Quick Brews: Midrange Deathrattle Hunter

Hello again and welcome to the next part of the “Quick Brews” series. It’s pretty simple – I brew a new Standard deck, playtest it on the ladder and then write about it here. You guys can give me ideas for new decks in the comments, I read all of them! I already had one […]

Introduction

Hello again and welcome to the next part of the “Quick Brews” series. It’s pretty simple – I brew a new Standard deck, playtest it on the ladder and then write about it here. You guys can give me ideas for new decks in the comments, I read all of them!

I already had one N’Zoth deck and this one also has N’Zoth… But no, it’s not that I’m monothematic. Even though both decks have N’Zoth, they are COMPLETELY different. Different play style, even different purpose of N’Zoth.

Since it’s very early in the season, my playtesting were done in the lower ranks. I’ve already grinded the deck to rank 6 with a very nice winrate – 35-10 score (78%). If I played it some more, I’m sure that I could get it to Legend quite easily, but I don’t want to waste that much time playing one deck – there are still a lot of things to write about 🙂

Overview

Midrange Hunter is a strong contender in the current meta. WoG was really good for the deck, because it didn’t really lose a lot in Standard and it gained a few very strong tools. Well, it lost SOME cards – Haunted Creeper, Piloted Shredder and Dr. Boom – but those were in half of the decks, so it’s not a really big hit for Hunter. Plus they can be easily replaced. The only really big loss was Mad Scientist – no Scientist makes running traps much harder. Some of them might be good enough to still make their way into the list, but no more early game tempo swings.

But, I think the card that Hunter gained is a very nice consolation prize. Call of the Wild is one of the most insane cards in the set (it’ll definitely make into my top 10 list if I ever decide to write one). Like, playing 3x Animal Companion would be a pretty strong turn 9, right? Minions summoned by Animal Companions are already worth about 3.5 mana, and they are all good – it’s a very strong tempo play. But it would take 3 cards, that’s a problem. Well, it’s no longer a problem. Now you can summon all 3 in one card, for 8 mana. It’s a strong value move, it’s a strong tempo move, it can be used for the reach, as a removal, if you need a Taunt, to boost your on-board trades etc. No longer you need to “hope” for the right Companion (in the given situation) to pop out of the spell – you get all 3. And the most important thing is that it’s all in one card – outside of the board wipes like Twisting Nether, enemy usually needs to spend whole turn and use like 2-3 cards to deal with it. Passing the initiative back to you.

There are a few more WoG additions, but this one was most important – I’ll go through the rest when I’ll be analyzing each card individually. But maybe let’s ask ourselves another question – why N’Zoth? N’Zoth, the Corruptor seems like a very slow card and Hunter is a pretty high tempo class. That’s true, and this is the reason why I decided to not run any other slow minions. For example, Sylvanas Windrunner might fit the deck, but I just think she’s too slow. 2x Highmane and N’Zoth are your only slow late game cards. They are also incredibly high value card, meant to be your win condition in slower matchups if you didn’t manage to tempo out the enemy. Both Ragnaros the Firelord and Call of the Wild (rest of your late game) are very fast for their mana cost – that’s exactly what you want in Hunter.

The general idea is to control the board in the early game (you’re not an Aggro deck, so mindlessly rushing the face is rarely a good play) and win the game through the mid game tempo swings. If that fails, you play in slow matchup and enemy answers everything, don’t worry – you start using your high value AND tempo plays. Basically every high drop in your deck requires a lot of attention and is hard to kill. Highmane – Deathrattle giving you more minions, Ragnaros – 8/8, Call of the Wild – 3 bodies, N’Zoth… Pretty much a board fill. I’ve played against some Control Warriors or Priests, where I have completely lost the initiative in the early and mid game, they were dominating with weapons, removals etc. yet the high drops still have carried the game – I’ve actually started to outvalue them, because they were forced to use a few cards to answer my 1.

But, let’s start more in-depth card analysis.

Card Analysis

2x Fiery Bat – New WoG addition. I think that Hunter decks need 1-drops – contesting the early board is very important, because if you don’t do that – you can fall behind on the tempo and it’s hard to come back as a Hunter. I think that Webspinner was better for this kind of deck, but you can’t always have what you want. 2/1 for 1 with a pretty nice Deathrattle – dealing 1 random damage means that it can sometimes (usually 50/50) trade into 3 health minions and that it can snipe a 1 health minions from time to time. It’s nothing impressive, but most likely the best 1-drop available to this deck – because it’s both a Beast and a Deathrattle card.

