Introduction


Greetings, travelers, and welcome to the newest installment of the ”Definitive Guide To” series and the second part of the 9 part mini series where I will be covering each out of 9 Hearthstone classes.  Last week I’ve covered all things regarding the warrior class and this week I’ll be going over hunter. Why hunter? I’ve though about covering warlock this week but warlock has been so dominant on the ladder lately, both standard and wild, and I can’t really talk about warlock without mentioning Reno decks and I’ve covered them to such an extend that doing that again would be literally me beating up a dead horse. Since hunter hasn’t been seeing much play lately and since this is a class that went through more changes than any other Hearthstone class I’ve thought that it would be a much better choice than warlock. Don’t worry, warlock will get its article as well, I just want to cover some other classes first before diving into it.

Sit back, relax, and let’s dive right into this!

:)

Hunter 101


As always, this guide will be divided into three sections. The first section, this one, will cover the basics behind the hunter class including a brief history of the class and the cards and in which directions can you take hunter decks. If you’re looking for a more in depth analysis and/or decks and are not interested in these very basics then feel free to skip ahead to the next section where you’ll probably find what you’re looking for.

History

Hunter was one of the first classes that I’ve played in Hearthstone. I’ve talked briefly about what was the game like when I’ve started playing it and I did mention that control warrior was the dominant deck back then but because control warrior was expensive the other side of the coin was the face hunter deck and that deck, the old aggro hunter, was an incredibly powerful deck to play, but there was a very strong beast hunter deck which was dominant even before I’ve began playing the game.

One card that has changed the most through the history of Hearthstone is Unleash the Hounds

. For those of you who, like me, haven’t been around during the very early pre open beta stages of the game, Unleash the Hounds
had a very different effect that the one it has now. Originally what this card had said that was ”Give all your friendly beasts +1 attack and they gain charge” but the effect was proven to be way too powerful because it had allowed for some very easy 1 turn combo kills. The card text was later changed into the same one that we have now but the mana cost was upped to 4 which made the card very unplayable at that time. At the point when I began to play Hearthstone the cost of Unleash the Hounds
was dropped from 4 mana to 2 mana which made it one of the most broken spells in the entire game. The reason for this is that another card, Starving Buzzard
, didn’t cost 5 mana back then but 3 mana instead and it had the same effect so you could just refill your hand for 5 mana with the Unleash the Hounds
and Starving Buzzard
. Not long after I’ve started playing was Unleash the Hounds
nerfed into the version that we know today.

However, the change to Unleash the Hounds

wasn’t enough to phase out the aggro hunter deck because it still had the Starving Buzzard
combo. Nothing was done about the combo for a very long time as the development team was busy creating the first Hearthstone adventure, Curse of Naxxramas, and with it came the golden age of deathrattle hunter. You’ve all heard the horror stories about the pre-nerf Undertaker
hunter and, for those of you who haven’t been around back then, I assure you that all of the stories that you’ve heard were completely true. The old Undertaker
had the exact same stats as its current version but instead of getting +1 attack whenever you summon a minion with deathrattle it got +1/+1 instead which used to snowball so quickly that most games against this deck were decided by turn 3. Shortly after the release of Curse of Naxxramas there was an immediate card nerf but not the nerf that we have all expected. Instead of dealing with the obvious rising problem with Undertaker
the developers have instead nerfed 
from the weapon getting +1 durability when a secret was triggered to the weapon getting +1 durability when your secret was triggered. The reign of the Undertaker
 had lasted from July of 2014 to January of 2015. At its peak the Undertaker
hunter made up for 40% of the entire ladder.

After the Undertaker

nerf we’ve all expected the hunter to just go away already but a new deck quickly rose to power. Midrange hunter with Savannah Highmane
as the main star of the deck. I’ve personally found this an interesting scenario because Savannah Highmane
has been in the game since forever and no one had thought about using it or even trying a midrange hunter deck because the aggro decks were simply to good for the players to even give the midrange deck a chance. Midrange hunter had quickly become one of the most played decks on the ladder and while it wasn’t nearly as powerful as the two aggro decks that came before it it certainly did manage to carry its own weight and it had helped hunter remain relevant. There was even an ongoing meme back then, I think that Amaz had started it, that is Savannah Highmane
manages to hit your opponent in the face at least once it is gg because the card was that powerful.

