Hello hello, it’s me Fireflyer again and today I want to do a little thinking out loud discussion where we look at the current Hunter viability in the meta. As of right now, Hunter is one of the least played classes and it’s partly due to the fact that they didn’t receive anything new in Mean Streets of Gadgetzan that really helped out their arsenal of cards. We’ll discuss Hunter’s hero power, the Hunter specific class cards, and then take a look at two decks that are viable in the format, the last Hunter decklist to be competitive, Secret Face Hunter, and a new decklist from a Redditor who was able to get up to Rank 5 with a 60% win rate which is close to being enough to hit Legend, a Reno N’Zoth Hunter deck.
This discussion should hopefully help you out if you’re in the process of playing a Hunter deck or planning on building one. Let’s get to it!
Hero Power Overview
To start our discussion we have to look at one of the obvious traits that makes Hunter different from every other class and that is the Hunter’s hero power: Steady Shot. The best decks are able to work well with their hero power, take for example Shaman and its ability to cast Thing From Below for super cheap if they’ve been using their hero power. The Priest hero power is used with high health minions that have Taunt like Twilight Guardian or Wyrmrest Agent, while the Mage hero power can help finish off minions that their board wipe spells such as Flamestrike or Flamewaker leave behind.
So what kinds of effects work well with Steady Shot?
Sadly this is what limits people from perceiving Hunter being a versatile class. Unless you’re using Steamwheedle Sniper your only option with your hero power is to go face and that limits most Hunter decks to do one thing: Go face. Hunters are thought of as only doing one thing, attacking and dealing damage to the face but what people don’t realize is that the Hunter hero power is also great for a control deck. When Yogg-Saron, Hope's End was really popular I played a Yogg deck that ran 28 spells, King's Elekk and Yogg-Saron, Hope's End. It was a control deck that could create a few strong minions with Animal Companion and Call of the Wild but it mostly controlled the board and would slowly pick away at my opponent with my hero power until they just died to it. Hunter’s sustained damage with the hero power is not only an aggressive style of deck, but also works well in control as a way of dealing damage without using cards to deal damage, your cards can focus 100% on dealing with the board while your hero power just picks and picks until they’re down to like 10 and die from Kill Command + 1 minion.
If you’re thinking about making a hunter deck don’t just aim at dropping fast minions and dealing damage, Hunter can surprise a lot of matchups by ending up as a control deck rather than the typical Face Hunter. Confusing your opponent by playing an unorthodox deck is a really easy way to get an upper hand and lots of players who are just used to the same decks over and over again won’t know how to handle you.
Hunter Cards Overview
The other thing that differentiates Hunter from other classes are the Hunter-specific cards. Let’s split them up into Spells and Minions and go over the main idea of how a Hunter deck should be built.
Spells – Traps, Damage and Minion Creation
The majority of the spells that Hunter has access to can be split into four categories, there are the Traps which are control based with a little bit of aggressiveness if used right, there are the Damage spells which either can deal a lot of damage to the face aggressively or controls the board by killing minions, the Minion Creation spells like Unleash the Hounds, Animal Companion and Call of the Wild which can create minions while also being a spell instead of a minion card for things like Yogg and Barnes, and with the addition of Mean Streets of Gadgetzan we have the Grimy Goons “minion buff” cards which I believe is why Hunter hasn’t received much of an update with the new expansion.
The Grimy Goons Hunter spells currently just feel underpowered. Besides making funny videos where you use charge minions and lots of hand buff cards, they are just too slow and unreliable in the current meta to perform properly. Although we got a new expansion, Hunter has pretty much stayed mostly the same except for a few new cards that don’t rely too much on the buffs such as Rat Pack which is fine how it is. The spells that Hunter received in the set, Smuggler's Crate and Hidden Cache are just too slow in the meta and by the time you even use it on a minion to make it huge, there are too many easy ways for control decks to deal with it. For now, the Grimy Goon Hunter cards should be avoided.
The Minion Creation spells work really well in archetypes that focus on spells or a lack of minions, like Yogg-Saron, Hope's End and Barnes. Those two cards have been themes in decks prior to Mean Streets of Gadgetzan and even with the Yogg nerf he’s still a powerful card to play after you’ve been dropping Traps, summoning minions and controlling the board.
