Hello everyone, it is good to be back, after my unscheduled week off. During the two weeks since my last article, I have gotten a lot of time to play with the new Karazhan cards, and I’ve got to give Blizzard credit, because they seem to have made a very well designed set overall. While I would have liked to have seen a couple more of the impactful cards released in the first wing, as opposed to seemingly backloading the impactful cards, the metagame has seen a very healthy shakeup, and there are lots of interesting archetypes that I am looking forward to exploring.
After all four wings, each of the classes seems to have gained something new from the magical tower of Karazhan, and many of the classes even gained new competitively viable archetypes out of the set. Even lowly Priest has shown some signs of life with Priest of the Feast and Onyx Bishop providing it with some competitively viable options.
If you were to ask me which class gained the most from the new set, however, my vote would undoubtedly go to Hunter (with Druid being a strong number 2). Kindly Grandmother, in particular, has revitalized the Hybrid and Midrange Hunter archetypes, especially when paired up with Barnes, who is a natural fit next to Grandma, Savanah Highmane and friends. There is no doubt in my mind that there are a lot more Hunters on ladder today than there were a month ago.
Today, however, I am going to be talking about the other Hunter class card, the overlooked powerhouse of the Hunter class: Cloaked Huntress!
Cloaked Huntress has a very obviously high power level, and since its release I have seen many different versions of Secret Hunter on ladder. Unfortunately, most people seem to have had trouble cracking the archetype, and most versions I have seen have been rather suboptimal.
I, myself, did a fair amount of experimenting with the archetype, trying to crack the puzzle. I played about 30 or 40 games with various versions of Secret Hunter, including aggressive variants, midrange variants, and even a Lock and Load build, but couldn’t find a version that I liked.
Luckily for me, my partner in crime, and co-caster Ben “Overseer” Wastle succeeded where I failed. He gave me the list I am featuring today, and I never looked back!
For those who didn’t watch the coverage of the first EndBoss Online Open, Overseer is my co-caster, and also my oldest friend. Like me, Overseer is an old school Magic player (as well as a high level Starcraft and Overwatch player), and was actually the guy who introduced me to Hearthstone in the first place. Overseer is an excellent Hearthstone player in his own right, and his creation here is a very strong, competitively viable, new archetype!
My full testing details with the deck are below in the matchups section. But, overall, I managed a 34-16 record (68% winrate) with the deck (13-7 at ranks 5 and 4 at the end of August, and 21-9 in the first 3 days of September at ranks 17 to 11).
*Mandatory Promotional Tangent*
EndBoss’s second Online Open will be occurring on October 2nd on the North American server. The tournament is free to enter and we are putting up the $100 USD Prize Pool ourselves. All the details can be found here. Like last time, Overseer and I will be casting the entire event on the EndBoss Twitch channel. Mark the date on your calendars!
*End of Promotional Tangent*
How to Play Your Traps
I will deal with all the matchup specific stuff in the next section, but the key to getting the most out of this deck really is playing your secrets optimally. When people think about Cloaked Huntress, they think about all the wonderful turns she can produce where you go into Christmas Tree mode and drop 4 secrets at once. While this is cool to do, it is rarely the optimal way to play the deck.
The deck is best described as a mid-range tempo deck. You want to be the aggressor, but you aren’t always going to be the aggressor from turn 1. Huntress is one of the deck’s primary methods of taking back the tempo advantage, since she potentially gives you so much bonus mana worth of free spells. But, it is important to balance this with the fact that by dropping all your secrets: 1. Your traps may be hitting sub-par targets, 2. You likely won’t have many cards left to play in subsequent turns (offsetting the mana you saved playing free traps), and 3. Some secrets prevent others from being activated.
To give an example: if you are facing down a table with a random 1/1 Silver Hand Recruit, dropping Freezing Trap or Explosive Trap is a horrible waste, even if you are getting it for free. Not only that, but by having Freezing Trap down it prevents your opponent from potentially triggering a Bear Trap that you may have (since the minion gets bounced, and never actually gets to attack your face).
