Deck Guide: Justsaiyan’s Demon Warlock

Love demons and drawing cards from Life Tap? Check out Shudogin's article on Justsaiyan's #1 Legend Demon Warlock deck!

Introduction

Hello friends, I’m Shudogin! I am back with even more demon-fueled madness. This Warlock guide aims to show off how incredibly strong Demon Warlock can be in the current aggressive meta. After I saw Justsaiyan hit number one legend with this deck earlier in the season, I had to give it a try. Ultimately, after having personally played over a hundred of games with this deck, I can safely say that Justsaiyan has created what I believe to be the best anti-aggro deck in the game.

This deck uses Warlock’s incredible board clear, stalling, and card draw to reach a punishing late game. Unlike many other decks that attempt to beat aggressive rushes, such as Control Warrior and Priest, this Demon Warlock sacrifices very little late-game potential for the crushing control it presents earlier in the game.

During the first week following the Goblins versus Gnomes expansion, there were many zany incarnations of Demon Warlock floating around (no pun intended). Despite voidcaller enabling some ridiculous Demon combos, ultimately none of the flavors of Demon Warlock achieved tier one status. With the rise of Mech Mage and other aggressive minion heavy decks, this season actually marks the first era in which Demon Warlock is truly shining.

Overview

In the past, there were two popular Demon Warlock varieties. In the faster incarnation, the deck relied heavily on an early Zoo-like presence and complemented that with floating-watcher, doomguard, and malganis. This flavor of Demon Warlock tended to lose early game pressure if it drew its late game threats without a voidcaller. Despite initial popularity, traditional Zoo-lock prevailed over its more demonic counterpart. The other quasi-popular Demon Warlock incarnation was essentially a modified Hand-lock, with many of the classic turn 4 threats replaced by voidcaller plus Demon combos. In the end, neither of these initial Demon-lock attempts stuck.

What really sets Justsaiyan’s Demon-lock apart from its two predecessors is the inclusion of 11 two mana or less board control cards combined with the incredible Area of Effect (AoE) board clear offered by hellfire and shadowflame. With many of the other tier one decks currently heavily relying on early game minion presence, the meta could not be more perfect for a deck like Demon Warlock.

I have played this deck since the beginning of the season with fantastic success. I was even able to compile statistics on 72 games played. These 72 games were played the first week of February, immediately following the ranked ladder reset. Over the course of these games, I went from rank 18 to rank 6. As you might notice, I did not play against a single Warrior deck. I attribute this simply to many Warrior players using faster decks to climb the ladder at the beginning of the season. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to differentiate between split style classes in my statistics. With this in mind however, I went 2-3 versus Hand-lock, 4-1 versus Zoo-lock, and 4-1 versus other Demon Warlocks.

Deck Stats Graph

Let’s look at some of the card choices that make this deck so strong!

Card Choices

This deck focuses on maintaining board control from the beginning of the game. Warlock is uniquely suited to this task due to its hero power. Because Warlock has accelerated card draw, we can include more early game control cards than most other decks. More importantly, most of the cards used to establish dominance over the board in the early game scale well as the match progresses.

    • mortal-coil provides us with both removal and deck cycle; critical components of any Warlock deck. While Mortal Coil is obviously amazing versus any one health creature, its value extends even farther. Many of the early game minions included in this deck focus on being hard to remove, at the cost of attack power. Mortal Coil can be the perfect compensation for this early in the game, providing great value when playing against the currently prevalent Mech and Hunter decks.
    • abusive-sergeant is one of this deck’s most flexible tech choices. In the early game, this card can be used to trade up with our low attack minions (particularly nerubian-egg). As the game progresses, Abusive Sergeant can be used to activate devastating shadowflame combos or even to boost an enemy minion into big-game-hunter range. These cute tricks make Abusive Sergeant one of the best tech cards in this deck.
    • power-overwhelming plays a similar role to Abusive Sergeant in that it acts as an activator for our low attack minions. Fairly straightforward in use, Power Overwhelming can additionally be used as an unexpected game finisher or to make a hefty shadowflame target. Power Overwhelming in conjunction with Shadowflame is an incredible tool versus large minions with deathrattle, such as savannah-highmane. This Power Overwhelming Shadowflame combo is one of the best board clear options in the game.
    • ironbeak-owl is another solid choice in any deck at the moment. At 2 mana, this silence is extremely affordable, and allows us to deal with a variety of cards. Obviously, when playing versus any variety of control deck, Ironbeak Owl offers a hard counter to many late game minions. I found that even when playing against fast aggressive decks, there are usually priority targets to silence. Because of this, Ironbeak Owl is one of the most commonly used cards in the meta-game today.
    • darkbomb is one of the best removal spells available to Warlocks. The 3 damage is critical in shutting down early aggression and gives us significant reach as the game progresses.
    • sunfury-protector is another flexible low-cost card. Early in the game, the Sunfury Protector can be used to activate nerubian-egg, and voidcaller. As the game progresses, Sunfury Protector stays relevant by granting cheap taunts to 1-2 minions. While defender-of-argus provides amazing value versus slower control decks, Sunfury Protector sees more use when playing versus aggressive decks. Sunfury Protector’s cheap cost allows us to flood the board late in the game with taunts, resulting in huge tempo swings.