2x Huge Toad – A bigger version of the Fiery Bat. Basically the same stuff, just a 3/2 for 2 instead of a 2/1 for 1. Sadly (or luckily, because it would be pretty broken then) Deathrattle doesn’t scale up to 2 damage. But it’s still good – A 3/2 for 2 that once again can sometimes trade into 4 health minions AND dropped later in the game might snipe something with the Deathrattle. It’s like a Flame Juggler, but slower in a way that you don’t get the ping instantly. Juggler is PROBABLY better, but once again – this is Beast and Deathrattle card for the sake of all the synergies.

2x King’s Elekk – In my opinion it’s a staple in any slower Hunter list. It’s basically a vanilla 3/2 for 2 Beast, but it can potentially get you tons of value. While I dislike the Joust mechanic in general, this one isn’t that bad. I mean, if you lose it – it’s not the end of the world, you still get your vanilla 3/2 for 2. But if you win it – yeah. And actually, I win that joust pretty consistently, even against slower decks. This Hunter list runs only 8 minions that are 3 or less mana, and since you mulligan for them, you should have about 5-6 left in your deck if you drop it on 2. Then, it has four 4-drops, two 5-drops, two 6-drops, 8-drop and 10-drop. So as you can see, it has more high mana cost minions than low mana cost. Even if you count only 5+, it’s already a nice chance to get one of them. While it gives some info to the enemy. E.g. getting Houndmaster means enemy will play around it, getting N’Zoth, the Corruptor means that enemy will try to kill you before you drop it (Aggro) or save a board wipe for the N’Zoth turn (Control). But I would lie if I said that it matters that much that you don’t want to run this card.

2x Quick Shot – Important thing – forget the part about card draw. Treat it as a Darkbomb – vanilla 3 damage for 2 mana spell. And that’s how you want to use it. Definitely DON’T try to keep it around until you can draw even if you had some scenarios where you could use it. Only if you really topdeck it or you really didn’t have a great way to use it before you empty your hand – but that happens maybe in 1 out of 10 games. But, that’s the whole point – it’s usable like the Darkbomb was in Warlock. You use it for the early game board control or to help with the trades later or sometimes as the burn spell to finish off the enemy.

2x Eaglehorn Bow – Another mostly removal. While in face Hunter it’s usually 6 face damage for 3 mana, here you prefer to use it on the minions. It’s like a poor man’s Fiery War Axe – but even for 3 mana it’s actually okay. You get to counter most of their turn 2 plays and even some turn 3 plays. You can also use it for the face damage, but that’s later in the game – when you’ve already got the board control and doing the tempo push.

2x Animal Companion – One of the best 3-drops in the whole game. I’d probably even say THE BEST if you always got what you needed, but since the RNG is involved, it can also screw you over. When playing this deck, Misha (4/4 Taunt) is usually the best one. When you roll Huffer (4/2 Charge) you actually often trade it instead of going face. Like I’ve said, you want the early board control. Leokk (2/4 +1 Attack Buff) is usually the worst one unless you have other minions on the board that you can immediately gain value with. But Leokk works surprisingly well in the later game where you already have something on the board or you can play Unleash the Hounds. Great turn 3 move, especially if you roll the 1/3 Misha.

2x Carrion Grub – Someone argued with me that it will NEVER see any Constructed play, that there is no way that it is going to be used in Hunter decks.. And well, here we go. The big problem with Midrange Hunter is lack of good 3-drops. It actually has TONS of good 3 mana cards, but most of them aren’t 3-drops. For example – Kill Command or Unleash the Hounds – you rarely want to use them on t3. Even Bow – you don’t wan to equip it if you can’t kill anything immediately. So, besides Animal Companion here is another proactive 3-drop. Carrion Grub. The ONLY class card in the set without any card text, just vanilla 2/5 for 3. But, it has a Beast tag and that’s huge. I remember the times when Hunters ran Oasis Snapjaw. Turn 3 Coin + Snapjaw into turn 4 Houndmaster was insane play. This is similar, but much easier to pull off, because you don’t need to coin (or you don’t need to ruin your curve by playing 4 into 4 if going first). You drop this on turn 3 and it’s pretty hard to kill. Yeah, Priest can Shadow Word: Pain it. Maybe some fast decks will already have enough board presence to kill it. Maybe Warrior will have equipped Axe and Slams + hits it. But the point is, it’s pretty sticky for a turn 3 play. Most of the time it survives until next turn. And then – Houndmaster. It’s an insane power play – on turn 4 you have 4/7 Taunt and 4/3 on the board and that’s only for 7 mana/2 cards total. It’s also a solid turn 7 play to just drop both of those onto the board. Strong stuff.

