'Hearthstone' guide: surprise is your friend with the Secret Hunter

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Welcome to the Hearthstone Meta Update, where we review of one of the most powerful or exciting decks in competitive play. Today, we’re looking at Secret Hunter. Learn how to build and play this deck, and be a little more prepared to climb the ladder.  

All of the One Night in Karazhan cards are officially available, which means the metagame is likely to see even more experimentation in the coming weeks. One new concept that caught our eye (and the attention of a few skilled top players) is the Secret Hunter. 

Why it’s good

Even though the meta will probably shift around in terms of exact deck builds, the most common tactics on ladder today favor aggressive or mid-range play. The Secret Hunter is well-equipped to handle both, thanks to its many options for building a quick lead. The secret mechanic also does a great job of interrupting momentum during an opponent’s turn, and steady momentum is key for both aggro and mid-range decks to win. 

Build the deck

As you can probably guess from the name, this riff on Hunter involves lots of secret cards. Exactly which secrets are the strongest is still up for debate, with a few different takes currently in circulation. On point of consensus appears to be the new Cat Trick card, which seems to be proving its worth. Snake Trap and Snipe also make frequent appearances. 

The rest of the secret choices seem to depend on what you expect to find on ladder. Explosive Trap is a useful board clear against aggro decks whose minions usually have lower health. Bear Trap and Freezing Trap deflect enemy attacks, making them better against the slower builds. Note that Freezing Trap may be less effective against a deck that runs lots of battlecry minions, since you’re actually putting that resource back in your opponent’s hands (albeit at a higher mana cost). 

Next, the deck needs resources to build off all those secrets. The Eaglehorn Bow is an obvious inclusion, but the Cloaked Huntress and Secretkeeper cards are also must-haves for early game pressure. Avian Watcher is also likely to take advantage of the extra power option by the time it comes into play, given the large number of secrets most versions run. 

Barnes, another new Karazhan card, also makes this deck a force to be reckoned with. It can give you a massive swing by pulling out a copy of your secret-empowered minions like the Cloaked Huntress or Secretkeeper, turning an okay turn into a scary one for your opponent. The number of strong deathrattle minions in most builds also helps to build tempo off of Barnes. Savannah Highmane has been the star of many a Hunter deck, and even as a 1/1 minion can be a deal threat. Other choices for your deck include the Kindly Grandmother, Infested Wolf, or Fiery Bat, which are potent tools on their own plus have great synergy with Barnes.

To round out your 30 cards, use now-standard Hunter spells such as Animal Companion, Kill Command, Unleash the Hounds, Call of the Wild, or Quick Shot. 

Tips for playing it

Once again, the key to succeeding with Secret Hunter is how and when you play out those secrets. That’s much easier when you’ve got an idea of the deck you’re up against, so that you select them to be an accurate counter to the play your opponent wants to make on their next turn. Getting Snipe on a Tempo Mage’s Flamewaker or wiping an Aggro Shaman’s board with Explosive Trap are very good feelings. 

Image: blizzard entertainment

If you’re facing a deck that you can’t identify and the secrets don’t go off in the most ideal way, all is not lost. Your secrets are important, but they aren’t your win condition. Secret Hunter usually clinches the win by keeping steady pressure from the get-go, putting one or two minions in play that continue to chip away at your opponent. The secrets are a tool for added tempo and enemy board removal.  

How to counter it

Try fighting fire with fire and explore the Secret Paladin as a counter. Paladins have extensive options for early game removal and survival, and its secrets are just as disruptive as those found in the Hunter build. 

The spell-heavy Freeze Mage could also be a counter. This deck doesn’t expect many of its early game minions to stick on the board, so secrets aren’t as much of a concern, and its stalling mechanics can prevent the Hunter’s early or mid-game from getting out of control. 

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Anna Washenko

Anna Washenko is a freelance writer covering digital entertainment, social media, science, and tech. Her work has appeared on USA Today, Mashable, Yahoo and Digital Trends. Follow her @AnnMore

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