31 August 2014 - 23:49

Legend Undertaker Midrange Hunter

Blizzcon Qualified player, ItsProtoHype, shares his deck guide of the Legend Midrange Hunter, featuring…the Sludge Belcher!
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Introduction

Between attaining top 10 on the ladder and queuing for the American Regional Qualifier for Blizzcon through my ZOTAC win, I made the assumption that this most recent Naxx influenced meta-game shift would be a breeze.

I was wrong.

And that hit me pretty hard. Since I had started playing the game in Season 3 all of my experience was based around extreme aggression or dedicated control, like Aggro Rogue/Zoo or Shaman/Handlock. Never was I in a position to have to grind against Hunter, Priest, or Control Warrior, and because of that I grew frustrated with all of the Hunter variants making a mess of ladder.

While the initial frustration caused me to take a considerable break from the game, I believe I am a better player because of the shift and I have some matchup and mulligan analysis that I would like to share with you. This particular variant is a brew combining the aggression of older face hunter decks with the resilience that Naxxramas has become known for. I don't have any hyper specific stats as my Hearthtracker was not cooperating at the time I was playing, but I've been hovering around a 65% winrate with this list. Off we go!

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Unleash the Hounds

Matchups

Standard Hunter

Optimal keeps on the play:

Leper Gnome, Undertaker, Webspinner, Haunted Creeper, Flare/Hunter's Mark(if you have early pressure, if not throw it back)

I think of all the current hunter lists this one has the best potential mirror match.As most of you have experienced the majority of Hunter games will come down to who applied more early pressure and translated that pressure to tempo in the mid-game. That's where Sludge Belcher comes in handy.

While he is "answered" by both Hunter's Mark and an activated Kill Command he still forces another attack on the back-end which is extremely relevant in most UTH scenarios. That said you can't rely on just Sludge Belcher to carry you through the game. You have to mulligan religiously for early pressure and try your best to keep your opponent off-board until you can stick a Belcher or Highmane.

Optimal keeps on the draw:

Undertaker, Webspinner, Leper Gnome, Haunted Creeper, Houndmaster/Unleash the Hounds/Animal Companion/Hunter's Mark/Kill Command(if you have enough pressure to make these cards relevant as they are all functional removal spells in the Hunter mirror),

The coin benefits us greatly because we're so geared for taking the early game.  Undertaker/Gnome with a decent curve is one of the best coin plays this deck has. If we don't have the most stellar opener we can often fall back on Belcher/UTH combo to get us out of a hole. One of the cool things about Belcher in this deck is he's almost always followed by a Highmane.

If we're ahead going into that ever important turn 6 you can use Belcher to set a pick for Highmane and potentially force 12 free damage through, which is almost always game ending in the mirror.

Don't be afraid to use Hunter's Mark or Kill Command on an Animal Companion or another creature that you wouldn't otherwise be able to kill in the early game. The closest stylistic comparison is playing against Zoo. Use every opportunity that your opponent gives you to full clear and stay away from greedy plays until you know you have some equity in your hand to cash in on a big swing.

Dark Cultist

Midrange Priest

Optimal keeps on the play:

Haunted Creeper, Webspinner, Loot Hoarder, Leper Gnome, UndertakerHoundmaster(if you have Webspinner/Haunted Creeper), Kill command/Hunter's Mark (if the rest of your hand allows)

Haunted Creeper has the potential to be really bad if they have a Northshire Cleric. I would recommend keeping it always because of the sick Houndmaster plays but not actually playing it if they do have a turn 1 Cleric.

Priests love long drawn out games and we don't want to give them the satisfaction of huge Cabal Shadow Priest blowouts, so our best bet is to take our early lead and use it to play around sweepers with serious discipline in the mid-game.  It may not be the most appealing path to take but you will thank yourself in the end when you played around Nova on turn 5.

Optimal keeps on the draw:

Loatheb, Webspinner, Haunted Creeper, Leper Gnome, Undertaker, Houndmaster, (utility spells if you have early pressure)

Loatheb is our knight in not so shining armor against Priests. We will typically have a board lead going into turn 5 (if we don't we're probably losing anyway) and there is no better way to capitalize on that then having a free turn of damage and not having to play around sweepers.  You obviously don't want to forget about them completely so exercise a little bit of caution but don't be afraid to pour on some steam and capitalize.

