The New Standard: Karazhan Edition! (Secret Hunter)

Karazhan is out and it’s time to get weird! For those who have been following me over the past two weeks, you know that I have been successfully piloting Murloc Aggro up the ladder, hitting rank 5 on day 8 of the new season. However, now that we have the first wing of Karazhan, I […]

Introduction

Karazhan is out and it’s time to get weird! For those who have been following me over the past two weeks, you know that I have been successfully piloting Murloc Aggro up the ladder, hitting rank 5 on day 8 of the new season. However, now that we have the first wing of Karazhan, I have decided to break from my usual mold and spend the next few weeks covering some new archetypes I think could really shake things up (or at least I could use to shake things up). With the cards from the first week, I decided to go ahead and try my hand at Secret Hunter, a build that I have been wanting to put together since the adventure was cards from the adventure were first revealed.

After a couple of iterations, I settled on a build that takes after the old Hunter Token deck I once took to legend during the days of Secret Paladin. This list is a very simple idea. It is an aggressively-slanted Hunter deck that uses different ways (and secrets) to flood the board and steadily pour on pressure through tokens, burn and your hero power. While I made some key shifts (and some very solid additions), the core is still here. You have your token generators like Infested Wolf, Snake Trap, Bear Trap, Savannah Highmane, and you have your solid support cards like Knife Juggler, Houndmaster and Cloaked Huntress. Then, you have the usual range of strong burn and Hunter damage to hold it all together. This deck fights on two fronts, both of which are very strong and can take control of the game in their own right.

The Deck

The card that makes this entire thing possible is Cloaked Huntress, an absolutely incredible card that just oozes value. Many people may be tempted to try the card in midrange or some Yogg deck. However, after playing with the card I will say it is much more of an aggressive play than anything else. This is the type of minion you want to come down early and give you so much tempo that you can just leverage for the rest of the game. That type of power is best used in a build that can do fast damage and take advantage of an early board lead. This deck does that quite well.

A lot of this deck is going to be wearing your opponent down with as much damage as you have. Similar to Aggro Shaman, you want to make most of your damage through an early push and board presence. From there you just need to trap your opponent into a corner where they need to spend their mana playing a large threat or staying alive, giving you the edge to push for a massive swing each turn. Get in as many hits as you can with your hero power and try your best to chip your opponent down with whatever damage. Most decks will succumb to that steady pressure.

This list is very similar to Hybrid Hunter, but you really have much less lategame. A lot of your topdecks are going to be low impact, and you need to focus on just getting in damage and board control where you can. Stagger your secrets well and always try to put them down when they will trigger and stick on the board. While sometimes you just want to play whatever you have, know that your secrets all have very special trigger. Do what you can to make sure they go off at the right time.

Though you may be tempted to run Call of the Wild, I would suggest against it. The card is very good, but it is also very slow. Yes, it can win you the game on turn eight, but this is a deck that always wants something to do as soon as the game openings. Diluting your potential curve with two eight drops directly opposes that gameplan.

Key Cards

This section will help to explain why certain cards are in the list, what I think about them, and how they’ve performed so far.

Hunter’s Mark

As strong as the board-flood and token theme of this deck is, you still need removal. However, unlike Midrange Hunter, which is more than fine playing Deadly Shot, you want to be able to stretch out your mana as much as possible. Rather than just playing on curve, a lot of the time you are going to need to squeeze low-cost cards around your minions and early plays. For that reason, I think it’s better to have the flexibility of a one mana card that can hit the target I want over a random three mana effect. In addition, this card also works very nicely with the token theme. While you normally want Deadly Shot over Mark in a midrange list that runs one big minion a turn, in a deck that has such a wide variety of 1/1’s and cheap cost minions (not to mention Knife Juggler) you are going to be able to remove anything you need without much of a hassle. That is a crazy strong tempo play that will help solidify a lot of games. There is a lot of versatility here that allows you to readily adapt to a wide range of different situations. Very solid and worth the mana slot.

Secretkeeper

Secretkeeper may seem like an odd choice to play in a Hunter deck, but it works really well in this style of list. There are two reasons for that. One, the card has the Undertaker ability to just grow and grow each turn. This even triggers when your opponent plays secrets (a welcome bonus). In that way, the one drop fills the same role here as she once did in Secret Paladin. She is an on-curve opening threat that has to be dealt with immediately or she can rapidly grow out of control. Yes, you only have six secrets in your deck, but that is often going to be more than enough to make sure she gets at least one or two triggers. Even with just one secret she’s a Zombie Chow, which is never bad and trades or pressures quite well. Also, you opponent is going to respect her, meaning she will eat removal to set up your mid-game plays.

