With the post-nerf Demon Hunter landscape looking about as barren in terms of innovation as PlayHearthstone’s YouTube presence, I figured it’s time to take a long-overdue walk on the wild side and see what we can whip up in the evergreen format of the game. Allow me to introduce you to a certified Legend-worthy build and some general observations of Wild from someone who never really engaged with the format so far!
- 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
Variations on a Familiar Theme
In the end, the Priestess of Fury nerf was more effective than I expected it to be, and unfortunately no one managed to crack the code so far in terms of innovating on Demon Hunter. The logical step forward was to lower the curve and cut both copies of Raging Felscreamer, leading to the sort of build I’m much less effective with. It may seem like a small change but it matters a lot in terms of how you should approach the different matchups: the way I played my builds was to sacrifice a lot of resources for an early tempo lead, which I could then leverage for late-game burn finisher options. With one of the top-end tools removed from the arsenal, I tend to be a bit too cavalier with my cards, which is quite the downside in an environment where repetitive minion damage and longer board presence matters more than with the pre-patch Tempo Demon Hunter builds.
Have no fear, I’ll be back next week to examine the minute differences between running a single copy of Frenzied Felwing or Imprisoned Antaen – but I figured this is the perfect opportunity to check out Wild for basically the first time in my Hearthstone career. I had a few questions in mind before I embarked on the journey. How far can a Standard deck go in this environment? How soft is the field? How bad are the queue times? How nutty is the power level? I think I’ve got a good handle on the basics with a complete Legend climb behind my back now, and I’m happy to report that it was pretty fun to spend some time with Hearthstone’s oft-neglected evergreen mode, and that there’s actually a unique (sort of) Demon Hunter build that’s very much worth checking out if you enjoy playing with the class.
Where the Wild Things Are
There are a few reasons why I have never really given Wild a chance, but they all basically boil down to “there’s no reason to play this”. As a veteran of the game who’s been around since the Classic days, Wild doesn’t offer me an opportunity to experience old metagames or favorite decks of the past which have been nerfed to the ground. As a semi-tryhard, there’s little incentive to master the format with basically no support from the developers and a nonexistent tournament scene. As a content creator, I’m also incentivized to focus on Standard: that’s where a wide majority of the eyeballs are and it’s the source of constant updates thanks to the developers’ exclusive focus. There were also the horror stories of Naga Sea Witch, insane queue times, the game-breaking SN1Plock and other degenerate matters. I prefer metas with low power levels even in Standard – what would I find in Wild that I’d enjoy to play?
Well, allow me to introduce Baku Demon Hunter. Yes, there is an upgraded Demon Hunter hero power, and it’s pretty much as insane as you would expect, making Illidan just as meta-warping in the game’s evergreen format as it originally was in Standard. 2 damage for 1 mana. Yes.
It’s somewhat more challenging to find definitive data and hyper-optimized lists for Wild decks (which is part of the charm of the format), but thanks to Vicious Syndicate’s recent Wild Meta Report – made with the support of r/wildhearthstone’s esteemed experts –, there’s GetMeowth’s build on offer if you’re looking for a tried-and-tested option.
Turns out you can give up on Altruis the Outcast and Skull of Gul'dan for the most powerful hero power in the game! I’ve played a slightly different build during my climb with a larger emphasis on – you’ve guessed it – dealing face damage and closing out the game with burn. I haven’t actually seen this build as I put together my own, so I can’t offer like-for-like comparisons, but here are the differences: instead of 2x Crimson Sigil Runner, the second Consume Magic, 2x Happy Ghoul and 2x Priestess of Fury, I’ve got two copies of Fire Fly, 2x Blackwald Pixie, Leeroy Jenkins, one Glacial Shard and the second copy of Mana Burn. It went 6-4 in the mirror in Diamond, so I quite happy to offer it to you as a more SMOrc-y alternative if that’s your cup of tea.
As a minor aside, going back to Bronze 10 certainly made it easier to rack up wins by itself, but I haven’t realized how much of an impact the high Legend queue times and the opponents thinking longer had on my games/hour ratio in Standard. Still, we’re doing just fine based on my original 10 win/day battleplan!
So if you’re wondering whether it’s worth trying out Wild even if you don’t have any of the old cards, here’s what I think: the Wild ladder up until Diamond 5 (at least at this fairly late point in the month) is basically what we want a Casual mode to be: wacky homebrews and some truly offbeat ideas with the occasional WTF card and synergy showing up from the game’s past. It was breeze to climb to that point from Bronze 10 (even without a meaningful star bonus), basically using a Standard deck with Fire Fly and Glacial Shard tossed in for most of my playtime: 5-0 in Bronze, 6-1 in Silver, 21-4 in Gold, 21-6 in Platinum and 47-22 in Diamond.
