Elara’s Hunting Pack (Gen Con 2017)

Foreword

This is my Gen Con 2017 constructed deck. I made it to top 8 and lost to the eventual winner, and yes, this is a Wolf Deck. It is built entirely around Hunting Pack.

Hunting Pack (and other pet cards)

Hunting Pack is strong because it is off-turn removal that puts threats into play. My goal is to make it a no-loyalty alternative to Medusa. Its main weaknesses are that 6 damage isn’t enough to break enough important champions in the current meta, and the wolves can be cleared off incidentally with Flash Fire/Wither or Draka Dragon Tyrant/Pyrosaur. In order to address these weaknesses, I need to boost the amount of damage Hunting Pack does above 6 and make my wolves relevant.

Building Around Hunting Pack

The most obvious way to make Hunting Pack better is to fill the deck with wolf producing cards. So I did. Den Mother and Wolf’s Bite are both solid. Pack Alpha is not great, but it does make wolves. Wolf Companion is worthless as it is never worth a 0-cost slot, especially after Tyrants and Uprising. Wolf’s Call is too bad, unless we lived in a meta where everyone runs three Wave of Transformation; however, Wave of Transformation fits nicely for me, as I ideally will have more champions in play, and it maintains wolves for me. The most interesting inclusion is Elara, the Lycomancer though.

That one wolf is a huge boost. At 4 wolves in play, Hunting Pack deals 8 damage which can break Draka’s Enforcer, a card that was popular in Wild aggro-midrange decks. (Wolf’s Bite is really nice because you get up to 8 damage + 2 in order to break Draka and T-Rex.) The final wolf cards I considered were Lesson Learned and Citadel Raven, both of which allow me to replay Hunting Pack.

Filling with Powerful Cards/Synergies

Since I want to run Elara, my deck building process dictates that I need 33+ Sage cards to reliably hit loyalty. In addition, assuming I run 3 of Hunting Pack, Den Mother, and Pack Alpha, I need at least 1 more Wild 1-cost card to maximize my 0-cost card count. Card Draw and Drain Essence are also important.

Feeding Frenzy Synergy

Feeding Frenzy is one of the most powerful 0-cost cards in the game because it can break a 1-cost champion without spending a gold. In order to make it devastatingly effective though, you need activators. I already have Wolf’s Bite, and I can use Feeding Frenzy to finish off a champion that blocks one of my wolves, but I want/need more. Forcemage is an easy include, and since I’m already in Sage, Helion is a possibility. Feeding Frenzy is also an excellent card to return to hand with Citadel Raven (which I already want for my Hunting Packs). To make space for three Feeding Frenzy, I can run 3 Surprise Attack (another nice card with Lesson Learned/Citadel Raven and Elara/Den Mother).

Filtering

One thing I noticed when testing different iterations of this deck was that the Hunting Pack + wolf synergy was solid, but without it, the deck fell apart. To address this, I experimented with Arcane Research and Mist Guide Herald (in addition to the Surprise Attacks) to get to the best parts of my deck. Arcane Research could help find a Hunting Pack to turn my Lesson Learneds on or a Den Mother to apply pressure. Mist Guide Herald could help me get a 1-cost wolf to make my Hunting Packs deal 12+ damage. In the end, I took out the MGHs, with the help of my team leader Tom Dixon of Pluck U because they were just too inconsistent for the deck.

Strong Sage Cards

The deck already wants Lesson Learned, so including Ancient Chant is even easier than it usually is for me. (Ancient Chant is one of my most included cards in constructed decks.) Knight of Elara provides me with a card draw (which I’m low on) as well as a blitz champion that can get through Sea Titan. Djinn of the Sands works similarly; it can either attack as an 8/8 airborne blitzer, draw 3 cards over 3 turns (not common but it happens), or do anything in between. Ice Drake took the spot of Mist Guide Herald because I need ambush champions and the expend all effect can be absolutely game-winning. (Thanks again Tom Dixon for convincing me.) Sea Titan ends up taking Citadel Raven’s two slots because I expected to be running into more aggro than control. Muse is a powerful card by itself, but it can also potentially draw out Wither/Flash Fires that otherwise could deal with my wolves. Hasty Retreat is anti-aggro, and Amnesia ended up replacing my under-performing Keeper of Secrets to deal with discard shenanigans a bit (probably should have been more Hasty Retreats).

Drain Essence

Since my deck is neither hyper-aggressive with burn nor has other health gain, 3 Drain Essence is basically mandatory. Raxxa’s Curse is an incredibly strong 0-cost card to fill my Evil 0’s slots created by Drain Essence, but it largely made it into the deck because I wanted to be able to get it back with Citadel Raven (even though I cut the Raven). The final Evil 1-cost slot is a flex slot that I currently have Zombie Apocalypse in as an off-turn board clear that can draw 2.

