Weekly Legends: Mid-Karazhan Hunter

Karazhan! After my week off, I am back and ready with more legend decks. We are now two weeks into the new adventure, and there is no doubt the new cards are going to have a large impact on the metagame as a whole. Last week I covered my token secret build I put together […]

Introduction

Karazhan! After my week off, I am back and ready with more legend decks. We are now two weeks into the new adventure, and there is no doubt the new cards are going to have a large impact on the metagame as a whole. Last week I covered my token secret build I put together for the first wing, and this time we are looking at an early legend list that slotted in some new cards into the classic Midrange Hunter. Adventures are interesting because they are rarely going to create brand new archetypes. Though sometimes new decks do come around, it is hard for just one card to make an entire new deck pop up out of nowhere. However, there are some cards are so inherently strong they fundamentally change an existing deck. And that’s what happened with Hunter.

Hunter has gotten two new cards so far and they both led to subtle shifts in the deck that are worth discussing from both a meta and deck building standpoint. It is always interesting to see how much impact one or two cards can have on a deck. This list runs very much like the stock midrange lists that we all know and love, but there are a few changes that really amp up this deck’s power level. Midrange Hunter has always been a solid deck, but one of its biggest weaknesses has been the early game. Hunter has the best six and eight drop in the game right now. It is living or having board until those cards come down that’s tricky. The new changes rapidly ramp up the early game and give the strong deck even stronger options throughout their curve.

Key Cards

Kindly Grandmother

The newest addition to Midrange Hunter, Kindly Grandmother is a card that more than lives up to the hype. Hunter’s biggest problem has always been the two drop spot, and that is a real issue in a game where so much of the match is decided on turn two. You need to have something to do early on, and all of Hunter’s options have been very underwhelming. While sometimes you would just Quick Shot a threat or play one of your 3/2’s, this card allows for much more versatility. The reason for this is two fold. One, it has a strong deathrattle, meaning that your opponent is going to have to think about the wolf no matter the board state. Two, both sides of it are beasts, which allows you a greater chance to have an activator for things like Houndmaster and Kill Command. Yes, a 1/1 is underwhelming, but that hardly matters in a meta that has so many early threats.

What separates Kindly Grandmother from other two drops is that, unlike something like Huge Toad, it puts your opponent in a very tough position. This card is similar to Haunted Creeper in that regard because it is a two-drop beast that is very annoying to deal with. However, unlike Creeper, you get two beasts and the back half is a very real threat. A 3/2 beast is always going to be strong, but one that comes out after your 1/1 dies is much better. The reason for this is that your opponent is not going to want to kill your 1/1 (for fear of giving you a 3/2) unless they can remove both halves right away. However, if they do let it live and you manage to Houndmaster it, you get a 4/3 and a 3/3 that becomes a 3/2 when it dies. GG. This card is an easy one to put in over any two drop, and while it does not have the ping potential that Huge Toad does, being able to keep a body around is more than worth it.

Acidic Swamp Ooze

While this may seem like a strange tech card, I would argue that Acidic Swamp Ooze is very important in the current meta. There are a lot of strong weapons running around, especially with the subtle resurgence of Paladin, and there are a lot of games where you are going to need an answer. Doomhammer, Eaglehorn Bow and Truesilver Champion can all cause you a lot of problems (especially the hammer), but even having a turn two 3/2 that kills the back half of a Fiery War Axe can rapidly change the game. You also have the added bonus of being able to just run this out on turn two against decks that don’t have weapons. It doesn’t have the beast synergy, but a 3/2 has proven to be enough for Hunter’s curve. It is also worth noting that the two drop is better than Harrison Jones in this list for the fact that is comes down much earlier and allows you to have much more flexible mana.

Cloaked Huntress

The largest shift in this deck is Cloaked Huntress, which now allows you to play secrets. Since the loss of Mad Scientist, Midrange Hunter rarely ran secrets. This is because most of the question marks are low impact on their own, or simply don’t do enough to justify running them over a solid minion. However, the 3/4 changes that by turning them into very strong tempo plays. At the start of Karazhan, I said that I didn’t think Huntress would find her way into Midrange, but it turns out I was wrong. This deck has enough tools where her swing can really cement a game, especially if you get multiple traps down at once.

The most important part of playing Huntress is knowing when and how to use her. There are five secrets in this deck (explained more below) and all of them have specific triggers or targets that you want to hit. This means there are games where you are only going to play one of the secrets in your hand (or no secrets at all). Snake Trap and Freezing Trap are the two best traps to play with Huntress, since they will almost always get immediate value or allow you to protect your 3/4. However, Explosive Trap and Snipe are much more target based and you want to be careful when to use them. For instance, running out Explosive Trap against Zoo on turn two usually isn’t great (you can go bigger with it later on) and running out an early Snipe against Rogue is wrong (you typically want to save it for Gadgetzan Auctioneer). These subtle differences are important and you always want to be aware of what purpose each of your secrets has as you begin each game.

