Greetings travelers! My name is Darklumiya and I have been playing Hearthstone since the very end of Test Season 2. I reached Legend Rank in Test Season 4 with my Hunter Rush deck. Ever since I began playing Hearthstone, the Hunter archetype has been my only choice, and I have improved upon the build each season with great success.
To begin, the deck’s strategy lies within its name of Hunter Rush. The main goal of the deck is to swarm your opponent with charge minions and control the tempo of the game. Essentially, your opponent will be doing the majority of the trading of minions because the deck is designed to burn your opponent’s life down very quickly. The steady shot hero ability puts your opponent on a timer until death and late game this ability takes out much larger percentages of health than in the beginning.
The reason that I found hunter attractive to play at first, lay in the fact that it represented one of the cheapest decks to build, while also allowing the user to be instantly competitive on the ladder. I would definitely recommend the deck for inexperienced players looking to climb the ladder and jump right into competitive play.
The best part about the deck archetype is that it can be taken from Rank 25 to Legend without the need to switch decks at any given time. From my experiences the deck has over an 80 percent win ratio from Rank 25 to 7 when piloted properly.
When most people talk about hunter rush, the first card that jumps to their mind is [card]Unleash the Hounds[/card]. However, [card]Eaglehorn Bow[/card] represents the most important card of the deck in my mind. It is, outside of [card]Leper Gnome[/card], usually the only card you will never mulligan from your opening hand. The card itself does 6 damage for 3 mana, which standing alone is very impressive.
But the card really begins to exceed expectations when its durability is increased through the usage of traps. After using an [card]Explosive Trap[/card] and [card]Misdirection[/card] with the bow out, the card climbs from 6 damage to 12 damage. Being able to do 12 damage for the cost of 3 mana is absurd, and the deck is heavily reliant on getting this card out early.
Wolfrider/Bluegill Warrior/Arcane Golem
The main differences between hunter rush decks in today’s meta tend to revolve around these 3 cards. Most players tend to sideline [card]Wolfrider[/card] for [card]Animal Companion[/card], while [card]Bluegill Warrior[/card] takes a backseat to [card]Arcane Shot[/card]. However, I contribute a large amount of my success on the ladder to the consistency of Wolfrider and Bluegill Warrior. These card provide immediate damage and when combined with [card]Abusive Sergeant[/card], lead to large amounts of burst damage. However, it is very important to pick your openings wisely and understand how to effectively utilize them against specific decks.
For example, if you are playing against a Control Warrior and are considering a Bluegill Warrior drop, it is extremely important to know that your opponent can deal with it through various means including [card]Whirlwind[/card], [card]Cruel Taskmaster[/card], and [card]Slam[/card]. Forcing your opponent to waste a Cruel Taskmaster on a Bluegill Warrior means that they have one less way to enrage [card]Grommash Hellscream[/card] when the time comes.
In addition, if your Bluegill Warrior/Wolf Rider manages to survive through your opponent’s turn or they are forced to remove it via weapon, then you have doubled the value of each card. It is because of this that I prefer to use Bluegill Warrior over Arcane Shot, as it provides more damage when used effectively and forces your opponent to deal with the onboard threat. [card]Arcane Golem[/card] is a card that usually will be utilized mid to late game in order to push your opponent into kill range. However, it is important to not give your opponent that extra mana crystal too early. Due to that drawback, Arcane Golem is rarely something you will ever want to use unless your opponent is under 20 health.
Unleash the Hounds/Timber Wolf/Starving Buzzard
This fearsome combo represents the internal engine of the hunter rush archetype. Usually with your opponent making favorable trades on your low health minions, you will lose card advantage throughout the game. [card]Starving Buzzard[/card] and [card]Unleash the Hounds[/card] allow for you to replenish your hand, go for a big board clear, or hit your opponent for a good chunk of damage to the face.
It becomes extremely important to pick your spot carefully with the combo, as you will want to reap the most rewards. Without [card]Timber Wolf[/card] the combo will usually lack the potential to clear your opponent’s board or do enough damage to the face. Because of this, turn 5 is where the combo will usually reach maximum efficiency. Saving the coin to reach that point one turn sooner can usually mean the difference between a win and loss, as being able to bring out the Timber Wolf gives you not only extra damage, but an extra draw as well.
