Greetings y’all! I’m modded, a dedicated deck builder and problem solver. With the release of the Curse of Naxxramas, many people have jumped on the Tempo bandwagon, with virtually every opponent running Nerubian Egg, and ZooLock rearing its ugly head more and more.
With this in mind, I took HandLock and modified it to squash early game threats from aggressive decks (particularly ZooLock), whilst maintaining answers to some slower decks.
The goal with this deck is to maintain board control at all costs. Like ZooLock, it has no win condition per say, but it wins by superior board presence. It is based on the HandLock, and has many resemblances. However, it has much earlier responses to aggression, at the expense of minion longevity.
- Players will most likely expect a ZooLock and thus mulligan incorrectly, giving you an advantage from the mulligan.
- Extremely strong against many aggressive decks, such as ZooLock and Cancer Rogue.
- Hero power becomes useless in the end game, as you can’t afford to lose anymore health.
- Equality/Earth Shock… *sobs quietly*
Soulfire is your standard Warlock auto-include, great minion removal or occasionally a finisher.
Mortal Coil is your early aggro remover and deck cycler. Can also be used to pick off damaged minions in the mid to late game.
Ancient Watcher serves a variety of purposes. It makes for wonderful taunters, Shadowflame fuel, or a makeshift Yeti. While dead by itself, you have 8 activators which generate insane value.
Bloodmage Thalnos is a value generator. His spell damage is useful in quite a few circumstances, and his card draw is an added bonus.
Ironbeak Owl is your all-purpose silence, preventing value from minions like Nerubian Egg, Blood Knight, and many legendaries. Additionally, it can be used to activate an Ancient Watcher for value on your end of the game.
Sunfury Protector is your basic taunt giver. It activates any big minion you play. It’s not bad played on turn 2, but it’s not preferable.
Earthen Ring Farseer is very versatile, keeping you alive or squeezing extra mileage out of your taunts.
Hellfire is your prime aggro crusher. It does enough damage to remove almost all weenies you’ll encounter.
Shadowflame is your backup AoE, but is also amazing for clearing out bigger boards.
Defender of Argus is your other taunt activator, but it also allows you to make better trades.
Sen’jin Shieldmasta is an early taunt, big enough to take out at least 2 weenies. It’s not a bad trader either.
Twilight Drake is your early big minion. If you go second you can coin this out as a 4/8 on turn three. This is your ideal taunt target.
Azure Drake isn’t a big minion, but is a deck cycler and the spell damage is super useful with the number of spells in this deck.
Siphon Soul is your hard removal for threats that are too big for you to deal with manually. Be careful not to waste it against an opponent with bigger minions coming down the pike.
Sunwalker is just pain for your opponent to deal with. The divine shield generates a lot of value unless your opponent just happens to have a 1/1 lying around, and even against midrange and control tends to maintain a two for one value.
Sylvanas Windrunner gives you a better chance of beating control decks, and now that deathrattles always trigger off of timestamps, it can be comboed with Shadowflame to wipe your opponent’s board and steal a Nerubian from a Nerubian Egg.
- Cancer Rogue
- Anti-Aggro Priest
- Tempo Rogue
- Tempo Warrior
- Miracle Rogue
- Midrange Hunter
- Midrange-Control Warrior
- Kolento Paladin
- Face Hunter
- Ramp Druid
General Mulligan Strategies
I almost always throw back Soulfire when I’m offered it during the mulligan phase. I view it as -1 card, and it’s almost always overkill early on. It can’t even deal with a turn one/turn two Chillwind Yeti (unless you draw Bloodmage Thalnos). Throw back expensive minions like Sunwalker, Sylvanas Windrunner and Azure Drake (one exception, explained below), they clog up your hand as you don’t have enough mana to use them.
Mulligan: AoE (Hellfire, Shadowflame), Ancient Watcher, Ironbeak Owl, Sunfury Protector and Sen’jin Shieldmasta.