The other important part of Secretkeeper is that it costs one mana. In the past this card wasn’t good enough because Hunter decks didn’t run that many secrets. However, in a deck where you have six secrets you are most likely going to have the option of dropping one down on turn two. This means you have a very pretty opening curve where you can play a proactive secret and have a 2/3 that threatens to grow more and more each turn. In addition, you can also choose to mulligan for the keeper based on whether or not it is in your opening hand. That is to say, if you have it you can then keep something like Bear Trap or Snake Trap. However, if you have a different direction available then you can simply throw those secrets back and look for something else. That is good flexibility to have in a curve-based deck like this.

Snipe/Explosive Trap

While Snake Trap and Bear Trap (and potentially Cat Trick in two weeks) are very necessary to this deck, these two cards are largely flex spots. I have chosen Explosive Trap and Snipe as tech cards for the current meta. They are both very strong against a few popular decks, which is more than worth their inclusion. The addition of both Secretkeeper and Cloaked Huntress really make it so you have the flexibility to run more secrets than you normally would. I think six is absolutely the right number for this deck. Four token generators are needed at all times, but the other two slots can be tweaked to your liking. This is just the pair I find best for right now.

I am sure the biggest question people will ask is, why Snipe over Freezing Trap? There are two reasons for this. One, I really do not like Freezing Trap in the current meta or in this build. Though it can be a huge blowout at times, the card is inherently very reactive. That is to say, it is a card that you hope your opponent plays into. On the other hand, Snipe is very proactive. While there will be times where you hit the wrong minion, being able to kill something like Gadgetzan Auctioneer, Flamewaker, Kor’kron Elite or even Sorcerer’s Apprentice before they get value is amazing. There are many instant-value cards in the game right now, and Freezing Trap does nothing a lot of them. It can also be played around a lot more easily. Beyond that, Explosive Trap is a must-play in the current meta because of how strong it is against both Zoo and Yogg Druid.

Cloaked Huntress

This card. Seriously, this card. Not only would Hunter have been fine just having another strong body to go along with Animal Companion on turn three, but being able to just spam secrets after this comes down is pretty unreal. Playing the 3/4 even with one secret (especially if that secret gives you additional board presence) is more than fine. However, the fact that this can play two, three or four really pushes it from a solid card to simply out-of-this-world amazing. Almost every secret you run is going to lead to a tempo swing of sorts, meaning just having one free spell with a 3/4 is going to take over the board. You don’t need to work hard to play the huntress, just stick her down and then play whatever secrets you have available. If you have no other three drops and no secrets, playing her by herself is ok, but you typically want to go with another option if you have one.

Another big part of Cloaked Huntress is understanding how she will influence your mulligans. Normally in this list you want to mulligan for your early game minions and steady removal. However, when you have Huntress in hand all you care about is getting secrets to go with her. This then leads to a hard position a lot of the time. Do you want to go with your solid curve that you already have, or should you mulligan for secrets to play with her? I am still not sure what the answer is, but I usually split the difference by just keeping one good on-curve card and sending everything else back to try and find secrets. It may seem like a lot of work, but she is so good that you want to always try to make sure her ability goes off.

Cult Master

There are a lot of strong cards in this list, but I don’t think you could run this deck without Cult Master. In fact, I am strongly considering running two. Card draw has always been Hunter’s biggest problem, and it is something that especially needs attention in a low-curve deck where you can randomly dump so much of your hand so early. Though this build does a lot of different things, it is largely a token deck. And, as a token deck, you are going to have a lot of small minions running all over the board. Anything from Infested Wolf to Snake Trap to Unleash the Hounds is going to give you ways to draw cards. Being able to use those small minions to both trade and draw (offsetting your quick openings) can re-fuel your hand and turn the tide. You can also use the four drop to just dig for lethal if you need it.

