Zoo is a very strong deck that has come roaring back with the new tools injected into it by LOE. Those new tools, combined with how strong it is against all of the common archetypes, make it great choice for laddering. When sleeving up Zoo you want to be ready for each deck that comes your way, and know how to combat each class. In this guide, we will explore the low-curve Warlock deck and analyze how it takes on another extremely popular choice for ladder, Midrange Druid.
One of the best reasons to play Zoo is because of all the different iterations the deck has. You can go very aggressive with tons of small minions and more burst, you can run a midrange build that tries to solidifies the middle game, or you can play a more end-game build with a lot of big minions. A good rule of playing any deck is to always play something that you understand a know. While something may work for someone else, that doesn’t mean it is going to work for you. There are a ton of choices here, always play the one you are the most comfortable with. To help you figure that out, three different decks have been linked below.
Zoo is a deck that heavily relies on its curve. No matter what version you are playing or what minions you want to run, you need to get going with your early minions. You then want to use those minions to trade up and play larger and larger things. This is a very solid strategy, and it gets even better when facing Druid. The two rules of mulliganing in this matchup are, keep your buffs and look hard for early minions. The reason you want the buffs is to deal with a turn two Darnassus Aspirant or some early Innervated minion. Anything else you just want to try your best to get a strong early curve.
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 should always be kept alongside early minions, but it usually too weak on its own.
Imp-losion should always be kept with the coin or if you have a strong opening. Good with Knife Juggler as well.
Defender of Argus is one of your best tools in this matchup, but you only want to keep it with the coin and some early deathrattle minions to ensure it has targets.
Voidcaller is a great keep with the coin or an early curve.
How to Win
Midrange Druid is a very strong, consistent deck, but you have the advantage in this matchup due to your large amount of buffs. Druid is a class that, while having little removal, depends of forcing their opponent to trade into their large minions. If you can makes those trades costs you a bunch of small minions, it completely knocks them out of balance. For instance, while they may depend on Druid of the Claw to take down most of your board, if you can use Power Overwhelming it completely ruins their plan and puts them on the back foot for the rest of the game.
When playing Druid you want to get as much value out of your deathrattle and sticky minions as possible. They are not a class that does well with swarms of minions, and it gets even worse when they are facing down swarms that have built in deathrattle. You want to constantly pump out minions and force them to come up with answer after answer.
The golden rule is to never miss a drop here. Even if that means playing down a naked Knife Juggler on turn two, always make sure to get something in play. Being proactive is how you win this match. Lifetap is a fine way to spend your turns, but that usually comes later in the game, early on you want to be trying to grab the board.
Early Game Strategy
The number one rule of the early game is to have an answer to Darnassus Aspirant. While many midrange lists these days choose to run Wild Growth over the two drop, you still need to be ready. Not only does it trade well with most of your early game, but it also will just let Druid run away with the game. Ramp is one of the easiest ways to lose, and you need to shut it off immediately.
Beyond trading, your early game is just going to be spent trying to get something to stick. Wrath and Living Roots are Druid’s only real early game removal. Don’t play in fear or hold things back when facing an empty board. You want to dare them to have those cards, because if they don’t you can really start rolling. Even if they do kill your early minion, chances are you have another one to take its place.
Imp Gang Boss is an incredible card against Malfurion. A 2/4 for three is decent statwise (and great when buffed), and the ability is just incredible. What makes the boss so strong is that, unlike things like Nerubian Egg, it cannot be ignored and demands attention. That means they are going to have to kill it in someway, giving you some imps in the process.
The middle of the game is going to be a knife fight because this is where you and your opponent are going to do everything to grab control of the board. Whoever can wrench control during turns five and six will usually end up with the game. This is because Druid will use that control to play into their combo, while you can use it to make room for your finishers. Do what you can to clear, using all of the resources at your disposal.
Imp-losion and Power Overwhelming are key during this part of the game. Imp-losion enables you to finish off a lot of large minions while also grabbing control of the board. You can use this card to either bait out a Swipe (which you should always play around) or save it for after a Swipe. Either way, just know you don’t want to play it when you are already ahead on board since it will only really serve to make their AOE better.
In terms of Power Overwhelming, you want to use it on any midrange minion they have. This card lets you easily take down Sludge Belcher, Druid of the Claw and Emperor Thaurissan without so much as a sweat. If you can use a small minion to trade into a larger one don’t hesitate to do so.
Be ready for Keeper of the Grove. While you cannot stick to your game plan and play around the four drop, you can choose what it does. That is to say, do your best to make sure it silences something rather than do two damage. Zoo can make use out of just about any body on the board, no matter if it is a 8/8 or a silenced 0/2. If keeper is doing two damage, chances are it is clearing. However, when it silences it is not removing anything from the board.
Defender of Argus is by far your best tool for the middle game. The four drop stops Swipe in its tracks, gives you more ways to trade, and also forces Druid to pay attention to your minions. Unless you have a really strong play (such as Knife Juggler/Imp-losion) you should try to get the four drop down if you have two minions on the board.
Late Game Strategy
The end of the game usually goes in two different ways. You are either going to try and push through final damage before your opponent can combo you to death, or you are going to set up your large minions before your opponent can combo you to death.
While you may not want to, you need to be very, very careful during these final turns. Force of Nature/Savage Roar will kill you if you get sloppy. Always clear their minions if you can, and stop tapping if you get down around the fourteen point threshold. You may not always be able to stop the combo, but do your best to prevent dying from it. Defender of Argus is also very good at stopping their burst.
Always look for an opportunity to play Doomguard. The 5/7 is very tough for Druid to clear. It also can trade with just about anything they play, giving you more ways to keep them off their finishing burst. If you have the demon with other cards in your hand, always see how important those cards are to your finishing gameplan. If they aren’t more important than a charging 5/7, just slam the demon.
If you run Loatheb, he is by far your best late game tool. Not only does he lock down a board, but he also can shut off the combo for a turn and keep you ahead in a race.
Always look for opportunities to stick a Sea Giant. The 8/8 has become common fare in Zoo these days, and it can really hurt Druid if you have board. While they may have Big Game Hunter out, that usually won’t matter since it means they won’t have an answer for Dr. Boom and they are spending three mana to play a 4/2.