kelvin-midrange-hunter

Introduction

This is the Midrange Hunter deck that I used to get to rank 25 legend in the March 2015 season. It is basically SenX’s number 1 Midrange Hunter deck from last season, except I have recently substituted a Webspinner for a Defender of Argus to improve the Face Hunter match-up.

General Strategy

The goal of a Midrange Hunter deck is to control the board early and mid game through your sticky minions, Eaglehorn Bow and Freezing Traps. As the goal is to control the board, you will not be hitting face as much as a Face Hunter would be. However, it is appropriate to attack face and ignore the board if:

  • Your opponent is going to trade with your minion regardless
  • Your opponent has no reasonable way of punishing your board or trading up
  • It is mid game, and you have a decent amount of damage on the board
  • You have drawn 1 or 2 Kill Commands or Eaglehorn Bow and you can setup lethal
  • If the opponent’s board does not threaten you
  • You play Savannah Highmane while controlling the board.

The key to winning with this deck is correctly timing the transition from controlling the board to hitting face. Most games will have the following pattern:

  • The beginning and middle of the game will consist of you controlling or fighting for control of the board. In deciding what to play, ultimately you are deciding on how to create the most optimal board position while getting maximum value from your cards.
  • If you can control the board by mid-game, your chances of winning are very high. However, if you start losing control of the board at this stage, you will need to evaluate whether to commit resources to fight for the board or just try to attack face for the win. This decision is complicated, as it depends on what class you are playing against, the cards that you have currently used and what you can still draw into.

The general rule of thumb is that decks that are slower than yours will beat you if the game drags out longer, meaning that you should focus on finishing the game as soon as possible. Whereas decks that are faster than yours will generally run out of steam the longer the game, so controlling the board after the mid game may be the optimal decision.

Key Card Analysis

Hunter's Mark

: This is usually used to kill large minions or taunts with your early game creatures. In particular, it synergises well with Haunted Creeper, Unleash the Hounds and Knife Juggler. It is sometimes appropriate to use this card to take out early threats in match-ups where having early board control is essential to winning (e.g. killing a Huffer with your Haunted Creeper in a Face Hunter match-up).

Abusive Sergeant

: This is used either to allow a low value minion to trade up against the board (its primary role in zoo decks), dealing 2 additional damage when you are hunting for lethal, and as a plain 2/1 minion on turn 1 going first.

Webspinner

: The main role of the Webspinner is to provide you with card draw that usually smooths out your curve. While the RNG element of the card is annoying, it can also potentially give you game winning cards as well. For example, in a match against a Warrior recently, I got King Krush very early on in the game from the Webspinner, and successfully used it against my opponent’s Loatheb on turn 9 to find lethal.

It serves as a 1 drop when you are going first. It also synergises well with Houndmaster for a potential turn 5 play as well as Kill Command when you are going for lethal.

My original decklist ran 2 of these, but I have since substituted one for Defender of Argus as it usually provides more value in the current meta.

Knife Juggler

: Great turn 2 drop, although if you have a Mad Scientist, it is more often correct to play Mad Scientist on turn 2 unless facing down a 2/3. Combos with Unleash the Hounds and Haunted Creeper very effectively.

Freezing Trap

: This deck only runs Freezing Traps for consistency off Mad Scientist. Try to get the maximum value out of your Freezing Traps by ensuring that it triggers on a high value target, and particularly on minions that do not have a beneficial Battlecry (e.g. Shield Maiden).

Freezing trap works particularly well against decks with many high mana cost minions. Therefore, if you get a Freezing Trap in your hand (and not triggered from the Mad Scientist), it is usually correct to save your Freezing Trap for the later turns when playing against decks with high mana cost minions, such as Warrior or Druid.

Many decks are running Kezan Mystic nowadays, which is supposed to counter Hunters and Mages. While having your Freezing Trap stolen is definitely a bad tempo swing, it doesn’t automatically equal a loss as it can be countered by either having board control or by using Unleash the Hounds.

Haunted Creeper

: This provides a very sticky minion that will allow you to keep board presence in the early game. It synergises well with Knife juggler, Hunter’s Mark and Kill Command.

Ironbeak Owl

: This is used as a valuable silence either to disable a scary minion (eg. Sylvanas Windrunner, Mad Scientists, Nerubian Eggs) or break through a taunt. I find that running one Ironbeak Owl and one Hunter’s Mark offers the perfect balance, as you want to minimise the amount of dead/situational cards in your hand.