2x Kill Command – Early/mid game removal, late game burn spell. Not much to say about it. It’s incredibly easy to activate it in this list, since it runs SO MANY Beasts. Once again, unlike Face Hunter – your minions aren’t disposable, you prefer to keep the board presence and removing opponent’s stuff with Kill Command instead of keeping it for face damage and losing your whole board. Keep it for face only when you’re pretty close to lethal already and you know that you can get enemy that low.

2x Unleash the Hounds – I honestly don’t like Unleash that much without the Knife Juggler, but I can’t really fit the new Juggler in. This spell is completely useless in some of the matchups and very important in the others. For example – against Ramp Druid, it sucks. You will get 1-2 Hounds max, often it’s completely dead in your hand. And then, against Aggro Paladin or Zoo Warlock, it’s a game changer. For example – Warlock drops Forbidden Ritual. Good luck killing all those 1/1’s. But if you don’t – he will drop Dire Wolf Alpha, and 2x Sea Giant next turn and you’re screwed. That’s when Unleash comes handy – if enemy floods the board with small minions, you can control it easily with this spell. It’s also good at pushing for lethal against faster decks – I mean, enemy is dropping full board (like the Warlock example), ready to kill you next turn and then you Unleash + 2x Kill Command for huge burst damage. But I would definitely cut it if not for Zoo Warlock being quite common on the ladder.

2x Houndmaster – I’ve always loved this card. It’s insanely strong in any Hunter deck that runs a lot of Beasts. You get 6/5 stats in total on your 4-drop, where 2 attack has “charge” too a lot of times (you can instantly attack with it). Distribution of stats is also nice – usually both the buffed Beast and Houndmaster are serious threats and enemy has to kill both of them. And the Taunt part is also big – it’s great against Aggro decks, getting a 7 Health Taunt on turn 4 against Aggro is often game over. Later in the game you can use Houndmaster for multiple purposes – to push for more face damage, to protect your other high value minions (like Leokk), to boost your trades etc. Awesome card, even better in the deck where total Beast count is 14 (it gets even bigger if you count Unleash the Hounds, Call of the Wild and Deathrattles from Infested Wolf and Savannah Highmane – the total Beast count gets WAY over 20).

2x Infested Wolf – Oh hey, a more balanced Piloted Shredder. Or maybe a bigger Haunted Creeper? But it’s a really nice replacement, for both. And it’s much more balanced than both. Even though the 4/3 body was way better than 3/3 (that 1 attack makes a lot of difference), the great point about this card is that it’s a Beast. And not only that – the two 1/1’s it drops are also Beasts. I really didn’t think it will work like that before release, because Haunted Creeper didn’t summon Beasts back (I know, they SPECTRAL spiders, but it should show the tag of tokens on the main card). But hey, it works and it’s really cool. Sticky minion, nice against board wipes (because you’re left with some board presence), it doesn’t really get great trades against other 4-drops, but the overall power is quite high. And it’s another Deathrattle for N’Zoth.

1x Princess Huhuran – I was hyped for this card and I knew that it would be good if a slower Hunter list worked out. The thing is – this card is almost good enough to play it as a vanilla one. 6/5 for 5 with a Beast tag – fine. And that’s how you often play her – as a 5-drop, even on the board without any Deathrattles. But then again, it can gain a lot of extra value. You drop Infested Wolf on turn 4 and then follow with her on turn 5. For 5 mana you’ve got 6/5 + 2x 1/1 beasts, that’s insane value already. It gets even better if you have Savannah Highmane on the board – Highmane is notorious for staying on the board, because well, even if enemy kills the main body he still has to deal with 2x 2/2, so he often prefers to just deal with something else to take more damage out of the board. But then Princess Huhuran summons two 2/2 for free. Insane! Even proccing the 1 damage of Bat/Toad is okay. I love this card in this kind of the deck.

1x Ram Wrangler – At first I ran two, but I’ve found out two things. I am never lucky – that’s the first one, and I knew about it for loooong time already. I got Captain’s Parrot and Stonetusk Boar from my first two uses, then on the third one I’ve got Dreadscale that killed two 1 health minions I had on the board… And the second one that this card is kinda situational. It requires you to have a Beast on the board, just like Houndmaster, but the 1 additional mana cost makes it harder to instantly combo with one. Basically every combo you can do with Houndmaster comes a turn later with Ram Wrangler and it’s sometimes not even stronger. On average, the card is great, because there are A LOT of good Beasts. But since it’s sometimes slightly hard to pull off, my RNG sucks and I had to cut some stuff, I’ve decided to stick with 1 copy.

