Unleash the Hounds
For each enemy minion, summon a 1/1 Hound with Charge.
You must read the name of this card out loud each time you play it.
How to get
|Unleash the Hounds||40||5|
|Golden Unleash the Hounds||400||50|
Unleash the Hounds is one of the simplest and most devastating combo cards available to the hunter. It also synergises with several key hunter cards, and can serve a number of different purposes, from card draw to removal to directly defeating the opponent. Its low cost allows it to be played alongside several other cards, especially in later rounds. Timed correctly, it can be used to directly and swiftly defeat the opponent through burst damage.
Combining Unleash the Hounds with Starving Buzzard will cause the hunter to draw a card for each Hound summoned, which can be very useful for card draw alone, even if the Hounds themselves are non-critical. Of course, each card drawn has a chance to be another Beast, which in a deck well-stacked with low-cost Beasts may allow the hunter to place several new minions into play in a single turn. This burst of Beasts is a good use of Starving Buzzard, since the opponent will likely attempt to remove it the very next turn. Unleash the Hounds itself offers a cheaper and more card-efficient trigger for Starving Buzzard than any other card in the game.
The Hounds summoned by Unleash the Hounds are useful, but weak. Timber Wolf is the perfect remedy for this. Cards such as Timber Wolf and Dire Wolf Alpha can transform these 1/1s into something far more powerful. Other options such as Raid Leader can also be useful, but Beasts are generally preferable to due to synergy with other cards such as Starving Buzzard.
Because Unleash the Hounds summons one Hound for each enemy minion on the board, it is most powerful when the opponent has a large number of minions in play. The Hounds serve as excellent fodder for removing enemy minions and clearing the board, especially if buffed by other minions. Under the right conditions, these weaker Beasts can be used to trade for far more powerful minions, allowing the hunter to turn the game around and reclaim the board.
However, just because the enemy has a board full of minions doesn't mean you have to attack them. Unleash the Hounds is an excellent card for dealing direct burst damage to the enemy hero. Played in the mid-game this can place the opponent at an insurmountable disadvantage, while in the later game it can be used to finish a weakened opponent. Because of this, Unleash the Hounds combines excellently with cheap silences such as Ironbeak Owl. Hunters may wait until they have removed any Taunts on the board, or simply use a silence or weaker minion to clear them in the same turn as striking with their legion of Hounds.
Another great combination with Unleash the Hounds is Scavenging Hyena. When facing a full enemy board with this combo in hand, Unleash the Hounds is cast first for the maximum 7 Hounds. Sacrifice 1 Hound to the enemy board, then play Scavenging Hyena. If the Hunter player also has 2 copies of Timber Wolf in hand, and replaces a dead Hound with the Timber Wolf, each time there is space on the board, the results can be devastating. In this optimal situation, this is 4-card-combo, for the cost of 7 mana, and will deal 16 damage, leaving you with 2 timber wolves and a 12/8 Scavenging Hyena on board. Additionally, although extremely unlikely to occur, if the hunter is at 10 mana, and had the second copy of Unleash the Hounds, and managed to kill all his hounds off, while leaving 4 enemy minions on board, playing the second unleash the hounds would result in 28 damage to the board, or split between board and enemy hero portrait. Naturally, different decisions with the second unleash targetting, or playing no timber wolves until the second wave of unleash, etc., will result in many different decisions and outcomes, depending on whether the Hunter wants to clear the board, go face, or suicide 12 hounds to buff his Scavenging Hyena to a potential power of 26/14. All these examples simply serve to illustrate that there are many opportunities for "creative mathematics" due to the charge mechanic of the hounds.
If your Hounds survive the turn, be aware that the opponent will likely remove them with AoE if they are able, and their 1 Health doesn't provide much opposition to this. For this reason, in non-aggro decks it's often better to use them to trade for other minions than to deal damage to the opponent themselves, unless you are confident you will be able to close the gap over the coming rounds. However, with the hunter's unstoppable Steady Shot damage, a good Unleash the Hounds combo can deal enough damage to the opponent to bring them to their knees, or defeat them entirely. An Unleash the Hounds combo can be held back until the opponent is within range of lethal damage, or used to push them close enough to defeat for the hunter's hero power to do the rest. For aggressive hunter decks, Unleash the Hounds is an excellent source of burst damage which is hard to counter.