  • nerubian-egg synergizes incredibly well with the rest of this deck. This Demon Warlock deck includes a ridiculous amount of activators for the Egg. Between having hellfire, sunfury-protector, power-overwhelming, abusive-sergeant, and defender-of-argus all in the deck, it will be extremely rare not to benefit from the discounted 4-4 Nerubian. Beyond our own activators, many other decks are running AoE board clear to deal with the influx of board-based aggressive decks. This results in Nerubian Egg being an extremely powerful choice in the current meta-game.
  • haunted-creeper is our final 2 cost minion. This guy performs well in situations where our opponent spams the board with low health minions at the beginning of the game. Beyond simply trading with one health minions, Haunted Creeper does a reasonable job dealing with minions with Divine Shield, such as annoy-o-tron and argent-squire. The Haunted Creeper can be a game-winning minion when played against Hunter, Mage, and Shaman decks.
  • big-game-hunter is one of the few hard removal options that swings tempo in our favor. In addition to removing classic threats like dr-boom and ragnaros-the-firelord, Big Game Hunter synergizes nicely with abusive-sergeant to remove a variety of scary 5-6 power minions. This additional synergy merits having the single Big Game Hunter spot.
  • hellfire is a great card against any aggressive deck. When playing against decks that attempt to overrun the board with minions early in the game, Hellfire serves as a good counter-play. Mech Mage, Mech Druid, and Paladin are all particularly weak to Hellfire. Because of the prevalence of these decks and due to the fact that shadowflame is part of a two-card combo, I personally chose to run two Hellfire and one shadowflame. While Hellfire does deal damage to our minions, this “drawback” is mitigated by the fact that acts as additional enabler for nerubian-egg.
  • shadowflame is another incredibly versatile card. While hellfire is our primary source of AoE in this deck, Shadowflame offers more creative plays. For example, when combined with abusive-sergeant or power-overwhelming, Shadowflame can be used to clear the entire board with fairly trivial friendly minions. Additionally, Shadowflame can be used in conjunction with either sylvanas-windrunner or voidcaller to create huge positive tempo swings.
  • imp-losion is a card that began to see play late last season in Hand-lock. Pertaining to this deck, Imp-losion offers excellent removal as well as a slew of 1/1 Demons. This means that this card not only helps stabilize the board on turn 4, but also has incredible synergy with malganis. Additionally, Imp-losion is an excellent tool to bait out enemy sweeper spells.
  • defender-of-argus offers incredible value in this deck. Due to the focus on early board control, it is not uncommon to have two minions on the board to utilize with Defender of Argus on turn 4. As matches stretch on, voidcaller, lord-jaraxxus, and imp-losion serve as great additional targets for Defender of Argus.
  • voidcaller is the signature card in any Demon Warlock deck. The Voidcaller is a solid 3-4 body with an incredible deathrattle. One of the unique aspects of this deck is that it does not utilize hordes of demons. One of the most common problems in previous Demon Warlock decks is excessive reliance on Voidcaller. This deck uses Voidcaller to support its threats but not as the primary threat. With that said, Voidcaller provides a huge boost in tempo when it pulls out lord-jaraxxus or malganis. Additionally, Voidcaller can be used to bluff having a huge threat in hand. Many control decks will hesitate to kill Voidcaller, unless they have sufficient hard removal to deal with anything it might summon.
  • antique-healbot is critical to winning match-ups versus aggressive “face” decks. When playing against these face decks, Antique Healbot and lord-jaraxxus allow us to heal back up to a safe life total outside of lethal [damage] range. Even when playing against slower decks, Antique Healbot is not a dead card as it allows us to Life Tap with little fear. This card is an auto include in any control-style Warlock deck.