2x Savannah Highmane – Since Classic it was considered one of the strongest minions on the game. And it still is, actually – even after all the strong Naxx and GvG stuff we’ve got, Highmane was still dominating the late mid game slot. It’s tons of value packed into 6 mana – 6/5 initial is already okay, but then when enemy removes it he has to deal with more minions. That’s why it’s so good – on the one hand enemy has to deal with the initial body (because he can’t take 6 every turn), but on the other hand he often doesn’t want to do that, because you’ll still be left with board presence. You RARELY can completely remove Highmane with only 1 card, it usually gets 1 for 2 or even 1 for 3 value. And it’s a pretty decent target to bring back with N’Zoth. The only really bad thing about Highmane is that it’s slow. Yes, once it’s on the board it will most likely stay there. But it’s 6 mana for something that has no immediate impact + if you play against Rogue who Saps it, against Paladin who Aldor Peacekeepers it etc. – it can be potentially a huge tempo loss.

2x Call of the Wild – I’ve already explained in the overview why this card is very good. It mixes the tempo and value. It can immediately impact the board state. It’s 3 bodies in total, so it’s very hard to remove it with just 1 card. It’s often a game finisher on it’s own – I’ve got tons of Concedes after dropping Call of the Wild and enemy having no answer. Also, one important thing is that it baits the AoE in slower matchups. You don’t mind enemy spending his turn AoEing it – then when you drop N’Zoth it should be uncontested.

1x Ragnaros the Firelord – Oh I love Rag in slower Hunter lists. Even more now when the Big Game Hunter got nerfed and it’s less common. Why I love Rag is that the point when you drop him, you usually are in the “push for damage” phase against slower lists. And then every outcome is good. It hits opponent’s minion? Fine, it got instant value, removed something from the board etc. It hits his face? It’s also fine, because it pushed for 8 instant damage and got you closer to lethal (sometimes even it got lethal). I love playing him on empty board, which would be really weird in a Control deck. 8 instant face damage AND it requires opponent to deal with it. Because if he doesn’t, he can do it once again. The bad thing about Rag is that it sucks in the fast matchups like Aggro Paladin, Zoo Warlock and such – after all you don’t really want to throw 8 damage fireball into a 1/1. Aaand that’s what often happens. On the other hand, it’s not TERRIBLE in those matchups if you aren’t behind – even hitting a small minion every turn will gain you a lot of value over a few turns. So if you can drop it on pretty empty board, it’s still good.

1x N’Zoth, the Corruptor – And the icing on the cake. I’ll be honest – I don’t need it in 70-80% of my matches. So why it is there? To be sure that I will be able to close the slow games. If Highmanes, Rag, Call of the Wild etc. isn’t enough, enemy has dealt with all of that, he’s probably pretty much out of removal already. So that’s when N’Zoth comes handy – you drop it and you win the game. It can also be used just as a 10-drop in let’s say Midrange matchup. You don’t need to get full value from him in this deck. For example, getting a Fiery Bat, Infested Wolf and Savannah Highmane back (that’s not even half of your Deathrattles) is already insane. Just think about it – you play one card, for 10 mana, and you get over 15 mana worth of stats in 4 bodies. Why the hell not? Turn 10 N’Zoth has won me a few games, because of high value play it was. And the great thing about it – with Highmanes and Infested Wolves, even if enemy still has a way to clear your board, you will likely have board initiative going into your turn anyway. It takes A LOT of resources to clear a full board of minions and then also clear their Deathrattles. So, if it’s turn 10, you don’t have anything great to do and 2-3 Deathrattle minions have already died this game – sure, go for it. It’s not your win condition like in N’Zoth Paladin, you can easily win the game without it, so don’t save it until you can respawn 6 minions.