Unleash the Hounds

: This is useful to use particularly in aggro matches and other match-ups where your opponent can flood the board with cheap minions (e.g. Muster for Battle, Implosion, Violet Teacher tokens). If possible, try to combine this with Knife Juggler to maximise its value.

Defender of Argus

: I have recently added this card to the deck as it synergises well with the goal of providing a strong board and also 2 taunts that help against aggro decks.

Note that you should be mindful when playing this on a Savannah Highmane, as it creates a potential Black Knight (rare nowadays in the meta) or Big Game Hunter (BGH) target.

Houndmaster

: This deck contains enough beasts that you would rarely not get value from playing this card. It also provides a valuable taunt against aggro decks.

As with using Defender of Argus, you should be careful playing this on a Savannah Highmane due to your opponent having either Black Knight (rare nowadays in the meta) or BGH.

Piloted Shredder

: Sticky minion that gives good board presence. Make sure that you trade with the Piloted Shredder before putting minions down, just in case you get bad RNG and lose your board from a Doomsayer or Explosive Sheep.

Loatheb

: Due to the controlling nature of this deck, Loatheb synergises well with this deck as it protects your board and is a relatively large threat.

Savannah Highmane

: This is the key win condition of the deck, but you would want to draw into it by turn 6. Savannah Highmane is the reason why you play Midrange Hunter; it hits like a truck, and is very difficult to remove. As Amaz originally put it, there is the “Savannah Highmane rule”—if you get one face hit with Savannah Highmane, you win the game. From experience, I believe that this statement is very true.

Dr. Boom

: Dr. Boom (aka Dr. Balanced) is an essential part of this deck. On turn 7, you can pretty much close your eyes and throw this card down and it’ll most likely be the correct play. It provides a huge threat as it creates instant board presence regardless of whether you are behind or ahead on the board, with the added benefit of the boom bots possibly clearing your opponent’s board.

Even if Dr. Boom is BGH’d, the boom bots can still provide board presence, and also can easily kill the BGH. 

Tech Choices and Alternatives

The various tech choices you can make depending on the meta are outlined below.

  • In a meta full of aggro decks, swap out the Freezing Traps for Explosive Traps.
  • If you are consistently playing against secrets, substitute a Piloted Shredder for a Kezan Mystic.

As this deck only runs one legendary, it is quite affordable for people to play. However, for those who do not have Dr. Boom, my only suggestion would be to craft it, as it is an essential card in many decks. That said, a half decent substitute would be Sylvanas Windrunner as it will help you keep or take board control, which is the primary goal of this deck.

Match-ups

This was my run to legend in the March 2015 season from rank 6. I had a winning ratio against all decks except against Priest. The Shaman match-up was particularly favourable, as there are often situations where Unleash the Hounds provides immense value.

Here are some tips against the classes:

Shaman: The general way of playing against Shaman is to keep  their board as clear as possible, as they have a variety of ways to trade their hero power totems into your higher value minions using Flametongue Totem. Shamans will mulligan for early game creatures to counter your board, so the beginning of the game will consist of you fighting for control against Zombie Chows and Haunted Creepers. 

Due to the Shaman’s ability to flood the board with cheap minions, Unleash the Hounds is your friend in this match-up, combine it with Knife Juggler for extra laughs. Try to play around their turn 6 Fire Elemental by not providing a target that will give them too much value.

Against Mech Shaman, prioritise removing their Mechs like with all Mech decks, as the Mechs can get extra value from Tinkertown Technician and Power Mace. Also note that Mech Shaman usually does not run Lightning Storm, so do not be afraid to flood the board. Against non-Mech Shamans, play around Lightning Storm.

Warrior: Control Warrior has strong counters to your early game minions in Fiery War Axe and Death Bite. These are the two main things that Warriors mulligan for against Hunters, along with Cruel Taskmaster. Usually, the match-up against Control Warrior goes like this: you will play your 2 and 3 mana drops, only to find answered with weapons. On turn 5, he will play a Sludge Belcher, hoping that he can get it behind an Armorsmith the following turn.

However, what typically turns the tide in this match-up is your turn 6 Savannah Highmane. When Blizzard was designing this card, they should have made it a legendary as it is a buffed version of Cairne Bloodhoof and you can even play two copies of it! Savannah Highmane is a nightmare for Warriors to deal with, as their removals are either very good for single targets (i.e. Execute or Shield Slam) or many targets (i.e. Brawl). Savannah Highmane is so important in this match-up that you need to mulligan for it.

