Mastering the Handlock: Matchups and Mulligans

This is part 3 of this extensive deck guide series. Be sure to check out the other sections: Part 1: Beginner Guide Part 2: Advanced Strategies, Alternate Cards, and Tech Choices Part 3: Match-ups and Mulligans In this section, we’re gonna show you how to play against other popular decks – whether you’re a favorite, what to […]

This is part 3 of this extensive deck guide series. Be sure to check out the other sections:

Matchups and Mulligans

In this section, we’re gonna show you how to play against other popular decks – whether you’re a favorite, what to mulligan for and the general strategy of playing against it.

Midrange Druid

Unfavored

Cards you look for: Mountain Giant, Twilight Drake

Cards you might keep: Ancient Watcher (with an activator), Hellfire (with either Giant or Drake)

One of the harder matchups for Handlock. Your molten-giants are often useless because Druid can “skip” the Molten range by killing you with Combo.

  • First turns should be slow. Midrange Druid doesn’t play any immediate threats until piloted-shredder. He might play shade-of-naxxramas earlier, but he probably won’t attack with right away.
  • If you get your ancient-watcher plus an activator like ironbeak-owl or Taunt giver (sunfury-protector or defender-of-argus), you might go for it. Druid might have hard time dealing with your early Watcher.
  • Your aim is to play your big threat on turn 4 – either mountain-giant or twilight-drake. There is a big chance that neither of them will survive, as Druid has both Silence (keeper-of-the-grove) and a way to deal with your Giant (big-game-hunter). If Druid has no answers, they might carry the game.
  • hellfire might be a good keep against both Shade of Naxxramas and Piloted Shredder. If you’re lucky and he plays something like double Shade, Hellfire really comes handy.
  • Try to deal with their Shades before they grow out of range of your AoEs.
  • Midrange Druid will generally push you and you won’t have much time to play your big threats. So if you get an opportunity, take it. If you will be the one pushing the Druid, he’s gonna have really hard time, because his deck is much more proactive than reactive. Deal with their threats and try to develop something big of your own.
  • Be careful about force-of-nature + savage-roar combo from turn 9 (turn 7 if you want to be really safe, because of innervate). Even from empty board, Druid can deal 14 damage – 15 health is the number you don’t want fall below if you have no Taunts.
  • If you stabilize, your late game is much stronger, so you should start attacking Druid around turn 10 if he didn’t kill you.

Ramp Druid

Favored

Cards you look for: Mountain Giant, Twilight Drake

Cards you might keep: Ancient Watcher (with an activator), Emperor Thaurissan (with a good hand)

Very slow matchup against deck that runs almost no burst. You are a favorite, but remember that Ramp Druid also has a lot of big threats, so be careful.

  • Again, your aim is to push out either of your big threats on turn 4. And again, Druid has a way to deal with them. But don’t worry, he won’t put much pressure on you.
  • Ramp Druid might start with a zombie-chow on turn 1, but you can just ignore him. If you have a darkbomb you can throw it at him, but sometimes you actually want him to hit you couple of times, because you don’t want his effect to heal you to full health (it’s pushing you out of Molten range).
  • Mid Game is pretty important. You don’t want the Druid to develop too much threats, because they’re pretty hard to deal with. druid-of-the-claw is tricky because it gets a good trade against your sludge-belcher.
  • sylvanas-windrunner is pretty good card in this matchup. Before playing her, you may check with the Twilight Drake if enemy has Silence. If he Silences your Drake, Sylvanas is probably gonna get a lot of value, because Ramp Druid runs almost no small minions.
  • The matchup is so slow that keeping emperor-thaurissan might be a good idea if you already have let’s say both your Drake and Giant. Since you tap a lot, he’s gonna get really high value. Try to play him with Jaraxxus in your hand. The card is really good in the matchup and getting additional 6/6 means a lot. Ramp Druid has no way to deal with a huge influx of Infernals and he can’t also burst you down.
  • Keep Silence for their Sylvanas and ancient-of-war (Silencing it turns it into a plain 5/5).
  • Some Ramp Druid lists run ysera. The clearest way to deal with her is siphon-soul, so you might want to keep it.
  • Your Late Game is stronger, once Ramp Druid uses his Big Game Hunter (or two, because sometimes they run two) he has really hard time dealing with big minions. Your 8/8’s are gonna do a lot of work.
  • Don’t worry about getting low. Even 10 is relatively safe when they have no minions on the board. Ramp Druid can do up to 9 burst damage with 2x swipe + Hero Power, but the more common case is something like Druid of the Claw + Swipe for 8.

