Greetings Travelers! Darklumiya of GamonGaming here with an update to my Legend Hunter Rush deck and how the Unleash the Hounds nerf has affected the current meta. This was my 3rd season reaching legend rank with hunter rush and each season i’ve made minor changes in order to improve the deck’s play on the ladder.
When the unleash-the-hounds nerf was implemented, I was at Rank 3. At first I assumed, like the majority of the community, that the change would make hunter less viable on the ladder.
This is the first mistake anyone can make.
With the Unleash the Hounds nerf, many decks that were weak against hunter, such as Shaman and Handlock, began to pop up once again on the ladder. With the return of Shaman, ramp druid and other variants began to see less play as druid’s direct counter is Shaman. Making it even better for hunter, Miracle Rogue also retained its spot as the most popular deck.
To top it all off, Mid-Range Hunter saw a decline in popularity, and although the matchup was not bad by any means, the Flares in the deck really could swing the game in favor of your opponent.
With all of this occurring immediately after the nerf, I decided to stick with Hunter Rush rather than play another deck. In my eyes, the choice was simple. The goal was to take advantage of players not expecting hunter, and furthermore, exploit the excellent matchups that awaited on ladder. The results came as expected; I took a 67.4% win rate from Rank 3 all the way to Legend in a very short amount of time.
The main focus of this article will go over the individual matchups and how the Unleash the Hounds nerf applies to them. However, I must point out that I made the slight change of removing 1 flare for 1 freezing-trap once the nerf was implemented. Due to the lack of hunters on the ladder, I felt that it was better to only play 1 Flare.
The reasoning behind keeping one is that Flare is still extremely useful in the mirror, has the potential to swing the game against Miracle Rogue, and is an all-around good cycle card. The main benefit of the random Freezing Trap was the surprise factor.
I won several games simply because my opponents believed it to be a Misdirection. In addition, having the 5th trap to give the eaglehorn-bow an extra charge was valuable.
Otherwise, the deck remained the same from the build I used to reach Legend rank last season.
Each Matchup and the Effect of the Unleash Nerf
This matchup represents the only one where the Unleash the Hounds nerf has a large impact on the outcome of the game. With Unleash the Hounds at 3 mana, you must wait until turn 5 (without the coin) to play Starving Buzzard/Unleash and turn 6 (without the coin) to add timber-wolf into the mix. If zoo opens up strong, then it can be very difficult to recover.
I would highly recommend mulliganing the same way you would in the past by searching for Unleash/Buzzard/Explosive Trap, while also keeping certain cards that you may not have initially kept in the past. If you don’t have misdirection in the opening hand, consider keeping it. If you have abusive-sergeant over Leper Gnome, consider keeping it. While they may not be ideal, it is extremely important to slow the Zoolock down as much as you can so that you have a little more time to draw into Explosive Trap.
The beautiful thing about keeping Misdirection/Abusive Sergeant is that they are also fairly good against Handlock. I’m not suggesting to play out that turn 1 Abusive Sergeant every time you play a lock, but consider the meta and what you have been seeing the most. It may make the difference between a win/loss.
Obviously, a mortal-coil can be devastating so I would use your best judgment. Lastly, While many believe Unleash the Hounds to be the most important card in this matchup, I disagree. Explosive Trap will be the reason you pull out a victory against Zoo. Obviously, it is extremely important to keep the Eaglehorn Bow. regardless whether you are playing Zoo or Handlock.
This matchup has changed very little due to the Unleash the Hounds nerf. By the time you would usually use Unleash, it will be much further into the match, therefore you will almost always have the proper amount of mana. In general you want to be looking for your leper-gnome, Eaglehorn Bow, wolfrider, and hunters-mark in your opening hand. Do not give your opponent free Molten Giants and play around a game-changing taunt by potentially putting your opponent into kill range via Kill Commands before it’s too late.
This matchup is strongly in your favor as long as your opponent doesn’t open with a nut draw of argent-squire, earth-shock, feral-spirit etc. The Unleash the Hounds nerf has somewhat of an impact on this match-up due to that fact that you may not be able to clear out those pesky Feral Spirits immediately. However, Feral Spirits are easily dealt with by the Eaglehorn Bow and some traps.
Definitely do not be jumpy with your Explosive Trap either. You must bait those Feral Spirits out before you set it, otherwise you may end up regretting it. The mulligan in this matchup is fairly simple. Always keep Leper Gnome and Eaglehorn Bow, and almost always keep Explosive Trap as well.
You can also consider keeping Wolfrider as a 3 drop, however it is more beneficial to keep it when you have the coin rather than not.
