I initially thought that building a Dragon Hunter deck without using cards from the Galakrond’s Awakening adventure would be impossible. After all, the entire archetype was built on Rotnest Drake providing the Hunter with a critical mass of aggressive dragon minions to complement Stormhammer and Corrosive Breath.
However, I recently played a lot with the archetype, including trying to figure out card substitutions for the guide I wrote about it for Hearthstone Top Decks. Even when I originally finished the guide, I still thought that the best you can do is replace the Legendary cards and Snake Trap, but there would be no way to replace Stormhammer or the adventure cards Rotnest Drake and Frenzied Felwing.
I kept working on the budget list even after completing the guide because I really wanted to find out some way to make it work, and eventually, I did!
1400 dust Budget Dragon Hunter
Deck code: AAECAR8AD7UDhwThBJcI/gzv8QKKrQP5rgP7rwP8rwP+rwPnsAP/sAOFsQOHsQMA
So, here. This is it. This actually works and it only costs 1400 dust with no adventure cards.
The final three replacements were Eaglehorn Bow for Stormhammer, Animal Companion for Frenzied Felwing, and Evasive Wyrm for Rotnest Drake.
I have to admit that some of the performance has been lost. Eaglehorn Bow is nowhere near a Stormhammer, which you can just keep going with your dragons almost indefinitely, and that has forced me to change the mulligan a little: I do not keep the Bow, whereas I do keep the Stormhammer. By mulliganing more aggressively for Phase Stalker, you make the Bow a better topdeck even though you no longer keep it. You want a weapon in the deck for flexibility, and Bow is the second-best option.
Evasive Wyrm for Rotnest Drake was a fairly easy substitution in the end. It enables you to remove stuff much like Rotnest Drake, although it cannot answer really big individual minions. In some very specific scenarios, it is even better because you get to decide where it hits, and it cannot be targeted by spell and Hero Powers, which makes it annoying for Rogue and Priest to deal with. Still, it comes one turn later and has weaker stats, so it is obviously a downgrade.
There are just no other good dragon options: Crowd Roaster is even slower and Dragonmaw Scorcher’s area-of-effect damage often actively hurts you more than the opponent, while Cobalt Spellkin often gives you Beast-synergy cards and is not very much of a threat. You want that slot to be a dragon to have reliable synergy activation, so Evasive Wyrm is, in hindsight, the obvious choice.
Frenzied Felwing was interesting to replace. It is a great anti-control card for the archetype because it allows you to snowball quickly in the early game and simply overwhelm the control deck. Because Dragon Hunter is good at controlling the board early on, Felwing is a decent topdeck later in the game too, unlike with Face Hunter, where it shines early but drops off sharply after a few turns after the board is lost.
I ended up with Animal Companion to replace Frenzied Felwing. Animal Companion is just a strong card, and Dragon Hunter can situationally benefit from all possible companion rolls. It does introduce some randomness into the mix, but the overall power level and the way it fits the mana curve of the deck just make it worth it.
Semi-Budget Dragon Hunter
Deck code: AAECAR8AD4cE4QSXCO/xAoqtA4utA/muA/uvA/yvA/6vA+ewA/+wA4exA7q2A6+3AwA=
If you have a little more cards, a semi-budget version of the deck can achieve almost the same performance level as the full-cost version.
For this one, you need Stormhammer and the adventure for Rotnest Drake and Frenzied Felwing.
Compared to the full-cost version, you can easily cut Snake Trap – I actually sometimes prefer the double Freezing Trap anyway. Leeroy Jenkins and Dragonbane are also non-essential, and the semi-budget list has enough room to run both Big Ol’ Whelps and Lifedrinkers, a luxury the full version can ill afford.
To be honest, I kind of liked playing this list the most, even over the full-cost version, but it depends on the meta: Lifedrinkers can be life-savers, but if you need reach, the full-cost version has more of it.
Full-cost Dragon Hunter
Deck code: AAECAR8ExwOHBK8Eh7ADDeEElwiKrQOLrQP5rgP7rwP8rwP+rwPnsAP/sAOHsQO6tgOvtwMA
This is what I’d consider the typical meta version of Dragon Hunter. If you have all the cards, something like this is what you’re going for.
The deck used to run Lifedrinkers instead of Big Ol’ Whelps, but the increased dragon synergy consistency has been proven important, so you do not want to cut down on the dragon count.
What I find interesting about this archetype is how well it functions without the Legendary cards, and how it is actually playable without the adventure cards, too. Just like Embiggen Druid, this archetype could, in theory, have been found before Galakrond’s Awakening. There is a lot to discover in Hearthstone, and there are always potential decks that have not been discovered yet.
Dragon Hunter gameplay videos
Finally, here are some gameplay samples of the budget and semi-budget lists. I hope they showcase the variants well!