When going into the Hearthstone ladder, it is always important to understand the decks you are going to face. One of those decks is Midrange Hunter, a very popular deck that has only grown since the departure of Patron. In this guide we will take a look at another popular list (Tempo Mage) and then explore the way it can take down Rexxar and his horde of beasts.
As a Tempo Mage, you have many different deck builds at your disposal. You have even more card choices. This acts as both a blessing and a curse. On one hand you have so many options it can be difficult to nail down specific card choices. However, a wide range of options means you can also tweak the deck in the way that makes you the most comfortable. You always want to play a deck style that you know how to play, and you should always alter Tempo Mage to your liking. Whether that is more control-oriented, aggressive or midrange is completely up to you.
When mulliganing for Midrange Hunter keep in mind that they are a tempo deck same as you. They try to leverage damage through board control and then finish the game off with a flurry of burn spells. To stop this you are going to meet them each turn punch for punch. Missing an early drop or key turn can be the difference between keeping or losing the board, which is largely the difference between winning and losing. To fix this, mulligan hard for your early plays and only keep three or four drops if you have a solid curve and the coin.
Cards to KeepMana Wyrm Arcane Missiles Mirror Image Sorcerer’s Apprentice Mad Scientist Frostbolt Unstable Portal
Flamecannon is a very good keep with other early minions.
Flamewaker is a good keep with a curve before it or with the coin and cheap spells.
Water Elemental can be kept with the coin and a solid curve coming before it.
Piloted Shredder follows the same rules as Water Elemental.
How to Win
This is a matchup where you are an aggro deck, pure and simple. Midrange Hunter is an absolutely deadly deck that can pile up the damage very quickly. You need to beat that by fighting fire with fire. Meet them on the board and meet them at their own game. While some decks can afford to be passive or take their time, this is not a matchup where you can afford to wait. Midrange Hunter usually wins as soon as it gets board control, so you need to spend your removal to make sure that doesn’t happen.
The number one rule of this deck is understanding that Midrange Hunter does not do well when it is reactive. They are a deck that thrives on pressure, setting up things like Freezing Trap and Eaglehorn Bow to protect a sticky minion, which they then use to push through damage. They want their burn spells and minions to go face without having to worry about the board. You have to make them worry about the board.
While a lot of your removal is good at keeping minions at bay, it isn’t going to be enough to win the game. Simply trading turn for turn may work initially, but you are eventually going to succumb to Savannah Highmane, Dr. Boom or face damage. You have to fight this by playing threats onto the board that Midrange Hunter has to answer. You have a lot of powerful threats, and while you may not want to drop a turn three Flamewaker without playing a spell, that card is scary enough where Hunter may spend a turn killing it instead of playing a minion, which then sets up your turn four. Those type of swings are very important and will keep Hunter on their heels.
Another important rule of this matchup is to plan one turn ahead. Though they may not have it, it is a good idea to constantly be thinking about the best card Midrange Hunter could play the following turn. This will allow you to know how important the removal in your hand is. For instance, while you may want to Flamecannon the turn two Mad Scientist or Knife Juggler, you should look for other options to trade since you might lose without an answer to Animal Companion on turn three. Spell conservation is key in this fight, and if you burn removal on lesser targets you will be outpaced as the game goes on.
Early Game Strategy
The only rule of the early game is, get something to stick. That is what you and your opponent are both going to try to do. Fortunately, you have a much better (and cheaper) removal package. While their minions trade well, you have the much better ability to clear their board. Sorcerer’s Apprentice is fantastic for setting up such plays. Putting a 3/2 onto the board is a good way to start the game, but a 3/2 that can also be combined a flurry of cheap spells is incredible. You want to clear their minions in any way you can to prevent them from gaining momentum. Use your resources early and often.
The only real early removal Hunter has access to is Quick Shot and Eaglehorn Bow. Both of those options are strong, but they also choke mana. Tempo comes in many different forms, but forcing your opponent to spend a turn clearing is a great way to get ahead. Just like Hunter, you can build up turn after turn, so even if they remove your Mana Wyrm, Mad Scientist or Flamewaker you can always follow up the next turn with something even bigger.
Always get use out of the coin. It is one of the best spells for you to have early on. You want to use it primarily to get a two drop down on turn one or to add to the board while also getting clearing something off. If you have a good curve early, try your best to save the coin for a Flamewaker on turn three, four or even five.
Finally, remember the importance of playing something early. While there are a lot of cards in your deck that can get value, you don’t always need to use them at their full potential. Yes, you may want to do ten damage with your Flamewaker, but that is not worth missing a three drop on an empty board. The same rule applies to a Sorcerer’s Apprentice on a naked turn two. Having a 3/2 down to challenge their minions is a lot stronger than getting extra value on turn four or five.
The middle turns of the game is where you want to lock down the board. Midrange Hunter has a lot of annoying threats, but you do too. Leverage these threats in anyway you can and do your best to get them down onto an empty board. Water Elemental and Piloted Shredder are both very sticky minions that challenge just about everything Hunter plays. Azure Drake is also a “must kill” due to what unchecked spell power can do. Use those cards as aggressively as possible, which will force your opponent to react to them.
Midrange Hunter’s real haymakers don’t start coming down until the later turns. However, you do not want them to have the board when curving into turn six or seven because the game is usually over at that point. That means you need to spend these turns by making sure you have enough presence to challenge them. If you don’t have board or if you feel the game slipping away you can also just get aggressive. Killing them before they can play their big threats works as well.
The two cards you need to keep in mind here are Freezing Trap and Houndmaster. Do your best to kill all beasts to keep the master at bay and try to attack into the trap with any small minion you can since it will lock out your later plays if you aren’t careful.
Unleash the Hounds/Knife Juggler can be a real concern here. This is because they represent AOE, board control and damage. Never overextend into the board if you can help it. Merely get some large threats down and try to back them up with spells rather than other minions.
Late Game Strategy
The last turns of the game are going to be the same from both sides of the board: big minions to back up the early damage. In a way, you and your opponent are both using your six and seven drops as finishers to push through the last points towards lethal. Damage is a very important resource in this matchup, and here is where it becomes the most important. Always know how much you need to win and how much damage your opponent can do. While you don’t want to get sloppy, if you can set up a two turn lethal with your burn spells you should since Hunter doesn’t have any healing options.
On the flip side, you have access to very little taunts and no healing. This means you do need to be very careful when your life total starts dipping low. Not only that, but unless you have an absolutely overwhelming board (which usually serves as lethal anyway) you cannot matchup to their burn spells or large minions. While board control is going to carry you through the first turns, you are going to win this game by pushing through as many hits as you can. You want to start making this shift around turn six or seven.
Here is where you need to start thinking of Frostbolt and Fireball in two different lights. They are either going to serve as removal for minions as a way to keep you alive, or they are going to be used as lethal. This is very clean cut. If you need to stay alive or win a race you should look at ways to clear the board. In any other situation try and save them for your opponent’s face.
When in a race never be afraid to use Frostbolt to freeze your opponent’s weapon charge or a large minion. Even if this doesn’t give you lethal right away, it can buy you a key turn or two to set up lethal. The two mana spell is one of your best friends during a race, and you should never forget that. Sometimes even preemptively freezing them to take a way a potential weapon lethal is the right move.