When you have Cult Master in hand you need to know when to use her to get value and when to just hold her back. Sometimes it will be right to get two cards and a body, and sometimes you want to play Infested Wolf or a Knife Juggler and Eaglehorn Bow. Always keep track of the situation at hand to know which path you should take. If you need board presence or you want to play a huge minion, you typically want to do that over master. However, if your hand is running low or if you need to find a specific card then she is going to be your main play.

Note: Understand when to just to get a card or two. With cards like Cult Master it is easy to get caught up in living the dream, but you don’t need huge turns where you draw ten cards. Even just making one value trade, getting a card and putting down a 4/2 threat can be a fine turn.

Matchups

Some of the most common matchups I’ve seen so far.

Control Warrior

We begin our matchups with the hardest one. Control Warrior is very tough to get through because they can both shake off a lot of early damage and remove just about every threat you have. While you can begin or finish with a couple of strong plays, if you don’t keep the pressure up you will fall behind and eventually succumb to their late game. This is a match where you need to leverage every point of damage you can and never miss a turn. Always look to play something, even if you cannot use its ability, to make sure your opponent has to worry about taking hits. In addition, try and keep your Eaglehorn Bow as long as possible and always look for opportunities to use your hero power. This may seem like a small note, but keeping your opponent off of their armor is going to fit them into a very tight corner.

The whole point of this game is going to be damage. You have to do everything you can to be the aggressor and go big anytime you want. Your best tools here Infested Wolf and Savannah Highmane. However, just running these minions out onto the board when your opponent has plenty of answers is never going to be enough against the wall of armor that is Garrosh. Rather, you need to build up into your higher drops by pressuring early and stretching your opponent’s removal thin. Always count their Executes and Shield Slams and also try to play around Brawl as best you can. Bear Trap and Snake Trap (which most Warriors will not plan for) are very good tools as long as your opponent doesn’t have AOE waiting in the wings.

Tempo Dragon Warrior

On the flip side of Control Warrior, we have a much easier matchup in Dragon Warrior. In fact, I would go as far as to say this is probably your second best matchup behind Zoo. The reason is that you are a deck that thrives on flooding the board, and Dragon Warrior, for all of their tempo and fast damage, have no AOE. Ravaging Ghoul is the only card they have that can do any sort of mass damage, and that is only going to hit your Snake Trap or the back half of an Infested Wolf. While that can be problematic, you can often play around the three drop quite well. Your whole game plan here is to cement your board presence early and then steadily build up more and more minions, all while pressuring your opponent’s face. Dragon Warrior is a deck that thrives on pressure so they can build into their bigger minions. If you control the pace of the game they are going to use their damage as removal, allowing you to wear them down.

It is also important to remember that Dragon Warrior, despite being a Warrior deck, is largely tempo-aggro. As a result, they only have two taunts at their disposal (Twilight Guardian) and can only gain armor from their hero power. Push hard against them and try to race them down as quickly as possible. Your curve stops at six, but their’s grows into a very strong late-game gambit of Ragnaros the Firelord, Grommash Hellscream and Malkorok. You need to end the game before their strong threats begin to pile up and threaten to race you down. It is worth noting that if you do fall behind against your opponent you should clear if you have the chance. Every turn that goes by is more chances you for to chip away at their health. You never want to lose because you got stubborn and didn’t clear a Frothing Berserker or the like.

Aggro Shaman

Aggro Shaman is a very strong and consistent deck that plays the game in the exact same way you do. As a result, this is a match that is going to feel like a mirror where you and your opponent are doing everything you can to grab hold of the board. Once one person has control of the presence they are going to be able to leverage their minions and pressure to then push into their larger threats. You need to keep your opponent from doing that at all costs, because once you fall behind it is going to be very hard to be able to answer an on-curve Flamewrathed Faceless and Doomhammer. Shaman make their living off of being able to ignore the board, and you need to work as hard as you can to make them focus on it. This is the one match where you want to tread carefully and focus your resources on clearing. Only once your opponent has a dead turn or no threat do you want to push for damage.

Your biggest advantage here (as noted in the video) are your secrets. All of them work wonders against Shaman, especially Snake Trap and Bear Trap. A very big part of this deck is that your opponents are going to guess your secrets wrong. The element of surprise is always strong in Hearthstone, but against Shaman it is particularly amazing. Shaman, especially Aggro Shaman, is a deck that wants to preserve their cards as much as possible and use their above-curve minions to control the pace of the game. When you suddenly can get three 1/1 snakes or a 3/3 bear to play with it is going to really hurt what they can do. For this reason, you want to try to flood the board as much as possible and work hard to get both Infested Wolf and Savannah Highmane on an empty board. Priority is key.

