May 13, 2018
Table of Contents
The New Standard: Legend Play Dead Hunter
The Witchwood meta (day five as I’m writing this) continues to be awesome. Not only are there a lot of fun lists out there, but more than a few of them have gone all the way to legend. There are many to pick from (and many we will cover) but one that caught my eye for this week is an awesome Hunter list from FrostMage82. This deck is everything Big Minion Hunter ever could be, combining strong late game with a tight combo package and some truly exciting minions. Though it looks a bit scattered at first glance, there is no doubt that everything gels nicely. It has been a while since Rexxar has been able to work with Kathrena, and it has been even longer since we’ve seen the old Devilsaur/Krush package. If you want to bite people’s heads off, this one’s for you.
Our first card is Dark Pact, a strong one mana spell that helps you set up your stronger combos. Wait, what? Oh, right. This is Play Dead, but you gotta admit there are more than a few similarities with this card and some other strong one mana spells in the meta. Though you have some strong deathrattles to trigger at different times, you want them to go off right away. This card works in the exact same way as Pact does in Warlock and as Naturalize does in Taunt Druid. You run out your strong combo minion and trigger its deathrattle before your opponent has a chance to properly react. Now, that is not always how this card is going to be played (sometimes you just need to go for the curve) but most of the time you want to limit interactivity and make sure your opponent has no way to catch up to your big threats.
Using Play Dead on a Seeping Oozeling is absolutely incredible. Why? Because it puts your opponent into an horrible position that there is simply no way out of. For example, let’s say you drop Oozeling and hit it with Play Dead to bring out a Charged Devilsaur that you use to clear a small threat or hit face. What does your opponent do here? If they use a silence on your ooze you get to hit them for a million damage, and if they use AOE to clear, your deathrattle goes off and you get another Devilsaur or a King Krush. Play Dead has a few uses (including on Zombeasts created by Deathstalker Rexxar) but your main goal is to use it as soon as you drop something down.
There are several parts to this deck, but one of the most essential is Stitched Tracker. The 2/2 has always been on the fringe of big combo Hunter decks, and here it has two key uses. One, it enables you to easily and reliably access your big threats or combo cards. There are a lot of strong minions in this build, and being able to get them consistently is essential to the overall success. In fact, this card’s battlecry is the reason you can consistently get a Seeping Oozeling into your hand by turn six so often. That is always going to be the first minion you want to take with this card if you’re not under immediate pressure. However, if you’re getting bullied, you want to lean on your taunts. There are more than a few scattered throughout this list, and being able to grab one to set up a wall before your combo is a great way to buy some time.
The other thing that makes Stitched Tracker so powerful is that it works as a toolbox card that gives you a ton of different options. As you notice (and as we will cover) there are a lot of tech cards in this list that all do vastly different things. Being able to freely go and fetch things like Gluttonous Ooze, Saronite Chain Gang, and a Houndmaster Shaw gives you ways to adapt to many different situations. Of course, you can’t always guarantee you’re going to get the card you want, but there will often be something you can use. It is typically better to go with lower-curve options when fighting a board battle against aggro, but in any other matchup you just reach as high as you possibly can.
This deck runs five beasts to work with Kathrena Winterwisp‘s deathrattle. The Charged Devilsaur/King Krush combo is staple with the lovely legendary, but the two Witchwood Grizzlys are not. It should go without saying that this deck is strong against control. In fact, there is almost nothing Cubelock, Druid, or Warrior can do once you get your deathrattles rolling. However, aggro is a vastly different story. The biggest glaring problem with lists like this one is that you can easily get run over by faster decks. Yes, you have big beasts, but what do they do against a swarm of 1/1’s? Odd Hunter and Baku Paladin are quite popular, which means you need ways to fight back against quicker starts. Witchwood Grizzly is the best way to make that happen because, not only can you just run it out as a roadblock, you can pull it with your combo pieces. That is vitally important in today’s day and age because it can turn your bigger slow cards into defensive pieces rather than aggressive threats. More strong versatility. Just don’t be scared of dropping this on its own. Holding back until your opponent has less cards in hand can seem like a good move, but that’s never worth it. Even against slower decks, the body is often going to be a 3/5 or 3/6 taunt, which is fine when you’re trying to build up to stronger cards.