Be aware that the Hounds summoned by Unleash the Hounds will be limited by the 7-minion limit, and plan accordingly. If the opponent has more minions than the hunter has room for Hounds, some of the summons will be wasted. However, note that Unleash the Hounds can be played more than once in a turn. If the hunter has room on the board, the card can be played twice to gain twice the number of Hounds. If the hunter is lacking space, remember that Hounds can be sent to destruction in combat - freeing space on the hunter's board - before then playing Unleash the Hounds for a second time. This works particularly well when combined with a Starving Buzzard. With a full board, this can allow for more than a dozen Hounds in a single turn; alternatively, it can be used when the opponent has only a few minions to grant the hunter a more sizeable army of Hounds.
Note that because Unleash the Hounds is a summon spell and not a direct minion summon, the Hounds themselves cannot be placed, and will always appear to the far-right of the player's board. This makes it advantageous to place positional effects such as Dire Wolf Alpha after summoning the Hounds.
The main counter to Unleash the Hounds is Taunt minions, and triggerable AoE damage. The former can be used to force the Hounds to waste themselves defeating a single powerful target, and are usually the only option available to prevent the Hounds from overrunning the player entirely. Making sure to have a Taunt on the board as the game approaches the mid- to late-game is the main defence against this assault, but many hunters will keep Ironbeak Owl in their decks for precisely this reason. As a rule, the more Taunts the better.
The superior but far less available counter to Unleash the Hounds is triggerable AoE damage. Explosive Trap will generally serve very well against the Hounds, but of course the hunter may intentionally trigger it with another minion before summoning the Hounds. Abomination can likewise be very useful, but is still vulnerable to a silence. Counterspell can single-handedly thwart a hunter's canine ambitions, but requires good timing.
The other key factor to countering Unleash the Hounds is to limit the number of friendly minions on the board. Every friendly minion is one additional Hound (or two, if the card is played twice) for the opponent. This is an additional bonus for aggro-type hunter decks, which may allow the opponent to build a substantial force before using that very strength to sling-shot their enemy to defeat. Keeping numbers low prevents Unleash the Hounds from reaching its full potential, but be aware that the hunter may be able to play the card twice, countering this limitation. To keep numbers low, trade smaller minions against smaller enemies, rather than keeping a larger number of weakened minions on the board. As a rule, limiting minion numbers to two or three prevents the hunter from making good use of the card, and making sure one of those is a Taunt should provide good protection against a powerful combo.
Any combo cards set-up in advance, such as a lone Timber Wolf, should of course be removed immediately, as these can allow the combo to build to even greater proportions.
Even if you can't dismantle the play entirely, each hindrance will cost the hunter a Hound or two, or force them to spend mana removing it which might otherwise have been spent adding to the combo. Forcing the hunter to settle for a less than devastating combo can be considered a fair victory.
Ultimately, short of Counterspell, Unleash the Hounds cannot be prevented, only planned for and forced to accept less than optimum conditions. Expect it to happen, and try to plan such that when it does, it doesn't spell the end of the game for you.
- Prior to Patch 22.214.171.12417, Unleash the Hounds had a different effect, granting each friendly Beast +1 Attack and Charge. It was often used as part of an extremely powerful and hard to counter combo, often resulting in a 'one turn kill', and was one of the most notorious cards of the closed beta. After substantial discussion and complaint from players, Blizzard changed Unleash the Hounds, in order to prevent the "un-fun play environment" created by players relying upon its use to win games.
- Despite this change, by May 2014 the card was once again widely considered to be overpowered, and was held responsible by Blizzard for the dominance of hunters across many levels of play, as explained in an official blog. To counter this, with Patch 126.96.36.19914 the card's mana cost was increased from 2 to 3, slightly reducing its effectiveness as a combo card, and preventing it from being played so early in the match.
- This card's art depicts a Durnholde Tracking Hound.
- Patch 188.8.131.5214 (2014-05-08): Now costs 3 (up from 2)
- Patch 184.108.40.20658 (2014-1-16): Now costs 2 (down from 4)
- Patch 220.127.116.1117 (2013-12-10): Has been reworked and now reads: “(4) For each enemy minion, summon a 1/1 Hound with Charge”.
- Previously: Give your Beasts +1 Attack and Charge. [1 mana, Spell, Common]