Try to play around Brawl, as Warriors typically run one Brawl in their decks. Do not waste your Kill Commands on a Warrior’s face unless you have lethal, as most Warrior decks run Alexstrasza. Try not to leave your minions on 2 hp due to Baron Geddon on turn 7, but note that Warrior lists have been cutting this card for a more mid-range style deck. Finally, do not play 1 hp minions on turn 1 as Warriors tend to mulligan for Cruel Taskmaster, which gives them an instant tempo swing.

Druid: The key to winning against Druid is early board presence and pressure. You want to be the ‘beat-down’ in this match-up. This is because when you are dictating terms, the Druid will be using their turns to remove your minions rather than Innervating a scary minion. Hence, you are already ahead just by forcing the druid to respond to your early board.

The other important part of this match-up is playing around the Force of Nature and Savage Roar combo. Even Ramp Druids are running combo, so you cannot make the assumption that they do not have combo just because you see an Ancient of War.

Importantly, this means that you need to keep the Druid board as clear as possible. Even if you have over 20+ life, you should be counting whether they have lethal on you after turn 9 with the combo.

Note that you only play around Force of Nature and Savage Roar combo when you are in a stalemate or winning position. If you are in a losing position, you should not play around this combo, as you are effectively stalling the inevitable.

Rogue: Almost all Rogues are playing Oil variants, which have an obscene amount of burst in their deck. Therefore, you must prioritise keeping the Rogue’s board clear to prevent a Tinker’s Sharpsword Oil and Blade Flurry combo.

Typically, Rogues will mulligan for Backstab, Deadly Poison, Si:7 Agent and Fan of Knives against Hunters. This means that when you are deciding what to play on your early turns, you should try to create a board that is resilient to these cards, particularly Backstab. This is where your Haunted Creeper comes in, as it is a relatively annoying card for Rogues to deal with early game. Mad Scientists are also sticky in a sense that they leave behind a Freezing Trap. On the other hand, playing a Knife Juggler on turn 2 usually gives the Rogue immediate tempo and value, as they can use either Backstab or Si:7 Agent to kill it.

A big swing turn for the Rogue is when they put down a turn 4 Violet Teacher. If the Violet Teacher is not removed, it will gain huge value through its multiple tokens, which counter our Freezing Traps. Hence, you must kill a Violet Teacher straight away or play a Loatheb in response. If the Violet Teacher gets out of control, your only out is through a big Knife Juggler and Unleash the Hounds turn.

Hunter: The key to winning Hunter match-ups (both Midrange and Face Hunters) is early board control. It is incredibly difficult to recover if you do not have board control early, particularly against Face Hunters. Hence, Mad Scientists are very important in this match-up, as an early Freezing Trap will most likely give you board control. Eaglehorn Bow is very useful in this match-up, as it will clear most of their early game minions. Finally, Haunted Creepers combined with Knife Jugglers can also provide good early game swings, particularly against Face Hunter due to their preference for 1 health minions. For example, you play a Haunted Creeper against his board consisting of Leper Gnome and Worgen Infiltrator. He then proceeds to play another Leper Gnome and hero powers you. You then play a Knife Juggler and kill your Haunted Creeper, causing two additional knife throws from your Knife Juggler, which will have a very high chance of clearing the board.

Another important point to remember in the Hunter match-up is that you should not be afraid to use your Kill Commands on high value targets to create an advantageous board position. In most match-ups, you usually save your Kill Commands for lethal.

Mage: I encountered two types of Mages on my run to legend this season: Mech Mage and Freeze Mage.

Mech Mage’s primary objective is to control the board while getting value from their Mechs through Tinkertown Technician and Goblin Blastmage. Usually Mech Mages will also use Mad Scientists combined with Mirror Entity to help ensure that they have board control. If the game drags out longer, Mech Mages win by using Dr. Boom and Archmage Antonidas combined with spare parts. Hence, to beat Mech Mages, prioritise board control, particularly killing Mechs to prevent them from getting value from Tinkertown Technician and Goblin Blastmage.

Furthermore to counter Mirror Entity, save a low mana creature (e.g. Webspinner) so that they do not gain much value from it. If you manage to take board control from a Mech Mage early, the game is already over, as you can outrace their deck and keep board control through Freezing Traps.

Against Freeze Mage, this is a race, as a Freeze Mage’s goal is to stall the game until they draw all their burst damage and Alexstrasza. Hence, the key to beating a Freeze Mage is to maximise your damage to his face. Freeze Mages have a variety of options to neutralise your board, such as Frost Nova and Doomsayer combo, Blizzard, Flamestrike and Cone of Cold. However, you cannot play around their AOE spells too much, as you need to be constantly pressuring them to trigger their Ice Block as soon as possible. That said, save your Ironbeak Owl for their Doomsayer and Frost Nova combo.

