Our Spell Hunter deck list guide will go through the ins-and-outs of the potentially viable deck from the Kobolds and Catacombs Expansion! This guide will teach you how to mulligan, pilot, and substitute cards for this archetype!
Introduction to Spell Hunter
Hunter has always had a heavy reliance on creatures, particularly beasts, as part of its class identity. Face, Hybrid, and Midrange Hunters all thrive off of the strength and efficiency of their creatures, backed up by versatile spells. Secret Hunter had a brief moment in the sun, but secrets themselves lack “oomph” in the late-game. Hunter has a tendency to empty its hand quickly, with no real way to replenish those expended resources (the exception being one-for-one effects like Stampede or Lock and Load that replace spent cards, with obvious downsides). The release of Deathstalker Rexxar gave Hunters a reliable way to generate cards as a late-game engine with the Zombeast hero power. Combine this with the explosive potential of the newly released Lesser Emerald Spellstone and spells-matter Rhok'delar, and we have a spicy combination that took Hunter into a completely different direction.
Update: Spell Hunter (March 2018)
Against all odds, Spell Hunter is one of the higher tier decks in the meta right now!
Spell Hunter Mulligan Strategy & Guide
VS Fast Decks
Higher Priority (Keep every time)
- Candleshot – Great weapon vs aggressive decks. You get 3 pings for just 1 mana and it doesn’t cost you any health, which is a big issue when facing a deck that wants to rush you down.
- Wandering Monster – Probably the best Secret against Aggro. It is very likely that your opponent will attack with a 1-drop, it will kill off his 1-drop and you will still have a minion alive on the board to trade into something else.
- Explosive Trap – Faster decks want to flood the board and dealing 2 AoE damage for 2 mana is definitely a great way to counter that.
- Barnes – 3/4 + 1/1 + 10/10 on Turn 4 is great no matter what deck you play against it. Very often you can actually turn the game around and put your opponent on two turns clock, while keeping yourself alive with Secrets and other removals.
Lower Priority (Keep only if certain conditions are met)
- Flare – Against Secret decks (so mostly against Tempo/Secret Mage when it comes to fast decks).
- Animal Companion – If you have something to play on Turn 2 already. Skipping Turn 2 is really bad against Aggro.
- Eaglehorn Bow – With a Secret to play on Turn 2.
- Flanking Strike – If you have rest of the curve already (like 2 mana play into 3 mana play).
- Lesser Emerald Spellstone – If you have some early game Secrets already. Playing it on the curve creates a big board presence that can fight off against Aggro deck’s board.
VS Slow Decks
Higher Priority (Keep every time)
- Wandering Monster & Cat Trick – Wandering Monster is still great versus almost every slow deck, because they also run some small minions to proc it. Cat Trick is the best Secret in slow matchups, however, since they WILL play the spell and you can be sure about it. Don’t keep only if you suspect a Spiteful Summoner deck.
- Animal Companion – Great Turn 3 play, especially if you curve out with it after Turn 2 Secret.
- Barnes – Obviously, even better in slow matchups than it is in fast. They can’t really rush you down and they absolutely need to answer a 10/10. Even if they do, you still have 3/4 and 1/1 left to hit with, so it’s always a huge tempo win for you (and sometimes just a game win).
- Lesser Emerald Spellstone – A lot of people don’t realize it, but this is the second best card in your deck after the Barnes (in slow matchups, at least). Creating 4x 3/3 basically means that you win if your opponent has no way to answer them, it’s too much damage.
Lower Priority (Keep only if certain conditions are met)
- Flare – Against Secret decks, e.g. against Mage or in the mirror.
- Eaglehorn Bow – If you have a Secret on Turn 2.
Spell Hunter Win Rates
Spell Hunter Play Strategy
Aggro matchups are all about the proactive board control. The thing about Spell Hunter is that it doesn’t really have a good AoE clear. Explosive Trap is efficient, but 2 damage is often not enough against aggressive decks. For example, when you play versus Secret Mage, the card might be almost useless, as most of their small minions have 3 health (Mana Wyrm, Arcanologist etc.) Of course, Explosive Trap is still good against Aggro, it just isn’t enough to win.
What you need mostly are the weapons and ways to generate minions. Weapons are great, because they’re tempo efficient. You play it once and you can kill up to a few minions with it. Candleshot is great during the first few turns – it’s most useful for clearing 1-drops, but things like popping Divine Shield, finishing a minion off after it’s down to 1 health etc. also make it good. But when it comes to pure, mid game board control, Eaglehorn Bow is one of the best tools. With the amount of Secrets you have, you’re often going to swing with it 3 or 4 times, increasing its potential heavily.
Then, there are spells that summon minions – those are also quite important. Since you have no other ways to get minions (other than Barnes), you really want cards like Wandering Monster, Animal Companion or Lesser Emerald Spellstone (in the mid game). Those cards are, most of the time, very mana efficient and can help you contest the board.
Aggro matchups are all about surviving. You want to clear everything they play and run them out of resources. The only exception from this rule is when you manage to get a big board swing. There are really two ways to do that. Barnes into Y'Shaarj, Rage Unbound is the first one. With 3/4, 1/1 and 10/10 on the board, you should most likely just go face with everything and then win next turn. Another way is a fully upgraded Spellstone – summoning 4x 3/3 creates a huge board and, unless your opponent is ahead, it most likely means that now you have the board dominance and you can dictate pace of the game. If you’re at a decent health total, you should probably also go face with everything (possibly make some good trades on the way, like clearing a 2/3 minion) and use spells to control the board. You often can set up a two turns lethal if your opponent can’t answer.
