The full Forged in the Barrens set has been revealed and it's time to look at all the new cards and look at how Hunter will be doing this expansion. We'll be breaking each of the Hunter cards down,

Keep in mind that this is an early look at the class before we've been able to play with the new cards, so while we try to be as accurate as possible in our predictions of what is to come, no one can perfectly predict the Hearthstone meta.

Hunter Deck Themes in Forged in the Barrens

Hunter is focusing on two main archetypes this expansion - Spell Hunter and Beast Hunter. Outside of these two, they only have support for other archetypes in the form of generally good cards as opposed to explicit synergies.

Spell Hunter is being reintroduced for the year, as expected when their Core Set saw the inclusion of Lock and Load. There's plenty of low-cost spells already available to support it, and a few juicy new inclusions in this expansion. Importantly, we also get a few minions that synergize with spells, meaning we're not looking at trying to focus in on only spells and can mix in some of the stronger minions - or even some minions that generate spells?

Beast Hunter also gets plenty of toys to compliment the host of good Beasts they already have access to, as well as powerful Beast synergies. Dire Frenzy has been added back to Standard with the Core Set, which is a welcome sight, and there are options to go in either a fully Beast-focused direction or a more combo-oriented decklist with a focus on the new Legendary.

Interestingly, we don't have any support for Deathrattle Hunter and only a mild glance at the idea of support for Secret Hunter. It'll be fun to see if we get anything more for them in the coming year, or if they've been dropped in favour of newer ventures.

Wound Prey

Wound Prey Card Image

Like clockwork, they attack.

This is a nice little piece of ammo for a variety of Hunter decks. Nothing about it is insane, but it's just a really efficient tool comparable to many things we've seen in the past.

It's an Arcane Shot that lets you split the damage with almost no restriction - only those cheating Taunts mess things up - and might leave behind a body if you only need 1 damage; it's an Elven Archer with Rush and spell synergy; it's a Rapid Fire or Springpaw with the benefits of both Beast and spell synergies and costing (1) less overall.

Hell, it's a strictly better On the Hunt.

This plays well with plenty of things that Hunter wants to be doing this year, sure, but it's also just a pretty good card overall.

Pack Kodo

Pack Kodo Card Image

You can't complain about what you get when you're the one that let the Kodo do the packing.

A 3 mana 3/3 Beast that nets you a card? Sounds like a great addition to me!

Having three separate options means you're going to need to be able to adapt your strategy pretty well when playing this, but thankfully the options are narrow enough that you can plan ahead a little.

The Beast slot is the most random, with 31 options in our new Standard ranging from Darkmoon Rabbit and King Krush all the way down to Webspinner and Emerald Skytalon. This is your wildcard slot, the option you don't expect anything from but evaluate every time it comes up on a case-by-case basis.

Your other two slots are far more predictable. For Weapons, you only have Rinling's Rifle, Headhunter's Hatchet and Trueaim Crescent to pick from, all of which are reasonable options depending on your situation. You'll probably be hoping for the Rifle if you drop this Turn 3, but in the midgame you can think about snagging a weapon you can play alongside it too. Secrets are even better - Pack Tactics, Open the Cages, Explosive Trap and Freezing Trap, all of them worth considering and all of them a reliable 2 mana, so you can anticipate having at least one card to fill out a curve as needed.

The only time I'd be wary of at least thinking about including this card is if you're going for specific, finicky Beast combos that it might mess with. Aggressive decks might find it too slow as well, but even they need gas and this can provide that.

Piercing Shot

Piercing Shot Card Image

You give Hunters a bad name!

I want to let you all know, it crushed me when a helpful user informed me my dreams of popping off with this card and Mo'arg Artificer were all for naught. No ridiculous amounts of face damage unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your thoughts on combo decks).

Even without that interaction, however, I'm still interested in this card. It's a good control tool for Hunter decks looking to play the game a little longer, but even aggressive decks might be interested in a card that can allow them to take out threats without sacrificing the board, and squeeze in a little extra face damage too.