There are several matchups where utilizing Unleash the Hounds earlier is more effective, and yes I am looking at you Rush Warlock/Zoo/Murloc/Hunter. Later in the article I will go into specifics regarding different matchups.
These two cards represent the durability engine of your Eaglehorn Bow. Nowadays, many hunters have also included [card]Freezing Trap[/card] into the mix, however I feel that in my particular build that the card is too slow and not needed. [card]Explosive Trap[/card], outside of Unleash the Hounds, represents your only other large board clear.
Specifically, it becomes a priority to dig for this card as quickly as possible against the mirror match, aggro lock, murloc, and zoo variants. In addition, the card has the ability to synergize extremely well with not only Unleash the Hounds for clearing the board, but [card]Hunters Mark[/card] as well. [card]Misdirection[/card], while more random, has the ability to remove big taunt creatures from your opponent’s board that will outpace you. This card is more difficult to utilize properly, however it wins games by itself when your opponent does not play around it. For example, when facing off against a control warrior you can use it against a pumped up [card]Frothing Berserker[/card] to deal a large blow to your opponent, or simply to reduce your shaman opponent’s [card]Feral Spirit[/card] to 1 health. Also, it is important to understand the ordering of traps and how to place them effectively.
A general rule of thumb is that an opponent will attack with their weakest creature first. Therefore, setting an Explosive Trap followed by a Misdirection usually represents the most effective play, as their weakest minion will die first and then leave the larger minion to swing into the Misdirection.
Hunter’s Mark/Ironbeak Owl
While the majority of the cards in the Hunter Rush archetype are designed to deal damage, [card]Hunters Mark[/card] and [card]Ironbeak Owl[/card] deal with big taunters and problems that you opponent will throw at you. Ironbeak Owls must be strategically used and not just thrown at the first creature that looks like it has a good effect. The general rule of thumb is to not use it unless you can attack in the same turn as well. This is because as soon as you take out an opponent’s taunt minion, they feel vulnerable and will look to get another one out as soon as possible. It is very rare that you will use Ironbeak Owl against anything other than a taunt, however some of the other targets include [card]Armorsmith[/card], Frothing Berserker, [card]Ysera[/card], [card]Cairne Bloodhoof[/card], [card]Water Elemental[/card], and [card]Gadgetzan Auctioneer[/card].
Hunter’s Mark is an exceptional card that has only recently reached “staple” status as a card that you should almost always use at least one of. During my ladder climb, I utilized one all the way to Rank 7, but when I continued to run into less and less Ancient Watcher Druid decks, I removed it. I definitely recommend playing this card if the meta is littered with [card]Ancient Watcher[/card] Druid, Giant Lock, and Shaman. It’s also very useful against the mirror match when you are facing down a Misha. The combo potential with the card is insane, as it works exceptionally well with Explosive Trap and Unleash the Hounds.
The draw engine of the archetype is reliant upon these two cards. Originally seen as a poor choice, [card]Tracking[/card] has gained immense popularity towards the end of Test Season 3 and is a staple card in the deck. It is amazing early game to dig for combo pieces or just to find that elusive Eaglehorn Bow that you want as soon as possible. When it comes to late game, Tracking represents the best top deck and allows you to dig for a win condition or out of the current situation.
Flare is also a card that was originally seen as a poor choice, however with the rise of the hunter archetype, is now a staple choice for the deck. Not only does it single-handedly win games against the mirror match, but it allows you to cycle through the deck. For 1 mana, it gives you the ability to weave your mana curve together nicely when you might have a non-efficient turn. It is also highly advisable to use Flare before Tracking if you have both in the hand (unless you desperately need a specific card from Tracking) because [card]Flare[/card] could give you the answer you currently need, without discarding two potentially useful cards.
Good ole’ [card]Leeroy Jenkins[/card] has the ability to finish your opponent before they even know what hit them. This is the one card that you almost never discard from Tracking due to the fact that it represents the deck’s finisher. When combo’d end-game with Unleash the Hounds and Timber Wolf you can burst upwards of 20 damage in one turn, leaving your opponent to wonder how they could have prevented the onslaught.
Usually, Leeroy Jenkins will not be used until you can actually produce a kill, however there are various scenarios where using him first to avoid your opponent’s next-turn taunt would be most beneficial.
