Hi everyone, I’m TrainerDusk. I’ve been playing Hearthstone and watching streams since day 1 of the NA closed beta and I’d love to share everything I’ve learnt with you. If any of you recognize me, it will be from the Netdecking series I’ve been posting on Reddit. This is my second guide on the site, so if you like this one, you might also like my Face Hunter Guide.
Why should I play Zoo Warlock?
The Zoo Warlock deck is an incredibly solid deck designed to always have a good opening hand and control the board through buffing your own minions and making favourable trades. When you play a deck that is as consistently good as the Zoo Warlock, you will overwhelm any opponents who get bad draws and race up the rankings. While my guides are usually aimed at people wanting to climb the ladder to get to ranks 1-5, this deck list is perfectly capable of hitting legend and it has done every single season.
The second reason to play Zoo Warlock is the dust cost. It is the best deck you are going to find for under 1600 dust without a doubt. There is not a single epic or legendary in this deck, so anyone can afford to craft it. This makes it open to newer players looking for a good deck with low investment cost or F2P players who don’t have the luxury of buying card packs and would rather conserve their gold/dust.
Getting used to playing the Zoo Warlock style before Naxxramus comes out will be very useful, as a lot of the new cards that have been announced are going to make Zoo a force to be reckoned with.
How to play the Deck
The most important thing to do when playing this deck is to control the board. By that I mean you want to kill all of your opponents minions while leaving your own minions alive. This is easy to accomplish as a Zoo Warlock as every minion you play has a high stat-per-mana ratio. For example:
- flame-imp: 3 attack and 2 health for 1 mana. 5 stats-per-mana.
- shieldbearer: 0 attack and 4 health for 1 mana. 4 stats-per-mana.
- harvest-golem: 4 attack and 4 health for 3 mana. 2.66 stats-per-mana
- doomguard: 5 attack and 7 health (and charge) for 5 mana. 2.4 stats-per-mana.
The only minions that drop below 2 stats-per-mana either have divine shield (good minions to receive buffs) or they will buff an allied minion in a useful way with a battlecry/effect. By utilizing these cheap and powerful minions, you can make efficient trades and build a large board presence in the first 2 or 3 turns. It is not unusual to have 3 or 4 minions out on the board on turn 2, ready to be buffed by your shattered-sun-cleric and defender-of-argus‘.
A huge mistake I see people making with this deck is ignoring your opponents minions and just going for face. The majority of the time you want to be the one making the trades, to ensure that you are in control of which minion kills which. It is much better for you to trade your Flame Imp into an enemy leper-gnome if that means your more important dire-wolf-alpha or knife-juggler will survive another turn.
Ideally, you want to empty your hand around turn 5/6/7 and start topdecking. This gives you a huge advantage as your soulfire and Doomguard are totally imbalanced if you negate their negative effect. Pretty much every turn until your health gets dangerously low you will just pump out 2 minions per turn using your life-tap. Every time you use the hero power, it will get you closer to your Doomguards, which are what you are aiming for.
- soulfire: Arguably the best removal card possible in the Zoo Warlock decklist due to the way your hero power works. Very often when playing Soulfire, you will have no other cards in your hand making it totally free. You don’t have to discard a card if there is nothing left in your hand to throw away. Try to use Soulfire ASAP, removing any enemy minion that stands in your way or even just to hit your opponents face if that’s where the damage will likely go anyway. You do this to avoid discarding the other Soulfire or your Doomguards. Never use Soulfire if it will discard a useful card unless absolutely necessary. Your best cards to discard are random 1 drop minions, the coin or nothing at all.
- abusive-sergeant: In a deck containing 28 minions, you can assume with confidence that the battlecry from Abusive Sergeant will not go to waste. Use the battlecry to trade one of your cheaper minions into a stronger enemy minion for a more favourable trade, such as attacking a buffed friendly Scarlet Crusader into an enemy chillwind-yeti. The 2 1 body that is left over can also be buffed in a multitude of ways, but can be vulnerable to certain enemy hero powers before the buff is applied.
- argent-squire: The divine shield on Argent Squire makes it a prime target for all the buffs that this deck contains. Abusive Sergeant, Dire Wolf Alpha, Shattered Sun Cleric etc all synergise fantastically with divine shields as you can often attack twice before the minion dies. The Argent Squire is just one of many durable and cheap minions available to you when playing Zoo Warlock.
- flame-imp: Essentially you are paying 3 life to get a 2 cost minion out a turn early. The 3 hp loss is often completely irrelevant as the only damage you intend to take with this deck is self-inflicted and easily manageable. Flame imp is the best minion to play on turn 1, as it has the highest attack damage of all 1 drops in the game. Take care when playing Flame Imp in the later stages of the game as it is possible to lower your health to the point at which your opponent can burst you down.
- shieldbearer: Some people aren’t a huge fan of Shieldbearer and I can see why. His lack of attack damage means alone he cannot trade well into anything. The 0 4 body with taunt does however protect your more important minions, such as Young Priestess and Knife Juggler, and any buff or bonus attack is well received on such a large cheap body. A Shieldbearer that’s adjacent to a Dire Wolf Alpha is a surprisingly scary 2 4 with taunt on turn 2. I personally do like the Shieldbearer in this deck as so many other minion battlecries and effects scare so well with him.