Alternate/Tech Cards

Yeeeah, the list would probably still use a lot of experimenting. I’ll be honest – I didn’t tinker too long with it. I’ve changed it maybe 2 or 3 times in total (and those weren’t a big changes) and I still haven’t tested a lot of stuff. Because it worked, and I don’t like changing something that already works for me. But, I’ll give you a list of cards that I think can have potential in this list (or I’ve seen other players playing in similar decks):

Traps – Even though Mad Scientist is gone, I can still see running some higher value Secrets in this list. The first reason is that even when played from hand, some of them are good enough. And the second is that they will buff your Eaglehorn Bow, which is a nice addition. The traps you can consider running: Freezing Trap when facing a lot of slower lists, Explosive Trap when facing a lot of board flood lists and Bear Trap in general. The first one is a nice board clear – e.g. Zoo plays Forbidden Ritual, you play Explosive Trap and bam, problem solved. Freezing is awesome against let’s say Druid – him being forced to freeze his 5+ drop or not attack at all is great. Then, Bear Trap is generally okay – after all it’s 2 mana for a 3/3 with Taunt that can potentially screw opponent’s trades and such. And the thing is – Secrets always get extra value of enemy playing around wrong ones. Most notably, enemy might miss a lot of damage by not attacking with his big guy, because he’s afraid of Freezing Trap (and if you remove all his small stuff all the time, he will be sure it’s Freezing) when in reality it can be Bear trap for example.

Hunter’s Mark – Even after the nerf to 1 mana, it’s still strong if you play the board control game. Which you do. It’s also a nice thing to combo with Unleash – it’s a good way to get through a big minion without sacrificing half of your board. I didn’t play it, because I didn’t face a lot of greedy lists with high health minions (well… Flamewreathed Faceless from Shaman is an exception) – but that’s probably since it’s still early in the season.

Dreadscale – Another way to counter the 1 health minions flood. If I will face more Zoo on my way to Legend I’ll probably play it. Since you don’t run a lot of 1 health minions (only 2), it will rarely clear your own board. But then again, it’s a great counter against some of the board states. You can also combo it with Unleash for a bigger AND adjustable AoE (you take everything you need down to 1 health with your Hounds and then play Dreadscale).

Stablemaster – I know it’s kinda crazy, but if the meta got slower I might actually play one copy. It sucks when you’re behind, so it sucks against Aggro most of the time, but then again in slower matchups you might get quite a lot of value from it. After all – you have SO MANY Beasts in your deck. I don’t know, you play against C’Thun Warrior and he drops Ancient Shieldbearer. You can trade your Highmane in… or you can Stablemaster it and keep it alive, dealing with his minion for free. With so many Beasts it’s easy to find a target. But like I’ve said – you need to play in slower matchups to get the value from this card.

Sylvanas Windrunner – That was another serious consideration for the slower meta. After all, Sylvanas is pretty good by itself. Yes, it’s slow, but it gains quite a few upsides in this deck. First of all – it might be a great turn around point against Control. When you drop Sylvanas, enemy usually slows down too, he can’t play a big minion into her and if he can’t answer her from the hand, things get weird. It’s a great opportunity for you to push the tempo and damage. Then, it’s a GREAT Deathrattle to proc with Princess Huhuran. I mean, come on, even if enemy has something kinda small on the board, stealing it for free is value. Then, it gets respawned with N’Zoth, the Corruptor too. But I’ve decided against it, because the amount of slow late game cards is already at the dangerous level. But maybe I’ll give it a spin once I hit Legend.

Cult Master – Another consideration. One thing I sometimes struggle with is running out of steam. I mean, the deck has enough of the late game, but if you draw all your 1-3 drops and don’t draw any late game, you will run out of cards very fast. And then you rely on topdecking, since you have no draw mechanic at all. Cult Master is good in Hunter, because of the Unleash – you can combo them on turn 7 to deal some damage and draw bunch of cards. On top of that, you get multiple tokens from Infested Wolf and Savannah Highmane – nice Cult Master synergy. But I hate Cult Master because he does completely nothing on its own. It’s like a 2 mana worth of stats (I think vanilla 4/2 for 2 will happen sooner or later) for 4 mana, terrible.

Closing

That’s all folks. Thanks for reading once again and I hope that you’ve enjoyed it. Even though I’m not really a fan of Hunter and most of my Hunter games were for research purposes or for dailies, I really liked playing this deck. I enjoy the combination of slow play style with the mid/late game tempo. But I also think that it’s pretty hard to play. Not as in you have a lot of decisions “which card to play this turn”, but rather as in you really need to know when to shift the gears  – “how long you need to control the board, when you can start pushing for face damage, how much damage can you deal in next X turns, what defensive options might enemy have” etc. But if you’ve ever played similar Midrange decks, you should learn it quite easily.

Once again, thanks for staying with me. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, leave them in the section below. If you want me to write about a specific deck next time, also share it and I’ll definitely consider it for the next part! (but please, competitive decks only :p)