An introductory guide to the unique strengths of Face Hunter

Face Hunter is a deck that has existed since Hearthstone’s inception and revolves around dealing 30 damage rapidly and ending the game before your opponent has a chance to counter pressure. While it has had highs and lows throughout the game’s history and stereo-typically seen as a boring low-skill ceiling deck, the archetype currently sports two very strong variants, both of which are very much skill-testing to play.

Deck core for Face Hunter

The current build of Face Hunter has many synergies between its tools. For example, Tour Guide works amazingly with Sharpshooter and Phase Stalker, and Scavenger’s Ingenuity combined with Wolpertinger, in particular, can be devastating. Overall, this deck sports one of the strongest early games in the Standard format rivaled only by Paladin’s Aldor Attendant into Hand of Adal. 

Imprisoned Felmaw is a great card in all variants of Hunter since its release with the Ashes of Outland expansion. When you realize your worst-case scenario is often value trading into an opponent’s minion and your best outcome is two-mana deal five damage summon a 5/4 minion, it’s not too surprising to see how this card has found its place in Face Hunter. 

Face Hunter’s favorite, Voracious Reader

Any deck that runs as low a curve as Face Hunter is more than happy to abuse Voracious Reader, as it keeps the Hunter from running out of cards in the late-game. Scavenger’s Ingenuity is very valuable as it either gives you a three mana 6/6 or tutors out one of the deck’s best cards. 

Lorekeeper Polkelt is very interesting in Face Hunter. While running a Chillwind Yeti in an aggressive deck may seem strange, Hunter’s lack of drawing cards, combined with the deck’s low curved topped out by direct damage, makes Polkelt a very strong card. Lorekeeper Polkelt’s effect is so strong because he allows you to draw your strongest card remaining in the deck for the rest of the game. 

In sequence drawing your Dragonbane, Kill Commands, Eaglehorn Bows improves the consistency of closing out the game drastically for the Face Hunter archetype. 

Closing out the game as Face Hunter

Face Hunter Key cards

All aggressive decks need finishers, and this deck certainly does not lack them. Kill Command is very strong, and given the number of beasts we run, it is active almost all the time. When it isn’t, the card still performs well as a removal tool to snowball board control early on in the game. 

Eaglehorn bow is often a three-mana Fireball and can get larger given the number of secrets the deck runs (more on that later). Dragonbane is one of the best sources of direct damage in the format now that Leeroy has retired, making it a very worthy inclusion in the deck. These cards are also always the first five off of Lorekeeper Polkelt, increasing the deck’s late-game threat density.

But what if we wanted to include Dinotamer Brann?

Highlander Face Hunter, making it work.

Highlander Face Hunter Core: 

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Unsurprisingly, this is not a particularly revolutionary idea. You take the regular core, add the highlander cards, some other decent quality cards that further your gameplan, and some secrets and soft techs, and you have produced a Highlander Face Hunter list. The cards above consist of the deck’s core cards: the remaining six slots are somewhat debatable.

Build options & tech cards for Face Hunter

It comes to no surprise that Secrets are a vital part of the Face Hunter deck. However, which secrets this Hunter deck wants to include is up for debate. There are many secrets available to the Hunter class, so here are the secrets I would recommend you play. The sweet spot for the number of Secrets you want to include in Face Hunter is four secrets. 

At four, you preserve the consistency of minions in your deck while maximizing the chance of an effective outcome from Phase Stalker. If the meta is right, you can consider playing doubles of each of the following secrets.

What are the secret options for Face Hunter?

Pressure Plate is a strong option against classes such as Priest & Paladin, dealing with their Apotheosis and Blessing of Authority plays. However, sometimes it can be effective at sniping a Miracle Rogue’s Questing Adventurer.

Freezing Trap, on the other hand, is strong against classes with large minions such as Paladin or hyper-aggressive Rogue decks with many stealth minions. In addition to this, Freezing Trap is quite valuable for the mirror match since it makes any card hit almost unplayable throughout the matchup. 

Explosive Trap is most valuable against other aggressive opponents. With how weak the boards are of aggressive decks, the two damage AoE is often unrecoverable. Against more control-oriented opponents, however, Explosive Trap just deals two damage to the enemy hero.

Pack Tactics is another secret that shines at protecting your board. This card is valuable against almost every deck, as even decks that apply no board pressure (such as Bomb Warrior) look to kill Phase Stalkers, and even if it hits other minions, it still offers value. It is especially strong in aggressive matchups, where the negation of a key trade can swing a matchup massively.

More build options

A different consideration is the inclusion of Toxic Reinforcements. Toxic Reinforcements is fantastic in the slower matchups you might run into when playing Face Hunter. Some examples of these slower decks include Control Priest, Bomb Warrior, and Soul Demon Hunter. 