Aggro/Face Hunter

Unfavored

Cards you look for: Mortal Coil, Darkbomb, Sunfury Protector, Ironbeak Owl, Hellfire, Molten Giant

Cards you might keep: Ancient Watcher (with an activator), Antique Healbot (with some early removals)

This matchup really depends on drawing early removals and Moltens. Really hard because enemy might kill you even through the Taunts.

  • First turns are crucial. You either need to remove everything they play early or set up a Hellfire (it’s much better with Coin, because you can use it on 4 and follow with something like Twilight Drake).
  • mortal-coil is great in the matchup, because all their 1-drops have 1 health. Not only you deal with them, but you also cycle, so get closer to your Moltens.
  • darkbomb is crucial to deal with their knife-juggler and possibly huffer.
  • mountain-giant is almost useless in this matchup. Most of the games, you won’t even have an opportunity to play it.
  • molten-giant on the other hand is your savior. It’s only the matter of time until Hunter takes you down to 10 health. And then, Molten Giant + Taunt might win you a game.
  • Taunt givers are really important. Since Hunter might Silence your Taunts, you want as many of them as you can. Putting a Taunt on Ancient Watcher is good, because Hunter doesn’t really want to Silence it.
  • sludge-belcher is a decent card. If Hunter doesn’t have Silence, it’s gonna soak at least 7 damage (usually even more) and probably kill some of their minions (or make him burn kill-command, which is important after you stabilize).
  • antique-healbot might save your skin. You want to use them AFTER you Taunt up, however (unless you’re at critically low health). There are much more ways for Hunter to deal damage when you have no Taunt. If you get a big Taunt and then Heal, Hunter has limited ways to win the game.
  • Remember that you’re on the clock. Hunter is gonna Hero Power you every turn. Sometimes you want to push for the damage yourself instead of trading. It’s often worth more to push 8 damage into their face than to clear a 2/1 minion with your Molten Giant. You can’t afford to play the long game. After you stabilized, go for the win.
  • lord-jaraxxus might actually save you if you get to turn 9. Hunter should already completely run out of steam and get 1 card per turn. Healing from critically low health to 15 often means you’ve sealed the game.

Midrange Hunter

Unfavored

Cards you look for: Mortal Coil, Darkbomb, Sunfury Protector, Ironbeak Owl, Hellfire, Molten Giant

Cards you might keep: Ancient Watcher (with an activator)

Another hard matchup, in some cases even harder than Face Hunter. Besides the early aggression, Midrange Hunter has a lot of mid game threats that are hard to remove.

  • First turns are similar. Try to remove everything he plays and if he skips a turn, you might Life Tap.
  • He won’t put as much pressure early with the lack of cards like wolfrider, but he can do a lot of damage, especially if he rolls Huffer from animal-companion.
  • Ironbeak Owl is really important in this matchup. Midrange Hunter runs A LOT of good Silence targets. mad-scientist, piloted-shredder, savannah-highmane, even haunted-creeper and leper-gnome can be Silenced to save your Health.
  • Keep Darkbomb to deal with their Knife Juggler and first body of Piloted Shredder.
  • big-game-hunter is not entirely useless in this matchup. Midrange Hunters sometimes run bigger minions like dr-boom and ragnaros-the-firelord. Also, if enemy Highmane gets buffed with glaivezooka, leokk or houndmaster, it can be taken down by BGH. Don’t count on that, however, and if you have a good opportunity to drop him on the board, just do it.
  • If you’re playing to survive, it’s better to drop two medium Taunts than one big because of Silence and hunters-mark.
  • If you have to choose between healing and Taunting up when Hunter hasn’t got lethal on the board, but might have in his hand, Heal. Most of Midrange Hunter’s reach comes from Spells like kill-command and quick-shot or from his Hero Power. Midrange Hunter doesn’t run Charge minions (unless he’s using a Hybrid build, but you should tell that by the mid game).
  • sylvanas-windrunner is also decent in this matchup if you have time to drop her. With so many sticky minions, it’s likely that you’re gonna steal something. And Hunter is much likely use Silence on your Taunts than Sylvanas.
  • Just like against Face Hunter, Jaraxxus might save your skin in the late game once you get low enough.