 

  • sylvanas-windrunner is yet another tool in our suite of removal mechanisms. Sylvanas forces good trades in both control and aggressive match-ups. Our opponent will often be forced to use multiple cards in order to remove Sylvanas from the board. Sylvanas can also be combined with shadowflame to deliver a devastating board clear and steal a surviving minion.

 

 

  • siphon-soul is a card that I struggled to include in this deck. Being completely honest, I personally think playing Siphon Soul usually comes at the cost of a huge tempo hit. After much consideration, I do agree with Justsaiyan’s deck list in which he includes one copy of the card. I initially played several games without this card and sometimes ended up being in situations where hard removal would have won me the game. In addition to being hard removal, Siphon Soul can be used to trigger sylvanas-windrunner. If even more aggressive decks are being played on the ladder than usual, this is one of the first cards taken out.
  • By this point, just about everybody has an opinion on dr-boom. Simply put, there is no 7-drop that can compete with Dr. Boom. In addition to being a power play on turn 7, Dr. Boom baits out removal for our other late game threats (i.e. ragnaros-the-firelord and malganis). Dr. Boom’s Boom Bots are particularly great in this deck, adding to our already immense board control.
  • ragnaros-the-firelord is an excellent late-game threat. Even if Ragnaros only survives one turn, he is guaranteed to deal at least 8 damage. By applying incredible pressure, Ragnaros forces our opponent to play around our cards (as opposed to us playing around his). This card could definitely be considered the icing-on-the-cake for the deck.
  • lord-jaraxxus plays a unique role in this deck. Obviously, summoning Lord Jaraxxus can be used late in the game to heal back up to 15 health and run over our opponent with infernal(s). In this incarnation of Demon Warlock though, Lord Jaraxxus is also often summoned through voidcaller and used as a huge 3/15 Taunt minion. This utilization of Lord Jaraxxus is absolutely crushing to any aggressive opponent. Knowing when to grant Lord Jaraxxus Taunt and when to use him as our champion will be covered in Class Specific Matchups.
  • malganis was Blizzard’s gift to Warlocks in Goblins versus Gnomes. Because Mal’Ganis gives our hero Immunity, our opponent must either kill or silence Mal’Ganis before we can take damage. This is extremely powerful both early in the game when Mal’Ganis is summoned through a voidcaller and later in the game as well. Beyond allowing us to draw cards when playing as Gul’dan without taking any damage, Mal’Ganis also allows us to freely attack enemy minions as Lord Jaraxxus. Moreover, Mal’Ganis provides an incredible +2/+2 bonus to all other Demons on our board (i.e. lord-jaraxxus, imp-losion, and voidcaller).

 

Tech Choices & Substitutions

With the current popular decks roaming around on ladder, I believe this form of Demon Warlock is the most effective. That being said, the deck is not very cheap to craft. Here are some of my possible deck techs and substitutions.

  • shadowflame is a great card while hellfire is sub-optimal to play if we have minions on the board. Therefore if the meta-game shifts away from early board-control aggression (Mech Mage, Hunter, and Paladin), I would replace the second Hellfire with a second Shadowflame.
  • I might be biased but I really don’t like siphon-soul. Thus if another aggressive deck shows up in the meta-game in huge numbers (I’m looking at you, Zoo-lock), this would be the first card I would drop. I would add in its place a second darkbomb, a second sunfury-protector, or even a second antique-healbot.
  • haunted-creeper is a great card versus Hunters and Mech decks. Against control decks however, I find it to be pretty lackluster. I would be interested in trying an earthen-ring-farseer in its place, especially since this deck currently lacks 3-mana creatures.
  • If you don’t have sylvanas-windrunner, I would add either cairne-bloodhoof or piloted-sky-golem.
  • If you are lacking ragnaros-the-firelord, I would substitute it with sneeds-old-shredder or force-tank-max.

