This is Part 1 of the Mastering the Midrange (DemonZoo) Warlock extensive deck guide series. It is split into 3 main guides:
- Part 1: Beginner Guide
- Part 2: Advanced Strategies, Alternate Cards and Tech Choices
- Part 3: Matchups and Mulligans
This guide will cover the basics and card choices of Midrange (DemonZoo) Warlock.
Zoo is one of the oldest Warlock archetype in Hearthstone. The deck’s creation is contributed to Reynad. People have experimented with Zoo-like decks before him, but he created the most successful version, the one that haunted the ladder for a long time. His plan was to make a cheap, reliable deck that has no real hard counters – he first tinkered it to climb the Asia ladder around February 2014. The deck was pretty innovative at the time, Reynad included many previously unused cards like shieldbearer, or (now used in many Warlock decks) doomguard.
But the Zoo archetype dates far before Hearthstone ever existed. Like many other Hearthstone terms, it comes from Magic the Gathering. It used a lot of cheap, efficient creatures (mostly animals – hence the name “Zoo”) that get buffed and some burn to clear board / finish off enemy. The Hearthstone Zoo Warlock deck relies on board control, using a lot of small minions with buffs to trade efficiently, tempo swings and to some extent early aggression. It’s definitely not an Aggro deck, though. Rather a Mid-Range / Tempo deck.
The deck list has changed dozens of times since the original one. Currently, the most popular one is so called Midrange (or DemonZoo) Warlock. It combines the old Zoo play style with addition of tempo swing cards like voidcaller or imp-losion, and some more late game with malganis or dr-boom.
Zoo Warlock’s main game plan is aggressive fight for board control. You want to make your trades efficient with buffs and a lot of small minions, and slowly burn enemy down with the rest of your board. If you like focusing on the board control, but at the same time have the initiative and control the pace of the game – Zoo Warlock is a good deck for you.
- Smooth curve thanks to a lot of 1-drops and 2-drops
- Efficient minions
- Huge tempo swings
- Great draw mechanic (Life Tap)
- It’s relatively cheap – you can make a budget version for about 2k dust
- Once you lose the board control, it’s hard to come back
- Using your life as a resource might backfire in certain matchups
- Having a lot of small minions may work against you
- No AoE removals
Zoo Warlock is a good deck to ladder with. It has only couple of really bad matchups and it’s pretty easy to get a grasp of. It is definitely a deck you can get Legend with.
- Midrange Druid
- Mech Shaman
- Control Warrior
- Malygos Warlock
- Aggro Paladin
- Oil Rogue
- Midrange Paladin
- Patron Warrior
- Tempo Mage
- Freeze Mage
- Ramp Druid
The deck list is really flexible, there are many version of Zoo Warlock. If you want to read about alternate & tech cards or see a budget version, we encourage you to visit Advanced Guide.
Really flexible card. Its three main uses are trading your small minions up, activating nerubian-egg and pushing for damage. One of the most interesting cards in the deck. It’s a great buff, but with a huge downside – the buffed minion dies at the end of your turn. It means that you want to use the card in the way that the creature’s death is not a big problem. If you buff your 1/1 minion and trade it into a 5/5, you don’t care whether it dies at the end of the turn, because it died trading anyway. Nerubian Egg gives you a 4/4 minion when it dies. And when you kill enemy this turn, minion’s death doesn’t matter. The card can be combo’d with void-terror – when it “eats” the buffed creature, he gets the buffed stats, but doesn’t die at the end of the turn.
Really important minion. It lets your creatures trade up. The buff is great through the whole game. At the start it lets your voidwalker and haunted-creeper trade with 2-3 health minions and serves as the nerubian-egg activator. Later, it let’s you get through the taunts or take down high value targets easily. It’s also 2 damage for 1 mana when pushing for lethal. It has great synergy with Imps from imp-gang-boss and imp-losion, they’re great buff targets when you trade with enemy minions.
