Welcome to our Midrange Death Knight Hunter deck list guide for the Frozen Throne expansion that will guide you through mulligans, play strategy, and card substitutions!
Introduction to Midrange Hunter
Death Knight Hunter, starring Deathstalker Rexxar, the new Hunter Death Knight Hero evolves out of an Un’Goro iteration of one of the most classic Hearthstone archetypes– the Midrange Hunter. The addition of the new Death Knight provides a punch that can mitigate one of Hunter’s typical weaknesses: late game. Through his Build-a-Beast Hero Power, Deathstalker Rexxar can generate potentially huge amounts of value by allowing the player to consecutively Discover two Beast cards and, as Ben Brode so memorably described, “Stitch them together!” to form a single playable Zombeast with the combined abilities (and mana cost!) of the respective choices, and add it to your hand.
Reddit user Xadefinn has made a handy spreadsheet of all the available Build-a-Beast options that can be found here, if you’re interested.
Frozen Throne Midrange Hunter Mulligan Strategy & Guide
In general, with this deck mulligan is similar regardless of opponent. You want early Beasts to develop on which you can land your conditional buffs, attempting to snowball Beast synergy on your opponent.
Higher Priority (Keep every time)
- Alleycat – This deck’s best 1 drop as it allows you to have a high likelihood of sticking at least one beast that you can Razormaw.
- Crackling Razormaw – If you can get the buff, you begin your snowball here, playing an average of 4/3 stats for 2 mana early.
- Kindly Grandmother – Keep if on Coin, consider keeping on the play. This sticky minion is already 4/3 stats for 2, and it can be hard to remove, allowing you to have buff targets moving forward.
Lower Priority (Keep only if certain conditions are met)
- Animal Companion – This is a very powerful card, and high tempo. You will want to play either this or Bow on Turn 3 every time. You could even consider keeping it always, but definitely keep it if you have 1 or 2 drops already.
- Eaglehorn Bow – One of the highest Winrate-if-Played cards in the deck, you often want this card to keep your opponent’s board clean so you can develop in peace. Especially keep against Druid and Paladin and Warrior, anyone who also wants to fight hard for the early board.
- Houndmaster – If you can play a perfect curve and have a Beast to land its effect on, Houndmaster’s 6/5 stats (plus Taunt!) for 4 is a killer. Keep this card if you have a perfect hand already and are confident that you can curve into it on Turn 3 or 4.
- Deadly Shot – If you are worried about an Innervated Bittertide Hydra, or huge early taunt, you could consider keeping this removal, but it’s questionable and reactive. Mostly you’re going to want to develop.
Frozen Throne Midrange Hunter Win Rates
Frozen Throne Midrange Hunter Play Strategy
Our goal with Midrange Hunter decks most of the time is to develop a board early, capitalize on our Beast synergies to buff our boards, stick more minions through Deathrattles, and snowball the tempo. We play aggressively, but not all out for The Face, hoping to maximize board pressure and accrue additional damage across future turns through efficient value trades and using Weapons and Spells to clear minions.
Death Knight Hunter adds to this straightforward strategy a new option for Hunter players, generating late game value. A traditional problem for Midrange Hunter would be hitting turn 7-8 with the opponent being able to address our threats, clear our board, and then take control of the game. But now, with the powerful army of Zombeasts, Deathstalker Rexxar can continue the fight deep into a Control matchup, effectively drawing 2 cards per turn, one of which is likely to be apt for whatever situation we find ourselves in.
And don’t forget that casting the Death Knight has two additional effects: adding 5 armor (usually unimportant in these matchups) and casting an on-demand Explosive Trap across our opponent’s board (which can be very important). If you have it in hand, you can plan your trades accordingly and make solid use out of the Death Knight’s efficiently costed AOE, clearing things up to switch into the value game.
Note, however, that when we go in to Death Knight mode, we lose a very important part of Hunter’s identity, with the disappearance of Steady Shot. When Deathstalker comes into play, we need to significantly shift gameplans to a value-centric, fully board oriented strategy, as our burn potential has dropped to only Kill Commands. This Death Knight, like Gul’Dan and unlike Jaina, is a drastic shift in Hero identity and requires an according shift in playstyle and gameplan.
Similarly to Murloc Paladin and Pirate Warrior –and in a different way Token Shaman or Druid– Midrange Hunter decks, including Death Knight decks, need to have a board in order to play efficiently, reliant as they are on minion Tribal synergy. Consider the difference between a Houndmaster that lands on a Beast or does not. A vanilla 4/3 for 4 mana? Or 6/5 of stats plus Taunt for 4 mana? The differences are incredible.