It is also important to know the rules around your traps, in particular Freezing Trap and Explosive Trap. Both of these cards activate on the same step of the attack sequence and, therefore, the effects will occur in the order that they are played. Also, Freezing Trap will not activate if it no longer has a target. So, if you drop an Explosive Trap before a Freezing Trap, and you get attacked by a small minion, the Explosive Trap will kill that minion and Freezing Trap will not trigger. Sequencing these two traps in this order is generally the ideal, as it helps to ensure that your Freezing Trap will hit a bigger minion, instead of a 1/1 dork. If you sequence those traps the other way around, your opponent’s 1/1 dork will bounce back to his hand, and so won’t be around to get hit by the Explosive Trap.
Aside from that, Snake Trap, Bear Trap and Cat Trick are the secrets that you generally want to play as early as possible, since they give you board presence. That having been said, there are certainly instances when holding a Snake Trap or a Cat Trick will make sense. For instance, with Cat Trick, if you are playing against a Priest, you want to be aware of the number 5. Both of Priest’s commonly played AoE effects cost 5 mana (Excavated Evil and Holy Nova). So, if you play a Cat Trick right before your opponent hits 5 mana, you are probably golden, since your 4/2 stealth cat will conveniently join the party after the AoE effect resolves. On the other hand, if your opponent has the coin and you drop Cat Trick before their turn 4, then you might be setting yourself up for bad times, since they may coin into their AoE effect, triggering your cat’s emergence just in time for him to die.
Freezing Trap, Explosive Trap and Snipe can all be very high impact cards, but need to be timed correctly in order to do so. As such, you may end up wanting to hold these back, even if you get the chance to play them for free. Snipe is the toughest one of these to play, and I will talk about some of the prime targets below, in the matchup section. Suffice it to say, knowledge of your opponent’s deck means a lot with Snipe. Hitting Azure Drake may be a game winning play, while hitting an Argent Squire may cost you a game.
Of course, all the discussion about the timing of playing your traps also has to take into account whether you have Secretkeeper, Huntress or Eaglehorn Bow on board. You may be more willing to play a sub-optimal trap if it will give your Secretkeeper or Bow a bonus buff. And, of course, you are more willing to drop traps while you have the window to get them down for free. That having been said, you have to look at what your curve will look like for the next few turns before going crazy with free secrets. If your last card in your hand is a secret, then getting it down for free at a sub-optimal time is not worth it, since you are likely to not be using all your mana on the next turn. If, on the other hand, you have a couple of Infested Wolves and a Savanah Highmane to play over your next few turns, then you might want to get the trap in while you can, even if it is sub-par, since you may otherwise never end up getting to play it at all.
My last general note about traps is bluffing. You don’t get to do nearly enough bluffing in Hearthstone, but this is a deck where you can gain a lot of advantage by doing so. For instance, if your opponent has a big minion and a 1/1 dork, and you clear his 1/1, then drop a secret and go to the face with your other minions, then your opponent will probably smell a Freezing Trap, and will often hold his minion back for a turn or two rather than getting it bounced. That might be an excellent plan if your secret actually is a Freezing Trap, but might be a really terrible play if the secret is actually a Cat Trick. Similarly, if you have multiple secrets down and your opponent triggers one or two, then he has narrowed the possibilities of what the remaining ones may be. By holding one or two secrets back, you get to refresh the list of possible secrets each time you play a new one. Information is power in Hearthstone, so withholding information from your opponent for as long as you can is a good way to gain an advantage, and an excellent way to induce your opponent into sub-optimal plays.
In 50 games with this build of the deck (ie. Not counting the 30 or 40 games I played with previous builds of the archetype) my record was 34-16, for a 68% winrate. My matchup data broke down like this:
The deck performed very well against the entire field in my testing, with every class matchup being even or positive. I suspect, however, that the Shaman matchup is actually a slightly negative one.
All of my matchups against Shaman were either aggro or midrange builds. I started out 2-5 against the deck before learning to play the matchup better (and having my luck turn around a bit). That having been said, it is a matchup where it felt like my wins were by the skin of my teeth, but my losses were blowouts. It feels like the Shaman player has much more margin for error, which is why the matchup improved when I had a bit more experience with the deck and my play tightened up.