The Damage spells work well in both aggressive decks where you attack quickly and deal damage to their face and also in control decks where you use the spells to target minions and keep the board clear to control the game. The only thing Hunter severely lacks is a true board wipe in case there are a lot of big minions which forces Hunter to use a lot of spells to compensate for the lack of a board wipe such as Twisting Nether or Dragonfire Potion. Hunter also lacks a way of removing a single giant minion such as an Edwin VanCleef except for Hunter's Mark or Deadly Shot since Hunter's Mark also requires you to have a minion or spell to sacrifice, and Deadly Shot requires you to have an open field or to get lucky. Besides those two, you can also rely on Freezing Trap to stall for time. This is important to keep in mind since Miracle Rogue is currently a commonly used deck in the meta if you’re climbing ranks.
The Trap spells are really the only thing that makes Hunter unique in a way. Besides the Damage and a few Minion Creation spells which are pretty common across classes, Hunter is unique with its Traps since it has things that work really well with them unlike Mage and Paladin. Secretkeeper, Eaglehorn Bow and Cloaked Huntress have some extremely good synergy with Hunter’s 2-mana cost Traps that are really effective for their costs. The last competitive decklist for Hunter revolved around Traps and being aggressive with Eaglehorn Bow. Cloaked Huntress allows you to drop your hand quickly and get a really aggressive start while your Secretkeeper gets huge and starts chipping away at your opponent. The decklist in the section after this is the latest build of Trap Hunter, which takes out Secretkeeper but puts in Y'Shaarj, Rage Unbound and Barnes for a more lategame viable build instead of an aggressive deck that gases itself out early.
Minions – Beasts and Deathrattle
The minions are pretty simple and can be split into two categories, you either have some sort of Beast synergy or an awesome Deathrattle effect, which are mostly on Beasts anyways. Hunter has some of the best early game minions with things like Webspinner, Fiery Bat, Kindly Grandmother, King's Elekk and Rat Pack, all of which are great for their mana cost and have an extra effect on top of it. Hunter minions curve out real well and because of their Deathrattle, you don’t even worry when they die. Also because of the Deathrattle, Hunter has become the prime source for a card we know as Barnes with his ability to pull crazy things like Savannah Highmane and just give you a huge boost in the game.
The Beast minions only have a few synergies with other cards themselves, but most of the good minions just happen to also be Beasts. There are only a few cards like Timber Wolf that directly effect other beasts but one major one is Houndmaster because of how it gives you great survivability while also forcing your opponent to kill one of your Deathrattle Beasts. Other than that, Beasts aren’t really a big focus as a requirement in Hunter decks, they just happen to have lots of Beasts anyways.
The Deathrattle minions are probably the only things that make Hunter minions unique, a lot of them want to die. In other aggressive decks like Shaman and Rogue, when your minions die to spells you end up just evenly trading but with Hunter, the extra effect is usually what gives you the advantage against control decks. Even if you kill my Infested Wolf the remaining minions are going to continue to attack and be aggressive. Because of the importance and quality of the Deathrattle minions in Hunter, the new current meta for Hunters might shift to a N'Zoth, the Corruptor style of decklist rather than the aggressive Trap decklist.
Hunter’s Last Decklist: Secret Hunter
Secret Trap Hunter
Neutral Cards (2)
Y’Shaarj, Rage Unbound
The last viable decklist to come around was back in 2016 when One Night in Karazhan was released and gave hunter some REALLY powerful cards. Kindly Grandmother became a common card in decks because of its Deathrattle effect while Cat Trick and Cloaked Huntress really helped out Secret/Trap Hunter become a more viable strategy. In it’s current time, it was one of the fastest and most aggressive decks with the ability to drop your entire hand by Turn 3 but with the addition of the new Pirates in Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, it’s no longer as fast or effective as all of the aggressive Pirate decks.
I believe it’s still a somewhat viable deck so let’s take a quick look at what Hunter used to be.
Cloaked Huntress: The main component that makes this Secret Trap Hunter deck work. This card allows you to drop all your Traps at once and gain a HUGE momentum swing in the match.
