Spell Hunter Summary
Spell Hunter has been a powerful, and popular, archetype since the release of Kobolds & Catacombs. K&C brought two cards to Hunter, incentivizing the class that has for so long been characterized as an aggressive (read SMOrc) class focused on board control, to run no minions at all!
Spell Hunter received only one new tool in Rastakhan’s Rumble, but it was a powerful tool for sure: Zul’jin. Zul’jin is a card that offers another late game refill in a deck that is very vulnerable to board clears.
Spell Hunter Card Choices
Any Hunter deck that plays Emerald Spellstone must run a Secret package. Traditionally a 5 or 7-Secret package is used to ensure the Spellstone (one of the pivotal cards in the deck) can be activated and played as a 9/9 for 5 mana. In this deck I opted for a 7-Secret package (Secret Plan being my 6th and 7th secrets). 7 secrets increase the consistency of my Spellstones, as well as being the deck’s best tool to fight for the board early. The secrets must be tuned to what you are seeing on ladder, however, this deck will always have two copies of Wandering Monster. As I like to say, “The best 2 drop is a 3 drop.”
The Secret package in this deck is tuned towards a more Aggressive meta. For a Midrange meta Freezing Trap and Venomstrike Trap become more important. In a Control-heavy meta we drop to a 5-secret package in order to play more tools that allow you to dig for Deathstalker Rexxar more effectively.
- (x2) Hunter’s Mark
- (x1) Explosive Trap
- (x2) Wandering Monster
- (x2) Animal Companion
- (x2) Kill Command
- (x2) Flanking Strike
- (x2) Emerald Spellstone
- (x1) Deathstalker Rexxar
- (x2) To My Side!
- (x1) Zul’jin
These are the core cards for the deck. They cannot be removed from the deck without changing the identity of the deck. I also run a second copy of Explosive Trap as it has synergy with Spellstone, and deals 2 face damage. The only thing preventing the second copy from being a “Core Card” is the fact that you may want to run a 5-Secret package rather than the traditional 7.
- (x2) Candleshot
- (x2) Deadly Shot
- (x2) Rhok’delar
I wouldn’t consider these “Core” Cards. They may be considered to be replaced as the meta develops. These cards are very important to the deck, however, and should not be changed under normal conditions.
- (x2) Secret Plan
- (x1) Explosive Trap
- (x1) Flare
- (x1) Freezing Trap
- (x1) Deadly Shot
- (x1) Unleash the Hounds
- (x1) Crushing Walls
These cards are the cards that may be replaced depending on the meta. Due to the prevalence of Aggro in the early expansion meta, I run 2 Unleash the Hounds to act as a third and fourth Explosive Trap. Freezing Trap is a great card that provides tempo and allows for a myriad of higher risk plays. The second Deadly Shot and the Crushing Walls are both strong cards, but I would not run them if I were not running Zul’jin. When you play Zul’jin you need to make sure you clear enough of the board that you don’t die to the opponent’s response. Using 10 mana for Zul’jin is a very all-in play, and for this reason pieces of our deck must be changed to accommodate him.
- Venomstrike Trap
- Baited Arrow
Tracking is Hunter’s premiere draw card, allowing you to cycle quickly through your deck to find your win conditions. This version of the deck has so many powerful cards, and so many other ways to generate value, that finding an unconventional way to win the game is easily done without Tracking.
Venomstrike Trap is akin to Freezing Trap in the manner that it usually removes a minion from the board, especially with Wandering Monster in the deck. I excluded it from this deck in favor of Secret Plan to increase the flexibility of my secret package.
Baited Arrow is a very powerful card, allowing you to play a 5/5 and kill a minion for 5 mana. It is also a card that can finish off the opponent, as its 3 damage can target the enemy hero. The only problem with the card is that it costs 5 mana and only does 3 damage. I often found myself wishing it were a Wing Blast or an Arcane Shot. I opted for this card to become a Flare due to the overall amount of Hunters on the ladder.
Mulligans & Strategy
The general mulligan for Spell Hunter is Wandering Monster, Candleshot, Spellstone, and Deathstalker Rexxar. Your primary win condition with Spell Hunter is Emerald Spellstone. Playing 12/12 worth of stats on turn 5 is powerful enough to win a lot of games. Deathstalker Rexxar is so powerful that you can literally run 29 other random cards and STILL win a decent amount of games. Wandering Monster is your best 2-drop, and Candleshot is the best way to survive until turn 5.