One of the strongest 1-drops in the game. It lets you put a 2 mana body for 1 mana at the cost of your health. Great turn 1 play against most of the decks. Gives you really good tempo and can push for a lot of damage if enemy has no way to deal with him early. It’s kinda like reverse zombie-chow. Both are great 1-drops with negative effects, but while Zombie Chow is better suited for slow, defensive decks, Flame Imp is great in the deck that wants more early aggression. Dealing 3 damage to your Hero can be a huge downside against Aggro decks, especially Hunter. It’s also one of the worst cards you can top deck in late game, because at this point you’re usually running out of health.
Upgraded version of goldshire-footman. 3 health and taunt makes it really good turn 1 play against aggressive decks. It stops many popular 1-drops like leper-gnome, clockwork-gnome or abusive-sergeant without dying. Theoretically it loses to 2+ health minions, but with help of buffs it might easily trade up. Later in the game it’s used to protect your more valuable minions or health total. Enemy often kills it for free, but stopping 1 hit from a big minion is usually worth.
This card is mostly used for trading. It has 3 bodies in total, which gives you much targets for the buffs. What’s good for you is that when it dies, you still have some board presence. Good abusive-sergeant and power-overwhelming target. Especially great against Aggro decks (because it’s sticky and can kill even 2-3 small minions). Nice target for defender-of-argus, because it forces enemy to kill a minion that they don’t really want to. You can combo its Deathrattle with knife-juggler to get 2 guaranteed knives. Since it’s a cheap minion that spawns 2 on death, it works great with sea-giant.
Your only source of Silence. Can be used either to get value (silencing a minion with a good effect / Deathrattle) or to get through the taunt and push for damage. Unless you push for lethal, you want to keep the board control anyway, so try to not waste it on Taunts and just kill them. Depending on matchup, either use it when you get a decent target (like mad-scientist or piloted-shredder) or keep it for a key minion you just need to Silence (e.g. sylvanas-windrunner or tirion-fordring). It might get you more value than you imagine, so use it wisely.
One of the strongest 2-drops in the game. Top priority target for your enemy’s early removals. But if he survives, he might greatly help you trade or even kill some enemy minions with his effect alone. He has great potential to combo with a lot of your cards. haunted-creeper, nerubian-egg and voidcaller all spawn something on death. imp-gang-boss spawns a 1/1 every time it gets damaged. imp-losion can potentially spawn 4 Imps, which means 4 juggles. Besides that, you often play 2 minions per turn. Try to protect him with your taunts, because he’s gonna get you immense value.
Very interesting card. It does nothing the turn it’s played, it can’t even attack by itself, which means you’re sacrificing some tempo. When it dies however, you get a 4/4 minion. But first, you have to kill it in some way. Way to kill your egg is called “activator”. Zoo Warlock runs many of those in his deck – Power Overwhelming, Abusive Sergeant, Void Terror, Defender of Argus. Those cards let you swing the tempo back in your favor. For example, when activating an Egg you might kill their minion AND spawn a 4/4 from it. Egg by itself, even when not activated, gives your board some protection against AoE. When enemy clears your board, he activates your Egg for you. Board presence is really important in Zoo deck, and having a 4/4 when you start re-building it is great. The card is however very weak against Silence – it becomes 0/2 with no effect. You might still use it as a target for your buffs in order to trade and not lose more important minions.
Imp Gang Boss
This is the card Zoo Warlock needed for a long time – a great 3-drop. With 4 health it’s hard to take down by low drops, and every time it gets damaged it spawns a 1/1. If you drop it on turn 3, most of time you get at least two 1/1’s. It’s sticky and almost always leaves you with some board presence – that’s what you want when playing Zoo. Great Defender of Argus target – the more health it has, the more 1/1’s it might spawn. The 1/1’s themselves are great targets for Power Overwhelming – trading a 1/1 into a 5-drop gives you a lot of tempo. Best in Aggro and Mid-Range matchups, but it’s also fine against Control.
Its main role is a Nerubian Egg activator. If you drop Egg on turn 2 and Void Terror on 3, thanks to the sacrificed tempo, you end up with a really strong board of 4/4 and 3/5. Another job of Void Terror is to eat low health minions that would be killed easily otherwise. If you’re left with a 3/1 and you’re playing against Mage, instead of letting him ping it, you might sacrifice it to buff Void Terror to 6/4. You might also force voidcaller‘s Deathrattle. Void Terror becomes 6/7 and Voidcaller spawns you a random Demon from your hand. If you use Power Overwhelming on a minion and it survives the trade, you might eat it with Void Terror. You can easily get a 3 mana core-hound. In the worst case scenario, it might just get dropped as a 3/3 for 3 mana, which is not that bad. Remember that you don’t choose whether you want the effect to trigger, so if you have some minions on the board, you have to sacrifice at least one of them. It’s also vulnerable against Silence, it reverts him back to 3/3.