Barnes: I love Barnes in these types of Hunter decks because you can really limit the outcome of his ability and get some crazy stuff. In this case, your options are either Cloaked Huntress which lets you play all your Traps for free that turn, Savannah Highmane which basically gives you a total of 8/9 for 4 mana (3/4 + 1/1 + 2/2 + 2/2) or Y'Shaarj, Rage Unbound which will pull ANOTHER minion out of your deck or the most insane combo, himself, a free 10/10 on Turn 3/4.
Savannah Highmane: One of Hunter’s best minions. The current issue with this card is that it’s easily stopped with Hex, Sap, Polymorph and Entomb. If it wasn’t for how well it combos with Barnes and Y'Shaarj, Rage Unbound I doubt it would be used.
Y'Shaarj, Rage Unbound: Risky card to play. If you ever get it in your hand you’re basically holding a dead card that you won’t even want to play on Turn 10 in most situations. But if you can get it out with Barnes the momentum is just so insane that your opponent will have a hard time catching back up with you. I personally love the Barnes + Y'Shaarj, Rage Unbound combo so I’d advise giving it a try yourself.
Bear Trap, Cat Trick, Explosive Trap, Freezing Trap, Snake Trap: This is your basic list of traps that you run to keep your opponent guessing. If you feel like being sneaky Snipe is a good alternative and Misdirection is a fun card to throw in if you dislike one of the other traps.
Hunter's Mark: Although not a “Damage Spell” exactly, this card is so good in the current meta because of Questing Adventurer and Edwin VanCleef. Some of the Priest Dragons are also huge in health and this card will help keep you going aggressive.
Quick Shot and Kill Command: Your basic damage or control cards. Use them if you need to against annoying minions but most of the time it’s best to save them to try and finish your opponent off, especially with Kill Command.
Eaglehorn Bow: Another great card that has good synergy with Traps, this weapon will allow you to attack multiple times and keep refreshing the durability with Traps. Problem is, this might actually be one of the weaknesses of this deck currently. Before, you could get off 4-5 attacks with this weapon but because of the current Pirate meta there are a lot of anti-weapon cards being used such as Taunts or Weapon Destruction such as Acidic Swamp Ooze being run in almost every Reno Priest/Mage/Warlock deck. The effectiveness of this card has gone down a lot since the new Pirates began to run Gadgetzan.
Tracking: Just a helpful card that filters your deck and finds the cards you need to keep being fast and aggressive.
Animal Companion and Unleash the Hounds: Our Minion Creation spells that allow this deck to still have minions while only running 6 minion cards. This helps streamline the deck so you can use Barnes more effectively.
As you can see, due to the changes in the meta this deck has a lot of issues that it wasn’t facing back before Mean Streets of Gadgetzan came out. With the focus on things like weapon destruction, and the popularity of Reno decks, a blindly aggressive Hunter deck that drops its hand on Turn 3 just isn’t that effective anymore. Even in terms of aggression it’s not even the best, with Pirates still being able to outdamage it.
So where does that leave Hunter in the current meta?
New Age Hunter
Reno N'Zoth Hunter
In the search for a new viable Hunter deck in the current meta, I came across Reddit user Gurnooky and his guide on how he got to Rank 5 by playing a 60% win rate Reno N’Zoth Hunter deck. 60-65% win rate is about what you need to reach Legend if you can get a good streak through the last few Ranks, so I think with enough time this might be a deck that could be used to climb the ranks if you really want to play a Hunter deck. I played it myself and had a lot of fun, having a ~60% win rate myself and jumping me from Rank 10 to Rank 8 in just a few hours.
The deck focuses on two major ideas: Reno Jackson and N'Zoth, the Corruptor. Even though we’re not a Kabal class we still have access to Reno Jackson which gives us the ability to full heal in a match against a lot of the aggressive decks. Against aggro, we can use our spells to stall the game and come back with a surprising Reno Jackson heal which is very unexpected in a Hunter deck. Against control, we have N'Zoth, the Corruptor which allows us to drop our good Deathrattle minions and get them killed by control spells, only to have them all come back later on in the game in a giant wave. Because of these two ideas we have two safe methods of battling the two main decks in the current meta, Shaman/Warrior/Rogue Pirate Aggro and Priest/Mage/Warlock Reno.
