading

LET’S BREW SERIES:

OTHER STUFF: