Gameplay

Deck of the Week 13 - Naxxramas Hunter Zoo Deck

By Byron Mudry -
0

Welcome again to the Messiah's series of (almost) weekly articles that takes a look at some of the most popular, powerful, or just plain interesting deck builds that are out there for the Hearthstone Constructed Deck format.

HUNTER – NAXX ZOO DECK

This week I look at a deck that I have seen played a whole lot since all of the Naxxramas wings have opened up.  The deck is a pretty basic take on a Zoo deck for Hunters.  It focuses on all the best low cost / high value minions and cards that the Hunter class has access to. 

I first came across it in the ranked play format, and got smashed by it in 3 games over the course of about 6 matches.  Each time by a different player with almost the same deck list.  Intrigued, I went hunting for information on this deck.  I found information on a few different versions of the deck, and since it really is a simple deck design, I am not sure who (if anyone should get credit for creating it), but the most common players I see getting credit for it are Reynad and YoungSaint, there are more out there as well though, so who knows.  Thanks to whomever really did create this deck though.

NOTE: Now, I know this will be the third Hunter deck I have covered, which is higher than the other classes, however it really is a powerful deck in the current meta.  Before I even really understood how to play the deck, I had gone from the opening of the season to rank 10 in no time at all, and racked up several 5+ game win streaks.  I have since climbed much higher and if I hadn’t had a lot of overtime at work, would be Legend already.

As I said, there are several different versions of this deck around, all only slightly different. The version of the deck I have been using is as follows and is based mainly on YoungSaint’s version:

Deck List:

  • Hunter Cards:
    • 2x Hunter’s Mark
    • 2x Flare
    • 1x Tracking
    • 2x Webspinner
    • 1x Explosive Trap
    • 2x Freezing Trap
    • 2x Animal Companion
    • 2x Eaglehorn Bow
    • 2x Kill Command
    • 2x Houndmaster
    • 2x Savannah Highmane
  • Neutral Cards
    • 2x Leper Gnome
    • 2x Undertaker
    • 2x Haunted Creeper
    • 1x Loot Hoarder
    • 2x Mad Scientist
    • 1x Loatheb

KEY CARDS

Most of the cards in this deck are all pretty good all by themselves.  What makes them even better is that they allow you to play them all almost on autopilot.  Each is really good, therefore it isn’t that much of an issue if you play them incorrectly.

Webspinner – This is one of the new Curse of Naxxramas cards that add a lot to any hunter deck. 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. Better yet, the beast is completely random and NOT from your deck, meaning it is an extra card.

Haunted Creeper – Another of the new cards, and a great turn 2 drop, although in this deck it sometimes gets pushed to turn 3 so that you can have an Undertaker out first.

Mad Scientist – This minion is fast becoming a favourite for any class that has secrets.  For Hunters at 2 mana for a 2/2 minion it starts off ok and gets better since it will pull in a trap for you. 

Undertaker – An awesome minion when teamed up with a deck full of minions with Deathrattle.  A ½ for 1 mana is not horrible to start with, but it can become a 2/3 on turn 1 if you start second and have a Webspinner or Leper Gnome in hand as well.  Even late game this minion is a good play as it can get bigger over time.

Savannah Highmane – A staple card in almost any Hunter deck, because it is one of the best Hunter minions there is. With Deathrattle, it also powers up your Undertaker.

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 while also keeping the board clear.  It can do a really good job at that if you get a solid opening hand, but even if you don’t you can stall and win in the late game.

With that in mind, you want to ensure that you have cards that can put out a lot of pressure early so that you can put your opponent on the defensive right away. Therefore the best cards to look for in a normal opening hand, and to try to mulligan for are: Leper Gnome, Webspinner, Undertaker, and Mad Scientist.

Also when playing against Mages, Paladins, or other Hunters your best friend can be a Flare card.  Therefore when facing these classes you almost mulligan anything else to try and get one.

STRATEGY

This deck has an extremely straightforward strategy, kill your opponent as fast as possible.  Your best way to do that is to start off with an Undertaker and then anything with deathrattle and keep it going.  Then on turn three you generally will want to use either Eaglehorn Bow or an Animal Companion. 