The entire reason the decks works, Seeping Oozeling is an incredibly powerful card that has never truly had its chance to shine. Though it has largely been confined to meme decks, this build makes fantastic use of it. There are two deathrattles here, and my God are they strong. Kathrena Winterwisp is an incredibly powerful option that helps the Ooze pull Charged Devilsaur, King Krush or Witchwood Grizzly. That typically allows you either to put out massive damage (remember Charged Devilsaur can immediately attack when pulled from your deck) or cement your board and protect your face. On the other hand, you have access to Silver Vanguard. That also gets Devilsaurs, but it has the bonus of sometimes grabbing The Lich King when you’ve burned through your beasts. The seven drop is a great addition to this build and helps diversify your threats.
Just remember, as strong as Seeping Oozeling is, it can be silenced. Sometimes that matters, and sometimes it doesn’t. Of course, if you don’t have Play Dead in hand, you don’t have a choice but to drop your Seeping Oozeling out as quickly as possible. Getting it onto the board and daring your opponent to have silence is often a much better play that waiting around and hoping to draw Play Dead. Be aggressive in situations where you have no choice, you will often be rewarded rather than punished. Also note that there are times where you can use the six drop to bait out silences. This can work well because if you have a lot of damage or are pressing the board, the ooze can set up lethal. Either your opponent spends their mana silencing and dying to damage, or they go for a defensive option and get blown out by the deathrattle.
I am using this final section to discuss some of the one-of choices that are peppered throughout this list. When building a tool box deck you, of course, need a solid toolbox. The cards that make this one up are Lone Champion, Gluttonous Ooze, Houndmaster Shaw, Saronite Chain Gang and The Lich King. The king is fanstastic because it helps you get another card from Silver Vanguard, while Lone Champion acts as a third Tar Creeper, Ooze is for all the weapons running around, and Shaw is a perfect midrange card that helps bridge the gap between the early and later turns. Chain gang is also a good way to push back against aggro and is one of the best defensive options to take when using Stitched Tracker.
However, not all of those cards are completely necessary. The tools always depend on the meta, and there are several different options you can run here to better fight against what you’re facing the most. The only card I would not cut is The Lich King (as its part of the combo). Ooze is also incredibly strong as the current time. There were two Saronite Chain Gangs in the original build, but I immediately cut one for a second Spellbreaker. The four drop is just too good right now. Not only is Warlock everywhere on ladder, but there are many things you want to silence. It is also worth considering things like Unleash the Hounds depending on how much Paladin you’re facing during your climb.
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The four decks I see the most while playing the ladder.
Odd Paladin appears to be the most popular deck right now (even if I’m not seeing it much) and it is something you need to be ready for. Your big combo cards can put on a lot of pressure on your opponent and force them to abandon their typical plan. That is the goal and that is how you want this game to go. However, it is never going to be easy to live that long. You need to be able to keep your health up because, if Paladin gets a chance to push, you will not be able to set up any of your combo cards. Ironbeak Owl is standard in Paladin, which means depending on a single taunt to carry you is never going to be the answer. Rather, you need to aggressively clear early on and do your best to stick a major wall or powerful body like Houndmaster Shaw. That should then keep you in the game long enough to build a counter attack.
Remember that you need to get pressure in this one. It is easy to fall into a pattern of clearing, but you need to turn up the heat on your opponent as soon as you hit the middle turns. Clear aggressively early on as a way to stop any combo cards like Level Up!. Then, as soon as you get a window, you need to push hard. Your taunts are powerful, but they only do so much. Paladin has a near-endless stream of minions, and they will eventually push through with buffs like Level Up! or Sunkeeper Tarim. It is not easy to get your bigger threats online, but they should almost always go face when they come down.
Note: Deathstalker Rexxar‘s battlecry is a great way to put away a board in the middle turns of the game.
As tough as Paladin is, Cubelock gets much easier. Especially with the double Spellbreaker. The rule of this one is to do your best to play on curve, save your Breakers for any Voidlords and then work hard to get to your combo pieces. If you curve out, you generally should be able to win by overwhelming your opponent with your strongly statted minions. This game is a bit of a race, but one that ends around turn six. As mentioned above, Seeping Oozeling absolutely crushes Warlock if you have any early pressure to go along with it. Play your game here. The only thing you need to watch out for is an early Mountain Giant. If you’re pressing the first turns, try to think about the ways you can get eight damage together.
