Just for Fun: Magelock

Today I’m delighted to bring you one of the most original takes I’ve seen on Warlock -- Lifecoach’s “Magelock” spellpower build!

Introduction

Hey, guys. It’s RaFive. Today I’m delighted to bring you one of the most original takes I’ve seen on Warlock — Lifecoach’s “Magelock” spellpower build! With a low-midrange curve that’s similar to Zoo, opponents will be fooled into thinking that early board control alone will win them the match, only to end up flattened beneath a hail of spellpower-boosted Darkbomb and Soulfire. If you’re looking for something new and different but still both fun and viable, look no further!

Overview

The skeleton on which this deck hangs is the post-Naxxramas Zoo style with Leper Gnome, Undertaker, Knife Juggler, Dire Wolf Alpha, Haunted Creeper, and Soulfire to ensure a high-tempo start with lots of opportunity for efficient trades. Darkbomb and Mortal Coil provide additional spell damage to boost through Bloodmage Thalnos or Azure Drake (plus Thalnos is a low-cost Undertaker buff and all three cards improve the deck’s cycling).

Midgame, Imp-losion helps you come from behind or secure your lead (especially combined with Knife Juggler), as you successively lay down high-value board control threats like Loatheb, Sylvanas Windrunner, and Dr. Boom to secure the win. Shadowflame and Power Overwhelming let you keep the enemy’s board clear using low-priority minions.

A few tech cards like Big Game Hunter and Kezan Mystic round out the list, providing flexibility against stuff like Ragnaros the Firelord or Explosive Trap that’re particularly threatening to the board-control-from-the-hand approach of this deck.

How to Play

Mulligan is particularly crucial with this deck. Most of the cards are incredible in certain matchups but terrible in certain others. For example, Mortal Coil is fantastic against Hunter, but almost unforgivably bad against tempo/aggro Mage. Imp-losion crushes Zoo, but often loses badly to Paladin’s Consecrate or Muster for Battle. Darkbomb is a great keep against Priest, but weak against Hunter, and so on. Know your metagame and have a sense of which cards are strong in which matchups — you can have all kinds of silly fun just winging it, but this is definitely a fairly high skill-ceiling deck that will thrive in the hands of more advanced players.

Broadly, though, you want to mulligan for your early-game minions. Undertaker and Voidwalker almost never a bad play turn 1, and Haunted Creeper, Knife Juggler, and Dire Wolf Alpha are all solid followups that you should play out in the standard, familiar Zoo way. Darkbomb is a good keep against slower decks, and Mortal Coil is an effective way to take care of 3-health minions like Mechwarper off the Dire Wolf Alpha attack boost on, say, Voidwalker. Never hold anything 3-cost or higher except Imp-losion if it’s a valuable card for your matchup and you’re going second.

Your gameplan is board control, just as with Zoo; you’re just on a slightly more midrangey tempo with the ability to recover from bad starts using Imp-losion and Dr. Boom together with your plentiful removal and spellpower boosters. Although you can do significant face damage with the spells in the deck, I’ve found it’s typically better to use spells for removal while your minions wreak increasing havoc on the opponent’s face.

Bloodmage Thalnos and Knife Juggler are the main engines you’ll use to swing games. The spellpower boost and free RNG damage make dealing with pesky minions like Sludge Belcher far less complicated than for more aggressive and minion-heavy Warlock variants. What will decide most games, however, is when your big minions come out, and in what order. Loatheb into Sylvanas Windrunner into Dr. Boom is extremely difficult for most opponents to recover from, if you have the board and/or the initiative. Play your big threats cautiously and for maximum impact, and you’ll see success.

Even though you’ve got plenty of ways to deal a large amount of burst from the hand, the deck is still largely dependent on a strong start over the first few turns. Aggressive Mage variants running Arcane Missiles, for example, can absolutely wreck an early Knife Juggler setup, or whatnot, and mech Mage’s Mechwarper can flood the board faster than you can clear it.

From this, it’s probably obvious that aggressive Mages make a comparatively weak matchup for this deck. Mech Mage is much more even (aside from the terrible power of Goblin Blastmage), but bursty spell-heavier variants running Mirror Image and Annoy-o-Tron can simply slow you down until pings, spells, and card advantage take their toll. Beware Hunters running double Unleash the Hounds, as well. You should be favored against control decks, however, and any ping-less aggression (like that from Zoo, for example) should have an extremely tough time keeping pace with your clears and board floods.

It’s an extremely strong list for lower rungs on the ladder, where players will generally expect Zoo and then run out of steam when you have more staying power than they expect. I played durdle decks at the very beginning of this season and lost my way down to rank 20 before switching to Magelock, losing twice to bad draws against Mage, after which I went straight up to rank 15 before I lost another game. If you’re looking for a fast ladder deck that doesn’t conform to the popular cancerous archetypes,

Substitutions

The list you see on the right is Lifecoach’s original. He’s since taken out one Darkbomb for a Harvest Golem. I’m not sure that’s the card I’d have swapped for Golem, but the extra stickiness is valuable and probably indicated (plus your Priest matchup is already quite solid and can afford the occasional Cabal Shadow Priest counter). There a number of additional modifications you can try, however.

Since this is a slower deck than standard Zoo, Clockwork Gnome is probably a better choice, at the end of the day, than Leper Gnome. Mortal Coil is situational and matchup-dependent, and you can almost certainly cut one copy in favor of an early minion with Deathrattle, perhaps a Nerubian Egg.

The tech is likewise quite flexible. I personally haven’t found Kezan Mystic helpful at all on ladder (since it’s only really useful against Hunter, given the relative dearth of Secrets Mage) and would recommend Defender of Argus, Dark Iron Dwarf, or even Piloted Shredder as a more consistent alternative that fits with the deck’s plan. Big Game Hunter has pulled this list out of the fire on several occasions, but might also benefit from a similar treatment if you’re not running into much control.

For BGH or Mystic, Antique Healbot or Earthen Ring Farseer are also solid substitutions because of how low your health can get between the lesser board control and frequent tapping for cards. You could probably also swap out a single Darkbomb, Mortal Coil, or maybe even a Soulfire for a big heal.

Sadly, however, this isn’t a deck you can run on much of a budget. Dr. Boom is a necessary include for his stickiness, large threat, and late-game double Undertaker buff. Loatheb really helps lock your board down, but could, I suppose, be swapped out for something equally game-changing like Fel Reaver, although I don’t recommend it. About the only high-end minion you can swap without really hurting the deck is Sylvanas Windrunner for an Argent Commander.

Conclusion

Like spellpower? Play Magelock. Like midrange? Play Magelock. Like Zoo? Play Magelock. This is a fun, genre-defying deck that feels familiar enough to pick up instantly, but has enough tricks up its sleeve to really breathe a new style of play into what so often seems a calcified metagame. The winstreaks are fun, Dr. Boom is fun, and the obvious surprise of your opponents is the most entertaining of all. Lifecoach has done his part to build a better metagame with this deck — now let’s see y’all go out, use it, and improve it!