Hunter decks had remained largely unchanged for most of the time. There was once again a sudden rise in aggro hunter but it all came to an end with the introduction of the standard format. Because Leper Gnome

and Arcane Golem
were nerfed many had suspected that hunter will take a step back and make room for other classes but nope, what we got with Whispers Of The Old Gods was a new card called Call of the Wild
which made midrange hunter a tier 1 deck. There was a very long period when one would encounter either aggro shaman or midrange hunter on the standard ladder. The card was simply too effective and luckily the developers have taken action and the card was nerfed from costing 8 mana to 9 mana. At first glance it may not seem like a big deal to some players but the increase in cost had killed the card and it hasn’t been seeing much play ever since.

This leaves us with the latest successful hunter deck. At some point after the release of One Night In Karazhan a new type of hunter deck was created: secret hunter. The deck was made possible thanks to Cloaked Huntress

which has amazing interaction with secrets and while it is not Mysterious Challenger
it was good enough to have an entirely new deck archetype built around her. This deck had rose in popularity after the Call of the Wild
nerf and it was actually a tier 1 deck, just below midrange shaman in ladder presence, ever since that nerf and all the way up to the release of Mean Streets Of Gadgetzan in December. After that the deck had fallen from grace, much like the hunter class, and remains nowhere to be seen.

Although hunter is one of the three Grimmy Goons classes it had unfortunately found no success on the ladder because the metagame had become way too fast for it and the new cards that it had received just couldn’t compete with the pirate and Reno package. The lead game designer, Ben Brode, had stated that he believes that both hunter and paladin will see more play once the metagame slows down but, then again, we’ve been waiting for the metagame to slow down for years. Hopefully hunter will get some better cards in April.

This leaves us at the present day.

Pros And Cons Of Hunter

Why would you play hunter? In truth, there are multiple different hunter deck out there but instead of focusing on each and every one of them I’m going to give you my opinion on the pros and cons of the class as a whole. Things that you need to know before you jump in and start making your own hunter deck. The following is the same for both formats, standard and wild.

Pros

Very Simple Gameplay: Hunter is a class that uses aggression to heavily punish its opponents for making mistakes. Because of this there are many hunter cards that deal direct damage and even its hero power deals the most damage out of all hero powers. Due to this the gameplay when you play hunter is relatively simple. You’re putting a lot of pressure on your opponent through the use of your heavily aggressive cards and your hero power which, once you start using it more often, effectively puts your opponent on the clock. Either they will beat you quickly or your hero power will eventually just burn through their HP and win you the game. Regardless of what hunter deck you’re running this is the general gameplay that is bound to happen because heavy aggression is at the very core of this class.

Great Beast And Deathrattle Synergy: Blizzard had tried to make beast druid a thing for a very long time but when it comes to beast tribe decks nothing beats the hunter. Hunter has the most effective beast minions and beast synergy cards ranging from spells like Kill Command

to minions like Houndmaster
. Besides beast synergy there is also deathrattle synergy which hunter has got a lot of. It has the best class deathrattle minions in the form of Savannah Highmane
and Infested Wolf
and it has some good deathrattle synergy cards like Explorer's Hat
, Fiery Bat
, Kindly Grandmother
, Forlorn Stalker
, Rat Pack
 and Feign Death
. If you’re looking for a good deathrattle deck than hunter just might be the class for you.

Simple To Learn: Hunter, as a class, is very easy to learn regardless of what deck you’re playing. It was even considered, by the developers, to serve as the introductory starting class for new players, instead of mage, because it was simple to learn but they gave up on it because of the weapon mechanic which isn’t available for all classes. I’m not saying that no hunter decks require any thinking but I’m saying that most of its cards, and its hero power, are pretty straightforward and thus the learning curve with hunter is pretty low.

Cons

Lack Of Recovery: Hunter is one of those classes that unfortunately lack any form of recovery. It has only two cards that can provide it with a taunt minion and both are very easy to play around and it has absolutely zero cards that give it any form of healing. This is perfect from the class balance standpoint but because of it if hunter suddenly falls back in the HP department it is next to impossible for it to recover, which makes the lack of recovery a glaring weakness.

Lack Of Card Draw: The second large weakness of the hunter class and quite possibly the biggest one is its lack of card draw. Ever since Starving Buzzard

was nerfed into unplayability hunter has had no cards that could draw it more cards. Because of that it is prone to quickly running out of steam and ending up with none or almost no cards in hand with no reliable ways of drawing more cards. When you’re facing an aggro hunter running it out of cards in its hand is your key to victory. This is also fine from a balance standpoint but taking reliable card draw away from any class makes that class significantly weaker.