- voidwalker: Voidwalker fills almost the exact same role as Shieldbearer, just with less health and more attack. This makes Voidwalker significantly weaker against classes that deal 3 damage with weapons, or just against 3 2 minions. Still, 4 stat points for one mana is very good and I really appreciate having the extra taunts in this deck to protect my more vital minions.
- young-priestess: This minion can either be very mediocre or absolutely phenomenal. The longer you can keep her alive, the better, so try to hide her behind taunts or buff her hp as much as possible. The additional hp every turn will give you significantly better trades that wouldn’t otherwise be possible, like killing an amani-berserker with a Flame Imp and having the Flame Imp survive. This card is similar to blood-imp, but has much better stats and the ability to trade into other minions, making it better for the deck.
- dire-wolf-alpha: A particularly powerful 2 drop minion in this deck. You’ll notice that there are not that many 2 drops in this deck. That’s because you have the option of playing 2 1 drops or your hero power on turn 2, making the overall flow of the deck more consistent. It’s pretty easy to use up all of your mana each turn until you hit around 7+, but most games end long before there. Ideally, you want to place this card in the centre of your board, keeping in mind when a buffed minion dies next to the Dire Wolf Alpha, another will slide into place and get the buff. A Harvest Golem deathrattle will spawn in the same place that the Harvest Golem died, which is useful to know when planning out turns. Also, when you want to place a Doomguard next to the Dire Wolf Alpha and attack with the buff immediately, the minion that was in the Doomguard’s place will no longer have the buff.
- knife-juggler: A strong minion to play on turn 2 or coin on turn 1. If you can keep 1 or 2 Knife Jugglers alive for a few turns, the knives can swing an entire game if they start clearing minions for you. Always plan ahead how you plan to trade for board presence each turn taking into account where the knives can go. Sometimes if a knife hits a minion, the trade you want to make is not changed, so you should trade before you play new minions. These calculations you have to do in your head can get a bit complex once you start introducing attack buffs, such as the Dark Iron Dwarf, so take your time when thinking about optimal knife juggling.
- harvest-golem: Durable 3 cost minion that is a great buff target. Play it whenever you have 3 mana, unless you need a higher attack minion out and would prefer a Scarlet Crusader or a Shattered Sun Cleric.
- scarlet-crusader: Works pretty much identically to Harvest Golem, but has more attack and is easier to kill. It is also a great buff target due to its divine shield. I especially like buffing a turn 3 Scarlet Crusader with a turn 4 Dark Iron Dwarf or Defender of Argus. This card is especially weak to earth shock, so keep that in mind if you plan on buffing it.
- shattered-sun-cleric: The last 3 cost minion. Play Shattered Sun Cleric when you can make good use of its battlecry, otherwise hold back for a later turn and buff a 1 drop that you play on the same turn.
- dark-iron-dwarf: Use the Dark Iron Dwarf to trade your smaller minions into your opponents larger ones. Occasionally the bonus 2 attack will end up hitting your opponent’s hero, which is totally fine too. If you compare that to a stormpike-commando, it costs 1 less mana and has 2 more health, which should be explanation enough for its power. Keep in mind that the buff only lasts until the end of your turn, so if you have an empty board and buff an enemy minion, the buff will wear off before they can utilize it.
- defender-of-argus: Try to buff 2 minions when possible with Defender of Argus. You should think about what AoE sweepers your opponent has (swipe, consecration, explosive-trap etc) and try to buff up your most valuable minions outside of that damage range. No matter who you choose to buff in the end, simply getting the bonus durability and damage on your board is fantastic.
- doomguard: Doomguard is the most important and most powerful card in the deck. His top priority here is not to attack face, rather to trade 3 or 4 minions for 1. His battlecry is only detrimental if you haven’t emptied your hand before playing him, so try to get other cards out of your hand before you let him loose. I will often forgo this and throw away the majority of my hand if I have not yet seen my other Doomguard or Soulfires, as I would rather not discard either of those cards if at all possible. Using Soulfire and losing a Doomguard is the quickest way to lose a match, so don’t risk it unless necessary and pray to RNGsus to be safe. If you manage to get both Doomguards out in a single game, you will almost certainly win due to their ridiculous health, high attack and charge.
General Mulligan Strategy
You want to use up every single point of mana available to you each turn. I find this easiest to achieve by either keeping hand with a minions that cost 1, 2, 3 (and 4 with coin), 1, 1, 1 (and 1 with coin), or 2, 2, 3 and 4 with coin. I will rarely never keep Doomguard or Defender of Argus in my opening hand as they are too slow/situational, and I will never keep 2 Soulfires as they will just empty your hand too quickly. Lastly (though a rare case), I will not keep a Shieldbearer if I have nothing they can protect and no way to buff them.
If in doubt, just chuck back anything that doesn’t cost 1 mana and you should be fine.
In my next post I will go into detail about specific matchups and their mulligans, then I will follow it up later in the week with some ranked gameplay footage.
I hope that this Zoo Warlock guide helps you on your quest for legend ranking. I would recommend this cheap and effective deck for anyone at any skill level, as it is easy to play and hard to master, with surprising depth yet consistent results.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave them below and I’ll get back to you ASAP. If you want to reach me in-game, I’m TrainerDusk#2126 and I play on the EU server only. Other than that, you can also message me on twitter @trainerdusk or catch me streaming occasionally at twitch.tv/trainerdusk.
Good luck out there!