A Hog Guide by the Best Hog Players in the World - Part 1
This in-depth guide on 2.6 Hog is Written by HazardTM And SushiPayPay, 2 individuals widely recognized as the premiere hog players in the world.
Watch here to see Hazard go on a 9 win streak with 2.6, climbing up to #2 global! (Skip to 53:40 to see the start of the streak!).
Overall Strategy / Philosophy
The 2.6 Hog Deck, as it's commonly referred to, is a deck consisting of Hog, Ice Golem, Musketeer, Skeletons, Ice Spirit, Cannon, Fireball and Log. It has consistently been the hog deck of choice for top competitive players, allowing the ability to maintain constant pressure as well as defend efficiently. 2.6 Hog is an incredibly versatile deck composition capable of success both on ladder and in challenges. Hazard has reached #2 in the world using 2.6 hog, and Sushi has achieved over 400,000 cards won almost exclusively using this deck, making them 2 of the foremost authorities on the strategy. This is their breakdown of 2.6 Hog:
The most important thing to recognize when running a hog cycle deck is that the “cycle” aspect of the deck is just as important, if not even more important than the win condition itself. The cycle cards in the deck allow the user to easily work around the opponent and get back to the essential cards with ease. Knowing this, out-cycling the opponent in single elixir is crucial because you’ll have a much easier time controlling the game in that stage of the match. In other words, don’t be afraid to play aggressively, so long as you know they won’t be able to defend and counter push easily. You can afford to overcommit some elixir on offense because your defensive cards can amass insane value if utilized correctly!
STAGE 1: ALL IN! - SINGLE ELIXIR
Single elixir is the prime time for any cycle deck. Using this deck, you have much more control over the match during this time because your cycle is much more fluid and rapid than theirs. With that in mind, single elixir is the best time to land a solid hog connection on the opponent’s tower. Generally, your pushes in single elixir should aim to deal a considerable amount of damage. To ensure you have enough fuel for your next hog push, your defense should use minimal elixir and preferably lead up to a counter push with some of the same cards, namely the musketeer.
STAGE 2: TURTLE UP! - DOUBLE ELIXIR
At this point, you’re going to have a much harder time connecting a hog to their tower. This is mainly because double elixir allows the opponent’s heavier deck to keep up with your cycle. Given this, you shouldn’t usually be throwing together ice golem hog pushes hoping to achieve a huge connection. The game becomes more of a chip cycle on your end; the bulk of your damage will likely come from some stray hog hits, but mostly fireballs. Keep in mind that the cycle deck doesn’t just allow you to get to your hog rider quickly, but also your fireball! Essentially, your hog pushes should intend to continually apply pressure, forcing your opponent to fragment their cards so they can’t building up a formidable push. Either way, you can afford to spend more elixir on defense at this point provided that their tower is low enough to chip out. If for whatever reason you couldn’t get off much damage in single elixir, your strategy should remain the same in double elixir until you’ve gotten their tower low enough to permit chip cycling.
STAGE 3: OVERTIME!
During overtime, this is the time to take the last bits and pieces of your opponent's towers! After you have turtled up, you should have gained a bit of an elixir advantage, and that means it’s time to start cycling for the final blows! Having that extra elixir, you can use your ice spirits and skeletons to constantly be placing hogs down the lane, or fireballing them out. During double elixir, it is harder to do this, as you will be giving up a fair bit of elixir getting these final hits and they will probably be able to take your tower and win in a 2 or 3 tower game. However in overtime, you are able to make these aggressive plays, because after you have taken their tower, the game ends immediately! One and done.
Overview - Being the only high damaging card in your deck, this is going to be your win condition for 2.6 . When you are playing this deck, you want to use your Hog Riders to apply pressure, weave around your opponent's defensive troops, and get constant chip damage on your opponent's towers, up until double elixir.
Strengths - The Hog Rider, being a fairly cheap card at 4 elixir, is great at stressing your opponent out. Because of its low elixir cost, even in single elixir you are able to keep dropping Hogs, even to the point where you have “out cycled” their defensive units. Also, when ignored, it does fantastic damage, taking more than %50 of your opponent's tower.
Weaknesses - The Hog Rider, being a cheap win condition, has some very strong counters. A good example of this is the Bowler. When played to counter a hog, the bowler only allows the hog to get one hit, but is able to assist a giant or graveyard on a huge counter push. Many of these counters are nearly impossible to get around, resulting in the hog player opting to fireball your opponent out, or in the worst of cases, playing for a draw. Never be afraid to play for a draw on ladder.
Overview - The Ice Golem is one of the most versatile cards in the game, and is also the Hogs partner in crime in 2.6. Knowing when and when not to use the ice golem is crucial in this deck, as it can win you the game on both offense and defense. It may not seem like it, but often times counter pushing with the ice golem may be your best option. Ex. if a group of 3 minions are coming down the lane, use the ice golem to tank, then place hog behind it!
Strengths - Being 2 elixir, the ice golem is great for cycling to your next hog, tanking for the hog, and defending major pushes. The ice golem is a super cheap and super effective tank for the hog, killing Skarmy's, weakening minion hordes, slowing down mini Pekkas, and allowing the hog to get that one extra critical hit on the tower. Also on defense, you can use the ice golem to tank all the lava pups, drag a baby dragon away, or even kill a low hp musketeer in a swarm of mega minions.
Weaknesses - Although the ice golem may seem like your hero, it isn’t perfect. With it’s recent splash radius buff, it can leave a few skeletons alive to kill your hog. Also, although it may do well against a minion horde, it still takes the tower 2 shots to kill the minions after the ice golem splashes them. Make sure to use your ice golem with other cards to use it to it’s full potential.