Really interesting card. One of not many ways for Zoo Warlock to clear the board without minions. Besides dealing damage to minion, it spawns that many Imps on your side. Remember to account for RNG when casting it. Try to not base your whole game plan on rolling 4. It combos nicely with Knife Juggler, because besides dealing damage and spawning Imps, it also throws as many daggers – one the best ways to clear the board. Avoid using it to pop Divine Shield, because dealing 0 damage means spawning no Imps at all. Imps are Demons, so they can be buffed by malganis – if you follow Imp-losion with Mal’Ganis on the next turn, you might end up with an army of 3/3’s. Good synergy with Sea Giant.
Defender of Argus
Your main source of Taunts in the deck. It serves both aggressive and defensive purpose. With the buffs to attack, you help your minions trade and make them more resilient against trading. If you need 2 damage for lethal, Defender of Argus works. Putting 2 Taunts into the board makes enemy aggressive minions have hard time when trying to rush you. You can protect your valuable minions like Knife Juggler or Mal’Ganis with 2 other taunts. Buffing the Nerubian Egg not only makes you able to attack with it, but also gives it Taunt – enemy has to trade (or Silence) it in order to get through. You might also get your minions out of range of removals – e.g. your 2 health minions out of range of holy-nova or your Imp Gang Boss out of range of truesilver-champion. Most of the minions in your deck are great targets for Defender of Argus.
Another great tempo card. Getting a doomguard or malganis from Voidcaller on turn 5 is gonna win you a lot of games. The card has pretty bad stats for a 4-drop (you can compare it with spider-tank, which is a 3-drop), but the effect gains you a lot of tempo. You might end up getting a “free” 9 mana. Even if you get some of your smaller Demons, it’s not bad. Usually the one you want is Doomguard. Voidcaller is one of the reasons you run 2 of those. Normally, you need to either play your whole hand or discard 2 cards before using Doomguard. With Voidcaller, though, you can get it without any downside. And if you get it on your turn, you can instantly attack. You may force his effect by either void-terror or power-overwhelming. The second option doesn’t get you your Demon instantly, though. Remember that you might also cast imp-losion and bane-of-doom on him, so if you really need that Demon, you might kill Voidcaller with your removals.
Bane of Doom
Really interesting card. Since the change (it couldn’t spawn all the Demons before a certain patch), Bane of Doom became a really good card. There is a total of 18 outcomes – so you have a 1/18 chance to get any of the collectible Demons. There are only couple of bad outcomes (like flame-imp, voidwalker or blood-imp) and a few average ones (succubus, void-terror, imp-gang-boss). Most of the outcomes, however, are really good. doomguard, illidan-stormrage or malganis from Bane of Doom might win you a game. lord-jaraxxus is really great if you have Defender of Argus in your hand. You might make a 4/16 Taunt, which is really hard to pass without Silence. The card, however, is pretty slow and requires a 2 or less health minion to get the effect. Situational and random nature of the card makes it a best play when you have some board presence and can adjust your play depending on which Demon you get. It can also deal 2 damage to enemy Hero – keep that in mind if you’re close to lethal.
Probably the most hated card in Zoo. If not for its downside, it would be a strongest 5-drop in the game. Your aim is to remove that downside. There are two ways to do so. First one is getting rid of your whole hand besides Doomguard. Then you won’t discard any cards, since you don’t have any in your hand. The second way is to get him from Voidcaller – you want to play all your smaller demons and then trade Voidcaller. It’s better to get a Doomguard on your turn, because he has Charge and you can attack with him the turn he’s summoned. The 5/7 stats make him really hard to kill. He can trade easily with any early and mid game minion. He’s also used as a finishing burst. When you combine him with double Power Overwhelming, you might get 13 damage burst from your hand. Remember to use Power Overwhelmings before Doomguard, though, because otherwise he might discard them. Great Defender of Argus target. A 6/8 Taunt is really hard to get through, and he kills pretty much any creature that attacks him. 6 health is also perfect against big-game-hunter.