The only non-ooze card your want to play to in this game is Deathstalker Rexxar. The Death Knight is still one of the strongest control vs. control cards in the game, and he has gotten some crazy good options now that he has access to Witchwood cards. Unless you’re pushing for lethal, you should switch into him as soon as you possibly can. His value will easily break Warlock down, especially if you have a board when you play him. Beyond that, be careful with your big minions. Unless you have silence, there are going to be many games where you need to crash through a few walls with your bigger threats. Though that is fine, you never want to drop down into AOE range if you can help it. Always think about your larger threats’ health and keep them above any potential removal your opponent might have. Taking away easy outs is vital in setting up lethal.
I am combining two different classes into one section because both of these decks pilot in the exact same way. Spiteful decks see a good amount of play across the ladder, which means you need to be ready for them. Treat these like a mirror match. While you do not have actual Spiteful cards, you are basically a Spiteful deck in that you mainly depend on strong, efficient minions to carry the load. This game is typically going to go in two different ways. Either you are going to curve out and bury your opponent in value, or you’re going to play defensively and work hard to put up a big board. The way you make that distinction is how the game starts out. Also note that, in longer matches, Druid has access to Ultimate Infestation and Priest has Mind Control. Those ten mana spells can ruin you if you aren’t ready. Druid runs Mind Control Tech as well. You never want to play four minions if you can help it.
A great part of playing against Spiteful decks is that you almost never have to worry about getting ahead early on. As long as you keep pace and make sure things stay even you will be able to burst ahead of them with Seeping Oozeling and other fast combo cards. However, you always want to be wary of Spiteful Summoner. The 4/4 is still insanely strong and she will bury you if you aren’t keeping pace by the middle turns. This game almost always ends around turn six one way or the other. The only way you can avoid that is if you managed to have enough presence that you can trade down whatever ten drop comes out. Typically, even if you can chip something down, it’s right to go face and put the burden of trading on your opponent. You’re a Hunter and you can always leverage damage as a tool. Don’t forget that, especially in a game like this where your opponent has very little removal.
The legend meta is quite a different beast than the regular ladder. For that reason, I was not sure what to put as the fourth deck. After some play and looking at some stats, I settled on Odd Hunter. The blinding-fast build may not be around for too many more weeks (or maybe it will) but this is something you want to be ready for you while you’re out on the grind. This game is definitely going to be one of the toughest because, for all your defensive tools, you’re at the mercy of your opponent’s hero power. Three damage a turn is a lot, and if you take to long to stabilize you’ll just die behind any wall you can muster (though Deathstalker Rexxar‘s healing can work in a pinch). Clear aggressively for the first few turns, and never think a taunt is going to save you. Ironbeak Owl is everywhere, and the 2/1 is going to absolutely crush you if you put all your eggs in one basket. Rather, you want to try your best to play something smaller before going high with a Witchwood Grizzly or like. On that note, once you do get a handle on the board you need to push as hard as you can. Damage is vital in this game, and it’s often your best tool when trying to stay ahead of your opponent. Any big body should go face unless you’re specifically using it to prevent lethal.
This deck is something unique, but the mulligan is going to be the same one you would use for any midrange style list. Start low and sell high. Your early aggression is essential for the overall gameplan, especially when you’re up against builds like Paladin or Odd Hunter. Candleshot, Fire Fly, and Prince Keleseth are your three must-keeps. However, Tar Creeper, Lone Champion, and Stitched Tracker are all good with the coin or on curve. Saronite Chain Gang and Houndmaster Shaw are also good on curve, while you want Spellbreaker against Warlock. Flanking Strike is strong against any aggro or midrange deck if you have a good opening.
I’ve played some Big Hunter in the past, but I’ve never played Hunter that feels this big. It is a blast to mess around with so many gigantic minions, and it is always fun to just rip people’s heads off with the dinosaur package. This is definitely one of the more expensive Hunter decks around, but it is more than worth it. You get a bunch of cool cards and interesting interactions we’ve never seen before. You might even get some free wins by your opponent mulliganing wrong. Can’t beat that. Until next time, may your Ooze always copy Silver Vanguard.