So, vs Aggro decks, we must must must stick Beasts, whether through spamming low cost development, or deploying Deathrattles that can’t be cleared on the next turn. Eaglehorn Bow is a very key card in these sorts of situations, and should but won’t go without saying: should never hit a face (unless counting for immanent lethal). Wipe up Southsea Captains and Murloc Warleaders and Vicious Fledglings, and protect your own board. Even if you have to spend Kill Commands on minions for 3-health early: if doing so helps stick boards to buff do it!
If we still have a board by Turns 4 and 5 and can start Houndmaster-ing things and playing Corpse Widows into Highmanes, we will likely overwhelm other aggressive decks, and Deathstalker can just chill, saving his energy for the next Priest game.
Control matchups rely heavily on the balancing act between Pressure & Conservation. As an aggressive-midrange-synergetic-tempo deck, we want to use our ability to curve out into efficient stats deployment on turns 1-6 to overwhelm BUT we want to beware of over-extension. If we play an unnecessary number of cards into a Dragonfire Potion or Frost Nova/Doomsayer type situation, we can find ourselves with insufficient reload and let the game swing. Against control, what we want to prevent are midgame swings. If they’re going to clear our board, we want to be sure to preserve cards in hand to reload the board afterward and go right back to our pressure plan. If they are clearing, they aren’t developing, and we just want to right back to pushing.
But sometimes this route cannot be sustained, and this is where our Death Knight can come to shine. Now, instead of drying up and being unable to draw reload, the Hunter can drop a Deathstalker Rexxar, and get 2 cards per turn, 1 of which is a supercharged Beast-amalgam of active effects. You want some charge? Grab a Stonetusk Boar. Need health? Take a Bloodworm. Taunt? We got you, Stegodon. Whatever the game state calls for, can (RNGesus be praised) be discovered and stitched together into an appropriate Zombeast.
An art that itself could constitute and entire guide, but I will only be able to go into a few basic tips:
- Pay attention to the combined cost of the Zombeast. Do not allow yourself to be blinded by the overwhelming power of that Knuckles/Bloodworm, or Highmane/Fledgling. Consider: When will I be able to play this card I am creating? Oftentimes you will need to create and play your Zombeast on the same turn, and greed must often be sacrificed for tempo. 10 mana minions are hard to play, and a huge punish if efficiently removed.
- To the best of your ability, consider your opponent’s deck’s strengths and weaknesses. By the time you are stitching up Zombeasts, you are highly likely to know what you’re playing against in some detail. Is my opponent flabbergasted by 4 attack minions? Will they have a hard time removing one large threat? Would it be better to go wide and make a small minion so I can play this other card I drew in addition? Do they want to play their own big threat next turn and Poisonous will throw off their plans? Think about what Zombeast would make the opponent’s next play as awkward as possible.
- Ask yourself if you even want to make a Zombeast here, or if your mana would be better spent playing natural cards from hand. Don’t get blinded by the highroll excitement of landing the perfect Beast, sometimes the simple play is the best play, and you can always take a shot at the dream next turn. Consider the odds of rolling perfection against the effectiveness of the basic play.
Frozen Throne Midrange Hunter Card Substitutions
One of the advantages of Hunter, especially for new or free to play players, is the relatively low barrier to entry on card cost. This deck already contains only one Legendary card, Deathstalker Rexxar, which is by definition irreplaceable in a Death Knight Hunter deck, but there are many Midrange builds that don’t include him. You really don’t want to play Hunter without the ever-broken Savannah Highmane, so let’s call that a must include as well.
- Rat Pack – If you like, you can drop your curve and increase further the likelihood of landing a 1 drop by inserting a Fiery Bat here, or preserve the curve with the interesting new Beast card Bearshark, the advantage of not being targetable by Spells and Hero Powers does not prevent Bearshark from being buffable by your other minions making it even more appealing, though less sticky than Rat Pack.
- Corpse Widow – This card is powerfully synergetic with the deck’s many Deathrattle minions and allows for potentially devastating Tempo if it sticks, but can be replaced by other big Neutral Beast bodies, such as Nesting Roc or perhaps even Sated Threshadon (though Threshadon works even better in addition rather than as a replacement).
- Other Beasts that have been tried in similar decks include: Dire Wolf Alpha, Golakka Crawler, Scavenging Hyena, Tundra Rhino, and even Stampeding Kodo.