The Secrets

Now that Cloaked Huntress is primed and ready to go, you can freely run secrets. There are many options for this, but just know there should be a set reason for each one that you have. The current decks runs four options, but you could run two Freezing Trap. The reason for this is that freeze gives you the most value in a board-focused, tempo deck like this one. Being able to stare down a minion and immediately take it away is invaluable, especially if you hit something that costs a lot of mana. I just prefer to run a more minion-focused version of the deck because I think it really helps you cement an early board presence.

Beyond Freezing Trap, you have Explosive Trap, Snake Trap and Snipe. Snake Trap is the best of the bunch because it is a very strong value card that almost nobody is going to play around. Being able to put together a board of three 1/1 beasts out of nowhere is incredibly strong and will lead to some very big swings. It is also does a great job against aggro by giving you plenty of bodies to trade with. Past that, Explosive Trap is just a necessary evil in this meta to deal with Zoo and Token Druid. It is also does a good job against a lot of Mage minions and helps you put on extra damage. Finally, Snipe is your trickiest secret to use because you really have to have a target in mind when you play it. For example, playing it turn two against Dragon Warrior is great because it shuts down a turn three Frothing Berserker or, if they don’t have it, a turn four Kor’kron Elite. It also does a good job at stopping Gadgetzan Auctioneer, but there will be games where you use it as a tempo play to stop a Tomb Pillager and take the board. Always know the purpose.

 

Princess Huhuran

Really, this is the most open slot in the deck. In fact (and as I note in the video) I am just testing Princess Huhuran for right now. The way I see it, beyond the princess there are three other options for this slot: Stampeding Kodo, Tundra Rhino and Stranglethorn Tiger. All of these cards are very strong and each brings something different to the table. Kodo is great for a Zoo or Shaman dominated meta where you are going to have a lot of targets to hit. It also works a silver bullet against Mage. Tiger is really good if your are seeing a lot of control decks, and Rhino is more of a value card that can help you put together a lot of surprise lethals. It is very strong with a lot of your token cards, so you can trade in your Savannah Highmane, Infested Wolf or Kindly Grandmother and then immediately attack with the back half.

The reason I am testing the princess is two-fold. First, I really like the large body. A 6/5 is terrifying in Hunter and the five mana pushes it into a spot that curves really well if you can get an early board. In the past, the Princess was simply too slow because there were many games where you wanted a card that was much more proactive. However, now that your early game is much stronger, there is a much greater chance you are going to have the board on turn five. Once that happens, you can slam the 6/5 (setting up your Highmane) and force an immediate answer. In addition, the fact that you are adding two more deathrattles into the deck means that there are more targets for her ability. You now have six strong plays for her to make, upping her potential.

Matchups

The five decks I see the most when playing ladder.

Dragon Warrior

Warrior continues to rule the ladder, and Tempo Dragon is a big part of the reason why. The deck has one of the best curves in the game, some extremely powerful late-game tools and plenty of ways to do damage. However, as resilient and reliable as their deck is, this is a matchup that falls in your favor. Though Dragon can out-curve you in some games, your sticky minions and ability to jump ahead through plays like Call of the Wild and Savannah Highmane give you a very strong edge. This especially goes for the sudden addition of Cloaked Huntress and Freezing Trap (which hits a lot of their minions quite hard). You also run a lot of deathrattle, which can really stretch their limited removal quite thin.

The way you win this game is be leveraging damage as much as you can. Dragon Warrior only runs two taunts and can only gain armor through their hero power (which they often switch into something else with Finley). Once you get ahead on the board you need to just push as hard as you can and force your opponent on the back foot. They have no AOE and very few ways to clear, meaning they crumble when facing down big threat after big threat. Dragon Warrior makes a living on being able to stagger threats ahead of their opponent and then push for more and more damage into their finishers. You play the same way, so whoever can get the board early is going to be in the driver’s seat. Force your opponent to trade into you as much as possible, but take the time to clear Frothing Berserker.

Note: Watch out for Deathwing. Though it is not run in every list, you never want to play too far into it. Don’t overextend if you have the board.

Tempo Mage

Though its popularity seems to change from week to week, Tempo Mage has been all over the ladder the past week. This is a game that you have to end fast. That does not mean you want to go face and kill your opponent by turn five, but you do want to put them into a position where you can finish them off easily. The new versions of Tempo run a ton of burn cards and have many ways to do damage. Almost every card in the deck can hit you in the face, and the more time that goes on the more damage cards your opponent can stockpile in their hand. This means you are always going to be on a clock. Always look for ways to do damage and put you ahead in the race.

