I just hit first-time legend with the following deck:
Year of the Dragon
2x (1) Shimmerfly
2x (1) Springpaw
2x (1) Timber Wolf
1x (1) Tracking
2x (2) Dire Wolf Alpha
2x (2) Headhunter's Hatchet
2x (2) Hench-Clan Hogsteed
2x (2) Scavenging Hyena
2x (3) Animal Companion
2x (3) Kill Command
2x (3) Master's Call
2x (3) Unleash the Hounds
2x (4) Dire Frenzy
1x (5) Tundra Rhino
1x (6) Savannah Highmane
2x (6) Unleash the Beast
1x (10) Zul'jin
I found it immensely fun and somewhat counterintuitive to play. In my opinion, it differs enough from previous midrange hunter builds that it warrants its own guide. I also just fundamentally disagree with certain points made in other guides I found like this one from metabomb or this one from hearthstonetopdecks. In short, these guides treat this deck as running basically the same as midrange hunter decks of the past, whereas I think it plays more like a tempo deck that tries to create board swings with reactive, rather than proactive plays. This guide will go through general strategy, popular matchups, and mulligans. This is my first guide, and I welcome comments, questions, and criticisms.
This deck is stacked with minions that have initiative. There are nine cards that say either rush or charge, two of which (springpaw and UtB) give you a second rush copy, two dire frenzies to make more of these minions, PLUS Zul'jin to resummon your wyverns. All this initiative means your general strategy should be to react to your opponent's plays, rather than to make the first move yourself. Where previous midrange hunters would seek to establish their own board by curving, for example, dire mole–>crackling razor maw–>animal companion, this deck instead should generally allow opponents to get on the board first, then punish that commitment with your cheap, plentiful removal. (That's right, these rush minions are your removal). Playing in this way allows you to get immense value from your cards, and create huge tempo swings that many current meta decks cannot recover from.
This was the most popular class in my rank 5-legend climb, and in my opinion it is the most counterintuitive matchup, because it takes the above-strategy (play reactively, rather than proactively) to an extreme. In my opinion, this matchup is best played by doing nothing for the first several turns, removing any minions they play, going for a big Zul'jin, making sure your dire frenzy lands on your rhino, then bursting them down with charge minions in the late game. This strategy worked well for me, and I had a positive win rate against control warrior.
According to the hearthstonetopdecks article (linked above), "
Instead, recognize that control warrior will exert almost no pressure in the early game, which allows you to also do nothing. If they drop an early eternium rover or an acolyte of pain, seek to remove it with a single hit to deny value. (This can be accomplished with timberwolf/dire wolf alpha + hogsteed, or double timberwolf + springpaw). If you don't have a three-damage answer, it's usually best to ignore these minions. Otherwise, draw cards with master's call, play shimmerflies to see what's in the box, and hero power pass your way to turn 6.
Even with this strategy, you will likely end up with one or two small minions in play around turn 5-6. This forces the warrior to react, which then allows you to respond with an UtB. UtB lines up incredibly well against many of warrior's minions, as it can take out a dynomatic, an omega defender, or a militia commander, and still require some removal. You should cast at least one UtB before playing Zul'jin, but preferably two. Try to avoid playing UtH before Zul'jin, as your Zul'jin will most likely be answered by a brawl, and you don't particularly want a 1/1 sticking around. Similarly, avoid playing tracking and kill command before Zul'jin if possible, as these can hurt you significantly when the targets are random.
Your ideal turns 6-10 look like this: T6 UtB, T7 UtB, T8 highmane, T9 tundra rhino + dire frenzy, T10 Zul'jin. Remember that Zul'jin will likely refill your hand (master's call will draw you another three, and Zul'jin will add UtB back to your hand), so you may have to take a turn or two dumping lower-value minions in order to make room for the good stuff. Dire frenzying the tundra rhino is absolutely essential in this matchup, as it's the only way to consistently apply late-game pressure. You can use your second dire frenzy on your buffed rhino, or on a huffer if you roll one. The basic idea is that warrior has a ton of ways to remove your minions but (a) they can't stop charge minions and (b) they do run out of removal eventually. Most of my warrior matchups ended with two or three rhinos getting in chip damage, then getting a lethal burst with some rhino + timberwolf + springpaw + hyena combo.
Control Warrior Mulligans
(All mulligan guides are in order of importance)
Zul'jin: the man himself, the one card that makes this matchup winnable.
Unleash the Beasts: a must-play before Zul'jin.
Master's Call: you want to play this before Zul'jin, so that Zul'jin refills your hand (preferably with buffed rhinos, see above), and this gives you something to do in the early turns.
Shimmerfly: again, this gives you something to do in the early turns. It's not going to make much of a difference here, but it's not going to hurt you either.
Rhino: an essential part of your plan, and a one-of. Feel free to keep if you already have a master's call to draw your early-game responses.
Rogue was my worst matchup. Rogue has a similar gameplan (use cards with initiative to create big tempo-swings), but they can execute it a little better than you. You also have no taunt (besides Misha), no healing, and no weapon removal, so be ready to get hit in the face with a waggle pick A LOT. Rogue matchups are a race. Do not seek to stabilize–removing their minions means nothing when they can easily deal 30 damage over a few turns with waggle pick + greenskin/deadly poison, SI:7, eviscerate, and lackeys. Instead, play aggressively, try to make a hyena with 5+ health, and burn over the top with double kill command.
Keep in mind that, once the waggle pick is equipped, rogue will mostly be hitting your face and ignoring your board. Use this to your advantage through buffs like dire frenzy, dire wolf alpha, and timberwolf. If they ever ignore a rhino (which I've seen, even at ranks 1-2), seek to punish with an all-in push. You will almost never get to play Zul'jin in this matchup, so which spells you play doesn't matter.
