This week on Weekly Legends, I eat a bit of crow. Not something I usually do, but there are times where I have to begrudgingly admit that I’m wrong. And I will say (maybe for the only time) that I was wrong. When Whispers of the Old Gods first dropped I thought Yogg Saron, Hope’s End was going to be trash. Straight up unplayable jank. I didn’t see how a card with so much inherent RNG built in would even see constructed play, let alone actually be in a deck that was considered good. However, here I sit two months into Whispers and Yogg Saron has not only made it to legend, but he has made it to legend in a wide range of different decks, including Tempo Mage, Rogue, Druid and, of course, Hunter. Yogg Hunter is by far his most popular arechtype, and it is something I have wanted to try for some time. Today, bigtallguy gave me that chance by taking the interesting list all the way to top 100 legend.
Honestly, I still don’t like Yogg. I think it’s a stupid card that is too heavily tilted towards RNG. I don’t like that it sees competitive play and I don’t like how much of a coin flip it is. But man, oh man is this deck cool. As you all know, I respect creativity. I naturally gravitate towards decks that think outside of the box and play less-used cards in order to counter the meta. This deck seems terrible at first glance, but the more you play it the more you realize just how much potential is here. This deck is one of those rare lists that actually gets more and more fun the more you play and understand how it all comes together. While I cannot fully explain every interaction, each card does a fantastic job at countering the meta and targeting specific decks. It might be hard to see right now, but hopefully the explanations will make it all come together.
On the Hunt
I would say out of every card in this deck, On the Hunt is the lowest impact. However, that does not mean it’s bad. The original list ran two of this card and one Arcane Shot, and I think that is correct. You could switch it to two shots and one hunt, but hunt just does more. The reason is that it gives you extra board presence in addition to removal. The damage between one and two is rarely going to matter and you simply want to try and advance your board as much as you can. A 1/1 may not seem like it is going to do all that much, but it can really help you out against a lot of decks. Any Warrior or Mage player knows how much having an extra damage tacked on your spells can do for you. This can be used to finish off a lot of minions and then give you an extra damage for the following turn if the hound sticks around. It is also very strong against almost all of Zoo’s early minions, which can be very important in getting a strong start against Warlock.
This card is basically Elven Archer but you get a beast instead of a random elf. It is also a spell, which helps with your Yogg count and has a great combo with Lock and Load. L and L is one of your win conditions (more on that later) and you need to have as many low cost spells as possible to go with it. The fact that this card has so many upsides, gives you a spell with board presence, and can be discounted to zero with Emperor Thaurissan simply pushes it over the top. A removal spells that adds to the board or can go face in a pinch is also going to be good at stalling out some decks, which will then buy you more turns and get you closer to your finisher. A 1/1 is not going to save the world, but it really will help you win some games.
There are currently four different traps in this list: Explosive Trap, Bear Trap, Snipe and Freezing Trap. While that may seem a little all over the place, each one serves a very important purpose. While you do not want to go all-in on traps, you do want a large enough spread that hits a long stretch of the meta. The original list ran two Freezing Traps, but with so much Zoo and Tempo Mage running around you really want to fit in explosive. Being able to clear off of a secret is vitally important and can give you some wins in the right situation. The original list ran two Freezing Trap, but in my option it just isn’t good enough against a lot of decks that are running around. Keeping one is important because it can lead to blowouts in the right situation (especially when your opponent has no idea what you’re running) but I wouldn’t want two.
Snipe may seem like a strange choice, but this card is in a really good spot right now. Not only does it decimate Shaman’s early game, but it crushes a lot of strong midgame drops like Azure Drake, Gadgetzan Auctioneer and Frothing Berserker. What makes this card tricky is knowing when to play it to get value. Almost nobody is going to play around Snipe, which means you want to run it out the turn before those troublesome cards come down. You aren’t always going to take down what you want, but more often than not you are going to get a removal spell for two mana. Finally, Bear Trap is here for control and to give extra protection against aggro. It is much easier to play around, but can really lead to huge swings if your opponent isn’t ready or guesses wrong.
Lock and Load
While this deck is all about Yogg Saron, I would argue that Lock and Load is the real win condition. Against aggro decks your primary goal is to stay alive. That usually means just getting as much value as you can out of your removal and then sealing the deal with a giant Yogg or Call of the Wild turn. However, when facing slower decks you absolutely need to go all in on Lock and Load. This is because the card is almost always going to give you either threats or damage, both of which can be essential when trying to grind your opponent down using your hero power. One of the best ways to beat a slow control deck is to wait for a huge Emperor Thaurissan turn and then play a bunch of spells to generate as many threats as you possibly can. This will then allow you to grind your opponent down on cards and outpace them as the game goes long.
You normally should only Lock and Load in two circumstances: when you desperately need to get some action in your hand or when you can get a ton of value from it. Know which mode you are in before you play the two mana spell and know what you are trying to do. Though you cannot know exactly what you are going to get off of this card, most of the time you are going to either get some sort of removal/damage spell or a solid beast minion. With that in mind, you can clear the board and then chain spells to keep clearing. Or, you can clear the board and fill up your hand with minions. In this way the card operates like Gadgetzan Auctioneer, except instead of drawing cards from your deck you are simply taking them from the aether. Don’t be afraid to go in early if you have a weak hand, but also know when to hold off until you have a full grip.
