Today on Weekly Legends we will answer one of the most fundamental and important questions you can ask in Hearthstone: What makes a deck good? And, to be even more on point, how important is just one card? This is a theme that I have brought up before, which is because of how important that question truly is. TuckFrump hit legend this month with a Midrange Hunter deck. Nothing too out of the ordinary here, and to be honest, most of the cards are pretty standard. However, as I am covering it, a few key things have been changed. Those changes really alter the play style of the deck and truly make all of the difference.
This week’s list is different from the standard Midrange Hunter on two fronts. One, it is a little more aggressive, and allows you to go face much more than you normally would. In this way, it gives up some extra board control for damage potential. That may seem like a small change, but, as you are a Hunter, this can allow you to steal some games. Secondly, it runs a couple more beasts which gives you access to two Houndmasters. While these changes seem minor, they actually do a lot for the deck in terms of consistency. They also greatly change the general way that it plays. So many times when it comes to deck building or climbing the ladder, simply swapping out a card or two can be hugely important. You never know how much impact a small change can have, but this week’s deck shows exactly that.
A very conspicuous one-of, Glaivezooka is a card that seems like it would only be for more aggressive builds. However, it works quite well in this type of deck for two reasons. The first of these is, with Midrange Hunter you are usually using your weapons to clear the board. While Eaglehorn Bow does a fine job of this, Glaivezooka comes down a turn earlier and can remove most small minions from the board. This gives you a way to clear as well as go face. In addition, the extra one attack can also be hugely important for trades and putting on pressure.
As a midrange deck, your main goal is to get to the middle turns of the game with the board in your favor. You can also achieve this by putting your opponent to a low life total, but you mainly want to try to have control of the game starting around turn four. Making it so your Haunted Creepers, Webspinners and Mad Scientists trade up can be crucial to making sure this happens. The best way to think of this card is kind of like a second Abusive Sergeant. However, instead of putting a 2/1 on the board, you can either clear out opposing minions or simply do four damage to the face. Usually I find this is best for clearing, but the most important aspect is getting more mileage out of your early minions.
While most Midrange Hunter lists choose to go with the simple package of double Freezing Trap, this list goes with one of each. While I was going to go over the traps one by one, I figured it would be better explaining them all at once. In the current meta, your opponent is most likely going to know that your trap is one of the three in this list (Freezing, Explosive, Snake). However, guessing which one can actually lead to some very tricky problems. Sometimes your opponent will not want to trigger an Explosive Trap but will do so trying to avoid a Snake Trap. Other times, they will run right into a Snake Trap trying to play around explosive. Those type of plays can be very important, as your opponent guessing wrong can help give you some extra longevity in games.
Another reason I like the spread of three traps is they all serve a strictly different purpose. Yes, having one of each can make getting or planning them off of a Mad Scientist random, but beyond that, they all give you ways to deal with most situations. Freezing Trap can be a straight up game winner when played correctly, sending back a huge minion or simply preventing your opponent from attack for a turn or two. Beyond that, Explosive Trap is a great tool against aggro. While Unleash the Hounds does a very good job at keeping Zoo and the like in check, having one more option can come in handy. Finally, Snake Trap is generally good almost all of the time. Putting three 1/1’s on the board can be very important at pushing through damage, clearing minions or simply setting up Houndmaster. Yes, sometimes they will die to AOE, but that’s worth the investment.
As previously touched upon, the arrival of both Snake Trap and Stranglethorn Tiger give you the option of running two Houndmasters in your deck instead of just one. This is hugely important and improves the deck considerably. Houndmaster has always been one of Hunter’s strongest cards, but often Midrange Hunter does not run enough targets to allow you to take full advantage of its buff. That changes here, which gives you more tools at your disposal. Furthermore, running two Houndmasters also gives you a higher chance of drawing one in the earlier turns of the game, which enables you a better chance of buffing your Webspinner, Animal Companion or Haunted Creeper.
