Victor has always been a favorite hero of mine. In Dark Prophecies and before he was often underrated. Although he was capable of being strong in certain matchups, he used to have great difficulty with others, potentially having several decks and heroes that would be auto-losses. The problem with Victor was his draw. He could recycle cards, which was pseudo-draw, but had few cards that offered any kind of good consistent draw. On top of that, his strongest ally killing cards were Death Traps, which had the disadvantage of triggering Ill-Gotten Gains, making Rogues a near auto-loss matchup. At the same time, his ability requires opposing allies in play, which made him very weak against solo decks (decks without allies) which used to be much more common.
Shattered Fates, and specifically Hunter’s Gambit and Deepwood Bobcat have greatly changed this. Now Victor has few bad matchups and no auto-losses. Even when facing a solo deck and denied of their shadow energy abilities, most Victor decks can still present with decent draw and consistent threats. This is because solo decks gain advantage by completely nullifying opposing cards devoted to ally removal (making 1/3 of an opponent’s deck irrelevant); Victor doesn’t need a lot of cards devoted to ally removal and so solo decks only nullify a small number of his cards and his SE ability, still leaving him free to mount a strong offense. Victor is generally considered a tier 1 hero (if not, tier 1.5 or 2).
Although Hunter’s Gambit is nearly mandatory in all Victor decks, there are several styles of competitive Victor decks, differentiating themselves by the resource curve and types of allies used. There are also a large variety of trick decks available to Victor. These can be interesting, fun to play and strong in some matchups, but have certain hard counters that still constitute near auto-losses..
POPULAR STYLES OF DECKS: There are many ways to play Victor, here are some of the popular ones in SF.
Mid-range utility / tempo
- Pussy Galore – by Preybird
- Victor Tempo – by Kylt
This is my favorite style of Victor deck. It features a mid-range resource curve, utility allies, consistent draw and haste. This approach uses allies like Layarian Seductress, Deepwood Bobcat and Viska to win the board even without Victor’s ability. Currently I’m playing something that could probably be described as a variant on Preybird’s Pussy Galore deck, and I’ve been steadily rising in rank since the beginning of the season (today, currently ranked 290). A strong opening is:
- T2 – Snare Trap
- T3 – Zailen Crusader
- T4 – Deepwood Bobcat + Hunter’s Gambit
- T5 – Victor’s ability + Hunter’s Gambit + other cards
- Victor’s Troll Deck – by Xander Spitfire
I’m less familiar with this style of deck, however it is possible to use allies or abilities to control the early game. Victor then begins to dominate the mid-late game with fatties. He can overwhelm opponent removal cards and still have occasional and strong targeted removal of his own.
Ramp-up / Super-draw:
- OP Victor – by morbius
- Victory Synergy – by briktop
Anmor’s call and Wrath of The Forest make for some interesting Victor decks aimed at playing consistent threats and then capitalizing on opponent responses to these threats with draw / resource gain / both. There is some difficulty in setting these decks up at the beginning of the game (establishing presence and playing WoTF / Anmor’s call), but once they get going, they are capable of some very strong mid-late game plays. They tend to have a mixture of utility allies for the early game, along with fatties for the late game.
- Trap Victor – by Xander Spitfire
This is more of a trick-deck. Victor can make decks that focus largely on traps for control, and then use other cards to establish win conditions (night prowler, gravedigger’s cloak, weapons, etc.). These decks are very limited in certain matchups making them not consistent enough to be highly competitive. Other hunters, like Gwenneth and Baduruu can do trap decks as well. They will present more of an offensive threat with weapons, but don’t have Victor’s ability to recycle traps. They also don’t have Victor’s limitation of having no use for shadow energy against solo decks. Xander Spitfire brought one of these to the 2014 Europe/Africa regionals and made it into the top 8 with it. You can also see that when I went against him with Serena, I won easily because my deck is one of the ones that present a hard-counter to this strategy.