While you can argue for the inclusion of many cards in the Face Hunter archetype, you also want to avoid certain cards. With the recent nerf to Guardian Animals Druid, the card Cult Neophyte lost a lot of value. With Druid gone, the card only remains helpful against the Mage class, which isn’t nearly enough to warrant including a Bloodfen Raptor.  

The final tip I have for you when building the deck is not to cut Imprisoned Felmaw for Animal Companion, as I’ve seen some people do. Imprisoned Felmaw is superior at every stage of the game and doesn’t hurt what Lorekeeper Polkelt does for the deck. 

Highlander Face Hunter tech options

Highlander Face Hunter wants to include many of the cards that Face Hunter plays. However, there are several additional cards worth considering in the highlander build of the deck. For example, Snake Trap gains a lot of prominence in the Highlander build of the deck. The synergies with a card such as Zephrys the Great and the Bloodlust or Savage Roar options he discovers. In addition to this, it’s not a bad way to snowball in the early game for the deck. 

Since the deck has more late-game tools and loses the consistency of duplicates, the average starting hand is slightly less aggressive for Highlander Face Hunter. Because of this, the deck has the option to include more tools to smooth out the early turns. 

Highlander Face Hunter minion options

Face Hunter Tech Cards

Frozen Shadoweaver – a nod to Demon Hunter, this card is a soft tech that is good in other matchups. A three mana 4/3 is not exactly terrible stats, and the freeze effect can be useful to contest the board and prevent value trades but shines at delaying Demon Hunter’s use of Warblades/Blade Dance. Overall a solid choice.

Transfer Student – While our foxy friend has been gathering dust for a month or so now, the low mana cost synergizes well with Voracious Reader and Polkelt, as well as almost offering a strong effect. Strong in aggressive matchups, where the snowballing advantages of running Shotbot/Murkspark Eel/Give a friendly minion +1/+2 are clearest and be careful to avoid Uldum plagues and make sure to pull Lightning Bloom in Scholomance.

Desert Spear – Desert Spear now seems to be on the edge of being good enough, as the anti-synergy with Voracious Reader and Lorekeeper Polkelt have exposed the card that is not that strong compared to the rest of the deck. However, the card is still strong in aggressive matchups, which is a weakness for the Highlander Face Hunter deck. 

Example decklists for both Face & Highlander Face Hunter

Face Hunter Decks

Tomat0 Face Hunter (rainbow): 

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Pack Tactics Face Hunter:

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Tomat0 Highlander Face Hunter:

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The Face Hunter Mulligan

  • Always keep Tour Guide, Scavenger’s Ingenuity, Phase Stalker, Intrepid Initiate, and Adorable Infestation. 
  • If you have Intrepid Initiate and Demon Companion but not Scavenger’s Ingenuity or the coin, keep both. 
  • Keep Felmaw against Demon Hunter, Priest, Rogue, when going second, or if you are tossing the remainder of your hand. 
  • Keep Polkelt or Dragonbane against Mage, and Dwarven Sharpshooter in the mirror, against Mage or Rogue, or whenever the rest of your hand is bad. Demon Companion is a bait except against Paladin. 
  • Never keep Wolpertinger – you want to maximize the chances of drawing it from your Scavenger’s Ingenuity.

Highlander Face Hunter specific mulligan

Much of the same applies to Highlander Hunter, except that Tour Guide is no longer always kept, and that you keep Trueaim Crescent, Guardian Augmerchant, and Bonechewer Brawler all the time. 

Demon Companion is also fine to keep if you lack a 1-drop. Keep Dinotamer Brann in slower matchups. Zephrys the Great isn’t as much of an auto-keep as you would think. Ensure that you are not prioritizing Zephrys the Great over a potentially better early play as his main value is as a finisher or board recovery against aggressive opponents. However, if your hand needs an Animal Companion, he is fine to keep.

The general strategy of the Face Hunter decks

How to establish soft-locks

To play Face Hunter as effectively as possible, you need to understand how to set up a soft-lock. A soft-lock is a state where, via a combination of secrets, board pressure, weapon pressure, and minion effects, your opponent’s methods of retaking the board and winning the game are severely hurt (but not impossible). What I mean by this is using your secrets and how they interact with your board differently for each matchup and using the advantage that they provide to create a dominant position in the match. If you can milk your Phase Stalkers and get multiple activations on each, this should be fairly straightforward.

Against aggressive opponents, you want to use Pack Tactics and Explosive Trap, and sometimes Freezing Trap, to prevent them from going face OR trading effectively. This allows you to generate damage and board advantages that make a recovery challenging for your opponent. 

Against ‘go tall’ decks, such as Libram Paladin, you use Freezing Trap and Pressure Plate to keep them from stacking buffs on a single minion and allowing you to point face in peace, without worrying about your opponent’s Divine Shield Taunt 15/15 minion.