One of the most important parts to understanding this deck is knowing when to trade and when to go face. Houndmaster, much like Kill Command, shows this aspect very well. Some games you want to use Houndmaster to buff up a Haunted Creeper or Ironbeak Owl and trade them away. However, there are also many situations where you want to buff, protect your four attack Houndmaster, and just go face. This largely depends on the situation, but it is always good to remember that, despite the deck name, you are a Hunter. Houndmaster is a card that represents two threats. One, you have a buffed beast that will more than likely do damage. In addition, you also have a 4/3 on the board. Both threats are something your opponent cannot afford to ignore due to your hero power, and that reason, besides giving you a tool against aggro decks, is why Houndmaster is so strong.
Perhaps the strangest, and most important, alteration to this deck from normal Midrange is the exclusion of Dr. Boom and inclusion of double Stranglethorn Tiger. At first glance, that may seem insane, but there are very good reasons for the change. As previously stated, this deck is a little bit faster and more aggressive than more traditional builds. As such, the tiger is a perfect fit. In addition to being an impossible-to-remove beast that triggers Kill Command, Stranglethorn Tiger also represents something that Sludge Belcher (the most common spot here) does not: five damage. As touched on above, being able to do damage is always the most important aspect of a Hunter deck. While belcher and Loatheb are both great cards, the tiger, due to its stealth, almost always guarantees to hit for five.
Houndmaster is also great with this card, giving you seven to the dome. Those kind of hits are very important in a deck like this, where you want to use pressure on your opponent’s life total as a form of card advantage. What that means is, due to the amount of damage Hunter has available, your opponent will spend most of their time clearing your huge threats. However, this will only happen if you can put their life total in danger. Five damage from a beast will most commonly do that, especially if you follow it with a Savannah Highmane. This one card gives the deck the potential to be more aggressive, lowers the curve, and makes Houndmaster that much more impressive.
As always, a breakdown of the five matchups I see most on ladder.
Though this may come as a surprise, Control Warrior seems to be back in style after Patron Warrior ruled the ladder two weeks ago. I personally do not know the reason for the change, but it is very good news for the likes of us. Midrange Hunter typically is very good against Control Warrior, and this goes double for a this deck’s aggressive build. You want to keep their life total ticking down as much as you can, which will then make them much more reactive to your plays. If they are constantly trying ways to stay alive though Shield Block or Shieldmaiden, then you can usually advance the board unfettered. And, as you are a midrange deck, once you have the board, the game usually follows.
The number one rule of this matchup is to watch out for Brawl and to count their targeted removal (Execute, Shield Slam). Though there are a lot of games where you will start out hot, there are some where you will not. You want to steadily grind them down and take off their life (or armor) in large chunks. Houndmaster can be great for this, giving them a headache while trying to figure out how to remove two threats. Haunted Creeper or Savannah Highmane is also very good at making them use a lot resources to clear the board. Here, Stranglethorn Tiger is also very good at applying pressure, since they can’t target it when it comes down and Sludge Belcher is the only taunt they run.
Ah yes, Zoo. While Face Hunter (see below) is still public enemy number one, Zoo is rapidly rising through the ranks. They have so many sticky minions it is almost impossible for them to lose board control, and cards like Imp-losion, Bane of Doom and Dr. Boom give them control right back once they lose it. Ironbeak Owl is a must keep any Warlock. Nerubian Egg and Imp Gang Boss both need to be silenced before they get out of hand, and you cannot afford the tempo loss they cause.
As always, Knife Juggler/Unleash the Hounds most often wins games, as does a well-timed Explosive Trap. In addition, Snake Trap (which they almost never play around) can be a huge way to respond to something like an Imp-losion or flooded board. There is no doubt that this is a tough matchup, but you can easily overcome them through sheer amount of power. The best way to win this is to put pressure on their life total, which will make them look for trades as well as stop them from tapping. Houndmaster is a great tool here, as are Glaivezooka and Abusive Sergeant. All three of these allow your small early minions to trade up. The number one rule is to never let them get early board control. However, during the middle of the game when the big minions start to come out, hit them and hit them hard.
Ramp Combo Druid
I, for one, am happy to see Malfurion return to the ladder. It has been a while since Druid was a part of the meta, and it adds a good amount of diversity. When playing against Druid you need to call out their plays. What that means is, always be aware of what they could have. In the game I played, I coined out a Knife Juggler on turn one, which gave me enough pressure to win the game before their taunts came down. This may seem like an odd play, but Druid largely depends on their second turn Wild Growth. They could Wrath in that situation, but if they do they will almost always have a weak turn three. As such, you can then take the opportunity to sneak in an Animal Companion or Haunted Creeper to the board. This is the type of thinking you need to have against Druid, as they almost are going to play to their own game plan. They want to ramp and build to the combo, and you need to interrupt them at all costs.