Zoo

I have no idea what happened, but there has been a huge resurgence of Zoo on the ladder over the past few days. That may spell bad news for some decks, but it is very good news for us. The reason is that with your influx of small minions and ample ways to do damage, this is easily your best matchup. The new versions of Zoo have very little deathrattle and swarms of small minions. As a result, they typically do very well against decks they can trade up against but very poorly against decks that can fight them on their own level. Your whole goal here is to spend the first couple of turns battling for the board. Once you have it, you want to hit them hard. Zoo is a deck that needs to tap to keep up their hand size, which makes it very easy for you to turn on the burst when the time comes. Just always count your opponent’s burst potential (Soulfire, Power Overwhelming, Abusive SergeantDoomguard, Leeroy Jenkins) and make sure to clear if you are in danger of taking lethal.

Your best cards in this matchup are Explosive Trap, Knife Juggler, Snake Trap and Unleash the Hounds. However, an unexpected Bear Trap and a turn three or four Infested Wolf do wonders as well. For all these reasons, you have ample ways to deal with Zoo’s big swarm boards that make them normally so hard to deal with. This is one matchup where you want to keep Snake Trap since Zoo is going to have to attack into your minions to trade. If you can get the three 1/1’s early it will really put the squeeze on your opponent. It is also important to remember that you typically want to play Explosive Trap during the middle stages of the game where it can do the most damage, and if you should be greedy with Knife Juggler/Hounds to inflict as much damage as you can.

Yogg Druid

Growing more and more popular with each passing week, Yogg Druid has really taken the reigns on being the premier token deck around. Not only is the deck very reliable, but its early ramp and ample removal makes it good against just about any popular list. This is a matchup where you are favored, but only slightly so. You and your opponent are both trying to swarm the board as much as possible. However, while Druid has the advantage in terms of removal and ramp, you have the advantage of stronger minions and a better board. The only card you really need to worry about in this game is Swipe, which can really hurt if set up in the right way. The goal of this match is to control the priority right away and never let it go. Almost all of your cards have solid bodies, and playing as many as you can is going to put Druid in a tight spot. For example, getting a Cloaked Huntress into Animal Companion or Infested Wolf will invalidate almost all of their removal and force them to try and get the board with minions, where you have the advantage. In the same vein, forcing them to burn an early Wrath on a turn one Secretkeeper can be a great way to set up Bear Trap or other early threats. Just try and clear their minions to limit their buff or Savage Roar potential.

Mulligan Guide

This is a very tricky deck to mulligan with. The reason is that you want to mulligan based on what your hand is giving you. For instance, if you have a Secretkeeper you then want to keep secrets that you normally wouldn’t. In that same vein, you need to keep every secret you have with Cloaked Huntress. If you have Huntress you also want to look hard for secrets, while Secretkeeper is fine on turn one without backup. If you have no secrets but a lot of token cards then you want to stick to your curve. The only cards you need to always keep regardless of hand are Secretkeeper, Quick Shot and (mostly) Animal Companion. Eaglehorn Bow should be kept with an early curve, Houndmaster can be kept with a strong beast-centric curve and Infested Wolf is good with the coin and the curve. While Savannah Highmane is often too slow, it can be kept against Warrior if you have a strong opening and the coin.

In terms of individual keeps, you want to keep Hunter’s Mark against Druid and Shaman with a good cueve and you only want Explosive Trap and Unleash the Hounds against Zoo. You should always keep Bear Trap when facing off against slower control and you want Snake Trap and an early minion together against board-focused decks. Snipe is a card you want against Dragon Warrior, Mage and Shaman. Knife Juggler and Kill Command should be thrown back as you want them later, though Juggler is quite good alongside Snake Trap against a minion-focused deck.

Conclusion

Karazhan! Man, I looove me some new cards and the first wing did not disappoint. Though I focused on Secret Hunter to start things off, there are many more decks that will be possible in the coming weeks and I cannot wait to try them all. Discard Warlock will definitely be on my radar, and I also want to give Priest its fair shot. For now, I will continue to hunt, but that is going to change quite soon. Have fun brewing and I hope you’re enjoying the new cards as much as I am. Until next time, may you always hunt alone.