This week on Weekly Legends, I’m going to do some teaching. While I normally like to cover new and unique decks that are either foreign to me or not well known, today I want to cover Y’shaarj Hunter. For those that don’t know, this is a deck that was created roughly a month ago by AbarHS and it pilots very similar to the old Yogg Hunter lists. The idea here is to play an all-spell Hunter deck that wins the game through gradual damage or pulling out Y’shaarj, Rage Unbound with Barnes. That may sound inconsistent, but this deck has a ton of power that can stand up to every popular deck in the current meta.
The reason I wanted to cover this is because it is a deck I have a lot of experience with and I think people don’t fully understand the way it pilots. it is a lot of fun, and more people should give it a chance. As a result, this is going to be different from the usual Weekly Legends in that I am going to be giving a lot more specific notes on the deck that I usually do. While I am still going to cover cards in the usual way, I really want to focus on how they slot into everything the bigger picture here. This deck is a ton of fun, and a big part of that is figuring out how it plays (especially when it comes to mulligans). While it looks very weak from the outside looking in, the further you delve into the cards and the more time you spend piloting it, the more you begin to see just what it can do.
I bring up Arcane Shot to point out just how important damage is in this deck. Yes, you are playing a combo deck, but that combo is going to come few and far between. Most games you need to win with your spells and your hero power. That means you are going to have to properly balance using your spells to clear and using them to go to your opponent’s dome. Most of the time you are going to use your spells to clear. However, every time you use something like a Kill Command or Quick Shot on a minion that is valuable burn going to waste. Sometimes it is necessary to play more defensively (in fact it comes up often), but you should always calculate your damage and plan out your turns before making such a move. If you can race your opponent to lethal you typically want to hold onto your spells.
In terms of Arcane Shot, it is important to understand that two damage doesn’t do a lot these days. Mana Wyrms and Tunnel Troggs run all over the meta, and once you move past turn two you are going to hit a wall of Frothing Berserkers, Violet Teachers, Flamewakers, and Imp Gang Bosses. Even so, it can still be useful against things like King’s Elekk, Cult Sorcerer, Flame Imp and Sorcerer’s Apprentice. The rule with this card is if you can kill off an early minion to take off pressure you should, but the longer the game goes the more valuable face damage becomes. Two damage is an extra hero power, and the one mana can be slotted in around many of your bigger spells. Also note that most people will not expect you to play this card and will not calculate it when deciding how much damage you can do. I have won more than a few games because I saved this for the end of a game.
As with any spell-based Hunter deck, this list runs a lot of secrets. You have access to Snipe, Freezing Trap, Explosive Trap and Cat Trick. All of these are strong, but they are also quite situational. If you want to be successful with this deck you need to be able to sequence them in the right way to both get value and confuse your opponent. Understand when you need to use these (such as playing Snipe on turn five against a Rogue or setting up Freezing Trap to hit a Savannah Highmane) but also know what your opponent is going to play against.
It has gotten to the point where Hunter secrets are actually secret and your opponents will misplay trying to dodge them. For instance, playing a secret on its own usually signals Snipe so you can play Cat Trick first to bait out an Argent Squire and then play Snipe the next turn to hit a higher priority target. Those interactions lead to large swings and will often create wins. Another big part of understanding these secrets (and something most people either don’t know or forget) is that they are going to trigger in the order that you play them. This mostly just comes up with Freezing Trap and Explosive Trap, but it is worth mentioning. If you play Freezing Trap first and they run a small minion into it, it will go back to their hand and then explosive will go off and ruin your plan. However, putting explosive first will kill the small minion and keep freezing around to hit something larger.
While all of the secrets in this deck are good (if not situational), this deck would not exist without Cat Trick. Not only is the strongest secret Hunter currently has access to, but it is the hardest to use as well. The reason for this is that there are two ways you can spin this card. You can either put it out early in order to get a 4/2 to push pressure or trade early, or you can save it for later in the game to catch your opponent off guard and get some extra damage in when they don’t expect it. I have won many games by getting an extra four damage out of nowhere during the later turns of the game, especially on turn seven before my opponent has to use AOE to clear Call of the Wild.