In order to win games with Spell Hunter, as with most Hunter decks, you must identify how you are going to win the game early on. This is usually done by turn 3. It’s okay if the cards you need to win the game are not in your hand to start. You may identify Deathstalker Rexxar as your way to win the game on turn 3, while it is still in the deck. If this is the case, your plays must be directed at survival rather than tempo in order to get to that win condition. Simultaneously, you must re-evaluate this decision each turn. Be careful with changing your identified win condition for the game too often, as this will lead to plays where you hedge your bets, which in Hunter, can lose you the game. Hunter is, in general, a class that you must go all in with, so identifying how you will win the game is important. The earlier you do this the better.
Deathstalker Rexxar and Zul’jin are both very powerful cards, however one must be careful with both of these while playing Spell Hunter. Playing Deathstalker Rexxar early poses two issues. The first issue is you lose your 2 mana, 2 damage hero power. You do begin creating beasts, but this becomes a 2-turn commitment to play one minion. The second issue is that you lose your best value card (Deathstalker Rexxar) if you want to play Zul’jin. All of these factors must be considered while playing this deck. Hunter is a difficult class to master because of all the forward thinking you must do, but it is extremely satisfying to see your master plan come to fruition.
Vs. Fast Decks
Explosive Trap, Explosive Trap, Explosive Trap. Against aggressive classes, or at least against classes with primarily aggressive meta decks (Rogue, Paladin) you must find Candleshot and Explosive Trap. Explosive Trap helps you deal with wide boards early, and combined with the Candleshot can allow you to deal with any early threats. Playing an upgraded Spellstone on 5 or Deathstalker Rexxar on 6 gives you the opportunity to win these aggressive matchups. In the first few turns of the game you will be merely setting up for your power turns. When you decide to commit to the board you must go all in on the board. Once you flip the switch in these matchups you can not flip it back the other way, so be careful when you decide to turn the pressure on. You will never beat a fast deck to the board, so you must craft a way to beat them on the board.
High Priority Keep:
- Explosive Trap – Helps you maintain the board and buys you time before you are forced into going all-in on the board.
- Candleshot – Just a good card. Play on turn one against Aggro, smack their minions in the teeth.
Medium Priority Keep:
- Unleash the Hounds – Against Aggro this is your third and fourth explosive trap. Never keep more than one, and only keep against decks you know will go wide.
Low Priority Keep:
- Wandering Monster – Allows you to put a minion on the board early and potentially trade 2 for 1 against an Aggro deck, giving you two extra turns to prepare for the coming turns.
Vs. Slow Decks
Against heavy control you must mulligan HARD for Deathstalker Rexxar. Spellstone does not win you these games, as by turn 5 all relevant board clears are in play (e.g. Brawl, Mass Hysteria, Hellfire, Wild Pyromancer + Equality, Dragon’s Fury, etc.). If you have Rexxar in play do not overwrite his Hero Power with Zul’jin’s. You must outvalue the opponent and this is only possible via Rexxar.
Against slower Midrange and Combo opponents you become the aggressive deck. It’s imperative to have the Spellstone and Animal Companion available to you on curve. This being said, you need to be as mana-efficient as possible. This means you may have to wait until turn four to play any of your secrets to ensure you get value out of Spellstone. You must play at least 3 Wolves on curve for the Spellstone to be effective enough. Often against these decks I find myself playing a secret and a Spellstone in tandem on 7. Ideally when playing aggressively turns 1-7 go:
Turn 1: Candleshot
Turn 2: Wandering Monster
Turn 3: Animal Companion
Turn 4: Explosive Trap + Freezing Trap
Turn 5: Spellstone
Turn 6: To My Side
Turn 7: Wandering Monster + Spellstone
Turn 8: Deathstalker Rexxar + Hero Power
Turn 9: Rhok’delar + Win the game
High Priority Keep:
- Deathstalker Rexxar – The only way to beat control. Provides more value than any other card in the game.
- Animal Companion – Helps build an early board presence and begins the mounting pressure that may allow you to snowball a game against any deck.
Medium Priority Keep:
- Wandering Monster – The best 2 drop is a 3 drop. Slow decks will likely not attack into your face until they are ready to deal with the aftermath, so this card must be evaluated match-up to match-up. If you have a Spellstone always keep Wandering Monster.
Low Priority Keep:
- Hunter’s Mark – Acts as a pressure valve, allowing you to stay in the game and providing a HUGE tempo swing for 1 mana.
- Candleshot – Good card. Works well with Hunter’s Mark. The biggest problem with this card is that it allows the opponent to get value from the Gluttonous Ooze that they may run, and incentivizes them to get to the board on turn 3 with their Ooze.
With Rastakhan’s Rumble we saw Spell Hunter come out of the gate swinging. If you keep the strategies from this article in mind, you should be able to get the most out of this powerful deck and climb ladder efficiently.
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