If you have any other ideas on tech card choices or substitutions, I would love to hear them in the comments section!

Playing this Deck

This Demon Warlock deck plays out differently than any other Warlock deck I have played in the past. There are several game-deciding choices that must be made every game. These choices largely involve predicting whether we need to play defensively or aggressively versus our opponent.

Against Aggressive Decks

This deck generally does extremely well versus any aggressive deck. Generally speaking, having board presence on turns 1-3, removing enemy minions on turn 4, and maintaining control on turns 5+ is ideal. During the later stages of the game, granting Taunt to big minions becomes the priority. My Mulligans against aggressive decks are:

  • zombie-chow
  • mortal-coil
  • haunted-creeper
  • darkbomb
  • nerubian-egg
  • If we have Zombie Chow in hand and our opponent is likely playing a Mech-based deck, we can hold hellfire.

Against Control Deck

When playing against control decks, it is important to not overextend early in the game since the deck has the capability of chipping away health. Typically we’ll want to gain board control early and then use Life Tap to whittle our opponent down and drown them in card advantage. My Mulligans against control decks are:

  • zombie-chow
  • haunted-creeper
  • darkbomb
  • nerubian-egg
  • voidcaller

I will cover more detailed strategies in my Class Specific Section.

Class Specific Match-ups

Playing this deck to its full potential requires intimate knowledge of the deck’s match-ups. Especially at the highest levels of play, being able to predict our opponent’s deck-style is critical to adjusting our strategy mid-game and sealing the deal from there.

Hunter

Hunter always seems to be popular, regardless what cards get buffed or balanced (nerfed). I attribute this to the Hunter class being the only class with a consistent burn mechanic (an article for another day). The latest popular incarnation is definitely of the Face variety.

Beating Face Hunter can be a challenging task for this deck. Because of the massive amounts of burst damage Face Hunter is capable of early in the game, it is important to use Life Tap with caution. In general, Face Hunter is extremely susceptible to our early game minions and spells such as zombie-chow, mortal-coil, and haunted-creeper. This is largely due to Hunter’s heavy reliance on one-health minions early in the game. As long as we carefully manage our health, this match-up is not difficult to win. It is important to get large Taunt minions on the board to block wolfrider, arcane-golem, and possibly leeroy-jenkins damage. Overall, Demon Warlock is favored to win this match-up. Mulligans:

  • zombie-chow
  • mortal-coil
  • haunted-creeper
  • nerubian-egg
  • sunfury-protector

Mid-range Hunter is another popular hunter variant. While Mid-range Hunter saw much more play before the undertaker nerf, I still occasionally run into them on ladder. Typically, the major difference between Face Hunter and Mid-range Hunter is that Face Hunter uses charge minions to rack up more damage early in the game while Mid-range Hunter has more reach with difficult-to-remove cards such as savannah-highmane and dr-boom. Mid-range Hunter is actually a better match-up for Demon Warlock than Face Hunter. Mid-range Hunter’s increased board presence is definitely easier to deal with than than Face Hunter’s huge combos. Using ironbeak-owl on Mid-range Hunter’s savannah-highmane is always great while big-game-hunter is a natural counter to dr-boom.

Mage

Mech Mage is an aggressive archetype that happens to favor Demon Warlock. Mech decks generally rely on heavy board control early in the game. Fortunately, this Demon Warlock deck has many tools for dealing with minion-heavy board states. A well-timed hellfire can absolutely destroy a Mech Mage’s hopes of winning. Mulligan for:

  • zombie-chow
  • mortal-coil
  • haunted-creeper
  • darkbomb

Playing against a Mech Mage is largely about saving our board sweepers (i.e. hellfire) for as long as we can in order to get maximum value from it. Through mechwarper‘s unique ability, Mech decks have the ability to spew their entire hand on out onto the board. This situation is ideal for Demon Warlock as our AoE should devastate their entire board, allowing us to pick up an easy win.