Also note that most of Tempo decks runn Yogg-Saron, Hope’s End. This means they will have a “get out of jail free” button if given enough time. As a result, you want to try to end the game before ten comes around. Yes, there are times where Yogg is not going to lead to a win, but it is always better to not take the chance. Beyond that, you just need to clear their minions and make sure they never get anything to stick. This will stop their combos and often force them to target your minions with burn. Every time they use a spell on one of your minions it is less damage you are going to be taking to your face, which also helps you in the damage race.

Aggro Shaman

Aggro Shaman is a matchup where you want to focus on getting a fast start. While you always want to being the game with a punch, this is a match that is going to be decided very early on. If they start out uncontested it is going to be very hard for you to come back, but it is going to be hard for them to recover the board if you come out first. Similar to Dragon Warrior, you want to use your early removal, sticky minions and strong low drops to control the first turns of the game, and then push hard for damage. Shaman is a deck full of minions that are very strong when they are ahead and much worse when they are behind. Commit your resources to removing their board.

The two most important cards to watch out for are Flamewreathed Faceless and Doomhammer. Each of these are game-ending if you are behind, so you need to work very hard to get board control on turn four and turn five. Even if you are ahead, the cards can apply so much pressure that it will really set you back. It is often worth it to trade your board into a faceless and then play another beast. The only exception to this is when you have a strong board and enough damage in hand to make a real push for lethal. In contrast, when your opponent plays Doomhammer you need to end the game as soon as you can. It is very hard to keep up with the 2/8, and you will not win the long game taking four to ten damage a turn.

Zoo

This matchup is a tricky one, but your new tools give you an extremely big edge. In the past, Hunter would lose to Zoo because they would quickly get overrun. Zoo can swarm the board with so many small minions that Hunter needs to have Explosive Trap or Unleash the Hounds to keep up. However, you now have powerful swing plays that help you soldify the early board. Kindly Grandmother is very strong against Zoo’s early push, and a Cloaked Huntress/secret or two secret combo can really help you move into the mid game (where you have the edge). Once you move into the middle turns of the game you should be able to win as long as you are not too far behind. Zoo loves to Lifetap, meaning they are often going to be at lower life. You can take priority by playing large minions and forcing them to answer your board out of fear. You also have a lot of deathrattle minions that can cause Zoo a lot of problems. Also, never hesitate to play Houndmaster if you have a solid target. The ability to trade and play a body is very strong here.

Yogg Druid

Yogg Druid is a deck that just continues to rise in popularity with each passing day. The token core is very solid, the finishers are strong, and their ramp is out of this world. However, as good as Yogg Druid is, you should be able to take them down rather easily. The reason for this is that you have a lot of minions that give Druid trouble, especially with the new additions. Playing big threats really forces Druid’s hand and keeps you in control of the game. For instance, playing a 3/4 on turn three is a solid body, which is going to force Druid to spend their turn removing it (if they can). You can then play your four drop, forcing Druid to have an answer, etc. This push-and-pull will help you grind them down before they can stack up a real presence.

You want to do your best to play to your curve to force Druid to answer your threats. Ramp Druid loves to control the early game with removal, then ramp and push out huge boards. However, you are a Hunter, which means you can get priority simply by having a minion on the board. Beyond that, you want to take the time to try and clear Druid’s minions once they get into the “one big minion” a turn trap. This will limit their ability to clear and force them into a reactive mode. Just like other matches, you want to do your best to race your opponent down or put them in a very bad position comes turn six through eight. Yogg Druid is a token deck and they won’t be able to set up their big combos while under constant pressure.

Mulligan Guide

Curve. Curve. Curve. As a Midrange Hunter the only thing you care about is being able to play your threats turn after turn. Your job here is to keep anything you can and thrown everything else back. You want to all of your early minions here and your must keeps are Kindly GrandmotherAcidic Swamp OozeFiery Bat and King’s Elekk. Quick Shot should be kept against any deck that has an early drop you need to kill and you want Deadly Shot for Druid. Beyond that, always keep Animal Companion, Eaglehorn Bow and Cloaked Huntress with the coin or a strong curve. Houndmaster and Infested Wolf are also good with a strong curve and the coin.

The only cards that really alter your mulligan are Cloaked Huntress and your secrets. Against aggro you should keep Explosive Trap and Snake Trap if you have good opening minions. Snipe is only really strong against Rogue, Hunter and Dragon Warrior, and you typically never want an early Freezing Trap. However, a general rule is that you never want to keep secrets unless you have early minions to go with them. The exception being that if you have Huntress you should keep every secret that you see.

Conclusion

Man, I am loving Karazhan and I cannot wait for the next two weeks. There are a lot of new cards being thrown around and so many of them have so much untapped potential. I really like the way Hunter is going and I think it has the potential to be a real all-star in the coming weeks. I hope you enjoyed this week and I hope you are looking forward to what other decks the expansion can bring. Until next week, may you always find your way through the woods!