Just like Control Warrior, Druid has a very hard time dealing with both Savannah Highmane and Stranglethorn Tiger. Houndmaster is an absolute all-star here, and can just ruin things like turn four Swipe. Druid is not a deck that does well without board control, and one you take over the board it is very hard to lose the game. Just play to your curve, and put on pressure when you can afford to. Their only way to heal is though Ancient of Lore, and you want them healing rather than drawing cards. Watch out for the combo and know that due to your hero power you will almost win the long game.
This is perhaps the most interesting matchup you will encounter. While I said many times in the video that “don’t blink” is a great motto, that does not hold true here. In the early turns you want to keep their board clear at all costs. Trade using your early minions and make sure to keep your life total up. You do have Houndmasters to stop their attacks, but they have two owls which can ruin that plan very quickly. However, as scared as you need to be to start, turn four or five that shifts into you being the aggressor. If your life total is high enough by the mid-game you can usually end things faster than they can via Savannah Highmane, Stanglethorn Tiger or the like.
This is another matchup where Ironbeak Owl is phenomenal, shutting down both Haunted Creeper and Mad Scientist. Mad Scientists is also very strong, as your traps usually do quite a lot. In addition, scientist will sometimes also bait an owl, making your Houndmaster that much harder to deal with. Staying alive is plan number one, but always know when you are the aggressor and when you are the defender. Keep track of life totals and plan for how much damage you can do in future turns. One last thing is, always be aware of the hounds, as they can kill you out of nowhere if you let your board get too big.
Paladin is a very interesting deck because, despite their name, they have a very strong early and late game but a rather soft middle. In terms of the early game, you can actually match them fairly well. While they have things like Zombie Chow, Muster for Battle and Shielded Minibot, you have Webspinner, Knife Juggler, Mad Scientist, Quick Shot, Glaivezooka and Haunted Creeper. The first turns of the game should be spent just trading and clearing things when you can. In this way, you can try to dominate the middle turns before they create their end-plan.
The other rule of dealing with Paladin is to watch their removal. Equality/Consecration still exists, and you need to make sure to keep your sticky minions (Creeper/Highmane) in their first forms. While Big Game Hunter is not a concern, Aldor Peacekeeper, being one of the best answers to Savannah Highmane, most definitely is. If they do not have an answer, you will usually win, but you need to try to bait their keepers out in other ways. Unleash the Hounds/Knife Juggler is also a great play in this match, and should be exclusively saved as a counter to Muster for Battle.
While some of the tools may be new, the rules are still the same. Midrange Hunter is a deck that needs its curve, and this list is no different. You have to look for your “always keeps”, and this deck actually depends on them to win. Those are Mad Scientist, Haunted Creeper and Webspinner. All three of those cards allow you to take early board control, which then gets you the later turns. In addition, if you have one of those three cards, both Abusive Sergeant and Glaivezooka are great keeps as well. Knife Juggler can also be kept if you have Haunted Creeper or something such as coin/Webspinner. However, I usually toss the juggler back if I have other early game cards. Animal Companion and Eaglehorn Bow are also “always keeps” if you have the coin, but are usually too expensive to keep without it. The only exception to this is if you have early plays that lead up to them.
The biggest rule for mulliganing is to play to your curve at all costs. You never want to hero power on turn two, and doing so can be a disaster. There are 12 two drops in this deck, which is really nine since you never want to keep traps. Always mulligan aggressively for those turn two plays, even if they are not minions. Even something as simple as Quick Shot or Glaivezooka can be great at allowing you to clear your opponent’s board. Thsi gives you something to do, which is always the goal. Though almost every matchup is the same, you want to keep Ironbeak Owl against both Hunter and Warlock, and look for Unleash the Hounds against Warlock and Paladin. Besides that, search for your “always keeps” and play to your curve.
That’s it for me this week, hope you are enjoying the series as much as I am and, until next time, may you always play a minion every turn.