GvG – Warlock Zoo

After a ton of experimentation and play testing on the ladder, from Deathrattle tehme to GvG Mechs, I settled on a comfortable deck list that is highly enjoyable competitive!

Introduction

Greetings fellow Gul’dans, I hear that the goblins and the gnomes have brought along some glorious new minions and spells to aid us in our cancerous objectives of taking over the hearthstone ladder. Upon meeting these amazing creatures I learned that they are some really powerful beings that when come together can be extremely dangerous for our enemies. They call themselves ‘Mechs’. So I decided to let them help me in our battle along with our other undead friends and this is what I came up with.

The New Zoo

As soon as GvG came out, I was really excited about trying out the mech zoo deck. I immediately went ahead and purchased some cards and came up with my first iteration of mech zoo. It contained a lot of different mechs but I ended up removing a lot of the previous elements of zoo that made it snowball. I even substituted doomguard‘s with fel-cannon‘s it was working pretty well but I realized that this version ran out of steam way quicker than zoo and was not as resilient to AOE’s. So I kept on testing various cards I even tried out the hobgoblin with a bunch of 1 attack minions. I tried out jeeves as well. But whenever I made a full mech zoo It just didn’t have enough damage to finish the opponent because a lot of the mechs don’t deal a lot of damage. So finally I decided to keep the deathrattle theme and add some of the new GvG cards that seemed to be able to provide good value for cost.

One of the most important things to remember while playing zoo is that zoo relies on putting the opponent in a mana debt. Each turn you are playing minions that have over costed stats for their mana and cannot be dealt with by using the same amount of mana that was used to play them. So if I play an ogre-brute then my opponent wont be able to deal with it on the same turn I played it because it is a 4/4 for 3 mana which is higher than the vanilla stats. 2 drops cannot kill it and only a few 3 mana weapons can. So basically what I mean to say is that while playing zoo try to use your mana as efficiently as possible so not waste any mana because if you do so your opponent wont be able to clear your board easily.

Deck Breakdown

abusive-sergeant – This guy has been a staple in almost every iteration of zoo. Not only does he let you trade efficiently but also he is gonna let you put pressure on you opponent in the early game. Look at this guy as a spell. 1 mana deal 2 damage. I prefer to keep him in my hand in order to get efficient trades rather that for just pushing for damage. Especially against Handlock. Since when they drop a giant this guy can really ease out the process of killing it. Also against priests this guy is really good, let’s say you manage to get a turn 1 voidwalker and your opponent plays a northshire-cleric then this guy will absolutely wreck the priests early game draw engine. I prefer to keep him in my starting hand when I have a 1 and 2 drop already or when I have Deathrattle minions like haunted-creeper. He is an always keep when going second.

clockwork-gnome – I decided to replace the leper-gnome with this guy because the spare parts that he provides can be much more valuable than the two damage that leper-gnome deals. The spare parts are really good in a zoo deck because they let you gain efficient trades with whirling-blades, armor-plating and reversing-switch or let you gain tempo with finicky-cloakfield,emergency-coolant. If you have an undertaker in your hand save this card so that you can buff him. The spare parts can give you a lot of value so don’t waste them for no reason.

[card]flame-imp – The original 1 drop of every zoo deck. I considered cogmaster as a replacement but nothing works as well as flame-imp. He will let you trade efficiently and let you put a bunch of face damage. I always mulligan for flame-imp because he is just so good in the early game. In the late game he kinda sucks and you don’t really wanna play him at that point he is just doomguard discard fodder. Flame imp can provide one of the strongest starts zoo has to offer besides undertaker. Dont play him if you expect AOE coming out the next turn. He is a great play just after your board gets cleared as he puts immediate pressure on you opponent.

undertaker – One of the most overpowered cards in the game right now. The ability of this card to snowball cannot be matched by any other card. Games that begin with a turn 1 undertaker usually end up going in your favor. Undertaker is the MVP of your deck. You never play him without buffing him with the only exception that you are going first and you have a follow-up on turn 2. I usually try to bait out removal with a turn 1 flame-imp  or a knife-juggler. Keep him in your starting hand if you have deathrattles to follow him up with or else mulligan him. Also one thing I have seen many players do is that even when they are getting an efficient trade with the undertaker they just hit the face with him. DO NOT do this, your goal is to win by snowballing your board and not by mindlessly hitting face. If you are getting the opportunity of killing a high costed minion with your one drop take it, since your opponent will drop behind on mana.

voidwalker – I like voidwalker when I am facing anything but warriors and hunters. If you are facing a lot of warriors then replace this guy with annoy-o-tron because warriors and hunters have trouble dealing with divine shield minions. Other wise the 1 less mana and 1 extra health is better. If your opponent does not have any minions on the board then don’t give playing taunts a priority over normal minions with higher attack. voidwalker is a great play when you are using it to protect another minion, avoid playing it on an empty board. A good followup to this guy would be a flame-imp or dire-wolf-alpha.

darkbomb – Since soulfire was nerfed I was debating whether or not to use it. The biggest advantage of soulfire was that you can cast it for no mana. Which means you can play your minions and then cast soulfire without falling behind on board development for that turn. It was also an excellent tempo booster that let you kill a minion for no mana. It did 2 for 1 you but that problem was solved by your hero power that draws you cards. But now it not only costs 1 mana but it also discard a card, it think that makes the drawback a bit worse. So the next card I could substitute for soulfire that came to my mind was darkbomb. I am just not too sure about this card slot however.