Freeze Mage

Equal

Cards you look for: Ironbeak Owl, Mountain Giant, Twilight Drake, Emperor Thaurissan

Cards you might keep: Antique Healbot (with Mountain Giant and Twilight Drake)

Some players believe that Freeze Mage is a big favorite. We don’t agree with that – Handlock runs a lot of healing and big creatures that are hard to take down by AoE.

  • Probably the slowest matchup you’re gonna get. Aim for turn 4 Giant or Drake. Besides Freezing, enemy has hard time dealing with such high health minions. He’ll be forced to freeze them every turn or take a lot of damage.
  • Ironbeak Owl is great at countering their frost-nova + doomsayer combo. It’s the only thing that can kill your Giants and Drakes easily, so getting rid of Doomsayer is really important.
  • Life Tap, but don’t do that too much. Staying around 18-20 health should be safe. There is a combo that can deal 20 damage (fireball + 2x frostbolt + 2x ice-lance) but it’s pretty unlikely. When you are at around 20 health, it’s tricky for enemy to use Alexstrasza, because her effect won’t be as impactful.
  • Don’t use antique-healbots if you aren’t in danger. For example, healing from 20 to 28 just makes enemy Alexstrasza stronger and gives you nothing. Start using them once enemy tries to burn you.
  • Keep lord-jaraxxus for healing. Good Freeze Mages will try to put you at 15 (for your Jaraxxus to be useless) and then burn you from that amount, but it’s not always possible. Once Mage takes you down below 15, you might use Jaraxxus to get some healing.
  • Later in the game, shadowflame might be used to deal with their Doomsayers if you don’t have an Owl. The card is otherwise pretty useless in this matchup anyway, so don’t worry about using let’s say Ancient Watcher + Shadowflame + Darkbomb to kill their Doomsayer.
  • emperor-thaurissan is key in this matchup, on both sides. If you play yours, enemy is gonna have use his turn removing it. Also, you’re happy when enemy throws let’s say Fireball at your minion instead of your face. On the other hand, enemy Thaurissan needs to be removed as soon as possible. Discounting some cards like Frostbolt and Ice Lance might make their archmage-antonidas turn crazy.
  • Keep removal like siphon-soul for their Antonidas. It’s their main win condition in this match, because if you get two Healbots and Jaraxxus, there is no way they can burst you down without additional burn.
  • Try to pop Ice Block at low enough health that you can finish enemy off with your spells like darkbomb and hellfire. It’s sometimes tricky to do with high attack minions, so find the best way to do it before you start attacking. Popping it at let’s say 7 or 8 might make it hard to finish Mage off if your board gets frozen again.

Tempo Mage

Favored

Cards you look for: Mortal Coil, Darkbomb, Ironbeak Owl, Hellfire, Twilight Drake, Molten Giant

Cards you might keep: Ancient Watcher (with an activator), Shadowflame (with Ancient Watcher)

Pretty easy matchup. The only thing you need to worry about is spell burn, especially if Tempo Mage gets a good Antonidas Turn.