Types Of Hunter Decks

There are two different types of hunter decks: aggro and midrange hunter.

Aggro hunter uses powerful early game aggression to pressure its opponents and the constant use of its hero power to deal unblockable damage that puts its opponents on a clock and into a race against time. There have been many different versions of aggro hunter in the past but the basics of constructing the deck had remained the same. It all revolves around immediate damage through either powerful spells, weapons, hero power and/or minions with charge but history had taught us that it is best to just combine all those into one very effective package. The biggest weakness of this deck is, as mentioned above, the lack of reliable card draw which causes the deck to run out of steam pretty quickly and once it does than it is not difficult to beat it. However, hunter can combat such a situation through its hero power and unless its opponent is a warrior, a priest or a druid then by the time the hunter runs out of steam it will most likely be too late for its opponents.

Midrange hunters has also had many different variations but it had always revolved around powerful deathrattle minions which had spawned more minions. The trick is to always have minions on your side of the board and to make it hard for your opponents to completely clear your board because of your minions spawning deathrattle effects. The latest version of a midrange hunter deck had went into a bit of a different direction with Cloaked Huntress

and secrets but that is in the end only the latest out of many different midrange hunter decks and it is actually refreshing to see a different midrange hunter decks. The deck archetypes that hunter lacks as a class are control and combo decks and although the developers have tried for a very long time to make control hunter a thing it had never really worked out.

Advanced Tracking


In the second section of this article I will talk about all the cards that you need and why do you need them to construct the two decks mentioned above and how to play them. If you’re looking for decklists they will be at the very end of this section (there is a hyperlink to that part of the section at the article info box).

Constructing Hunter Decks

Now that you know everything that you need to know about different types of hunter decks it is time to check out how to make them, which cards to use and why. This isn’t a full deck guide, the decks will be provided at the end of this section, but more of a construction guide to help you understand how to craft those different decks and why are they made the way that they are.

Aggro Hunter

So, you want to make an aggro hunter deck? Lucky for you, constructing an aggro hunter is actually quite easy. The deck revolves around dealing immediate damage in either small or large bursts followed up with the constant use of your hero power. It is different from OTK decks and other bursty decks like miracle rogue because it doesn’t deal a large amount of damage in a single turn but it deals a steady and constant amount of damage from turn to turn. Where decks like miracle rogue or other OTK decks take time to set up and spend most of their turns setting up, aggro hunter decks are aggressive from the very beginning and they don’t slow down in that aggressiveness.

How to play aggro hunter: The game plan is actually extremely simple. You’re looking to deal constant damage to the face without much or any trading. From turn one onwards you’re looking to play cards that can deal a lot of damage quickly and easily. Besides playing minions with deathrattle that deals damage or minions with charge and playing spells that deal a lot of damage you’re looking to use your hero power as often as possible because most of the time it will be your key to victory. Rarely does a aggro hunter deck have a card that costs more than 3 mana and if it does have such a card than it is usually Leeroy Jenkins

. This means that from turn 5 onward you will have the necessary mana to spend on your hero power and deal with it. Because you’re looking to kill your opponents quickly with a steady and constant damage dealing it is sometimes more efficient to simply use your hero power instead of spending those 2 mana on a minion that won’t do anything on the turn that you’ve played it.

You’re glaring weakness is your lack of card draw but this can be worked around. Quick Shot

is your only form of card draw but don’t be afraid to use it outside of its card drawing effect if you really need the damage to set up lethal. If you’re facing against a control deck which has reliably recovery and the means to remove your minions from the board than you’re most likely going to run out of steam pretty fast and lose the game but against any other deck the lack of card draw can be worked around thanks to your hero power which guarantees that even if you don’t draw something too useful that you will still manage to keep your constant flow of damage going from one turn to the other and in many cases, despite it might not sounding so on paper, it can be a key to victory.