If you feel like it you can replace this card with the following:

  • power-overwhelming
  • soulfire
  • leper-gnome
  • argent-squire

I feel like I need to keep this slot for a spell so that I can get some reach and can deal damage behind taunt. It is especially needed in the Handlock matchup. But maybe some more minions might just help more than a spell.

dire-wolf-alpha – Dire wolf is one of the best cards when you have multiple minions on the board. It is like flametongue-totem but a bit different. He is great for helping you push a little bit of damage to get through them taunts or to add some more damage on the board. It is technically a 4/2 for 2 mana. His strength comes from the fact that his attack buff can be transferred to another minion by trading. Since you are playing this doggy in your deck you need to have some foresight while positioning so that you can use him to his best.

Example: If your opponent is going into his turn 5 and you suspect a sludge-belceher to be played, position your minions so that you can get perfect damage and no over kill on the sludge-belcher when you play the Dire wolf. Positioning is one of the key skills required to play zoo perfectly.

haunted-creeper – Haunted Creeper is the stickiest two drop in the game, It serves as anti AOE card and has great synergy  with cards like kinfe-juggler, dire-wolf-alpha and defender-of-argus. It is weak on stats as a standalone 2 drop but its stickiness makes up for it. I don’t keep him in my starting hand unless I have an undertaker. I play haunted creeper on priority only versus aggro decks like hunter, otherwise you are much better playing other two drops.

Versus classes that can deal easy one damage look forward to trade your 1/1’s from haunted as soon as you can because otherwise they will kill them of for free. If you manage to use defender-of-argus on the spectral-spiders it can be a really strong play since the 2/2’s can now kill 3/2’s.

knife-juggler – The best 2 drop for any deck that runs a lot of minons. The knife juggler is the primary threat in your deck,He can deal a lot more damage than you would think. Your opponents are gonna prioritize killing this guy over everything in the early game. What I usually like to do is to bait out at least one removal card before playing this guy because the longer he sticks on the board the more overall damage you get. If my hand is: flame-imp, haunted-creeper, clockwork-gnome, knife-juggler and the-coin then rather than coining out the Juggler on turn 1 I will play the Imp to draw some removal. Then on turn two I will play the Haunted Creeper so that I can trade it on turn 3 and get immediate value out of my juggler while also playing a clockwork-gnome with it.

Prioritize trading other minions over your knife-juggler and try to get maximum value out of this guy. He is the biggest bullet magnet there is.

nerubian-egg – It has 4/6 stats for 2 mana with the downside of you having to activate its deathrattle to get the amazing stats. You have a lot of activators for the egg in zoo viz. abusive-sergeant, dire-wolf-alpha and defender-of-argus. Maybe darkbomb if you are desperate. nerubian-egg is never a keep in your starting hand because it is a bit slow, even when I have an activator for it don’t play this guy on turn two unless in very specific situations. I hold on to him until I feel like I wanna play him to avoid getting rekt by AOE. Defender of Argus is a really strong play on the eggs especially when you opponents board cannot trade into them.

Also do not pop your eggs when your opponent is going to want to AOE, also if you can try to make sure that they cannot pop your eggs as well since then it wouldn’t matter that they are gonna AOE because then they will just pop your eggs first and then AOE.

harvest-golem – Harvest Golem is a good card because it can easily 2 for 1 your opponent if they don’t have a hero power that deals one damage. On the other hand if their hero power does deal one damage they have to use at least 4 mana (2 mana for original body and 2 mana for the damaged golem) to kill this guy. Harvest golem is also a good play when you expect AOE because this guy is sticky due to his deathrattle effect. Never keep him in your starting hand because a 3 drop would be too slow. However if you have your turn planned out with an early undertaker then I might keep him. If you are going first then go for a good curve if you are going second then go for spamming minions.

ogre-brute – This guy has awesome stats for his mana. Although the downside of having a chance to mess up, it can also be an upside because he will sometimes bypass taunt and stealth. However whether or not you get to attack with this guy your opponent still has to deal with a 4/4 on turn 3 which is gonna gain you tempo. Ogre Brute is an excellent addition to zoo because he is really hard to deal with just like dark-cultist is on turn 3. I keep him in my starting hand if am going second. If I am going first then I keep him only if I have a 1 and two drop.

defender-of-argus – Defender is required for two things, to get good trades and to get taunts to protect you own face or you weaker minions.  Defender of argus is a card that you need to use at the correct time to get maximum value. Don’t think that “Yes! I can finally Argus two minons, let’s do this!” because you need to take into account the removal cards and the minions that are on the board. Argus needs to be used to protect your minions against AOE or to make your opponents trades suck.

