Welcome to the Messiah's weekly series of articles that examines many interesting, popular, powerful, or just plain different deck builds that are out there for the Hearthstone Constructed Deck format.
HUNTER – MID-RANGE NAXX DECK
This week’s deck is return of an old favourite, but for its return it is ramped up with several of the new Curse of Naxxramas cards. The deck is a mid-range Hunter deck based on beasts.
Hunter mid-range decks were the rage for a while in the beta and early after the games release, however the meta of the game quickly excluded them from competitive play as quicker and more powerful decks took over. Don’t get me wrong, they have remain popular, they just have not been able to compete consistently at the higher levels.
With the addition of several new and powerful Naxxramas cards that may be changing. I have seen many variations of this deck being played online and it has been doing pretty well for me personally since the release of the second wing of Curse of Naxxramas and the cards to make it becoming available.
This deck is based on putting out beasts on a constant basis to keep pressure on your opponent until they run out of options or health to deal with the onslaught.
While I have seen several different versions of this deck around, the one I have been using is as follows:
- Hunter Cards:
- 2x Hunter’s Mark
- 1x Timber Wolf
- 2x Webspinner
- 2x Explosive Trap
- 1x Freezing Trap
- 1x Snake Trap
- 1x Scavenging Hyena
- 2x Starving Buzzard
- 2x Animal Companion
- 2x Eaglehorn Bow
- 2x Kill Command
- 2x Unleash the Hounds
- 2x Houndmaster
- 1x Tundra Rhino
- 2x Savannah Highmane
- Neutral Cards
- 2x Haunted Creeper
- 2x Ironbeak Owl
- 1x Maexxna
Most of the cards are pretty important in this deck since they are all meant to work together to provide more than they could by themselves. However, they are not all equal and some are more important that others, so here are the most important of the cards in the deck.
Webspinner – This is one of the new Curse of Naxxramas cards that add a lot to mid-range hunter power levels. This card fills the first turn play slot so amazingly well that if you have it in hand, there is almost no other choice. For 1 mana you get a 1/1 beast that grants you another random beast card on its death. Sure you could get something really bad like Angry Chicken or the Captian’s Parrot (which I seem to get all the time), but no matter what card you get it is a beast and an extra card that is not drawn from your deck.
Haunted Creeper – Another of the new cards, and a very solid turn 2 drop, or turn 1 with the coin. This 1/2 beast summons 2 more 1/1 minions with its deathrattle which is extremely strong and allows you to trade it away for a net minion and damage gain. The one minor complaint against the card is that the two summoned 1/1 minions do not count as beasts, but you can’t have everything I guess.
Maexxna – While many players are down on this card, it does have a good place in this deck with so many other beasts. Firstly, if you can get a taunt on it with the Houndmaster or give it charge with Tundra Rhino it can be pretty amazing value. Secondly, even if your opponent silences Maexxna, she still gets value as a 2/8 beast that can trade against several low health minions very well, and better yet you have drawn out a silence so that your Savannah Highmanes are safer.
Savannah Highmane – One of the best Hunter minions there is. This is one of your finishing cards and even if it doesn’t stick around long enough to finish an opponent, the 2/2 minions that it’s deathrattle summons may.
Starving Buzzard – As a Hunter you have access to many cheap beasts, and therefore will tend to blow through cards like crazy. Starving Buzzard lets you summon those beasts to get card draw to get even more. Best used in conjunction with several cheap beasts or with Unleash the Hounds.
Unleash the Hounds and Timber Wolf – These cards form an amazing end game finishing move if you allow the enemy to get several minions into play. It can also be used in combination with Starving Buzzards for card draw or Scavenging Hyena to grow a huge minion for the following turn.
Explosive Trap and Freezing Trap – These cards are in to keep the enemy minions in check as you deal with the player’s health. Better yet they power up your Eaglehorn Bow, which allows you to further control the enemy minions.
Hunter’s Mark – What an amazing little card. 0 mana to reduce any minion to 1 health allows you to kill off pretty much anything with any minion of your choice.
IDEAL OPENING HAND CARDS
This deck wins by putting out constant threat and making your opponent have to deal with the damage that you can deal to them.
With that in mind, you want to ensure that you have cards that can put out a lot of pressure early so that you have them on the defensive most of the game. Therefore the best cards to look for in a normal opening hand, and to try to mulligan for are: Webspinner, Haunted Creeper, and then a trap or your bow. Animal Companion is also a very strong third turn card.
Flare – If you end up having to fight a lot of Mages, Rogues, or Paladins then Flare can help quite a bit. It gets rid of stealth, secrets, and provides some card draw as well. Against most other decks though, I did not find it worth the slot.
This deck has a pretty straight forward strategy, hit your opponent to the face as much as possible. Sure, the strategy is a bit more complicated than that, but not a whole lot.