Overview - Being the silent hero of 2.6, the musketeer provides great value on both offense and defense in many situations, although she is very hard to use. Being both your only high DPS troop and your only air defense, good musketeer placement is key to winning games.
Strengths - Having an elixir cost of only 4 elixir, the musketeer deals a high amount of damage at good range for a minimal amount of elixir. On its own, it can do massive damage to tanks, snipe down xbows and mortars, kill mega minions, and much more. With the help of an ice spirit, it can take out a full hp balloon behind a giant, kill a minion horde, take out an executioner, etc.
Weaknesses - Unfortunately, the musketeer doesn’t have much health. Dying to almost any unit over 3 elixir, misplacing or misusing her can result in a loss of a tower, or even the game at top levels. In order to use her correctly, you need to be able to place her so she is able to participate in battle, but away from your other defensive units. This may be an easy concept to understand, but it takes lots of time and practice to master.
Overview - Skeletons can be whatever you want them to be. It’s easily one of the most versatile cards in the deck. They can be used to kite, damage tanks, head-butt towers, but most importantly: to cycle! Don’t be afraid to shed one elixir on these guys to get to your hog; doing so can win you games!
Strengths - On defense, skeletons are what typically turn the elixir game in your favor. Their high damage allows them to singlehandedly take out musketeers, miners, wizards, ice wizards, minions, dart goblins, mini pekkas, skeleton armies, and much more. The card’s supportive capabilities, especially on a defense, are what allows you to build up significant elixir leads.
Weaknesses - On paper, all of those interactions sound fantastic, but mastering the timing and placement on such a flimsy card requires a lot of practice and quick reacting. Even when played properly, its weak nature can put you in a fairly precarious situation if your opponent has any amount of splash damage to take them out.
Overview - The ice spirit works a lot like skeletons in that it can be used to generate positive elixir trades over time and serves as another tool to cycle your deck with. However, the ice spirit generally has slightly more strength when it comes to offense, but usually isn’t as helpful when used alone.
Strengths - This little snowball is your secret weapon. You can use it to chip down your opponent’s tower, freeze massive pushes, stall a furnace, among other things. In abstract, your ice spirit can be used to turn interactions that would otherwise go in your opponent’s favor into your favor, and it’s only one elixir!
Weaknesses - As helpful as the ice spirit is, it doesn’t actually do much damage. Because of this, it’s typically not going to be very useful unless it’s used in conjunction with another card. Similar to the skeletons, the ice spirit is a high skill curve card. Placing it in the right position at the right time takes time and practice due to its low health and small footprint.
Overview - This cheap building is your primary defensive card and can be used in unconventional ways to throw off your opponent. Generally, your cannon should be play conservatively, only being used against their primary building targeting unit. However, in the event that your opponent’s win condition doesn’t target buildings, your cannon can be played more flexibly to shut down their pushes.
Strengths - When placed properly, the cannon can gain you tons of elixir on defense that can be converted into tower damage later on offense. The cannon will gain you positive elixir trades against hog riders, giants, graveyards, and even x-bows! However, the cannon’s value can only be maximized if placed on the correct tile. Understanding when cannons will pull troops is an integral part of the deck’s defense.
Weaknesses - You probably already knew this one: It can’t hit air! This leaves the deck fairly vulnerable to lava hounds, but if positioned correctly, it can still supplement a defense against lava hound in assisting a musketeer. Even against ground units, if the cannon isn’t positioned properly, your opponent can easily break through and connect to your tower. The cannon also needs to be placed in slightly different locations in some scenarios to prevent your opponent from predicting your placements.
Overview - The fireball is one of the most versatile cards in the game, and personally (me being hazard) it is one of my favorites. Getting those juicy 15+ elixir fireballs is a feeling that can only be matched by the rocket, but with that added versatility, fireball is a must. Also, even when they have a bowler/tombstone to completely counter your hog, if you have done a good amount of damage to their towers, throwing 2 or 3 fireballs at their tower will result in a dirty, but explosive victory.
Strengths - The fireball is a pretty cheap spell at 4 elixir, but it deals a great amount of damage very quickly. Being able to kill many cheap cards in one hit, the fireball can be used skillfully on both offense and defense. Although rare, throwing that perfect prediction fireball to kill a minion horde can win you the game. Equally as amazing, a fireball that catches all the lava pups in one blast while simultaneously killing a balloon can win you the game on defense. The fireball can also be used to win games on it’s own. As I said in the overview, using a fireball to finish out the last few hundred hit points of a tower may not be a bad strategy.
Weaknesses - As a spell, the fireball doesn’t have many weaknesses, although using it wisely is key. Although it may be cool when it works, when predicting fireballs make sure you know your opponent's cycle and defensive patterns, as a missed fireball can cost you the game.
Overview - The log is another very versatile spell, but it has some different purposes than the fireball. The log is used mainly for dealing with those troops that you rather wouldn’t fireball, such as a princess or a goblin barrel, although it is weaker against air and more tanky units.
Strength - The log is great at dealing with those small troops behind the tank, like skeletons or a princess being a hog, and can also be very useful when damaging or knocking a major tank back into a defense. When using the log, especially against something like zap bait, it is good to prioritise what you want to log, like if there are 10 seconds left in the game, it may be better to log the defensive skeleton army than to log an offensive goblin barrel, as it may give your hog the few hits it needs to win the game.
Weaknesses - The log is a very situational card, and it’s lack of air defense can be a problem in some situations. If you either don’t have the hog, or struggle a lot with defending minions with musketeers and ice spirits, the zap may be a better choice for your version of 2.6.