I'll definitely be playing this in my Hunter decks because I'm one of those people that was trying to make Dragon Hunter work back when all we had was Emeriss and Carrion Drake. Whether this makes the cut in the more traditional and aggressive decks depends on just how aggressive they can afford to be.

Sunscale Raptor

Sunscale Raptor Card Image

Why do they keep coming back? They just have a good rapport.

Don't get bogged down in thinking about how best to utilize the Frenzy effect here - just focus on the fact that this is a 1 mana 1/3 Beast, because that's all it needs to be.

Dire Mole was a great card for Hunter (as well as a few other classes). Admittedly, we don't have the powerhouse that is Crackling Razormaw to pair with it, but we do have a few other Beast synergies available to us, and the bonus Frenzy effect is all upside if you happen to activate it.

Basically, if Hunter is seeing play, you can bet that this card will be seeing play too.

Prospector's Caravan

Prospector's Caravan Card Image

There are minions in them thar hands!

Ah, why do you tempt me so? I love a good handbuff deck - though is there such a thing as a good handbuff deck? - and we've seen a few drips of support in this expansion. Unfortunately, I'm afraid that this card just straight up isn't going to be good.

Like the rest of the Caravans, the bonus this provides is simply too small to be worth running such a weak body - especially since it needs to survive a turn before you even get its effect. I just don't anticipate that happening at any reasonable rate. Maybe if you get it down turn 1 or 2 your opponent won't be able to kill it. Then you can try racking up the buffs while protecting it with your other minions. But if you're even a turn late I don't see this being anything but a 2 mana 1/3.

I'm gonna be playing it, don't get me wrong. I just don't think I should be if I want to win.

Tame Beast (Rank 1)

Tame Beast (Rank 1) Card Image Tame Beast (Rank 2) Card Image Tame Beast (Rank 3) Card Image

Sit! Stay! Alright... uh, yeah, maul that guy! Good girl!

A great support card for the Spell Hunter resurgence! While at Rank 1 this isn't a particularly impressive card, it at least provides you with both a spell and a Beast. As it ranks up, it becomes a much better card, letting you control the board a little and likely giving you a body to play with afterwards too.

The thing I particularly like about the Rank spells is that the only requirement for them to improve is for the game to have gone on long enough. This means that if you're generating spells to use later in the game, you're guaranteed to get a more powerful spell, unlike something like the Schemes which needed time to increase in value.

Kolkar Pack Runner

Kolkar Pack Runner Card Image

He's just a really enthusiastic dog walker.

I'm not sure how to feel about this card. I think I'm too used to thinking of Spell Hunter as being something you go all-in on, so I instinctively balk at the idea of including a lowly minion in my deck.

A 2 mana 2/3 is a perfectly reasonable statline, however, and getting to ping things for 1 with every spell you cast - and even more, if you happen to have some Beast buffs available to you - is a pretty decent effect. Even just pulling together a sizeable board to use on later turns seems like a good deal.

If Spell Hunter manages to take off, I think this will be a core part of it. It just provides that sweet little bit of extra value that you'll need in the early game to get to a big power turn later in the game.

Warsong Wrangler

Warsong Wrangler Card Image

Even Beasts need a boost now and then!

This one has a very straightforward combo to it - Dire Frenzy your minion of choice and then slap this down to buff them even further. The only real decision you have to make is whether you want to go all-in on a small number of Beasts, increasing the odds that you hit the appropriate target, or be a bit more lax with it and allow yourself to run a variety of Beasts, giving you more options for what to Dire Frenzy.

You could even try for something cute with Sunscale Raptor, though how you plan to deliberately trigger its Frenzy effect without resorting to terrible memes I can't imagine. Just imagine the army of 5/5s sitting in your deck though, waiting to storm the battlefield!

This is worth it if you're planning on having more than 2 copies of a Beast in your deck, however that may be. I'm less convinced it makes an impact on its own, but I might be underestimating the buff.

