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 part 2 of my Legend Zoo Warlock guide. Today I’ll be covering the different matchups and specific mulligans you need to be aware of when laddering with this deck.
Be sure to check out Part 1 of this guide where I go through the deck list and cards.
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 Naxxramas 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.
Try to fill your hand with an aggressive opener. Any 1 or 2 mana minion is good, but beware of keeping a young-priestess unless you can put it behind taunt or buff its health with another card, as shapeshift will remove it for free. soulfire is useful in this match-up as innervate can bring out cards that you can’t easily deal otherwise, such as turn 2 the-coin + innervate + chillwind-yeti.
First off, you need to play around swipe because a well placed Swipe can completely clear your board and lose you the whole game. To do this, you must prioritise buffing up the 1 hp minions (eg abusive-sergeant) to at least 2 hp. In the lower ranks you do occasionally see starfall, but this card is rarely used above rank 10. The druid also usually has cheap spell damage in the form of bloodmage-thalnos that can be played at any point with Innervate. For this reason, I like to buff my high priority minions (dire-wolf-alpha, knife-juggler, doomguard) as many times as I can. I try to avoid buffing Argent-squire or scarlet-crusader as both the buffs and the divine shields are vulnerable to a single keeper-of-the-grove. If you can get a minion up to 5 or 6 hp, it is unlikely that they can be removed through spells alone.
Aim for board presence due to the impressive removal that druids have available to them. It is in your best interest to trade minions fairly often as to minimize the effectiveness of wrath, Swipe and Keeper of the Grove. Try to maintain as many minions on the board as possible, so you can power through the large taunts and still kill your opponent. Druids have a tough time dealing with Doomguards, so this is one of the few matchups I am fine attacking face with them.
This is all true if you are against a token druid or a ramp druid, as board control is the key to winning this match-up. Beware the force-of-nature + savage-roar combo and try to keep your health above 14 when playing flame-imp or life-tap.
You’ll really want to be playing around explosive-trap and unleash-the-hounds so try to keep the health buffing minions when possible. I’m quite a big fan of the taunted 1 drops (voidwalker and shieldbearer) with a dire-wolf-alpha buffing them up to one attack, as they can trade into most 1hp hunter minions. I’m personally a huge fan of knife-juggler in this matchup as the knives can outright kill a large proportion of the hunter’s minions. As good as those combinations are, you are much safer just aiming for minions that are strong alone, like flame-imp and argent-squire and buffing those instead.
The Hunter match is just a straight up race to the finish. Even against the Midrange Hunter, you just want to kill them as quick as you can, while also removing every minion they play. For the opener, try to play the most aggressive 1 drop you can (flame-imp or argent-squire), then follow that up with a 2 3 4 curve if possible. This is preferable when compared to flooding the board with 1 drops as you want smaller board presence with stronger individual minions. It’s better to have two 3 drops than four 1 drops as it minimizes the draws from the enemy starving-buzzard + unleash-the-hounds combo. Be wary of your total hp, as it will go scarily low by the end of the match. For this reason, I like to discard flame-imp with my doomguard or soulfire over other cards if I must.
As far as the other secrets go, freezing-trap will be a non-issue, but misdirection can screw you over, so I like to attack with the weaker minions first just to be safe. Nobody plays snipe or snake-trap at high rankings, so I usually don’t try to play around them. If you do run into them, it is often the sign of a weaker deck.
This match pretty much plays itself if you remember to prioritize clearing the board and have a reasonable opener. I personally recommend that you use doomguardas minion removal over face damage as it is very weak to hunters-mark. Keep in mind the possibility of huge burst from any combination of leeroy-jenkins, unleash-the-hounds and timber-wolf.
Ideally you are looking for an incredibly aggressive opener as you want to end the game as soon as you can. If the Mage hits turn 7 and gets off a brutal Flamestrike, you will struggle to recover. I like the 3 attack minions and soulfire to stop an enemy Mana Wyrm from getting out of hand. I also really dislike the 1 attack minions as they take too long to break through a mirror-image. You will need soulfire/abusuive-sergeant/dark-iron-dwarf if you want any hope of killing a water-elemental, so I also tend to keep those cards. Like most matchups though, you just play what you get and try to overwhelm your opponent more than 50% of the time.
Play this like you would most matchups, but due to the amount of removal that a mage has, you should put even more priority on trading your minions into theirs whenever possible. In terms of secrets, I am actually seeing a lot of variety on the ladder right now. ice-block is the staple secret for Freeze Mages, so try to get your opponent to as low a hp as possible before proccing the secret, so they will be easier to kill the following turn. ice-barrier is not a problem at all, and there is no reason to play around it any differently than you would ice-block. I still play around vaporize by attacking with my weaker minions first, similarly to how you would deal with a misdirection. mirror-entity is the reason why you will always see me play my weaker minions first and it makes me hesitant to play doomguard without checking first. spell-block and spell-bender will both affect you in the same way, so treat them as identical secrets. These only affect your soulfire, so I wouldn’t worry too much about them for the most part.
This is not a particularly complex matchup, regardless of the style of mage you are against (freeze/aggro/other) as long as you remember to trade for board control and hold back a few minions for after the AoE spells clear your board.
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.
The next guide will cover the Paladin, Priest and Rogue matchups.
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. You might even get a sneak preview of the next few guides if you come along.
Good luck out there and have fun!