If you'll excuse the pun, it's wild to me that it's taken Hearthstone almost a decade to riff on a Western theme. Next month's Showdown in the Badlands expansion will see wily bandits, sticks of dynamite, runaway trains and all manner of desert critters come to the venerable card battler. Card reveal season for the set is already in full swing, and today we've got four to share. They're all from the Hunter class, and I'm delighted to say they have Beast synergy.
Quick aside: I bloody love playing Hunter, whether face, midrange or secret variants—so much so that I've had a deck saved called 'Mike Hunt' pretty much since I started playing in beta. But for me the class is at its most flavourful when it leans into playing lots of animals. This time, that means snakes.
First up, we have Sneaky Snakes. It's a simple spell that summons two 1/1 snakes. That immediately makes it comparable to previous cards like Wolpertinger and Alleycat, both of which also gave you a couple of 1/1 beasts for 1 Mana, and saw plenty of play in previous metas. The difference here is that Snakes have Stealth, making them more likely to stick around to take trades or receive buffs on your next turn. That will be relevant when we look at the other Hunter being revealed today. But first, another snek.
Next up: Silver Serpent, a deceptively strong removal card that uses the new Quickdraw keyword. Cards that have Quickdraw receive a bonus effect if you play them on the same turn that they're drawn. In this case, that means gaining Immune, which in combination with Rush and Poisonous means you can destroy almost any opposing minion without taking damage, leaving a threat on the board that your opponent has to deal with.
My one reservation with this card is that this kind of removal option is usually reserved for more controlling decks, which Hunter has hardly excelled at in the past. However, it's interesting to note that a couple of neutral Beasts revealed so far—Trapdoor Spider and Gattlesnake—also like they could fit in a slower archetype. There's also Thunderbringer, the new legendary that's free just for logging in right now, that draws a Beast and an Elemental on Death, which invites players to explore decks that dip into both tribes.
Here's a spell that pays off big time if you manage to stick a decent-sized board. Even if you land it on a couple of minions, which doesn't seem unreasonable when you remember those Sneaky Snakes have Stealth—the value is decent, and only scales up from there. As ever, the concern with this kind of card is that it's a 'win more' effect, in the sense that if you've already got control of the board then you're probably ahead in the game, but if you're playing from behind then this card doesn't do much.
That said, we have seen similar cards work in the past. Stuff like Nofin's Imp-ossible, Soul of the Forest, and Rotgill have all been used to buff wide boards, making them a nightmare to clear cleanly. My one caveat is that 3 Mana might be a smidge too expensive for this effect, particularly given that you're likely going to want to run it in an aggressive deck.
Speaking of sticky boards, here's Spurfang, one of the two Hunter legendaries in Showdown at the Badlands. Yes, that's a snake in a cowboy hat with spurs for teeth, and no I don't know why. What I do know is that his 2/5 stats are underwhelming for 5-Mana, so the card text needs to be strong. Fortunately, it is. On both Battlecry and Deathrattle, Spurfang summons a random beast that costs the same as his current Attack value. That sort of bundled value has proved strong previously with cards like Aya Blackpaw and Kathrena Winterwisp, although both of those were a threat in their own right thanks to having higher Attack.
So what you're definitely going to want to do is buff Spurfang's stats, ideally while he's already in your hand. That can be done with Messenger Buzzard, another new Badlands card, and an older card called Bestial Madness which gives +1 Attack to all minions in your hand, deck and battlefield. Hand-buffing has been a bit hit and miss down the years, as it can feel clunky, but it's worth noting that the other Hunter legendary in this set, Theldurin the Lost, will also benefit substantially from having his stats juiced up. I wonder if both cards might fit into some sort of 'singleton' deck, particularly with Reno Jackson rumoured to be returning as a neutral Hero card.
Keep an eye out for any other cards that can easily buff attack, especially whilst in your hand, as that's what will likely determine how much play Spurfang sees. Shadow in the Badlands launches on 14 November and the usual spread of bundles are available now.