Will You Stream Hunter Today?Sat 6th Feb 2016 - 3:00pm Gaming
This will be the first article I’ve written for Hearthlytics.com. I will be writing regularly for this website and I am excited to share with all of you what I have learned over my couple of years of playing Hearthstone at the top level. The main goal of the majority of my articles will be to give insight into the mind of a pro player and be as educative and informative as possible. First, I will give you an introduction, just in case you don’t know who I am.
My name is Justin Black, you likely know me as “JAB”. I’ve been playing Hearthstone since Closed Beta during my first year of studying Computer Science at University. I had been devoting a lot of time to learning the game and getting in contact with some of the brightest minds in the game at the time. This led to me not focusing as much on school, and thus making the decision to pursue esports full-time. I still have a long way to go to reach all of my goals, but I am happy with what I have achieved so far.
Now we come to the question that I get asked way too often:
This is a question I get asked every day, multiple times a day while I’m streaming or occasionally when I’m not streaming. Often people phrase it as a demand rather than a question. Sometimes I answer it, other times I ignore it completely as it gets tiring to repeat no or explain why I’m not streaming Hunter or don’t want to stream Hunter. People ask me this question as I’m known as a Hunter expert or god, writing weekly for Tempostorm’s Meta Snapshot as well as having reached #1 legend multiple times and even finishing #1 and #8 one season with Midrange Hunter. A version of Midrange Hunter featuring Ram Wrangler also went undefeated for me in my run of matches to BlizzCon in 2015. I was one of the pioneers of the Midrange Hunter creating one of the first variants of Midrange Hunter over 1 year ago, shortly after that Lifecoach’s Sunshine Hunter became popular, abusing the power of Starving Buzzard even more.
I have been simply answering “no” to this question very often lately, except for the times where I decide to have fun and just play something crazy like Reno Hunter or Control Hunter. This is due to the current very poor state of Hunter. It is a Tier 3 class and reaching the brink of extinction on ladder as players are selecting Aggro Shaman, Zoo, and Secret Paladin as their aggressive decks of choice, all 3 seeming to outclass the once King of Aggro, Hunters. The only new card that was looked at for Hunters out of League of Explorers was Desert Camel but players quickly came to the consensus that the card was just unplayable as giving your opponent a Zombie Chow, Secretkeeper, or other powerful 1-drop is not ideal.
Also, being a tournament player is another reason why I devote time towards other decks on stream. If I devoted all of my time to only playing one deck on stream, I would not have been as successful in tournaments as I have been. It’s important to practice other classes, as most of my time spent playing the game is what you guys see on stream. My goal is to be a well-rounded player, I think it’s better to be proficient with many decks than it is to only master one deck, unless your goal is only to be a top ladder player. Even then, on ladder, there will be times where you need to switch decks if your deck is not well positioned in the current meta. This happens to be the case for me, as I tested many Hunter builds on ladder and couldn’t climb with them recently.
No one can be too upset that Hunter is in a poor position now, as it has certainly had its time to shine in the days of 2 mana Unleash the Hounds and 2 mana Starving Buzzard as well as the days where turn 1 Undertaker was the most rage inducing play in the game causing people to concede by turn 2 if they didn’t have an answer. However, since Hunter is my favorite class and people ask me to stream it all the time I would love for it to be viable or one of the best decks once again as I find joy in sharing my deck ideas and refined builds for the class with the masses. It’s funny how Hunter is no longer considered scum at the moment, but I’m sure that wouldn’t take much to change as people love complaining about aggressive decks.
I stand firm in my position althought some people may disagree with my statement of Hunter being in a poor spot right now. Players still hit win streaks with variants of Hunter occasionally or even reach legend. The thing is, just hitting legend or having a lucky streak is not a great indicator of the overall viability. You can’t look at these small samples in isolation as an indicator of Hunter being in a good position. Any class can reach legend, even really bad decks can sometimes climb to top 100. The consistency is just not there, being able to judge a decks position in the meta is not something that comes easy at times. It is a learned skill through playing of thousands of games and recognizing trends.
I had begun writing this article before Blizzard made the huge announcement that there will be a new way to play, Standard format. For those of you not up to date on the big news go check out their article on "A new way to play". I was prepared to discuss what Hunter needed in terms of new cards to bring it back to viability again. Instead, the announcement of the Standard format may be all that Hunter needed to be a playable class again.
While Naxxramas brought ultra-powerful cards to Hunter in Mad Scientist, Haunted Creeper and the now nerfed Undertaker it also brought some of the cards that have hindered the Hunter the most in Sludge Belcher, Zombie Chow, and Antique Healbot. Naxxramas was arguably the most defining set ever brought to the game, and with its rotation out of Standard we are going to see a lot of change from the current game-state.
While we don’t know what the next expansion can bring to the game or what balance changes they are planning to make to the Basic/Classic cards, we can still make some speculations. Face Hunter and other aggressive strategies no longer being hindered by the 3 cards mentioned above is huge, Blizzard will likely have to create some new anti-aggro tools to defend against the aggressive openings of Aggro Shaman and Hunter. People saying Mad Scientist not being around will make Hunter terrible, I have to disagree as other classes lose much of their over powered early game minions as well, except for Druids which will still have Darnassus Aspirant (eeek, let’s hope Druid receives some nerfs). There are other 2 drops to play in place of Scientist like Flame Juggler. Remember the days when River Croc saw play? Sure they aren’t busted as Scientist, but they will still get the job done considering there won’t be Zombie Chow on turn 1 shutting down your aggressive opening. Control decks not featuring Zombie Chow anymore might even shine some light on Desert Camel, but we will have to see what the new expansion brings first…perhaps there will be some new OP neutral 1-drop.
The future of Hunter moving forward looks bright all thanks to Blizzard deciding to create a new format (hurray!) and I’m sure it will find its time back under the spotlight as the cancerous deck that everyone hates.
Anyway, the short answer to the question “Will you stream hunter today?” is no, at least not until Standard format is live, but look forward to me streaming new Standard Hunter builds at http://twitch.tv/jablol once that time comes!