Against agressive decks I like to keep Argus until I am getting full value out of him. Some of the best targets to use Argus on are nerubian-egg, haunted-creeperharvest-golem[/card] and ogre-brute because they give extra value because of their deathrattle or extra stats.

piloted-shredder – This card is so amazing that it is the cairne-bloodhoof of four drops. It has the chance of being at least a 6/5 to a 6/6 in most cases. Also while Cairne spawns a vanilla 4/5 this guy has a chance of spawning a 2 drop with some ability which might be extremely useful. Now zoo has a sticky 2, 3 and 4 drop. The big deal is that he has the same attack as the chillwind-yeti and his health is divided into two parts meaning that this guy will end up going 2 for 1 easily. And as zoo if you can two for one your opponent then they really fall behind because of your hero power giving you even more cards.

doomguard – The biggest threat in your deck and also the one that people don’t know how to use well. Doomguard as good as it might be is tricky to use. People generally don’t play him if he is going to discard two cards even when they are getting amazing trading value. Doomguard needs to be played whenever you can get good trades. The two card discard wont be a big deal because it is just two damage two your face to retrieve the two lost cards. You are also not playing a late game deck so the discard is never really gonna hurt you because games don’t go to fatigue (unless you are losing).

While playing keep in mind that you have this guy in your deck. Try to empty out your hand as quick as possible, but do keep in mind that you don’t lose these cards for free. Try to get maximum trading value out of your early game creatures.

Mulligans

When going first:

Look for getting a good curve i.e. a 1 drop into a 2 drop into a 3 drop.

Good cards to have would be:

  • flame-imp
  • dire-wolf-alpha
  • harvest golem

When going second:

Plan on putting out as many minions as possible and try to flood the board. In this case you can have two different strategy you can try getting the undertaker start by following it up with a bunch of deathrattles or the usual tempo start with flame-imp and voidwalker etc.

For the Undertaker start:

  • undertaker
  • clockwork-gnome
  • haunted-creeper/nerubian-egg (Haunted creeper is better than Egg.)
  • harvest-golem

For the tempo start:

  • flame-imp
  • voidwalker
  • knife-juggler
  • ogre-brute

How to play the deck

Zoo is a relatively easy deck to play due to its simple mechanics and it only requires basic knowledge to play well. However in order to play it perfectly you need to have foresight when going into games and you need to plan out your plays depending on your opponent. Against warriors I like to open up with low health minions like clockwork-gnome and haunted-creeper since their fiery-war-axe doesn’t kill them right away without giving you any value. Against priests it is important to open up with high attack minions so that you can kill off early Clerics and Cultists. Plan your turns depending upon your opponents removal cards. Do not over extend in case of AOE. I always try to keep at least some aggressive minions in my hand when I am expecting an AOE clear so that I can immediately put pressure on my opponent after my board gets cleared.

Try to spend all your mana for the turn every turn. This will let you build a difficult to deal with board. Try to make the board a mix of normal and deathrattle minions. Try to play the highest mana const minions each turn and keep the low mana cost to play when you have spare mana to fill once you get to the mid game. Also playing high mana costed minions first means that when you draw cards like doomguard you can play the low mana costed ones and then play doomguard without losing any cards.

Focus on trading minions. Zoo transitions from board control in early game to aggressive to the face in mid game once the board is established. Your board is your win condition. Try to keep it filled at all times. If you are able to maintain board control you will win.

Zoo in this meta

The meta post GvG has been pretty inconsistent, some people are still sticking to the old hunter decks while some are trying out their own iterations of different decks with new synergies. However since zoo is a fast deck it punishes decks that can’t keep up with it. People trying out extremely slow decks will be at a huge disadvantage against zoo.

While I was laddering with this deck, I was facing a lot of control warriors and shamans along with a few mages. I climbed from rank 16 to rank 4 using this deck in 2 days. This deck has a great matchup against control warriors and does decent against all other decks. Your only bad matchup is the anti aggro wild pyromancer priest. The advantage with zoo is that it is great for laddering while you can get win streaks, because you can just spam a bunch of games since the matches are so quick.

Points to Remember

  • Plan your plays during the mulligan phase.
  • Use all your mana each turn.
  • Tap before making plays if you know you will have 2 spare mana, unless you have a doomguard in your hand.
  • Trade before going for face.
  • Don’t trade if the trades are inefficient unless necessary.
  • Try playing the high mana costed minions over the low mana costed minions post turns 3-4.
  • If you can set up for lethal then go for it, the later the game goes the more you will be at a disadvantage.
  • Try to play around AOE and specially shadow-madness.
  • Save buff cards like abusive-sergeant and dire-wolf-alpha to help you trade.
  • Don’t use darkbomb on turn 2 to hit face for 3 damage 😛

Conclusion

After trying out a lot of different versions this is the one I felt was the most successful in this meta. Feel free to make any changes to some of the cards that I mentioned above depending on the meta. I hope you enjoyed reading this guide on the Post-GvG Zoolock deck. If you have any feedback or suggestion feel free to post them in the comments below or add me in-game if you want some help DarkFrost#1991 NA. Good luck and Happy laddering 🙂