Gauge if you can afford to Life Tap to fill your hand. Ideally, you’d like to go second, Life Tap on turn two, then coin out a 4/8 Twilight Drake on turn three, then either taunt it up or wipe the board with AoE on turn four. If you have an Ancient Watcher in hand, but no AoE or taunt givers, play it early (they’ll usually ignore it) in case you topdeck a Defender of Argus or Shadowflame on turn four. Keep wiping the board, silence Nerubian Eggs or (crack them before big AoE), Soulfire Dark Iron Dwarfs, and Siphon Soul Doomguards. Be careful not to be too greedy with your AoE, you have to calculate if you can afford to take another unabated turn of damage or not. If you play your AoE too soon, they’ll be able to flood the board before you can get your bigger taunts up.
Mulligan: Mortal Coil, Hellfire, Ancient Watcher + Sunfury Protector, Sen’jin Shieldmasta.
This is a face/blitz aggro deck, unlike ZooLock which is an aggressive control deck. In this matchup, gameplay is similar to what you would do against ZooLock, with a few caveats:
- You have to pay more attention to your life total, as their deck is more bursty than ZooLock.
- When it comes to taunts, quantity > quality. If you spend your entire turn dropping a Sunwalker, or Life Tapping two turns for a big Twilight Drake, you can be burnt by Sap.
- Pay attention to your hand size, they won’t hesitate to mill you if given the chance to.
- They care less about board presence, so taunts > AoE, AoE isn’t as valuable against chargers.
Mulligan: Twilight Drake, Ancient Watcher + Ironbeak Owl, Azure Drake.
This matchup is extremely easy, as you’re not running an aggro deck. You’re safe to Life Tap starting out, as there will be no meaningful early aggression. You can take some time to make your plays, as they won’t have a way to remove them. While they technically can Shadow Word: Pain some of your minions, most decks only run one due to its limited use, and thus should not be considered when making plays.
However, these decks usually run two copies of Shadow Word: Death, so be careful to not put a valuable minion such as Sunwalker or a big Twilight Drake into range of this spell with Defender of Argus. Anti-Aggro Priest only has Holy Fire to remove large minions with 4 attack, so you are safe to play your large minions.
Do watch out for Auchenai Soulpriest plays, as it can be dropped to pick off a minion with the Priest’s hero power, or if you’re not careful combined with Circle of Healing to clean up a damaged board.
Mulligan: Ancient Watcher + Ironbeak Owl, Twilight Drake, Shadowflame.
This is a tougher matchup than the aforementioned decks – albeit you are still slightly favored – due to the fact that it sustains better than an aggro deck due to bigger minions which are less vulnerable to your spell-based removal.
The way to win against Tempo Rogue is to react to their plays too well. You want to set up large AoEs, and remove their large minions. Similar to Cancer Rogue, you have to wary of Sap, and quantity of taunts is more important than quantity. Getting taunts up early is a way to bait trades that make them vulnerable to AoE. If they clean out your early taunts with their weenies to leave their bigger minions unscathed, punish those plays with Soulfire and/or Siphon Soul, and set up trades that allow you to wipe what they have with AoE.
Eventually this deck will burn out, once you have total board control (no minions on their side, you have 2+ minions) you have won (provided your health isn’t so low they can Eviscerate your face). Your goal is to counter their plays as fast as they are made (on a turn by turn basis), so that if they run-draw-play Sprint, you can take advantage of that tempo dip.
Mulligan: See Tempo Rogue.
This is very similar to Tempo Rogue, except that is relies more on weapons and less on damage spells. Tempo Warrior has little card draw outside of its Acolyte of Pain, so do everything in your power to prevent him from getting much value out of it.
There is little consistent card draw in this deck, meaning once they are topdecking turn to turn you have won (again provided you haven’t lost so much health that you can’t tank an Arcanite Reaper to the face).
