Zoo is one of the most formidable decks on ladder and has been for some time. As a result, anytime you want to rank up you have to be ready for the aggressive Warlock. There are several ways to combat Zoo, but few decks are more successful at this than Tempo Warrior. In this guide we will break down the popular midrange decks to show why that is.
Though Tempo Warrior has a very set (and very strong) core of cards that range from removal like Ravaging Ghoul and Execute to staples like Acolyte of Pain and Armorsmith. However, there is also a lot of innovation within the list. Some go with more traditional big finishers, while others are all about controlling the midgame through either pressure or strong minions. All versions are strong, and to help you understand the base of the deck to build off of two guides and lists have been linked below.
When mulliganing against Warlock you always want to assume your opponent is Zoo. As a result, it is generally a good idea to try and keep ever low cost card you have, with special attention to AOE. Zoo is a deck that starts out fast, and you need to get board presence on turn two or you will fall behind. You have many clears and very strong minions, but those are only going to do so much if you don’t have the board in the first place.
Cards to KeepWhirlwind Armorsmith Slam Ravaging Ghoul
Execute can be kept if you have other strong opening cards, but it is too weak on its own.
Battle Rage can be kept if you have ways to damage your early minions.
Fierce Monkey and Frothing Berserker should always be kept with the coin or if you have a turn two play coming before them.
Acolyte of Pain should always be kept with the coin or on curve.
Kor’kron Elite and Bloodhoof Brave are great keeps if they slot into your curve.
How to Win
The first aspect of beating Zoo is making sure you get ahead of them. While that may seem obvious, it is extremely important in a tempo oriented deck like Warrior. Your whole goal in this game is to get your minions onto an empty board. You are a deck that plays really well off of itself, but you never want to hold back minions to get value. You always need to be applying some sort of presence, which will allow you to fight Zoo at their own game.
The other part of facing down Zoo is watching out for their damage potential. While clearing can go a long way to take away Zoo’s buffs, they run a lot of burst these days. Some versions run Soulfire, while others run Leeroy Jenkins or Doomguard. Those are important to note because you need to always keep them in mind when figuring out whether you want to focus on controlling the board or going face. You want to apply pressure, but you also never want to leave yourself open to an easy kill.
Early Game Strategy
You need to challenge Zoo during the first turns of the game. There is no deck in the game that builds off of itself better than the aggressive Warlock, and letting them have even one minion stick can quickly lock you out of the board. The first turns of this game are going to be played like you are old school Control Warrior, doing your best to remove everything that your opponent plays. While you have some minion plays, you are going to clear first to set up the middle turns.
Never try and save Acolyte of Pain or Armorsmith for high value plays. While it may be nice to get a huge armor play or draw three cards, it is much better to get board presence. Zoo is going to have to use buffs to easily deal with these two cards, which means less damage coming at you later on. Fierce Monkey and Frothing Berserker also follows that same rule.
Do not be afraid to burn an Execute during the opening turns of the game. While it may not feel good using it to take care of a Darkshire Councilman or Dark Iron Dwarf with it, those plays still keep pressure off the board and will open up your middle game. If you have another method of clearing you should take it, but Execute is a good last resort.
The middle turns are most often going to be the make or break part of the game. This is where Zoo likes to build into their big threats and lock down their final push, while you use these turns to solidify your end game. A lot of your strongest minions come down during turns four through seven, which allows you to go over Zoo’s head in terms of quality.
Bloodhoof Brave is inherently strong against aggro, and can really help you out in this fight. Six health is not easy for Zoo to get through, and the fact that this card can enrage makes it very good at taking down multiple threats at one time. While a lot of the time this card will eat a few buffs or a Power Overwhelming, that is less damage you have to worry about later on.
Kor’Kron Elite is another great midgame minion because it can apply pressure or trade into a small minion and live. If you are ahead on board you should not be afraid to run this into your opponent’s face to punish their Lifetaps. Furthermore, if they do have minions, never hesitate to use this to trade. Killing a Zoo minion and keeping something alive should always be your goal.
The two biggest cards you need to watch out for are Defender of Argus and Sea Giant. Defender is problematic because it can take a small board and instantly take it out of your AOE range. Do not be afraid to clear to play around it, and keep it in mind when calculating future turns.
Sea Giant will normally drop down here, and you need to be ready. That is usually as simple as saving an Execute, but if you don’t have the removal spell in hand then you want to always think about ways to do eight damage. This card is another reason it is important to keep the board minion-free.
Late Game Strategy
The end stage of the game is going to be an interesting balance. On one hand, you are going to be in complete control of the board. However, on the other you are often going to be at low levels of health. Understanding when to clear and when to push is one of the hardest parts of this matchup. You really need to keep track of Zoo’s buffs, and then use that information to decide your line of play. If you are ever within the danger zone you should clear, but if you get ahead then you need to attack them as much as you can.
Your most important lategame card is Grommash Hellscream. Zoo loves to Lifetap, which means their health is going to be slowly declining throughout the game. Them being at ten health during the end of the game is not unreasonable, especially if you already have some pressure or minions on the board. If you have Gromm in hand you want to try and become the aggressor and make more aggressive plays to end the game before your opponent does.
Another important part of close games is understanding when you need to make a full “add to the board” play and when you have to get use from your hero power. This goes back to calculating burst, but you have better minions than your opponent does. Simply outlasting them is often going to be a win.
In that same vein, if you are within burst range, do not be afraid to take an Armorsmith turn, where you combine the two drop with a few Whirlwind or damage effects to stack up on much armore as possible.
Know how and when to use Ravaging Ghoul. The three drop is a very strong card, but it is especially relevant here. Some games you are going to want to drop it as soon as possible to get something onto an empty board, sometimes you are going to use it as an Execute proc, and sometimes you want to save it for Forbidden Ritual. Holding it back for ritual is priority number one, but it is almost a good play if you can use it for a large swing.