What’s Hunter Losing in the 2019 Standard Hearthstone Rotation?

In the last piece of our rotation series we talk about the strongest Hearthstone class of the current competitive meta-game: Hunter.

Over the last years, the Hunter class changed its identities multiple times. What once was a class full of aggressive archetypes turned into a hyper-control powerhouse with lots of mid-range variability. Decks like Deathrattle, Recruit and Spell Hunter managed to win games with anything but aggressively hitting face from turn one.

One of the main reasons for that has been, without a doubt, Deathstalker Rexxar. The ability to produce infinite value over the course of every game remains unmatched to this day. Combined with loads of control-synergistic and board-centric high-value cards, Hunter held all tier lists in check.

But what will Hunter have in store after the insane support including Deathstalker Rexxar will be gone? Will Spell Hunter be the only real choice going into the upcoming Year of the Dragon, or could other, more aggressive deck lists rise from the grave of long-forgotten Hunter archetypes?

Hunter’s Lost Cards

Journey to Un’Goro

Oh man, did Un’Goro deliver in terms of Hunter fantasy. The Marsh Queen hit the nail on the head, and star beasts like Swamp King Dred looked to enable Hunter to finally play control-heavy lists. Which other class would be able to control the creatures of Un’Goro if not Hunter? Who else should lead the way into an expansion that evolves around the evolution of nature and all its mutations?

But none of that came true. Un’Goro’s Hunter cards may have been the most overrated expansion class set ever. All but one card received a 4.0 or better rating on our site, and yet only Crackling Razormaw and Terrorscale Stalker saw somewhat regular play until this day.

In the end it is the neutral all-stars in the form of Fire Fly, Tar Creeper and Stonehill Defender that really supported Hunter throughout the years; this applies to every class, however, and that is why we are really sad to see all three of these well-designed fellows move to Wild.

Knights of the Frozen Throne

Not a lot of people will be really sad about Deathstalker Rexxar leaving the scene. This card, looking at pure power level, may not have been the strongest Hero card there ever was.

It’s more that the Hunter class itself really needed a control anchor in its card pool, and Deathstalker Rexxar was exactly that. It enabled so many deck archetypes to be able to survive in the late game and offered a great curve play by providing significant board clear compared to other Hunter tools.

Looking at the rest of KotFT’s Hunter cards, one thing really irks us: Team 5 wanted Deathrattle Hunter to become a thing. However, a ton of synergy cards like Abominable Bowman or Corpse Widow have been released that never saw play, and the same goes for many other Deathrattle cards of that set.

The reason? Deathstalker Rexxar, yet again. Combined with neutral powerhouses like The Lich King or Prince Keleseth and Hunter classics like Savannah Highmane, Hunter didn’t really need that much more Deathrattle synergy from other KotFT cards.

We’re happy to see Deathstalker Rexxar go. It showcases a design decision that didn’t pay off, and while it may be incredibly fun to build beasts on your own, it’s not fun at all to face infinite value in a game that is all about managing finite resources.

Kobolds and Catacombs

In hindsight it is safe to say that Kobolds and Catacombs has been the most underrated expansion in terms of Hunter cards.

When KnC released, most players only saw Rhok'delar – Hunter’s new legendary weapon – and tried to come up with fancy Spell Hunter iterations. However, the true stars of this expansion for Hunter – Candleshot, Flanking Strike, Lesser Emerald Spellstone, and Wandering Monster – have seen not that much play back at the end of 2017.

The Hunter transformation had just begun, and nobody could’ve imagined in their wildest dreams that all of these cards formed the backbone of what Hunter is today.

Even niche cards like Kathrena Winterwisp, To My Side! and Seeping Oozeling found their way into very powerful archetypes.

Another major loss for Hunter will be the rotation of Carnivorous Cube. What many would call the “most unnerfed card” of 2018 enabled tons of dominating archetypes including Deathrattle Hunter.

In total, Kobolds and Catacombs has been a blessing in disguise for Hunter, and it served as a solid foundation for today’s Hunter domination.