This is the matchup where the nerf matters the least, as Unleash the Hounds is only really useful in this matchup for clearing a gadgetzan-auctioneer with Hunter’s Mark or ending the game with Leeroy Jenkins.
The nerf could potentially cost you the game by not allowing Leeroy/Unleash/Timber until it’s too late, however by 8 mana the game is usually decided anyways. The mulligan against rogue is also very standard, as you want to be looking for Leper Gnome, Eaglehorn Bow, Wolfrider, and traps if you already have the bow.
This match-up really comes down to drawing your traps to control your opponent’s board, while getting in damage as well. The lone Freezing Trap is very beneficial in this match-up to take care of edwin-vancleef.
Once again, this matchup is barely affected by the Unleash the Hounds nerf, as you usually won’t Unleash the Hounds until later on in the game anyway. The new versions of Control Warrior are faster as they utilize kor’kron-elite and azure-drake.
However, I believe that this actually gives you a better chance to win due to the opponent being tempted to play out more minions. While many believe this is the hunter’s worst match-up, I think it’s actually pretty decent. Play around a big armorsmith as much as you can and be patient.
The majority of these games come down to you doing a lot of burst in one turn towards the end, so make sure to pick your opportunities carefully. The lone Freezing Trap can also really help in this matchup to throw your opponent off.
This deck has been seeing a lot more play on the ladder recently. While it is not a favorable matchup by any means, it can be won if you play it properly.
Firstly, the Unleash the Hounds nerf hurts somewhat here. The value of Unleash will come through clearing your opponent’s minions early on, so you may be in a tight spot where you cannot play Starving Buzzard and Unleash at the same time and that’s perfectly okay.
Mitigating damage is the number one priority, however if you feel that you need the draws off Starving Buzzard to actually pull off a win, then it may be beneficial to wait as well. Overall, this is a matchup where you are reliant upon drawing your Eaglehorn Bow and drawing into your traps.
The best way to look at this matchup is you will outdraw and out advantage your opponent. Look at this matchup as you are the control player.
Usually the game will come down to the end where the warrior is about out of cards and you are in good shape despite your health. Having a Misdirection or Freezing Trap towards the end can really swing the game in your favor.
This represents your worst matchup on the ladder. It becomes so important here to open with Eaglehorn Bow, Wolfrider, Leper Gnome, Hunter’s Mark, ironbeak-owl and traps (you can keep Unleash as well, especially if you are seeing more token on the ladder). The slower you start in the beginning the worse it will be, so a lot of this does come down to the initial draw.
The Unleash the Hounds nerf has somewhat of an effect, however you usually won’t get the opportunity to Unleash against a Ramp Druid until much later on, as they usually take a decent amount of time to establish board.
Save your Owl for the sunwalker if possible, as that is by far the largest threat in the deck. Ideally, ancient-of-war is dealt with through Hunter’s Mark. This is simply a matchup where you must pray to RN-Jesus.
Token has been seeing much more play on the ladder as of late, especially the version that utilizes Wild Growth to become even faster. The Unleash the Hounds nerf does hurt this match-up, however this is another one where Explosive Trap is just as important as Unleash.
Being able to get both is very important, yet when you begin you obviously won’t know whether your opponent is playing Token or Ramp. The standard mulligan of Leper Gnome and Eaglehorn Bow remain true here, and I would definitely recommend keeping the Explosive Trap if you already have a bow. Overall, this is still a favored matchup for the Rush hunter.
Priest has gained a lot of popularity on the ladder as of late, thanks to many famous streamers utilizing the deck. The nerf hits you a bit here, as priests have become much more aggressive in the early game. acidic-swamp-ooze is the major reason that priests have gained in the match-up against hunter, so definitely try to play around it if at all possible.
This matchup is heavily reliant upon drawing your traps and then utilizing an Unleash the Hounds later on to rebuild your hand. I still give this match-up to the hunter, however you must be a lot more careful in how approach the game. It’s very important to not over-extend into a big holy-nova, as you really cannot afford it.
I highly recommend using Hunter Rush on the ladder. The current meta favors hunter very strongly and you have the element of surprise. While Hunter Rush has seen a slight gain in play once again on the ladder, it is still very under-represented. Since the nerf, it seems as if players have “forgot” how to play against the deck.
I cannot tell you how many times I have won on the ladder due to my opponent over-extending the field and getting punished by Unleash the Hounds. The deck is as strong as ever and the one mana difference has a very minor impact on your games. There was actually never a time from Rank 3 to Legend where I lost a game due to Unleash the Hounds being at 3 mana rather than 2. Get the most out of the excellent match-ups while you can and do not be discouraged by the nerf.