I bring up Eaglehorn Bow to better explain how this deck wins games. It can be very hard to see how a bunch of random spells mixed with a wonky clear card actually kills an opponent, but never forget at how well this deck (and Hunter) can generate damage. Between your hero power, burn spells and your minion cards like Animal Companion, Bear Trap and Call of the Wild you can quickly whittle your opponent to the low teens or single digits. When that happens you just need to stall until you package together enough damage to end the game. One of the best ways to do that is with a bow.
The original version of this list ran one copy of Eaglehorn Bow, and while I see how cutting the weapon could add to some consistency and make for much less awkward draws, I instantly knew I wanted two. You run four secrets, which is plenty to get the necessary procs and keep a bow rolling for some time. The problem was, even when the bow had more than two hits, I would still use it up on minions or face. Five damage a turn (three from weapon and two from hero power) is a gigantic amount of pressure that most decks are not going to be able to handle. As a result, you want to get that extra power as consistently as possible. Sometimes it is going to come from other cards, but the freedom of just being able to go face with your weapon on a dead turn knowing there is another one in your deck is very nice. Having two also helps you against any weapon hate your opponent may have lying around.
Yogg-Saron, Hope’s End
Though it may seem obvious to play, Yogg-Saron, Hope’s End has a little bit of depth. Yes, when you play it you can do nothing but run it out and pray to Ben Brode’s big RNG machine in the sky. However, knowing when and how to play the Old God is not going to be an easy decision. Like Lock and Load, there are two times when you want to play Yogg Saron. The first is when you are in full panic mode. Yogg is almost always going to lead to a board clear of some sort and can help bring you back or stall when you have fallen behind. You are mostly going to play him when facing down a threatening board or when you need clutch AOE to keep you rolling. He is also great for removing a giant threat to give you a couple extra turns to dig for lethal and squeeze in your hero power.
The other important thing about playing Yogg is getting him in early against control or typically not at all. Lock and Load is going to carry those games, and you want to play Yogg during the middle stages (ten to fifteen) to prevent him from killing you in fatigue. Beyond board clears, Yogg is usually going to draw you cards of some sort. That can be really useful early, but it is a disaster late. Once you start to approach the end of the game you never want to play Yogg unless you simply have no other choice. This is not a card you just run out on turn ten or whenever you have him. There’s more thought than that. Only play him when you are behind, need to get lethal, or simply have no other option. If you are ahead or are setting up a win it is best to hold off.
Five decks that I see most often on the ladder.
Some days I see very little Shaman and some days I see a ton. As a result, this is going to keep the number one spot on my matchup list for the time being. In terms of Hunter, this is very hard game to gauge. I think that is because the game largely depends on how fast Shaman manages to draw Doomhammer and how much damage they can do right off the bat. You run no real taunts or healing. Rather, you depend on beating aggro decks by removing all of their threats until you can either drop a Call of the Wild or Yogg Saron. That method works really well against decks like Zoo or Hunter, but it is much worse when facing down Shaman. The reason is that, unlike most decks, Shaman can just hold a hand of burn and Rockbiter/Doomhammer to kill you from twenty without even breaking a sweat. This means you really need to do what you can to not take early game damage, which is the only way you can really combat that out-of-hand burst.
The good news about playing Shaman is that the new versions are almost all minion-based, making your kill spells much more effective than they once were. The way you win this matchup is by doing your best to stall and using your removal efficiently. For instance, while you may want to Hunter’s Mark an early Totem Golem or Tunnel Trogg always look for other options first. You have four hard removal spells and each of them should be saved for prime targets if possible (Deadly Shot can be incredible against Shaman’s midrange threats if set up well). Also, do not be afraid to use Unleash the Hounds to make a couple dogs and kill some totems. This gives you board presence and also limits Shaman’s ability to buff their board.
There is no doubt that Zoo is, as always, one of the strongest decks in the game. However, this is by far your best matchup. Not only did I tech in Explosive Trap to deal with the swarm deck, but you have a ton of anti-Zoo cards. Unleash the Hounds and Powershot both do an amazing job of ruining their midgame push and you can blow them out with a well-timed Snipe or Explosive Shot as well. Hunter’s Mark is also very strong as shutting down their larger threats like an early Sea Giant or Doomguard. A very important part of this game is doing what you can to always keep their board clear. This limits their damage potential, but it also sets up Deadly Shot. The three mana spell is one of your best removal options, but can be ruined by swarms of minions. Always plan for it if you have it in hand.
