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.
- Grievous Bite – Good removal against faster decks, especially Paladin. For example, it’s great at dealing with Dire Wolf Alpha vs Odd Paladin – you can potentially clear Dire Wolf and two 1/1 Recruits.
Lower Priority (Keep only if certain conditions are met)
- 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 – Wandering Monster is still great versus almost every slow deck, because they also run some small minions to proc it.
- Animal Companion – Great Turn 3 play, especially if you curve out with it after Turn 2 Secret.
- Lesser Emerald Spellstone – A lot of people don’t realize it, but this is your main win condition in slower matchups. 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)
- Freezing Trap – Keep against certain slower decks that might drop a big minion in the early/mid game. Great keep vs Cube Warlock, for example – it stops both Mountain Giant and Possessed Lackey if they have no way to pop it (+if they get a Doomguard they won’t be able to attack with it anyway).
- 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 Tempo Mage, the card might be almost useless, as most of their small minions have 3 health (Mana Wyrm, Arcanologist, Kirin Tor Mage) 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, you really want cards like Wandering Monster, Animal Companion or Lesser Emerald Spellstone / To My Side! (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. Aggro decks generally don’t run AoE board clears, which means that if you managed to keep up with them and then drop an upgraded Lesser Emerald Spellstone (which summons 4x 3/3), now you will be ahead and he will be behind.
If you’re at reasonable health total, you can switch your game plan to aggression. Clear only the highest priority minions (such as Knife Juggler), and let your opponent do the rest of the trades. Especially if you can follow it with To my Side – then pretty much no Aggro deck will be able to withstand that much pressure. Those decks also don’t run cards that heal them, so the damage you deal is usually permanent – they CAN drop a Taunt or two, but you should be able to get through them quite easily and kill them over two-three turns.
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. The Witchwood has made this card even better in the fast matchups. Thanks to the cheap Lifesteal minions and a Rush keyword (cards such as Swamp Leech, Vicious Scalehide and Hunting Mastiff), it’s much easier to get a “fast” minion from it, potentially something with Lifesteal. For example, something as simple as combining the Scalehide with a Bloodfen Raptor gives you a 4/5 minion with Rush and Lifesteal – a great way to quickly clear something on the board and regain some health in the process.
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, rolling a Huffer from Animal Companion is so good. Not only you’re getting 4 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 Flanking Strike it or Hunter's Mark is (and then finish off with e.g. a weapon). Unlike spells, minions provide repeated damage every turn.
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.
Rhok'delar is your only real way to immediately refill, 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 useful. 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. You also can’t underestimate the 4/2 weapon – since you’re often pushing your opponent, 8 extra damage is very important.
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, but that’s not always correct. Your main game plan is to rush the slow deck down – and for that matter, your normal 2 damage Hero Power is much better than the Deathstalker’s one. DO NOT change into your Death Knight if you can still maintain the pressure, there is just no point. If you can choose between dropping To my Side and using Rexxar, drop the first one unless you’re behind on the board and the 2 damage AoE will matter.
Deathstalker Rexxar is a good play once you know that you won’t be able to pressure your opponent enough. For example – they are still at high health, they’re close to their key turn (like Frost Lich Jaina vs Mage or Bloodreaver Gul'dan vs Warlock) and you won’t be able to take them down before that, you’re running out of resources etc. Then it’s the time to play Rexxar. After you do it, try to Hero Power every turn to fill your hand with a bunch of different Zombeast. One of the common mistakes is being greedy and picking the biggest options. Sure, you can make only 6+ mana Zombeasts, but you will very soon notice that they’re clunky and you can’t reliably get them out of your hand. While going for one or two high value ones is not bad, your main goal should be getting Zombeasts in the 3-5 mana range. The reason is that you will be able to Hero Power, drop the Zombeast and still have some mana to e.g. play a Secret, weapon, Kill Command etc. Tempo is still very important, that’s why you ideally want to pick Beasts with some kind of immediate effect. Battlecries, Charge and Rush minions are good picks, because you’re doing something immediately the moment you drop them.
Spell Hunter Card Substitutions
With only two Legendaries and two Epics, Spell Hunter is a rather inexpensive deck. However, all of those cards are important and replacing them will turn this already off-meta deck into something very weak.
- Deathstalker Rexxar can theoretically get replaced, but it means that you will have no win condition at all if your aggressive game plan fails in the slow matchups. It’s also very useful against Aggro just for the AoE, Armor and the ability to maybe get some Lifesteal/Taunt minions from the Hero Power.
- Rhok'delar & To My Side! COULD be replaced, but then again, why would you run a deck without minions if there was no incentive to do that? Those cards are the reason you want to make a minion-less Hunter deck (just like Barnes & Y’Shaarj combo was the reason back in the Kobolds & Catacombs).
But if you really need to replace one of those cards, you can go for some other Hunter spells, such as a second copy of Grievous Bite, Deadly Shot, Arcane Shot, Snake Trap or Crushing Walls. I don’t think it makes much sense, but it’s your call.