Sea Giant has a great synergy with your deck. You want to keep the board control, so you usually have couple of minions on the board. Your minions are sticky, for example Nerubian Egg often stays on the board for a couple of turns. Many of your cards spawn tokens – Haunted Creeper, Imp Gang Boss, Imp-losion, dr-boom. Sea Giant is often a great tempo play. Getting a 8/8 out for let’s say 3 mana makes your turn really strong. Big Game Hunter is not as big of a tempo swing for your enemy if you got your 8/8 almost for free, but it still hurts. He’s gonna bait big removals, which makes Mal’Ganis much better. And if he survives – he can trade for pretty much anything. Hitting enemy for 8 is also a decent move. If you lose the board control, he’s usually too slow, though. You’re sometimes forced to play him for 8-9 mana. The play might work out, but is much more vulnerable to removals.
One of your biggest drops. The main body will often draw a Big Game Hunter, but it’s not a big deal. The Boom Bots themselves are good enough to kill 2-3 enemy minions. Dr. Boom is one of the strongest cards in the game right now. He helps you against slower decks. Around turn 7-8, they often start to stabilize the game and regain board control. Dr. Boom helps against that, especially if they have no BGH. He’s a really big threat, and since your enemy probably used most of his removals already, it’s sometimes hard for him to deal with it. The main body is just a plain 7/7, but Boom Bots are more interesting. They’re great targets for your buffs, because you want to trade them (or them to die when you give them Taunt). If you need to pop them (for example you’re couple of damage off lethal), but enemy has no minions, you can void-terror them.
The biggest drop in your deck. It has a potential to win you a game right away if enemy has no answer for it. It makes your Hero immune, which means you can’t be damaged by any source. It has a huge 9/7 body, which might push for a lot of damage. It buffs all your Demons, and you have a lot of those in your deck. It might be used offensively to push for damage with buffs (great if you have a lot of Demons on the board), or defensively to not let enemy kill you. Silence kinda works against him, because you are no longer immune and your Demons are no longer buffed, but he’s still a 9/7. The best answer is Big Game Hunter. If you know that enemy deck runs one, you might want to bait him first with Sea Giant, Dr. Boom or a big Void Terror. Situationally, it’s really good to get him from Voidcaller. If you get Mal’Ganis on turn 5, and enemy has no answer, you just win the game. Remember that when you have him on the board you may Life Tap without the health cost. Using Flame Imp also costs you no health.
DemonZoo Warlock is relatively easy to play, because you don’t have to change your strategy often. Against most of the decks, your main focus is slowly building board presence, while killing any minion your enemy drops. You may change the pace depending on whether you play against fast or slow deck, but generally your game plan looks similar. If you want to read more complex strategy against each popular deck, check out the Advanced Guide!
You want to mulligan for your early drops. Starting with Coin is better for you, because you can smooth your curve, or play two 1-drops on turn 1. Depending on the deck you face, you want to start with either flame-imp or voidwalker. Generally, Flame Imp is stronger against Mid-Range and Control, Voidwalker is better against Aggro.
Don’t drop abusive-sergeant on turn 1, because the card has much more potential than being a 2/1 minion. On turn 2, if you have an option, you can go into faster, more aggressive way and drop a knife-juggler. You might play slower to get more tempo later with nerubian-egg. Or you might choose middle of the road play with haunted-creeper. It’s slow, but safe against removals and gives you a good target for your buffs. Usually you want to drop Nerubian Egg on 2 only if you have a way to activate it in your hand. You might even Coin it on turn 1 if you have either Abusive Sergeant or power-overwhelming in your hand.
If your enemy drops his Nerubian Egg or mad-scientist and you have an Owl, Silencing them is a pretty good play. This way you deny a lot of tempo. Your best 3-drop if you have Nerubian Egg in play is void-terror. It leaves you with a really strong board of 3/5 and 4/4. Most of the decks have no way to deal with it so early in the game. If you don’t, imp-gang-boss is your best bet. The card is so good that in most of matchups you want to keep it in your starting hand. It trades efficiently with most of 1-drops and 2-drops plus spawns additional 1/1’s. It dies to some other 3-drops, but it still goes at least 1-for-1 with most of them.