Understand that you do not need to attack with your Cat in a Hat right away. A stealthed 4/2 is not easy for many decks to deal with, which means you can just let it sit on the board. This can be useful when you want to get the extra attack from Call of the Wild or trigger Kill Command. It is also strong if you want to just have a body to trade into an important piece of your opponent’s curve. Also note that this card only triggers after the spell is played. This makes the 4/2 resistant to AOE, which can be very useful in conjunction with call. This is because your opponent will often spend their whole turn dealing with the companions, which then opens you up to keep on swinging in with the panther.
You are going to win many more games with Eaglehorn Bow than you are with Barnes. Plain and simple. In fact, I would say this card is much more your win condition than anything else. Weapon condition is basically gone from the meta, which means that anytime you can get a weapon to stick it is going to get you a lot of value. Eaglehorn Bow is going to get you an especially amount of value because it is almost never going to go away. This card (combined with your hero power) represents five damage per hit. Very few decks in the game can survive that each turn, and it is the way you are going to wear down control decks that can heal away your Steady Shot.
This card goes back to the idea of damage. You always need to maximize your hits and do whatever you can to keep the bow around. There are a lot of secrets in this list, and you need to try to get bow to trigger with them as much as you can. This is so important that you only ever want to use the last bow hit if you have an extremely good reason (must-kill minion, lethal) or if you have a second one in hand. If not, you just want to hold this the entire game and wait until you can find yourself some good secrets. One of the best parts of playing Snipe and Cat Trick is that they both don’t require attacks to trigger. Many people will hold back minions to limit your bow’s power, so try and hold the non-attack secrets until after you get the weapon equipped.
The crux of the entire deck, Barnes is a crazy cool card in this list that you want to work as hard as you can to find in every single game. Though many who play this list will tell you to mulligan every non-Barnes, non-Tracking card in hopes of finding the actor, I am not sure that’s entirely true. However, what is true is that you need to play this as soon as you possibly can and whenever you get the opportunity to do so (providing that Y’shaarj is still in your deck). Even if your opponent can deal with Y’shaarj, it is going to cost them resources and you are still going to have board presence in a 3/4 and a 1/1. That usually leads to a win. It is also important to remember that you want to limit drawing when you get Barnes into your hand. Do not play anything that can tear through your deck or put extra cards in your hand to limit accidentally pulling Y’shaarj. In that same vein, whenever you see Barnes in your opening hand you need to keep every other card with it in order to make sure you don’t actually draw the old god.
The five decks that I see the most when playing on the ladder.
Spirit Claws Shaman
The most popular deck by a mile, Midrange Shaman is a very temperamental matchup. Sometimes this feels like a breeze where everything clicks together and some games you are going to be gasping for air the entire time. A big part of this comes down to your early removal. If you have ways to effectively take down your opponent’s threats like Tunnel Trogg and Totem Golem without much sweat you should be able to curve up really well. However, if you get your hand clogged up with lategame or slow cards you are going to get run over. This is a game where you want to take the role of control. Use your spells to clear your opponent’s board and steadily build towards your damage and Call of the Wild.
The most important part of this game is your secrets. Though the traps do not do that much when played at the wrong time, they all can absolutely devastate Shaman if set up properly. Freezing Trap crushes Totem Golem, Tunnel Trogg and Flamewreathed Faceless, Cat Trick is going to trigger early and often, Explosive Trap blows out their totems, and Snipe destroys many of their value plays. Know that your opponent is going to be working hard to play around all of these options and testing as much as they can. You want to always try and maximize your value when you can. This often means playing your secrets in an odd order to confuse your opponent or when your opponent has limited options due to overload. Just getting one good trigger can give you enough time to put together lethal.
Just below Shaman is Yogg Druid. This deck grows more and more popular with each passing day, and, while I have a natural hatred of Yogg, that is great news for us. Druid has never been great against Hunter because they do not have a way to interact with our strongest cards. Call of the Wild is an absolute nightmare for Druid to deal with, Eaglehorn Bow is just going to tear them down, and an early Barnes is almost an instant concession. You just want to play to your gameplan here and largely ignore what Druid does. The deck has become very reactive these days, and they are going to spend most of their time ramping or drawing cards. That gives you plenty of chances to hit your hero power and sneak in hits.
The most important part of this game is getting as much use out of your damage as you can. Long gone are the days where Druid ramped into big taunts that locked down your board. While some of them still pack big threats (notable Ancient of War and Ragnaros the Firelord) almost all of them play the Malygos game now. This makes them much slower and gives you much time to set up your big plays. Hoard all of your damage spells in your hand and get ready to end the game in a flurry of burst. Druid has a good amount of healing, and they will often use it if they get nervous. Pace them appropriately and know you need to end the game before they roll the dice with Yogg or amass a huge Malygos.
