MUA: Midrange/Zoo Warlock vs Control Warrior

This is the matchup analysis of Midrange/Zoo Warlock versus Control Warrior. We’re using this decklist as a basis. Keep in mind there are decklists with slight variations, each one tweaked to the player’s own taste and the meta they’re facing. Cards To Keep Situational Keep – With or or – with Voidcaller Explanation The cards you want […]

Introduction

This is the matchup analysis of Midrange/Zoo Warlock versus Control Warrior.

Sample Decklist

We’re using this decklist as a basis. Keep in mind there are decklists with slight variations, each one tweaked to the player’s own taste and the meta they’re facing.

Mulligan

Cards To Keep

Voidwalker Flame Imp Haunted Creeper Knife Juggler Imp Gang Boss Voidcaller

Situational Keep

Nerubian Egg – With Power Overwhelming or Void Terror

Doomguard or Mal’ganis – with Voidcaller

Explanation

The cards you want to keep are very easy to explain – you want the proactive threats. Stuff you can throw on the board, not the buffs or situational minions. Warrior is going to remove most of your stuff, so you rarely have a minion on the board, meaning cards that require board presence are much weaker. You also want a smooth curve – to beat Control Warrior you need to put threats onto the board every turn. Since the matchup is really slow, you can afford to keep the Voidcaller in your starting hand even without any big Demon. By turn 4 you will likely draw some Demon, even if it’s not Doomguard or Mal’ganis.

When it comes to situational keeps – Nerubian Egg isn’t terribly good in this matchup in the early game. The problem is that it’s hard to activate it against the Warrior. Abusive Sergeant or Dire Wolf Alpha usually don’t work, because most of the time you don’t have a target to sacrifice your Egg into until turn 5 (Sludge Belcher). The only activators that are unconditional are Power Overwhelming and Void Terror. The first one isn’t great, but serves its purpose. On turn 3 you can play another 2-drop and Power Overwhelming the Egg to kill opponent’s Armorsmith or Acolyte of Pain. Void Terror is the best one – it leaves you with a very strong board going into mid game.

Doomguard or Mal’ganis are keeps only if you have the Voidcaller. Control Warrior runs no Silence, meaning it’s going to get the Deathrattle value. And then even if he finds an answer to them, you still got some tempo and a removal from Warrior, while you don’t care about going out of cards in this matchup, because you can Life Tap a lot.

Matchup Overview

There are a lot of different Control Warrior lists around right now. Even though they all share a very similar core, the differences might be significant. The cards that might or might not be ran in different lists are, for example: Slam, Cruel Taskmaster, Acolyte of Pain, Whirlwind/Revenge, Deathlord. Piloted Shredder. Some run 2x Brawl, others do run only one copy (this is a big difference in this matchup). They might also have different late game threats, but here you don’t really care that much. Overall, the matchup is a beat down style one. You want to put threats on the board, play around enemy removals, don’t overextend too much into Brawl, deal more damage than they can sustain, win the game with the burst. You have threats – Warrior has tools to deal with them. Warlock has an upperhand in this matchup, because a lot of threats are hard to remove (Deathrattles, high health, buffed out of range with Defender of Argus) plus he has the ability to draw two cards per turn, so unless Warrior draws really well, Zoo should be able to grind him out of removals and then just win the match.

