Hello everyone and welcome to another Extensive Guide! This time I thought it would be awesome to write something about Zoo, but not just something. In this article you will be able to find every single bit of information regarding the gameplay, game plan, deck building and mulligan about this deck.
In order to write such a guide, I had to play hundreds of games as Zoo in the high-end of the ladder, so I am now able to pass all my knowledge to you guys. Such a process wasn’t easy, but in the end I was rewarded with my Golden Warlock!
Different from other writer’s articles, I usually like to comment a lot about a single card on the same section where I introduce them to my readers, which means the deck breakdown is also going to be a semi-mulligan guide, doing not only the breakdown but also explaining the mulligan choices.
I will also include a different version of the deck in the end of the article, which should be played in case you don’t have malganis.
This is going to be a pretty nice article, I hope you guys enjoy the ride!
After Naxxramas Zoo was an exclusive Aggro deck, nobody would ever think that after a couple of expansions if would die and then reborn as a Midrange-ish deck. After GvG came out, the deck fell in flavor, and Mech Mage became the Aggro of choice, that happened because not only Zoo got nerfed by losing both soulfire and undertaker, the deck itself got no real upgrades when compared to the other meta decks. After BRM came out, in the other hand, we had a pretty nice card to add to Zoo that gave the deck a much better survivability early in the game, allowing the deck to have more consistency through the match. After some weeks of testing, the Aggressive Zoo deck ended up being discarded as the deck was not as explosive as other Aggro decks such as Face Hunter, and at the same time it didn’t have a good late game as standard Midrange decks.
After some tuning and play testing, top players were able to mix Demonlock and Zoolock, and a new style of Zoo was born: The Midrange Zoo.
The deck’s main focus remains the same as the previous aggressive versions: To hold and maintain Control of the Board from the start until the end.
But then you ask me: Then why didn’t the deck remain Aggro? Wouldn’t that be, in theory, better? The thing is that a lot of Midrange “good stuff” type of cards have been added to the game, and even decks like Zoo can not compete with things like piloted-shredder by only running small drops. You can’t possibly hope to Control the board whenever the Opponent throws a Piloted Shredder on the board followed by another bunch of pro-active persistent minions, and things like dr-boom just seal the deal, getting on the board and yelling at you “deal with me” but knowing you have no answer.
Thinking on that, this list is born to make it so Zoo becomes competitive and keep the pace with other decks. All of this was made possible because of imp-gang-boss which, as said before, makes the deck’s early game more consistent and allows for a smoother transition from the early to the mid stage of the game.
Oh we just had a talk about the deck, but I didn’t actually exposed it yet (well, I actually did, its right there -> , but you get what I am saying). In this section you’ll find every bit of information regarding a card, shall we?
power-overwhelming: This card showed up in Zoo back when soulfire got nerfed, as a pseudo-reach type of card. The main idea of running this is that you actually have to change your deck into a different play style because of this. In this case, you have to take advantage of Deathrattle effects. Mindlessly using this as a Burn spell usually results in massive card disadvantage, and unless you are going for the kill this shouldn’t be done. There are quite a few situations where you can get value out of Power Overwhelming, such as:
- Buffing a Minion so you can make a hard trade.
- Buffing a Deathrattle minion such as haunted-creeper or nerubian-egg to make soft trades.
- Doing any of the above and getting to “eat” the minion with void-terror.
The last situation presented is the most valuable option, and in case you are able to do so, do it!
As for the mulligans, this card should only be kept in your starting hand in conjunction with Nerubian Egg. Yep, I mean it: If you have either one of those 2, but not the other, mulligan the card out.
abusive-sergeant: Much like Power Overwhelming, this card serves a similar purpose: To activate Deathrattles and enable for Hard or Soft trades. But different from Power Overwhelming, this does add to the board, so you can simply use this to deal 2 extra damage and put a 2/1 minion on the board when you are ahead. This card can be kept in your starting hand in case its decent enough(which means, in conjunction with other 1-drops and/or Haunted Creeper).
flame-imp and voidwalker: Arguably the best aggressive 1-drops in the game, I’ll just go ahead and say you should keep these in your starting hand regardless of situation, they are always good turn 1 plays. As for the cards themselves they’re pretty self-explanatory: One is a 1/3 taunt, good against early aggressive decks like Hunter, and that sometimes can protect your other minions because it has Taunt. The other one is a massive 3/2 body for only 1 mana, with a drawback that is harmless in case you are the beatdown, which is always what this deck tries to be.
