While not as popular as it once was, Midrange Hunter is still fairly common on ladder. It is the most common Hunter build and the deck you are going to face when going up against Rexxar. As a result, no matter what deck you are climbing with you want to at least have the Hunter in mind. All decks have a purpose and knowing how to beat each one will give you countless insight into your own deck. This guide will help with that by taking a look at how Zoo, with its sticky minions and quick burst potential, managed to take down Midrange Hunter.
The current state of Zoo enables you to play the deck in many different ways. There are the more aggressive lists that look for damage over board control, the swarm lists that focus on getting a ton of minions, or the more mid-range builds that top out with a bunch of larger minions like Dr. Boom or Sylvanas Windrunner. It does not matter which version you want to play, as each has its strengths and its weaknesses. Just play the version that best suits your specific playstyle. That is always important in Hearthstone, as you never want to pick up a deck that you don’t fully understand. To help you with that here, three different builds of Zoo have been linked below.
When going against Midrange Hunter you want power more than pressure. What that means is, don’t be afraid to take slower curves or higher-cost minions. While you never want to keep your four or five drops on their own, if you have a curve coming before them they are going to carry a lot of weight. The reason for this is that Hunter often starts to take control during the mid-game. However, if you can utilize your three and four drops you will often be able to meet them when their real threats start dropping. Of course, you want to do your best to come out of the gates fast, but just know there are some hands you can keep that you normally wouldn’t. However, do realize that the rule only applies if you have the coin.
Cards to KeepFlame Imp Abusive Sergeant Voidwalker Dark Peddler Dire Wolf Alpha Haunted Creeper Nerubian Egg Imp Gang Boss
Power Overwhelming should always be kept alongside a strong opening curve.
Knife Juggler can be kept alongside other early minions but is usually not strong enough to keep on its own.
Imp-losion can only be kept with the coin and if you have early drops to go along with it.
Defender of Argus can be kept with the coin and an early curve before it.
How to Win
The best way to take down Midrange Hunter is to make sure you are doing (or threatening) more damage than they are. That may seem extremely obvious, but it is a bit more complicated than many think. While doing damage to the face or having a lot of minions on board is great for stacking up pressure, you can also threaten with your curve. For instance, if a Hunter or Secret Paladin has a strong turn five play, you have to clear it out of fear of Savannah Highmane or Mysterious Challenger. You can do the exact same thing, forcing Hunter to react to you out of fear of surprise damage from Abusive Sergeant or Power Overwhelming.
The board is always important when playing Zoo, but it is more important in this matchup than in any other. The reason being that, while you can recover against some decks, Hunter has the ability to ignore the board once they get ahead and just start pushing for face. You need to stop that from happening, because they simply have too many ways to get lethal, especially when that damage is combined with Lifetap. Never be afraid of using multiple resources to clear if it means you will have something on board and they won’t.
A big part of this matchup is thinking one, two or three turns into the future. Hunter has a lot of different cards at their disposal, but they can only play certain things on certain turns. You will always know that turn two is most likely going to be a Mad Scientist or Haunted Creeper, turn three is Animal Companion or Eaglehorn Bow, four is Piloted Shredder etc. If you understand the way their curve works you can know when it is right to use cards like Power Overwhelming and Imp-losion and when it is best to save them and just add more to the board.
Early Game Strategy
The first turns of the game are most often going to be dictated by you. Hunter’s large threats don’t start dropping until the middle of the game, and you can out value their early drops all day long. Just spend most of these turns clearing, only putting through pressure when you have an opening. You want to force your opponent to react to you through board control, not direct damage.
Play around early secrets. It is very hard to accurately predict what Hunter is going to be using these days, but Bear Trap and Snake Trap are both quite popular. If you trigger the wrong one you can be in a lot of trouble. Always think about what a trap could be, and then take the time to test for it so you are not caught off guard. Shutting down secrets is so important you should Ironbeak Owl a Mad Scientist on site.
If you have Knife Juggler early on always try to set it up with triggers. Breaking a Haunted Creeper is the best way to do, but there are plenty early minions that die to (or get finished off by) one damage. Even getting one juggler can be really important.
Your best early threat is Imp Gang Boss. You almost always want to play this on curve unless you absolutely need to get another minion down. This card trades extremely well, eats most of Hunter’s early minions and gives you a constant source of buff targets. This card is so strong that it is usually right to coin it out turn two over playing a one drop on turn one.
You control the early turns, but the middle belongs to whoever has the board on turns four and five. A big part of this is going to be who set up their early plays. However, as stated earlier, Hunter builds really well. You want to control the game primarily so you have answers to things like Savannah Highmane and Dr. Boom. Because of that, always try and save at least one Power Overwhelming for this part of the game.
A big thing to watch out for/be aware of is Knife Juggler/Unleash the Hounds. This combo will absolutely destroy you if you aren’t careful. Not only is it AOE that also that fills their board, but you have no answer to it. Always try to keep the number of minions you have low unless you have already played a Defender of Argus.
Your best card in this matchup is Defender or Argus. It can solidify the board when you’re ahead in a race, keep Hunter off of face damage and also enables you to turn on your deathrattle minions. If you have a chance to play this with two minions, you most often should. That goes double when you are in a race. Just know that a lot of Hunters run Ironbeak Owl, so don’t always rely on this to keep you alive.
Late Game Strategy
The end of the game is usually going to be a mix of your fighting for board control while also doing everything you can to keep your life above lethal range. This is a two war front that often does not bode well for you. Usually you want to end the game around turn six or seven though sheer damage or overwhelming board presence. The longer this match goes the more it falls into the Hunter’s favor because it allows them to draw more damage and big threats.
Just like any other Hunter game, you need to be constantly aware of your life total. Always, always count their removal and understand how much burn they have left in their deck. That thinking, combined with a proper assessment of the board, will let you know when to trade, when to go face, and when it is ok to Lifetap.
Anytime you can play Dr. Boom or Sea Giant and you aren’t at critically low life, you should. Hunter has a large problem dealing with gigantic threats, and even one hit from either of those large minions. However, do note that Hunter’s Mark sees play in most lists these days. Bait it out earlier in the matchup if you can, but don’t play around it by holding back.
If you run it, be aware of how strong Doomguard can be when clearing or setting up extra pressure. A lot of people hold the demon in their hand for fear of its battlecry. While in some cases that is correct, in a matchup like this one where you often need to remove a large threat or just hit to force their hand you need to be more liberal.