Since you don’t have to worry about Sap, bigger minions such as your Sunwalkers will be safe, especially since the divine shield prevents clean removal via Slam/Whirlwind + Execute.
Mulligan: Ancient Watcher + Shadowflame, Bloodmage Thalnos + Hellfire, Defender of Argus, Sunfury Protector.
This deck stalls until it draws into its combo, which is great since DreadLock has answers for its early plays, its card draw engine, and its actual lethal combo.
Your early minions are all big enough to deal with their early minions, which will be sparse as they will be focusing on cycling through their deck. If possible, hold on to your AoE for when they drop a Gadgetzan Auctioneer in case they Conceal it.
Your prime removal in that scenario is Ancient Watcher + Shadowflame or Bloodmage Thalnos + Hellfire. Also, mind Sap. As you eliminate their few minions, build up a taunt wall consisting of more than one taunter.
Mulligan: Twilight Drake, Mortal Coil, Sunwalker.
This matchup is a careful balancing act. Too many minions and you fuel all Unleash the Hounds combos. Too few, and Deadly Shot will get you. If possible stick to around 3 minions on your side of the board.
Try to remove early beasts to prevent Houndmaster from generating value (it can make even the lowly Leokk into a massive 4/6 with taunt), though this will become impossible in the late game. By that point however, it will be more or less irrelevant, as you have more big minions than they do.
Mulligan: Twilight Drake, Ancient Watcher, Ironbeak Owl, Defender of Argus.
This variant of Control Warrior runs less big legendaries than old-school Control Warrior, and more mid-game minions. Since they don’t have as many big minions, you should be able to Siphon Soul away the first legendary they drop (except Loatheb), though that would be a waste on Cairne Bloodhoof.
You win this match by ruining their card draw (Acolyte of Pain is definitely a good Silence target), and then burning them out by removing the midrange minions that you eat for breakfast. In this matchup, you should be more scared of Shield Slam than execute, since if they draw and play Shield Block early they won’t have to waste an Execute enabler like Whirlwind or Cruel Taskmaster on your minions and will instead use them to get more value out of their minions.
Overall, you should be able to be able to keep the board clean enough that they can’t take control of the board once you hit the late game.
Mulligan: Mortal Coil, Hellfire, Ancient Watcher + Sunfury Protector/Ironbeak Owl/Shadowflame.
Dreadlock doesn’t fare so well versus any variant of Paladin, and it hurts worst against Shockadin since this deck is designed to crush aggro. Unfortunately, it’s borderline impossible to deny Divine Favor or Equality from granting absurd value. Your number one priority is popping the divine shields as they pop up.
There is a world of difference between a 4/1 or a 5/5 and a 4/1 or a 5/5 with divine shield. You don’t want your opponent to use Blessing of Might and Blessing of Kings to not only make big minions that are hard to deal with and really hurt, but also trade favorably with your taunters.
Mulligan: Shadowflame, Ancient Watcher, Ironbeak Owl, Twilight Drake.
This matchup is painful as not only do they have Equality, they stall with Guardian of Kings and they slow you down with Aldor Peacekeeper. Because DreadLock has no burst damage, it’s hard to beat Kolento Paladin as they will out-sustain you and burn you out.
Every time I’ve lost against Kolento Paladin, it’s because I burned through my entire deck. Fortunately, there is some hope: Steal Tirion Fordring with Sylvanas Windrunner. This not only diminishes their board, but once Ashbringer comes out, you now have direct damage to slam the Paladin in the face with.
Mulligan: Mortal Coil, Ancient Watcher, Sunfury Protector, Sen’jin Shieldmasta.
This matchup isn’t as bad as Shockadin, but it is still painful due to hunters-mark working as a targeted Equality, along with all the other fun stuff hunters run. There are two main variants, Beast-based (runs Haunted Creeper and Timber Wolf and Charge-Based (runs Wolfrider and Arcane Golem). The former is a bit more vulnerable to your AoE, while the latter is more vulnerable to taunts.