  • Early removals are important. The way for Mage to win this matchup is to get a big board presence and get everything rolling. Remember that most of early Mage minions have synergy between themselves – mana-wyrm, sorcerers-apprentice and flamewaker. It means that they aren’t that strong individually, but if he gets all of them out you’re gonna have a really hard time.
  • Ancient Watcher + Activator is a nice way to start the game. 5 health is too much for Mage early removals, so you’re either gonna kill some minions (by Silencing Watcher) or stop their advance (by Taunting it).
  • Tempo Mage tends to flood the board early, and that’s when the deck is most scary. If you get good AoE clear, you’re gonna be in a strong position. hellfire is great at dealing with their 1-drops and 2-drops, but not as good against 3-drops and 4-drops. If you get a Shadowflame on Ancient Watcher, it’s gonna clear every of their early threats besides mechanical-yeti, which is left at 1 health – perfect target for Mortal Coil.
  • Tempo Mage struggles against big minions. Mountain Giant is often going to be too slow, but Twilight Drake is perfect. Tempo Mage usually runs no Silence, so he has no easy way to deal with your Drake.
  • Sludge Belcher is great against their early drops, but pretty bad against both Mechanical Yeti and loatheb. You’re gonna need some spells or small minions to finish them off. He might also take the fireball or flamecannon + ping. First case is not that bad for you, because that a little less spell burn. Second not so, because Flamecannon is generally pretty bad against Handlock, and if it kills your 5-drop, it got too much value.
  • Molten Giants are really strong. Tempo Mage is likely to do a lot of damage to you in the early and mid game. But he has no clear way to deal with Giants, so if you Taunt them up, most of time that’s game.
  • Healbot also comes handy against their spell burst. Try to stay out of double Fireball range all the time, if Mage hasn’t used them.
  • You probably shouldn’t throw Big Game Hunter on the board as a minion, because almost every Tempo Mage list (besides those hyper-Aggro) run at least Dr. Boom, and often alongside Ragnaros.
  • Just like against Freeze Mage, keep removal for their Archmage Antonidas. Shadowflame might come handy in case enemy gets a Stealth Spare Part. If they won’t win the game by early aggression, Antonidas is usually their only way to come back.

Aggro Paladin

Unfavored

Cards you look for: Mortal Coil, Darkbomb, Ironbeak Owl, Sunfury Protector, Hellfire, Molten Giant

Cards you might keep: Ancient Watcher (with an activator)

Pretty hard matchup, because it’s difficult to keep Aggro Paladin in check, Divine Shields are tricky to deal with and he can refill his hand easily with Divine Favor.

  • You can be almost sure that Paladin is gonna have a smooth curve. The deck runs a lot of 1-drops and 2-drops, so be prepared to get rid of them.
  • argent-squire, shielded-minibot and argent-protector are really tricky. You have no way to ping the Divine Shield as Handlock, so Paladin is gonna get a lot of value with those. Especially if the minion with Shield gets buffed with blessing-of-might or blessing-of-kings.
  • Ancient Watcher might help early, but enemy has a pretty easy way to deal with it. Abusive Sergeant or Blessing of Might on Divine Shield can easily take down your Watcher.
  • ironbeak-owl is an early MVP. It helps with removing Divine Shields and is a great answer to buffs.
  • hellfire might be either great or useless. If enemy has couple of minions without Divine Shields or uses muster-for-battle on turn 3, Hellfire is gonna get great value. But against some boards it’s gonna kill 1 minion or even nothing.
  • Don’t keep too many cards in your hand. First, because of divine-favor and second, because enemy might burn your card with king-mukla.
  • equality is pretty common among Aggro Paladins, but lately not every build runs it. If he has no Equality in his deck, it makes things much easier to you.
  • Molten Giants are your saviors. Without Equality enemy will have really hard going through them.
  • Enemy runs almost no spell burn (consecration, sometimes hammer-of-wrath), he relies on his minions and weapons to deal damage. Once you stabilize behind Taunts, you should be safe even at low health. Especially if enemy has already used Silence.
  • lord-jaraxxus is also gonna be used as a way to gain health. But it’s gonna be hard to get a good opportunity to use him, it’s really slow, and with good Divine Favor, Paladin isn’t likely gonna run out of steam too fast.

Midrange Paladin

Unfavored

Cards you look for: Mortal Coil, Darkbomb, Hellfire, Twilight Drake, Mountain Giant

Cards you might keep: Ancient Watcher (with an activator), Ironbeak Owl (with Drake/Giant)

This matchup is pretty hard for Handlock because Paladin runs a lot of sticky minions and many ways to deal with your big minions.