Shaman presents a fast early game attack with bulky minions, and can present big midgame turns with Thing from Below to steal back tempo, if you manage to take the board from them. Huntress is more important here than in other matchups, particularly in conjunction with Snipe or Freezing Trap. Hitting an early Totem Golem with Snipe or Freezing Trap is very good for your winrate in the matchup. Snipe is also great for catching Flametongue Totem before he can get a chance to do his damage. If your opponent has a taunt-heavy board that can protect a powerful minion like Mana Tide Totem or Flametongue Totem, it can often be a very strategic time to drop your Snipe and hope that you can mess up his plans. An early Eaglehorn Bow can also be very powerful in this matchup for helping keep their board under control.
The swing card in the matchup seems to be Totem Golem. If they get one early and you can’t Snipe it or Freeze it, then you are in for a tough game, because 4 health is a tough number to deal with in the early game. Bow and Quick Shot both only deal 3, and Totem is bigger than your King’s Elekks. You want to mulligan hard for Huntress, Eaglehorn Bow, Snipe, Freezing Trap and Secretkeeper. You will usually keep King’s Elekk, too, since it is a decent 2-drop, but sometimes you will send it back if you need to dig deep for your more important cards.
My Hunter matchups were mostly against Midrange Hunter, which is a pretty solid matchup. Unlike in the Shaman matchup, where you want to get your Snipe active before their 2-drop (Totem Golem) hits, here you want to do the opposite. A turn 2 Snipe is very likely to get met with a Kindly Grandmother, which is certainly less than ideal. You are much better to wait a turn or two, and have the opportunity to hit something more significant. Mulligan hard for Secretkeeper. You won’t throw away Huntress or Bow to dig for it, but you can throw away pretty much anything else to find Secretkeeper. She is so important to the matchup, because she trades with turn 1 Fiery Bat, even if you don’t have a single secret to pump her. If you do have a secret to pump her, then she can trade up to a Huge Toad or King’s Elekk, which helps a lot for your tempo. Plus, of course, she has the potential to become very dangerous if unchecked, and can sometimes force your opponent to spend turn 2 Quick Shot’ing it, for fear of her getting out of control in conjunction with Huntress.
This matchup is all about the tempo swings and protecting your life total. Hunter doesn’t play defence very well, but is great at putting on consistent pressure. As such, you usually win the matchup if you are playing from in front, and lose it if you are playing from behind (hence wanting to have Secretkeeper to keep yourself ahead early). Your best way of shifting tempo in the early game is the Cloaked Huntress. Their best catchup card in the early or midgame is Unleash the Hounds, so try to avoid opening yourself up to getting blown out by it. And, of course, the late game swing card on both sides is Call of the Wild. If you have the coin, you either want to play it on turn 2 or turn 7. On turn 2, you are usually accelerating out a Cloaked Huntress or Eaglehorn Bow, or, even better, accelerating out an Eaglehorn Bow that you will be able to follow with a Huntress on turn 3. The coin on turn 7 is for Call of the Wild, as the game is often decided by who Calls first.
So, now that we are past the tough matchups, let’s start talking about the real reasons to play the deck. Druid is one of the most played and most powerful classes on ladder at the moment, and it is a very favourable matchup for Overseer of Secrets. I played against Beast Druid the most, Token Druid second most, and also had a couple matchups against Y’Shaarj Druid. The one loss I had was against an early Fandral that I couldn’t answer, which was followed by Nourish/Wrath. Aside from that sort of craziness, Overseer of Secrets is generally pretty good at pressing its tempo advantage and finishing the game before token or ramp Druid can recover. Against Beast Druid, Overseer of Secrets is pretty good at turning the tempo with a big Huntress turn and finishing things with Call of the Wild before they can go too crazy copying their dudes with Menagerie Warden.
Eaglehorn Bow or Snipe to remove Mire Keeper is often pretty key. Remember, Token Druid usually plays Azure Drake, too, and Sniping their turn 5 Azure Drake is pretty much game right there. Freezing Trap will often be a huge tempo swing, as they have so many juicy targets to hit with it. They also have a lot of trouble dealing with Savanah Highmane efficiently, while Call of the Wild is usually the nail in the coffin. Big taunt minions like Ancient of War can be a pain, if they are smart enough not to play into your Freezing Traps, but I have fought through multiples of them to win the matchup, so it can certainly be done. Also note that this is one of the matchups where bluffing Freezing Trap can be the most effective. If your opponent knows what he is doing, he will be very careful not to run an Ancient of War or another large minion into your Freezing Trap. As such, bluffing the Freezing Trap can often immobilize a problematic minion for a turn or two, and help buy you time to set up a big Call of the Wild turn to break through.