The main goal of the deck is to deal 30 damage to your opponent before they overwhelm you with their end-game cards. The one card you always want to have in your opening hand is [card]Eaglehorn Bow[/card], in addition to [card]Leper Gnome[/card]. The faster you get the damage flowing, the harder it will be for your opponent to stabilize. The general rule of thumb is to always have a playable 1 and 3 drop in your opening hand, as your hero ability takes care of Turn 2 if you do not have a play. Cards such as Flare and Tracking are also very beneficial to see early on, as they can be used on Turn 1 or Turn 3 when you are not mana efficient.
The deck is usually judged as skill-less and “faceroll”, however there are numerous situations that arise which separate the top tier players from the lesser. It is not always the proper move to go directly for face. That [card]Northshire Cleric[/card], [card]Mana Wyrm[/card], or [card]Knife Juggler[/card] can easily overwhelm you and prevent a win by depleting your minions with ease. One must be able to anticipate you’re opponent’s turn by mana, and realize that it might be a better move to clear you opponent’s minions with your Unleash the Hounds because they might have [card]Swipe[/card], [card]Consecration[/card], or [card]Flamestrike[/card]. Towards the end of a game against Rogue it would be wise to do as much as possible to avoid being in kill range of their Eviscerates, while also putting them in kill range for next turn.
By far the most important concept of the deck to grasp, revolves around the concept that you must use your mana as efficiently as possible to do the most damage. On turn 3, if you have a choice between a [card]Wolfrider[/card] and Eaglehorn Bow you have a lot of options to consider. Does my opponent have an easy way to deal with the Wolfrider? Do I have a trap to make my Eaglehorn Bow useful in the next turn or so? Do I also have an Abusive Sergeant in hand to make that Wolfrider a lot more useful on turn 4? When it comes to the usage of Tracking and Flare, it is important to not prioritize them over your hero ability, unless the outcome of the draw will decide the game.
Tracking and Flare are in the deck to better utilize turns where you might not be as mana efficient as you would like to be.
Good Match Ups
Whenever you go up against one of these archetypes you should be smiling. They represent your best matchup outside of shaman, as a big Unleash the Hounds or Explosive Trap can seal the game. There will also be a fair amount of swapping back and forth between trading and hitting face, as you must decide whether or not your opponent can outpace you or not. Murloc represents the deck where you will want to trade as much as possible, as they are the most combo-oriented build. Mulliganing hard for Explosive Trap and Unleash the Hounds will give you the best chance for success.
In addition to the other warlock variants, Handlock provides an exceptional matchup for hunter as they are very slow. You’ll want to mulligan for 1 and 2 drops as your opponent is usually slow out of the gate. Ironbeak Owl and Hunter’s Mark are also cards you want to get to as quickly as possible because they deal with Ancient Watcher and Giants with taunt.
It is also extremely important to consider that your opponent may have a [card]Hellfire[/card] or [card]Shadowflame[/card] on turn 4 so you should play around them accordingly. Also, the [card]Molten Giant[/card] threat becomes scary under 15 health so you should look to burst down your opponent as quickly as possible at that point. Using a Leeroy Jenkins to put your opponent into kill range via a [card]Kill Command[/card] is acceptable in this matchup because a Molten Giant with taunt next turn might prevent you from a kill.
This deck is not as rampant as it once was, which is a shame due to the fact that it’s a great matchup for hunter. They load the field up with minions and make themselves vulnerable to an Unleash the Hounds, while also running very little taunts. Set your opponent up for a big Unleash the Hounds and this matchup will very easy.
Shaman also represents a strong matchup for hunter and it can be argued that the matchup is the hunter’s strongest one. Shamans have 0 heals outside of [card]Earthen Ring Farseer[/card]. The only threats you must play around are [card]Feral Spirit[/card], [card]AlAkir the Windlord[/card], and taunt totems.
I would highly recommend saving your Bow, Explosive Trap, Misdirection, and Unleash the Hounds to handle the Feral Spirits and if necessary you may have to use Ironbeak Owl an [card]Unbound Elemental[/card] that could get out of control. One of the minions that can outpace the hunter deck is [card]Flametongue Totem[/card]. Depending on the situation, it might be favorable to take out the totem to give you the best chance to win.
This is the worst matchup for the deck. A good control warrior player will not give you the big unleash play that you usually look for because they don’t play out that many minions at once. It is important to set the tempo early with this matchup, utilizing 1 and 2 drop minions early to pressure them to respond.