Gen Con 2017 List

Evil (6)

Slow ()

Fast (4)
3x Drain Essence
1x Zombie Apocalypse

0-Cost (2)
2x Raxxa’s Curse

Sage (36)

Slow (10)
2x Citadel Raven/Sea Titan
2x Djinn of the Sands
3x Elara, the Lycomancer
3x Knight of Elara

Fast (14)
3x Ancient Chant
2x Helion, the Dominator
3x Mist Guide Herald/Ice Drake
3x Lesson Learned
3x Wave of Transformation

0-Cost (12)
3x Arcane Research
3x Forcemage Apprentice
1x Hasty Retreat
2x Keeper of Secrets/Amnesia
3x Muse

Wild (18)

Slow (6)
3x Den Mother
3x Pack Alpha

Fast (6)
3x Hunting Pack
3x Surprise Attack

0-Cost (6)
3x Feeding Frenzy
3x Wolf’s Bite

Gen Con 2017 Memorable Match Moments

While I did not remember to write down names/take pictures on Friday, there were a few particularly memorable moments demonstrating the strengths and weaknesses of the deck. (I’m also not certain of the order of the matches.)

Match 1

My first match was against a Wild aggro-midrange deck (these were almost the entire field at Gen Con 2017). In this match my Den Mothers were able to do a lot of work for me. I was able to play them to an empty board and get multiple wolf attacks in before my opponent was able to answer everything.

The most important cards in the match up for my opponent were Draka, Dragon Tyrant (break my wolves) and Smash and Burn (incidentally break my Elara, the Lycomancers). For me, Hunting Pack is always one of my strongest cards, but the recently added Ice Drakes were the cards that clinched the win for me in very close games.

Match 2

I do not remember what my opponent was playing in Match 2, but Djinn of the Sands was the match MVP. In one of the games my opponent got me down to 2 cards in hand on their turn with my gold down (while they were at 5+). I Arcane Researched for 4 looking for some card draw, and ended up taking Djinn. Then, I played it on my turn and drew a card. 3 turns later, I’m hitting him in the air with my 5/5 Djinn after drawing 3 and getting back up to 7 cards in hand. I believe an 8/8 blitzing Djinn also got in for lethal in one of those games. Ice Drake also performed above expectations in this match.

Match 3

I intentionally drew with Brad Minnigh so we could get some lunch, and because we’ve knocked each other out of enough tournaments in the past.

Match 4

Match 4 was against a similar Wild deck from match 1. Unfortunately for me, my opponent did manage to play multiple of both Smash and Burn and Draka enabling them to deal with my pressure (wolves) and control (Elara).

Match 5

Match 5 was against the one Evil token deck in the field (also running Thought Plucker and Knight of Shadows). In the first match, Den Mother and Pack Alpha were able to continuously push small amounts of damage as I controlled the token game. I chipped my way to victory, partially due to the fact that my opponent didn’t run Wither. Knight of Elara and 2/2 or 3/3 wolf tokens also match up very well against Soul Hunter.

Game 2 my opponent won, but I don’t remember many specifics. In general though, I was fortunate that my opponent drew very few of their Rift Summoners. With Rift Summoner, my opponent could have easily outpaced my token generation. I play Den Mother/Pack Alpha on turn, my opponent ambushes in Rift Summoner, I immediately fall behind. This match ended in a 1-1 draw. My final record in swiss was 2-1-2 granting me 8th seed in the top 8.

Top 8

As 8th seed I was paired against 1st seed Nick Blandin: decklist. While I do not remember the bulk of most of the games (Smash and Burn breaking my Elaras was important and Knight of Elara got in for 10 damage multiple times), I do remember the end of each.

Game 1 (Loss of Concentration)

I lost the first game because my opponent successfully baited me into making a play I knew would lose me the game. After attacking with their Kong and spending their gold, my opponent was at 6 health, with a prepared, non-deploying Sea Titan, an expended Kong 6 damage away from breaking, and a Flash Fire in hand (revealed for loyalty earlier). I was at around 6 with an expended Ice Drake, a prepared wolf token, my gold available, and only Hunting Pack that I could spend it on. Potential lines:

  • If my opponent attacked, I could block with my wolf token, then Hunting Pack his Kong finishing it and probably drawing out the Flash Fire
  • If my opponent Flash Fired before attacking to break my blocking wolf, I could have Hunting Packed the Kong, breaking it, and had 3 potential chump blockers for Sea Titan
  • My opponent passed instead. Knowing that I wanted to spend my gold (since my opponent had spent theirs) and that I wanted to break the Kong, I auto-piloted into playing my Hunting Pack. Then, as I knew (but forgot) would happen, my opponent Flash Fired to break all my wolves and then attacked with Sea Titan to finish me off.