Tavish Stormpike

Tavish Stormpike Card Image

"These tracks... get out of the way, laddie!"

Alright, now we're talking memes! I don't have it all planned out yet, but basically, you want to get yourself a ladder of Rush Beasts to sequentially throw out from your deck all in one turn. I think in Standard you can get a run all the way from 5 mana down to 1 mana, and in Wild you don't even have to limit yourself to Rush Beasts - just make sure you've got Tundra Rhino at 5 mana and anything below that can be whatever you want.

Outside of the combo potential, if you manage to drop this and attack with even one Beast in a focused deck then you've succeeded. Free minions are free minions, after all, and you've presumably only included the best of the best in your deck. Tavish was actually the reason I hesitated a little on Pack Kodo at the end of its review. His ability is just far too good to be wasted summoning a 3/3, especially when that 3/3 loses its Battlecry.

I expect we'll see this guy a lot, and the only question will be if the Beast Rush is more meme than dream.

Barak Kodobane

Barak Kodobane Card Image

Shots, shots, shots shots shots shots!

A nice little bit of glue for Spell Hunter. He's not a very exciting card, but being able to draw 3 cards is always powerful, and you're going to be running plenty of spells at these mana costs out of sheer necessity. He's not strong enough to slot in everywhere, because in other Hunter decks the early game will feature a lot of minions with significantly fewer spells, but for the deck, he's aimed at you definitely want the added gas.

I don't think Barak has the same combo potential as Tavish does, unfortunately. I can't think of any particular cards you might want to play all in a row the turn after him, at least not to the near exclusion of other spells at those mana costs. Lock and Load certainly provides a bit of value, but I wouldn't cut other 2 mana spells just to guarantee it.

Theorycrafting Spell Hunter in Forged in the Barrens

I knew when I saw that Lock and Load was back in Standard that I'd have to try making Spell Hunter work. It being such a low-cost spell naturally gravitates us towards a deck with a low curve, and eventually, I decided that topping out at the new Barak Kodobane was where this deck was headed. It makes sense with Hunter's naturally more aggressive leanings, though there are some great Control tools present here.

Aside from running a variety of smaller spells to feed the cards mentioned above, I also decided that if Professor Slate has any chance of shining it's now. There are a lot of damaging spells in this deck at quite low costs, which will make picking off minions the same turn you play him something you can do quite consistently.

Wandmaker and Venomous Scorpid are our only Neutral cards for this deck - which makes sense, given the focus on spells. You'll be hard-pressed to find a bad option from Wandmaker, though there are a total of 8 options so don't go into it anticipating any particular one. Venomous Scorpid has the added bonus of being a Beast, which while not incredibly relevant for the spells I've chosen to include in the deck is a good tag to have when considering the possibilities for generated cards.

There are a lot of other directions you could take this kind of deck, especially if you cut the curve even more harshly and drop things like Krolusk Barkstripper, Rinling's Rifle and Piercing Shot. You could put more Secrets in, or increase the amount of 1-Cost spells to give you a higher chance of an insane Lock and Load turn. Even something as simple as swapping out Arcane Shot for Overwhelm if the potential for extra damage outweighs the benefit of being able to go face. This is very much a first draft, something to be built upon as the meta develops and it becomes more obvious which specific spells will have the most impact.

Closing Thoughts on Hunter in Forged in the Barrens

Overall I'm excited for the direction Hunter is taking this expansion. I'm a little sad that we aren't seeing much in the way of support for Deathrattle Hunter, one of my favourite archetypes, but what we are getting looks more than fun enough to make up for that.

I've been trying to focus on the potential of less aggressive strategies when looking at the class, but if all else fails I think Hunter will manage to hold on to relevance with the tried and true aggro deck. I could be wrong, though - the Core Set shake-up lost us Kill Command and Animal Companion, so it's almost a whole new class out there.

What do you think about Hunter in Forged in the Barrens? Let us know in the comments below!

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