Victor has some interesting synergies with twilight allies. Decoy trap cancels their deaths, which allows for some plays that are not possible in other twilight decks. Victor’s ability recycles decoy traps, making it possible to do things like buff twilight opportunist, use Decoy Trap to keep it alive, and repeat – Opportunist’s attack can ramp up very quickly. Note that this combo is not possible with Twilight Eidolon, which has allies die before returning to play. This style of deck is fun and can be strong, but is limited and not consistent enough (as far as I’ve seen) to be truly competitive. There is also some synergy with Twilight Eidolon and Anmor’s Call. Assuming Anmor’s call has been out longer, allies go to the resource pile when they die, which means that Eidolon does not trigger and becomes a stable draw engine – just activate it to draw a card if you’ve got twilight allies out.
VICTOR AND HIS HUNTER PALS:
It should be called Victor’s Gambit. The card was truly designed for Victor as it has such amazing synergy with his ability. Other hunters use Hunter’s Gambit for draw as well, but Victor can use it many more times in most games, and is able to kill almost any ally with it and his ability. His ability to recycle cards gives him much more consistent draw in most matchups than other hunters.
Gwenneth can be more aggressive than Victor, and tends to focus more on weapon damage with allies for support (Victor uses weapons to support allies). Victor, on the other hand is much more consistent than Gwenneth and has fewer bad matchups.
Ythan has similar mixtures of weapons and allies as Victor, but has difficulty recapturing the board once he’s lost it, and often relies on allies and abilities to help with this. As a result, Ythan tends to be much less consistent than Victor.
Victor’s ability to kill fatties is stronger than all other hunters. Banebow can kill more allies and more consistently, but Banebow can also be overwhelmed by fatties much more easily than Victor. Victor, on the other hand is much more vulnerable to a flood of cheap but tough allies. Banebow can use his ability along with cards like Furion Terror, Murderous Hulk and Death Mage Thadeus to keep consistent control against weenies. Victor often has to relly on allies like Layarian Seductress and Viska to take and keep the board, which have more limitations than the shadow counterparts.
Baduruu is interesting and unique among hunters. He certainly does weapons better than Victor and tends to rely on resource denial/destruction to limit opponent threats. If opponents can get several fatties on the board, however, Baduruu is in trouble as he has limited options to remove them.
Skervox is an unconventional hero. He’s capable of control through stalling and slow damage. Skervox decks tend to be very combo intensive. Like Millstalker, they can be taken apart and made weak. Skervox with no draw engine and no cards in hand is doomed. Victor can come back from that position, assuming there are not too many opposing allies on the board. Skervox, on the other hand can deal with a board full of allies, provided he has a steady stream of cards.
STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES:
- Access to hunter card pool – excellent utility related to friendly and opposing allies
- Access to tough allies with haste
- Strong healing through Soul Seeker
- Strong and consistent draw with Hunter’s Gambit and Victor’s ability
- Very strong ally removal – on a somewhat slow timer
- Resource acceleration through Anmor’s Call.
- No real board wipes, can be overwhelmed by many tough allies (Spirit Shuriken can help)
- Weak item destruction – Ley Line Nexus is often needed along with other cards
- Requires opposing allies for much of his strength (to use Victor’s ability, Hunter’s Gambit and Soul Seeker)
- Each deck has its own specific weaknesses (haste, resource curve, etc.)
SPECIFIC CARDS OF NOTE:
Call of The Crystals – Allies:
- Aldon the Brave – Of course, he’s a good ally, he’s always been good and always will be (*yawn*) moving on…
- Armored Sandworm – This used to be my favorite card in my Victor decks. It was helpful because it was hard to kill and Victor did well when he had some board presence to combo with his ability. Hunter’s Gambit makes that board presence less necessary, however Sandworm can still go well in decks that feature fatties, particularly when facing burn decks.