Cards To Play In Aggro Hunter:

Standard

Spells: Quick Shot

, Kill Command
, Animal Companion
, Snake Trap
 and Explosive Trap

Minions: Fiery Bat

, Leper Gnome
, Wolfrider
, Knife Juggler
 and Leeroy Jenkins

Weapons: 

Wild

Spells: Quick Shot

, Kill Command
, Animal Companion
, Snake Trap
 and Explosive Trap

Minions: Fiery Bat

, Leper Gnome
, Haunted Creeper
, Mad Scientist
,
, Wolfrider
, Knife Juggler
 and Leeroy Jenkins

Weapons: 

Midrange Hunter

So, you want to build a midrange hunter deck? Constructing a midrange hunter deck is quite different from constructing an aggro hunter deck although the two do share a lot of spell, minions and both use the same weapon. Because I’m not very knowledgeable when it comes to secret hunter I will talk about the older version of midrange hunter, the deathrattle version. This version is still, at least in my opinion, as viable as the secret version.

How to play midrange hunter: What you’re looking to get with midrange hunter is powerful midrange minions and, more importantly, powerful sticky midrange minions. You’re looking to exploit the deathrattle synergy that hunter has been blessed with and combine it with its aggressive nature. Unlike with aggro hunter you are not looking to end the game as fast as possible but sometimes you are as prone to running out of cards to play as is the aggro version. However, you have a lot of stick minions in your deck to compensate for the lack of card draw which means that although you might not be drawing cards all too often you will at least have a strong board presence which aggro hunter lacks.

More often than not you’re looking to end the game at least by turn 6 although turns 7-8-9 are also viable options. Your sticky minions are here to provide you with both the necessary trades and the necessary face damage. You’re ending the game with big finishers like Savannah Highmane

or
or even Call of the Wild
. In standard there have even been some midrange hunter decks that ran N'Zoth, the Corruptor
because of all the deathrattle minions. Your hero power here comes to play again as a sure damage dealer which means that even when you’re forced to trade you can still keep the damage flow going with your hero power. Even if you’re forced to trade minions for the most of the match you can still get your opponent into lethal range thanks to your hero power.

Cards To Play In Midrange Hunter

Standard

Spells:  Quick Shot

, Kill Command
, Animal Companion
, Bear Trap
, Freezing Trap
and Call of the Wild

Minions: Fiery Bat

, Kindly Grandmother
, King's Elekk
, Infested Wolf
, Houndmaster
, Savannah Highmane
and 

Weapons: 

Wild

Spells:  Quick Shot

, Kill Command
, Animal Companion
, Bear Trap
, Freezing Trap
and Call of the Wild

Minions: Fiery Bat

, Haunted Creeper
, King's Elekk
, Infested Wolf
, Houndmaster
, Piloted Shredder
, Sludge Belcher
, Mad Scientist
, Savannah Highmane
and 

Weapons: 

Hunter decks


TANSOKU’S SECRET FACE HUNTER

NICKCHIPPER’S MIDRANGE SECRET HUNTER

FRENZO’S WILD LEGENDARY MIDRANGE HUNTER

The Future Of Hunter Decks


I think that we can all agree that hunter isn’t really doing too well in the current metagame. It is in fact at the very bottom along with paladin but at least paladin has one very powerful deck, murlock paladin, while hunter doesn’t have anything at the moment. Pirates don’t fit well into hunter because of a lack of cheap weapons and because hunter lacks recovery it is not doing well against the heavily aggressive pirate package. Ben Brode, the lead game designer, had assured us that both paladin and the hunter will see more play once the meta slows down but what worries me is that hunter didn’t really get much in the latest expansion so if we see a sudden rise in hunter decks before April it will most likely be the return of secret hunter. Because aggro hunter has been doing such a poor job lately this is the perfect opportunity for Blizzard to take a step back from the aggro hunter and focus more on the midrange hunter in the upcoming expansions. I would love to see less aggro decks in the future so any step away from an aggro deck is, in my book, a step in the right direction. If anything I predict that we will be getting card nerfs in mid March somewhere around the announcement of the next expansion so if the pirate package gets toned down a bit we might just see the return of hunter at the very end of the Year of the Kraken.

Conclusion


We’ve reached the end of the 2nd of the 9 class guide articles. I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading it and that you’ve learned something new or that I’ve at least inspired you to try to give hunter another go. What is your opinion on the hunter as a class? Do you prefer the aggro decks or the midrange decks? Let me know in the comments below.  As always  if you’ve liked this article do consider following me on twitter https://twitter.com/Eternal_HS. There you can ask me all sorts of Hearthstone questions (unrelated to this article) and I’ll gladly answer them as best as I can.