Oil Rogue

Oil Rogue is a relatively new creation, similar in play-style to traditional Miracle Rogue. Similar to Miracle Rogue, Oil Rogue has access to massive burst damage, removal, and card draw capabilities. In order to beat an Oil Rogue player, it is important our early-game minions are able to force out removal to stay out of combo range. Oil Rogue is typically favored in this match-up. Mulligan for:

  • zombie-chow
  • haunted-creeper
  • nerubian-egg
  • mortal-coil
  • voidcaller

As the game progresses, it is critical to keep large Taunt minions on the board to block Oil Rogue’s burst. This is one of the match-ups where lord-jaraxxus is best used as a minion with Taunt. Careful managing of Life Tap is even more vital in this match-up as keeping our health out of combo range is one of the most difficult aspects of the Oil Rogue match-up. While this is definitely one of the more challenging match-ups for Demon Warlock, Oil Rogue is definitely beatable.

Priest

Priest is a decent match-up for Demon Warlock. As the game progresses, Demon Warlock gains a huge advantage by being able to play lord-jaraxxus. Control Priest has no reasonable way of dealing with a new 6-6 infernal every turn. Therefore, the important thing to remember is to prevent the Priest player from taking board control in the mid-game. Mulligan for:

  • zombie-chow
  • haunted-creeper
  • mortal-coil
  • darkbomb
  • nerubian-egg

mortal-coil and darkbomb offer great early reach in the Priest match-up. It is important to deal with northshire-cleric, dark-cultist, and auchenai-soulpriest the respective turns they hit the board. Additionally, playing around spells like shadow-madness is critical. As long as Control Priest does not snowball board control early on or in the mid-game, Life Tap and Lord Jaraxxus will eventually take over the game.

Paladin

While Paladin peaked in popularity last season, there are still plenty of Mid-range and Control Paladin decks on ladder. Mid-Range Paladin relies on establishing board control in the early game and then playing huge threats during the mid-game. A large portion of the deck’s success can be attributed to muster-for-battle and quartermaster. Fortunately for us, hellfire offers a great answer to the quartermaster combo. Mulligan for:

  • zombie-chow
  • haunted-creeper
  • mortal-coil
  • nerubian-egg
  • hellfire

This match-up largely comes down to skill and knowledge of the opponent’s deck. Both Mid-range Paladin and Demon Warlock have a multitude of controlling minions and spells. When playing against a Mid-range Paladin, hellfire and shadowflame almost always guarantees Demon Warlock board control. The tricky part is then avoiding the masses of Paladin removal and control cards. Avoid overextending as this leads to getting blown out by the equality plus consecration combo. Similar to Control Priest, Paladin struggles to deal with lord-jaraxxus and his continuous stream of infernal. Overall, the match-up is fairly even and will thus be draw-dependent and highlight any differences in play-skill.

Warlock

At the beginning of the season, I ran into a fair amount of Zoo-lock and even a few Hand-lock decks. However, these decks have all but disappeared so I’ll only be covering the mirror Demon Warlock match-up.

Winning the Demon Warlock mirror match requires obtaining board control early, maintaining card advantage, and avoiding unnecessary damage. This is a match-up in which using voidcaller to summon lord-jaraxxus or malganis shines. In particular, Mal’Ganis buffs up our other Demons and prevents collateral damage. Mulligan for:

  • zombie-chow
  • mortal-coil
  • haunted-creeper
  • nerubian-egg
  • voidcaller
  • darkbomb

It is important to get premium value out of our minions. defender-of-argus is great for achieving this. Additionally, nerubian-egg is an amazing early-drop in this match-up due to the amount of AoE damage that is sure to be used by both sides. Due to the fast-paced nature of the match-up, try to summon Lord Jaraxxus via Voidcaller as playing him on turn 9 will provide little to no tempo advantage. Ultimately, this match-up largely comes down to health management and once again getting value from minions.

Conclusion

Demon Warlock is definitely one of the most viable and fun decks on the ladder at the moment. This incarnation of Warlock offers a consistent experience against aggressive decks while still reaching an incredibly powerful late-game. If you guys have any other tech choices or card replacements that you have had success with in this deck, I would love to discuss them in the comments section. If you have any other questions or feedback feel free to e-mail me at [email protected], or comment below! Finally, if you enjoyed my guide, consider giving it an up-vote!