Try to clear everything your enemy plays – board control allows you to make efficient trades. Flooding your board in early game is usually a good strategy, because enemy can’t AoE it yet. Try to play on curve, you don’t want to tap in the early game unless you have absolutely no play. Skipping turn 2 or 3 usually means losing board control.
On turn 4, you have 3 options. imp-losion is a great card, because not only you deal damage, but you also spawn minions. Gaining tempo is never a bad thing while playing Zoo. Problem with this card is that it won’t often kill the target, so it’s best if you have some minions on the board to finish whatever you’ve used it on.
It’s also really good if you’ve dropped a Knife Juggler on previous turns and it survived. That combo is really effective on turn 4. defender-of-argus is another option. If you have 2 minions on the board, it’s often a great turn 4 play. It works best on Nerubian Egg and Imp Gang Boss – you activate the first one, and you make the second one a 3/5 taunt that enemy doesn’t really want to hit.
Voidcaller is your third option. This one great if you have some other Demons in your hand. The best thing you can drop from Voidcaller is doomguard or malganis. The latter has much bigger potential of instantly winning you a game, but sucks against big-game-hunter. Doomguard is usually the best, because it’s both a great minion to get (5/7 with Charge) and it’s much safer. Even in worse scenarios, if you get one of your 1-drop Demons, it’s not that bad. Voidcaller itself is susceptible to Silence, so try to not keep it on the board for too long (if you have a Demon in your hand, that is), or enemy can draw into a way to Silence it.
You don’t want to play Doomguard from your hand, unless you absolutely have to or you’ve already played most of your cards. There are situations where playing Doomguard with full hand might be good, if the quality of the hand isn’t too high, but generally try to not discard anything, because every card in your deck has its purpose.
bane-of-doom is situational. It won’t always be a best turn 5 play. It’s best to use when you have at least some board presence (you should most of time). If you have almost no board and you get a bad result from Bane of Doom, it might lose you a game. If you can, try to go for the safer play. With sea-giant, you need to know how low can you get him. For example, if you can drop him for 6 mana, but you feel that you might get it down to 3 mana next turn, you can try to go for tempo play next turn. If you drop him alongside a smaller minion or two, you gained a lot of tempo during your turn. Your play style shouldn’t differ from Early Game too much.
Board control is still a number one priority. Unlike Early Game, though, you want to start tapping. If you don’t have a good play on curve, you can tap + play something smaller. Also, depending on how many health enemy has, you might want to start pushing for damage. When you play against Aggro, the game usually doesn’t last much longer. You need to stabilize really fast and start going for the face. Against Midrange and Control, you usually still have much time. Against those two, you need to play around board clears. Don’t overextend into them. Having couple of Deathrattle creatures guarantees that your board will automatically refill after getting cleared. Nerubian Egg is especially great, because it dies to most of AoE and opponents rarely have a good way to deal with the 4/4 after.
Your main boon in the late game is that you can draw 2 cards each turn. It comes handy, since you were focusing on the board control so much that enemy didn’t have many opportunities to hit something else than your minions (besides Hunters) – your life total should still be high enough to tap every turn.
dr-boom is the best turn 7 play. Many opponents won’t have any removals left by now, and it will be hard for them to kill it. If he stays on the board, he might get you a great trades (often 3 or 4 for 1) or a lot of damage.
Sea Giant is once again great in late game. Your board size should probably be smaller than in mid game, but you also have more mana to work with. You can combo him with Imp-losion. If you manage to get 4 Imps and there are only 3 other minions on the board, you still get him out for 3. If the board is completely empty, you might even just use your whole turn dropping him, if no other play is better.
malganis is usually used as a way to seal the game. Against Aggro, if the game didn’t end by turn 9, he can often turn the it around. Enemy needs either Silence or 7 damage to kill him, which often doesn’t come that easily for an Aggro deck. Against slower decks, Mal’Ganis is best when you already have a couple of Demons on the board. You can get really efficient trades after you drop him, so he gets an instant value even if removed on enemy turn. If he stays for longer than a turn, he allows you to tap for free, and even small demons become a great threat when he’s around. A notable example is voidwalker, who becomes a 3/5 taunt for 1 mana.
