Weekly Legends: Y'shaarj Hunter
Today, we are taking a trip down memory lane. During the early days of Whispers I took Y'shaarj Hunter to legend in back-to-back months, and it was some of the most fun I've ever had. I don't normally play combo decks, but what makes this one fun is that it is a combo deck that has a lot of different paths to victory. Having an "oops, I win" play is extremely nice, but there is a lot of power peppered throughout this one. That means you can always take a different route if you things go wrong and you know what you're doing. Versatility not only makes this list strong, but it also means you won't get bored (something very important on the ladder). This version of the deck comes from Bragis, who piloted it to rank 1 legend. The list does what it has always done, which is power out an unfair combo. However, if you want to be successful, you have to see beneath the shiny exterior.
Before we begin, it is key to understand how this deck works. The goal of this list is to play Barneson turn four (or as early as you possibly can). Once you do that, the 3/4 will pull a 1/1 Y'Shaarj, Rage Unbound(the only minion in your deck), which then pulls a full-grown Y'shaarj. For those not counting, that's three bodies and 14/15 worth of stats on turn four. Gee. Gee. Not only that, but even if your opponent has an answer for your giant Old God, you still have two other ways to bring the pain. It may not look like it at first glance, but damage is the way you win with this build. Your big combo is plan A, but you are almost always going to switch over to plan B. That is important to note because you never want to get too caught up on only looking for one thing. This deck is not dead without Barnes. Far from it.
Another big part of the combo is the mulligan phase. You want to get to Barnes. Period. For that reason, you should send back every card you see that isn't Barnes or Tracking. That makes the mulligan extremely easy, but it is important to mention that you need to be careful to avoid cards that are going to be "good" in certain battles. Now, there are some special circumstances (which are covered in the mulligan section), but for the most part you want to do everything in your power to get to the four drop. You may have a solid curve filled with numerous answers, but that won't do you much good when you're top decking random spells on turn five. It is much better to stick to the plan.
Hunter's Markis your best removal spell, and you need to use it wisely. Sometimes you are going to easily cruise with this list. Your opponent starts slow, you power out Barnesinto Y'Shaarj, Rage Unboundand call it a game. However, if you want to climb consistently with this build, you need to know how to handle the games where things don't go right. To do that, you need to make good use of your spells. Hunter's Mark is a perfect example of that conservation because it is extremely easy to use wrong. Typically, the one mana spell is going to be saved for a big mid-game threat. However, there are also many situations where you are going to use it on turns two through four to stop an early push or shut down tempo. Those uses are hard to see, but you are not a deck that is ever going to be ahead. You are inherently reactionary, and you need to understand that. Trying to use your spells to push is never going to end well. It also means that just letting a few small minions hit you turn after turn is going to be a complete disaster. This list is not about what feels bad versus what feels good, it is about how much value you can get from each and every spell. If an early mark is going to save you ten damage over three turns, use it. However, if you know there is a big threat coming that you absolutely must deal with, then try to deal with the smaller threats in other ways. This card can also be a good way to pick off small bodies to catch a large threat in a secret.
You need to understand how secret triggers work if you want to pilot this deck correctly. For those that don't know, secrets go off in the order that you play them. That is incredibly important because it can largely affect how much value you get from them. For example, let's say your opponent has a Mistress of Mixturesalongside a Cobalt Scalebaneand you have both Explosive Trapand Freezing Trapin hand. You absolutely need to play explosive first. Why? Because if you don't and your opponent goes in with the mistress, she will get bounced, and then the explosive will go off and leave the scalebane untouched. However, if you play them in the other order, your opponent's mistress dies to explosive and the freezing doesn't trigger. Then, when your opponent attacks with the dragon, it goes back to their hand. These type of situations come up often, and you always need to pause and plan them out before committing your spells.
Besides understanding triggers, you always want to try to run out your secrets where you can get the most value out of them. Most of the two mana spells are going to be strong in very specific situations, but quite weak in others. For instance, Freezing Trapcan be a game winner against big tempo builds, but it is also terrible if your opponent still has Patches the Piratein their deck. The same rule goes for Misdirection(which is also weak against swarm boards). Explosive Trapis only powerful against small boards, and you typically want to set it up early in the game. On the other hand, Cat Trickhas quite a bit of versatility and can be plugged in throughout your curve. Sometimes you're going to just need a secret to get your bow ticks, but most of the time you want to carefully set them up.