This is actually my favorite matchup to set up the Belcher/Highmane pick and roll on turns 5 and 6.  Most priest decks don't have an easy answer to Belcher if they're behind on board and we can really push that advantage and close the life total gap with Highmane. These are the scenarios that can win or lose you games depending on how you play it.

If you stick a Belcher and he can't deal with it on the following turn then you know your Highmane will be getting very real value.  It's up to you to decide when you turn that value into damage.

Armorsmith

Control Warrior

Optimal keeps on the play:

Webspinner, Haunted Creeper, Leper Gnome, Undertaker, Animal Companion, Loot Hoarder

Because we're not relying on traps to propel us into an early lead our Warrior matchup isn't too terrible. As with most of our other matchups it's in our best interest to go for early pressure and to save Hunter's Mark/KC for an early Armorsmithor play. It may feel bad but keeping him off of 2 draws is crucial to our mid-game longevity.

Keep the board clear to take away potential double Armorsmith value plays and don't be afraid to apply your Houndmaster buff to a smaller creature to stop Whirlwind from being a factor.

Optimal keeps on the draw:

Loatheb, Webspinner, Haunted Creeper, Leper Gnome, Undertaker, Houndmaster, Animal Companion, (utility spell if hand allows)

Loatheb is incredibly good at locking up an early board lead and translating it to damage since all of Control Warrior's answers to big dudes are spells.

Save the coin to curve out on 5-7 with some combination of Loatheb/Belcher/Highmane if you find yourself lacking an Undertaker in your opener.

I usually look to Houndmaster a smaller creature rather than my Animal Companion or Highmane due to all of the 1 mana answers Warrior has to creatures regardless of the size.  For all intents and purposes, you should play as you would if you were playing around a silence.

The outcome of this match will hinge on you shutting down his Acolyte draws and keeping Armorsmith/Unstable Ghoul off of the board for as long as possible. If you've done this correctly it's likely you will be able to land a big creature in the mid game with little resistance.

Flame Imp

Zoo

Optimal keeps on the play:

Unleash the Hounds, Webspinner, Leper Gnome, Undertaker, Haunted Creeper, Hunter's Mark, Kill Command, Loot Hoarder

Zoo is probably our toughest matchup due to our lack of Eaglehorn Bow. It may not strike you as a game breaking card to have but having the ability to not tap for a second removal (i.e the second Bow charge) is just great against Zoo. Buying that one turn to land a Houndmaster and be definitively ahead on board can be extremely difficult without it.

We have to rely on a critical UTH turn and Sludge Belcher to either follow it up or buy us some time to actually get it on the table.  Sometimes you can just win before turn 5 with a good Undertaker draw but it's not as likely as having to stall for UTH and come back from being behind.

Optimal keeps on the draw:

Unleash the Hounds, Webspinner, Undertaker,Loot Hoarder, Leper Gnome, Houndmaster, Hunter's Mark/Kill Command(if your hand allows)

I would not recommend keeping Belcher against Zoo simply because it requires us to give up a chance at getting Undertaker or gas for Undertaker, both of which are extremely important. It also means we're all in on UTH/Buzzard combo and if we don't have it we're definitely dead. Belcher's 3 attack just doesn't stand up to the army of 4+ toughness creatures that Zoo has access to. That said if you have undertaker and 2 creatures to buff it or UTH and no Buzzard you can definitely give it a try.

Our primary goal is to kill every single creature Zoo has for us pre turn 6 in order to stick a Highmane. If we're even or slightly behind we will be able to generate enough value out of those 19 stats to get us the win.

Using a UTH before you have Buzzard is sometimes necessary but should be done with caution. Try to pair it up with a Hunter's Mark to get as much value out of it as you can.

Lightning Storm

Shaman

Optimal keeps on the play: 

Webspinner, Haunted Creeper, Undertaker, Leper Gnome, Animal Companion, Hunter's Mark, Unleash the Hounds

If we mulligan correctly this game should almost always go our way.  Shaman's have to apply their pressure on board by playing a considerable amount of smaller creatures, and that's exactly what we want our opponents to be doing.

Every stage of the game benefits us barring they don't have double Fire Elemental on curve and we didn't play anything the turn before. If you don't have a lightning fast hand, don't panic. Use Flare and Tracking to dig for your UTH combo and capitalize on his over extensions.  It's worth nothing that Sludge Belcher and Loatheb are both insanely good against Shaman.

