The decline of Patron led to a resurgence of Hunter all across the ladder. Midrange Hunter, due to its consistency, sticky minions and damage potential, is the most popular build for the class. You want to have it in mind anytime you are going to try to climb. A big part of the ladder is understanding the decks you are going to most often face. In this guide we will see how another very popular deck (Aggro Druid) takes on Rexxar and his giant beasts.
When playing a deck on ladder you need to understand the decklist first. Why do you play certain cards? Are there other options? How do you want your curve and tech cards to look? The answers to those questions can be the difference between winning and losing. Aggro Druid has a lot of set cards that you cannot change. However, there are a ton of other options out there from Loatheb to Savage Combatant to even Stranglethorn Tiger. Two links to Aggro Druid have been put below to you give you an idea of the deck, but remember you don’t have to be contained to what everyone else plays.
Aggro Druid is interesting because, unlike most aggro lists, you do not have a lot of reach. Your only burn is Swipe, and you want to end the game with the combo or Savage Roar. This means you need to control the board, and then leverage pressure through your minions. To do this, play to your curve, mulliganing aggressively for your one and two drops. Also remember that Innervate will change your mulligans, allowing you to keep higher level cards. If you see the ramp spell try and sculpt your hand to accommodate the extra mana.
Cards to KeepInnervate Leper Gnome Living Roots Knife Juggler Darnassus Aspirant Druid of the Saber
Shade of Naxxramas can be kept if you have a solid curve.
Swipe can be kept with the coin or very strong opening. Should always be kept against Paladin.
Piloted Shredder can be kept with the coin and a good curve.
Keeper of the Grove should be kept against aggro decks (Hunter, Paladin, Warlock) if you have the coin or if you have a good opening curve.
How to Win
Aggro Druid is a popular deck because of how quickly it can put on pressure. You build a board up with sticky minions and then protect them through efficient removal and some crazy Innervate turns. That early pressure is a problem for a lot of decks. However, Midrange Hunter can fight you right back, which is what makes this matchup so challenging.
You and Midrange Hunter have very similar gameplans, but you go about it in completely different ways. While you are pushing as much damage as you can trying to build toward the combo or a gigantic Savage Roar, your opponent is trying to slow things down until their big minions can lock out the game.
The battle for board (which is exactly what this is) begins in the early turns of the game. Just do everything you can to get minions to stick over theirs. Once something like a Piloted Shredder goes uncontested (from either side) the other person is going to be on the back foot. Midrange Hunter is not a deck that can play well from behind. You should use that to your advantage by pushing damage through when possible. On the other hand, if you start slipping behind, you need to know you cannot outpace Hunter. Once the board is lost, combo is the way you are going to win. Use your charge minions and spells to get in as many hits as you can.
Unless one person is very far ahead, this matchup is often going to come down to a race. When that happens, you need be aware of how much damage Hunter can do at any one time while also looking for ways they can lock you out of the game. Midrange Hunter runs no healing, but they do run two taunts in the form of Sludge Belcher and Houndmaster. Belcher can usually be dealt with by your board or removal, but Houndmaster is much more of a problem since it comes down a turn earlier and also immediately trades with its buff.
You typically want to save a Keeper of the Grove for either of those minions since they are going to give you the most trouble.
Early Game Strategy
The early turns of this game are very, very important. You and Hunter are largely attempting to do the same thing, which is to push through sticky minions as a way to build into later damage. This requires a certain balance of clearing while applying pressure at the same time. Knife Juggler and Living Roots both do this very well, giving you a board that you can play with while also doubling as removal. Use those cards to get rid of their early plays and add to the board in the same turn.
While Innervate is always good later on, here is where it really shines. Midrange Hunter only really runs one early removal spell in Hunter’s Mark, which is most often a one-of. Everything else is a three damage spell like Quick Shot, Kill Command or Eaglehorn Bow. Putting out a huge minion early can allow you to really start getting in damage.
Another crucial element is to understand how to play Shade of Naxxramas. You want to get this card out as soon as you can. Once it’s down, you should keep it stealthed for as long as you can. If you have control of the board, let it grow. If you start to fall behind, then trade up with it whenever you can.
The final note is never be afraid of trading away Darnassus Aspirant. While it can be tempting to keep around the extra mana crystal, it is important to understand how much board presence matters. If she does live a turn, it is never wrong to use the crystal, then trade her away to remove a minion.
During the middle turns of the game you need to know your threats and be aware of Hunter’s. Fel Reaver is your biggest minion for these turns, while Savannah Highmane is going to be there’s. If you are playing the board control game, you most likely won’t have a good answer to Highmane, which means once the lion comes down you really need to crank up the pressure. This will force them to worry about trading rather than your face.
On the other hand, Hunter has very little ways to deal with the Fel Reaver. As stated, Hunter only really does damage through spells of minions. Because of this, if you have the giant mech in hand, try and set it up for a mostly empty board. Getting even one hit in will usually end the game very quickly.
When going into the middle turns board gets more and more important because the damage potential for each deck rises. Always clear beasts when you see them, because allowing a Houndmaster to hit can be an absolute disaster. Beyond that, these are the turns where you really want to put Hunter on their back foot. Go face any chance you get, and don’t be afraid to crank up the pressure.
The last cards you want to be aware of are Freezing Trap and Unleash the Hounds. Knife Juggler/Unleash is a back breaking combo that will just tear apart your entire board if you aren’t careful. Never overextend unless you need to. For traps, always assume it is freezing and try running a charge minion in to protect your heavier minions (Piloted Shredder, Druid of the Claw) on board.
Late Game Strategy
The end of this game is going to come very, very quickly. While Midrange Hunter spends a lot of the time clearing, they are going to try to burst you down come turn six or seven. On the other hand, you want to play towards the combo as fast as you can. If not the whole combo, then just a Savage Roar while you have board control.
These turns should always be spent calculating damage potential and seeing how daring you should be. It is often right to assume Hunter has a Kill Command in hand. This will show you if you can afford to trade or if you can just go straight at the face. Here it is also important to remember how many taunts Hunter has played. Sometimes just dropping their life total low and setting up the combo is the best way to go.
The most important end game card is Dr. Boom because of how powerful he is on both sides. Most of the game you and your opponent are wrestling for board, but once the doctor is called things change. He, like every other big minion, will make whoever is facing him much more reactive. That is the key. Plan for turn seven by building a strong board so that you have ways to deal with the legend when he arrives.
The last note is, if you have the combo and can get your opponent within range, sometimes it is right to stall. In certain situations the game becomes much more about living long enough to kill your opponent with the combo rather than bursting them down right away. You never want to lose the game with the combo in hand because you got greedy and spent a turn going face when you should of cleared the board.
Save Knife Juggler for combos if you can. This is especially relevant in the early games, since it acts as a great way to drop a “must kill” threat but also grab board control. While it may seem logical to drop Living Roots on turn one, if you can save it one more turn to combine it with the juggler on turn two, you most often should.