Playing post-nerf Hunter at tournaments and ladder

Posted by Grace "sylvanhunter" Naces at 16 October 2014 12:45

Hunter was able to survive its nth nerfing since the beginning of Hearthstone--what now?

Rexxar, the Hunter
The dust has settled this season and the Starving Buzzard only makes cameo appearances in Hunter decks these days--thanks to Webspinner. While people were saying that the Hunter class has gone from top tier to the bottom just like that, Hearthstone legends like Gaara defied this by climbing to Legend with it last season. He also won third place (and around $28,000) with Hunter at the WCA 2014. Firebat, Tarei, DTwo and StrifeCro also took Hunter decks to the Americas Championships. These players are now on their way to joining other legendary card-slingers at the Blizzcon 2014 World Championship.
Post Nerf Hunter at Tournaments
There is a difference between tournament decks and those that are used for ranked play. Tournament decks are customized based on what the player expects to go against with. In a class ban format tourney, players will pick cards based on the fact that there’s one less class they'd be worried about.  For example, if players banned Warlock, they would probably not put Big Game Hunter in their decks because chances are, they won’t be running into Handlock giants. You wouldn’t see two Big Game Hunters in a constructed deck for ranked play—it’s unthinkable unless the meta is overflowing with giants. 
Most of the hunter decks that players bring these days at tournaments are midrange-y. Here are the hunter tournament decks that the NA top 4 used:
Post Nerf Hunter at Ranked Play
Ranked play is different in a way that your deck must anticipate any class—the “kill-all”. This is why a lot of tournament decks may not help you much in ranked plays, dear netdeckers. 
Hunter before the nerf was once considered a “kill-all” at ranked play but after the nerf, adjustments had to be made to accommodate other ways to draw cards sans Buzzard. It’s no longer a “kill-all” but this class has not lost its viability either. 
I used Aggro Hunter and Midrange Hunter from Rank 16 to 4 during the first week of this season. There are those who are more comfortable playing midrange all the way but if you want to speed up on winning streaks from 20 to 10, aggro decks may help you get there faster. 
This midrange deck has Savannah Highmane as its star and Sludge Belcher, its supporting actor. Sludgie holds your opponent’s minions at bay as Savannah Highmane prepares to go for the kill. There’s only one Houndmaster in this deck because there are two Sludge Belchers—that should be enough taunts for you.
The Cards

Sludgie Snakes - Midrange Hunter

Hunter's Mark – Hunter staple that could humble even the biggest giant out there
Flare – Card draw that’s also useful in busting your opponent’s Secrets
Undertaker – Key card that deals significant damage early in the game
Webspinner – Helps your Undertaker grow. It is also for card cycling while ensuring that you have a beast on the board
Explosive Trap - Takes care of Shaman totems, Pally guys, and Zoo minions 
Freezing Trap – Ruins your opponent’s tempo. It’s especially useful against big minions
Snake Trap – Makes sure that you have a beast in play
Haunted Creeper – Makes your Undertaker grow some more while making sure that even if lightning storm hits you, you still have two spectral crawlies in play
Loot Hoarder – Deathrattle minion for your Undertaker and for card draw
Mad Scientist – Deathrattle minion that lets you play traps for free
Eaglehorn Bow – Important Hunter weapon to make sure that minions like Northshire Cleric and Acolyte of Pain gets killed fast
Animal Companion – Very useful (albeit random) 3-drop beast
Kill Command – Good finisher that could also do damage control by killing 5HP minions
Houndmaster – Gives your crawlies +2/+2 and taunt while having an additional 4/3 body on the board
Sludge Belcher – Hard-to-kill taunt that trades for at least 2 small minions.
Stampeding Kodo – Gets rid of annoying opponent minions like Armorsmith; it becomes a meaner 5/7 taunt if used with Houndmaster
Savannah Highmane – Your main star with a daunting board presence
Undertaker and any 1-drop deathrattle minion. If you have the Eaglehorn Bow, keep it already. Do not keep traps in your hand so Mad Scientist won’t lose his meaning in life. If you are playing against Druid, keep one Freezing Trap for those Innervate + Chillwind Yeti plays.
Card Replacements
You may replace Stampeding Kodo since he’s relatively just an “OK” card. If you find a lot of Zoolock and Shaman matchups, you can replace him with an additional Explosive Trap. Flare can be replaced with Tracking if you don’t run into classes that use a lot of Secrets. 

Handlock – It is generally easy to beat Handlock with Hunter. You have to race your opponent down with your hero power and keep his/her health low enough before he/she could play Lord Jaraxxus

Control Warrior – You can win this but you have to be careful. Get rid of Armorsmith and Acolyte of Pain early in the game. Keep using your hero power so your opponent cannot build up armor. Watch out for Brawl.

Druid – It is manageable with Freezing Trap. You just have to get them to lethal before they go FON + Savage Roar on you which is around Turn 7 (with Innervate) to 9.

Mage – It’s quite an easy matchup because Flamestrike can only be used on turn 7. By then you will have 5HPminions already. With a lot of Secret Mages out there these days, there hasn’t been much plays that had Polymorph in it. That’s the usual card to look out for that will make Savannah Highmane pretty useless. 

Shaman – It’s pretty easy to beat Shaman with Hunter. Just watch out for Lightning strike by making sure your Undertaker is already buffed. Coax out Shaman’s Hex early in the game so it won’t be used on your Savannah Highmane. 

Priest – Watch out for Auchenai Soulpriest + Circle of Healing and Holy Nova. Do not overextend and you will survive

Zoolock – It is relatively easy to play against zoo but if you have a bad hand, it might get pretty tough. Houndmaster + Beast on turn 4 and Sludge Belcher on turn 5 would already be quite a headache for Zoo. Explosive Trap is very useful in this matchup.

Hunter – Going up against Aggro Hunter can be a pain. This can be manageable when you play big taunts. It is basically a race so whoever gets their burst finisher out wins. Midrange hunter could be a bit tricky too.

Paladin – Aggro Paladin might be a challenge but Explosive Trap should also be able to help
The current meta is quite diverse and the hunter is still out there winning games. With the advent of new cards, the landscape may change. However, this class was able to survive its nth nerfing since the beginning of Hearthstone, therefore it’s safe to say that they’d still be around for quite some time. Whoever adapts to change, survives.