In the end, no one was prepared. Turns out there isn’t that much unique about grinding Hearthstone’s new class when it launches in a state where it’s head and shoulders above its nine competitors. The meme build I put together with just class cards? Basically a meta deck. Playing Demon Hunter exclusively? Well congrats, that’s pretty much what everyone else has been doing. Now, with an emergency balance update, things are looking somewhat less ridiculous.
- Introduction – 0/1000
- Week 1 – 118/1000
- Week 2 – 147/1000
- Week 3 – 208/1000
- Week 4 – 280/1000
- Week 5 – 388/1000
- Week 6 – 421/1000
- Week 7 – 529/1000
- Week 8 – 597/1000
- Week 9 – 640/1000
- Week 10 – 672/1000
- Week 11 – 704/1000
- Week 12 – 752/1000
What Went Wrong With Demon Hunter’s Launch
So… Demon Hunter’s pretty good, right? An unprecedented day 2 nerf, so quick the cards displayed red and green modified mana costs for a short while, was necessary to bring Illidan Stormrage back in line. Though it definitely led to one of the most chaotic expansion launches in the game’s history – and a pretty poor look after the Galakrond Shaman debacle in the first days of Descent of Dragons.
But what made the class so strong it broke all winrate records and generated strings of ten-fifteen mirror matches in a row during ladder climbs? For what it’s worth, part of it had to do with the novelty aspect of it all. Even in games like League of Legends – where they don’t have to wait six years for a new class – the initial play percentage of new heroes skyrockets immediately after release, only to normalize a little while later. Demon Hunter was likely going to be super popular early on no matter how good or bad it was, especially considering how the entire playerbase had access to a high percentage of its toolkit from the get-go with the Initiate cards.
However, the fact that no other class or deck could get a word in edgewise across all that VENGEANCE was a real issue, and the win percentages don’t lie. The initial aggressive Demon Hunter decks were so strong that they were easily the best deck even in Wild (with little to no neutral cards added to the mix from the game’s entire history), and builds relying on nothing but class cards turned out to be some of the strongest options out there.
So, what went wrong? Part of this is due to a difference in developer philosophy. It’s quite clear that Team 5 are now more open to overtune things and then bring them in line with quick balance updates – an attitude I’m personally not a fan of but perhaps more in line with modern gaming sensibilities. However, this level of power spike remained unacceptable for everyone, warranting an ultra-quick nerf.
As it turns out, Demon Hunter’s toolset allows it to recuperate loss in resources in an extremely efficient manner. It can make rapid tempo plays at the cost of multiple cards only to achieve a near-instant refill with easily triggerable Outcast draw effects. Aggressive use of weapons for a board advantage were mitigated by multiple strong Lifesteal tools, coupled with literal mana cheating off the back of the 0-cost initial version of Eye Beam. Off the back of all this, the one-mana Hero Power adds extra consistency in the crucial early game turns,
It’s easy to see how these kinds of builds were initially envisioned, with a hellish pressure strategy coupled by the sort of limited burn output we haven’t seen since the Classic days. However, there was no way to push back in the early game against Demon Hunter, allowing it to deal crucial repetitive damage with its minions before transitioning into Imprisoned Antaen and Priestess of Fury, essentially board clear tools and burn damage with a big body attached, rendering anyone else helpless. Now that the smoke has cleared after the initial balance changes, it’s clear they were a step in the right direction, but it’s quite likely we’ll see some further tinkering to Illidan’s arsenal.
The Most Notable Demon Hunter Decks of the Week
We’re still in the phase of incredibly quick innovation and the sudden nerf has also complicated things a bit.
The midrange tempo build with Warglaives of Azzinoth
The refined Inner Demon combo build which Orange piloted to Legend 1
- 1Consume Magic2
- 1Crimson Sigil Runner2
- 1Mana Burn2
- 1Twin Slice2
- 2Bloodmage Thalnos1
- 2Chaos Strike2
- 2Immolation Aura2
- 2Novice Engineer2
- 2Spectral Sight2
- 2Zephrys the Great1
- 3Aldrachi Warblades2
- 3Eye Beam2
- 4Altruis the Outcast1
- 4Kayn Sunfury1
- 6Skull of Gul’dan2
- 7Kael’thas Sunstrider1
- 8Inner Demon2
My Climb – Stats and Homebrews
The early oppression of Demon Hunter has sort of overshadowed the story of my personal grind. That said, it’s been going pretty well, with lots of quick games and easy wins propelling me to the 118/1000 mark after the first week (almost half of which came from a monster session on day 1). I wanted to make sure I didn’t burn myself out on Constructed before embarking on this adventure, which is why I decided to not play any ladder in April before the new set was released.
Ultimately, I made the entire climb from Bronze 10 to Legend in 26 hours (two marathon gameplay sessions), most of it with a homebrew build, and I’m confident I could have done it in a single sitting had I had a reasonable amount of sleep. Also, the random Murloc Demon Hunter and Pirate Demon Hunter builds I made after hitting Legend, stuck waiting for the patch, only served to add a few extra losses to my tally. Also, as you probably guessed, the pure Highlander build was pretty much dead on arrival.
In retrospect, it was probably a mistake to name all of my initial decks as VENGEANCE – turns out that makes it fairly difficult to figure out my deck-specific stats. According to the decktracker, my most played deck is VENGEANCE with 73 wins and 54 losses (57%) across 12 hours played and my best one is VENGEANCE with 16 wins and 8 losses (67%) over 2.3 hours played. Pretty sure the former is my homebrew with the Questing Adventurers and the other one is the pre-nerf standard build with Imprisoned Antaen and Priestess of Fury. My overall winrate this season is 57% with an exactly even record in the mirror – which amounts to 62% of my total games played.
In terms of the gameplay experience, Demon Hunter has delivered what I was hoping for. The busted power levels certainly didn’t hurt, but the aggressive starts and the efficient tempo plays were pretty much what I had in mind. Though I will now focus more on covering and studying the high Legend builds, it was fun to spend most of the first week with my homebrew build hovering around the top 1000.
Let me preach you the gospel of Questing Adventurers instead of some other finicky finishers. You can crack them out with Twin Slices and the Coin as early as turn 3 into a threat too big to handle by most decks in the mirror, and you can drop them strategically into key turns (for instance, Druid’s Overgrowth on 4 like this) and balloon out of control from there. Post-Skull of Gul'dan plays also serve as a great way to generate a big board presence. I think it’s certainly worth experimenting with whenever Consume Magic cycles out of Demon Hunter decks for a nasty mid-game surprise that doesn’t necessarily require a fully dedicated build.
My Predictions for Next Week, for What They’re Worth
- I’ll reach 200 wins (and maintain a 60%+ winrate now that I will play with real decks)
- Demon Hunter gets another nerf
- The Kael’thas builds will cycle out of the meta