The only thing I might have to add here is how Flame Imp is a liability later in the game against Aggressive decks such as Hunter, because of how they’re simply a 3-damage-to-your-own-face card that shouldn’t be played, but overall this is a must-keep must-play early in the game, even against Hunters.
dire-wolf-alpha: This card was always a 2-off in every Zoo list up until now. The thing is that the core has grown so much on the deck that we actually have to take out one of the cards here to add a big-game-hunter, and the Wolf is the least strong of these cards. Nonetheless, the card is strong, but shouldn’t be kept in your starting hand in case the hand doesn’t already contain good cards (1-drops other than Abusive Sergeant and/or Haunted Creeper).
haunted-creeper: An all-star drop-2, its Deathrattle is very powerful and there is nothing to complain about this card, sometimes playing this on turn 2 can be even better than playing a knife-juggler, this situation is usually presented when you’re fighting for the board early in the game (which means you are playing against an Aggro deck). But, comparisons aside, this card is phenomenal, and you’ll always want to keep this guy on the mulligan phase, regardless of situation or opponent.
As to playing this card, you’ll usually want to force this card’s deathrattle against Aggro, but generally speaking, against Midrange and Control opponents you’ll want to save this card’s Deathrattle as some kind of insurance, in case of board wipe.
ironbeak-owl: It’s also ok to run a silence in your deck, this is a tech card more than anything, but I think that in this current meta-game it is very dangerous not playing with a silence in your deck, there isn’t much to say about this card other than that. On the mulligan you’ll only want this card against Hunters, and this should be mulliganed out in every other situation.
knife-juggler: A staple in ultra-aggressive decks, and even though Zoo stopped being that kind of deck a long time ago, this card still remains as its power is over the top. A 3/2 for 2 is mediocre, but its ability is what really makes the card shine: Every time a minion appears on your side of the board, it deals a random 1 damage. This card combos very well not only with imp-losion, it’s also very good with Haunted Creeper spiders, not to mention that you are likely to always drop at least 1 minion per turn (most of the times you’ll be dropping 2 though).
As for the mulligan, this guy is pretty strange. I usually only like keeping him against Aggro in case I have a Haunted Creeper, this is generally a good keep against Midrange and Control.
nerubian-egg: Nerubian Egg is the deck’s strongest Tempo swing. As it stands, it is a simple 0/2 that does nothing outside of protecting you from AOE, but the deck has so many ways to activate this card it becomes very easy to generate value quickly out of this. The fact you can buff this with Power Overwhelming to make a trade and then getting a 4/4 out of it is just crazy, but everyone already knows this by now.
On the mulligan phase this card should only be kept if you have Power Overwhelming, or if you have Abusive Sergeant and is playing against Aggro.
big-game-hunter: Much like the Ironbeak Owl, this is a tech card that is added to the deck due to the state of the game. Everybody but Face Hunter runs 7+ Attack minions, at least dr-boom, so this card is bound to always get value at some point of the game, and since we are playing a Midrange deck, having responses to some common threats is a must.
As for the mulligan, this card should never be kept in your starting hand.
imp-gang-boss: A powerhouse. Imp Gang Boss is the sole reason Zoo became playable again, but we already explained the reasons. In general this card is very difficult to deal with, and usually generates enough value to keep your opponent busy while you develop your board. It’s important to note that this card still 1-for-1s with both deaths-bite and swipe, so keep that in mind whenever presented a situation where your opponent can end up having a very strong turn, as big tempo swings in favor of the opponent usually destroys your game.
On the mulligan I like keeping this card whenever I have a well curved hand, just plan a series of play that leads into a Turn 2 or 3 with the Coin. In all other situations, however, you better look for 1 and 2 drop cards, so mulliganing this out is not too bad.
void-terror: Another Demon that you can call with Voidcaller (although kind of mediocre), but that is not the reason why we like having this in our deck: We like having this in our deck because of possible awesome combos with Power Overwhelming, Abusive Sergeant and (to a lesser extent) Dire Wolf Alpha.