  • Midrange Paladin won’t be as fast and rushy as Aggro, but he might flood a board pretty quickly.
  • Turn 1 zombie-chow is not bad for you, since it will heal all the damage it dealt anyway.
  • knife-juggler is pretty easy to deal with – Darkbomb. If you don’t have it, he mighj push for a lot of damage, especially when combined with Muster for Battle.
  • Shielded Minibot is once again tricky since you can’t pop Divine Shields. Some Midrange Paladin lists also run one copy of Blessing of Kings, so if Paladin is starting with Coin, he can throw Minibot on turn 2 and follow with Kings on turn 3. Having your Silence is really important in that case.
  • Hellfire is a good way to deal with Paladin’s board on turn 4. If he had a smooth curve, you might get a lot of value. It’s also a great way to deal with turn 3 Muster for Battle.
  • aldor-peacekeeper is great against your big drops, especially Giants. Remember that you can Silence your own minion to get rid of the effect, though.
  • Midrange Paladins also run one copy of Equality. On turn 6 Equality + Consecration can completely wipe your board, so try to not overextend.
  • Midrange Paladins also run Big Game Hunter for your Giants and Ironbeak Owl for your Drake. It means that probably first one or two big threats you play are gonna be dealt with.
  • The trick to win against Paladin is to survive. You have more threats than Paladin has answers, you just can’t get out-tempo’d too much. If it gets to the late game, you might win it.
  • Try to kill their 1/1 Silver Hand Recruits. Using your Hellfire or Shadowflame on the board with a lot of Recruits is not bad if you read that enemy might have quartermaster in his hand. With Quartermaster on 4-5 minions, Midrange Paladin might get a lot of value and deal high amounts of damage.
  • Lord Jaraxxus is pretty good against Paladin. A 6/6 every turn is really hard for Paladin to deal with when if burned his Equality already.
  • If Paladin has lethal on the board and you have to choose between Taunting and Healing, go for the latter. Paladin might get through your big Taunts with Silence, Equality or BGH, while he can’t really burst you down if you heal.
  • The biggest burst he might deal from his hand is 6 with truesilver-champion hit and consecration. So you might Tap a lot and don’t worry about burst.
  • You want to have one Owl for his tirion-fordring. Or at least Siphon Soul if you think that you can deal with a 5/3 weapon.

Control Priest

Favored

Cards you look for: Darkbomb, Twilight Drake, Mountain Giant

Cards you might keep: Ancient Watcher (with an activator), Ironbeak Owl (with Drake/Giant)

Probably one of the easiest matchups you’re gonna face. Priest has almost no way to pressure you early and limited answers for your big threats.

  • Early game will usually be 2x Tap into Twilight Drake / Mountain Giant. Priest can’t really put any pressure on you.
  • If he plays an injured-blademaster without circle-of-healing, Darkbomb it. It’s not a really big threat against your Drake or Giant, but Priest might draw couple of cards with his northshire-cleric. You generally don’t want to leave Priest with damaged minions or minions that can damage other ones (wild-pyromancer) to deny the draws.
  • Ancient Watcher is surprisingly good in this matchup. Enemy Priest has hard time dealing with a 4/5 minion in the early game.
  • Ironbeak Owl is a great way to deal with velens-chosen. For example, Velen’s Chosen on dark-cultist makes him a 5/8 minion, which is pretty scary.
  • If enemy didn’t draw shadow-word-death for your Giant, it might push a lot of damage or trade for 2-3 minions. Trading is a safer route, because enemy is not gonna win with you in the late game anyway.
  • Twilight Drake is much safer, because most of the Control Priest lists run no Silence. If you buff it with defender-of-argus, it should get favorable trades against anything enemy might play.
  • Be careful when playing Sludge Belcher – it’s a perfect target for shadow-madness.
  • Some Control Priest lists run lightbomb. Don’t overextend into the board – if you already have a big minion or two, playing Twilight Drake might be a good idea, because it doesn’t die to Lightbomb.
  • Other lists have one copy of mind-control. Keep it in mind just before turn 10. Another way for them to steal your minion is sylvanas-windrunner, but you might Silence it.
  • Even if enemy finds answers for your first big minions, he doesn’t have enough of them for all your threats. Especially with Jaraxxus – he’s ultimate counter to Priest in late game. Priest has no way to deal with a 6/6 every turn and can’t burst you down through them.
  • Unless it’s a cheesy prophet-velen + mind-blast build, Priest can’t push for a lot of burst damage. In theory, if he runs Zombie Chows, he can deal up to 18 damage with auchenai-soulpriest + 2x zombie-chow + circle-of-healing + 2x light-of-the-naaru + Hero Power. But that’s a 10 mana, 6 card combo, so you obviously don’t have to play around it. Realistically, Priest has a hard way dealing more than ~10 damage from his hand.