You have a lot of powerful cards in this list, but Eaglehorn Bowis a win condition in its own right. There are a lot of secrets here, as noted above, and there is very little weapon removal in the meta. That means a bow can easily survive the entire game. Three damage a turn (five when backed up with Steady Shot) is extremely powerful. Very few decks these days run any sort of healing, which leaves them wide open to constant burn. If you can get the three mana weapon going, you should be able to pressure a lot of lists right out of the game. In addition, this can be a great way to clean up small bodies you don't want running around and messing up your secrets. Damage is always going to be the first mode of the weapon, but there are many uses when it comes to triggering your powerful spells.
Going off of the secret discussion above, you need to have patience when it comes to your bow. There are going to be numerous situations where your opponent is going to refuse to play into a secret. Maybe they don't need to commit a big board, maybe they're waiting for something, or maybe they simply do not want to give you more damage. Either way, understand that situation can (and will) happen. To get around that, you need to build up threats and try your best to push damage. Your opponent may not want to commit, but the more pressure you put on them, the more they are going to fold. As long as you keep squeezing, you should be able to get them to play into you. As a side note, this is the reason Cat Trickis so powerful. Your opponent may hold minions back, but they are almost always going to play spells (and give you an easy trigger).
While this deck no longer has access to eight mana Call of the Wild(R.I.P), it does have access to Deathstalker Rexxaras its second win condition. The Death Knight has proven to be a real player (you will find it in every single top-tier midrange list) and it is a great way to wear down control decks that have a quick answer to your . Your combo is always going to be powerful, but it does get weaker against things like Mage and Priest. The six mana hero does a great job combating that by turning you into a beast-making machine that never runs out of threats. Though you are always going to be shifting through different creations, note that it is important to try and play a beast each and every turn. That means mana cost is typically more important than ability. There will be shifts in that from time to time, but it is a general rule that you want to shape your threats to your mana curve over everything else.
Understand what you're giving up when you transform into Deathstalker Rexxar. It can be easy to get caught up in the death knight's shine, but not all that glitters is gold. The reason I say that is because, while Deathstalker is strong, he also limits your ability to cause damage. That doesn't sound like a big deal, but damage is how you're going to close out a lot of matches when your combo doesn't come together. As a result, you need to have a very good reason to lose Steady Shot. If you're up against a class with limited healing, it is almost always better to hold off on the DK. In fact, you're only going to turn into Deathstalker when you either have very little pressure and no board, or when you're going up against a control deck and you need to generate some extra value. Otherwise, you should stick to your chip shot hero power and use it as much as possible.
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The four decks I see the most while playing the ladder.
Still (barely) at the top, Tempo Rogue is a matchup that you need to play like a tempo deck. That may sound strange, but it just means you want to pace all of Rogue's minions as they come down. Your biggest advantage in this one is going to be your damage. Rogue, like many of the popular decks around, has almost no healing. They have a few taunts, which you need to play around, but for the most part they are going to be wide open to pressure. Bring the pain as much as possible and do everything in your power to keep them off of your back. Rogue is going to build towards their Leeroy Jenkinsfinisher, which you need to work to deny. Always try to keep an Explosive Trapor Freezing Trapout in play to nullify the 6/2 if you can. That is not always going to work, but you never want to leave yourself open if you can avoid it. Understand the ways Rogue can bring the pain, and then react accordingly.
There is a chance that, even with an early Barnes, your opponent has a way to survive with something like a clutch Vilespine Slayer. When that happens, you need to allocate all of your resources into damage. Your hero power is going to do a lot of work in this one, as is Eaglehorn Bow. In addition, should you get certain plays like or Cat Trick, you want to use them to go face almost all of the time. Pacing the board can work if your opponent is extremely low on cards, but more often than not they are going to have ways to stretch out their threats. As a result, you want to go over their head and take them down before they kill you. In addition, note that Misdirectionis extremely powerful here. Nobody plays around the secret and you can hit them hard if you set it up against one big body.
It's control time. Kazakus Priest is a deck that almost always has a way to deal with your combo. That does not mean you don't want to play to it, it just means you need to be ready for a longer match. Deathstalker Rexxaris absolutely your win condition in this game. The Death Knight is the best way to wear down Anduin, and the longer it stays up, the longer you can generate free value. Damage is not going to be easy to come by in this one. Priest's hero power negates yours, and they pack a lot of ways to keep their health up. For that reason, you need to pressure them each and every turn. This game is going to be your most aggressive. You always want to take the opportunity to get in extra hits where you can. That can be burning a double Kill Commandand On the Huntor getting two hounds off of unleash. Those plays are not intuitive, but they do enough to keep your opponent on their toes.
