Welcome friends! My name is Blackacre and I piloted the Miracle Rogue to Top 20 NA. After receiving numerous requests for a guide on how to mulligan/play each of the major matchups in the metagame I have given in and created a comprehensive guide, containing 11 matchups analysis.
I’ve broken up the match analysis into multiple guides (it’s too much for one guide/sitting). This guide covers the matchup analysis of going against a Handlock, as a Miracle rogue.
We have to understand what our opponent is trying to do before we can understand how to beat it. Handlock operates in a similar manner to what is known as a ramp deck. The term ramp simply indicates that the deck intends to take a line of play that allows them to cast cards that are more powerful than what should be typically available for the turn on which they can be cast.
The ramp druid deck in hearthstone achieves this goal by accelerating their mana with cards like Wild Growth and Innervate. The Handlock deck achieves the same goal, but does it by playing cards like Mountain Giant, Twilight Drake, and Molten Giant while increasing the size of their hand and lowering their life total with the Warlock Life Tap ability.
It should be pointed out that some Handlock players eschew the ramp line of play for early board development with cards like Ancient Watcher + Ironbeak Owl. This style of play is much easier for the Miracle Rogue player to beat, so we won’t discuss it at length. Just be aware that it exists and don’t panic if you are being attacked by a 4/5 on turn 2 of the game. Use your resources to remove their board and know that the longer game favors you heavily in this scenario as the Handlock player will not have the ability to play powerful minions in the mid-game to pressure you.
Game Plan – In order to be able to play the powerful cards that are in the Handlock deck they must invest their first 2-3 turns into a line of play that will allow them to play a powerful minions later. This slow development is useful for us as it means we can pick away at their life total over the first few turns to get it into a range where we can burst them down later. Ideally we never want to reduce their health to the point where they would be able to play both a Molten Giant and a Taunt giver on the same turn. For instance if it is turn 5 we would not want to lower the Handlock’s life below 14 because that would enable him/her to play out a Molten Giant and then give it taunt with a Sunfury Protector.
This does not mean that we should think it is possible to avoid large taunts altogether. It is unrealistic to think that you will be able to avoid a game where a Mountain Giant or a Twilight Drake is given taunt. Our goal should just be to avoid allowing this to happen multiple times during the game. The way we achieve this is by applying early pressure and then using the power level of our deck to finish the game before the Handlock player can establish board control. So, if we acknowledge that this is very likely that we will see big taunts, we must prepare for it by mulliganing for cards that will provide us with the power level to be able to get through the virtual health that this represents.
backstab – Backstab is at its worst in a matchup like Handlock where the minions being played by your opponent are far too large for it to have a relevant effect on the board. Additionally, Handlock is a slow enough deck that the tempo boost from Backstab is not particularly beneficial either. This card should be mulliganed.
preparation – The slow nature of Handlock means that we don’t need the tempo boost from Preparation during the early part of the game. We are much better off searching for more important cards for the matchup.
shadowstep – Shadowstep should be mulliganed in almost every starting hand. Handlock is no exception to this rule.
cold-blood – Cold Blood should never be kept in your opening hand.
conceal – Conceal is a card worth keeping in the matchup, but ONLY if you have an auctioneer in your starting hand as well. Otherwise you are much better off to simply mulligan the Conceal in search of better options.
deadly-poison – Deadly Poison doesn’t do enough in this matchup. When your opponent is playing 8/8 giants, the 3 damage from a Deadly Poisoned dagger isn’t going to affect the board in a way that is valuable enough to keep in your starting hand.
blade-flurry – Blade Flurry is a card that gets more valuable as your opponent plays more and more minions onto the board. The Handlock player aims to play a small number of extremely powerful minions. Since this is the case, Blade Flurry is of very limited value and should be mulliganed.
eviscerate – Eviscerate is still an efficient burn spell, but it does not have the power level we need from our cards in this matchup. As such, we should mulligan this in our starting hand to search for more impactful cards.
sap – Sap is a difficult card to discuss in the context of the Handlock matchup, because it is very powerful, but is also a card that is often correct to mulligan. So why would we want to mulligan a card that we would love to see during the course of the game? The reason is that we need to apply early pressure to the health total of our opponent, and while Sap is extremely useful in the mid to late game, it does nothing to apply that pressure in the first few turns. So when we see a Sap in our starting hand we simply have to send it back and hope it returns to us later in the game.
shiv – Shiv is too low of impact to be truly useful in this matchup. It should be mulliganed every time.
edwin-vancleef – VC is a powerful card in the matchup because it can apply the early pressure we need. Like always the usefulness of VC is subject to ability to combo it. In this particular matchup all of the non-coin ways to combo VC are of very limited use, so I only keep VC when I will have the coin.
fan-of-knives – FoK is really at its worst in this matchup. The damage it does is simply not relevant and therefore you should mulligan it without hesitation.
si7-agent – This card is mainly in the deck to combat aggressive strategies. Handlock has very few targets for the 2 combo damage, and the 3/3 body has trouble getting through the inevitable taunts.
bloodmage-thalnos – Thalnos is not the ideal turn 2 play against Handlock. The 1 damage a turn it represents doesn’t apply a particularly relevant amount of pressure. However, Thalnos can cause your opponent to misplay in an attempt to remove it from the board, and does offer value from the spellpower. Overall, I would only keep Thalnos in my starting hand if I already had a key card like Gadgetzan Auctioneer and I wanted to ensure that I had a turn 2 play.
loot-hoarder – Loot Hoarder is a great turn 2 play in this matchup. It puts a relevant amount of pressure on the board, and if the opponent spends the mana to kill it we simply cycle into another card. I would only mulligan a Loot Hoarder if I was planning on playing an Edwin VanCleef on turn 2.
earthen-ring-farseer – We will almost certainly be at full health on turn 3 when we would be playing Earthen Ring Farseer, so the battlecry will have no effect in this matchup. The 3/3 body is also not particularly relevant when the opponent is laying 8/8 minions on the table. I recommend mulliganing this in search of more important cards for the matchup.
leeroy-jenkins – There are literally no matchups where I would keep Leeroy in my opening hand. As such, mulligan him every time.
azure-drake – We need power level to get through the inevitable taunts that the Handlock player will be putting on the table. Azure Drake offers us the 2nd best example of that power level. Deciding whether or not to keep an Azure Drake is a two step process. First check if your hand has a Gadgetzan Auctioneer in it. If there is no Auctioneer you should keep the Drake. If you do have an Auctioneer you should then check to see if you are going to have the coin. If you are going to have the coin you should keep the Azure Drake to play with it on turn 4.
gadgetzan-auctioneer – This is simply the most important card in the matchup. It is the card that will give us the power level to get through all of the super large minions our opponent is playing on the board. Keeping one of these in the opening hand is an easy choice because of how vital it is to the matchup.
Closing & Other Matchup Analysis
Hope you guys find this matchup analysis helpful! I’ll be adding and creating more guides of other matchups.