Like Midrange Hunter, you winning requires a delicate balancing act. Fortunately, they only run one Deadly Shot, so it’s safer for you to run less minions. Overextending is punished more severely in this matchup due to Timber Wolf making Unleash the Hounds brutally lethal.
The key to winning this matchup is to fill the board with a few (two to three) smallish taunters. This puts the Face Hunter in an awkward position where they can be too greedy and not use their power plays soon enough to prevent you from steamrolling them in the late game, or they can not be greedy enough and waste a hunters-mark or even better Deadly Shot or something minor like a damaged Twilight Drake or Ancient Watcher and have no answers to your Sunwalker.
Note: You MUST watch your life total (and limit your Life Tapping), Face hunter is perfectly happy to stall in the late game and Steady Shot you in to Kill Command range. It only takes 7 mana to effectively Pyroblast you even from an empty board.
Mulligan: Twilight Drake, Ancient Watcher + Ironbeak Owl.
DreadLock doesn’t fare so well against lots of big minions, and Ramp Druid cranks out not only lots of big minions, but gets them out early with Innervate and Wild Growth.
The key to winning is to be really greedy with your Siphon Souls, and do your best to get a fast start with the Ancient Watcher + Ironbeak Owl combo, or a large Twilight Drake (especially if you went second).
Mulligan: Twilight Drake, Ancient Watcher + Ironbeak Owl, Shadowflame.
Remember what I said about DreadLock and big minions? Now what about an 8/8 Mountain Giant on turn 4? It’s almost impossible to beat that. This is a super difficult matchup as you have no burst, meaning if they draw into their Molten Giants they will be played for free.
Your only hope is to get a faster start than them, and try to hide behind your taunts, and hope they have bad draws. Otherwise this matchup is just like Ramp Druid except that they hurt themselves, and have better AoE.
Tips and Tricks
Shadowflame deals damage before killing the target minion. This means you’ll get the boosted damage even when using it on Bloodmage Thalnos or Azure Drake dealing two and five damage respectively.
When Curse of Naxxramas was released, the game was patched so that Deathrattles resolve off their time stamps. This means, that Deathrattle effects when triggered simultaneously will happen in the order the minions were played. This means that if you play Sylvanas Windrunner + Shadowflame as a reactionary play, you can wipe the board and steal Baine Bloodhoof or more commonly a Nerubian. That combo is also great for stealing minions with divine shield, such as Argent Commander, Sunwalker, and Tirion Fordring.
When facing a single big minion like Ysera or ragnaros-the-firelord, if you have a Spell Damage minion on the board (or a Bloodmage Thalnos in hand), you can drop Sylvanas Windrunner and then Soulfire her to steal the minion whilst leaving it unscathed.
Think of your Ancient Watchers as having Stealth. Since your opponent will usually ignore them as they’re harmless by themselves, if you’ve already played a Twilight Drake (or both) there’s usually no reason to not go ahead and drop an Ancient Watcher instead of letting spare mana go to waste.
If you’re fortunate, you can pull something of like silence the Ancient Watcher, then buff it up with Defender of Argus for one mean 5/6 with taunt.
This is a Tempo counter deck at its core, and so its viability is heavily dependent on what you are facing. If you’re facing a meta full of Zoo and Miracle, this deck will serve you well.
Once you hit the onslaught of hunters, you might want to switch to something else. In my experience on NA, ZooLock makes up the majority of the meta from ranks 15-10, and it starts giving way to hunter as you approach rank 5. Past that you’ll still see ZooLock from time to time, but most likely not enough to make it worth running this deck.
Whilst ZooLock is stronger than ever, there is no reason to lose hope. DreadLock can easily take care of them, as well as other tempo decks.
So next time you see a ZooLock play a Flame Imp, rejoice! The odds are in your favor!
Be sure leave comments or if you have any questions or feedback in the section below!