Warlock: Demonlocks win by getting good tempo swings from Void Callers. Hence, to counter Demonlocks, mulligan for and save a Hunter’s Mark for a potential early Mal’Ganis/Doomguard from a Void Caller. Ironbeak owl is a great card against this deck, as it shuts down Nerubian Eggs and Void Callers.

Handlocks have traditionally been easy match-ups for Hunters due to the Hunter’s hero power denying a Handlock’s ability to start a comeback with their Mountain and Molten Giants. However, Handlocks nowadays can heal back up due to Antique Healbot, which makes this match-up a lot more even.

The key to winning against Handlocks is maximising damage to the face while playing around Molten Giants. In this match-up, controlling the board is less of a priority than other match-ups. Usually, the strategy to beating Handlocks is to hit face as much as possible until around 15 hp (to prevent them throwing down taunted Molten Giants for 2 mana), before then bursting them down in one turn.

Another point to note is that in most instances, you should not try to clear Twilight Drakes with your board as you are basically wasting your time (unless you Ironbeak Owl it). Finally, save your Kill Commands as finishers rather than using them to clear minions and only use them for lethal, as they could have Jaraxxus.

Zoo is a tough match-up, as it is very difficult to take early board control due to Zoo decks having an abundance of early game creatures. However, taking board control against Zoo is equivalent to winning the game, as Zoo decks do not have many mechanisms to come back from an empty board. Like against all aggro decks, Knife Juggler and Unleash the Hounds will provide a lot of value. 

Paladin: Midrange Paladin is a tough match-up, as it is often difficult to get board control due to Shielded Minibot and Muster for Battle. Hence, when deciding what to play in the early turns, assume that they will play Shielded Minibot on turn 2 and Muster for Battle on turn 3, as they will mulligan for these cards. Try not to use your Ironbeak Owl in the early and mid game as you will need it to win the late game against Tirion Fordring.

Another key aspect of playing against Paladin is deny them Consecration value. Play around Consecration by not leaving a board full of 2 health minions if possible. This usually means trading in your one health minions so that your higher value minions can survive.

Unleash the Hounds will counter Muster for Battle, particularly if you can combine it with a Knife Juggler. However, remember that Paladin tokens are only dangerous once they have 5 mana. Hence, it might be optimal to save your Unleash the Hounds if you have another play on the turn.

Priest: Priest is a hard match-up for this deck as it is often difficult to take board control. A Priest will usually beat you by heavily controlling the board while keep their health above danger levels.

The key to beating Priests is to take early board control, and damage his face enough so that you can kill him even if you lose board control. A turn 2 Knife Juggler will prevent Northshire Cleric from getting value. A Hunter’s Mark may be useful early game due to Injured Blademaster and Circle of Healing combo. Avoid flooding the board too much (due to Circle of Healing and Auchenai Soulpriest), and be wary of playing 2 attack or lower minions past turn 6 due to Cabal Shadow Priest. 

Mulligan Strategy

The general mulligan strategy is to have a smooth mana curve. So if you are playing first, you mulligan for a 1-2-3 drop, and on coin it would be 2-2-3-4, 1-3-3-4, 1-2-4-4 or 1-2-3-4 (save coin). However, given that there are only two 1 drops in the deck, it is often fine to keep two 2 drops when playing first. You want to be maximising your mana curve, as the Freezing Traps triggered from Mad Scientists in your deck will make them fall so far behind on the board that they cannot recover. Always mulligan away Freezing Traps, as you want them to trigger from Mad Scientists.

The key drops are the 2 mana drops (Mad Scientist, Haunted Creeper and Knife Juggler), as you need to have a strong early board presence.

The mulligan strategy for particular classes is as follows:

  • Keep Ironbeak Owl when facing Hunter, Mage or Warlock.
  • Keep Savannah Highmane when playing against Warrior, mulligan away Webspinner and Abusive Sergeant due to Cruel Taskmaster.
  • Keep Unleash the Hounds against Paladin.
  • Keep Knife Juggler and Hunter’s Mark against Priest. Knife Juggler is to counter Northshire Cleric and Hunter’s Mark is for an early Injured Blademaster and Circle of Healing combo on turn 3.

Closing remarks

Thanks for reading this guide. I hope that it will help you reach legend this season. I’m happy to answer any questions you may have on navigating this deck or just general questions about Hearthstone. If you have any questions, feel free to leave comments below or message my twitch channel (stream forthcoming): www.twitch.tv/k3lvhs

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