Because of how much setup this requires, this should never be kept in your starting hand.
imp-losion: The card I hate the most in the entire game. It’s not that the card is bad, on the contrary: Damage + Minions can not be bad. But why on Earth did they have to make it a RNG card? Well, about the card, it’s a decent, unreliable removal that adds to the board while damaging your opponent’s. I usually like using this card as a 2-damage card with bonus, but whenever I have to there is nothing wrong with casting this as a 3 damage card. The most important thing about this card is being prepared for bad outcomes.
As for mulligan, this card costs too much and should be never kept on your starting hand.
defender-of-argus: There has been a lot of fights for the 4-drop slot, and in the end both piloted-shredder and dark-iron-dwarf were cut in favor of 2 Argus and 2 Voidcallers. This card has a bigger impact than the other ones because the value it generates is higher whenever you have 2 minions on the board, and in this deck’s case, you’re likely to always have at least 2 minions on the board, unless you already lost the game, in which case the other cards wouldn’t be helping anyway. The taunt is also very relevant, as this card is the deck’s only hope of winning games against Face Hunter. The main idea of buffing cards such as this, is to wait for the right moment to cast it and get instant value of the stats bonus, there is also the option of protecting low health minions from soft sweepers such as swipe.
On the mulligan this card should always be mulliganed out due to its high mana cost, except when playing against Hunters, since you will need this card in order to win, and not playing this usually means you’ll lose.
voidcaller: This is another card that usually becomes a huge tempo swing whenever you are able to activate its Deathrattle early in the game and generate value from it. The Zoo deck now runs such a number of Demons that adding this card is more than justified. Mal’Ganis is also a nice addition to the deck, but we only play Mal’Ganis because we run this card. This card’s Tempo swing is easier to activate than Nerubian Egg’s, therefore even costing 4-mana this card is an easy keep against Midrange and Control decks, but this should never be kept on your starting hand against Aggro decks. Even if there is a possibility you are facing an Aggro deck, you should mulligan this card out.
doomguard: This card’s stats are so big I highly doubt this card will ever stop being a staple in aggressive Warlock decks. Even in slower decks such as this one, being able to use this card in conjunction with Voidcaller is just huge. Doomguard is one of the Demons that, if put into play with Voidcaller’s Deathrattle, will cause a huge tempo swing. This card can sometimes be casted from hand, but usually getting this out with Voidcaller is the best option, as its drawback is a lot more significant here than it is on more aggressive builds that will dump their whole hand a lot faster before casting this.
As its mana cost is huge, this card should never be kept on your starting hand.
malganis: This guy is only here because of how you can simply steal games by getting this out, unresponded, with Voidcaller. The idea of running this card is also that if you are able to get this out against Face Hunter (which is a very common deck on the ladder) you’ll win the game as your board Control is much better than his, and by the point you get this out he already used his Ironbeak Owl.
Because of the mana cost, this card should never be kept on your starting hand.
sea-giant: Before Zoo transitioned into Midrange there were a lot of discussions about Sea Giant, and it almost always were left aside because of how slow it was. Well, that doesn’t happen anymore since the whole deck slowed down, and now this card is played in almost every Zoo build there is. There are still a lot of discussions about this card as if it should be a 2-of or a 1-of, but I like keeping this a 1-of because of how inconsistent it can be at times. This is yet another card capable of generating big tempo swings.
“Bla bla bla mana cost”, you know the deal, never keep this in your starting hand!
General Gameplay Tips
Learning how to play Zoo is learning how to play Hearthstone. Zoo is a deck that requires you to maintain Control of the board Constantly and never letting go. Because of this, the deck requires you to constantly make correct trades otherwise you are bound to lose the match. Because of this, the deck’s difficult level is a little higher than other traditional decks.
I thought about filling this section with things you should watch out for, but generally speaking you are supposed to play around removal (each different for each class), and know your opponent’s deck.
A small list of Sweepers used by each Class and how to Dodge them:
- Druid: Swipe – Keep your minions with more than 1 health all the time.