Mulliganing in this matchup is pretty standard: look for Eaglehorn Bow, Cloaked Huntress, Secretkeeper, Snipe and King’s Elekk. Freezing Trap, Tracking and Animal Companion are contextual keeps.
Four of these matchups were against Tempo Mage (3-1) and the others were against Reno Mage (2-0). Normally, Tempo Mage is pretty good against Hunter, but not against the Overseer of Secrets archetype. Freezing Trap on a pumped up Mana Wyrm is a huge blow to their tempo (especially when they commit a Mirror Image to protect it). Sniping a Flamewaker is similarly devastating (remember, if they are on the coin, they will often try to Flamewaker on turn 3 along with Arcane Missiles, so Cloaked Huntress/Snipe on turn 3 sets up very well against them). Eaglehorn Bow is also very strong here, removing Mana Wyrm, Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Cult Sorcerer very efficiently. The most important thing is to keep the tempo and protect your life total. Mage doesn’t play defence very well against you, and you love it when they try, because every burn spell that goes to a minion is one that doesn’t go to your face. If you can establish board advantage and put them on the defensive, they often can’t recover enough tempo to put your life total in danger.
Mulliganing here is the same as against Druid.
All my matchups against Warrior were against the Dragon Warrior archetype, which is another positive matchup. Snipe hits lots of their key cards, including Frothing Berserker, Alexstrasza’s Champion, Azure Drake, Blackwing Corruptor and Kor’Kron Elite. Freezing Trap is great at dampening their tempo, while Eaglehorn Bow is also very good at removing a lot of their early creatures, and helping you take the board. After that, you have a lot of sticky minions that are tough for the Warrior to deal with efficiently, between Infested Wolf and Savanah Highmane. And, of course, Call of the Wild is still quite good.
Mulliganing is still the same standard plan you use against Druid and Mage.
This is the one matchup I would have liked to have gotten more testing data on. I played several matchups against it with previous builds, but for some reason there weren’t many of them around while I was testing this list.
Mulliganing is similar to the standard plan, except that you also keep Explosive Trap, which is a very key card here. You don’t want to play Explosive Trap in the first couple of turns, but you want to keep it in your opener because you only have one and it can be a devastating play against them later on. You also want to send away Freezing Trap in this matchup, since they have so many low cost minions that Freezing Trap is rarely getting the sort of tempo burst that you are used to getting from it.
There isn’t too much to say about the other matchups. Paladin was even at 2-2 (all against control variants), but felt like it would have been a positive matchup, had I played more matches. Rogue is super easy, since they don’t play defence very well, have little to no life gain cards, and can’t keep up with your tempo. My only loss to Rogue was an aberration, and the matchup is probably the best one the deck has. My Priest matchups were all against Resurrect Priest. Sniping a Blademaster is great, but Freezing Trapping one is absolutely devastating. They need their Blademaster to die, or they have nothing to resurrect in the early game. Either way, they usually just don’t have enough tempo swinging cards to keep up, and often can’t heal themselves out of trouble because your hero power can offset theirs.
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Of course, as I mentioned above, our second EndBoss Online Hearthstone Tournament will be taking place on Sunday, October 2nd at noon on the North American server. Like last time, we are making entry free, and will be putting up the entire $100 prize pool ourselves, so check it out on the Events page here. This will probably be our last free entry tournament for Hearthstone (we have some cool stuff in mind for future ones, so stay tuned), so take advantage of the freebie while you can.
Like last time, we are also planning to stream the entire event on our Twitch stream. Coverage will start at noon, when the tournament does (even though matches will be on a delay to avoid stream sniping), and, like last time, we will show all the semi-final and final matchups in their entirety. I will be commentating along with Overseer himself. We had a blast doing so last time, and we are very much looking forward to this one!