Early Strategy

  • Early game is very, very simple. You just follow the curve and try to drop the best minion every turn. You might do some trades, but they should be easy too.
  • 1-drop is nice, but it’s not something you really need. While Voidwalker has only 1 attack, meaning it won’t push a lot of damage, in case enemy has the Fiery War Axe it just tanks one charge just like any other 1-drop. Flame Imp is better here, because it’s more aggressive. 3/2 for a 1 mana is awesome and since you don’t care about health in this matchup, losing 3 is nothing. You don’t really want to drop Abusive Sergeant on turn 1. It lines very badly with the enemy early drops and the Battlecry gets a lot of value later, when Warrior starts dropping minions.
  • The best 2-drop really depends on the situation. Knife Juggler is the best one if enemy hasn’t got an answer, but that’s really asking for a lot. Warrior can kill it with Slam, Fiery War Axe or Bash. Haunted Creeper is great when enemy has hand full of early answers. Even though 1 damage per turn isn’t a lot and it can feed Armorsmith/Acolyte, having something on the board suddenly makes a lot of your cards usable. Nerubian Egg is good only with the activator. But if you have to choose between Egg and another 2-drop, use Egg ONLY if you can follow it with Void Terror next turn – that’s the highest tempo play. Dire Wolf Alpha is decent if you already have a 1-drop on the board (2/2 on an empty board isn’t the most appealing thing) and Ironbeak Owl sucks in the early game, you should keep it for later.
  • Imp Gang Boss is hands down the best thing you can drop on turn 3. The ONLY card that counters it is Death’s Bite. A lot of times the whole match can be decided by Warrior having or not having it on turn 4. It’s a great counter to Abusive Sergeant, Imp Gang Boss, Haunted Creeper, Imp-losion. Void Terror might actually come handy. If you have a few 1 health minions + something bigger, you might want to eat the 1 health ones. This way the Whirlwind effect doesn’t get too much value and Warrior often has to choose between killing your Terror or something else.
  • When it comes to things Warrior can do in the early game, those are mostly the answers. Fiery War Axe is probably the best cards he can start with. It contests your early board very well. Other removals aren’t that great, because they 1 for 1 at best – weapons can 2 for 1, pushing the tempo in Warrior’s favor at the expense of his health.
  • When it comes to the minions, most of builds run Armorsmiths. They honestly aren’t that threatening, more annoying if anything. Often you should be able to take them down for free without actually losing a minion. The second minion they might run, but is more rare right now, is the Acolyte of Pain. It’s also more annoying than scary. You want to try to take it down in one hit, so the Warrior doesn’t draw too much. Starving Control Warrior is your main tactic if the mid game aggression fails. If you don’t have 3 attack minion, you can try the buffs or even go for the 2 in 3 Imp-losion if that’s your only 4 mana play (that’s not great, but it’s better than just Life Tap and skip the turn).

Mid Game Strategy

  • In the mid game you want to push the Warrior and really start dealing damage. It’s very likely that you’re going to have a stronger board presence going into the mid game. Besides the occasional builds with Piloted Shredder, the first real minion Warrior drops is usually a Sludge Belcher. Don’t Silence it unless you’re already close to lethal, which isn’t likely. You want to Control the board, so killing it is the right play most of the time. You want to save Silence for Sylvanas Windrunner, she might really hurt your board development.
  • In mid game you can start doing the higher tempo plays. Zoo is the deck with A LOT of cards that swing it, all the buffs are awesome, Voidcaller might summon big stuff, Imp-losion killing enemy minion + summoning Imps etc.
  • You have two ways to approach the mid game. If you have a lot of power on the board and enemy is already pretty low, you might want to push. This tactic is especially viable if you have around 10 points of burst in your hand, which shouldn’t be impossible. This way Warrior might go for the slow play and hope that you can’t kill him – people often play around 5 damage from your hand (Doomguard), sometimes even 9, but rarely more than that. Killing Warrior around turn 5-6 rarely happens, but it’s possible.
  • The second way is the long, value game. It might sound weird, but Zoo Warlock with the right draws can pretty much starve Warrior. You draw more cards than them and you should be able to kill most of their minions, even the 8 health ones, only Ysera can be a really big problem, because of the 12 health. Even though your threats aren’t terribly big, you run a lot of them, combine that with buffs and you should be able to deal with everything they play.
  • Brawl is a real consideration in the mid game. You want to play around it, but it doesn’t mean you don’t want to put any minions on the board. Having 3-4 minions if fine as long as some of them are good against Brawl. All the Deathrattles are fine – having a Nerubian Egg or Voidcaller (+demon in your hand) might make the Brawl really awkward, because most of time they spend a whole turn on doing it and you end up with board presence AND initiative. You need to put pressure on the Warrior – even though you might starve him out of cards sometimes, if he draws a big threat after big threat and you have no board pressure, you won’t be able to kill them and you just lose.
  • Putting mid-game pressure also baits removals. Doomguard is awesome – but if enemy can just Execute it, it’s not that good anymore. When you put pressure, Warrior can’t save the removals for your big stuff and he needs to use it on your early game. Executing Knife Juggler is common if you can push Warrior. This play takes some damage from the board instantly, but might backfire in the long run. If you put Warrior in desperate situation, he will be forced to do that.
  • Defender of Argus is awesome at protecting your board against weapons. You don’t need big Taunts in this matchup, so use Defender of Argus to make opponent’s removals most awkward. First, if you have some high value target like Knife Juggler that enemy might want to kill with weapon, you can hide it behind the Taunt. Second, you might Taunt up the Deathrattle minions to force enemy to make bad trades. Third, you might buff the 1 health stuff to put it out of range of Whirlwind effects. Argus is awesome in this matchup, especially if you start pushing. If you already identified that enemy has no Brawl and he just drops something like Shieldmaiden, you can just Taunt up your smallest minions and go face. They’re going to tank 5 damage, while you just push. Then you might finish Shieldmaiden with something if the trade is good or kill enemy if you’ve dealt enough damage.
  • Bane of Doom might give you another big threat that Warrior has to deal with. It’s really cool when he has to use removal on stuff that’s not even in your deck.