- Shaman: lightning-storm – In case the Shaman isn’t playing an Aggro Mech Build (usually those builds will use, early in the game, minions like cogmaster, annoy-o-tron, mechwarper and whirling-zap-o-matic) you must play around their Lightning Storm, you do so by keeping Deathrattle minions on the board without popping them while maintaining Control over the board with your other minions.
- Rogue: blade-flurry – Same as Shaman, keep Deathrattle minions on the board as an assurance.
- Warrior brawl – In case your opponent is not playing the Grim Patron Warrior (in which case they are, you should try to rush them down as soon as possible) you should play around their 1-of Brawl by playing Deathrattle minions and not popping them.
- Warlock hellfire and shadowflame – Same as other classes: In case you are not playing against Zoo, keep your Deathrattle minions unpopped!
- Mage flamestrike – If you are rushing your opponent down you should not play around Flamestrike, because mages usually only run 1 of those, but in case you can, do so.
- Paladin consecration – Keep your minions on the board with 3+ Health.
- Priest holy-nova and auchenai-soulpriest+circle-of-healing Combo – Usually Priest is a very hard matchup, so playing around only Holy Nova by keeping all your minions above 2 health is fine, you’ll usually lose if you get “Auchenai+Circle”d regardless of playaround so, play as if they don’t have the combo.
- Hunter explosive-trap – Argus 2 Health Minions before popping a trap, remember to position them close to each other!
Usually, when playing against decks with Sweepers, I like to keep Nerubian Egg and Haunted Creepers on the board without popping them, so I have an ensurance that in case the board gets wiped, i’ll still maintain some sort of presence.
Whenever I am playing against Aggro, however, getting value out of those Deathrattle minions whenever you can is crucial, because the game is usually decided by who maintains control over the board for a longer period.
Another nice thing to take note is that, whenever playing against Face Hunter, remember to drop all your Nerubian Eggs before popping their trap, because its almost sure that you’re facing an explosive-trap.
Against Druids its nice to “pop” (activate its Deathrattle) earlier because every Druid will be running Keeper of the Grove, and eventually they’ll draw into one, making it so they can, get rid of your 4/4 without it even touching the board by silencing your Egg.
Sideboarding and Tech Options
The best thing about Hearthstone is how Decks change. usually when you announce a Deck that just got #1 Legend, you’ll never be able to do so again because people will now know your list and work to counter it, by either adding different cards to their decks, changing their deck completely or even just playing differently.
Some decks have a lot of fluid slots, and sometimes changing 1 or 2 cards can be the deciding aspect to give the player more wins on the ladder. Thinking on that, I decided it would be nice to also give you guys suggestions regarding Sideboarding/Teching decisions.
The fluid slots in our deck are:
These are usually the cards that you can replace in the deck, both Owl and BGH are meta-oriented Techs, and in case you are, lets say, facing a lot of decks that aren’t countered by these cards, they start to lose some of their value.
There is a list of general cards that are less situational than the Tech cards we have in our deck, such as:
- The second sea-giant
- The Second dire-wolf-alpha in case you feel like you are facing a lot of Midrange
- Other Techs, such as kezan-mystic and bane-of-doom
These are usually non meta dependent cards, but remember that not having responses is pretty important, and that the Decklist presented was worked to the point it is strong for this week’s meta-game.
There might be also those of you that don’t have malganis, the card is very strong and deck defining, but there is also the option of playing a standard Midrange Zoo instead of a Demon Midrange Zoo. In which case:
- -1 malganis -2voidcaller -> +1dr-boom (or sea-giant, if you don’t have the Dr. Boom) +2piloted-shredder.
The non-Demon version of this deck is slightly weaker, but it doesn’t stop the deck from being effective, so don’t feel afraid to run it in case you don’t have Mal’Ganis!
And this was our Midrange Demon Zoo Deck Guide 😀
Zoo is a hard deck to play, harder than people usually give it credit. The deck requires you to play it perfectly because of how fragile it can be, and usually takes some time to get used to it. But I have to say, being good at Zoo makes you also a good Arena player (because you actually get to know how to do correct trades), so its a bonus!
I hope this was a nice guide and that you all enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing!
Love you guys!