Hi! I’m Abar. Some of you might remember my name from recently qualifying for Americas Summer Championships. Some of you might remember my name from my first ever Reddit post a few months ago after I hit Rank 1 on NA with Reno Mage. To most of you, I’m probably no one … Regardless, I’m back and I’m brewyer than ever!
Are you tired of “Curvestone?” Done with meaningful interaction and reasonable board states? Well then, sir or madam, have I got a deck for you (list is above)! Meet “Fun and Interactive” Hunter. Time will tell just how degenerate of an effect on the game Barnes will have, but I set out on a mission to incite Reddit memes and make Blizzard regret printing it. With a 73 percent win rate, I climbed from rank 1,371 legend on NA to top 50 yesterday with Barnes and Y'Shaarj, Rage Unbound as the only minions in my deck (stats are above). Not sure if rank 45 will hold top 100 for 31 hours without me playing again, but I am not in the running for last chance qualifier points and have a job interview tomorrow to worry about, so honestly, couldn’t care less where I end the season today…
Without further ado, what does this deck do?
There’s a plan A with this deck, and then a couple of different backup plans depending on the matchup. Plan A goes something like this: mulligan almost ever card in the deck (depending on the matchup) looking for Barnes and tracking. If you don’t draw Y’Shaarj, play Barnes on turn four (or turn three with the coin). Barnes summons Y’Shaarj 100 percent of the time, Y’Shaarj summons Y’Shaarj 100 percent of the time, you have a 14/15 in stats for four mana. Hit your opponent’s face with a 10/10 and proceed to win the game.
Yes, sometimes your big Y’Shaarj gets a Execute, Sap or Hex, but what you’ll find is that’s still really good value, and given that the rest of your deck is a pile of Hunter cards, the tempo loss is too insurmountable for your opponent to not die in a face race thereafter.
You don’t always get to pull off the combo. In fact, you usually don’t get to pull off the combo. Sometimes you draw your Y’Shaarj or discard it to tracking. Sometimes your Barnes is buried. Sometimes you draw Y’Shaarj in the first few turns of the game when you had the Barnes in your opening hand and your Barnes is a four mana 3/4. This does NOT mean the game is over. The trick with this deck, and with any deck, really, is learning to find a way to win when things don’t go your way. Let’s take a look at a couple different approaches.
Plan B #1, Trap Hunter: I’ve only been playing this game for about nine months, but from what I’ve heard, there used to be a trap hunter deck where you won the game by milking 12-15 damage off an Eaglehorn Bow and continually going face. That’s how this deck wins some of its matchups too. Midrange decks like Beast Druid, Rogue and Dragon Warrior have a hard time trying to win without triggering your traps and lack sufficient healing to afford taking extra bow hits. Point as many of your burn spells as you can afford to at your opponent’s face and race them, leveraging your traps for mana-efficient tempo swings. If you’ve missed playing Face Hunter in 2016 … you know who you are … this deck can certainly help you get your fix.
Plan B #2, Call of the Wild still wins games: As many players have said before me in regards to Midrange Hunter, the best way to win with Hunter is just to not fall behind on board until turn 8. Then Call of the Wild will do the rest. That’s still true with this deck. Against decks like Control Warrior, Renolock or Priest, just keep up and don’t let your opponent build a board presence. Hit the Hunter hero power as many times as you can afford to, and don’t ever pick anything but Barnes over a Call of the Wild when casting your trackings. Keep the coin on the draw so you can get the call of the wild train started one turn earlier. And then, of course, back up the companions with some burn spells to the face.
Card Choices, and Why This Deck Works in Hunter
The biggest inherent weakness in a strategy like this is that you can’t afford to run other minions or they will disrupt your plan A, and it’s hard to win a game of Hearthstone without minions as sources of repeatable damage. Take a closer look at this deck list, though. 2x On the Hunt, 2x Cat Trick, 2x Animal Companion, 2x Unleash the Hounds, 2x Call of the Wild. To varying extents, all 10 of those spells are minions. Hunter and Druid are the only classes with this many spell minions, but hunter has more of a built-in win condition with its hero power. Also, Hunter has tracking. Tracking is the single most powerful deck filtering spell in the game. The card is extremely potent, we just don’t get to see it in action very often due to the nature of the hunter class and the importance of curving out in general in Hearthstone.