- Erika Shadowhunter – it used to me much harder for many decks to deal with her, so I would often use her as an alternative to Armored Sandworm, depending on the matchup: Sandworm vs mages, Erika vs Moonstalker. Now Erika is much easier to kill, and probably not worthwhile in a Victor deck.
- Raven Wildheart – She serves as strong supplementary control. Between Victor’s ability and Raven, the board can easily be kept clear of threats. She’s not as survivable as Sandworm, and doesn’t have haste like Viska and Bobcat. Braxnorian Soldier also stops haste, which is important. Between those, there is a lot of competition for the spots that Raven may take up in a Victor deck. Still she’s something to consider.
- Tainted Oracle – This guy is excellent as a secondary draw engine. He works really well with Victor too, since he has different limitations from Hunter’s Gambit. Between the two, it is unlikely that Victor will be starved of cards.
Dark Prophecy – Allies:
- Artful Squire – This was a gamechanger for Victor, who used to have absolutely no item destruction of any kind (especially at early stages of Call of the Crystals, before Ley Line Nexus was introduced). In Dark Prophecy, Victor got access to item destruction with Artful Squire. As inefficient as they are, they’re better than nothing. In Shattered Fates there are more and generally better options, however I still see people playing Artful Squire in Victor decks on occasion.
- Braxnorian Soldier – This is great utility for stopping allies with haste. Hunters have less to fear from haste than most other heroes, since they can heal with Soul Seeker. Just having Soul Seeker out will keep you alive through a Zaladar haste deck. Still Braxnorian Soldier can be useful if you want some extra haste-hate.
- Layarian Diplomat – Great utility. If you can kill allies with allies and weapons, it allows you to save up your ability for the truly big threats.
- Spirit Warden – This is a really strong ally for Victor, stopping opponent’s graveyard recursion is helpful, since it cements Victor’s card advantage in certain matchups. On top of that it is a 2/5 for 3cc, which are very respectable stats. Steadfast is also a nice ability, which protects from pesky things like exiling and bouncing.
- Layarian Seductress – Great utility for Victor. I think she really helps round out the tempo style decks. As you can use her on Turn 4, with an ally in play to tie up the opposing ally and begin reclaiming the board without needing to use Victor’s ability. Alternatively, you can take back the board with her and Victor’s ability in the following turn.
- Twilight Herald / Other Twilight Allies – As I pointed out, it’s possible to make a trick deck around them now. It’s also possible to use a few Twilight allies to quickly ramp up your resources when playing that style. For example, T1- Twilight Herald, T2-Puwen, T3-Anmor’s call and sacrifice Twilight Herald to buff Puwen and give yourself one resource.
Shattered Fates – Allies:
- Deepwood Bobcat – This is one of the stars of Victor’s lineup now. Haste and Ambush on a 3/5 for 4cc is excellent. These guys combo so well with Hunter’s Gambit, taking out allies with 4 health without Victor’s help, and then being able to be brought from the grave with Victor’s ability is great as well. Don’t forget that any hunter ability combos with them, so I’ll often use my snare traps (or other hunter abilities) against Solo style decks just to trigger the haste/ambush.
- Growing Bog Dweller – this can combo with decoy traps to sacrifice allies repeatedly. While this seems great, keep in mind that Unaxio’s combo is a bit more efficient.
- Knight of Unaxio – this has potential synergy with Victor, since Victor can recycle abilities that unaxio has discarded. This combo is too wasteful for my tastes, but others like it. A Victor deck featuring Knight of Unaxio made a strong showing at the first round of regionals piloted by TJ Flying Ferrari. The strength of Unaxio in a victor deck comes in its ability to grow and survive a supernova, thereby giving Victor a strong counter to mages. Steadfast also protects him from Loest’s ability.
- Nathanias, People’s Champion – This is a popular card among decks that use a lot of fatties. I really haven’t used him enough to comment, but he can be strong.
- Sorceror of Endia / Twilight Ritualist / Eriss Fateweaver – these give excellent item / ability removal to Victor, who has limited options in this regard. My favorite is Sorceror of Endia.
