With balance changes coming this week, the Hearthstone community eagerly awaits Mage and Warrior getting a well-deserved nerf or two. But one class is achieving great ladder results without drawing much community ire. Hunter has several consistent decks with balanced matchups. It wasn’t always like this: Hunters were formerly one of the weakest classes in the game. Luckily, Blizzard have turned the class around. Not only is it viable, it is flavourful, promotes good gameplay and doesn’t draw too many complaints. How did they make sure Hunter design worked out?
Avoiding the Face Trap
One way Hunter’s managed to avoid frustration is its lack of pure burn potential. We’ve not seen the unbridled aggression of old-fashioned Face Hunters. Instead, synergies and combos dominated. Mechs, beasts and/or spells form the backbone of modern Hunter decks.
There are a number of reasons why this is the case. For one, Blizzard have continually limited Hunter’s direct card draw. Instead, they’ve received card generation like Hunter’s Pack or Twinspells like Unleash the Beast. Meanwhile, Hunter’s new direct damage options like its Goblin Bomb package, its cheap Rapid Fires, or its King Krush-summoning Dinotamer Brann require deckbuilding sacrifices and combos to pursue effectively.
A Hero that Doesn’t Grind You Down
Hunter is one of four classes with a Hero card in standard; but unlike Doctor Boom Mad Genius or Hagatha the Witch, Zul’jin doesn’t grind you down with an overpowered hero power. Sure, being able to target minions with two damage is handy, but the real power comes in the burst of repeated spells.
This provides counterplay for both the Hunter and their opponent. Each player knows what spells are already in the pool, and can plan around it. If two Trackings came down, you can go for a fatigue out; if you saw Unleash, you can play around it. In pushing a single deckbuilding-based push of value, Zul’jin feels more like the Old Gods than a Death Knight Hero and the gameplay is all the better for it.
Hunter’s come a long way since its time at the bottom of the meta during Mean Streets of Gadgetzan. The class has received a whole host of straightforwardly solid cards almost every expansion. But where other classes get strong cards with little or no requirements, Hunter’s strongest cards are heavily synergistic. Cards like Master’s Call, Headhunter’s Hatchet, Dinotamer Brann and Hyena Alpha, rely on certain deckbuilding strategies to succeed.
This pushes Hunter into a Midrange direction, where the class can shine. Moreover, the conflicting requirements means that while there’s always strong new decks to try, they don’t ever make coalesce into one overpowered Hunter deck.
Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment.
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