The only card you need to save your true AOE for is Forbidden Ritual. Once Zoo runs out of cards and begins to tap every turn you are almost always going to win the game. This is because your hero power starts to do four damage a turn. That, mixed with ample removal, is a race that Zoo is simply not going to win. Just always remember to play it safe throughout the match and watch out for any burst Zoo might be able to string together. Power Overwhelming and Doomguard are the usual suspects, but a lot of decks play Leeroy Jenkins and Soulfire as well. Once you’re ahead don’t get cocky, continue to remove minions and break them down with Steady Shot. They will always fold before you do.
Move over Uther, Garrosh is back to re-take his throne. Paladin had a good run in the control race, but, as always, Warrior stepped back up and crushed the competition. At first glance this may seem like a very rough matchup, but it is actually vastly in your favor. The reason for that, as mentioned above, is Lock and Load. The two mana pseudo-draw spell is a house against slower decks and is the way you are going to come out on top. While Yogg can come through in a pinch, your goal here is to get ten cards in your hand, discount them with Emperor Thaurissan and then play them all together to maximize your threats. This sounds like a silly solution, but it works quite well. While you can also try to wear Warrior down through your hero power, bow and Call of the Wild, most of the time they have enough armor and life gain to stay out of final damage. This is especially true if they get an early Justicar Trueheart.
There are two versions of Control Warrior right now: Classic Control and C’thun. Both run very similar packages during the middle game, but they each finish in different ways. Even so, you want to play each the same way. The only difference is that you have to be faster when it comes to C’thun since they have a much higher burst ceiling than Grommash Hellscream. Beating Warrior is never going to be an easy task, but it can be done here through patience and careful planning. The only other thing you need to watch out for is your opponent’s burst. While it is easy to get caught up in your own world, always be cognizant of how much damage you are taking and how much damage you opponent can do. All Warriors run some sort of finisher, and if you don’t prepare properly (especially because you have no taunts in this list) you can find yourself staring down lethal out of nowhere.
Though not as prevalent as it was a few weeks ago, Miracle Rogue is still fairly popular. The combo deck has a lot of good matchups in the meta, but I can safely say that you are not one of them. If your opponent correctly identifies you as Yogg Hunter right away they may have a chance, but most of the time they just are not going to be able to keep up with all of your removal. The reason is that very few Rogue decks run Leeroy Jenkins. Most prefer to try and Conceal their minions and then pour on a couple of Cold Bloods to push for lethal. Though that strategy works against many decks, it is much weaker against you. That is because you have ways to remove any naked minion they play and you have Deadly Shot just in case they try to hide something with stealth. If you supply your damage and steadily take down their threats you should eventually win this one.
Something to note is this is a match where you should hold Snipe early and then run it out during the middle game. While you goal is always going to be to kill Gadgetzan Auctioneer, taking down any big threat (from Azure Drake to Tomb Pillager) can be a huge swing. Rogue has only so many removal spells and only so much burn. If you can pressure them to clear the board of something like Animal Companion or Call of the Wild they will run out of damage. As with Warrior, Lock and Load is really strong against Rogue because of how poorly they handle a string of constant threats. If you have them on the ropes or they just can’t get anything to stick, do not be afraid to build up a big turn to see how many minions you can put down.
Your sister deck, Midrange Hunter is going to be one of your tougher battles. This is solely because of two cards: Infested Wolf and Savannah Highmane. As much removal as you have, you do not do well with deathrattle. In fact, this deck would have been unplayable in a Naxx world. The reason is that all of your cards are meant to one-for-one threats. The fact that Hunter can just run out solid midgame minions, which they can then interact with after they die through things like Houndmaster and Kill Command, really keeps you on the ropes. It also is a problem that Hunter has so much burst at their disposal. They will slowly bleed you down and then kill you out of nowhere if you take too long to get any real presence in this match. The way you counter that is by doing whatever you can to remove their early game. That, like when facing Shaman, will give you a little extra breathing room during the middle turns and enable you to make better use of your removal.
Mulliganing with this deck is quite tricky, but the gist is to keep all of your low spells and throw everything else back. You never want to keep Lock and Load, Tracking or any of your high-drop cards. Emperor Thaurissan and Yogg are simply too slow early on, as are Call of the Wild and Explosive Shot. Hunter’s Mark can be kept against Priest and Druid, but you also want it against go-big early decks like Shaman. Deadly Shot fills the same rules, but is too slow and situational to keep on its own.
The three cards you always want are Animal Companion, Eaglehorn Bow and King’s Elekk. These three cards are very important for your early board and will usually help you solidify a presence moving into the middle game. Beyond that, you usually want to keep most secrets if you see them, the only exception being Freezing Trap against decks where it can easily be played around. Unleash the Hounds, On the Hunt, Arcane Shot and Powershot are for aggro,. However, On the Hunt and Arcane Shot can also be kept against decks that like to get an early board, such as Tempo Mage and Hunter.
Sometimes it’s ok to be wrong. As hard as it is to admit, this was a really fun trip. I absolutely love the way this deck is built, and while I still don’t think Yogg-Saron is good for the game, he’s ok for right now in my book. Getting a chance to cover such an strange and innovative deck is why I do this series in the first place, and this week really delivered. I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did, and I hope you are out getting some sun. Until next time, may the RNG be with you…always.