So you want to beat Demon Hunter?

Hearthstone /r/hearthstone /u/Popsychblog 35 comments

Hey all, J_alexander_HS back with a (relatively) quick guide that can help a few people out when it comes to beating Demon Hunter. There are ways of adjusting your deck, play, and mindset easily to gain large advantages in the matches.

For perspective, playing exclusively Galakrond Rogue (Secret and Non-Secret variants), I've maintained a 60% WR against DH since the last balance patch across hundreds of games in Legend. The edges are there, so long as you know how to attack the DH strategy. While I'm going to talk largely in regards to Rogue, these may be helpful for you using other decks when it comes to thinking about how you win the match.

What doesn't work

Many people want to put tech cards in try and beat the DHs, including cards like weapon destruction, taunts, and healing.

Tech cards like Taunts and Weapon Destruction tend to be sub-optimal choices. This is because you're trying to attack the DH after the fact. Taunts tend to be slower, low-tempo options. They try to stop the DH, but only after the DH is already doing the thing they excel at. In other words, you're slowing your deck down and preemptively conceding the early tempo to the DH more often than you need to if you use these options. You're not pressuring your opponent and closing out the game before they find more card draw or burst, and you're not stopping them from getting ahead in the first place. Taunts can stop the bleeding once you've already stabilized, but it's better to not get cut in the first place. Doubly so when they have access to Glaivebounds, Altruis, Metamorphosis, and Kayn. You don't accomplish not getting cut by taunting them out; you do so by stopping them from getting the board in the first place.

Weapon Destruction is even worse. First, cards like Ooze and Stickfingers are, again, bad tempo options. No one plays a 2-mana 3/2 or a 5-mana 4/4 and calls it fine because it isn't. You don't play Bloodfen Raptor because it's fine. So you need to hit weapons for them to be justified inclusions. On top of being bad tempo options (and bad against all non-weapon classes), these tech cards are also conditional. Killing a weapon only works if your opponent has a weapon. Umber Wing isn't exactly worth targeting with tech, and Warglaives may use most or all of their charges before you can even land your tech.

So that 3/2 you kept in the mulligan blows up a 3/1 weapon after it kills two of your minions and hits you in the face for 3. That's not going to win you the game, sorry to say.

Things get even worse when you get baited into keeping the card in the mulligan. If you keep an Ooze, it's likely because you intend on killing a weapon, right? But that means you're effectively down a card in your hand until that weapon hits the board (as we established you don't play those cards if they don't hit weapons). You don't want to keep an Ooze to beat the DH's weapon (not their deck; their weapon, or part of it) in 2-5 turns. You need to stop them before they're already hitting you, and Ooze will bait you into not doing that.

As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Better to stop problems before they become big than try and fix them once they're large. So let's look at what stops it.

What DOES work

When I'm playing Galakrond Rogue, I have three cards I look for against DH always: Spymistress, Backstab, and Pharaoh cat. If my hand doesn't contain one of those cards, I will mulligan it all looking for one. I do this because I stop the DH from hitting me in the face in the first place by controlling the tempo of the early game. (I'll often keep Miscreant on the coin because I have 6 other good cards in the deck, but those 6 cards are so vital I'll even feel bad about keeping Miscreants). If I have one of those six cards, then I start thinking about other keeps, like Seal Fate or Praise Galakrond.

If I'm playing the Secret version, I'll also keep Stunners and Hanar as well, but not a secret unless I have one of those payoffs. All that's important is keeping the DH off the early board. Sometimes that means Stunnering a 1 drop and that's fine. If your Hanar dies as a 1/5 before it activates, it still did something good in contesting the board. The match isn't a fight for value. Being greedy will lose you the game.

For all the above reasons, also make sure you run Spymistress always, even in your Secret Rogue deck. It makes so much of a difference against DH it's hard to overstate. It's among the best cards in your deck against DH because of how well it performs in the mulligan. That card turns out to be the reason Stealth lists perform better against DH; it's not the Sage or Skyvateers.

Also, while we're on the subject of secrets, please do not keep them against DH without your synergy. They are awful in the mulligan and even in legend, players are keeping them over 50% of the time. Yes, your deck contains secret synergies, but that doesn't mean you want to keep the secrets on their own. They're bad cards you only play for the payoff. Just because the deck says "secret rogue" it doesn't mean your secrets are the power in the deck.

Concluding Thoughts

While this focuses mainly on Rogue, it can expand your thought process to other decks when fighting DH. Are the cards you're playing good at stopping them in early game? If not, what cards can do so more effectively (without being bad against other decks, ideally)? Are you looking for those early answers enough in the mulligan, or are you over-keeping cards that prevent you from preventing the cuts? Are you including weak tech options that give the DH too much time to develop, draw, or not threaten to close games against them so they can find their burst? Winning vs DH is hard when your game plan is focused too much on not dying instead of winning.

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