MUA: Zoo vs. Control Warrior

While not as popular as it once was, Control Warrior is still a formidable force on the ladder. It has a lot of strong removal, powerful finishers and many ways to gain armor. As such, you want to be ready for it when climbing. In this guide we will analyze one of Control Warrior’s toughest […]


While not as popular as it once was, Control Warrior is still a formidable force on the ladder. It has a lot of strong removal, powerful finishers and many ways to gain armor. As such, you want to be ready for it when climbing. In this guide we will analyze one of Control Warrior’s toughest matchups, Zoo, and see how it uses a strong board presence to take down Garrosh and his never-ending armor.

Sample Decklists 

Zoo has the most options out of any deck in Hearthstone. That is to say, when building you can go in a lot of different directions. You can play it aggressively, you can go the midrange route, or you can make a much slower board-control build that relies on heavy minions. Each build has its strengths and weaknesses, and is piloted in its own way. When choosing to play Zoo you want to pick the style that best suits you. To help you with this decision three different decklists have been linked below.

One, Two, Three

Mulligan Guide

When playing against Warrior you need to mulligan for your sticky or deathrattle minions as much as you can. Warrior loves using one-for-one removal, and you can combat that by keeping your resilient minions. In this way, Haunted Creeper is almost always a better choice than Knife Juggler. Also know that this game is going to go long. That means you don’t always need to stick to a fast curve. Sometimes you can keep slower, more powerful minions if you have the coin or a play coming before them.

Cards to Keep

Flame Imp Abusive Sergeant Voidwalker Dark Peddler Dire Wolf Alpha Haunted Creeper Nerubian Egg Imp Gang Boss

Situational Keeps

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 should 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.

If you run four drops like Piloted Shredder or Voidcaller they also are great keeps with the coin and an early curve.

How to Win

Warrior makes a living off of armor gain and removal spells. The way you are going to fight through that is with strong board presence and forcing them to use their removal in subpar ways. Most of their spells are one-for-one, meaning they are adept at killing one thing quite well. While that works when that one thing is Ysera or Ragnaros the Firelord, it does nothing when it is something like Haunted Creeper or Imp Gang Boss. You need to understand that and always try to have at least something sticky on the board to not leave yourself exposed.

Another big part of this game is properly utilizing your big minions. Zoo has a ton of different large creatures ranging from Dr. Boom to Sea Giant to Doomguard or Mal’ganis. While you are not going to run all of those cards, whatever you do have you want to protect as well as you can. That is to say, always try to bait out Shield Slam and Execute on your midrange minions if you can, which will open the door for your finishers to come through.


Early Game Strategy

The start of the game is going to be you trying to get anything to stick. While Control Warrior gets most of its punch from the later turns, it does a great job of controlling the early board with cards like Armorsmith, Cruel Taskmaster, Fiery War Axe and Acolyte of Pain. All of those are simply for stalling the game and getting them to the middle turns with the most life. You need to push through that as much as possible to make sure you have something around to build off of on turns four and five.

Though it may seem underwhelming, Voidwalker is a very powerful opener here. The biggest threat to your early board is Fiery War Axe. While walker does not survive the weapon, it does protect your other minions. If you can hide something like a Knife Juggler behind the taunt, Warrior will then have to use their direct removal to get rid of it. That is what you want because it makes it harder for them to answer your threats later on.

Always make use of your buffs early on. You are only going to be able to win this matchup if you can keep the board clear. Remember that you want to build off of your minions turn after turn. You will not be able to do that unless you have control of the board. While Armorsmith and Acolyte of Pain are underwhelming stat-wise, they both help Warrior in the long run. While you don’t want to go out of your way to remove them, you should clear both in the easiest way possible.

Midgame Strategy

The middle turns of the game are going to be you trying to hold the board against Control Warrior’s larger minions. Their real threats don’t start coming down until around turn seven, but they do run both Sludge Belcher and Shieldmaiden. As mentioned, you need to keep the board as clear as you can. Power Overwhelming is a great way to do this, but any trade that leaves you minions is just fine.

Brawl is Warrior’s best tool against you and something you need to constantly be thinking about past turn five. This card is the number one reason you always want to make sure you have a deathrattle minion on the board. Even keeping a Nerubian Egg in its first form can be really important to get two things after the bell rings. This will allow you a way to survive the AOE but keep up the pressure.

A really big card here is Justicar Trueheart. While you can most often deal with the 6/3 quite easily, her ability is worth noting because it instantly changes the way you should view the game. Once Warrior can Tank Up is becomes very, very hard to kill them. You need to ramp up your pressure as soon as she hits the field. This does not mean overextend into AOE, but you do want to start going face more or putting larger threats down since you will not beat Tank Up in the long run.

If you do have a chance to grab lethal (or if you can make a strong push) then utilize Loatheb if you play him. The five drop can really surprise your opponent and completely lock them out of way to gain armor or play removal. Loatheb is one of the best ways to set up two turn lethal. If you have him in hand always try to get him onto the board where Warrior will be left helpless.

Always look to get use out of Defender of Argus. Death’s Bite is one of Warrior’s best removal spells. If you use the defender on a deathrattle minion or a small creature you can control what they hit and largely invalidate the weapon. Not only that, but it can also take away the value of the deathrattle value by keeping it away from something like a Haunted Creeper.

Late Game Strategy

Unlike most Zoo matchups, this is a game that is going to long. Unless you can kill them on turn five they are often going to drag this out for a while. The way you beat that is through steady board presence and being ready for all of their large minions. Power Overwhelming is a fantastic way to clear out things like Barron Geddon or Alexstrasza, but there are some games where you shouldn’t be afraid to trade your board in.

As the game goes long never be afraid to Lifetap as long as you are above Grommash Hellscream range. Card advantage if your best friend here, and you should utilize it as much as possible. Having a large amount of cards will also enable you to respond to mass removal.

Hold back Dr. Boom. Unless they are at a dangerously low life where they can die to Boom Bots you want to do your best to keep the doctor in your hand. He is an army all on his own and your best way to bounce back after a Brawl or other clear. While they usually have Big Game Hunter, it is better to make them use the three drop instead of just being able to catch the legendary up in a Brawl.

Final Tip

Understand the opening of the game. Sometimes Warrior will begin exactly how they want to and have a ton of early removal and armor game. In those games you want to make the most out of Lifetap and prepare for a long game. However, there are also some games where they will stumble. If they fall on the back foot don’t be afraid to go for the throat and hit them with everything you have. Their finishers won’t matter if the game ends on turn five.