The full decklist is displayed on the right but let’s do a quick review of the decklist and see how a Control Hunter deck is built.
Mistress of Mixtures: A great card for most control decks, it’s an early game minion that doesn’t really hurt you since it will usually heal your opponent for 0 life by trading early with a minion rather than attacking. It’s used in most Reno decks because of this and there’s no surprise that it’s being used in this version.
Huge Toad: A powerful 2-drop that will trade with pretty much anything while also having a little bit of a luck shot with the random 1 damage you can deal. Good just to curve with and trade and also comes back with N'Zoth, the Corruptor.
Kindly Grandmother: Early game minion that trades well and becomes an even bigger minion when it dies. Play it early and trade.
Loot Hoarder: Hunter lacks card draw so this is a way to filter through the deck while also having a slight bit of damage/aggression and also a useful Deathrattle to get back with N’Zoth. Could be replaced if there is a better card draw option but for Hunter there isn’t much.
Rat Pack: The new addition to Hunter which works as a beefier Haunted Creeper. Every once in awhile you will get a boost to its damage and create more 1/1s but it’s pretty much fine just how it is.
Infested Tauren: One of my favorite pieces for an N'Zoth, the Corruptor deck, this Taunt minion helps a lot against Pirate aggro and gives you an extra Taunt when it comes back to life. Also a great target for Barnes since you get a 1/1 Taunt and a 2/2 after.
Infested Wolf: Another one of Hunter’s great Deathrattle beasts, an even bigger Haunted Creeper than Rat Pack. Good to stay aggressive on curve and have extra minions to trade with after it dies.
Savannah Highmane: One of Hunter’s best minions, big and strong for its cost and leaves behind really annoying minions even when it dies. Perfect Deathrattle effect for N’Zoth and Barnes to abuse.
Sylvanas Windrunner: A great control card that can also be aggressive because of how big she is for her mana cost. Best to be traded early so she doesn’t get Hex‘d since it will break her from being revived with N'Zoth, the Corruptor. Make sure she dies!
N'Zoth, the Corruptor: The King of Deathrattles. He will win you so many games just by bringing an entire field of minions back to life, minions that you don’t even care about dying if your opponent does something like Twisting Nether. All of the Deathrattle effects alone will make him worth playing.
Sir Finley Mrrgglton: Finley is basically used to do the opposite of what Shaman and Warrior use him for, to get away from dealing face damage. Take effects like Warlock or even Priest to control the game and outlive your opponent until you can N'Zoth, the Corruptor. Use this as a control card and using it on Turn 1 is amazing.
Doomsayer: One of the best neutral control cards, use it early against aggro to shut down their early game and open up a turn for you to play Deathrattle minions. Try to use it early since Dirty Rat is pretty commonly used right now and getting it pulled from your hand on to your minions is very dangerous.
Grimestreet Informant: Great Discover card that lets you pick from a lot of options. I’ve found all sorts of great stuff off of this guy and Deathrattle effects are the most important. (Yes I’m talking to you, Tirion Fordring.)
King's Elekk: Just a useful early game minion that will sometimes draw you into a minion, especially something like N'Zoth, the Corruptor or Deathwing. This will give away your tricks though so just remember that they see what you draw.
Barnes: Love this guy in Hunter decks, especially with Deathrattle minions. Cast him early, cross your fingers, hope you get something good.
Azure Drake: It’s hard not to run this card in every deck. It’s a big body minion that avoids most kill spells, it draws you a free card, it’s a dragon for stuff like The Curator and also gives you spell damage. One of the best neutral cards.
Reno Jackson: The King of Anti-Aggro. If you’re up against Pirates, all you need is to make it to playing Reno Jackson and you pretty much win. Resetting the game and putting you to 30 life is too much against most of the aggro Pirates right now. If you’re against aggro, mulligan hard for this guy.
The Curator: Draws you a lot of minions from your deck, Sir Finley Mrrgglton for your Murloc, lots of Beasts, and Deathwing or Azure Drake for your Dragon. Also a big Taunt minion to save you from damage against aggro, great addition for this deck.
Deathwing: This is a sneaky finisher for the deck, you don’t want to play it too early and get it controlled but it’s a great ending when you are against a control deck and you both start using up a lot of your cards. Save it in your hand and cast it late when you think your opponent has used up all their good removal.