Oil Rogue

Equal

Cards you look for: Darkbomb, Twilight Drake, Mountain Giant

Cards you might keep: Ancient Watcher (with an activator)

Relatively equal matchup. On the one hand, Rogue has hard time dealing with your big minions on turn 4. On the other hand, he can surprise you with a lot of burst and completely omit the Molten range.

  • Most of the Rogue’s early cards are reactive. Most of the decks start dropping minions on turn 3 with either si7-agent or earthen-ring-farseer. If enemy runs edwin-vancleef and start second, he might Coin it out on turn 2 for a 4/4 minion. If the Rogue identifies you’re a Handlock (by passing turn 1 and Life Tapping on turn 2), though, he probably won’t waste the Coin.
  • Darkbomb is a perfect way to deal with their 3-drops.
  • On turn 4, if you have both Twilight Drake and Mountain Giant, you want to drop Drake first. Rogue often has a way to deal with your first minion (e.g. bloodmage-thalnos + backstab + eviscerate) and since Mountain Giant is bigger and they would die the same way, it’s better to save the stronger one.
  • The first way for Rogue to win is getting a lot of tempo with violet-teacher plus couple of spells. If he floods the board in 1/1’s while removing your threats, it’s gonna be hard for you to win. Try to keep some AoEs to deal with those. For example, Shadowflame on Ancient Watcher + Mortal Coil is a good way to deal with the Teacher and all his other early minions (including 1/1 tokens).
  • Rogue runs out of steam really fast, but he has way to refill his hand. azure-drake and sprint are pretty slow, but they give him a nice amount of cards to play with.
  • Remove any Spell Power minion Rogue might play. The class really benefits from Spell Power.
  • Try to push Rogue and make him waste his sap on non-taunted minions. This way you can ensure that your Taunts are gonna stick to the board later.
  • In late game, Rogue can get a really big AoE clear with deadly-poison, tinkers-sharpsword-oil and blade-flurry. It also deals a lot of damage to your Hero, and if you combine those with let’s say southsea-deckhand, Rogue may deal over 20 damage in one turn.
  • You don’t want the game to last too long. You need to kill Rogue before he gets his big combo. You’re rarely gonna use molten-giants unless the Rogue is desperate and tries to kill you in a couple of small pushes.
  • If opponent if keeping a lot of cards in his hand in the late game, you might consider using antique-healbot even when you’re around 20 health. Don’t underestimate his burst.

Handlock (mirror)

Equal

Cards you look for: Ironbeak Owl, Big Game Hunter, Twilight Drake, Mountain Giant

Cards you might keep: Siphon Soul (if you get Drake/Giant), Emperor Thaurissan (with strong hand)

Mirror matchup. It’s really hard to play it properly and almost every game is different, since both of the sides have a lot of decisions to take.