Hunter’s Upcoming Archetypes

Spell Hunter

Spell Hunter is the obvious choice going into the Year of the Dragon. Zul'jin remains as one of the last three Hero cards, and while it may not be as powerful as the other two, it certainly will provide a huge board swing compared to any other class. Apart from that, creative and possibly powerful spells like The Beast Within wait to get used to their full potential!

Midrange Hunter

One card is enough to describe the viability of this archetype: Master's Call.

We have seen a powerful resurgence of Midrange Hunter since the release of Rastakhan, not least because of value powerhouses like Springpaw or Headhunter's Hatchet, and thanks to Hunter’s great midrange Classic and Basic card pool, Midrange Hunter will definitely be a solid choice for the first weeks of the new Standard year.

Mech Bomb Hunter

Mech Hunter is obviously one of the archetypes that players who love to play wonky decks look forward to. And looking at the inclusion of more Hunter-exclusive mechs with Rise of Shadows, we migh very well see new iterations of Mech Hunter, including the exploitation of those pesky Goblin Bombs.

And let’s be honest, which Hunter players doesn’t want to play Cybertech Chip, creating almost-infinite value like in the soon-to-be good old Deathstalker Rexxar days?! We certainly do, and with a little more support synergy, Mech Hunter could become not only an experimental archetype in the first weeks of Rise of Shadows.

Tharid

Julian "Tharid" Bischoff, a dinosaur in the fast-changing world of esports and self-proclaimed Warcraft expert, already created Hearthstone-related content for Red Bull, ESL and Hearthhead.

Check out Tharid on Twitter!

8 Comments

  1. Cursore1610
    March 20, 2019 at 3:05 pm

    Why would someone play Spell hunter in the year of the dragon? There will be no new interaction, so there’s no need to play only spells in hunter.

    • OldManSanns
      March 20, 2019 at 3:50 pm

      I would argue that any deck intends to win through Zul’jin and powerful spells could still be considered “Spell Hunter”, even if it also includes some minion cards. “Big Spell Mage” has some minions in it too, right?

    • Tharid - Author
      March 21, 2019 at 4:18 am

      There’s no new interaction as of now. That’s a big difference. 🙂 We can be pretty sure that Hunter will receive new spells, and maybe even more spell-based synergy cards.

      And as OldManSanns already said, we could also see spell-heavy lists that include things like Secretkeeper or maybe even a Mech package.

  2. TheMessenJah
    March 20, 2019 at 12:00 pm

    The problem of Hunter was not rexxar, Jaina is much more disruptive.
    The problem of Hunter was the huge arsenal of OP cards they have at their disposal. I’m glad it all ends in two weeks 🙂

    • GlosuuLang
      March 21, 2019 at 3:02 am

      Dude the problem with Hunter was Rexxar. You would slot it in ANY Hunter deck, because it was your main win condition vs grindy Control decks. Without him you will see the WR of Midrange Hunter drop drastically, since it won’t be able to outgrind games vs Control once they have answered his threats.

    • Tharid - Author
      March 21, 2019 at 4:23 am

      It’s always fascinating to me how players describe the power level of a card by comparing it to another card that is “more xy”. Both Jaina and Rexxar can produce infinite value. They’re both strong cards.

      But that doesn’t take away from the fact that Rexxar is a problem in the Hunter environment. As GlosuuLang pointed out, every archetype included that Hero card, and won more with it, so that’s a very promising sign of a card being too impactful.

      Disruptiveness is not the point that matters. Obsidian Statue is a highly disruptive card for example, but Priests weren’t able to build it into every single archetype. The same goes for Jaina.

  3. The Walrus
    March 20, 2019 at 10:26 am

    Enjoy the eternal hunt in wild Rexxar, I for one will not miss you

    • Tharid - Author
      March 20, 2019 at 11:46 am

      I’m always trying to stay neutral on these pieces, but in this case I’m totally with you.

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