This is another game that is really in your favor. Though Mage can burn you out over the long game, you have the ability to efficiently clear all of their minions and just pace them punch for punch until you go over the top with your bow and Call of the Wild. You just want to spend most of this game using your resources to control Mage’s minions. Jaina has become a little slower than she once was, trading in cards like Mirror Image and Archmage Antonidas for Cabalist’s Tome and Babbling Book. This means the deck is going to have many more spells at their disposal, but they also have less minions. This new plan works well for them against many popular decks right now because it allows them to just starting throwing burn after their opponent turn after turn. However, that won’t work against a Hunter because you simply have too much burst for them to handle. You are always going to win a race. As such, the only way you lose this game is by not having early answers and letting them pressure during the first turns of the game. Make use of your removal and set up both Snipe and Cat Trick as well as you can.
Though it has fallen in popularity, Midrange Hunter is still around and still putting in work. This is by far your hardest matchup, and you are going to win by either playing an early Barnes (which can still be nullified by Deadly Shot and Freezing Trap) or racing your opponent to Call of the Wild while making the most out of your secrets. What makes this so hard is that you want to pressure your opponent as much as possible while also killing their minions and making sure they can never amass a real board. That balance is going to be very difficult to find, but you can do it if you use your secrets well. Like with Shaman, they are going to be powerful, but only in certain situations. Hitting the right target with Snipe or Freezing Trap can buy you a lot of time, but guessing wrong is going to usually be game. Also try your best to clear beasts and limit Houndmaster.
This entire game is a race, but they have much stronger tools than you do. That does not bode well, but you can win by calculating the damage in your hand against your opponent’s. This will help you know when you have to switch from trying to control the board to just pushing hard for damage. You are always going to lose the long game, and you have to know that going into this match. Call of the Wild and Eaglehorn Bow are your two best non-Barnes cards, and they each will provide you with a lot of extra burst over the course of a game. Though you may be able to kill and remove everything your opponent has, just simply clearing each turn is not going to work out long term. There is always a point in the game where you are going to become the aggressor.
As popular as this is on streams, Control Warrior does not have quite the same following on the ladder. I am not sure why that is, but it is probably because how long the games are. Either way, this is a matchup that feels really bad but actually breaks about even. If Warrior manages to get a lot of healing early on (turn six Justicar) you are often not going to be able to keep up. However, if you keep hitting your hero power and make sure to get as much use out of Eaglehorn Bow and Call of the Wild as you can, you can grind your opponent down.
This is a match where you need to work hard to get damage in at every opportunity. You want to play this like Druid, except you need to attack even more than you normally do because Warrior has the best healing in the game. It is also important to note that most Warrior’s today are jam-packed with all sorts of removal cards that do very little against your deck. While Brawl and Revenge may hit your Call of the Wild, those cards are just going to rot in your opponent’s hand throughout most of the game. Know that most cards your opponent has are useless. Just push hard in this game and use your burn spells as burn. This is the one matchup where you practically never want to give up valuable damage on the board.
Ugh. As I stated in the video, this is not an easy mulligan. So much so that I cannot actually tell you how to mulligan. The overall rule of this deck is to throw back everything that isn’t Barnes or Tracking (which helps find Barnes). However, I want to make a slight addition to that. I also like to keep Eaglehorn Bow against slow control (Warrior, Paladin) because they can easily deal with our combo, and I will also keep one card that is good against the deck I’m facing. For instance, I will keep an Explosive Trap against Zoo, Snipe against Shaman or Quick Shot against Mage. I will usually throw everything else back. The only exception to that is when I have a very strong hand against the class I’m playing, in which case I will just keep everything and forsake the combo. Most of the times you want to just get your four drop legendary, but there are many decisions that can be made on a game-to-game basis.
Note: As mentioned, anytime you have Barnes in your opener you have to keep all the cards with it to minimize your chances of drawing Y’shaarj.
Man, what an awesome, awesome deck. It is rare that I find something as cool, unique and fun as this list. All-spell Hunter (or any Hunter that is different from Midrange or Face) has always interested me, and this certainly delivers. You have a strong win condition, some awesome interactions, and a list that really makes you think. Skill caps are always fun