  • Turn 2 Life Tap. Turn 3 Life Tap. Probably nothing is gonna make you change the plans. Enemy might drop zombie-chow (if he runs one) on turn 1 thinking that you’re Zoo, but you don’t really mind that. Definitely don’t use a Darkbomb on him instead of Tapping – it puts you behind on the cards and the Chow won’t stand a chance against your 4-drop.
  • The real game starts on turn 4. Coining out Twilight on turn 3 is usually not a good play. The Coin is pretty precious in mirror, and you are in no hurry most of the time.
  • If you can decide between Drake and Giant on turn 4, go for the Giant. It locks enemy from playing their own Drake – it dies against Mountain for free most of time.
  • Both of you run answers for each other’s early threats. The matchup is often decided on whether you draw into them or not. Those are Big Game Hunter and Ironbeak Owl (+ Mortal Coil).
  • Try to tap as much as you can. It gets you lower and gives you more options. And on the other hand, kill enemy minions – don’t damage his Hero. Getting to use the molten-giants first in this matchup is huge. You want you to be at lower health than your enemy.
  • Handlock has almost no way to burst you without board control. 9 damage from Hellfire + 2x Darkbomb is usually the most he can do.
  • Use your Antique Healbot only after you’ve played your Moltens or when you’re in real danger of dying.
  • Since the matchup is pretty slow, Emperor Thaurissan might get a lot of value. As always, you want to get a discount on your Jaraxxus.
  • Playing Lord Jaraxxus on curve is something you might consider, even before playing your Moltens. Jaraxxus is really strong in the mirror, having a 6/6 every turn out-values the second player really fast.
  • Try to get a strong enough board to kill enemy in one turn from outside Molten range and don’t give him an opportunity to play free Moltens. 0 mana Molten Giant + Shadowflame clears your whole board and you might not have any damage to finish enemy off after that. It’s better to not attack him, keep him at ~20 health and once you get strong enough board, push for lethal in one turn.
  • Using your defender-of-argus on Giants might be a good idea. It puts them out of Range on Giant + Shadowflame from the enemy (he might still finish them off with Mortal Coil / Darkbomb, but still he needs to use additional Mana / cards).

Zoo Warlock

Favored

Cards you look for: Mortal Coil, Ironbeak Owl, Darkbomb, Sunfury Protector, Twilight Drake, Hellfire, Mountain Giant

Cards you might keep: Ancient Watcher (with activator)

Pretty favored matchup. Zoo has hard way dealing with a lot of big minions, and once you hide behind a Taunt wall, they have no way to come back.

  • It’s really important to control the board. Everything Zoo can do relies on him having minions on the board.
  • If Zoo gets a slower start with something like voidwalker or nerubian-egg, you might afford to Tap early.
  • Your Darkbomb is good at dealing with their 3/2’s – flame-imp and Knife Juggler.
  • Mortal Coil is gonna get a lot of targets, so you might as well keep it. abusive-sergeant is the best one early, but later Zoo is gonna spawn a lot of 1/1’s.
  • Activated Ancient Watcher contest everything they play early.
  • Silence is really valuable in this matchup, especially against nerubian-egg and voidcaller.
  • Some of the Zoo boards are pretty resilient against AoE (having a lot of Deathrattle minions), but generally the Hellfire is really good in this matchup. Shadowflame is also great if you have Ancient Watcher to activate it.
  • Twilight Drake is not bad. It usually has pretty high health and can trade favorably against all their early drops.
  • Molten Giants are MVP against Zoo. It often happens that the deck rushes you when you have no early answers. Molten Giants are great comeback mechanic then. If you manage to clear their board and put Molten with Taunt, Zoo has almost no way to deal with it.
  • Remember that Zoo can push for some damage even if they have really small board with power-overwhelming and doomguard. You should usually play around 9 damage from enemy hand, but they might get more than 10 if you add second Power Overwhelming and cards like Abusive Sergeant or dire-wolf-alpha.

Control Warrior

Favored

Cards you look for: Darkbomb, Ironbeak Owl, Twilight Drake, Mountain Giant

Cards you might keep: Ancient Watcher (with Ironbeak Owl), Emperor Thaurissan (with good hand)

You’re a slight favorite in this matchup, but don’t take it for granted. Control Warrior has pretty much as many answers as you have threats, so if he draws into proper cards, it’s gonna be really hard to beat him.