Optimal keeps on the draw:

Loatheb, Sludge Belcher, Webspinner, Haunted Creeper, Undertaker,Leper Gnome, Houndmaster, Unleash the Hounds, Hunter's Mark/Kill Commandif you think you need it.

Things only get easier for us with the coin. Since we play so many 1 drops our curve usually looks pretty solid to begin with, which means we get to focus on either pushing out an early Loatheb/Belcher or Houndmaster.

Much like the other control matchups we discussed, spreading your Houndmaster love to smaller creatures is probably your best bet at having one ride back to your turn. Try to play around Lightning Stormto the best of your ability when you're dumping the board.

I prefer to use Hunter's Mark/KC to push through Feral Spirit early because Shaman's have very little recovery potential as a class.  If they have an advantage built it's not difficult for them to keep it, but clawing back from nothing is not really in their repertoire.

Gadgetzan Auctioneer

Miracle

Optimal keeps on the play:

Webspinner, Undertaker, Leper GnomeLoot Hoarder(if you have Undertaker), Haunted Creeper, Houndmaster

Miracle has almost disappeared but since certain variants are still seeing fringe play I'll go over it.  One could argue that this matchup has fallen further into Miracle's favor due to a distinct lack of Eaglehorn Bow, but at the same time we've added a whole new type of threat that Miracle typically wouldn't have to deal with in the form of Sludge Belcher.

We also have no potentially dead trap/Mad Scientist draws as they've been replaced by other creatures.  It's hard to say on paper but I'm pretty confident that our Naxx pickups would make this matchup 50/50.

Optimal keeps on the draw: 

Loatheb, Webspinner, Undertaker, Leper Gnome, Houndmaster, Sludge Belcher, Loot HoarderAnimal Companion

Loatheb, Loatheb, and more Loatheb.  Always save Loatheb for the turn that they play Gadget with almost zero exceptions.  On that same note keep a flare in your back pocket for the first Gadget/Conceal.  Killing his gadget and forcing him off of spells the following turn will be extremely hard for your opponent to play through without the perfect mix of creatures.

Don't be afraid to drop a KC on a Farseer early in the game to push an Animal Companion or Undertaker to safety.  Unless his is clogged with 3 drops we likely won't get value out of Hunter's Mark until he starts cycling Drakes.  Since his creature density isn't very high it's fine to use it at almost any point in the game.

Tirion Fordring

Paladin

Optimal keeps on the play:

Undertaker, Webspinner, Leper Gnome, Haunted Creeper, HoundmasterAnimal Companion(with early pressure)

I like this matchup for us because we're focused on punishing the turns that Paladin's think they're safe (1-3).  With their only removal being sweepers and Truesilver we can easily swarm the board early and force them to answer going into turns 5-6.

Aldor Peacekeeperis kind of annoying if it's played on turn 3 on our Companion but you should be able to play through it in most scenarios.

I don't mind playing Loatheb on turn 5 but if you have another 5 drop and you don't need the sweeper protection I would adamantly encourage saving him for a more critical juncture in the game, like turn 8 when we've undoubtedly done some damage and he wants to slam Lay on Hands.

Optimal keeps on the draw:

Undertaker, Webspinner, Haunted Creeper, Animal Companion, Loatheb, Leper Gnome, Houndmaster, Loot Hoarder

Nothing really changes from the play to the draw. We're hellbent on getting damage through early and making his sweepers as awkward as possible.

Be careful where you use Hunter's Mark as Pally's do play a wide variety of high toughness creatures. It may seem tempting to use Hunter's Mark on the Sen'jin Shieldmasta turn 4 when you have board position, just exercise caution. If you have an activated Kill Command use that instead. Don't assume that you will have the same opportunity in a turn or two to get the bonus damage. Always hold one Hunter's Mark back for ] or you will be in a world of trouble.

Closing

As always thanks to all of you for reading and if you have any feedback or questions feel free to ask in the comment section below. They will be responded to.

The matchup analysis should prepare you for the ladder in the next week or two, since it's just full of Hunters, Priests and Warriors at the moment. I'll be back next week with another guide on whatever is looking strong.  Cheers!

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