If I would have just let the turn end, I could have attacked in the air for lethal, and I was fairly certain he didn’t have a way to block my Ice Drake in hand. After the match I asked him, and he said that he had a burn card to finish me off on my turn, so I probably would have lost anyways. However, if I would have drawn a Drain Essence, Lesson Learned, or Arcane Research to try to find either, I would have immediately used that before attacking, just in case of burn. In other words, by losing focus for a moment, a sacrificed my chance at winning that game.

Game 2 (Arcane Research)

Game 2’s final turn had another complicated board state. Both of us had our gold available. I was attacking with Ice Drake with a prepared, non-deploying Elara and one or two other irrelevant champions. I believe I was low on health. My opponent had an irrelevant, non-airborne champion or two in play and around 15 health.

Before blockers, he played Surprise attack into Mist Guide Herald hitting Kong. After considering for awhile, he chose to break my Elara with Kong. After groaning inside, I used Arcane Research banishing 3 cards in an attempt to find something to combat this board swing, otherwise I would have lost next turn. I flipped over a Wolf’s Bite, with no cards left in my discard pile to recycle. Due to the inability to recycle, I almost passed up on Wolf’s Bite, but I decided to take the risk. Using Wolf’s Bite, I broke the MGH. Ice Drake got through. I played Djinn of the Sands and attacked. It got through. I won. (Thankfully he didn’t have a Hasty Retreat for the Djinn.)

Game 3

I went first, slammed Knight of Elara, drew a card, attacked for 10, and felt great. In the previous games Knight of Elara was pretty much a guaranteed 10 damage (unless Hasty Retreat), in addition to drawing me a card. I also had Feeding Frenzy for a big tempo swing down the road.

My opponent Surprise Attacked Kong, and I lost.

While I had 2 Feeding Frenzys in hand at this point, I had no activator for them. I also had no way to interact with Kong on my opponent’s turn, so I ended up taking 13 when he attacked. Then I just lost, probably to Hunting Raptors. While I included Surprise Attack Sea Titan in my deck in order to beat opposing Aggro decks in the exact same fashion, it still just felt awful auto-losing to that combo after making what I believe to be a powerful turn 1, on-turn play and being able to do nothing to answer it (even though I had ways to deal with it in deck).

It was this moment, on top of earlier practicing with this deck, that I finally accepted the fact that it is always correct to choose to go second. On the bright side though, losing meant I got to play in the limited event, and while I would have loved to win in constructed, my main goal was to get wolves in top 8. As a sneak peak, here was my first random 60 pool of that event:

 

Deck Retrospective

I brought this deck, “Elara’s Hunting Pack” to Gen Con 2017 because I wanted to play a different, unexpected deck, and because it performed better than I was expecting during testing. In the end, the most underwhelming part of the deck was the wolf package. While Hunting Pack worked pretty well, specifically with Elara who dramatically over-performed when not broken by Smash and Burn, Pack Alpha was underwhelming and Den Mother was only okay.

In addition to Elara, a few other Sage cards over-performed for me: Ice Drake, Arcane Research, and Djinn of the Sands. (Knight of Elara was solid.) Surprise Attack Elara is an insanely powerful way to get back into of a game: ambush her in, transform a champion, go to your turn, transform another champion. Not only do you remove two threats, but you also prevent your opponent from retrieving them from their discard pile or even just recycling them later.

On multiple occasions, Ice Drake either kept me alive by expending all of my opponent’s champions, cleared a path for my attacking champions, provided me a reasonable attacking/defending body, or all 3. I was consistently happy to have Ice Drake in hand. Arcane Research in a deck with minimal recycling and a few key cards was repeatedly able to dig me into perfect answers for specific situations. While I don’t generally like the idea of trading a 0-cost slot for a 1-cost card (Corpse Taker), the utility of Arcane Research was truly impressive.

I used to hate this card, but now I love it. Almost every time I play this card, it impresses me. An 8/8 airborne blitz without loyalty is strong, and the threat of multiple card draw is strong. I have used both in different matchups and they have both been pivotal to success. That being said, this is one of the most difficult cards in the game to play well with the most niche applications. Djinn is essentially unplayable when behind on the board, and it is almost worthless a blitz attacker if your opponent’s gold is up. Further, if you are at 7 or so cards in hand, drawing with it doesn’t accomplish much. However, it helps you get to a 7 card handsize when you are low on cards, and once at 7, an 8/8 airborne blitzer (or a 5/5 airborne champion) is a powerful threat.

While I think this is a fun deck that can do powerful things, I highly doubt I’ll be playing it at Worlds. (But I’ll probably have it built for casual play.)

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