If you’re adding other creatures to this deck besides Barnes and Y’Shaarj, you’re playing a different deck. When the combo for this deck works, it WORKS. If it only sometimes worked, you’re better off playing Midrange Hunter for the better overall card quality. This deck sacrifices percentage points from some of its card quality to gain percentage points from auto-wins. It’s a trade off, and I don’t think there’s a happy medium between the two options that’s better than going one route or the other. Malygos would be the closest second option, but then you can’t afford to cast your Barnes on turn four or you lose your Malygos synergy, and this deck is playing for tempo to take advantage of its face-oriented build.
Regarding Lock and Load: Trust me, I tried it. I tried a lot of different builds. In fact, you can see in my VODs I even tried ball of spiders for extra spell creatures … that was too deep. Lock and Loads kept cluttering up my hand, so I cut one copy and the deck got better. Then every time I drew my one copy, I just wanted it to be damage, so I cut the second copy and the deck got even better. This deck isn’t trying to bury your opponent in card advantage; it’s trying to put the opponent’s life total to zero. Even though this list has a high density of cheap spells, I consistently felt like my lock and loads weren’t actually accomplishing anything unless they drew me a few specific cards. Plus, you can’t really afford to be holding your spells until you draw a lock and load. I wanted it to work too, I swear…
Mulligans and Matchups
- Always Keep: Barnes, Tracking
- Sometimes Keep: Quick Shot, Animal Companion, Eaglehorn Bow
- Never Keep: Everything else.
As is the nature of combo decks, you’re mulliganing aggressively for key pieces of the puzzle and cards that help you dig for them. If you have the Barnes in your opening hand, keep anything and everything else besides Y’Shaarj. Every other card you mulligan looking for something better increases the chances you draw Y’Shaarj and ruin your combo, and the deck is relatively redundant anyway. If my opening hand on the play was Barnes, Call of the Wild, Call of the Wild, I snap keep.
There are matchups, however, where planning to execute plan B and not relying on the combo is legitimate, in which case you could keep other cards. Tempo mage and Midrange Hunter really struggle against the trap hunter plan B, so I keep Eaglehorn Bow against Mages and Hunters. Huffer is always good, but Priest can take 16-20 damage from a Misha if you have the spells to back it up, and they will often have a shadow word death for the Y’Shaarj anyway, so set yourself up to win the value-oriented Call of the Wild plan B by keeping animal companion. Having a Quick Shot for the Tunnel Trogg can go a long way in swinging races vs Shamans, so I like to keep quick shot against that class. With practice, you’ll get a feel for when to break the more obvious mulliganing rules.
All in all, the deck is fairly linear, so a lot of matchups play out similarly. Identify which strategy is most likely to get you to victory. Keep doing the math on when you’re safe to turn the corner and start racing. Keep in mind what the optimal targets are for the removal you have drawn and plan accordingly. Don’t over-trade.
Disclaimers and Conclusions
I’m not claiming I broke the meta. I’m not even claiming this is an objectively good deck. To me, a truly good deck is one where your opponent could know exactly what you’re trying to accomplish and they couldn’t beat it anyway. I would never bring this list to a tournament where deck lists were public. The beauty of ladder, though, is you’re operating with concealed information so long as you’re willing to try something different. So try something different!
“Fun and Interactive” Hunter earned its name for being perhaps the least interactive deck I’ve ever played to any success. I genuinely hope strategies like this never become good enough, but in a world where everyone is keeping their one drop, two drop and three drop and mulliganing their answers, it feels good to flip the table on turn four.
Just don’t accept any friend requests.