You’ll note the major downswing in winrate (hey, still 66%) once I hit the highest league, even though that was when I made my transition to BAKUGEANCE. Basically, the real Wild ladder experience only begins around Diamond 5 with some truly powerful builds emerging, and I’m not entirely sure whether you could make it to Legend from that point on with a Standard deck, at least in sub-100 games. Here’s what you should watch out for:
The mirror – Baku Demon Hunter is a legit deck. Like with every tempo mirror, fight for the board, and if you’re using my build, you’ll likely have a stronger curve than your opponent.
Quest Mage – You probably heard the horror stories, but these builds are very different from the ones in the past. From what I’ve seen, Time Warp is generally used to get free swings with Arcane Giants and Mana Giants, and Flamewaker is also an important part of the puzzle. They almost never make it against your aggression. Sorcerer's Apprentice and Flamewaker are must-kills, and an early Mana Burn pretty much puts them on the back foot for the whole game.
Secret Mage – This it the other oft-referenced Wild deck on Reddit, and it also struggles against the unrelenting tempo output of Demon Hunter, especially this build. If you are mindful of your health total – try to play the larger minion into Explosive Runes (especially because Mirror Entity isn’t really a thing), avoid getting Eye Beam Counterspelled and keep a copy of Aldrachi Warblades in your mulligan –, you should be able to do well against them.
Discardlock – I always hated this archetype and I’m sad to report it’s pretty damn good against you (though apparently just tier 2 overall in the format) – my record against Warlocks in Diamond is 5-10, though that does include the occasional control matchup as well. Discard, at its core, is a mechanic which values a loss of resources with tempo. Team 5 tried over and over again to turn in into a value mechanic for reasons I never could fully comprehend. Well, they reached critical mass in Wild: twenty-four cards in the deck either discard a card or synergize off of the effect. Malchezaar's Imp, The Soularium, Darkshire Librarian, Felstalker, Tiny Knight of Evil, Fist of Jaraxxus et al coupled with Hand of Gul'dan shenanigans works way too well against your plans of early aggression. Try to slow them down with an early Mana Burn and push as much face damage as possible. Sometimes you’ll get there. Most of the time, your soul will suffer.
Ramp Druid – I never really figured out what their gameplan was because I just killed them before they could utilize their ramp. Sorry!
Rez Priest – You know the drill. Kill them before they put up a wall. Mass Hysteria is their preferred choice of mid-game AoE, which doesn’t always work against your board. Hench-Clan Thug can be a real MVP here. The one copy of Consume Magic I added on the final day of the climb serves especially well against them.
The rest – I played two games each against Hunter, Paladin and Rogue, three against Warrior and four against Shaman. You’re likely looking at a homebrew if you face those classes in the upper echelons of Wild right now (though the VS report pegs Odd Paladin as a sleeper in the format).
I’m also quite happy to report that there are a lot of players in Wild right now. My queue times were perfectly normal, and I hit Legend on May 24th at 4287 – with a Leeroy Jenkins lethal, which I enjoyed immensely –, suggesting a decent number of players. I will return early in June to test the waters at the beginning of the month as well – armed with a higher star bonus but facing a more dedicated set of opponents, it should be interesting to see how my laddering experience will change along the vines. However, I will return to Standard for the final week of the month – it’d be funny if I finished in the top 200 to try a Masters Tour qualifier after basically maining a single class for the entire expansion. Why oh why did they get rid of Specialist?
My Predictions, for What They’re Worth (And an Overdue Tech Update)
- No new Demon Hunter build will emerge until a new content release or another balance change
- Even more Reddit complaints about Priest
- I won’t clinch top 200 at the end of the month
- I will not have my vengeance
- I will not succeed at reverse psychology
For those of you interested in my computer troubles (thank you for the kind words in last week’s comment section!), I’m happy to report a… partial success. Turns out two of the RAM slots on my motherboard were the main cause of my troubles, which means I can kindasorta run around 1.5 programs right now without a commit charge overflow and a crash. It should tide me over until I sort out a fancy-schmancy brand new machine sometime next week! (I will have pictures on Twitter for those interested in this sort of stuff.) My current PC has served me faithfully for eight years or so, but I think it’s time to move on to something beefier. If I can interface the spare computing power with my brain, I’ll be Legend 1 in both formats in no time!