Springpaw: you can play this on T1 if you go first; otherwise it's probably best to save it for a hyena or timberwolf combo.
Shimmerfly: fine T1 play with or without coin. You're not upset if rogue daggers this on T2.
Hogsteed: use two to take out a hench-clan thug, use one + timberwolf to take out dread corsair.
Timberwolf: enables many of your rushers to trade up, but is probably a keep only if you already have spring paw or hogsteed.
Hyena: a big hyena can put rogue in a position it really doesn't want to be in–rogue wants to put all of its damage into your face. If the rogue uses a waggle pick swing on a 4/3 or a 6/4 hyena, then you're very happy. Due to backstab, though, hyena should almost never be played on T2.
Animal Companion: keep only if on coin. Misha is your best roll. Huffer is OK but usually dies to backstab/SI:7/lacky. Leokk is sneaky good–the Rogue often ignores it, but it allows many of your minions to trade up considerably.
Master's Call: keep only if on coin. Think of it as the equivalent of getting to keep three extra minions in your opening hand.
You have exactly one way to win this matchup: UtH + hyena. I lived and died by this strategy. When I had it, I won; when I didn't, I lost. Your early game/rush minions are not great against theirs unless you have buffs, and I've found its often better to wait until you have those buffs (so that you can actually remove their minions) rather than playing your minions just to play them. Don't be afraid to burn a kill command on a magic carpet–it's really powerful if left unchecked, and you probably won't need the burn damage. Either you'll stabilize, in which case you won't need it (because you can kill them with your minions and hero power), or you won't, in which case you'll be dead anyway.
Unleash the Hounds: by far your most important card. I'd consider hard-mulliganing for it. It deals with their huge boards really well, and is your only "AoE." Feel free to keep two if you get that lucky.
Scavenging Hyena: the second part of your wombo combo, but it can also be used with an early springpaw or hogsteed.
Timberwolf: makes all your other rushers (and UtH) much more effective.
Springpaw: use to control their early game as best as possible, but keep in mind this is much more effective with a buff (or two).
Headhunter's Hatchet: it's OK, but doesn't line up that well with their early game (besides flame imp). Keeping if you already have a 1-drop and UtH is fine.
Hogsteed: keep if you already have a 1-drop, UtH, or hyena.
Token Druid This is probably the matchup that this deck is best suited for. Druid wants to establish early-game board presence, then buff that presence into a snowballing win. Your deck excels at keeping minions off the board in the early game while creating threats at the same time. Remember that druid no longer has naturalize; its only removals are wraths and swipes, and they don't usually keep these off the mulligan. This means making a big, mid-game hyena (e.g., by answering a whispering woods with UtH + hyena) can flat-out win you the game. Additionally, your two-damage removals (hogsteed, hatchet, double springpaw/springpaw + timberwolf) line up much better against dryads, treants, and raptors than they do against voidwalkers, mecharoos, and argent squires.
The one nuance to this matchup is deciding when to go face. Druid has way more gas than you have removal. They can easily create ten to twelve big, sticky, dangerous boards. You can only really clear two, maybe three really wide boards. That's why you need to keep them off the board in the early turns, and turn the corner once you have a big minion or two in play (around T6-7, start thinking about your damage output). Zul'jin can act as a finisher and as a final UtH (if you're alive by T10, you've definitely already cast UtH), but the game usually won't last until T10.
Token Druid Mulligan
Shimmerfly: this is your best 1-drop if you're going first. You're not wasting a charge, and you're not losing card advantage. If you play this T1 and Druid hero powers it, you're happy.
Springpaw: this is the better 1-drop if you're going second. It allows you to react to a T1 acorn bearer, and the Lynx it generates gives you a follow-up.
Headhunter's Hatchet: this card is beautiful in this matchup. A 2 mana 2/3 weapon is crazy value, and lines up perfectly against Druid's early game.
Hogsteed: takes out a raptor and leaves behind a 1/1. What's not to like?
Scavenging Hyena: this card is OK to keep off a mulligan, but it's better to draw it a couple turns later.
UtH: same as Hyena. This is by far your best response to whispering woods, but that's not until T4. Keep only if you already have early game covered with, for example, a springpaw and hatchet.
Summoner Mage This wasn't terribly popular in my climb, but I did see a few. Beating mage comes down to creating early-game pressure while playing around Mind Control Tech. Remember the only hard removal Summoner Mage runs is voodoo doll, so, again, a big hyena or huffer can be huge. This is the one matchup that really does play like older midrange hunters: you have to pressure early and finish with Highmane, Hyena, and kill commands. The only way you compete with a big khadgar turn is with a huge Zul'jin, and even that requires the Mage to get very unlucky with their conjurer's. Your better bet is to kill them before that happens, which means going face more often than not.
Summoner Mage Mulligan
Shimmerfly/Springpaw: their your 1-drops; in this matchup you just play them on 1.
Hogsteed: takes out a firetree witchdoctor and leaves behind a 1/1.
Hyena: keep if you already have springpaw or hogsteed for the combo.
Direwolf Alpha: you're fine just playing this on T2 if the board is empty.
Master's Call/Animal Companion: keep if on coin.
Play reactively in the majority of your matchups, especially against Control Warrior. Use your rush minions as removal. Create threats while controlling the board. Pay attention to the spells you play before Zul'jin. Scale your lategame against slow decks with Rhino + Dire Frenzy. Most importantly, remember that a midrange deck is necessarily flexible, and must adjust its gameplan depending on the matchup.
I may return to add strategy/mulligan for the mirror, bomb warrior, mech/bomb hunter, and control shaman. To be honest, though, I'm excited to get back on ladder to keep playing and practicing.
Source: Original link
© Post "RoS Midrange Hunter Guide" for game HearthStone.
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