Starting early you want to get out several small minions like Webspinner and Haunted Creeper to get some aggression in play and to make best use of their deathrattle abilities. After that it is time to setup your mid-game defence while waiting for your later game charge.
You defence is mainly about your traps, kill command, and your bow. Try to keep the enemy board delayed or cleared until you have enough beasts in your hard to start a rush.
Ideally your big rush will start around turn 5 or 6. You want to wait this long so that you can get solid value out of some of your cards. A turn 2 Starving Buzzard does nothing for you, because the enemy player will kill it off before you get any benefit from it. By turn 6 you can pretty routinely summon it and then at least 2 more beasts on the same turn, getting 2 cards back from it. If you cannot get at least 2 card draws then you need to wait.
Other solid mid-game plays are summing the Tundra Rhino on turn 5 and then Maexxna on turn 6 to trade her at least 2 for 1, or if the board is clear bringing out Savannah Highmane instead to smash your opponent for 6 before they can react.
Once into the later game you will be looking to continue with combinations and trying to get the win quickly. Make sure you try to maximize the value from each card by not stacking single card bonuses. By this I mean don’t use the Houndmaster buff on cards like Savannah Highmane or Maexxna even though they seem like obvious targets. The issue is they are obvious targets for the enemy as well. Even unbuffed they are key silence targets, add in a buff and a taunt and they become even bigger targets, as well as Black Knight targets.
There are several other cards out there that you can substitute into this deck and still keep it playing as it is meant to. They will however change the play style slightly, but that could be an advantage to you depending on how you like to play.
Stampeding Kodo – This is a huge card against so many decks, especially Zoo. I had one in initially, however found that with Explosive Traps and the Eaglehorn Bow I never really found myself wishing for it in my hand. It is still a strong card though and worth consideration. You could swap it in for either one of the Ironbeak Owls or the Tundra Rhino.
Tracking – This card can really help you find solutions to issues you run into. However, the issue I kept having was getting 3 key cards on its draw and then losing 2 of them to discard. I found that solving the immediate problem was easier, but too often it caused bigger issues later in the game.
Snake Trap – This trap can be used as an additional trap to power up the Eaglehorn Bow and to help draw some additional cards when teamed with the Starving Buzzard.
Snipe – Another amazing trap that boosts your bows durability as well as providing some removal. This card was in for a while, but is best against Miracle Rogues, and I haven’t had to play a lot of them recently so it got removed. However, if you have to play many Miracle Rogues this secret can save the game so often it is worth including. Timing it for when you believe either the Gadgetzan Auctioneer is coming out, or when Leeroy is coming out for the finishing blow can save the game.
Explosive Shot / Deadly Shot – If you are having issues with enemy minions that are large (like Druid minions) then either of these cards can help. Explosive Shot has the added advantage of helping with AOE as well, while Deadly Shot can kill anything no matter the size, but depends on you being able to clear the rest of the board first.
HOW TO PLAY AGAINST IT
Playing against this deck can either be pretty easy or pretty hard, depending on what deck you are playing.
If you are playing a Priest deck or a Mage freeze deck then this is a pretty good matchup for you. These decks have a pretty easy matchup against this Hunter deck and can expect to beat it probably 2/3 to 3/4 of the time.
If on the other end of the spectrum though, you are playing Warlock Zoo, Murloc, or even Handlock, or if you are playing a Rogue miracle deck, then you are facing a serious uphill battle. I have consistently destroyed Warlocks and Rogues with this deck. The issue is the constant pace that the Hunter deck can put out and that it can beat these other decks before they get to their win condition.
Other top decks seem to be about 50/50 when playing with this deck so far, but since Zoo is so prevalent, it made my overall win percentage pretty high.
A few specific things that you should keep in mind when playing against this deck with any class are as follows:
- Keep your minion count fairly low. Filling the board and allowing the Hunter to get a Starving Buzzard / Unleash the Hounds off against 4-5 minions can setup the end of the game pretty quickly.
- There are a lot of potential silence targets, so choose what you silence wisely. The best single targets are the Savannah Highmanes. The hunter wants you to waste them on the Scavenging Hyena, Maexxna, and others. Unless you are sure you have options for the Highmanes, don’t get sucked in.
- Taunts can slow the deck down by ensuring you get a chance to setup your game.
- Slowing down the deck really hurts it, as it has no really huge combo finishers. It does have combos, but nothing like Miracle Rogue or others.
- You will need to trade minions during your turn, the hunter will tend to ignore all but the most dangerous of your minions and focus on you.
You have more than likely had to face decks similar to this one already while playing Hearthstone. If you have not added it to your arsenal then maybe you should use this deck list as a starting point to give it a try. Let us all know how you fare with it and any changes to it that you made in the comment section below.