Your best card in this game is Eaglehorn Bow. Almost no Priest decks are packing weapon removal, and they have very little taunts. That means the weapon gives you a great way to repeatedly hit them over and over again without sacrificing too much. In fact, bow is the main way you're going to push your opponent back and get them to burn cards. Realistically, you won't be able to out pace Shadowreaper Anduin. You just aren't built to handle giants swaths of damage. This game does not need to be over around turn eight, but you do want to get your opponent down below ten at that point. Once they give up their healing power, you then want to go after them with everything you have.
Warlock still continues to run rampant at all different parts of the ladder. This is a game where you want to try your best to chip your opponent down. The goal is to kill as many minions as you can, while also stacking up damage. Getting chunks of damage can be difficult in some matchups, but against Zoo's self-bleeding plan it is quite easy. Go face whenever you have a chance to, but also don't be too aggressive with your damage. Zoo does not have many ways to buff health. However, they do have a ton of ways to take over a board. If you try to push past them without having the proper backup, then you can easily crumble. Rather than depending on your opponent to have a bad draw, you need to step up and remove everything you see. As always, watch out for a turn ten Bloodreaver Gul'dan. The DK is brutal and there is nothing in this deck (nothing) that is going to be able to tango with it. The healing is almost always going to be too much.
The two best cards in this matchup are Explosive Trapand Unleash the Hounds. Zoo has some bigger threats to throw around, but for the most part they are going to depend on swarms to take the day. For that reason, you want to do everything in your power to punish them for flooding the board. Explosive Trap is fantastic in a lot of situations because it can negate damage and completely set your opponent back. While hounds can do the same thing in terms of AOE, the three mana spell is particularly strong when trying to find damage. If your opponent pushes out a big board with no taunts, don't be afraid to make the 1/1's and point them at face. You could also throw a Kill Commandin as well. One last note for this game is that Deathstalker Rexxar's battlecry can come up in numerous situations. Though you're almost always going to want Steady Shot over build- a-beast, getting that AOE can save you from time to time.
Jade Druid is rapidly becoming one of the most popular decks on the ladder. Not only does it have its never-ending army of huge threats, but it also comes with some incredible support spells. The rule of this game is going to be simple: kill your opponent before turn ten. Ultimate Infestationhurts a lot of decks, but it creates absolute havoc for you. The five health cripples your finishing damage, and the cards your opponent draws are going to be filled with even more healing and taunts. For those reasons, this game should largely be over by turn ten. Use your spells to generate value, go hard with Eaglehorn Bow, and get a lot of use out of Cat Trick. The two mana spell is often just going to translate to four damage, but Druid has a ton of spells, which makes it easy to proc. Every single hit counts in this one, and getting to go face with a beast is important. Just be careful if you start to build up a big board and watch out for Spreading Plagueat all costs. The six mana spell can lock out a bow for good. Also note that if you can't get an early push, or if your opponent is simply ramping too quickly, you should not hold back from shifting to Deathstalker Rexxar. Yes, Druid is not technically a control deck, but they operate like one a lot of the time. The gigantic threats you can build with deathstalker are going to give them absolute fits.
The way you mulligan with this deck, as covered, is to look for either Barnesor Tracking(to get Barnes). You want to throw away every card in your hand that aren't one of those two. Now, that being said, there are a few exceptions to that above rule. Explosive Trapis extremely powerful against swarm decks, and can be a good keep if you also have the coin. I like Flarewhen fighting against Mage (and only Mage), and Eaglehorn Bowcan be a strong keep against decks that don't have too many ways to handle it. Deathstalker Rexxaris also a card I like against Priest because in that matchup he is more powerful than Barnes. Just note than you should never keep two non-Barnes, non-Tracking cards if you can afford it.
Even after all this time, this is a great deck. I loved Y'shaarj Hunter from the first minute I played it, and I continue to love it well into KFT. There is just something pure about only running spells that you truly don't get with any other list. This deck may feel a bit unfair or swingy at times, but there truly is a nice flow to how this one plays. Some games are going to be tough, others will be a fight, but that's what makes this one so interesting. Still strong after more than a year. Until next time, may you always put on a show.