Even though Deathstalker Rexxar seems mostly like an anti-Control card, it’s actually often the best way to comeback against fast decks. Between some Armor gain and 2 AoE damage, you should often be able to use it in order to survive. Then, there is a pretty high chance to get either a Taunt or a Lifesteal minion to just seal the game.
Slow matchups play way, way differently than the aggressive ones. Against fast decks, you assume a Control role (unless you get the big tempo swing I’ve talked about). You need to defend yourself and run them out of resources. But not against Control decks – here the strategy is quite the opposite. One of the biggest mistakes people make when playing Spell Hunter is always playing it as a Control deck. Even though most of your cards are reactive, you are NOT a Control deck. You run out of cards quickly, you have limited ways to gain extra value and you want to finish the game off as quickly as possible. You can not outvalue a Control deck in the long run – even getting an early Deathstalker Rexxar is usually not enough. As a matter of fact, a lot of the time it’s just better to keep your 2 damage Hero Power if you’ve put enough early/mid game pressure (so you can keep dealing damage).
Even though you’re playing a Spell Hunter, minions are still your main win condition. You want to summon as many of them and deal as much damage as possible. That’s why, for example, Cat Trick is amazing card, because not only you’re getting 4 nearly guaranteed damage, but you also have a 4/2 minion on the board you can attack with again if your opponent doesn’t answer it. Try to keep your minions alive and use spells to clear the board. For example, instead of trading into something, you’d rather Deadly Shot it or Hunter's Mark is (and then finish off with e.g. a weapon). Unlike spells, minions provide repeated damage every turn.
Your two main win conditions versus slower decks are Barnes and Lesser Emerald Spellstone. Barnes is just amazing and you should win most of the games in which you play it on the curve (assuming you don’t draw Y’Shaarj, of course). Even if the 10/10 gets answered, that’s still a huge tempo win for you. That said, your most common way to win the games will be Spellstone. You don’t want to play it until you upgrade it at least once, so you get three of four 3/3’s. After playing it, you just hope that your opponent has no AoE. For example, Duskbreaker is your worst enemy, but you can’t really do anything about it. You just need to not play into it. Your opponent is often waiting for you to play more before AoE’ing. If you already have a 4/2 on the board and your opponent passes while not really doing anything, there is a high chance that he has AoE and he wants to bait you into playing Spellstone too. Don’t take the bait and just hit with the 4/2, possibly play some Secret/weapon and go face + Hero Power. I’ve had Warlocks who baited me to play into Hellfire, and then they were forced to Hellfire that single minion next turn, since they had no other way to clear it.
Drawing your Y’Shaar is bad, but it doesn’t mean that you’ve automatically lost the game. Generally, in most of the games it’s a dead card in the hand, because the games are decided way before Turn 10. However, there will be some slow matches in which you’d be able to drop it as a 10 mana 10/10 (maybe even pulling out Barnes). Not optimal, but hey, the Barnes swings are still worth it in the long run.
Rhok'delar is your only real way to refill the hand, but it’s GREAT at that job. You ideally want to play it on the curve, when you’re almost out of cards. While some of the random spells are quite useless (e.g. Stampede), most of them will be great. You can get another Spellstone, more Secrets, more removal, burn damage. You should be able to go all in over the next few turns without really running out of steam. However, remember that until you play Barnes into Y’Shaarj (or draw both minions), it’s just a 7 mana 4/2 weapon. SOmetimes that’s enough to finish off the game, but in slow matchups you usually want to hold off onto it until you get the minions out of your deck first.
Alternative win condition is Deathstalker Rexxar. However, this is a value card and it doesn’t fit into your general game plan. I’ve seen people playing him as soon as they could, on the curve, against a slow deck, and that’s just bad. He’s more like a last resort – if you ran out of tempo plays and you need to switch to the value game, you can play it. Remember that he’s very slow – yes, you get an extra card every turn, but you need to play 2 extra mana for it. Which means that ultimately you will lose out in terms of tempo. Not to mention that you have literally no answer to big swings like Bloodreaver Gul'dan or N'Zoth, The Corruptor. So while yes, this win condition works sometimes, you want to use it when you have no other options and you won’t kill your opponent with a normal Hero Power any time soon.
Spell Hunter Card Substitutions
While the deck is generally not that expensive, it runs a few Legendaries. However, only one of them is really necessary. Below, you will find a list of all the expensive cards and their potential substitutions.
- Cat Trick – The card is from Karazhan. While it’s great, you can replace it with other Secrets – e.g. Freezing Trap or Snake Trap.
- Barnes & Y'Shaarj, Rage Unbound – This duo as to be played together, no doubt about it. Barnes is from Karazhan, while Y’Shaarj is just a regular Legendary. If you don’t have either of them, replace both of them with To My Side!. If you don’t have those either then I’m afraid that there is no good substitute and you should play something else.
- Deathstalker Rexxar – It seems like an important card, but it’s actually one of the lowest win rate cards in the entire deck. Play it if you have it, but if you don’t, replace it with just about any other spell. For example, you can play another Deadly Shot, one more Secret, On the Hunt, or even Call of the Wild if you want some late game finisher.
- Rhok'delar – This card can’t really be replaced. It’s the reason you play this kind of Hunter in the first place. If you don’t have it, you should probably play some Hunter deck with minions, e.g. Secret Hunter.