- Thunderstrike Construct – This ally combos with Victor’s ability to kill absolutely any ally. This is a bit stronger than the Hunter’s Gambit combo (which does not work against A Legend Rises). The only allies who are safe from this combo are those who are immune to abilities (Disciple of Aldmor or Stoneskin). It is of course much less efficient than the Hunter’s Gambit combo, but you do wind up with 3/5 allies on the board, who can be buffed by one another. This is an all-around strong choice for a fatty in a Victor deck.
- Venomflame Archer – I thought I’d mention this because it looks so strong…what’s not to like? A 3/4 ally that can ping opponents in a human deck for 3 that you can bring back to life! It seems so amazing, and yet I don’t use it and don’t want to. The main reason is that Bobcat and Hunter’s Gambit are better, and when I’m trying to choose which hunter cards I want at the top of my graveyard, this just does not make the cut. I’d certainly think differently if I were also using Anmor’s Call.
- Viska The Scarlet Blade – Victor goes nicely with haste and Viska is an excellent choice for Victor decks that are already abusing this mechanic through Bobcat.
- Zailen Crusader – This is a useful part of a very strong opening combo for Victor, essentially Zailen lets Victor pull off a very strong tempo-boost on turn 4 when comboed with Deepwood Bobcat and Hunter’s Gambit.
Call of the Crystals – Abilities and Items:
- Retreat! – This is always a good choice for decks that seek to control the board. Victor can gain some tempo by playing this and can buy himself time to use his ability on a fatty if needed.
- Poison Arrow – This is still a strong way to deal with stealthed allies like Nightshade and Night Owl. Victor can kill those allies with his ability and Gambit, but Poison Arrow is much better suited to that job. Poison Arrow also has the advantage of being an ability that goes directly to the graveyard, this makes it a great turn 2 play for Victor. Use Poison Arrow to kill an ally, then by the time you’re ready to use Victor’s ability you’ll get something back from the graveyard.
- Flaming Arrow – This used to be one of Victor’s few ways to deal with Armored Sandworm, since he needs to use his ability and overcome their armor to kill them. Hunter’s Gambit has pretty much taken over from this completely, and I see little reason to include it in a Victor deck.
- Death Trap – This used to be a mainstay of my Victor decks. It is still strong but has some disadvantages. Most importantly, it costs more than snare trap. There are now strong item removal cards that can wipe out a field of traps quickly. Death trap also triggers Ill-Gotten Gains, which benefits rogues. Death Trap also does nothing against solo decks. On the other hand, Death Trap can combo with Lily Rosecult and goes nicely with Snare Trap. Together, they can help to keep the board relatively clear.
- Gravedigger’s Cloak – I really used to love this in my Victor decks as it gave Victor something to do with shadow energy when there weren’t allies around and it encouraged opponents to play allies as well. It can still serve this purpose, but I don’t think it’s as necessary anymore.
- Ley Line Nexus – This card is very important for Victor. He often needs a tool to remove powerful weapons and armors and this is his main one. Targets of choice are Amber’s weapons, Anklebreaker, Snow Saphire and King’s Pride.
- Wrath of the Forest – this can be used as a solid draw engine ensuring that Victor can put consistent pressure on the opponent, assuming he makes it through the tempo hit that it takes to play it and the opponent doesn’t destroy it.
- Spelleater Bands – Don’t forget that hunters also have access to this excellent card. I don’t think it’s as necessary on hunters as it is for rogues, since hunters have Soul Seeker and can combat rush decks with life-gain. If I were worried about a meta full of burn decks that didn’t play allies, my first choice would be Gravedigger’s Cloak or possibly Night Prowler with the hopes that I could steal some fireballs and just race, but Bands could also do the trick.
Dark Prophecies – Abilities and Items:
- Snare Trap – This is a very strong card for Victor. It does two important things – remove allies, keeping the board clear for your mid-late game allies and exiles itself, leaving your graveyard open to more useful cards like Hunter’s Gambit.