Late Game Strategy

  • Late game starts to favor the Warrior in quality of the draws, but the quantity is still on your side. If you put pressure on the Warrior, you might tap a lot, because he won’t likely hit you with minions until he takes the board control. He might try to cheese out a win with Grommash Hellscream burst, so you need to have that in mind. If he, for example, equips a weapon and starts attacking your Hero it means that you want to put up Taunts etc. Having a way to kill it is also nice – you can’t let it just sit on the board, threatening 10 damage.
  • Sea Giant isn’t that great in this matchup. Not only it’s going to cost much, because Warrior won’t flood the board and you’re afraid of Brawl, but once you drop it for 5-6 mana it can just die to Big Game Hunter. Still, you’ll have to bait it at some point – you have three guaranteed BGH targets in your deck (+possibly more with Void Terror and Bane of Doom) and you prefer to save the Mal’ganis if possible.
  • Dr. Boom is another big threat. It’s a little more BGH-proof, because the Bombs are likely going to survive, and they are very good. Especially in Zoo deck with a lot of buffs.
  • Mal’ganis is the last one. And the best one, so you generally want to bait the removals before you drop it. It’s already threatening by itself – 9 damage is not something even Warrior can tank each turn. But what’s even better is that it buffs all your Demons, making your trades incredibly good if you have some on the board. 1/1 token becomes a 3/3. Basically, you can use two 1/1’s to clear their mid game drops. This way you gain so much value. You want to pick a good turn for Mal’ganis, where the buff effect gets instant value (when you have some Demons on the board already). While pushing for some more face damage is not the worst thing ever, getting a good trade or two is even better. This way, in case he removes it, Mal’ganis gets much more than 1 for 1. Mal’ganis is also great at pushing unexpected lethal. If you have 5 Demons on the board, Mal’ganis is +10 damage. Since Power Overwhelming can be played on the same turn, it’s very possible to deal 10+ burst damage with that combo.
  • Doomguards are obviously also great. If you didn’t get them out from Voidcaller, that’s probably the time you’re going to play them. The worst case scenario is when you draw both of them and you have no Voidcaller. It might mean that you’re forced to discard the other one, which is terrible. 5/7 minion with Charge gets incredible value in this matchup. It can cleanly kill the Sludge Belcher or Shieldmaiden while still surviving. Even if it gets removed after, it’s 2 for 1 in your favor. You obviously want to use it only when you empty your whole hand. Depending on your starting draws, it might be as soon as turn 6-7, but sometimes it might be after you drop Mal’ganis already. You definitely DON’T want to drop Mal’ganis or any of your big minions just to play Doomguard earlier. If you have Doomguard + a small minion in your hand, if you’re not going for the value game, you might just drop it to push for 5 damage. Discarding one small guy is not a big deal most of time.
  • Warrior has a lot of big threats and ways to gain Armor. The card that made this matchup harder in TGT is the Justicar Trueheart. Thanks to that card, Warrior gains 4 health per turn. That’s a lot if you think about it – 10 turns after playing Justicar usually means close to 40 health, because Warrior should try to Hero Power every turn. The life gain isn’t even most important – the important thing is that you have to put more damage on the board to do anything. For example, if you have 4 damage, you just don’t deal any damage to the Warrior. With 5-6 damage, you deal almost no damage and Warrior can survive for way too many turns. You need 7+ damage to even start doing something, probably around 10 to really threaten Warrior. It means that it’s much easier to overextend into Brawl. At this point you shouldn’t care about Brawl that much. If you don’t play enough minions, you just won’t kill the Warrior and you’re going to get Brawled anyway sooner or later (unless they sit at the bottom of his deck, which is even better). It doesn’t mean that you should play the full board (unless you have a lot of small stuff like 1/1 Tokens). Staying at 2-3 medium threats is usually going to bait the Brawl and it doesn’t overextend.
  • If the game goes for too long, Warrior is eventually going to win it. You run only a few big threats, they run a lot. It usually takes 2 or 3 cards to deal with his one big guy, meaning you can’t play the board control game at some point. This is the time when Warrior should overwhelm you. With the good curve, it might happen really fast. If the Warrior has reactive hand with a lot of answers, you should be in the lead. But if he gets minion heavy hand with a lot of strong stuff, the only way to win the game is the mid game rush. E.g. Sludge Belcher into Sylvanas Windrunner into Dr. Boom into Grommash Hellscream into Ysera. That’s not something you’re ever going to deal with. Once you see that Warrior starts getting more and more value and you can’t keep up with him, your only choice is to go face. Try dropping everything you have and rushing Warrior down. Even though it won’t always work, that’s a last resort tactic. With some luck, Warrior might have no way to gain health and you finish him with Doomguards or Power Overwhelmings.

