Hey, guys. It’s RaFive, and today I want to give some special love to those who can’t afford card collections with every legendary under the sun and six epics per deck.
Hearthstone is occasionally accused of being “pay to win”. That’s somewhat true at the professional level — look at any set of tournament decklists, and it’s quickly apparent that getting all the cards for most high-level decks will require an enormous commitment in time or money. In addition to that, substitutability is pretty low; many popular archetypes, like the ever-present Control Warrior, are only viable in forms that are expensive and particularized to craft.
I bring good news for those discouraged by such facts. While you may not win a whole lot of four-deck tournaments with only F2P cards, it’s entirely possible to succeed on ladder with decks that tax your brain, not your pocketbook. The GvG release, so far, hasn’t changed that, which is why I today bring you the latest evolution in ladder cancer: the V-2 Hunter. Named for the device that — no pun intended — launched modern rocketry, I personally know folks playing variants of this list within the NA top 25 as I write.
The next version of Hunter is here, ladies. Bow before your new master.
Premium readers will note that this deck is quite similar to the Hand Grenade Hunter I covered at the end of November, which I’d call — with some small room for teching — a pretty standard Face Hunter list of the sort you could easily pull off Hearthpwn.
The notable differences are:
- Exchanging Arcane Shot for Clockwork Gnome
- Swapping one copy of Unleash the Hounds for a Glaivezooka, and
- Swapping out Arcane Golem for Ogre Brute
Clockwork Gnome merits an include because it’s a turn 1 Deathrattle without a serious downside like that of Zombie Chow. This means a faster, more consistent start for Hunter (plus the occasional marginal benefit off a Spare Part). The extra weapon gives you a little bit of extra damage (plus extra damage or trading potential on an early minion, which will frequently get you out of tight spots). Ogre Brute for Arcane Golem is the most controversial switch. While lacking Charge, Brute doesn’t give your opponent the ability to play big cards earlier and has a much more solid body, plus the ability to unpredictably bypass Taunt and hit face or protected minions like Flametongue Totem.
The other choices are all fairly self-explanatory. Eaglehorn Bow is great value coupled with traps, and Explosive Trap is extra face damage plus some cheap board control. Animal Companion is a undercosted card that frequently provides a Charge minion. Webspinner and Loot Hoarder provide Deathrattles and card draw. Ironbeak Owl provides silence, Charge minions bring fast face damage to the board, and Kill Command provides reach as a finisher or to kill that pesky Sludge Belcher. A single copy of Unleash the Hounds gives you some extra burst and ability to stabilize when behind.
How to Play
There are three keys to success with this deck.
The first is mulligan. While all the best mulligans come from experience rather than rote, it’s safe to say that you won’t do well playing this deck if you don’t mulligan hard for your aggressive 1- and 2-drops. The ideal start is Undertaker + Clockwork Gnome into Mad Scientist into Eaglehorn Bow, but Glaivezooka and Webspinner are perfectly good holds. Throw 3-mana cards back as a general rule (unless you already have an epic curve), since they’re your lategame — such as it is — and you’ll draw into them later.
Having mulligan’d — hit the face. This is not a deck that will carry you through where others run out of steam. You have a number of tremendously powerful cards on a clock for optimum effectiveness, so put your opponent on the clock as well. Generally, you should only trade if you will either get too low on life, or if you seem likely to trade too disadvantageously if you let your opponent make the choices. The subtleties of those interactions come entirely from experience and are honestly one of the big markers for skill in Hearthstone, but the basic idea remains: all else being equal, hit the face and your opponent will crumple more often than not.
In the same vein, the third pillar of success with the V-2 Hunter is to use that hero power as often as possible. Your goal with this deck is to make your opponent’s life points come down as fast as possible, plus your cards are all extremely high-value and your card draw is limited, so pumping the hero power as often as possible from turn 4-5 onward will let you focus your cards on keeping your board optimized while still keeping your opponent on a clock, particularly classes like Shaman and Rogue that are weak on life gain (Antique Healbot and similar measures are too slow and inefficient to be strong against a deck where damage flows this freely).
A final protip: Ogre Brute is magnificent in this deck — he might just be my favorite card in GvG thus far — but he IS unpredictable. Attack with Brute first, as a general rule, so your other minions can do his job if he misses.
Matchups are pretty typical for this type of deck. It’s weak against control (Warrior/Priest/Druid) if you don’t draw silences and/or keep armor down, but it’s extremely strong against midrange and aggressive decks and crushes Handlock. Matchups overall are even or better if your play is canny, with the only significant weakness being against Warrior.
Since this is an F2P-focused article, I’ll to provide some alternatives for those players with incomplete card collections and little spare dust. I’ll note, however, that this list is heavily optimized and substitutions will, generally speaking, make the deck less effective. The only rare card in this entire deck is Eaglehorn Bow
— most players will easily have enough resources to craft this deck by the time they unlock the appropriate Naxxramas wings, if they manage their resources carefully.
If you really want to bring things down as cheaply as possible, you can chuck the bows for second copies of Unleash the Hounds and Glaivezooka. You do need Naxxramas for this deck to work, because of the multiple Naxx minions at the core of this deck’s Deathrattle synergies (Webspinner drawing cards, Mad Scientist playing traps up-tempo, Undertaker as the core early game minion, etc.). Glaivezooka itself is interchangeable with Unleash. Ironbeak Owl can be switched out for Freezing Trap or Hunter's Mark. Unleash the Hounds can be left out in preference of Hunter's Mark or even Arcane Shot. Finally, if Ogre Brute isn’t working out for you, put Arcane Golem in and see how you like the change. I’ll emphasize again, however, that this is a tight, powerful list that works just fine all on its own, and Brute for Golem is the only substitution I would potentially endorse.
Blizzard tried hard to move Hunter toward a more midrange/control archetype in Goblins vs. Gnomes. This deck drops a big, steaming load on those ambitions by proving that the aggressive, cancerous Hunter we’ve come to know and… love (?) is here to stay. I say if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. The power of Hunter is yours to command. Go make some people really mad when you win, as you do your part — I hope! — to build a better metagame.