- Survivalist – This can be a good draw engine in a trap deck, however as I’ve pointed out, trap decks have some big limitations.
- The Perfect Shot – I don’t use this, but it can be good in limited quantities. Savvy opponents time their important allies and try to bait you into using Victor’s ability on unimportant allies. Having a Perfect Shot or two in reserve can surprise them and turn the game in your favor. Or it could just be overkill and a dead draw. It’s perhaps worth considering if you are playing in a fatty oriented meta. It certainly is an important card to other hunters, though.
- Grundler’s Double – This can serve as supplemental draw for Victor if you use a lot of fatties and expect situations where you only have one ally out. I tend to avoid those situations, and so this weapon isn’t ideal for me. It also helps deal with Moonstalker, which is nice.
Shattered Fates – Abilities and Items:
- Anmor’s Call – This card can work well in Victor decks and has some good synergy with twilight allies. Note that it limits Victor’s ability to recycle Deepwood Bobcats and Venomflame Archers. You can use this to your advantage so that your graveyard is primarily Hunter’s Gambits. If you include this in your deck, you should expect to resource fewer cards, and then plan on what to do with all those resources…this will either require strong burst draw like Bad Santas or fatties.
- Anmor’s Horn – On one hand it’s an easy way to draw a card every turn, especially if you already have Anmor’s call in place, on the other – it sort of sucks if you don’t have a resource generator like Anmor’s Call out. Then it’s just a bad version of Fleet-Footed Messenger’s ability. I really think it’s sub-par as a draw engine for Victor. If you’re using Anmor’s Call, it still makes more sense to use Wrath of the Forest or Tainted Oracle for secondary draw (with Hunter’s Gambit being primary)
- Decoy Trap – this is worth mentioning since Victor can recycle them and they are good for maintaining board presence. You usually sacrifice some board control (like snare traps) to fit them into a deck, so it trades direct removal for ally preservation. This is often a good trade, but the Decoys can also be worthless in certain matchups (against evil ascendant, for example). I suppose you could just resource them in that case. It is noteworthy that Decoy Traps will protect your allies from board wipes and many types of ally removal, which can make them especially strong vs priests and mages.
- Ricochet Trap – This can be good, but requires your hero to be attacked. I usually try to avoid being the priority target in my Victor decks, so using this in my decks is sort of like a “lose-less” card. Which isn’t terribly helpful. It could possibly help you get the board back if you’ve lost it, but I’d prefer Layarian Seductress in that role for the same price. I suppose in a semi-solo trap build it’s great, but I’ve already mentioned that those decks have some limitations. The real strength of this card is in protecting Night Prowler allowing Baduruu to attack and steal all the opponent’s cards…but we’re talking about Victor here aren’t we?
- Spirit Shuriken – This card addresses Victor’s main weakness of being vulnerable to swarms. It can really change games when that is an issue, however it has its limitations as well. It is definitely worthwhile in some Victor decks depending on the speed of the deck and its vulnerability to rushes and swarms. I’m leaving it out of my decks right now, but in the right meta, I’d certainly consider it.
- Hunter’s Gambit – of course this is the best thing to happen to Victor since they changed his ability from buffing weapons (yeah he used to be a poor man’s Gwenneth). I’ve already discussed this enough here, but if you want more, see Kaos Dark’s breakdown.
With that I’ll leave you…get out there with Victor Heartstriker and poke some hearts!
Victor lacked a decent win condition. He usually won by sticking an Aeon and buffing Sandworms or weenies, but his kills were always slow so the opponent had a chance to recover. He needed his King’s Pride, a card that would seal the deal once he’s established board control.
Playing Victor was playing control without inevitability.
To a certain extent, he’s still in the same position but the Crusader+Gambit+Bobcat opening his strong enough to give him a lead he can protect.
“Playing Victor was playing control without inevitability.” I really like that. Very well put.