On the other hand, against Priest, you aim to use Pack Tactics and Pressure Plate to keep them from clearing your board. Pack Tactics keeps them from making good trades, and Pressure Plate locks out any sort of Wild Pyromancer & Apotheosis play. Demon Hunter and Warrior are harder to soft-lock, as they do not apply pressure through the board. 

Controlling the board as Face Hunter

In addition to this, use Dwarven Sharpshooter and Eaglehorn Bow to keep board control, and point face with minions as much as reasonably possible – however, it a good value trade opportunity presents itself, don’t shy away from it, as this can be game-deciding against aggression. Against Paladins, value trade as much as you can to prevent them from stacking buffs. Understanding when to bite the bullet and trade to maintain board control is something you learn through experience. A player who trades correctly with consistency will be able to get very good results with Face Hunter.

Tips & tricks

A few tiny details: hold onto the 1/1 generated by Adorable Infestation. By doing so, you are far more likely to get Kill Command active when drawn. Try to avoid gambling with Scavenger’s Ingenuity. Waiting until it guarantees what you need is often better if you have the option to do so.

Toxic Reinforcements should be played on t4-6, not in the early game, and remember: it’s always Reffuh, 33% of the time, so begging for Stonetusk Boar Mark II is not worth it most of the time. If you have an alternative play, it’s probably better.

A final word: your turn one play is incredibly important. You will often find yourself holding multiple one or two-drops and a coin. Take into account your opponent’s deck and likely removal tools and what is strong in what matchup and decide based on that. If that means roping turn one, so be it.

Highlander Face Hunter’s gameplan

Highlander Face Hunter is somewhat easier to play. With only one copy of each card, you reduce the probability of drawing your synergistic cards. Because of this, the risk & reward balancing potential draws in coming turns becomes simpler, as your chances of drawing a given card are much lower. 

When you draw your secrets or Phase Stalker, try to establish soft-locks as above, but generally speaking, play for tempo as much as possible, which includes ignoring the Adorable Infestation advice for Face Hunter. However, save Zephrys the Great to bail you out of terrible situations or to find lethal later in the game.

Two cards that require some thought are Trueaim Crescent and Ace Hunter Kreen. To ensure Trueaim Crescent works, play minions from left to right so that you know the order in which Trueaim Crescent will activate. The way Trueaim Crescent works is that it attacks in order of when you played the minions. Don’t try to save Trueaim Crescent for minions alone; it’s a four durability weapon, and we want to play Eaglehorn Bow too. 

Try to use Ace Hunter Kreen when you already have control of the board. If you do fall behind, try to develop a board and counterpressure at that point first. One of many ways Ace Hunter Kreen shines is when he can help you cement a slight snowball lead or clear a tall threat in the midgame. Do not play it when your opponent only has a few small minions or when you have a significant enough board lead.

Matchups & Meta

Hunters’ weakness is in its matchups against Demon Hunter and Paladin. Unfortunately, both of these classes gained a lot of popularity since the latest balance update. In addition to this, Face Hunter lost a good matchup in Guardian Animals Druid, which leaves the deck’s secret choices in a more uncertain state.

In the past, the deck simply used the same secrets to counter both Paladin and Druid. However, it is now more difficult to choose the secrets to play, as the meta that is evolving now is not weak to the same secrets anymore. 

Overall, the Face Hunter archetype remains strong. However, now the Highlander Face Hunter build seems to have overtaken its more aggressive counterpart as the best Hunter deck in the Standard meta. Dinotamer Brann and Zephrys the Great allow you to escape many tricky situations. Whether it is by finding more damage to beat Demon Hunter or Zephrys the Great discovering the answer you need to deal with Paladin’s large threat. Dinotamer Brann, in particular, shines against Demon Hunter: it requires a large Blade Dance to be dealt with properly, but Twin Slice (the best Blade Dance fuel available) is needed earlier for life gain with Warblades.

What this doesn’t mean Highlander Face Hunter is better across the board. In the matchups against other aggressive decks and Cyclone Mage, the deck loses several percentage.points. Each of the builds has its strengths and weaknesses, leaving no clear-cut stronger version of the Face Hunter archetype.

Conclusion

Face Hunter is a strong Standard archetype sporting two different variants, both of which are very strong choices for the early month Legend climb. The two sub-archetypes have different strengths and weaknesses and have slightly different playstyles, as well as room for maneuver to adjust to your pocket meta. I hope this guide has helped you understand how best to pilot and build the deck. See you on the ladder!

For more strategy content, be sure to take a look at Eggsbenedict’s Reno Secret Hunter Guide. Do you want to have your deck featured or work with AceGameGuides on creating strategic content? Email Arend@AceGameGuides.com, and we’ll talk! For more of AceGameGuides, be sure to join the new discord!