Unlike many other decks that want to keep board control, because your aim is to kill the enemy quickly, you almost don’t need to worry about it.  Instead, hit the enemy on your turn and make them have to choose to kill your minions or not.  There are some obvious exceptions, such as it being a good idea to trade one of your 2/2 minions against an enemy minion that has low health and high damage (like a 4/2 or 6/2 minion), or minions that impart powerful bonuses, or minions that will provide deathrattle effects that you need to happen on your turn and not the opponents.

Keep pressure on and remember your class ability to deal 2 damage for 2 mana.  Keep dealing damage as you can and then aim for a big finish with both Kill Commands in a single turn, or any beast with a sudden +2/+2 from a Houndmaster, or even just the constant class ability damage and some Eaglehorn Bow hits.

Long time Hunter players will already know this, but for those players looking at hunters for the first time, it is important to look at trap order.  Traps will trigger in the order they were applied.  Therefore, most of the time you will want to put your Explosive Trap down first, then your Freezing Trap.  That way is something with 2 health or less attacks the Explosive Trap will trigger first and kill it, and then the Freezing trap will remain.  If you play them in the other order, you will send the minion back to the players hand, and then deal 2 damage to everything else, burning both traps in one go.

The deck has some surprises for enemy players, mainly due to what it is missing.  The deck only has 3 traps, which is low for a Hunter deck.  The deck also does not have Starving Buzzard or Unleash the Hounds, which is again strange for current Hunter decks.  Not having these cards, which are all strong, actually provides an advantage of sorts.  Many players when facing a Hunter deck will assume that there will be Unleash the Hound cards in the deck and play accordingly by not having too many minions on the board, which actually plays into your strengths and helps you do more damage.

OPTIONAL CARDS / ALTERNATE DECK

The other popular version of this deck is more like Reynad’s deck which features the Starving Buzzard / Unleash the Hounds combo, but skips the Undertaker combo:

  • Hunter Cards:
    • 2x Hunter’s Mark
    • 2x Flare
    • 2x Tracking
    • 2x Webspinner
    • 1x Explosive Trap
    • 2x Freezing Trap
    • 2x Starving Buzzard
    • 2x Animal Companion
    • 2x Eaglehorn Bow
    • 1x Kill Command
    • 2x Unleash the Hounds
    • 2x Houndmaster
    • 2x Savannah Highmane
  • Neutral Cards
    • 2x Haunted Creeper
    • 2x Mad Scientist
    • 1x Leeroy Jenkins
    • 1x Loatheb

Besides providing a separate version of the deck to play with, there are several other cards out there that you can substitute into either deck and still keep them playing as they are meant to.  The cards will however change the play style slightly, but that could be an advantage to you depending on how you like to play.  Also, you can use cards from one deck into the other.

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 in Reynad’s version of the deck, or as another trap for the Mad Scientist to grab in the bas version.

Gladiator’s Longbow – A good option for removing stronger enemy minions and not taking damage while doing it.

Timber Wolf – If playing the alternate version of the deck, having a Timber Wolf helps out a lot for your Starving Buzzard / Unleash the Hounds combo.

Snipe / Deadly Shot – Either of these cards provide some additional removal ability if you find that you need it.

HOW TO PLAY AGAINST IT

Playing against this deck is pretty tough.  It does very well against so many decks that it’s hard to play against. 

The decks that do give it the most issues though are Druids with all their taunt minions, Priests with all that healing and extra card draw ability, and Shamans with all their AOE. 

With any deck you play against this deck, the object is to keep your health up.  Taunt minions, healing, and AOE are all your friends.  If you can stall to the late game, you can generally pull out a win.  The issue is, even if you get all of those things in play, sometimes this deck just draws exactly what it needs and wins by turn 6.  There isn’t much you can do against that.

So, in short, keep the board clear, keep your health full to stay out of combo range, and wait for the end game.

COMMENTS

You have more than likely had to face decks similar to this one already while playing Hearthstone.  Right now this one is very strong, and you should look at giving it a try.  It is however not that exciting to play, so, even though it wins a lot, it is not a deck you are likely to play for long.  I am playing it just to get my ranking up.

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About The Author

Byron "Messiah" Mudry
Byron has been writing about World of Warcraft for the past ten years, and currently has a not-so-secret love affair with Hearthstone and Diablo III.

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