Tips

  • Try to get rid of Warrior’s armor before you drop a big threat. Shield Slam is probably the most efficient single target removal in the game if Warrior has got the Armor. For example, you might spend 5 mana on your Doomguard and Warrior just Shield Slams it for 1 mana, having much more to spare and actually develops something. If he sits at 0 Armor, he is forced to combo Shield Slam with Armor gain on the same turn, which he might not have. And even if he has it – if he plays Shield Block + Armor Up + Shield Slam instead of developing a threat, it’s still not that bad for you. If Warrior has gone through both Executes and you keep his Armor in check, your big minions should be relatively safe.
  • If you clear Warrior’s board every turn, you can tap down to like 15 health easily. It’s the Alexstrasza‘s range anyway, so if he wants to play it on you, he gets no value. And you’re still safe against Grommash Hellscream + activator. If he has played Grommash already (as a removal), you might get even lower. I wouldn’t recommend getting below 10, though, because that’s the range where Warrior can realistically just kill you by hitting your face with weapons 3 turns in a row instead of trying to remove your stuff (which mind you, sometimes works).
  • Having a full board might be a handicap if the board isn’t very threatening. For example, if you have 2x Nerubian Egg, a 2 attack minion and 4x 1 attack minions – that’s only 6 damage, even though your board is full. You can’t play anything more and you can’t sacrifice your own minions. If Warrior has already played the Justicar, he can just wait you out – he takes 4 damage per turn. And eventually he’s going to draw into his late game threats and drop them one by one. Try to have at least one free slot on the board all the time, especially in the late game. This way you can play Void Terror to reduce the number of your minions even further or Defender of Argus to Taunt up.
  • Try to have some Deathrattle minions on the board all the time. For example, even if you have a way proc the Nerubian Egg or you might trade off the Haunted Creeper to get more power on the board, you often should just keep them intact to play around the Brawl or Baron Geddon.
  • Some Warrior builds use the Revenge. While it’s not something you really play around, have that in mind. For example, if you can choose between taking Warrior down to 12 or 13 health, you might keep him at 13 if Revenge would destroy your board.

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