Eaglehorn Bow: Not as effective as it is in the normal Trap Hunter deck since this deck has a lack of traps, so don’t worry about trying to trigger the extra Durability since more than likely it’ll get destroyed anyways. Use it as removal.
Gladiator's Longbow: I was iffy about this card but after using it, it turns out it’s quite nice in this meta. There are a lot of high health minions in control decks that are annoying and this will let you handle them without taking damage. Also great to finish off your opponent but is best used to control the board.
Arcane Shot: I love this card because it’s the perfect Turn 1 counter against Small-time Buccaneer. Great against aggro, use it early to stop a lot of incoming damage.
Hunter's Mark: Like I said above for the Trap Hunter deck, this card is amazing right now against Edwin VanCleef and Questing Adventurer which are two cards that get REALLY big and become difficult for decks to kill.
Explosive Trap: Pretty basic Trap used against aggro to wipe their field. Most aggressive decks will see this coming and try to play around it so keep that in mind, it doesn’t always work how you want it to.
Freezing Trap: Great control card that can stall aggro decks and get you to the later turns so you can heal up with Reno Jackson or just control the game at that point.
Quick Shot: Basic damage spell, you will rarely ever get to draw a card off of it so don’t save it, play it early against aggro and use it to get to the later turns.
Deadly Shot: Awesome kill spell for things like Edwin VanCleef as long as you have control of the field. Because of this card it’s important to keep your enemies minions to a minimum so you don’t have to rely on getting lucky.
Powershot: Perfect card vs aggro right now, it clears most Pirate targets and hits multiple enemies for a low cost. One of my favorite spells because of how well it handles Pirates.
Animal Companion: Creates powerful minions for low cost and isn’t a minion card so Barnes avoids it. Just a great card since all of the minions it makes are pretty good, even Leokk which can make Rat Pack drop 1 more Rat when it dies.
Call of the Wild: Powerful card that will give you an army out of nowhere and pump your minions in play. Can be used as a finisher or just a distraction for your opponent to handle while you trade your 5/2 Charge with something or start to deal damage to their face. Wish it was still 8 mana but even at 9 mana it’s a strong card.
I’ve been having a lot of fun with this deck. It handles aggro very well, only losing when I don’t get Reno Jackson or some early removal. It handles control very well, dropping powerful minions that are hard to handle since they die and still do their job. It’s interesting playing a Reno Jackson deck with an aggressive class and most opponents don’t know how to fight against it. I jumped 2 ranks just trying this deck out and I’m still playing it now with around a 60% win rate.
Conclusion: Hunter Evolution
In my conclusion, I think Hunter needs to change from the typical “Face” approach that it has had over the years. Instead of viewing Hunter as just an aggressive deck we need to realize that there are lots of control potentials for Hunter. My prediction is that Hunter needs to evolve into things like this Reno N’Zoth deck, abusing Hunter’s powerful Deathrattle minions and using its spells to control the board rather than deal damage directly to your opponent’s face.
Try out this Reno N’Zoth Hunter deck and make some tweaks of your own. There are a lot of options available right now for Reno decks, even things like Dirty Rat could find a place in this decklist. Pick and choose what works for you, make your tweaks, and see how a Hunter control deck works out for you.
Well those are my thoughts on the current issues with Hunter, I hope my thought process wasn’t that hard to follow and I hope this will help you work on your current Hunter deck of choice. I’m currently not streaming until I move into my new house in a month, but you can always follow me on Twitter @HS_Fireflyer and stay tuned to when I make my triumphant return to hearthstone and Arena. Also keep an eye out for my biweekly article called the “Best of Reddit” where I compile a list of the best Twitch clips from the past 2 weeks that have appeared on Reddit, currently Best of Reddit Vol. 1 is out so go check that out and I will actually be dropping Vol. 2 tomorrow so keep an eye out for that!
Leave me some love and let me know in the comment section below what your thoughts on the current Hunter meta is, what decks are you using, why do you think Hunter is not being played in the high ranks and tell me what you think about Gurnooky‘s Reno N’Zoth Hunter decklist. I do my best at replying to everyone who comments so if you have any questions don’t be afraid to ask. Thanks for reading!