There are many popular ladder decks these days, ranging from the extremely aggressive to the slower control. To be able to succeed in climbing you are going to need to be able to face each type. Zoo is one of the best decks for that because of how well it can adapt against class, regardless of their style or what cards they are playing. It has a set game plan that it forces their opponent’s to react to, not the other way around. In this guide, we will break down the deck and look at how it combats the ever-grinding Control Priest.
The best part about playing Zoo is just how many options you have. Always note that Zoo refers to a few cards that support a specific type of play style. As long as you are within that play style, the cards you choose are completely up to you. If you are used to aggro, then you can easily play a very strong aggressive deck that builds off of minions and finishes with strong burst. If you want a slower game you can opt to raise the curve for some beefier minions. And, if you really like giant creatures you can go all in on the swarm/Sea Giant/Dr. Boom game. The choice is up to you. Just always understand each style and why you are choosing it. To help you out, three different decklists have been linked below.
When going up against Priest the most important thing is deathrattle. Not only does that give you a way to keep your minions around (the most important part of Zoo) but it also gives you a ton of outs to Priest’s usual slew of hard removal such as Auchenia/Circle or Lightbomb. As such, you want to keep most deathrattle that comes your way. As always, starting out with a good curve is important here, but it is not as important as in most matchups. These games are going to often go long, which means you don’t have to come out of the gates swinging. Rather, you can grab some slower cards or a slower curve in order to plan for the middle/later turns.
Cards to KeepFlame Imp Abusive Sergeant Voidwalker Dark Peddler Dire Wolf Alpha Haunted Creeper Nerubian Egg Imp Gang Boss
Power Overwhelming should always be kept alongside a strong opening curve.
Knife Juggler can be kept alongside other early minions but is usually not strong enough to keep on its own.
Imp-losion can only be kept with the coin and if you have early drops to go along with it.
Defender of Argus can be kept with the coin and an early curve before it.
How to Win
This is going to be a match of small minions versus removal. You are going to do everything you can to get something to stick onto the board and they are going to do everything they can to stop that from happening. The good news is that you are a deck chock-full of sticky and resilient minions. However, the bad news is that Priest has access to the most powerful removal and AOE in the game. A huge part of winning this match is understanding all the ways Priest can get rid of minions, and then baiting their removal on lesser creatures. For instance, getting them to use a Shadow Word: Death on a Dr. Boom to set up a Sea Giant.
Priest is a deck that likes to take its time. If you allow them to sit back they will hold cards, and just use the minimum amount of removal to keep the board clear and their life total high. You want to fight that by doing your best to pressure them. While pressure does mean damage, it also means threatening damage. For instance, having two or three small minions can force them to use AOE in fear of a sudden Defender or Argus or Abusive Sergeant/Power Overwhelming. You never want to play too far into their AOE, but you want to put enough onto the board where they have to act.
The last part of this match is getting the most use out of your big minions. Every Zoo deck these days runs a hefty amount of large minions, all of which can really end the game if unchecked for a turn or two. Just spend most of your turns controlling the board and keeping Priest on the back foot as much as you can. This will make it so that when
Early Game Strategy
Early on is when you have the largest advantage in this match. This is because it is the only time where Priest has no access to their removal, forcing them to play small minions into your early game. You can carry these turns, tweaking them to your advantage in anyway that you want. Just know you want to spend these turns clearing out Priest’s minions, steadily playing for board control as a way to take over the middle turns of the game.
Here is where you want to get the most use out of your buffs. Though their early game is few and far between, Priest does have access to a lot of annoying, high-health minions like Northshire Cleric, Zombie Chow and Dark Cultist. Letting those minions live is not an option because it will enable them to dictate the board instead of the other way around. As a Zoo player, any time you are not dictating trades you are in trouble. Always trade up here, even if that means burning a Power Overwhelming to keep things clear.
As mentioned, you want to be very careful about what deathrattle minions you trade and which ones you keep in their first form. If you think you can afford to (or you need to) pop a Nerubian Egg or Haunted Creeper, then you should because it keeps the board and forces Priest to still have an answer. However, if there is no reason to pop your deathrattle, or if you are unsure if it is the best play, then it is best to hold off. They are your best options and losing deathrattle going into the middle turns can leave you exposed to Priest’s removal.
The middle turns of the game are when you need to be the most careful because it is where Priest’s real power starts to come to light. Not only do they get their AOE during these turns, but they also have some very strong minions as well. The only way you are going to have a chance is by having the board when turn four and five start to roll around.
It is almost impossible to play around every AOE option Priest has, but you should do your best. The three most popular current options are Lightbomb, Holy Nova and Auchenai Soulpriest/Circle of Healing. As strange as it may sound, Lightbomb is the weakest against you, since so many of your minions have more health than attack. The way you beat the others is just through resilient boards. However, if you are open to AOE, then hold back minions in your hand to rebound after it gets played.
The two cards you need to watch out for are Entomb and Cabal Shadow Priest. Both of these cards are very tough to play around, but you fight them in the same way.
When trying to bait each of these out, you really want to focus on Shadow Priest more than Entomb. The reason is because Entomb is simply a 1 for 1 removal spell, while Shadow Priest can just take over the entire the board. For that reason, always try to get them to take a weak minion with the Priest, such as a Defender of Argus or a Nerubian Egg they can’t trigger. Furthermore, try and bait out these cards when pushing for lethal, since they each require your opponent to tap out to neither heal nor play a taunt.
Loatheb, if you run it, is one of your best options for these turns. The 5/5 not only puts down a massive threat, but it also anchors the board, taking away any possible removal options. That not only can ruin Priest’s plans, but it also can give you surprise lethal out of nowhere. You want to play this card at any chance you get.
Finally, always try to get triggers off of Defender of Argus. The 2/3 is not the strongest card in the world, but it can save your minions from possible AOE by buffing their health, and from removal or Cabal Shadow Priest by buffing their attack. Know both of those modes, and understand the possible uses for the four drop as the game goes on.
Late Game Strategy
Unless you get a blinding fast start, this game should take a while to end. Understand that, and know how to best consolidate your threats. You never want to just flood the board, even when making a big push for lethal. Priest has a lot of ways to stay alive, and going all-in and not succeeding most often leads to a quick loss. Instead, slowly apply pressure, Lifetap and make sure you always have another threat in hand just in case they answer the one on board.
You are going to end the game in one of two ways: burst or overwhelming board presence. For the last rounds always understand which mode you are in by looking at your opponent’s life total as well as the current board state. If you have a very sticky, large board then you should try to get more sticky things down and keep their side clear. On the other hand, if they are low but on the verge of stabilizing, do everything you can to press and finish them off with a Power Overwhelming or Doomguard.
Know what cards should die to removal and which ones should die to AOE. That is, always force your opponent to play your game. For instance, get them to use targeted removal on Dr. Boom rather than Lightbomb because removal just takes out the 7/7 while the bomb leaves the 1/1’s. It may seem like a small difference, but it is those plays that separate winning and losing.