  • Early turns are pretty slow. Warrior might play armorsmith on turn 2. You usually don’t care and Tap.
  • On turn 3 he might either cruel-taskmaster on Armorsmith or play acolyte-of-pain. Darkbomb is decent against both of those plays. You deny him additional Armor / card draws.
  • If you manage to get both Ancient Watcher and Ironbeak Owl, go for it to chop off enemy’s Armor early. This way Warrior won’t be able to use his shield-slam.
  • If you have to decide between Twilight Drake and Mountain Giant, go for the Drake. You’d much rather have Warrior use their removals on your Drake than Giant.
  • If Warrior drew nicely, he’s gonna have more than one answer early. Sometimes he’s even gonna attack twice into your Giant with deaths-bite to destroy it. He takes a lot of damage, but you can’t really punish him, because before the time you can burst him with minions, he’s gonna gain a lot of Armor.
  • In the mid game, usually you play the threats and Warrior tries to answer them. Don’t overextend into the board, because one of the easiest way for Warrior to win the game is getting a big brawl.
  • emperor-thaurissan is great, but you don’t always want to drop him on turn 6. Try to get him on couple of big value minions like Sylvanas or Jaraxxus. This way it’s gonna be much easier to fit them into your turns.
  • Keep Big Game Hunter and Siphon Soul for their big threats. He’s gonna start putting them around turn 7. Control Warrior has a really strong late game, probably comparable with yours.
  • Your Molten Giants are tricky. On the one hand, getting a big tempo swing is great. On the other hand, you’re not gonna use them for a long time, because Warrior is gonna play reactively during the early and mid game. He might not even put a single point of damage into your hero until alexstrasza.
  • The matchup is often won by Jaraxxus. It’s the easiest way to out-value the Warrior. After your Jaraxxus, he’s gonna start playing offensively to kill you before it gets out of control.
  • Without weapon, the highest burst Warrior can do is 12 with grommash-hellscream + Cruel Taskmaster. If Warrior has already used his Brawl, you’re gonna be safe behind Taunts. Warrior has no way to deal damage through them.

Patron Warrior

Favored

Cards you look for: Darkbomb, Ironbeak Owl, Twilight Drake, Mountain Giant, Hellfire

Cards you might keep: Ancient Watcher (with Ironbeak Owl or Shadowflame), Emperor Thaurissan (with good hand)

Easy matchup, but you need to play extra carefully. If Patron Warrior finds even one hole in your late game defense, he’s gonna kill you in one turn.

  • Incredibly slow matchup on the first turns, unless Warrior decides to go Aggro. It doesn’t happen often since you’re Handlock, though.
  • Early in the game he’s gonna try to draw cards to get his executes and combo pieces.
  • If he plays an Acolyte of Pain on turn 3, Darkbomb him, you don’t want Patron Warrior to get 2-3 draws from him. You might even Silence to deny the draw.
  • If for some reason they drop frothing-berserker as a 3-drop, you’re really happy with that, because it’s their main win condition against you.
  • The game is often decided on turn 4. If they have no answers for your Drakes / Giants, you might push for damage and win the game by turn 7-8, before Patron Warrior will be able to combo you.
  • His earliest combos come on turn 5. With pre-equipped Death’s Bite on 1 charge, he might spawn 4 Patrons on turn 5 thanks to inner-rage. He’s gonna throw his Patrons pretty liberally against you – they’re not his main win condition. Still, if you have no answer, he might win thanks to them. You want to have either Hellfire or Shadowflame going into turn 5.
  • Be sure to have an answer for Emperor Thaurissan on turn 6. Even though you’re a favorite, if Patron Warrior gets 2-3 turns of discounts, it might tip the scales.
  • Finish off their damaged minions to deny him battle-rage value. Actually, if he is at full health and you’re not pushing for damage anyway, you might consider not attacking his Hero to not give him additional draw.
  • In late game, never feel safe. Even if you’re at 30 health. Taunts are your biggest friends. If you hide yourself behind a Taunt wall, you should easily win the game. Don’t waste your Taunt givers early, when you don’t really need them yet! Keep them until late game where they really matter.
  • Never overextend above 2-3 minions without Taunt. warsong-commander + 2x Frothing Berserker + a whirlwind effect might push for a lot of damage, and the more minions you have on the board, the harder Frothing is gonna hit.
  • Jaraxxus is really risky, because getting down to 15 health makes you so much easier to kill. Play him only if you have to or you’re sure that enemy won’t get through the Taunts.
  • Molten Giants are usually dead cards, because you’re gonna be way over Molten range for the most part of the game, and then if you lose, you lose from 20+ health in one turn.

More

This is part 3 of this extensive deck guide series. Be sure to check out the other sections:

Team HSP

Team HSP is a group of professional Hearthstone players. Consist some of the top players of the game and we love sharing our knowledge through articles and guides such as this. These guides are the result of hundreds hours of playing, research and analyzing games by the team. We hope you find these guides useful!