Doomguard is a really good card in the late game. Your hand size should be really low, and he is your best top deck. Remember to play him before tapping, though, because you might not be able to play the card you draw next before Doomguard. Along with Power Overwhelming, he usually serves as a game finisher. You can pull out 20+ damage in one turn if you have some board presence before using the combination of Power Overwhelming + Doomguard.
Be careful about tapping too much. If you’re playing against a slow deck without burst, you might tap a lot. But most of the decks run some sort of combo or burn, so you need to know how low you can get. That’s the moment you absolutely need to finish the game, because without 2 draws per turn, you’re much worse than most of the other decks you play at this point.
Don’t play around the combos if you have no way to win if you do. For example, if you start losing against Control Warrior, and you know that you won’t kill him if you don’t tap, go ahead and tap. It’s better to take the chances he doesn’t have e.g. grommash-hellscream + cruel-taskmaster than to slowly let the game slip out of your hands.
Dropping a Voidwalker or Defender of Argus might help you survive an additional turn or two against certain decks (e.g. Mid-Range Druid). Silence also comes handy when you need to make a final push and enemy Taunts up. If you didn’t use it earlier and you got it to late game, you might want to save it for the lethal. Enemy often feels safe behind sludge-belcher, but with a Silence + Doomguard you might do surprisingly much damage.
DemonZoo Warlock is pretty steady deck and it doesn’t have a lot of different win conditions. To some extent, they depend on what deck you play against, but most of the games are finished in pretty similar way.
- Early aggression. Sometimes it happens that your enemy has a really slow start and you drop 3-4 minions before he gets his first one. If you feel that you have enough pressure, you can go for the early win. Even though you’re not an Aggro deck, Zoo Warlock is pretty fast and can have some crazy openings. If you put enough pressure on the enemy and get him down to ~10 health by turn 5, you might not care about the board control and go for it. power-overwhelming and doomguard gives you some reach. Early aggression is usually risky, though, because once enemy clears your board, you have really limited ways to finish him off without any board presence.
- Board control + slow push. That’s how the game usually goes. You control the board for the whole game and kill everything enemy drops in an efficient way. It means that you usually have some minions to hit with each turn. Even pushing for 2-3 damage every turn means that you slowly kill your opponent. When enemy is low enough, you just switch from the board control to rushing him down. You don’t want to do that when he’s too high, though. Calculate how much damage you can deal in 2 turns. If you have lethal and enemy has no easy way to clear your whole board, go for it.
- Reach. Your reach in this deck are Doomguard and Power Overwhelming. With 2x Power Overwhelming + Doomguard you can deal 13 damage from your hand. Enemy usually doesn’t expect so much burst from the Zoo and often plays carelessly. Take advantage of it and don’t show that you’re going for the kill. Proceed with board control, and once enemy is low enough, do your burst. You don’t want to throw those off into their face if you don’t kill them this turn. Besides those cards, Zoo has almost no reach (you have 2 damage from bane-of-doom and that’s pretty much it), so protect your board as much as you can – it’s your main source of damage.
DemonZoo Warlock is a good deck that mixes aggression with board control. Most of the things you drop either have an instant impact on the board or give you a lot of tempo in next turns. If you like this kind of play style, you should enjoy the deck. DemonZoo is pretty easy to play, so we can recommend it for new players. You need to keep in mind that you’re not an Aggro deck, though, and play accordingly. If you want to read about more complex strategies, matchups, mulligans, alternate cards and card techs – check out the Advanced Guide!
If you liked the guide, we encourage you to leave a comment in the section below. If you have any questions about the deck, we’ll be glad to answer them. Thanks for reading and check out more of our content!
Be sure to check out the other 2 sections of the Midrange Warlock guide:
- Part 1: Beginner Guide
- Part 2: Advanced Strategies, Alternate Cards and Tech Choices
- Part 3: Matchups and Mulligans