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The Rise and Fall of Rastakhan’s Hybrid Secret Hunter

16 days ago

 

By: Owen Hall

 

A deck with highly favorable win rates across the board, the deck which has been coined “Hybrid Hunter”, “Hybrid Secret Hunter” or sometimes just “Secret Hunter” was conceived soon following the release of the latest expansion, Rastakhan’s Rumble, and the release of two new enabling cards for the Midrange Hunter archetype: Springpaw and Master’s Call. The deck saw very limited success in its experimentation at high legend due to the prevalence of druid decks and other combo-oriented decks which very efficiently shut out the kind of midrange-esque strategies that decks like this Secret Hunter employ. Because of its limited success, it was quickly dismissed by most as a framework for a viable competitive deck.

Not even a month into the Rastakhan’s meta though, Blizzard announced that they were going to release a round of nerfs which reduced the power level of Odd Paladin, removed decks such as Kingsbane Rogue and Shudderwock Shaman from the game altogether and accompanied this with nerfing the core mechanic of the druid class into the ground.

Almost immediately experimentation with Midrange and Hybrid Hunter decks started back up again. As the new meta began to shape itself. it became overwhelmingly clear that the addition of the Hunter cards from Rastakhan’s Rumble, in combination with the recent nerfs, were enough to propel this Hunter strategy to the top of the tier system. Initially, when experimentation with the archetype began again, a beast-only Midrange Hunter was heavily experimented with. The desire to exploit the power of the Hunter spellstone,  however, prompted the inclusion of a Subject 9 secret package into the deck, which generally ran about five secrets, usually only a single copy of each in order to maximize the value of Subject 9 in the deck.

The consistent card draw offered by Master’s call, the ability to close games with the relatively high burst potential of Tundra Rhino (5 mana: Your beasts have charge) + Greater Emerald Spellstone (5 mana: Summon four 3/3 wolves; total of 14 damage from hand on turn 10) and the deck-in-a-card that is Deathstalker Rexxar took the new take on Midrange Hunter from a spot at the top of the professional community’s radar to a spot at the top of most professional players 2018 Winter Playoffs deck lineups.

Prior to Europe’s playoffs, the deck was still relatively unknown outside of the high legend metagame that existed post-nerf. When almost two thirds of the players at Europe’s playoffs brought some version of this newfangled Hybrid Hunter -which saw astounding success- its popularity exploded. Nearly every player at America’s Playoffs the following weekend brought either a Midrange or Hybrid variant of this new Hunter deck, and it saw a large amount of success despite drawing bans from many of the players. Asia Pacific’s playoffs were much the same, where nearly every player had some form of Hunter deck and many were banned. In those three weeks of playoffs, the deck’s popularity on ladder soared, peaking at almost 8% of the games played between Legend rank and Rank 20, with an overall win rate of almost 55% according to data from hsreplay.net.

After the astounding success that Hunter has seen in the last month after the nerfs, Blizzard has announced another round set to take effect on February 05, 2019. These nerfs are intended to answer the problem of very powerful Basic and Classic cards being included in most decks of their respective classes over most of Hearthstone’s history. The only non-Classic or Basic card included in these surprise nerfs, however, is the Lesser Emerald Spellstone, whose cost is being increased from 5 to 6 mana. While it may seem like a small one, this change is considered by many professional players to be a killing blow to both the Hybrid Secret Hunter as well as the Spell Hunter archetypes. Already since the announcement was made, players have been making the shift back to earlier Midrange Beast Hunter variants of the deck, removing the package with Subject 9 altogether in anticipation of the nerfs that are expected to go live this Tuesday, bringing with them the death of the short-lived Rastakhan’s Hybrid Secret Hunter.