There’s a fair bit of luck involved as you really hope they do not open with [card]Armorsmith[/card], [card]Whirlwind[/card], and [card]Cruel Taskmaster[/card]. The key to success against a control warrior is to apply the pressure early and set them up for a big unleash play. The match usually comes down to being able to burst them with Leeroy Jenkins and Unleash the Hounds before they even think it’s time to go for [card]Alexstrasza[/card].
This matchup comes down to drawing your Ironbeak Owls and Hunter’s Marks. Watcher Druid will throw taunt after taunt at you in the form of [card]Druid of the Claw[/card], [card]Sunfury Protector[/card], and [card]Defender of Argus[/card]. In addition, druid has an easy way to deal with your 1 health minions through its hero ability and has solid removal in [card]Wrath[/card]/[card]Swipe[/card].
It becomes very important in this matchup to get in damage early so that a kill can be achieved before they drop their legendaries. Swipe must be played around at all costs, so trading your big field of Unleash the Hounds doggies might be more beneficial than hitting the face in certain situations. Overall, a big Starving Buzzard/Unleash the Hounds combo before they establish too much of a board is your best chance to win. Luckily for hunter, this deck has not been as popular on the ladder lately due to the influx of Zoo/aggro lock.
Neither Good Nor Bad Matchups
This is one of the only matchups where you will summon a turn 1 [card]Abusive Sergeant[/card] in order to gain tempo. Unleash the Hounds is best used defensively to clear your opponent’s board. The most important thing in the mirror match is to play around Explosive Trap and not allow your opponent to gain a big Unleash the Hounds. [card]Flare[/card] is crucial and whoever gets this first usually has the best chance to win, in addition to the Eaglehorn Bow. Towards the end of the game you will sometimes have to make trades in order to prevent your opponent from killing you, while also putting them into kill range.
This matchup reminds me of the hunter mirror in the fact that it’s essentially a race to the finish line. Miracle rogue has few minions so it might be favorable to trade in certain situations. [card]Gadgetzan Auctioneer[/card] is the major threat that must be taken care of with Ironbeak Owl before it can go off. Cards such as Bluegill Warrior and Wolfrider are great in the matchup because if your opponent doesn’t have the removal for them, they are forced to attack with their weapon and double your value.
There always comes a point towards the end of this matchup where you have to hold off your opponent for 1 turn before you can win and hope they don’t have the [card]Eviscerate[/card], [card]Cold Blood[/card], and Leeroy. Your best chance to succeed usually revolves around trading with their minions at the end, while also putting them just into kill range for your next turn. The best advice I can give for this matchup is to not get greedy and play it safe at the end.
Mid Range Rogue
The [card]Argent Squire[/card] is your worst nightmare to seeing when going first as a hunter. You must play around them and continue to do as much damage as possible, as this deck can definitely outpace you. It is important to set the tempo early, making favorable trades when possible as well. This rogue variant has a lot of removal in the presence of spells and it’s essential to play around [card]Fan of Knives[/card]. Unleash the Hounds will become your best friend in this matchup. Save your Misdirection’s for when they have [card]Chillwind Yeti[/card], [card]SI:7 Agent[/card], and other large minions out, as a two minion clear with Misdirection can win the game.
As stated previously, the deck is fairly cheap to make and the only legendary required is [card]Leeroy Jenkins[/card]. While you can climb the ranks fairly well without Leeroy, you are doing yourself a large injustice by not playing it. Around Rank 5 on the ladder the matches will get more and more difficult, and a Leeroy Jenkins finishing play will usually be what you need to secure a win. I would highly recommend doing whatever you can to acquire this card, as he really does complete the deck.
Hunter rush is not only one of the cheapest decks to craft, but also one of the strongest choices in today’s meta. With few poor matchups outside of Control Warrior and Watcher Druid, Hunter has proved itself as one of the top ladder-climbing decks. I highly recommend it to a newer player who wants to play competitively as quickly as possible.
I’d like to reiterate the fact that to play it correctly, this deck will not always mean rush the face. Favorable trades against certain matchups can make or break a game, as you must be aware of the cards that can outpace you. Don’t be afraid to give it a shot on the ladder and see how it works for you!
PS: You can see all my Hunter videos and my climb to Legendary at my channels!
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