So, now we move on to the next part of this article, here I will try to explain how to play and mulligan in every different matchup in the game, I hope you can get the best view on what I am about to write.
Keep in mind Handlock is a very hard deck to play, and it may take a lot of work and training in order to play it the right way, even after reading this full guide.
In case you missed the first part of the article, which includes Deck Breakdown and Sideboard, here is the link:
The Basic Mulligans
Different from Priest, Handlock has literally no Standard Mulligan, it differs in every matchup by a lot, and I will have to explain each and every mulligan strategy in their specific’s matchup section.
If, in some case, you don’t know what your opponent is playing and you guess you are playing against a Control deck, your best bet is going to be mulligan everything out that is not mountain-giant and twilight-drake and look for them.
The one small exception, that applies to every single matchup regardless of difficult and playstyle, is that if you happen to have both ancient-watcher and ironbeak-owl in your opening hand, you should keep them both and cast the Watcher as soon as possible, even if you have to burn your coin out for that, then follow it with the Owl silencing it. Remember if you don’t have exact both cards, don’t gamble! Mulligan those away if the mulligan plan is that.
Arguably the worst matchup for the Handlock, luckily with the nerf fewer people are now playing Hunter, but we still have to worry about it and understand how to play it properly.
In this matchup, you’ll want to mulligan for molten-giants and earthen-ring-farseers, everything else should be thrown away (Yes, including those mountain-giants and twilight-drakes). molten-giants are the only cards that will win you the game, but the Farseers are decent early game bodies that will hold off the pressure a little.
Alright, now let us see some gameplay plans for this matchup:
- undertaker is an excellent target for ironbeak-owl, if not the best. Silence it on turn 2 if you can (don’t coin the silence!) is a really strong play.
- mad-scientist is also an excellent target for silence, but not as good as undertaker.
- Remember silencing their early game drops is huge no matter which one they have, but if silencing it will not affect the board much, and you have a mountain-giant in your hand, you can delay silencing that minion for a few turns.
- Dont care about your mountain-giants too much, they’re most likely dead cards in this matchup. But if you can play them without risking too much, lets say delaying a Farseer heal when you are still safe should be ok.
- Dont be afraid of casting that hellfire to alleviate the pressure. Theyre not bad cards in this matchup since wiping their board away is always good, but watch out for your life total!
- Hero power is a luxury, not a must. If you are below 12 life do not hero power at all unless you are about to lose the game anyway, a lot of games can be lost due to those last 2 damage you took without the need.
- Heal yourself! Even if they only have a webspinner on the board, siphon-souling it is still good because its turn 6 and you’re most likely very low anyway!
- Count their damage and always assume you’re 7 health below your current health. Yap, remember all of them run kill-command and combined with their hero power, you basically start the game at 23 health, you just don’t know!
- Be careful about their traps! If you have a big minion on board (A Drake or a Giant) and the trap is most likely freezing, you should rather cast a taunt-giver and pass first, and only the following turn check the trap with your taunt giver.
- Dont play around hunters-mark even if all hunters run them. Always drop the biggest minion!
- Before I forget, soulfireing an undertaker turn 1 is always fine. That thing will snowball very quickly and sometimes deal over 10 damage alone if left unchecked.
- Loatheb can, sometimes, stop you from dying, so don’t force him into the game, play him whenever you feel he is good, and not whenever you can.
Another very hard matchup, our good point here is the inconsistency of Paladins Early game, so having a good start sometimes means winning the game against these guys. This matchup is not as hard as Hunter’s, and you should mulligan for mountain-giants and twilight-drakes only.
Now, for the gameplay tips:
- Prioritize Giants over Drakes on turn 4.
- Remember silencing your own giants after they got hit by either humility or aldor-peacekeeper is a big tempo swing, but just don’t silence your Drakes!
- Play around their spells, but remember a well placed loatheb to set for lethal is game winning.
- Silver Hand Paladins are the best targets for your mortal-coils, cycle these spells as much as you can, but early game you should not stop yourself from using with your hero power just to kill a 1/1, you can it next turn with 3 mana or whenever you have free mana.
- Paladins have no burst, which means you can hero power whenever you feel like you need it.
- lord-jaraxxus is the game winning play against paladins whenever the board is even or empty, if somehow you are slightly ahead, do not fear for casting Jaraxxus, doing all the trades you can and ending your turn, you’ll win from that.
- Silencing a Tirion before killing it is better than straight up killing it. But whenever there is no option, make sure you have the taunts to protect against The Ashbringer.
- Dont just throw every single threat you have in hand on the board, remember they have 2xequality to take care of your board, be careful! But if for some reason they already casted both, just throw everything you have on the board.
- Dont set up for exact lethal by sacrificing your board position, remember Paladin have multiple ways of casting big heals on themselves.
- Go for board control unless you have Loatheb and even then, try to have a backup plan!
Since you never know if you will be facing Zoo or Handlock, I came to the conclusion you’ll have to mulligan for something standard between both. So my suggestion here is to look for both twilight-drake and mountain-giants, but keep in mind if you already have one of those in your initial hand, keeping a hellfire is also huge, because if its Zoo, the board wipe is most likely going to be game changing.
Zoo is a high risk, high rewarding, deck, its gameplan is to overcome you with small creatures and obtain control of the board, and that is something you can easily overcome if you come with the right cards, Zoo is an average matchup, nor hard nor easy, and I will try to give you as much heads up here as I can, if you are sure your opponent is playing Zoo, remember to prioritize keeping molten-giants as well as the other 3 cards I said in the mulligan phase.
- Try to stabilise control of the board as quick as possible.
- Remember most of them don’t run silences, so prioritize twilight-drake over mountain-giant on turn 4.
- Coining a Drake turn 3 is better than casting a giant turn 4, regardless of how easy the matchup is being.
- Taunting your big guys is always huge, but try to get as much value as possible from your defender-of-argus, casting a sunfury-protector to taunt a single minion is better than doing so with the Argus.
- Argus is good whenever you have 2 minions on the board, regardless of their size.
- Kill their minions, but Zoo is not as bursty as Hunter, you can, most of the times, prioritize your mountain-giants over silencing small minions(spending cards and delaying your Giants!), for example. Use your good sense!
- As in the hunter matchup, you will want to heal up as soon as you can, so casting siphon-soul on small minions is reasonable.
- In case your shadowflame is in your hand, feel free to cast that ancient-watcher you have in your hand. Either they will worry about it and attack a undercosted minion, or they will ignore it and you will be able to wipe their board turn 4.
- Whenever you get control of the board, they are most likely to never get it back again, so aim for the board!
- Zoo run quite a few persistent Deathrattle minions, remember to trigger those before wiping their board. Sometimes you can even silence them!
This was the first part of the Match up series, the following parts can be found here:
I hope your reading has been satisfying so far, if you have any questions regard what has been wrote here, feel free to ask me them in the comments!